Scott Bakula

Scott Bakula was born in 1954 in St. Louis, Missouri, to Sally Zumwinkel and J. Stewart Bakula. “Bakula” apparently means flower in Croatia. Yet Scott is of German, Czech, Austrian, English and of course Scottish descent. In the 4th grade, he started a rock band and later sang with the St. Louis Symphony. Then he studied Law at the University of Kansas until his sophomore year when he left to pursue acting.

He has been married and divorced in a marriage that produced two offspring. He has subsequently re-married and fathered two more children. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, California and has a farm in upstate New York. He is a staunch Democrat, purported to be worth 10 million dollars.

In 1976, he was first hired professionally in the role of Sam in “Shenandoah”. Later he was nominated for a Tony Award for Romance/Romance in 1988. After several small roles on television, he starred opposite Dean Stockwell in the science fiction series Quantum Leap (1989). Scott played Dr. Sam Beckett, a physicist who was trapped by a malfunction of his time machine to correct things gone wrong in the past. He won a Golden Globe in 1992 for Best Performance by an Actor in a TV series. He also starred in the prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise (2001) as Jonathan Archer, the captain of Earth’s first long-range starship.

I first discovered Scott Bakula as a TV viewer when he did QUANTUM LEAP. He was a leading man, who because of some silly plot contrivance played all sorts of characters. His portrayal of a woman in one episode is a study in commitment versus credibility. As a result he was hilarious in the role. I got to work with him in a film by Greg Nava called MI FAMILIA, the saga of a Mexican family finding its way into American life. Nava had previously helmed the critically successful film EL NORTE about another Mexican family on its journey north to the USA. I was the father of the son’s American girlfriend, played by Dee Dee Pfeifer (sister of you-know-who). Scott played a priest who was pastor to the family. The film also starred Jimmy Smits, Esai Morales and James Olmos, with Jennifer Lopez in a minor role.

Then a very odd thing happened. The night after I was wrapped, and after a few celebratory bourbons, I woke up to find Scott Bakula in my bed. Shocked, I asked him what he was doing there. “Lets talk in the morning,” came the reply; “I’m tired.” “Me too.” I said. “Goodnight.” And we both fell asleep. Nursing a small hangover, I got up the next morning, to find the bed empty. Eager to find out how Scott had ended up at my house, I went into the kitchen expecting to find him, but he wasn’t there! He must have gotten up in the night and left. Or had the whole thing been a dream? It was very confusing to me. I hasten to add there was no sexual component to the event. It was definitely not a “close encounter of the third kind!”

I recounted this to friends, whose only recommendation was to lay off the Jack Daniels. Or to seek therapy, as I was clearly delusional. I did neither, but the dream remained startlingly real for days.

Then I was cast opposite Scott in his TV series, STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE to play “Surak,” the Moses of the Vulcan. I was very curious to see if he had any recollection of his stay at my house. And yet, I was leery about asking him for fear that he might call Security and have a Restraining Order slapped on me. Good sense prevailed; so the two of us worked our way through days/daze of dialogue with our characters gazing out at a dying planet ablaze with volcanoes. (This was all done with green screen, so I had no idea what I was looking at on set. It wasn’t until the episode aired that I actually saw what the hell I was talking about. There I stood with pointy ears and a fright wig, gazing out at a sea bubbling with sulphurous fumes, while I was oozing green blood. Did I mention that Surak was a “Vulcan?”)

Now I see that Scott has a new NCIS series based in New Orleans. So it was with some surprise that I woke up the other night to find him in bed with some man. “NCIS has come along way,” I thought. Or was I having a flashback? “You’ve got to lay off the Jack.” I promised myself. Turns out he is not only doing the NCIS thing, he is also playing a gay character in an HBO series called LOOKING.

I was outraged. No! Not because he was in bed with another man. Who gives a shit what he does for a living? But because with 10 million already in the bank and the lead in a major TV series, he took away a plumb part from hard working and desperate septuagenarians like myself! ME, who has had a bona fide screen time in bed with a man! (QUEER AS FOLK). And who could have used the money. Come on Scott, as a Democrat, it’s time to share the wealth!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Patricia Arquette

Patricia Arquette: Her filmography includes working with a Who’s Who of A-List directors: Tony Scott’s True Romance, Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, John Boorman’s Beyond Rangoon, David O. Russell’s Flirting with Disaster, David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Stephen Frears’s The Hi-Lo Country, and Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out The Dead. In 2014, she played the mother in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood, filmed over a 12-year period. For her performance she received a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress- as well as nominations for the SAG and Academy Awards.

On television, she famously played real life psychic Allison DuBois in the supernatural drama series Medium for seven seasons (2005–11). She received three Golden Globe nominations and two Emmy Award nominations, winning the Emmy in 2005. Starting midseason 2015, Arquette will star in the CSI spinoff Cyber as Special Agent Avery Ryan.

 

She was born in Chicago in 1968, the daughter of actor Lewis Arquette, a convert to Islam. Her mother was Jewish. Her grandfather was comedian Cliff Arquette, and her siblings are Rosanna, Alexis, Richmond, and David (once married to Courtney Cox). As a child, her parents offered to get her braces for her teeth; but she refused, telling them she wanted to have flaws because it would help her with character acting.

Patricia became pregnant at the age of 20 with her son Enzo (born 1989), with then-boyfriend musician Paul Rossi. In April 1995, she married Nicolas Cage. They separated after nine months. She became engaged to Thomas Jane (HUNG) in 2002. In January 2009, she filed for divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” The divorce was finalized on July 1, 2011.

It was during the 7 seasons of Medium that I encountered Patricia Arquette. I had auditioned for a one-line part in the pilot (during a particularly low point in my career), and got it. But the scene was cut from the pilot. Once the show got picked up though, I got a call to appear in an early episode. After watching a few of my early takes, the producer (Glenn Gordon Caron) marched onto the set and told the prop guy to stick a half-smoked cigar in my mouth. And I tell you, the character suddenly appeared. Having to talk with that damn thing in my mouth not only animated the character, but gave him a sneering, sort of “Old Boy” look….perfect for the role of her deceased Father-in-law.

The dead guy’s job in the script was to make life a living hell for poor “Alyson.” To that end, he would frequently appear in the dark of night to verbally attack her. I often wondered whether the character was really talking to her from beyond the grave. Or was he just a figment of her fervid imagination…a manifestation of her own self-loathing? To vary the encounters, the writers and directors put me into every conceivable setting with her: from her bathroom to her bedroom, and everything in between. One morning, I ended up fully clothed in bed next to her, chewing away on my cigar!

My character also appeared in a flashback on a golf course with her husband, my son. And once, memorably with my wife (the redoubtable Kathy Baker) in a flashback of Alyson’s Wedding. But mostly over the 7 seasons I was there to wreak havoc on Miss Arquette. And I must have succeeded, as I was asked back for all 7 seasons.

Of course all this begs the question “What was she really like?” Well, to begin with, she’s a tiny little thing, barley 5 feet. In 7 years, although my wardrobe never changed (I wore what I died in: a golfing outfit) everything else did, including the house, the husband and the children who grew up right on the set. Her weight went up and down, and her hairstyles changed with each season (As was also evidenced in BOYHOOD). But what never changed was her commitment to the part. She’s a wonderful actress, truly able to make her performance seem completely spontaneous, in spite of all the supernatural shenanigans. Episode after episode, she would wake up screaming from a nightmare that was related to the criminal case that was at the center of each story-line. And she’d pull it off convincingly.

But was she fun to be with on the set? In a word: no. Never for a second did I feel welcomed or acknowledged by her. She sometimes utterly ignored me. But I attribute this to one of three reasons. One, I was her antagonist. And many actors don’t want to complicate their on-screen relationships with an off-screen one that is completely opposite. Number two, she was completely overwhelmed with work. Day after day, year after year, she was in every single scene. Plus, she had so many technical issues to deal with, not to mention a crew with whom she had an ongoing relationship. Dealing with guest stars (even recurring ones) must have exhausted her. Three, she may have just hated me personally! (Hard to believe, but there ya go.) I hasten to add, she was never less than professional in our scenes; and when things went awry, as they often do on a TV set, she and I, the director and the crew would fall about with laughter.

There were four producers on the show. One was Kelsey Grammer, of all people. We had some history, Kelsey and I. I had been hired on FRAZIER, and then immediately fired after the Table Read, when it was decided I didn’t look Hispanic enough to play a character called George Martin (nee Jorge Martinez). Ironically, the part went to Miguel Sandoval, who ended up as the chief of Police on MEDIUM. (6 Degrees, right?) But I was thrown for a loop when Kelsey came up to me at one of the Wrap Parties purring, “Good work.” I blurted out, “Kelsey, what the hell are you doing here?” Too late, I remembered seeing his name at the top of the list of producers on the end credits.

Patricia’s performance in BOYHOOD is well within her “wheelhouse.” In my opinion, it did not stretch her in anyway. But the script did allow her to show the incredible focus and authenticity that are the hallmarks of her work. And she has been finally recognized for the talent, that those of us who have worked with her have experienced first hand. Hopefully the SAG and Oscars Awards will bring the same recognition.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Jeffrey Tambor

Jeffrey Tambor was born in San Francisco in 1944, and grew up in a Conservative Jewish family. He’s a graduate of San Francisco State University where he studied acting, and then went on to receive a master’s degree from Wayne State University. He has been married three times and has five children. His second child and his first grandchild were born within a few days of each other in December 2004.

When Jeffrey won a Golden Globe for his performance as a transgender man in TRANSPARENCY, I thought to myself, I know Jeffrey Tambor….at least I thought I knew him; that is until I looked at his IMDB page. OMG! He has done everything from SLY FOX on Broadway to THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW on TV. It has been a remarkable career. A few highlights: In 1979 he starred in Norman Jewison’s …And Justice For All, as a lawyer friend of Al Pacino. Then in an ad for Avis rent-a-car, he was seen running through an airport, mocking O. J. Simpson’s “Go, O.J., go!” ads for Hertz. He has made numerous guest appearances on TV shows, including Taxi, Kojak, M*A*S*H, The Golden Girls, and Three’s Company. In 1979 Tambor got his first role as a main character in the TV series The Ropers. He had a recurring role on Hill Street Blues and appeared as a regular on Max Headroom.

Beginning in 2003, Tambor starred in the television comedy Arrested Development as George Bluth, Sr. and in some episodes as his twin brother Oscar. He served as the announcer for the Hollywood Squares, and was also the voice of King Neptune in 2004’s The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie. In the spring of 2005, he returned to Broadway playing George Aaronow in a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross.

I first came across Jeffrey when he was a roommate of mine at Lake Forest College, located in a small bedroom community north of Chicago. I remember this as happening in the late 70’s…..the year that the King Tut Exhibit was on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. We were not, of course, students; we were both hired for a production of Shaw’s TOO TRUE TO BE GOOD, a dreary Shavian tale…”too verbose to be good.” But as a vehicle for Jean Marsh (UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS) Katherine Houghton (GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER) and Charles Kimbrough (MURPHY BROWN), it became a hit. We played Lake Forest and later on moved to Boston’s Brandeis University. I was cast as Colonel Fielding and Jeffrey Tambor got the role of “The Microbe”.

My memory is a little vague as to the exact details, but I do recall that one day very early in the rehearsal period, Jeffrey was suddenly replaced by another actor. He was very tight-lipped as to why, and just packed his bags and marched out the door. I could only assume that he and the director had had “artistic differences.” No explanation was ever given.

I never saw or heard from him again until the late 80’s or early 90’s. Famed Acting Teacher, Milton Katselas was giving a weekend seminar called DREAMS INTO ACTIONS. Although I was in class, I had taken more than enough of these self-help seminars, and decided not to attend. I can only assume that enrollment must have been low, because out-of-the-blue I got a call from Jeffrey Tambor, who initiated our conversation with a fond recollection of our time together in Lake Forest! After a few reminiscences, he began his pitch, practically strong-arming me into going to the seminar, with a vague promise of great shift in my career trajectory. Well, the seminar was a bust: a waste of time and money. But I came away with one piece of information: the actor that had been fired in Lake Forest was now an acting teacher at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, an operation run by avowed Scientologist Milton Katzelas.

And then just the other night while watching the Golden Globe Awards, on stage comes Jeffrey Tambor to accept for best male performance in a TV comedy. To top it all off, in a rousing speech, he dedicated the award to the transgender community. I thought: “YOU GO GIRL! You’ve come a long way from the disgraced “Microbe” I once knew.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2014

2014

Why is it that at the end of the year, so many of us rush to our computers compelled to post a Year End Report. Do we think of ourselves as CEO’s with a responsibility to our shareholders? Or the President with an urgent need to communicate with the masses in his State of the Union Address? Plus these Letters come from those of us who haven’t managed to compose anything more complex than a three-line e-mail all year; and yet suddenly feel qualified to cobble together a cogent wrap-up of the last 365 days. To try each other’s patience even further, these missives frequently contain very little information about the writers themselves, but are usually focused on a litany of minutiae: how Missy got a B+ in Animal Husbandry, or how Little Billie took his first unassisted Poop. Of course, in no time at all I am going to be boasting about my own unassisted poops, so, I guess I shouldn’t comment….

(Now I know I should delete all of the above, lest I be thought of as SCROOGE! But I am experimenting these days with full disclosure. And as you can quickly ascertain, this critique includes me as well. I am really no better in my own reportage, as the following will attest.)

So here goes: Well, I am beginning the 7h year of a 6-year relationship. And it is going very well. Who would have thought that at the age of 78, I would be thus involved. I had hung up my tap shoes long before this certain someone came tap-tap-tapping at my door. Someone who will soon be competing in a 3rd IRONMAN!

On the business front, I just finished my 3rd ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) session for a film I shot in Toronto last April/May. Its working title was HAUNTED PEAK. But in a burst of creative genius, it has been retitled CRIMSON PEAK. (That should bring ‘em in!) It stars Jessica Chastain (THE HELP), Tom Hiddlestone (“Loki” in THOR). Mia Wasikowska (ALICE IN WONDERLAND) and Charlie Hunnam (SONS OF ANARCHY). Number 6 on the call sheet was “Veteran Actor, Bruce Gray.” I’m almost unrecognizable under a walrus moustache and old-age makeup ….that, I hasten to add, took an hour to apply. To make his job easier, the Make Up Artist begged me to lay off the moisturizers. “Stop putting that crap on,” he hissed in exasperation, “or your face will slide off your skull!”

This year I also played somebody-or-other on a show called THE LISTENER, where I did a lot of talking. Warren Beatty directed me in UWBP (an acronym for the Untitled Warren Beatty Project.). I played a Baptist minister who did a lot of talking. (I was forced to sign forms forbidding me from discussing the project. I never even saw a script. But I heard that it was about Howard Hughes) And last month I shot an episode of a new TV show called DIG, where I did even more talking. The leads commented that I had more dialogue than all three of them had had in the last four episodes. “Yap Yap Yap!” That’s what my career has come down to. The only interesting thing about the latter job was that I played an Israeli, named “Isaac Zohar.” The producer himself was an Israeli and had casting approval, so I guess I can add “Semite” under Special Skills on my resume.

The dear Sister, her husband and I hopped in their car and drove from Calgary down through Glacier National Park, Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore last September. Three big items got knocked off my Bucket List. Although three old people stuck in one car eight hours a day for ten days would not be on any sane person’s Bucket List. Still the National Parks were spectacular. During the “Son y Lumiere” portion of the Mount Rushmore visit, all military personnel in the audience were invited down to the stage for the lowering of the flag. To my amazement, 70 men and women descended to stage level, lined up in two neat rows and delivered crisp salutes to the flag, while the rest of us sang The National Anthem. Not a dry eye in the house!

The year ended on a high note. A play I directed, FLARE PATH by Terrence Rattigan, got rave reviews and packed them in at my theatre in Beverly Hills. I went to the Sister’s in Calgary for the Christmas Holidays. Next up New Year’s Eve in Palm Desert. And that’s all 365 days of 2014, present and accounted for. So, let’s “take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”IMG_3642 2

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Carol Burnett

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer. She is best known for her long-running TV variety show, The Carol Burnett Show.

After a difficult childhood in San Antonio, Texas with alcoholic parents, Burnett discovered acting and comedy in college. She performed in nightclubs in New York City and had a breakout success on Broadway in 1959 in Once Upon a Mattress, receiving a Tony Award nomination. She soon made her television debut, regularly appearing on The Garry Moore Show for the next three years, and winning her first Emmy Award in 1962. Burnett moved to Los Angeles, California and began an 11-year run as star of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS television from 1967 to 1978. With its vaudeville roots, The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show that combined comedy sketches with song and dance. The comedy sketches included film parodies and character pieces. Burnett created many memorable characters during the show’s television run, and both she and the show won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.

During and after her variety show, Burnett appeared in many television and film projects. Her film roles include Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), The Four Seasons (1981), Annie (1982), Noises Off (1992), and Horton Hears a Who! (2008). On television, she has appeared in other sketch shows; in dramatic roles in 6 Rms Riv Vu (1974) and Friendly Fire (1979); in various well-regarded guest roles, such as in Mad About You, for which she won an Emmy Award; and in specials with Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, Beverly Sills, and others. She also returned to the Broadway stage in 1995 in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was nominated for a Tony Award.

In 1983, I found myself standing next to Carol Burnett in front of a large window in the dining area of a hotel suite overlooking downtown Toronto. We’re waiting for Elizabeth Taylor to make an appearance. (With me so far?) Carol and Elizabeth are set to star in an HBO movie called BETWEEN FRIENDS. (The original title NOBODY MAKES ME CRY was thankfully changed. But not before the gift T-shirts were passed out, which led to more than one embarrassing incident in my supermarket.) I found Carol very easy to talk with. She had made the effort to introduce herself, probably because we were going to be playing lovers in the film, and more importantly, we had a sex scene together. (More of that later) She chatted amiably with me as if we had known each other for ages. I was completely entranced.

In mid sentence, both of us froze. In through the dining room door glided the legendary screen Goddess, Elizabeth Taylor…fresh from a root canal, yet looking radiant. Carol expertly ended our conversation and moved deftly to Elizabeth’s side. A few preliminary words were spoken by the producer/writer, and then by the director. We were invited to sit down at the large dining table for the first step in the process of shooting a film: the “Table Read”. (The initial reading of the script by the whole cast of a film….or at least by the principals.)

I next met Carol when we were scheduled to do our big sex scene. I arrived on set in a bathrobe over a pair of undershorts. I had just done fifty push-ups, and was prepped and ready to hop into bed with the legendary comedienne. It should be noted that Carol was trying to change her image of the “goofy clown” that she had so brilliantly parlayed into TV History. Apparently (and this is according to the National Inquirer, so it must be true) she had acquired a small subcutaneous chin implant. And she became, not beautiful by any stretch of the imagination, but instead sort of glamorous, and kind of sexy!

The dynamics of the Sex Scene were explained to us by the director, with all the attention to detail that might have been used to instruct the forces landing on the beaches of Normandy. Every move was discussed. Every shot accounted for. There was no room for surprise or invention. A Road Map to get us from here to there was laid out. Needless to say I was overjoyed: thrilled that I wouldn’t be required to improvise a seduction of a Comedy icon in front of the crew. So Carol and I simply did exactly what the director said.

Miss Burnett had one concern. She wanted to make sure that her breasts were not exposed. So Make-up and Props were summoned, and after some discussion it was decided to tape them to the bed sheets. I was invited to look away during the procedure. With tits under control, off we went, methodically and meticulously shooting our love scene in front of a crew that had been reduced to the Director, the Sound man and the Camera crew.

Our next scene took place on a “date” at the Toronto Zoo. We had some dialogue on a bench, and the scene ended with a kiss. Carol had asked for a bag of popcorn for her character to eat while we chatted. After several takes, the director asked her if she was satisfied with her performance in the scene. But Carol asked for one more take. She then whispered to me to put a handful of popcorn in my mouth just before the kiss, and then when we kissed to pass it over mouth-to-mouth into hers. I agreed. The camera rolled. The scene began and just before the kiss I took a mouth full of popcorn. We kissed and I did as she had requested. Then to my amazement and delight, Carol spat my popcorn out of her mouth and onto the floor of the zoo. Needless to say the director and the entire crew collapsed with laughter. And of course the scene made an appearance on the infamous “Blooper Reel” that is compiled and shown at every Wrap party after every TV and Film shoot.

After several more scenes with her, we were both wrapped, and we flew back to LA on the same plane. She was accompanied by her “General Factotum” in First Class. I sat alone in Business. She could clearly see me sitting a few yards away from her. I couldn’t very well go up into First Class. So I hoped that she might ask me to join her for a farewell cocktail, or come back and say hello. Or at the very least, nod in my direction. But it was as if we had never met. I hasten to add, there is not a question in my mind that she was, in all likelihood, focused on her next venture, and I had become but a small blip on her “screen.”

Many years later, I was the emcee for charity event down in Costa Mesa. And Carol was the guest of honor. When we were introduced, she chatted in the same amiable manner with me, as if we had known each other for ages; but there was not a flicker of recognition that we had ever worked together. It was just another reminder of how small a “blip” I was. And how large her screen is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Robert Pattinson

Robert Douglas Thomas Pattinson (born 13 May 1986) is an English actor, musician, producer, and unknown to most…a model.
Pattinson started his career by playing Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He later landed the leading role of vampire Edward Cullen in the film adaptations of the Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer, and came to worldwide fame, thus establishing himself among the highest paid and most bankable actors in Hollywood. In 2010, Pattinson was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in The World, and also in the same year Forbes ranked him as one of the most powerful celebrities in the world in the Forbes Celebrity 100.
In 2009, he portrayed Salvador Dalí in Little Ashes. That same year, Robsessed, a documentary film about his own fame was released. He appeared in Remember Me (2010) and starred in the romantic drama, Water for Elephants (2011). His performance in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis (2012), earned him critical praise. In 2014 he starred in The Rover and in Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars (both 2014). He will soon appear in Werner Herzog’s biopic film Queen of the Desert, in Anton Corbijn’s Life and in James Gray’s The Lost City of Z.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS starred Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson and Academy Award Winner, Christoph Waltz. And in the tiny role (just a “cough and a spit, really,” as the Brits would say), Pattinson’s college professor, played by “seasoned veteran,” Bruce Gray, in a part that disappeared before the credits rolled.

Also starring in the film was Hal Holbrook. Unfortunately, Hal’s dear wife Dixie Carter (DESIGNING WOMEN) had died just before the Table Read. He was so overwhelmed with grief and funeral preparations, that the producers requested that I read his part at the star-studded event. Needless to say I was dazzled by the presence of Miss Witherspoon (who is about four feet tall), and agog at meeting Christoph, whose performance in INGLORIUS BASTERDS was absolutely riveting. I cornered him after the read, and told him how wonderful he was in the Tarantino film. He responded with his own compliment, “I liked your reading very much, but you seem too young for the part.” Needless to say I was smitten. So I paid little attention to young Pattinson. Plus I had never seen any of the TWILIGHT films, so his allure utterly escaped me.

A few weeks later I got a call to appear on location inside a UCLA Classroom to spout my few lines. Happily the director handed me a whole page of new dialogue that he wanted my character to say. So I was very “chuffed” by the sudden increase in the size of my part. As is the custom, the crew was encouraged to ignore Pattinson, and the 40 or so other cast members were extras who were not allowed to talk to or even look at the Star (A union rule). So I had him all to myself. We chatted gamely, between set-ups; and I can report that he was charming and seemingly unaffected by his fame.

At one point, while waiting for a lighting adjustment, I idly walked by the second floor windows overlooking the campus. There was a sudden and frightening howl from below. I looked down in alarm to see hundreds of co-eds pointing up at me. They had gathered below in hopes of catching a glimpse of “Edward Cullen.” The Director shouted, “Get away from the goddam window!” and I quickly retreated. Heart pounding, I turned to look at Robert Pattinson, who gave me a “ Sorry about that” look. That was the first time I truly realized what a megastar he was/is.

Although the book was brilliant, the movie….not-so-much. (Although the opening moments with the aging, but vibrantly alive Professor are well worth the price of admission.) A great novel does not always guarantee a great film.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury is an international stage, film, and TV star. She was born in central London in 1925, and at the age of fifteen, she moved to New York to study acting. Then in 1942, she signed with MGM and got her first film roles, in Gaslight (1944) and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945), earning two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe Award. Although her appearance in the film adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) was widely acclaimed, she only gained true stardom in the title role of the Broadway musical Mame (1966). Moving to television in 1984, Angela Lansbury became a household name as the fictional writer and sleuth “Jessica Fletcher” in Murder, She Wrote, which ran for twelve seasons until 1996. She was executive producer for the final four episodes.

Lansbury has won five Tony Awards, six Golden Globes and has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress on three occasions, and various Primetime Emmy Awards on eighteen occasions. On November 16, 2013, Lansbury received an Honorary Oscar after seventy years of work in the motion picture industry.

I played “Jessica’s” publisher on MUDER, SHE WROTE for all twelve seasons. I hasten to add, I was not in every episode, or indeed in every year, but when the publisher appeared in the script, I was given a call. I may have been in a dozen or so episodes over the years. I am basing that on the residual checks, which just keep coming in, as the show remains perennially popular.

Because of Miss Lansbury’s fame and popularity, she attracted all sorts of aging movie stars who appeared in guest cameos. In fact, on one occasion, I recall seeing my trailer placed next to those of Van Johnson, June Allyson and possibly Cyd Charisse. Sadly I did not get to work with them, but it was rather thrilling to see my modest trailer parked next to those of such luminaries.

One of the most difficult aspects of the show for me was its Boston accent. I am not terribly good at accents to begin with, and that one was particularly difficult for me. “Park your car in Harvard Yard” becomes “Peck ya Keh in Hehvid Yed”. Plus you had to decide whether you were going to go all “Cliff” on CHEERS, or adopt the Kennedy’s Hyannisport affectation. But I noticed that nobody else on the show paid much attention to accents, and certainly not Miss Lansbury, who remained as English as plum pudding.

One day, I discovered an interesting tidbit from a P.A. Miss Lansbury’s trailer was parked right up against one entrance of the studio. That way, she could just walk off the set and into her home. Needless to say, I was never invited to tea, but apparently it was simply enormous, more of a house than a mere motor home. It was rumored to be decorated in the style of an English Country home, all chintz and Staffordshire dogs. And since Miss Lansbury was in practically very scene, everyone understood and appreciated the necessity of keeping her nearby and well-rested.

I only ran into trouble on the show once. Angela was in a position, as executive producer on the show, to promote her son Anthony’s career. And in one episode, I found him directing me. Our interaction was cordial, although I recall him being rather vague at times, yet oddly demanding at others. But my job was to follow his direction, making the boss’ son look good.

The following week, I got a call to go into ADR (Additional Dialogue Recording) from the producer in charge of post. He quizzed me about my performance in one particular scene. He felt I was far too aggressive and wanted to know why after all my years on the show, I had chosen to portray my character in such an unpleasant manner. I told him that I was simply following direction. He sighed and asked me to record the scene again in a much more convivial manner…which I did. I soon realized there must be “Trouble in Tahiti”; but mine was not to reason why.

My favorite moment with Angela came in one scene, where she and I and the actor playing the local sheriff, had to line up in a row for a particular camera angle. While we waited for the camera to make the adjustment, I commented, “We must look like The Mad Women Of Chaillot!” We all sighed in agreement. The Sheriff added, “They ought to make a musical out of it.” Miss Lansbury replied, “They did. It was called DEAR WORLD.” And the sheriff and I looked at each, dumbfounded. Well, of course they made a musical out of it, and of course, it starred Angela Lansbury. And we both thought, who else in the world can you make a joke about a Broadway musical, only to discover that its star was standing right next to you?

On April 15, 2014, Angela Lansbury was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II, who bestowed the honor for the actress’ lifetime of acting and charity work. The 88-year-old Hollywood legend arrives in Los Angeles this December to star in BLYTHE SPIRIT.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment