Warren Beatty

Warren Beatty

I got a call from the agent.

“You’ve been offered a part in a feature called,……. lemme see…..ah, yes…..UWBP. Interested?”

“What’s it about?”

“Don’t know.”

“What does UWBP stand for?”

“Not sure.”

“For what part?”

“They haven’t decided yet.”

“Can I get a script?”

“No scripts!”

“Are they paying?”


“Should I take it?”

“There’s a rumor that Warren Beatty is involved.’ “Doing what?”

“They won’t say.”


“So is that a yes or a no?”



After a little sleuthing, I found out that Warren Beatty was indeed involved! He was the “WB” in UWBP. But should I accept this? It was the sketchiest deal I had ever been offered. Yet it somehow involved Warren Beatty. And he’s a Hollywood legend. Years ago, when he first appeared on the silver screen, audiences gasped. Had there ever been such a luscious, male beauty? He looked like the ripest peach on the highest branch of the furthest tree… desirable yet utterly unattainable. As a star (and he was that on Day One) he seemed remote and almost passive, certainly compared to the other male stars of his day…not gay, by any means, but certainly never “macho”. Then the press dropped the bombshell that he was Shirley MacLaine’s brother, and that they HATED each other. Well, that did it! The rumor mill shot into action.


His private life soon became more famous than his on screen work. When he made THE ROMAN SPRING OF MRS. STONE, apparently Vivien Leigh was so smitten with him that she threw away her entire performance, leaving Lotte Lenya in a smaller part, to walk away with the reviews. Since the beginning of his acting career, Mr. Beatty has been linked to numerous co-stars and other celebrities. He had a romance with Natalie Wood, whom he’d met while filming SLENDOR IN THE GRASS. Mr. Beatty himself was engaged to actress Joan Collins around this time, and Natalie Wood had just been divorced. He later had long-term relationships with actresses Julie Christie and Diane Keaton. Celebrated Divas, such as Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand and even Madonna, also succumbed to his raffish charms. In fact Carly Simon’s big hit, YOU’RE SO VAIN, was rumored to be about him. (I’ll bet you think this song is about you. Don’t you?)


Then there was his infamous penthouse suite atop the Wilshire Hotel at the bottom of Rodeo Drive. Apparently there was a special elevator available only to Mr. Beatty, to be enjoyed solely by him and a steady stream of beautiful women eager to add a notch to their own proverbial belts. But that all came to a screeching halt in 1992 when he married Annette Bening.


Overwhelmed by all that movie lore, I said, “Yes” to the offer and turned up at a church in Alta Dena at 6 AM a few weeks later. I was assigned a tiny room in a Honeywagon, where I waited all day. I finally got on set at 6 PM, where I was asked if I had enjoyed Mr. Beatty’s guest trailer. I allowed as to how I had not been invited, and a truculent production assistant was admonished. I was then handed a few pages of dialogue, which seemed to be passages from the Bible. The first Assistant Director (the AD) directed me to stand in the pulpit. “And ACTION,” whispered Warren Beatty, somewhere out there, sitting in a group of men. It was at this point that I realized that Mr. Beatty was directing UWBP. This entire project was veiled in a secrecy so Byzantine that it would have put the Pentagon to shame.


Needless to say, since I had never seen the script, I did not know my lines, nor why my character was speaking scripture. Or indeed to whom. I was preaching to an empty church! I hesitated for a second too long. “Cut!” shouted the first AD, sensing there was a problem. There was a long pause while the group conferred. And suddenly Warren Beatty was up in the pulpit beside me! “What seems to be the problem, Bruce?” Bruce! He called me Bruce! And there he was, standing right next to me, high up in a pulpit in a church in Alta Dena, California. I was an uncomfortable few inches away from a Hollywood Legend. And under the scrutiny of the entire crew. I doubt if anyone would have been, could have been, prepared for such a circumstance. But there I was right up next to Warren Beatty; albeit, Warren Beatty at 78. I hasten to add that I was 79 at the time. So there we were, two actors teetering on the brink of 80, and yet whose careers had taken such widely divergent paths.


But instead of behaving like a self-absorbed movie star, he seemed instead to be a rather sweet and slightly eccentric character…a little slim, almost gaunt, with a full head of suspiciously darkened grey hair. (I later on found that it was dyed for the part of Howard Hughes. But at this point I did not know he was also IN the movie.) But he was lovely and kind and concerned. “What’s the problem?” he repeated.


“Well, Warren,” I said (deciding for no apparent reason that he and I were on a first name basis), “I just got these pages 2 minutes ago. And it’s Scripture, and I also just discovered I am playing a Baptist minister. And I feel I must quote these verses correctly. Right? Can I actually read this stuff from a real Bible?” “Harry!” shouted Mr. Beatty to the first AD, “Get me a real Bible!” And the AD picked one up in a nearby pew and tossed it up. Unfortunately the script called for passages from the King James Version, and this particular church had succumbed to a more parochial version of Biblical verse. When I pointed this out, Mr. Beatty said, “Can we send someone to get a King James Bible?” “I’m on it,” said the First AD. “Let’s take a break,” said Mr. Beatty, and quickly disappeared.


I finally had a moment to absorb all this. I was being directed by Warren Beatty, who seemed very sympathetic to my situation. And who had apparently wanted me to use his personal trailer. I gazed around the church. And way down in the audience I saw a lone parishioner, who turned out to be actress Lilly Collins, the star of the movie. Indeed, after I finished my scene, the camera turned around for the money shot: Miss Collin’s reaction to the preacher.


But it was a glorious day. I was acting. I was being paid to act. I was being directed by Warren Beatty. Who turned out to be a sweet, almost elfin-like creature, and a very sympathetic director. I had asked for and gotten the prop I needed. And at the end of the day, I shook hands with Mr. Beatty, and said “Thank you, Warren.” Later on I learned that UWBP was an acronym for the Untitled Warren Beatty Project. And Mr. Beatty was actually playing another legend “Howard Hughes.” The movie was much, much later renamed: RULES DON’T APPLY.

(Which opened last week)

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The numbers 2 + 0 +1 + 5 add up to 8. Right? Well, this was the year of 8’s for me. To elucidate: I am now in my 80th year. I am in the 8th year of a relationship. It’s been 8 years since the wretched prostate was “Hoovered” out. To stretch the point, even my brand new car: a Pleiades has 8 letters. Hunh? (SUBARU is Japanese for Pleiades.)


But all that aside, it has been a busy and vibrant year, for someone who ought to be looking at gravesites. After 4 months of script writing, rehearsals, and previews, a cast of 8 (there’s your 8 again) finally opened GOPHER, THE MUSICAL. It is a short play on how to get along with other gophers and avoid snakes, owls and weasels,……all the while facing a severe drought beneath the desert sands. It featured something of a plot, a few tunes, and all the choreography a 3rd Grader can handle. Opening Morning at Toluca Lake Elementary was a triumph!


I then flew up to Canada in May to resurrect my role in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. Since the sequel was shooting up in Toronto, my agent snagged another gig in a MOW for Hallmark. It was titled CHARMING CHRISTMAS. (Shoulda been called CHEESY CHRISTMAS.) It had all the required tropes for a holiday movie: single, beautiful 40-year-old woman, 2 handsome suitors, troubled child, an older couple (which is where I came in), and of course, elves and snow. It aired in late November. MBFGW2 is scheduled for a March release. Mark your calendar.


When I got back to LA, I began casting a play that had opened on Broadway way back in 1934. Called DOUBLE DOOR, it was based on a newspaper article about a wealthy, eccentric, and ultimately murderous Manhattan Family. The production was quite successful, but for two of the tiniest reasons: One actress continually missed her second act entrance, and offered the excuse that her Mother had killed her Father or she’d be on Broadway. And the lead got into a backstage hissy-fit with “Wardrobe,” and is now suing the company for Assault and Battery.


I was considering booking a week at The Betty Ford, when I got an urgent call from our Artistic Director. He begged me to take over the direction of the next play on our Season Brochure. The previous director had been involved 35 years earlier in the original production but was now relying solely on his notes. “You cross to the sofa on that line. Sit down. Take a sip of tea, and wink at the other actor.” Needless to say the cast mutinied. In a week I managed to pull it together in spite of a playwright who insisted it was her prerogative to give notes to lighting, costumes, set and cast.


Suddenly it was Christmas. I flew up to Calgary to visit my dear sister. This year was a particularly poignant time as she is in chemo battling a rare form of cancer called Multiple Myeloma. But we decked the halls, donned our gay apparel and had a holly jolly Christmas. All while downing copious amounts of sugar and alcohol.


Which brings me right up to 2016. So………… Happy New Year to YOU. And to ME. And PEACE ON EARTH to everyone else. Please!

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Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer is a Canadian actor, who was born in Toronto, ON in 1929. He is the great-grandson of Canadian Prime Minister John Abbott (1891 to 1892), and the great-great-great-grandson of legendary Anglican clergyman John Bethune. He has English, Scottish, and Irish ancestry.

Until the 2009 Academy Awards were announced, it could be said about Plummer that he was the finest actor of the post-World War II period to FAIL to get an Academy Award. Ironically, he was following in the footsteps of the late great John Barrymore, whom Plummer so memorably portrayed on Broadway.

In 2010, Plummer finally got an Oscar nod for his portrayal of Leo Tolstoy in THE LAST STATION (2009). Two years later, the 82-year-old Plummer became the oldest person in Academy history to win an Oscar…… for playing a senior citizen who comes out as gay after the death of his wife in the movie BEGINNERS (2010). As he clutched his statuette he said, “You’re only two years older than me darling, where have you been all of my life?”

Christopher Plummer is considered by many to be the premier Shakespearean actor to come out of North America in the 20th century. Among the many roles he has played were Hamlet, Iago and Lear. However, his Macbeth opposite Glenda Jackson was considered by most critics to have been a ghastly failure. In spite of all the Shakespearean accolades, Plummer will always be remembered as “Captain Von Trapp” in SOUND OF MUSIC, (a film he publicly despised, calling it “The Sound of Mucous.” He claimed that acting with Julie Andrews was like being hit over the head with a Valentine.)

Plummer has won two Emmy Awards out of six nominations, and one Genie Award in five nominations. For his stage work, Plummer has racked up two Tony Awards on six nominations, the first in 1974 as Best Actor (Musical) for the title role in “Cyrano” and the second in 1997, as Best Actor (Play), in “Barrymore”. He is one of the few actors in history to have received the “Triple Crown of Acting” twice: Two Tonys, two Emmys and two Oscars.

His first wife was Broadway star, Tammy Grimes. Together they had a daughter, actress Amanda Plummer. In 1970, Chris, a self-confessed 43-year-old “bottle baby,” married his third wife, dancer, Elaine Taylor, who helped wean him off his dependency on alcohol. They live happily on a 30-acre estate in Connecticut.

I had heard of Christopher Plummer all my acting life. What actor hadn’t? The stories of his escapades on and offstage would fill volumes. So when he turned up in a Broadway musical called CYRANO, I raced to the box office. Although the singing was sketchy, his performance was superb. But it did strike me as odd that he never once looked at “Roxanne.” He sang about her and talked movingly about her, but otherwise completely ignored the actress playing the part. When I mentioned this anomaly to a friend who had worked with Plummer in Stratford Ontario, he explained, “Oh, he always acts alone.” Years later, when I saw Plummer in BARRYMORE, he had gotten his wish. Even though the script called for a stage manager, the other actor was kept well out of sight, reduced to an offstage voice. So Christopher was free to dazzle us, acting alone in a one-man show.

The evening ended on a lovely note. My friend Linda Thorson asked me to meet her after one of his performances. (She had met him during her AVENGER days when they were both in London.) So Linda, Chris and I sashayed over to Sardis for a very grand after-theatre supper. While perusing the menu, he volunteered that he was grateful that his current wife had gotten him off the booze. “So I never drink alcohol anymore,” he purred, “except red wine!” Linda and I did an immediate double-take! When the waiter appeared, he ordered an “amusing little French Bordeaux” with the meal, and drank most of the bottle. He had clearly decided that wine was not alcohol, but a civilized accompaniment to any good meal. Mostly I recall that the delicious evening was peppered with witty banter and salted with backstage gossip.

Christopher Plummer and I did work together. We appeared in the film version of DRAGNET. Dan Aykroyd had pitched the project to Lew Wasserman at Universal (so the story goes) by simply humming the intro to the TV show: “Dum Da Dum Dum.” Aykroyd had the barest outlines of a script, but his pitch was backed by his memorable send up of the character of “Sergeant Friday” on SNL. Lew gave the project the “Okay.” Tom Hanks was brought on as Friday’s buddy. Tom’s performance was so dazzling that he walked away with the movie. It was this performance that launched him into the Stratosphere of Hollywood Filmdom.

The DRAGNET plot involved, among many other things, some Playboy Bunnies. They were played by real Playboy Bunnies, who were as adorable and empty-headed as you might imagine. They were also convinced that everyone was staring at them….which turned out to be quite true. This made the set a noisy place to work on, as the gaffers and grips were forever walking into walls trying to catch a glimpse of the hour-glass attributes of the “Bunnies.”

I played the mayor of Los Angeles, who (as I recall) was in cahoots with Christopher Plummer’s slimey Reverend. According to the script, we were both under the influence of a cult called P.A.G.A.N. To enroll our sympathies, the cult leader had brought in some hot women to seduce us, which is where the “Bunnies” come in. The script was as empty headed as the “Bunnies,” and is almost impossible to synopsize. In fact my part, which was quite large in the script, was practically edited out of the film, including my last big scene with Tom and Dan. “Artistic differences,” I can only assume.

But Chris and I were together in many scenes, so I got to hang out with him, and we talked about Bunnies and all sorts of other wild life. I can report, first hand, that he was very affable and charming. The crew had never heard of him, but at least I knew, that I was in the company of a great Shakespearean actor. We bonded even further, when we both confessed that we were terrified of Elizabeth Ashley (also in the film). Ashley, by this time in her life, had become, what one cast member said, a self-absorbed neurotic. I think the correct medical term is “Crackers.” I remember being stuck listening to one of her many monologues at lunch until, in exasperation, I made an excuse to leave. I looked back to see her alone at the table, still talking in a very animated fashion…to HERSELF.

And then suddenly one day, the Director, Tom Mankiewicz, called it a WRAP, and the shoot was over. No more DRAGNET, no more Bunnies, no more hangin’ with Christopher Plummer. Although, he and I promised to get together after the film ended, we in fact went our very separate ways. And it wasn’t until we had the supper At Sardis after BARRYMORE that I saw him again. Still lovely after all these years.

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Channing Tatum

Channing Tatum (born 1980) is an American actor, film producer, dancer, and model. That’s right. A male mode! It says so on his resume. I was once a male model, so I was heartened to read that.

Tatum made his film debut in Coach Carter (2005), but his breakthrough role was in the 2006 dance film Step Up. He is known for his portrayal of the character Duke in the 2009 action film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and its 2013 sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Although both G.I. Joe films received negative reviews, they grossed more than $300 million at the box office.

Tatum played the title role in the 2012 comedy Magic Mike, which he produced and was inspired by his early life, which lead to rumors of his possible bi-sexuality. Later he played Greg Jenko in the action-comedy film 21 Jump Street and its 2014 sequel, 22 Jump Street, based on the 1987 television series of the same name. All three films were critically and commercially successful.

Tatum has also appeared in the romantic films Dear John (2010) and The Vow (2012). His other films include She’s the Man (2006), The Dilemma (2011), White House Down (2013), Foxcatcher (2014), for which he received critical praise, the 2014 animation The Lego Movie as the voice of Superman, and Jupiter Ascending (2015).

Back in 2012, when I was working up in Toronto, I got a call from my agent. “Hey! Tomorrow they’re doing a “Table Read” of something called THE VOW. Don’t know anything about it….. Bill Hurt’s set to play Rachel McAdams’ dad, and Jessica Lange’s playing her mother. Neither of them can make the read. Can you go in at 2 PM and read the part of the dad? They’re sending you the script right now. Oh yeah, and I got you 700 bucks for it….minus 15 %. Interested?”

I thought to myself, “Well, I’m not doing anything else tomorrow. And 700 bucks is 700 bucks. And if Bill Hurt drops dead, maybe they will use me instead. Or the director will be so enthralled by my reading that he will fire Bill and use me. Or give me another part in the film. Or if I am particularly good, he will write in a part for me. Or the writer will want me for the lead in his next project.” (These are the thoughts that go through an actor’s unstable mind.) So I agreed, and turned up the next day in an upstairs boardroom of some fancy downtown hotel.

When I walked into the room, everyone was seated at a long boardroom table. “Am I late?” I whispered. I was assured that I was not. So I quickly took my place at a designated spot just opposite the leading man. He was introduced to me as Channing Tatum. I thought “What an funny name!” Was his grandmother Carol Channing and his mother, Tatum O’Neal? I mean who ever names their kid Channing? And what kind of last name was Tatum? Must be a made-up stage name, right? Sitting next to him was the leading lady, an actress whom I did recognize: the beautiful Rachel McAdams. There were 25 or so other people in the room. Who was who, I have no idea: writers, producers, presumably the director, and assorted hangers-on.

“Well let’s get going,” I heard someone announce, and we began the first read through of the script of THE VOW. As usual, many actors under-played their parts to the point where you could barely hear them, and when you did, you had no idea what they saying. No one wants to be caught committing to a performance this early in the game. (Hollywood Rule Book: Page 24.) Except for Channing Tatum. He was into it. As my character didn’t appear until midway through the script, I looked up to see who this guy was. I confess I had never even seen photos of him before. Or indeed seen any of his films. So who was he?

You take in a person in stages. The first thing that caught my eye was his hands as they turned the pages of the script. An athlete’s hands. Okay. Then my gaze drifted upwards to the face: flawless skin, strong nose, full lips, “Windex” blue eyes, a shock of brown hair. And I all I could think was “OMG! This is one perfect specimen of manhood. Almost cartoonish good looks….more like a drawing than a person. And he can act! I returned to my script just in time to say my first line, which was a bit of a blurt, as I had almost got caught starring.

When the read through was over, I signaled my friend Rosemary who was subbing for Jessica Lange. We were good friends and I wanted to get her take on the event. A producer came over and offered us a perfunctory: “Nice read.” Sadly there was no mention of another role in this or any other movie; so Rosemary and I turned to go, but I was stopped by Channing. “I hear you know Bill Hurt. Is he as crazy as they say? I have a lot of scenes with him, and I want to know what to expect.” Well, I told him that Bill was indeed crazy as a loon, but that he was a gentleman and a talented actor, and not to worry.” (Bill Pulman eventually played the part. Hurt either had “Artistic Differences” with the director, or he was overbooked.)

Somehow, once you have met a star, you kind of keep an eye out for them. And as the months rolled by since 2012, I noticed with some small amount of pride that Channing Tatum was appearing in movie after movie. God knows he looked spectacular in MAGIC MIKE. But he was amazing in FOXCATCHER. Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo got Oscar nominations, but for my money, the really great performance in that film was Channing Tatum’s. Watch it sometime, and see if you don’t agree.

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Mark Harmon (born 1951) is an American actor who has had a minor career in films and a major one in TV. His father was Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon. He has two older sisters: Kristin Nelson, the former wife of singer Ricky Nelson, and Kelly Harmon, who was once married to car magnate John DeLorean. His maternal grandparents were Austrian immigrants.

Mark went to UCLA, where he was the starting quarterback for the Bruins football team in 1972 and 1973. During his very first game, he engineered a stunning upset of the two-time defending national champion, Nebraska Cornhuskers. In his senior year, Harmon received the National Football Foundation Award for All-Round Excellence, and graduated cum laude in 1974 with a B.A.

One of his first national TV appearances was in a commercial for Kellogg’s with his famous father, its longstanding TV spokesman. He made over 2 million bucks doing a series of Coors commercials. Thanks to his sister Kristen’s in-laws, Ozzie Nelson and Harriet Nelson, he landed his first job as an actor in an episode of Ozzie’s Girls. Mark received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor for his performance in the TV movie Eleanor and Franklin. In 1980, Harmon became a regular on Flamingo Road. Following its cancellation, he played Dr. Robert Caldwell for three seasons on the NBC Emmy-winning series St. Elsewhere. In 1996 to 2000 he was a regular on CHICAGO HOPE for 90 episodes. He was also named People magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive.”

In May 2002, he portrayed Agent Simon Donovan on The West Wing. The role gained him his second Emmy Award nomination, exactly 25 years after his first nomination. Harmon appeared in a guest-starring role in JAG in April 2003, which introduced the character of NCIS agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Since 2003, Harmon has starred as Gibbs in the CBS drama NCIS for 258 episodes, a role which earned him three nominations at the People’s Choice Awards. He also starred in several stage productions of LOVE LETTERS alongside his wife Pam Dawber, of MORK AND MINDY fame.

Harmon received the 2,482nd star of the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. In 2014, he started his own company called Wings Productions to produce NCIS: New Orleans. In 1987, Harmon filed for custody of his nephew based on grounds that his sister Kris’ parenting was compromised by substance abuse. His whole family sided against him; and he later dropped the custody bid. In 1988, Harmon was part owner of a minor league baseball team, The San Bernardino Spirit, which spawned Ken Griffey, Jr. In 1996, Harmon made news when he saved two teenage boys involved in a car accident outside his Brentwood home. Harmon used a sledgehammer to break the window of their burning car.

I first met Mark on the set of LET’S GET HARRY. He played “Harry,” an engineer who is kidnapped along with the US ambassador (Bruce Gray) in Colombia. When “Harry’s” friends in Illinois find out, they decide to go get “Harry,” and their exploits make up the bulk of the movie. Most of the cast were famous at the time of the film. Michael Schoeffling, was in Sixteen Candles, Tom Wilson, Back to the Future, Rick Rossovich Top Gun, and rock star Glen Frey was one of The Eagles. Also in the cast was that madman, Gary Busey…and some other actor, what’s-his-name, oh yeah, Robert Duvall!!

But despite its impressive cast, Let’s Get Harry is a film that is remembered for little except director Stuart Rosenberg’s decision to remove his name from the credits. This was due to significant re-editing and additional shooting that occurred after principal photography had concluded. In the director’s cut, Mark Harmon doesn’t make an appearance of any kind until the final rescue sequence. But Mark’s sudden notoriety as the “SEXIEST MAN ALIVE,” coupled with the producer’s concern that the character of “Harry” should appear earlier, so that the audience would care about who the hell was being rescued, led to the filming of additional footage. This so outraged Rosenberg that he took his name off the credits. The direction was attributed to “Allan Smithee,” (The default appellation when a director refuses credit.)

The film was shot in and around Vera Cruz on the east coast of Mexico. Historically, Veracruz (The True Cross) was the original landing place of conquistador, Hernan Cortes. Today it is a sleepy port utterly devoid of charm. The shooting schedule was vastly complicated with all the coverage necessary for the many characters in the action sequences. So I was down there for weeks with nothing to do but run on the beach, lay by the pool, walk into town, and have lunch on the set. It was a living hell!? At the end of each day, the cast would gather in the hotel lobby. We were all away from home, with a large per diem burning a hole in our pockets. This is when I noticed an interesting shift in the group’s dynamic. Although Mark’s role in the film was minor, his status in the cast became major. Perhaps it was his leadership skills developed as a quarterback, or perhaps just who he is, but in no time at all, the entire cast (with the exception of Mr. Duvall, who chose to hang out with two friends he had the producers hire to keep him company) would sidle up to Mark to see what was happening that night.

After we wrapped in Mexico, the additional scenes were shot just outside of LA. A Mexican village was specially created to replicate where “Harry” and the Ambassador were being held captive. The resulting scenes were added to the final cut. But the movie did not fare well at the box office. In general it is considered poorly written and executed. Many of the scenes are totally unrealistic, especially the final assault on a drug lord’s camp. Are we to believe that these guys from Illinois, none of whom have had any training, were able to kill dozens of armed “Banditos,” and destroy their camp with improvised bombs? In a word: No!

I next met Mark on an early episode of NCIS. I remember commenting that the “vibe” was so different from producer Don Bellisario’s other show JAG. When I had worked on that, the star David James Elliot was utterly impossible. I wrongly assumed that because we were both Canadian and shared credits on STREET LEGAL, MELROSE PLACE and KNOTS LANDING, we might have something in common ….something to talk about. But he could not have been less interested….in me, or indeed even in his own show. He would not appear on set until after they called “Action” and would disappear as soon as he heard “Cut!” Mark must have been aware of the same behavior when he guest-starred on JAG. And he made it very clear to me that he would not tolerate any similar antics on NCIS. Because of that, and also because of the excellent scripts, great ensemble, and Mark’s slightly eccentric performance as “Leroy Jethro Gibbs,” NCIS has the highest ratings of any TV show in the US today.

Secretly I was hoping I might uncover some hideous scandal, some ghastly skeletons in his proverbial closet. But according to most people who have met him, Mark Harmon is a prince among men: treated as royalty in the world of Showbiz. And with very few mishaps, he has vaulted into the high position he now enjoys.

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Elvis Presley (1935–1977) was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as “the King of Rock and Roll”, or simply, “the King”. Elvis is revered by many with an almost religious fervor. His home in Graceland has become a virtual shrine. He is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of the 20th century; and the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. Elvis was nominated for 14 Grammys and won three, also receiving the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36. Forbes named Elvis Presley as the 2nd top earning dead celebrity with $55 million.

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Presley was 13 years old when he and his family relocated to Memphis. His music career began in 1954. Presley was an early popularizer of rockabilly, an uptempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country and rhythm ‘n blues. RCA acquired his contract in a deal arranged by Colonel Tom Parker, who managed the singer for more than two decades. Presley’s first single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, was released in 1956 and became a number-one hit in the United States. He was regarded as the leading figure of rock ‘n roll after a series of successful TV appearances and chart-topping records. His energized interpretations of songs and sexually provocative performance style, combined with a singularly potent mix of influences across color lines, coincided with the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. It made him enormously popular—and controversial.

In November 1956, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender. Then in 1958, he was drafted into military service. He resumed his recording career two years later, producing some of his most commercially successful work before devoting much of the 1960s to making Hollywood movies and their accompanying soundtrack albums, most of which were critically derided. Although personally I thought his performances were charming and effortless.

In 1968, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned to the stage in the acclaimed televised comeback special Elvis, which led to an extended Las Vegas concert residency and a string of highly profitable tours. In 1973, Presley was featured in the first globally broadcast concert via satellite, Aloha from Hawaii. Several years of prescription drug abuse severely damaged his health, and he died in 1977 at the age of 42.

In the mid 70’s Elvis gave one of his final concerts in the city of Chicago. His managers thought it wise to keep him away from the salacious eye of the press, and chose instead to hole him up in a hotel in Arlington, just outside the city. Coincidentally, I was doing a production of THE MOUSETRAP at the very same hotel. (A hotel which happened to have a 500-seat theatre.) David McCallum (MAN FROM UNCLE and now NCIS), Katherine Houghton (GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER) and Kurt Kaznar (an MGM character actor) where the stars. The rest of us were just a bunch of New York actors, glad to have a job.

Midway through the run, I returned from a day off in Chicago surprised to find the lobby buzzing with excitement. The Desk Clerk explained that Elvis was staying at the hotel. “But please don’t say anything! We don’t want any trouble.” In spite of all the secrecy, everyone at the hotel was enthralled with the idea that Elvis was in residence.

That same night, I took my usual route to the theatre: out through a fire exit off the main lobby, crossing a lawn to the stage entrance. When I opened the door, I was greeted by an ear-piercing roar, and was blinded by an explosion of flash bulbs. There were dozens of people screaming, “Elvis!” Some even held up their hysterical infants. They wanted their kids to be able to say, “I saw Elvis Presley!” Even though Elvis was a mess at this point in his life, dressed like a Rhinestone Cowboy, hopped up on drugs and wildly overweight, he was still The King! The terrible “Owww… of disappointment when they saw it was only me, was dispiriting to say the very least.

After the performance the cast usually went up to the Penthouse of the hotel for a drink at the bar. We all knew that Elvis was ensconced on the 5th floor. And after someone pressed the button to the Penthouse, I ‘accidentally” hit the button to the 5th floor. I thought we might see something scandalous: a glimpse of Elvis being dragged half-naked though the halls, or a prostitute or two passed out on drugs. Instead we saw two plainclothes men, whose folded arms and blank stares told us that getting off the elevator was not an option. “Who pressed the button to the 5th floor?” David McCallum snapped in fake outrage. “I thought the bar on the top floor,” added Katherine Houghton, in mock surprise. “Someone must have pushed the wrong button by mistake,” Kurt Kaznar apologized. Of course, none of this fooled Elvis’ bodyguards, who had witnessed it all before. They watched the elevator doors close on some of the worst acting they had ever witnessed. (by a troupe of paid professionals, I hasten to add.)

I may have missed seeing Elvis on the 5th floor, or even in the lobby of the Arlington Hotel. But at least I can say, I was there when Elvis was in the building.

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JOAN COLLINS (AKA Dame Joan Henrietta Collins, DBE) was born 23 May 1933. She is an English actress/writer, who grew up in London during the Second World War. After making her stage debut in A Doll’s House at the age of 9, she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London. After eighteen months, she was signed to an exclusive contract by the Rank Organization and appeared in various British films.

At the age of 22, Collins headed to Hollywood and landed sultry roles in several popular films, including The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) and Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys! (1958). Her career languished in the 1970s, where she appeared in a number of horror flicks. Near the end of the decade, she starred in two films based on best-selling novels by her younger sister Jackie Collins: The Stud (1978) and its sequel The Bitch (1979).

In 1980 she appeared on stage, playing the title role in a revival of The Last of Mrs. Cheyney. But it was in 1981 that her career really took off. She landed the plum role of “Alexis Carrington Colby,” the vengeful ex-wife of John Forsythe’s character, in the television soap opera Dynasty, winning a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in 1982. She later received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Since the late 1970s, Collins has written several autobiographies as well as books on beauty tips. Despite a protracted legal battle with publishers Random House in the 90s, she has continued to write fictional, non-fictional and autobiographical books.


Collins has been married five times, first to Irish actor Maxwell Reed, after he raped her. They divorced in 1956. She then married Anthony Newley in 1963, followed by Ron Kass in 1972; she had two children with Newley and a third with Kass. That marriage ended in divorce in 1983. In 1985, Collins married Swedish singer Peter Holm in a ceremony in Las Vegas. They were unceremoniously divorced in 1987. She married Percy Gibson, 30 years her junior, in 2002 at Claridge’s Hotel in London. Collins maintains residences in London, Los Angeles, New York and France, describing her life as being “that of a gypsy”. Because of her many marriages, tumultuous affairs (She became pregnant by Warren Beatty and had an abortion) plus her roles as a sex kitten, she has often been referred to as “The British Open!”

I first saw Joan Collins playing the scheming princess in LAND OF THE PHAROHS starring Jack Hawkins. She tramped around the pyramids in a dazzling array of slinky outfits, massive wigs and outlandish make-up. The most memorable moment in all of cinematic history was hers. When the pharaoh died, protocol had it that his burial take place within the Royal Tomb. Joan and 100 eunuchs where present to conduct the ceremony. Once the king was buried, Joan turned to leave, only to discover that one by one all the exits were being sealed. She suddenly realized she was going to be buried alive. She screamed in horror! But then you can see a thought cross her mind, “Okay if I am going to die anyway, at least I am going out with a bang. I’m gonna fuck every man in this place.” But her joy quickly turned to grief when she realized that all the men around her were eunuchs, who had about as much interest in her as a turnip. At this point Truth and Illusion intersected. And Joan’s heartbreaking anguish at seeing the throng of “Castrati” was movie magic. Nothing before or since in all of cinematic history has ever quite achieved this degree of verisimilitude, wherein the actress and the part became one.

I don’t know if anyone remembers much about DYNASTY, but it was so popular in its heyday, that the plot points made the newspapers, especially when that newspaper was the National Enquirer. And because of that, scripts for the shows were top-secret documents, rivaled only by directives from the Pentagon. So when I got cast as Joan’s lawyer in the opening of the 7th season, I was not given a script, for fear I would sell it to the Enquirer. Instead I was sent several pages of speeches with no context or cues. I still recall the director asking the cast, including Miss Collins, to run the scene prior to blocking. The cast went through the dialogue until there was a pause, at which point the director would nod at me, and I would blurt out a line. According to the script, at the end of the previous season, Joan’s character had been thrown in jail, where she had been ravished by Lesbians for the entire hiatus. But at the opening of the new season, she emerged from jail in a little Chanel outfit, in full make-up with nary a hair out of place. (A couple of those dykes must had been hair dressers.)

At one point the director had Joan and I pass each other in an elaborate cross in the courtroom scene. After the 10th take, we stood together awaiting further instruction. I joked, “We have to stop meeting like this.” She turned on me, delivering a look that said, “You don’t speak unless spoken to!” She marched over to the director, and after a little chat, the blocking was changed so that I came nowhere near her.

She was photographed in Monte Carlo in 2012 under a gigantic wig and massive shoulder pads. I suspect it must have taken an entire squadron of surgeons, stylists and sycophants, to put her back together again. She is famously quoted as saying, “After a certain age, you get the face you deserve.” Prophetic words indeed, as I looked upon the face of this little old lady dressed up as the iconic Joan Collins of yesteryear.

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