Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Bill, Meet Robin, Robin, Meet Bill

Around the time I was in The Groundlings, there were many other improv groups sprouting up all over LA. I wanted to see what the other groups were up to, and so I would go to some of their performances, and if they offered them, would take a couple of classes.

One of the companies I went to see, was called Off The Wall. I remember everyone in the show was pretty good, but then one guy came onstage, and he was like the Tasmanian Devil of comedy, a human tornado, that blew everyone else off the stage. I remember thinking, "WHO IS THAT?" So quick, so clever, what is he going to do next? After the show, we stayed around to chat with the cast, and found out the guy's name; Robin Williams.
This was pre-Mork, but he already had his trademark rainbow suspenders with an assortment of pins attached to them. Very cute, I thought.

When I went to the class, Robin came over to me and picked me up, and twirled me around. I guess he kinda liked me. We got friendlier, and I invited him to the Warner Bros. lot where I was working in the casting department. We had lunch, and walked around the leafy, campus-like setting of the buildings, and sat down on the grass. He was very different off stage. Quiet and shy.

Another time, we went to one of the trendy West Hollywood restaurants, Joe Allen, where all the actors and comedy people went, but the hub bub of our surroundings soon faded into the background, as we looked across the table at each other. Both our eyes were like pinwheels.
"It's exciting, being here with you like this", he said. I felt the same.

There were a few more meetings, and one time he came over to my apartment. We realized we lived 2 blocks from each other. It was just after the Off the Wall show, and we visited for a couple of hours and he said he had to go. He had another show to do! What!?
"Why, I said, you just did one." "Have to", was his reply. Sometimes he would do three shows a night, in three different places. (That's how ya do it, folks, in case you were wondering)

Around this same time, my friend from the Groundlings, Laraine Newman, was visiting from New York. She was hired from our show to be in the very first cast of Saturday Night Live. We were all so proud, and excited for her. She came home frequently to visit, and we would get together, and one time she brought with her, the new guy, Bill Murray.

She said he said to her, he wanted to meet a real nice girl.

So, Laraine, her boyfriend, and Bill and I went on a double date. And what a strange one it was.

We ended up being invited by a high school pal of hers over to a relative's house of his, who happened to be Groucho Marx. The house was one of those wild, over the top, mid-century modern places, that are all the rage now. We were in the den, partying, and I got up to use the restroom. As I came out, there was Bill down the hall, and he motioned for me to come over to a door that was cracked open. We peaked in. There was Groucho, in bed sleeping, with a huge oxygen tank by the side of the bed, and a nurse sitting there, reading! We looked each other with eyes wide, and mouths dropped open, thought balloons over our heads saying, "Can you believe it!?" and we tip toed back to the den.

We went out a couple more times, and I have to say, he is one of the funniest people I have ever been around. Non stop hilarity, pretty much. He would have this running commentary going about everything. He had just been cast on SNL, so he was not quite yet famous. I remember people would come up to him and say, "Don't I know you from somewhere, didn't we go to such and such school together?", and he would just say, "No, I didn't go there".

One night, Bill and I ended up at yet another hip, trendy restaurant, where all the actors and comedy people hung out, Theodore's. (The Groundlings had their own room there!) and I see Robin! So, I said, "Oh, I there's someone I know, let's go say HI, so we went over, and I introduced them.
They both seemed to be aware of the other,("Oh, yeah, you, oh Hi, yeah, Hi") but they had not officially met.

Soon after that, Robin's phone calls stopped, and I later heard he was getting married. Bill and I saw each other, a couple more times, when we both worked on "Where The Buffalo Roam", then I didn't see or hear from him for awhile.

I would run into him again, a couple years later, when I worked background on "Ghostbusters". I was working in a scene, outside the Biltmore Hotel in downtown LA, and I hadn't seen him yet, and didn't know if I should say something to him, or not, in case he didn't recognize me, but he jumped out of the Ghostbustermobile, and ran over to me and picked me up and twirled me around! Later, when I was talking with him in his motorhome, he told me he was going to be getting married.

They were both fleeting flings, at a time when the heavens were positioned just right, and there I was, witnessing two shooting stars.
I don't know if they remember that night, but I sure do.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Night in Jail

The summer of my 21st birthday, I had gotten cast in a theater group that did musicals in Big Bear Lake, California. A resort town, up in the mountains, 2 hours outside of Los Angeles. I was very excited to be doing this because not only do I love all the old Broadway musicals, I would be able to add some summer stock to my thin resume. I took some singing and dance classes several weeks before rehearsals began to get in shape. I called my agent to tell him the good news, thinking he would be happy for me getting this experience. I was surprised that he was pissed because I was taking myself out of the marketplace for the busy summer. Couldn't go on auditions. I wanted to do it anyway.

We were set to do, "Fiddler on the Roof", "Annie Get Your Gun", and "The Sound of Music", which we never got to, because the whole company fell apart before that could happen. Yes, it was that dysfunctional, crazy and chaotic, but we laughed it all off because we were a bunch of young people away from home for the summer up in the mountains, having a blast!

We rehearsed one show in the day time, under the pine trees, on the lawn behind the big ski lodge. In the evenings, we performed the other show, while patrons dined on mexican food on the outdoor patio. It was a lovely setting.

The company was run by a chubby gay guy, who directed and choreographed. We called him Twinkletoes. His chubby tomboyish sister had the lead in "Fiddler", and her girlfriend played the piano.

The girls were put up in a small motel, 3 or 4 to a room, in 3 rooms. It was a bit crowded, but we didn't mind, we were hardly there. The guys were all staying in a 100 year old miner's cabin, that didn't have running water, so they had to come shower at our place in the morning.

After the shows, we'd usually hang out in the little bar of the ski lodge, and party with Gary, the tall, lanky, gay, alcoholic bartender I had a crush on. He later became Frank Butler in "Annie", because the actor who was cast left. Later, the kid who was doing the lights, who never acted in his life, took on a small role when another actor bailed. A new girl showed up, to replace someone else who had left, and she was telling us how she had a tough decision, because she was hired to work in the new Electrical Parade at Disneyland. We all said, "GO! Go back, if you can still do it, go back!!" The next morning, the director was rather puzzled as to why his new cast member suddenly left.

One night after the show, we went back to our motel, and we had noticed there was a new cute neighbor guy. So we invited him over, and he came over with a bag of pot. Oh Boy! So there was him, and about 6 or 8 girls. Guess he figured, those were some pretty good odds. So, the small room filled with smoke, and the laughter and the music got louder, and I guess it was pretty loud, because after awhile, there was some very loud knocking on the door. THE COPS!!! Everybody scattered. Someone jumped out a window on the other side of the room. I jumped in a closet. Two girls had gone to their room to get a pipe, and when they saw what was going down, stood down. We were all rounded up, and I was pulled out of the closet. We were hand cuffed and put into the police car, and driven to the little mountain police station and booked. The charge was being in a place where marijuana was being smoked.

I went through a range of feelings, at first I thought it was funny, then I started to get a little scared, and then I was mad. I heard the cops in the hallway, talking about the one guy with all those girls, like he was some sheik and his harem, or the leader of the next hippie murder cult.

They let us languish in cells alone, laying on the cot with just the mattress ticking, no sheets or blanket, with the stark bare bulb burning all night long. I couldn't sleep, and was getting very despondent. I wanted my Mommy.

In the morning, Gary, the tall, lanky, gay, alcoholic bartender that I had a crush on, came and bailed us out, and then took us all out for breakfast. Boy, were we hungry! As we walked into the little homey, small town coffee shop, all of the customers turned to look at us. "Oh, they all know what happened", Gary said. "News travels fast around here". Outlaw celebrities, we were.

That night, the show was packed. Before the show started, we looked out into the audience, from behind the sets, and there we saw, sitting in the front row, all the cops that had busted us!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Trip to Neverland

Even though I am not a sick pre-adolescent boy, I did get a chance to visit Neverland. My friend, Greg, who worked at Sony, called me and asked if I would be interested in going to Neverland, because there was a Studio Day there. Apparently, Michael Jackson opened his home to studios, as well as other groups, and organizations. Busses would be taking studio employees, and friends and family, but Greg opted to rent a big car, and he drove me, and 2 other friends, the 2 hour or so drive, north, from Los Angeles, past Santa Barbara, to Los Olivos. This is where much of the movie, "Sideways" was later filmed.
Past the charming town, out a long 2 lane country road, of green and yellow rolling hills, cows and vineyards, we finally reached the gates of Neverland. There were attendants directing cars to park outside the gates, and before we even got out of the car, we were handed release forms,to sign, saying we would not discuss, or reveal anything to any media outlet, or anyone at anytime,about anything we saw or experienced, so I guess I am now breaking the secret pact.
As we walked into the gates, and toward the house, there was music piped in, and upon inspecting a rock, found it was actually a speaker. They were all over the place. There were many bronze statues of children amongst the meticulously manicured grounds. Peter Pan's lost boys, and Fagin's raggedy pick-pockets from Oliver Twist. And there were a few girls, too.
The house was a big psuedo Tudor style. We couldn't go inside the house, but peaking in the windows, you could see the rococo decor, and even more statues, and everything over the top, verging on gaudy, but not quite, there was an elegance to it. The house was surrounded by large oak trees, and bushes and flowers, and the statues and speakers. Nearby was a pool, and a large building, that housed a game room. Lots and lots of video games and pinball machines. Everywhere you looked, there was the logo for Neverland, a little boy, in sleepers, sitting on a crescent moon. There were people playing the games, and outside, there was a large barbeque area, almost an outdoor kitchen, and many, many staff members were busily cooking up burgers, and chicken, and there were tables of fixin's, and they were asking you what you wanted, and you could have as much as you wanted of whatever you wanted. As we were eating, somebody brought Bubbles, the chimp out. He had cute little pants on, and everyone was gathered around him, and he was doing all his chimp antics, and I went over to him, and reached out to grab his hand and he almost pulled me down with surprising force. It was like a 3 year old with the strength of a grown man.
The whole time, you expected to see Michael come out, but he never did. He wasn't there. It was strange to be a guest at someone's home, being lavished with anything you could want, and the host was not even there. There was no one to thank.
So, then it was off to the amusement park and the zoo, and the theater. We had to board the train, and the train station was exactly like the one at Disneyland. Inside the station, there was a huge painting of Michael on the wall, looking very Jesus-like, wearing all white, all back-lit, with a holy glow around him, and surrounded by little children, all skipping, and laughing. Kinda creepy. We went to see the theater. It was on another part of the property, and it was state of the art. There was a lobby with candy cases full of candy, Popcorn machine popping, and the staff offering you as much of anything you wanted. I guess there were going to show movies, but we didn't stick around for that, but did notice the bedroom in the theater with the big glass window, so sick children could watch movies while lying in bed. (With Michael?)
Time for rides! There was just about every type of amusement park ride you've ever seen. Merry-go-round, one of those big viking looking boat-type things that went back and forth, a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and more. We went on them all, but I think the thing I really liked the most, was the big huge slide that had about a dozen lanes on it, and it was one big, long slide. I did that many times. I think that was one of the first amusement rides that was invented for the public.
Then it was off to the zoo! Who wants to feed the alligators!? I do! I do! So, the staff gave you one of those grabber things you see advertised on late night tv, for old people to get stuff down from shelves, and there was a big tub of raw half chickens. So you'd pick one up with the grabber, and point it in the alligators direction, and he would come over, and just tear that thing out of your grabber, and chomp it right down in two bites. I loved the elephants the best, and seemed to have formed a special relationship with one. He kept coming over to me, for me to pet his trunk with his rough skin, and thick, prickly whiskers.
The giraffe enclosure was pretty cool, because there was a fort-like structure that you could climb up and be face to face with the giraffes, and they would come right up to you, and you could pet them, and they really smelled. Like nothing else. Giraffe smell. One came over and nudged me, and almost knocked me off the platform, with his big, strong neck. He kind of pissed me off. Damn giraffe with your big strong neck,I guess he expected some food or something, but there was no giraffe feed.
After doing everything there was to do, and seeing everything there was to see, you really had to marvel at the world he created, and all the dedicated staff it took to keep it all going.
It was a long, great, wonderful, fun, exhausting day, and we all reverted back to being children, running around, laughing, playing, eating too many sweets; over-indulging in everything. I guess that was the whole point. To be able to be a child again. It was so much fun. Thank you, Michael.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Adventure with Pee Wee

I was in The Groundlings with Paul Reubens, and was there the night he did Pee Wee for the first time in front of an audience. I loved him instantly. It was wonderful to watch as Paul took Pee Wee from the Groundling stage, to an Equity theater, and then on to the big and little screen.
Phil Hartman, also a fellow Groundling, was the co-writer, of "Pee Wee's Big Adventure". I was chatting with Phil over lunch one day, about the biz, stuff we liked, and parts we'd like to play, and I mentioned I always wanted to play a waitress in a truck stop. He said there was a waitress in a truck stop in the Pee Wee movie! He said he could get me in on it, but the final decision was not up to him, or Paul. I understood, and was delighted to audition. He told me to think of the Bette Davis character, in "The Petrified Forest", with Bogie.
I thought the audition went well, and Phil told me everyone really liked me, but another actress was cast.
Weeks later, I was at a friend's house, and her friend Harvey was there, and he had just gotten the job as the assistant director on the Pee Wee movie. I told him that I had auditioned, and he said, "Well, I'm going to need a couple of biker chicks, as background, would you want to do that?"
"Wood Eye!?" I mean, "Would I!?" Wow! Live out a fantasy!

It was a 7:30am call at a bar on Sierra Highway, out in Canyon Country. A cold and foggy morning. I had gotten lost, and had to flag down a trucker in my tough girl garb to ask for directions. (Yer eyes can play tricks on ya when yer haulin' a load all night, to meet an early morning deadline)
I pulled up to the little dive in the desert, and got out of the car. There it was, the bar that time forgot. It had a hitching post out front, and about 20 motorcycles all in a row. Harvey and Paul, as Pee Wee were out front, and greeted me.
"Terry's too glamorous to be a biker chick", I remember Paul saying. Thanks, P, but I'm doing it anyway. Harvey told me I could relax for awhile. I went to check with wardrobe, and look for the coffee. I found my fellow "spear carriers" hanging out by the production trucks. They were all as big as doorways. Outlaws, in leather and denim, still dusty from days on the road...
"Hi Guys", I chirped, apprehensively, as I climbed aboard the wardrobe wagon. They eyed me lasciviously through dark shades, and nodded. They looked a little scary, but exciting, and in some cases, gross. Some of the bikers were actors, some were extras, some were stuntmen, and some were the real deal,scrounged up by Central Casting. One of the bikers, the tall Mexican guy, Luis Contreras, I went to Jr. High School with!
The wardrobe lady loved my imitation leather pants, and leopard top. She gave me a leopard vest and some dangle earrings to complete my easy rider ensemble.
I went back to the location, and talked with Harvey, and then Phil Hartman showed up, and we talked shop over more coffee, and we gabbed with Paul between shots. He was very happy with the crew, and the director, Tim Burton, who he felt was perfect for the project.
It was finally time to do the scenes with all the bikers. The Queen of the Bikers, Cassandra Peterson, also a fellow Groundling, then showed up on the set. She had needed some extra time to get into her "motorcycle mama" mean and nasty, super-studded, low-cut leather, I-can-hardly-breathe-in-this-thing top. Her own red hair was ratted into a high beehive. The boys were happy to see her.
"Oh, Hi Terry!", she squealed, just like a high school girlfriend. "I love your outfit!"
"Yours is pretty nice too," I laughed, staring at the studded creation as we walked toward the rest of the gang.
Well, as soon as word leaked out that these lugs would be sharing the screen with none other than Elvira herself, many Instamatics were pulled out from cut-off Levi vests! You never saw such posing and snapping except when Santa is at the mall!
Since it was a real bar, it had real beer! So we was drinking on the job! We shot the scenes of Pee Wee wallking in, trying to make a phone call, and almost getting beat up, until he wins them over with his unique charm. He then takes off on a bike, and has a mishap! Pee Wee's stunt double was Corey Eubanks, Bob"making whoopee"Eubanks son.
As we all spill out of the bar to see Pee Wee off, the gang gathers around Pee Wee on the bike, and I'm so short, so everyone (big as doorways bikers) are blocking me. One of them pushes me right out front, and you can see me sort of bounce into the shot. Thanks, Dude! Always ready for my close-up!
It was a long day, lasting well into the evening and past a second meal. I became a biker zombie, partied out and pooped!
Long after Paul, Cassandra, Phil, Harvey, and I, and all the rest of the crew were long gone, several of the boys stayed on drinking beer and playing tunes like "Tequila" on the juke box, celebrating their show biz debut. I heard the proprietors of the place finally gave them one of the teeny motel rooms out back, to rest their weary bones and bikes for the night.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

When Everything Was GROOVY....

Before The Beatles came along, the early 60's were like a hangover from the 50's. As kids, we imitated 50's teenagers, like the ones we saw in movies, with the full skirts, or straight, with bobby sox, and the guys had duck tails and rolled up jeans. It was getting a little tired.
THEN~! The British Invasion!! Started by the Fab Four, and then, all the great bands that followed, and of course all the MAD, MOD fashions!

We had moved to Hollywood in 1965, and the kids were into the whole surf scene that was going on at the same time. The boys mostly like The Beach Boys, and the girls mostly like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Soon, some of the boys started combing their hair down in the front to look like the Liverpool lads.

There was a buzz in the air. Something's happenin' here, what it is ain't exactly clear....maybe the answers were blowing in the wind, but all we knew is that the times they were a changing...and..things got... psychedelic! A new big word. Had to look it up.
I was too young at first, for the war that was going on to be in my consciousness. I was vaguely aware of something going on far away, but that was something grown-ups talked about, and the boring guys on tv. I was more interested in other things, and maybe that was the point.

The Southern California music scene had mushroomed out of Laurel Canyon, the groovy hippie enclave, where my best friend, Debbie lived in a big old ramshackle cabin on top of Look Out Mountain Dr. Down the hill was the big old log cabin where Frank Zappa lived. It was once owned by silent film cowboy, Tom Mix. Across the street was Houdini's old sprawling, run-down estate. There were many rock and roll shows on tv that all these bands appeared on, some local, some national. Hollywood aGoGo, Shindig, Lloyd Thaxton, Where the Action Is, Ninth St West, Hullabaloo. Shivaree! We watched them all. Some kids from school were in the group of kids that danced on one of the shows. Next door to us, lived a couple of rock and roll singers. One guy was in The Hollywood Argyles, of "Alley Oop" fame, and the other guy, Joey Paige, who used to sing with the Everly Brothers, appeared on Hollywood a GoGo.

Our room was soon transformed into a hippie den, with psychedelic posters covering the walls, printed cotton bedspreads from India, colorful pillows, and a beaded curtain across the door. We'd spend hours in there, burning candles and incense, listening to The Doors, and other groovy bands.

We attended The Teen Age Fair! It was at The Hollywood Palladium. Where Frank Sinatra sang with Tommy Dorsey. A whole FAIR!!! JUST for teenagers!!! FREE Clearasil!!

Besides The Sunset Strip being a mecca for wandering youth, Fairfax Ave. which has since returned to it's former jewish cultural roots, was also quite the groovy hang. After a long night of just hanging out, or clubbing on The Strip, seeing The Doors, at The Whisky aGoGo, or The Byrds at Ciro's, with the grey haired, bearded sculptor, Vito, and his dancing Freaks; who would mesmerize the crowd, with their free-style freak dancing; the hippies would either go off to parties in Laurel Canyon, or, if the munchies got to them, they'd spill over down onto Fairfax Ave. and go eat at Canter's, the jewish delicatessen, that was open 24 hours.

The Free Press Bookstore had opened up on this stretch of small, family-owned, jewish businesses. It sold the alternative newspaper, The Free Press, and other counter culture publications, books, posters, buttons, jewerly, and paraphenalia. It smelled like incense. Very hip, and happening.
My sister and I were walking home from Fairfax High, down Faifax Ave, and as we passed the Free Press Book Store, we noticed a little boutique opening up. We went in and started talking to the people opening it, David and Roseanna, hip, art-school types, and their employee, Henny, a pretty blonde school girl from Austria. We told them we would see them every day after school! And we did! They made mini dresses, and they were all $13, which soon became most of our wardrobe. They called it, "I'm a Hog For You, Baby", from a song.
On their opening night, my sister and I modeled their dresses in the window, sometimes dancing, and sometimes,we froze for minutes at a time! One day, we were hanging out after school, eating chocolate chip rolls from Canter's bakery, and Cher came in to shop!

There was a groovy head shop down the street called the Infinite Mind. They had a room in the back, where you could lay down on pillows on the floor, and listen to music, and watch the trippy liquid light show! For Free! Very groovy!

Sometimes, we would cruise The Strip if someone's friend had a older sibling with access to a car. Or, we'd go walking up there, but had to get home by the 10:00 curfew.
We met Rodney Bingenheimer, The Mayor of The Sunset Strip. He knew EVERYBODY!!
"Hi, What's Happening?", was Rodney's standard greeting, in his boyish, nasally voice. He was also Davy Jones' stand-in, on "The Monkees".

My sister and I had met a band from the Bay Area, when we were going to Hollywood High.
We would go watch them rehearse after school, at a theater nearby. One time we mentioned Rodney Bingenheimer, and the guys exclaimed, "Rodney Bingenheimer!!?" "We went to high school with him in Mountain View!!!! "Yeah, man, he was mowing lawns, and one day, he threw down the lawn mower, and said, 'Fuck this shit, I'm going to Hollywood and be famous'".

There were Love-ins in Griffith Park! The Merry-Go-Round area. Hundreds of peace loving souls gathered, to eat, dance, share, play music,paint their faces, and love! Wear your love like Heaven, and don't forget the flowers in you hair! Our neighbor was an older hippie dad, and he would drive us to the Love-Ins, and pick us up at a specified time and place. We would see Gypsy Boots, the hippie health food guru, and Wild Man Fischer, who sang with Frank Zappa. The Diggers passed out free food. A cute hippie guy gave my sister a joint, and she turned me on in the bushes. Really Groovy!

People hitchhiked everywhere. Everyone was cool, was your brother. The feelings of peace, love and goodwill were everywhere you went. You met people, hung out, had an experience, and went on your way. It really was a beautiful thing. Yes, there were some hassles from the Man, and you'd encounter some uptight straights, but they just weren't hip, man, they just didn't get it.

Then--Charles Manson. Everyone got paranoid. Bad drugs flooded the streets. OD's. Crime. Unsavory types posing as hippies. It all went bad, and then became a joke.

I really thought we would change the world. Maybe all that beauty and honesty was a threat to the Establishment. People coming together and getting along? Naw...better we should be polarized, and fighting over "issues".
There are things that the counter culture has indelibly influenced. Speech, for one thing. Hippie venacular is ubiquitous. Ecology, recycling, health food, spirituality, fashion,(maybe not to the best effect, as casual has become slovenly) are just some examples.
There was a huge backlash, of which we are now only recovering from. I again feel a change is in the air, as people have become disenchanted with the consumer culture, a tanking economy, and a government that has disappointed, and let them down.

Maybe the times they are a changing again.....and peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars! Let the sunshine in!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Inhabiting a Role

In between the small roles, background and stand-in work I have done, I was always looking for something else to do when work was slow, so when a friend asked me to cover for her on a gig, I was interested.
"Have you ever been a costumed character?", she asked me.
"Uh, no, I said, what do you mean?"
"Woody Woodpecker", she answered. "You appear at events as Woody Woodpecker."
"In a costume, that looks like him?" I asked. "Oh, yes, it's quite a costume!" she said, "It's fun, you'll have fun." My middle name!

So, a few days later, I went to Universal for orientation, do some paperwork, and pick up the costume. The girl running the program had worked at Disneyland as Snow White, and knew all about working with, and appearing as a costumed character. There all kinds of rules.

Number one. Don't talk! So even though the Woody Woodpecker laugh was one of my main parlor tricks as a child, I couldn't do it. Guess they don't want to be responsible for anything inappropriate someone might say while portraying a character.

Number two. NEVER take the head off when people are around. Don't want to give any little kids nightmares of a decapitated cartoon character.

Number three. Never walk around alone. It is hard to see and move in the costume, so this is a safety issue, also, some people can be mean and hurt the character, so you have protection. There is always someone with you to spot you.

Number four. Do not stay in the costume longer than 20 minutes. You are on and off every 15-20 minutes. Those costumes are very hot, and you can become dehydrated and/or faint.

Suiting up. First there is a foundation garment. This is like a leotard, close fitting to the body, and zips up, but the suit has padding on it, in various places to give the proper cartoon body shape. Then, the costume itself,a full body suit, fitting the contours of the foundation, and with arms and legs, like big fuzzy sleepers. The hands are big, padded gloves, with 4 fingers, so you put the two middle fingers in one glove finger, and then, the big oversized clown-shoe like feet. The head is very big, and quite heavy. You can see through the mouth.

I have to say, walking out into the event, as Woody, it was a pretty wonderful feeling to see all these little children run up to you, with joy and excitement on their cute little faces. "Oh, I know You!" One little girl exclaimed, and gave me a big, heartfelt hug. They all want to talk to you and touch you, and hold your hand. It's a very warm, fuzzy feeling, and not just from the costume.

That feeling dissipated quickly, on another gig, however, when I appeared at an event for the Braille Institute. Hordes of partially sighted and blind children swarmed me, and were poking, hitting, pulling, grabbing, clutching, molesting and assaulting me. I almost fell over. I was a little pissed that the kids were not better supervised, and when I mentioned it to someone in the administration, she said, "Yes, they are very tactile." Tactile! I was mobbed! I felt like I was Mick Jagger, or something.

Another time, at an Earth Day Festival, a young couple came by with a little puppy. I bent down to pet the pup, and he grabbed hold of my big white cartoon hand, and started playing tug of war with it, growling and tugging and shaking his head! He was not letting go! I had to struggle to hold onto, it; I could just see the puppy run off with Woody's hand! In front of all the children! Eeeeeek!

A little boy came up to me at another gig, and started doing a Chris Farley, when he would talk to a celebrity. "Oh, yeah, I know you. I seen you on tv. Remember, remember that time when, when, you were old, and, and you couldn't, you were too old to peck wood", and he started imitating an old Woody, too feeble to peck at a tree. I could barely keep from laughing out loud.

One of my appearances was very special, because I got to meet "my Daddy!". I appeared with Walter Lantz, and had publicity photos taken shaking his hand!

Another time, I was in a parade, and rode sitting on the top of the backseat of a convertible, waving to the crowd. I was hoping there was no lone nut in the crowd who had it out for woodpeckers. (They can be noisy little bastards, ever get woken up by one on a camping trip? If I had a gun, I'd think about it, ok maybe a slingshot!)

Most of the events took place on a weekend, so I would go to Universal on Friday afternoon, to pick up the costume, to appear on a Saturday or Sunday, and then return it on Monday. So, one Friday, I went and got the costume, and put it in the trunk of my car, and went to visit my sister, stay over night, and do the gig on Sunday. I wanted to show my sister the costume, so I said, "I'll go put it on."

I went down the hall, and went out the back door, and put the costume on and walked up to the front door, and rang the bell. My brother-in-law, Tim, opened the door with my 5 year old nephew, Chris, who was just astonished to see Woody.
"Hello, Woody, come in", Tim said. I came in and started doing all kinds of antics, and Chris was just cracking up. I shook hands with everyone, went over to the table and picked up a liter bottle of soda, and pretended to drink it, petted the dog, hugged my sister, played with a few more props, and then signaled that I'd better be on my way, and waved as I walked out the door. I went to the car, took off the costume, and went back in the back door, and walked down the hall into the living room. Chris came running up to me, "Terry!, Terry!, you missed it! Woody Woodpecker was just here!"
"Oh no, really!? I feigned disappointment. "I just missed him? Darn! How nice of him to come visit!"

Flash forward, 11 years later, I was at my sister's house, and she was helping me work on my resume. Among the many jobs listed, was; 'Costumed Character-Made personal appearances as Woody Woodpecker for Universal Studios'. The now 16 year old Chris, picked up the resume and was reading it, and all of a sudden he, says, "HEEEEY!!!" I looked at him, puzzled at first, and said, "What?", and then realized, he just realized, that it was really me, all those years ago. I guess it was kind of like finding out Santa wasn't real. "OH!" I said, and started cracking up. "I wondered how old you had to be before I could tell you!"
He said he always wondered what Woody Woodpecker was doing walking around the neighborhood in Valencia, California!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs, at the Academy Awards

In the 70's the year of "Nashville", my friend, who's husband was a producer, offered her Academy Awards ticket to me, and her friend, Tad. She had been several times, and the novelty of it had worn off, and she preferred to stay at home and watch it on tv.
I was very excited to be going to the Oscar ceremony, especially because 2 people I had become acquainted with, were nominated!
Robert Altman was the ex-step-father-in-law of a friend of mine, and I had gone with him to several parties at The Altman's,and to screenings of his films. Lily Tomlin was a friend of the Groundlings, had been to see our shows, and hired several of us to work on her specials.
Back then, it was held at the beautiful, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, downtown, now home to the LA Opera.
I wore a long, vintage, peach-colored, silk brocade chinese dress, with the high collar, and slit up the side. It was the closest thing I had to a formal. Tad in a tux, of course. I was shocked to see some people showing up in denim, but this was the 70's, after all. It was fun watching all the people coming in, and then we went to find our seats. We were in the very last row! There was equipment and monitors, and cables everywhere, some partially blocking our view. But still, we were there!
After the first few commercial breaks, where everything just stops, and there is just silence, and you can see the commercials on the monitors, but not hear, and you're just sitting there, I understood why my friend chose to stay home. It was kind of boring. But still, we were there!
And it was very long, like it always is.
After the show, as everyone was streaming out, I felt a little left out, as my friend had not purchased the tickets to the Governor's Ball. That was extra.

I was to attend the Governor's Ball another year, but not as a guest.

It was the year of "Titanic." I was doing catering work, and I got the call to work the Academy awards. Hmmm, this might be interesting, so I took the job.
Every person in LA who did catering work was probably there that night. I think it was one server per table, so they needed hundreds. Armies of actor-types in tux shirts and black bow ties.
This year, it was at The Shrine Auditorium. We got a briefing, and inspection, and were specifically instructed not to talk to any of the guest unless it was related to the job. And, DON'T talk to anyone in the kitchen!!! Those chef types are egotistical assholes! Who knew!? This was before all those asshole chef shows on tv!
The hall was huge, and gorgeous, all greens and golds, and plants, and matching linens, and little Oscar statues everywhere. Even some of the appetizers and desserts were in the shape of Oscar.
During the awards telecast, we were all busy bees backstage, and had no idea who won what. Not until they all started streaming in with their statutes in hand. Kim Bassinger! Yeah! James Cameron, Curtis Hanson. I nearly ran right into Kate Winslet; looking stunning in her emerald green, medieval-inspired, Alexander McQueen gown. Loved it!
I had Ellen Burstyn at my table. Deep Sigh. I had a personal story I would have loved to remind her of, but I couldn't. A very close friend of mine, who was a movie freak, wrote her a fan letter after he saw "The Last Picture Show." Because he was a very intelligent and thoughtful person, I'm sure it was a memorable letter, and she answered him. He was so thrilled.
Twenty five years later, as he lay dying of AIDS, in USC Medical Center, she happened to be visiting AIDS patients, and inexplicably, came to his bedside. He reminded her of the letter, and how much it had meant to him that she answered it, and she remembered.
I couldn't mention to her that he was one of my closest, oldest friends, and how much her letter, and the visit so many years later, meant to him. I just had to hold it in, and think about it to myself.
I worked my butt off that night, and the catering people who were running it were all high anxiety, and barking orders. I felt like a slave.
All in all,it was an interesting experience, but I would never do it again. Kind of like my trip to Morocco.
At the end of the night, as I was leaving, I picked up several of the real gold covered chocolate Oscars that people had left on the tables. I took a couple to my Mom. She had them in her fridge for years.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We Meet Again

Before we moved to Hollywood, we had come to visit a few times. My mother's sisters were here, and my uncle, Kin, was in a folk group, The Back Porch Majority. Some of the members in the group lived together in a house out in the valley. They called it the folk house. We went there one time with my uncle, and met some of the other people in the group, and others who also performed at the club, Ledbetter's in Westwood, owned by Randy Sparks, of the New Christy Minstrels fame.
One person really stood out to me, and I always remembered meeting him. My uncle said, "Girls, meet John Denver." I will never forget his beaming face, as he said, "Well, I am so happy to meet you," as he shook our little hands. I learned later this was called charisma.
Back in Arizona, some of the folk house gang were on the road, passing through, and stopped off to visit. My mother's cousin, Diane was visiting from Detroit, with her 3 kids, and the 4 of us girls, so we had a houseful. Diane made John and the others grilled cheese sandwiches. Later, he inquired to my uncle, "How is Diane and all them kids?"
When we moved out to LA, we would go the the club to see my uncle and the group perform. They really put on a great show. The handsome guys in suits, and the girls in their pretty frilly dresses with big full skirts, picking and singing their hearts out, and they did some comedy bits too. They had a very loyal following on the college circuit.
One night, we were getting ready to go to the club, and my Mom said tonight there were going to be this really funny guy on the bill, Steve Martin. We couldn't wait to see this new act.
Yes, he did have the arrow through the head. Some things just always work. He probably started that back when he was at Disneyland. He was billed as "Just another banjo magic act".
Not many people knew for a long time, he is an excellent banjo player. He did put a CD out recently.
So, before the show, he was talking with my aunt and uncle, and my sister and I were standing there, and he mentioned that he forgot to get a newspaper. He needed a newspaper. And wondered where to get one before the show. "We'll go get you one!" we exclaimed, excitedly. We ran out of the club, and up the street to the Westward Ho market on Westwood Blvd. There were several newsstands out front. "Hmmm, do you think he'd want The Times, or the Examiner?" We got them both, and ran back to the club, and gave Steve the newspapers.
Onstage, during his act, he did "magic tricks". He comes to the newspaper trick. He elaborately unfolds the paper, and re-folds, and tears, and turns, it and folds, and tears, and folds, all with a flourish, and finally the newspaper page is all folded up very small , and he holds it up to the audience, and bends down, and puts it under the leg of the table next to him onstage.
Every holiday, my Mom would cook a big feast, and we would have a party, for family and friends, and she would invite all the people from the club who had no family to go to. One Easter party, Steve was in attendance at our house. My sister and I were taking a photography class is school, so we took some of the guys out in the yard to take pictures of them. Steve stood on his head, and his love beads draped across his nose. Snap!
Years later, I got to work with both of them in the movies.
On "Oh God", I had a vignette with John in the opening credits of the movie. When I met him on the set, I told him of our first meeting, when I was just a little girl, and how I always remembered him, and how he said he was so happy to meet us. He said, "Well, I'm even happier to meet you now!"
In the movie, John plays a grocery store manager, and I am having a hard time getting the shopping carts apart. He comes over to assist me. Ever since then, every time I get a shopping cart, I think of it.
I ran into Steve Martin on several of his movies. I would always say "Hi", and remind him of meeting him at Ledbetter's, and mention to him, how my uncle was, and what he was up to, and we'd have a little chat.
I think the last time I worked with him was on "The Man With Two Brains." I was standing on the street on Vermont Ave. across from a European style apt building, my little Audi parked in the shot, in front of the building. I was going to be crossing the street. The scene was supposed to be in Germany, so I got the job because they could use my car.
He came up to me and said "hello", and was chatting me up, and asked about the family. Knowing I would be seeing him again, I had dug out the photo I took of him in my backyard, when I was in high school, and brought it for him to sign. Later, when I took the picture over to him, He looked at it, turned it upside down, and said, "This is me?"
"Yes, it is", I said. "You came to a party at our house, I took it for my photography class." Maybe he forgot his hair wasn't always white.
He signed it, "To Terry, You made me what I am today."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Pantages Theater

My very first real job, (not babysitting or housecleaning) was at the stunningly beautiful Pantages Theater, at Hollywood and Vine. I was not yet 16.
I saw a notice on the bulletin board at school for usherettes and candy girls. I still remember what I wore that day for the interview. A black and white striped mini tank dress.
As soon as I walked into the ornate, cavernous lobby, I fell in love with the place, and I had a feeling like I belonged there. I knew I had the job.
They were hiring a lot of extra staff for the premiere of a new Disney movie, "The Happiest Millionaire". We got period costumes to wear and had our hair done.
There was a big show in the street out front before the premiere. We were to seat all the guests at the premiere, including the stars. Well, this was all pretty exciting for a star struck teen, and getting paid to boot! After the premiere, there was a big party, and we were encouraged to mingle, and I had my first glass of champagne.
All the people who worked there were either aspiring actors, or or college students. We soon got tight, and the partying began!
I would come home from school, do my homework, eat something, and go to the theater. It was my social life, I just went to high school because I had to. Several of us became roommates together, just up the street from the theater, at the Castle Argyle, an old, swank spanish style apt/hotel from the hey day of Hollywood. Clark Gable used to live there. Apt. 302 was Party Central.
Our Boss, Mr. Perlmutter, we called him Mr. P, looked like a mobster. He had a big, black Cadillac, with a phone in it. This was 1967-69! We would have weekly staff meetings on the big staircase in the lobby. We discussed problems, and policy, and how things should be done. Everything had to be impeccable. For instance, you could not kick the door stop down with your foot. You had to bend down, and put it up by hand. This was not just any movie theater. All the movies had big premieres that we worked in formals and tuxedos. Then it was a reserved seat run, and it was the only place in town to see that movie. Everyone had to be seated personally, and we carried flashlights, and had special places to stand to greet the patrons. Then we had to stay inside the theater to watch for smokers. We saw the movies so many times, we made up trivia quizzes about them.
As much as Mr. Perlmutter taught us all about good service, and was good to us and fair, he had a lot of shady things going on. Years later, I found out he had people on the payroll that didn't exist. That was his gambling money. When the party planners called to ask how many cases of champagne were needed for the premiere parties, he added 10 to the count, and those went into the trunk of his car.
We all had a fondness for the theater and the history and lore. Besides showing movies, it was an old vaudeville house. There would be variety acts before the movies.
Howard Hughes once owned the theater and his office upstairs.
The Academy Awards were held there for the decade of the 1950's.
Miss Rupp was one of the assistant managers. She was probably in her late 60's at the time, and was a very prim and proper catholic lady. The story was, that she was jilted by one of the Pantages brothers, he married someone else, and she ended up being the family babysitter. She went with the theater. Whoever bought the theater had to have a job for Miss Rupp. She would ask to see people's tickets and direct them to the proper door. She was always on everyone about every little thing, and to not comply was grounds for immediate dismissal!
The uniforms we wore were old fashioned, but I loved them. A maroon top, with gold braid, and a zipper up the front. Big shoulder pads, and a cinched in waist, with a peblem bottom, and a black straight skirt that we rolled up to mini length. Men wore maroon blazers and black pants. Later, we got more modern uniforms, space-agey gold lame A- line mini-dresses with blue princess piping down the front.
We used to love to explore the theater. There were at least a dozen dressing rooms under the stage, and all kinds of balconies, and nooks and crannies that hadn't been used in decades. Once I found an old trunk backstage from one of the vaudeville actresses, and wore some of the 30's clothes from it.
We climbed up into the chandelier.
The projectionist, looked exactly like you would expect an old timey projectionist to look. We would go into the projection booth on our breaks and watch him change the reels. There was an older black lady, Pearl, who cleaned the ladies lounge, and kept the beveled, art deco wall of mirrors sparkling.
Because we were mostly Thespians, it was inevitable that someone would say, "Hey, Kids, let's put on a show!" We did a production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown". I was Peppermint Patty. Then, in the tradition of the theater's past, we did a vaudeville show. These were actually pretty good productions, but it was not for the public. Some legal technicality, so we invited family and friends.
For some reason, after a couple of years, the movies being booked there, got cheesier, and cheesier. And no more premieres. "Hell's Angel's 69". "Helga" with a live birth! "Three in the Attic", and "Spirits of the Dead". I left soon after that, it ws so sad to see the demise of the crown jewel of the Hollywood movie palaces.
Several years later, the Nederlander company bought and started bringing the big Broadway musicals there.
Flash foward 35 years, after running into a few people from the old Pantages days, we decided to have a reunion. We found as many people as we could, and we all went to see "The Producers" at the newly restored theater, and the manager gave us a tour of the theater. We had a party at a nearby restaurant. We all told stories about how much those days meant to us, what we learned there, and all the fun we had. For many, it was our first job, and for others it meant more to them than their college days. I found out I was not the only person who still carried fond feelings for "The Pan".

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How I Got Here

We got dropped off at the movie theater every saturday afternoon, with 35c each. 2oc for admission, and the rest for candy. People just did that back then, free babysitter. I'm not sure, but I think it was when my parents had sex. Or just wanted to get four girls out of their hair. Anyway, we loved it, and it didn't matter what was playing. There were no ratings! I remember seeing "The Slender Thread", and "Back Street", I knew these were grown-up movies, and there was something dark and voyeuristic about seeing them. I felt a little tawdry. But then there was "Jumbo" and "The Parent Trap"! And all those fabulous Doris Day and Rock Hudson movies! Loved those. And of course, all the Elvis movies! We watched the double feature twice. And then, when we came out of the dark theater, there was Dad in the station wagon waiting for us. We would go home and act out some of the scenes, or pretend we were Doris Day while playing with our Barbies, Elvis is my boyfriend! My boyfriend is Troy Donahue!
Any money I got was spent on movie magazines. I'd cut out the pictures and put them on the bedroom wall. I loved Tony Curtis, and Doris Day! Had big crush on George Chakiris when "West Side Story" came out.
When "Pollyana" came out, my uncle told me I looked like Hayley Mills! So I went around thinking everyone thought I was Hayley Mills. Oh, they're looking at me, I bet they think I look like Hayley Mills. I wrote to her, and told her I looked like her, and was disappointed to get a picture with a printed on signature, and something generic like, "thanks for writing".
I was always a movie crazy kid, and we loved all the tv shows too. I would read the TV Guide, cover to cover, loved the articles, and would circle everything I wanted to watch.
THEN -- The Beatles hit! I became the biggest Beatlemaniac, and our room was covered with Beatle pictures, even a poster on the ceiling, so we could dream about them. Rock and roll was competing for my attention, but I still loved movies and tv too.
I was very upset to learn that we would be moving from Scottsdale, AZ, to Los Angeles, CA. My mother had 2 sisters, and they had both settled in Los Angeles. I was being ripped away from my friends. Between sobs, I thought, Los Angeles, that is where Hollywood is.... So as much as it was a trauma, I was intrigued.
Getting settled in was quite an adjustment, it was a culture shock really. Scottdale was like a small town, Los Angeles was the big city! The kids were fast. Where we were just starting to make out, the kids in LA were light years ahead. I remember hearing of a girl leaving school because she was pg!
The surf craze was in full swing, and I could now actually go to the beach!! The real beach! Not just the public pool! We played on the lawn at Television City, and walked up to Hollywood Blvd, and walked along the stars! Went to Grauman's Chinese Theater! My friends from school were dancers on after school rock and roll shows. Rock singers lived next door to us. We went to see "The Dean Martin Show" In Person!!!
From my homeroom desk, looking out the open door of the third floor, I could see a studio, and a sign, with the name, Glen Glenn sound. Saw it a million times on the credits of tv shows. Just above the studio, a couple miles away, I could see the Hollywood Sign, on the mountain. I remember staring at it and thinking, " Wow, I really am in Hollywood!!!"