Wednesday, November 9, 2011


When I look back on my measly little mini-career, I feel like I started at the top, and worked my way down. Several cult hit films, (of course we didn't know it at the time). Several top ten shows, with top name stars. (and then it descended into, what's the name of this, and who's in it? Who? And then on to, "We just want your car", just like Norma Desmond) The first of those Top Ten shows, was Newhart.

I had met Julia Duffy on her show, "Wizards and Warriors". I was her stand-in. Blonde, petite. I got many jobs with those qualifications. The show had many stunts, so she also had a stunt double. They made her be the stand-in too. I got the boot.

Later, I had been working on "The Love Boat" frequently, as background, and when they needed a short stand-in, for kids or petite actresses, I would get a call. So, one day there was Julia Duffy, guest starring, and I was to be her stand-in again. She said,"I remember you, I've been trying to find you! I am on "Newhart" now,and I want you to be my stand-in". The start of 6 years working on a top ten, heck, maybe even top 5 show, with a big name star. The Wonderful David Steinberg, and Dick Martin, of Rowan and Martin's "Laugh-In", directed many of them.

I came on season 3, I believe, I was on it 6 years, and I think it went for 9.

It was great from the get go. But not to say it was not without any drama! Bob Newhart is very mellow, and the set reflected his attitude. He really had it down. If you watch the shows, notice that he rarely moves from one spot. Everyone revolves around him. He does his schtick, and plays off all these crazy characters.The less he had to do the better. He didn't even change out of his wardrobe after the show. He wore it home, and the wardrobe guy went and picked it up. He told the writers and producers, when they offered him a show, that he didn't want any wise cracking kids.
He knows what works for him, and what he wants. He was never crazy about the wife.

God Bless Mary Frann, RIP. She was a ray of sunshine on the set, always smiling and greeting everyone. But she had some annoying tics, and was constantly mugging. Bob, would edge away from her as she mugged away, so she wouldn't be in the shot. And those sweaters! God! I think she found them herself, had wardrobe buy them, and then kept 'em. Well, after a few years, she started to want more. I think agents put actors up to this. Pulling little trips, like showing up late to the set; everyone waiting for her. Pissed Bob off. So, he would open his dressing room door, which was right next to hers, and shut it, so she would think he went to the set. Well, after many antics and posturing, and contract demands, and stories in the tabloids, she was told that the name of the show was not "Frann", and until it was, she better cut it out. You can be replaced, you know, Chickie, Baby.

Even though I worked with Julia for 10 years, on two shows after that, we never became friends. We had a friendly, professional relationship. I really liked her, and loved her work. She was not quite the free spirit that I was. A little staid. Married to an older man. We were very different, but I appreciated her, and her loyalty to me. We worked well together.

Bob and Tom Poston were buds. They had lunch together every day. Wow, can you imagine those coversations!? Tom was a dear, and I loved watching him on tv when I was a kid.

The audience would get very excited whenever Larry, Darryl and Darryl were on the show. I used to stand in for one of the Darryls as well. The blonde one. John Voldstadt, and Tony Pappenfus were excellent, trained actors, who had the perfect job. They made a decent living, working every few weeks. I hung out with them some, and they told me their agents didn't want them to take the job, because they didn't have any lines!! Agents can be idiots. They got famous, hello!? Harpo! Hello!? Everyone loved them! I really think there was a lost opportunity for them, but the creators of the show owned the characters, and did not allow them to do anything without approval. They all could have made a fortune in merchandising!

One time I asked Tony, Darryl #1, what he did to his hair to get it to look like that. He said, "Oh, I just let it do it's thing."

John, Darryl #2, met a girl on a golf promo trip to the south, married her, had a baby, and she left him, and the baby, when the show got canceled!

Larry, Bill Sanderson has had quite a nice career as a character actor since then. He is from Memphis, and used to hang out with Elvis when he was a teen. Went to the midnight movies and amusement parks. One time, I went to visit him in his dressing room, and he was listening to country music, reading the bible, drinking Jack Daniels, and chewing tobacco all at the same time.That was such a satisfying, exquisite, moment. Some actors can make it look easy. Bill made it look really, really hard. Rehearsals could be excruciating. But he always pulled it out for the show. He always wore a quarter in one ear, as Larry, and he said he saw an old black man do that, and decided to use it for the character. He used to leave his tobacco spit cups all over the set.

All the other stand-ins on the show were former dancers, who worked on all the variety shows, and Elvis and beach movies, I watched growing up, and were in all the tour companies for all the big Broadway musicals of the 50's and 60's! Way Cool! They call themselves gypsies.

Once in awhile, I would get a little part, or voice over, or if on a rare occasion, Julia couldn't be there for rehearsal, I would have to rehearse for her. It can be intimidating, to rehearse with all the cast, but I was a trained actress, so I felt competent. They paid a lot more for that at the time, as well. While rehearsing with Bob, he wouldn't even look at me in the scene. And after rehearsal, over in craft service, he came over, and right next to me, asked the AD, when Julia was coming back. And not a thanks or a "good job" to me. I thought that was very insensitive. I guess he was uncomfortable rehearsing with someone else.

The last season, they did an episode where Peter Scolari's character creates a tv show for Stephanie. Twins, like the Patty Duke Show. the episode is called, "Seeing Double". They gave me a a co-starring role, with billing, as the "other" twin. It's a pretty hilarious episode, and even though my back was to the camera, and I had no lines, there was a lot of business, and action. And Don Knotts was in the episode to boot! Between scenes, the warm-up guy, took questions from the audience, and someone asked about me. So I waved my hand out from behind the set, and it got a big laugh. It was a lot of fun to do, and after the show, Julia thanked me for being such a "rock". After curtain call, I went back to hair and make-up, and they ripped the wig off me, and were ready to take off. I was incredulous. My hair was a mess, and their stuff was all packed up, and I said, "I'm going out after this!" They looked at me like, "Huh?" and I made them take out their fucking curling iron, so I could fix my own fucking hair. Hair Bitches. Had to ruin my high! But, hey, it is on You Tube! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And All That Jazz

Growing up in Los Angeles, one of the local tv stations had "The Million Dollar Movie", and they would show the same movie everyday for a week. My sisters and I, if we liked a particular movie, would watch it everyday. One of our favorites that I remember was "Damn Yankees". We liked the swear word in the title, especially. "Let's watch DAMN Yankees again!" Haha! We loved sexy Gwen Verdon, and would imitate her number, "What Ever Lola Wants". Lola gets! Yeah! I learned that choreographer means the one who made up the dances. Bob Fosse. He knew what he was doing. I mimicked Bob Fosse's moves as a moppet.

Imagine my excitement, years later, while working at the beautiful Pantages theater, that we were going to have the premiere of "Sweet Charity"! Starring one of my favorites, Shirley MacLaine, and directed and CHOREOGRAPHED by the one and only, Bob Fosse!

Working the premieres at the beautiful Pantages theater, was so fun and exciting. The girls all had to wear formals, and the guys in tuxedos. I finally got to wear a formal! I never went to my high school prom. (Not that sad of a story; I was not into school at all, but felt like I should have gone, just to go. My social life was at the theater.) But I think a Hollywood Premiere beats a high school prom anyway! (Plus, I got to go to the prom on "Carrie"!)

So, the night of the "Sweet Charity" premiere, my co-worker, Nancy and I decided we were going to talk to Bob Fosse. We were encouraged to mingle, to act as hostesses, so it was not like we were just some FANS--NO, we were working. It was part of the job.

There he was in the lobby, by one of those big, cylindrical ashtrays, with the sand in it, that we had to ever so carefully sweep the butts out of. That was part of the job too. Kinda like Cinderella.
So, anyway, there was Bob, with the ubiquitous cigarette; the smoke swirling around his head, while he squinted. We approached him, and introduced ourselves, and told him how we loved his work, and were thrilled to have "Sweet Charity", at our theater. He was very kind, a bit shy, and somewhat skittish. He shook our hands, and his was a little clammy.

After the premiere, Nancy and I wrote him a letter, and told him how great it was to meet him, and how nice he was. I don't know where we got an address, but back then, I guess it was easier.

Well, we were so astonished when a letter to us arrived at the theater! It was poorly typed, with strike outs, and no proper letter format. It was just a few sentences, but he was very gracious, and said he enjoyed talking with us, and said he was a bit nervous that night. Wow! Really. You're that good, and you still get nervous. I never thought of that before. I think I still have the letter somewhere.

Flash forward, years later, I am on an audition at Paramount. Some Tony Marshall thing. You know, "Happy Days" guy. Father to Penny Marshall, Garry Marshall, and Ronny Hallin. So I go in to read for Tony Marshall. A sitcom. Heightened reality. A lot of energy. Comic timing. Ok, I was in The Groundlings, I think I had the tools to do the job. So, I've got the script, and I'm reading, being all perky, and selling it, and he stops me and says, "Don't act." I was dumbstruck. Um, ok, be more real he means. Lines like, "But Dad, it's the 70's!" I gave it my best shot, and didn't really feel I was connecting with the material. I left feeling a little dejected, and like I did a bad job. So hanging my head walking across the lot, I passed by a row of townhouses, like a little village, and on one of the doors, the nameplate said, "Bob Fosse". Oh, wow. Bob Fosse. Remembering meeting him. I walked in the door, and spoke to the receptionist, and told her I had met him before, and she said, "Just a minute", and she went in his office and came out and showed me in!

He greeted me warmly, and invited me to sit down, and we chatted a bit. I had my portfolio with me, and I asked if he would like to see it. He looked through all my photos. There were some rather avant garde photos included with Joey Arias. We were very much inspired by Dali, and Bob Fosse, in our poses. I thought he would dig it. He said, "These are strange". I thought it strange of him to say that. He asked me if I would like to read for him. Really exciting. I cannot remember what the project was, but he handed me a script, I read it over, and then we cold read the scene together. Yes. Then he said to me, "You did that very well." Cloud 9! I floated out of there. I decided to believe Bob Fosse.

Later, I thought about what a strange experience it had been to feel so awful about one audition, and only minutes later, feel so elated about another one! Hollywood.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Villa Vanessa

I was working in the premiere costume house in LA, Palace Costume. The owner, Melody, is known for her impeccable, pristine collection of period clothes. Any period movie made in the last 30 years, probably has wardrobe from Palace. The place is decorated beautifully, with faux finished walls and floors, and tasteful displays throughout. I've always loved clothes, period costumes, and sewing, so it was a fun place to work in between acting, background, or stand-in jobs. Sometimes stars would come in for fittings. Martin Sheen and Bette Midler were two memorable ones.

The summer of my 30th year, I was planning a European vacation, my first time, and Melody happened to be planning a trip as well. We discovered we would both be in Paris at the same time!

I had plans to visit several major cities where I had a friend to stay with. Then, I got to Paris, and Melody, and her fabulous gay friend, Bill, were staying only blocks from me. They would be going down to St. Tropez, where Bill's friends, Jeff and Dell, were caretakers at Tony Richardson's villa, in the hills above the quaint, ancient fishing village, that became a jet set destination. Why don't I come along!? Fabulous! Tony Richardson's villa!! Vanessa Redgrave's husband! Tom Jones! The Loved One!! Wow.

It took 2 hours just to get out of the city, but soon we were driving in the countryside, singing and telling scary stories, talking about philosophy,ufo's, and telling dirty jokes; me, Melody, Jeff, Dell, and Bill all packed into a little Renault. Finally arrived at the ancient country villa at 4 am. Couldn't sleep right away, Melody and I stayed up and talked. As the rooster crowed, we went to sleep. We each had our own room.

Bill woke us up about 11, and Jeff and Dell gave us a tour of the place. The villa was very big, but very old, 300 years. Very rustic, very french country. It had 15 bedrooms, in the main house, and a couple of other buildings. The grounds had lots of fruit trees, and a huge pool on a hill, overlooking more hills, and part of the area is woodsy, with a brook. There are chickens and other birds, including a peacock, that screeched loudly. Also, 5 cats and 2 guinea pigs. Jeff and Dell had been caretakers there for 2 years, picking up visitors, and taking them into St. Tropez, shopping, cooking, cleaning, they were getting a little sick of it. Really? As we walked around the place, you could see that it was all hand crafted. Huge, thick beams, with worm holes. The walls are all uneven, no straight lines or precision engineering. The floors were all a little crooked, or sloping.

Walking around the place, I started to think about Vanessa and her girls being here. She was always one of my favorite actresses, and I was in awe of her as a young acting student. Like specters, Vanessa and the girls, followed us into each room. Where did Vanessa stay? Did the girls run through the house? Later, out sunning by the pool, I imagined Vanessa and the girls cavorting and splashing in the water. Each time I pictured them, it made me smile.

I took a long walk later, down the dirt road, and was struck by how much the area reminded me of the Hollywood Hills. Same climate and terrain. The whole place was picturesque, and serene. Life has been this idyllic here for hundreds of years, I thought. Who lived here before? Who walked these rocky mountain roads? Did Vanessa take walks here, too?

Later, the guys made a beautiful dinner of fish, stuffed with shrimp, and salad. We ate by candlelight in the kitchen, at a long wooden table, with classical music playing, and good wine. I imagined Vanessa and the girls in the kitchen, preparing meals and talking and laughing. Sitting down at the same table we were sitting at. It was all so delicious.

Later we went disco dancing in St. Tropez. Nightclubs are all the same everywhere. Walking along the water, there were many yachts docked that were as big as my apartment building.

The next day were were going to a wedding in Marseilles. Friends of Bill. I woke up in my french country bedroom, and leaned out my french country villa window, and perused the landscape. French Country. The peacock and the cats were playing. Did Vanessa's girls play with the cats and peacock? Charming to think about. Jeff brought me coffee in my room, and we got ready to go.

After St. Tropez, Marseilles is a little down market. we went to the wrong wedding, and then finally found the right one, and after a brief ceremony, the partying began! Course after course, with wine in between, and then more wine. Took 3 hours to eat dinner. Then we danced. I was just drunk enough to get up and sing for the bride. I had been taking voice lessons, and sang for a couple of hours in the car on the way down, so I was in good form. I picked something easy, "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows", and "My Man" which I dedicated to the bride. She came over and kissed me. The whole thing went on for 10 hours, til 2am! We crashed at a charming sea side hotel overlooking the Mediterranean, and drove back to St. Tropez in the morning.

We sunned by the pool most of the day, and then went into town. We window shopped, and looked at all the artist's work on the street.
Walking along the line of yachts, I saw some guys on one and they called me over. I went aboard, and they offered me some wine. One or two spoke some english. They were italian. The boat was huge, 60-75 ft. with 4 bedrooms. Incredibly beautiful, fantastic, gorgeous sailboat. The Serikon. We had a nice visit, and I visited them again the next day. They invited me to go with them, to an island, the day after that, and offered me my own room. Sooo tempting. But I was at the end of my trip, and had to get back to Amsterdam for my flight home. I bid adieu to the boys on the Serikon, and Melody and Bill and I stayed in town til dark, and then when we got back to the villa, went skinny dipping under the moonlight.

The next day, Bill and Melody drove me along the French Rivera, to the closest train station. It was a gorgeous drive along the coast, dotted with tiny resort towns. All on the way to Cannes, Nice, and Monte Carlo. Sorry I would be missing those. I said au revior to Melody and Bill.

On the train, I wrote in my journal about my time at the "Villa Vanessa". It was such a wonderful, enchanting part of my trip. So special to think that I was staying in the home of one of my favorite actresses of all time! I knew that I would cherish these memories for a very long time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Toulouse Colombo

It was the night of my 21st birthday, and my roommate, Zoe, who I met when we were both usherettes and candy girls at the fabulous Pantages Theater, decided we would go out to....a bar! There was this place on Cahuenga West, Reuben's, across the freeway from Universal Studios. It was one of those semi-upscale dinner-steak house type places that people went to for birthdays. Dark wood, big booths. A Lounge with a 70's style singer-songwriter for entertainment. Of course it was a studio hang; I guess that is why were were there.
So, we were sitting at a table in the lounge,listening to some mellow tunes, and over at the bar, was Peter Falk, and Peter Bonerz. We of course recognized them, and soon we were chatting. They were filming god knows what, at Universal, and it was going to be awhile before they were needed, so they had gone in search of some liquid refreshment. So, while we were chatting, they invited us back to the studio with them! Well, this was years before I started working in the Biz! I was just a wanna-be Strasberg acting student.I had never been on a studio lot before! So this was very exciting! We followed them over in Zoe's car, and after they went through the guard gate, the guard waved us on! All Right!
We went into a dressing room, and they hunkered down, it was going to be a long night.
Peter Falk picked up a sketch pad and he kept drawing. Real quick, very few strokes, one right after the other. I was sitting at the make-up counter, with the lighted mirror, with my elbow, up on the counter, and my hand touching the side of my head. We continued our little visit, chatting and laughing until the AD came to tell them they would be ready for them soon. As we got up to leave and said our good-byes, Peter Falk tore off a page of his sketchbook, and handed it to me. It was a sketch of me sitting at the make-up table. He signed it, For Terry. Toulouse. Not to win, but Toulouse.

Many years later, I was working in the casting department at Warner Brothers, and I would manage to get myself little parts here and there. I saw a script for a movie called "The In-Laws", and there was a scene in a dentist's office where there were several patients. "Hey, I could be one of these people", I said to the casting director. "Ok."

I show up on the set, and I am immediately horrified by that yelling director, Arthur Hiller. I got to improvise a little bit; everyone needs to see the dentist, as Peter Falk's character drags him out of the office on his undercover caper.

We did that short little nothing scene a kazillion times! I was surprised that the actors did not seem to be fazed by it. And Hiller just kept screaming about everything, and no one seemed to notice. He was wearing me down.

I know that I probably mentioned to Peter that I had met him before, on my 21st birthday, and that he drew me, but I really can't remember the specifics. But it was fun to meet again, and this time, share the screen with him in such a cool movie!

Sunday, May 1, 2011


I had just finished up the last season on "Designing Women", standing in for Julia Duffy, who I had worked with for 10 years, including, "Newhart",and "Baby Talk", (with a then unknown George Clooney). I got a call from my former co-worker on "Newhart". He heard that they were looking for a stand-in on Roseanne, who could read lines. They were introducing new characters, next door neighbors, and one was a girl about 11 or 12, so when she had to be in school, they needed a stand-in to rehearse for her.

I went to the audition, and read, and they were concerned about me being able to work with big stars; I told them, no prob, and name dropped Bob Newhart, and all the Designing Women. I got the job.

First day on the set, I walk up to Roseanne and introduced myself. "Hi, Roseanne, I'm Terry, I'll be standing in for Danielle Harris".
"She's not here today", she snarled, and walked past me.
I was dumbstruck. I loved Roseanne, was a big fan of the show, thought she was an amazing, talented, intelligent, brilliant, funny woman. All those are true. She is also a crazy bitch.

A typical day. She would come schlepping onto the set, scuffing her feet, looking disheveled, like she just got up on the wrong side of the bed, had a fight at home, and hasn't had her coffee yet. There's a sneer on her face, and she doesn't say anything to anyone. If you happen to be in her path, and cheerfully greet her, "Good Morning, Roseanne", she looks very bored and weary, and mumbles a begrudging "morning", and shuffles past. After coffee, it doesn't get any better. Sometimes worse.

If she doesn't start out telling some funny story, where the humor is at someone else's expense,then she'd start regaling a tale of some cruel stunt she pulled on someone. Like the time she wrote "Julia Loser Dry Puss" on Julia Louis-Dreyfus' car, in lipstick, when she and Tom had a fight over a parking space. Or, she is just as likely to start screaming at someone. "Where's my fucking coffee!?" was not unusual to hear. Or she might call someone a 'stupid fucking idiot". She once screamed at the director, "I'll say when to fucking cut!" She'd scream at the writers, "I have 21 of you motherfuckers! I want 10 new lines in half an hour, and they better be fucking funny, or someone is getting fired!". If she sees someone on the set she doesn't know, she'd yell, "Who the fuck is that!", or "Who the fuck are you?". If she can't hit her mark, she'd yell, "You've got four fucking cameras, can't you just follow me around!?" If she didn't want to do another take, she'd yell, "I ain't fuckin' doin' it again!", and walk off. She is in charge of everything, yet has no idea what it takes to do any of the jobs, and just expects any change of set, costume, script, can just be produced in the twinkling of an eye. If not, she'd start screaming at everyone. And firing people. She loved to fire people.

This was around the time Tom and she were in the tabloids all the time. There was never a dull moment around there. They just fed on each others' insanity.

Tom also surrounded himself with beautiful young women. He got Roseanne to hire Miss Iowa, (his home state) to be her stand-in. She couldn't read a line to save her life. Nice girl, though. His assistant was young and beautiful too. After one season, they dropped the neighbors. I was concerned about my job, but I was asked to be Roseanne's stand-in. Miss Iowa flew the coop. I think Tom must have hit on her. It was odd. She was just suddenly gone, but I was told that they were impressed with my reading, so they wanted me to do it. Ok, cool.

Well, since they finally had someone capable, Roseanne decided she didn't want to rehearse anymore. There would be the table reading Monday morning, then Roseanne would announce that she was going shopping, and the A.D. would say, "Terry, you're up". I sometimes would have to run to the bathroom, I would be so nervous. (Sorry, but it's true.) I never got a chance to see the script before hand, so I just had to wing it. After rehearsing all day, I then had to be Roseanne for the network run-thru; with all the writers, producers, and network brass watching. It got to the point where I was always doing everything, even establishing her blocking. Then I would have to show it to her, and she wouldn't listen. So then when she wasn't where she was supposed to be, I got yelled at. I was rehearsing all of her scenes; and she was in almost all of them; with John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Parsons, and noteable guest cast members, all day, every day. I was working harder than anyone. Also, Laurie Metcalf, who is a brilliant, theater trained actress, didn't feel she was getting enough rehearsal, so they asked me to be her dialogue coach as well. She was a little hard to read; but we had a professional relationship. Plus, I ran lines with the kids, and the guest cast. I was a very busy gal. Sometimes, I would work in the shot, too. I was completely taken for granted. I was a nervous wreck most of the time. I finally had to go ask the producer for more money. I told him, I am working harder than anyone! Everyone put together! I was carrying the show all week! She'd come in on shoot day, and I would show her what to do. I did everything but go on camera as her. They finally gave me a few hundred a week more. Chump change, really. I was making more money than I ever had, but was miserable. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. The crew and the kids on the show were great to me. We always partied together too, after the show. Every once in awhile, after I read a scene, one of the crew guys would say, "Good job, Terry". A little 'atta boy' goes a long way.

After awhile, John Goodman resented me. I'd be on the set when he'd walked in, and he would be so pissed that Roseanne wasn't there, that he couldn't even look at me, let alone say, "Good Morning". Then I'd have to rehearse with him. Yeah, as if I said, "Beat it, Ro, I'm doing this one". He resented me so much, that he actually physically, shoved me out of his way, on three separate ocassions. I was so shocked. Yes, big John Goodman, physically pushes a 5ft. tall woman aside. He is no Dan Conner, I can tell you that. He was a big alcoholic, womanizing, glutton. Baby Huey. He showed up to work drunk a few times, and Roseanne almost had him fired. There was a prop rubber cast iron skillet on the stove, in the kitchen set. I got to hit him on the head with it in one scene. I wished it was real.

She called me "The Girl". "Have the girl do it!" She would yell from the wardrobe room, where she liked to hang out and look at porn magazines. The wardrobe sisters were her friends, and she and Laurie would be in there, and they'd all laugh when she told the A.D. to "fuck off", when he came to get her. Sometimes she would come out and watch me do her part. Uh, yeah.

So, after 3 stress-filled years, and health problems, and a little money in the bank, my number came up, and she fired me. She wanted her long lost daughter Brandi, to have both my jobs! Of course she wasn't any good. I ran into Estelle Parsons at the Sunset Marquis, where she stayed, and she said she missed me. She sort of gave me a backhanded compliment, saying Brandi got in the way. I took it to mean, I gave a good reading so they could get a good rehearsal.

The best of times....the worst of times....


A couple of years later, I was working a catering job. Marvin Davis, the Denver oil tycoon, who bought 20th Century Fox, was throwing his son a Bar Mitzvah. It was a Las Vegas theme. Yeah, a casino, for a 13 year old. So, I'm manning one of the buffet tables, and here comes Rosanne, one of the early arrivals, walking toward me, with her young son, Buck, in tow. She was pregnant with him when I left, by her third husband, chauffeur/bodyguard, Ben. "Hi, Roseanne", I said. "It's Terry, I was your stand-in". She looks at me puzzled. "You were my stand-in?" She asked, incredulously. "Yes, for 3 years." I reminded her. "Have a nice time." If she pretended not to know me, or if she really didn't know me, I don't know. But either way, it's fuckin' crazy!

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Malibu, the quiet beach community, where movie stars' homes line the private beaches, and the sport of surfing was turned into a national craze. The Chumash Indian village was called Humaliwu, meaning where the surf sounds loudly. They rode the waves in their tomol canoes. Life was good for thousands of years, until the Spanish showed up. The Spanish land grant of 1802 was called Rancho Malibu Topanga Simi Sequit. In the 1890's a wealthy easterner, Fredrick Rindge purchased the land grant. He wrote a book about his life and times, "Happy Days in Southern California." He referred to his Malibu as the "American Riviera." His widow, Rhoda, fought the federal government for 17 years to prevent the railroad from cutting across their land. They lost the battle, and the highway was soon built as well. Now known as PCH, Pacific Coast Highway is dotted with pricey restaurants, where celebrities go. Like Geoffrey's with the beautiful flower filled patio, over looking the ocean, that you never want to leave. Beau Rivage, a lovely Mediterranean Restaurant that was the favorite of Michael Landon and Johnny Carson, and Moonshadows, where Mel Gibson should have left a few hours earlier. Rhoda ended up selling parcels of their beloved ranch, to pay lawyers fees, and many of these choice parcels, Malibu Colony, went to movie stars in the 1930's. A weekend getaway from the summer heat, and long hours at the studios.

The Rindge's daughter, also named Rhoda, married Mr. Adamson, and they had a dairy, Adohr Farms (Rhoda, spelled backwards)I remember drinking Adohr milk here in the sixties. They built another home on the property, and established the Malibu Tile Works. Right there on the beach. There is good clay there. The red tile topped wall many a surfer has leaned their board against, was the Rindge/Adamson property wall. The pier dates back over 100 years. The Rindge family dock, and later used for the tile factory, in the 20's and 30's. The tiles are in homes and buildings all over Southern California. Very collectible now. The Adamson House was the showroom for the tile factory. The whole house is full of tile samples, in beautiful, vibrant, saturated colors, difficult to reproduce today. There is even an oriental rug design all done in tiles, complete with tile fringe. There is a huge tiled fountain in the yard, with the famous point break just beyond. The Adamson House is open for tours a few days a week.

With the building of the road, people began trespassing on the beautiful, untouched beach. 1926. The first Malibu surfer paddled out on a 10 ft. California redwood board.

After WWII, and the re-designing of the board, and use of fiberglass, the sport became more and more popular. Then, in 1957, Frederick Kohner published his book about his daughter's experiences hanging out with the crazy surfers at the beach. The popularity of the book, and subsequent movies, and later tv show, "Gidget", started the whole surf craze, and created a new musical genre.

This of course, did not make the surfers of Malibu happy, with swarms of hodads descending on their beloved turf. And surf. Well, you can't stop a wave, whether it be water or a cultural phenomenon.

I always loved to go to the beach and watch the surfers. I had moved to LA from Arizona in 1965. Arizona had plenty of sand, but no water. So, when I got here, I jumped right in. I got my St. Christopher medal, and striped shirt, bleached my hair blonde, and became a California Girl. I learned to body surf. I loved coming home after a day at the beach, slightly sunburned, gritty with salt and sand, and sleepy from the sun.

Years later, when I worked on the cult surf movie, "Big Wednesday" as a beach bunny and party girl,(type casting!) I learned all about the legendary surfers of Malibu. Miki "Da Cat" Dora, "No Pants" Lance Carson, and others. Some of the Malibu regulars were used in the movie as well, Johnnie Fain, who also appeared in many beach party movies, and Angie Reno. Being a part of that movie experience, ingrained in me a fondness for that time and place, and wanting to know more of the history.

When we went on location to the Hollister Ranch to shoot the film, they perfectly reproduced the wall at Malibu's Surfrider Beach, and built the little palm covered shelter that used to be there where everyone hung out. They needed that pristine look, before all the buildings and houses were built, on Pacific Coast Highway, and the bluffs over looking Surfrider Beach.

The real Gidget Kathy Kohner Zuckerman, is the weekend hostess at yet another storied PCH eatery. Duke's, named after the legendary Hawaiian surfer, and Olympic swimmer, Duke Kahanamoku. He also re-introduced the sport of surfing to the islands, after missionaries discouraged it. And he brought it to the Mainland. The restaurant has a kitsch Hawiian surf motif. You can buy Kathy's Dad's book there.

More recently,I had attended a couple of "Big Wednesday" Reunions at Duke's. They were benefits for the Surfrider Foundation. I met Kathy Zuckerman there, and many of the cast and crew from the movie showed up, and we all partied again.

I don't get to the beach much anymore, but when I do go, I always want to go to Surfrider, in Malibu. And nearly everytime I'd been there, I'd see Angie Reno there, eternal beach boy.

Malibu is world famous, for it's surf and celebrities. I'm sure Barbie and the Chevy helped to make it so, and all the movies shot there; it is such a part of American culture. People ask me at the Visitors Center where I work, how to get to Malibu. I try to prepare them, because for all it's glamor and fame, it's still just a quiet little town, and at Surfrider, it's just the sun, and the sand, and the surfers in the water, catching some tasty waves at one of the best surfing spots in the world.

Footnote: Last year, Malibu was designated the first world surfing preserve. In a ceremony performed by the Chumash people, it was recognized, and as such, will be protected because of its historical, cultural, biological and economic significance.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Chuck E. and Rickie Lee

The legendary Tropicana Hotel, where many, many bands stayed throughout the 70's and 80's, had this funky little coffee shop attached, called Duke's. It looked like a cross between an employee lunchroom, and a small town coffee shop, with a big seascape on the wall, with a collage of different people and scenes modge podged onto it. There was a counter and stools, and the grill behind that. It was always bustling. You waited for a seat, and sat down at long tables, with other people. You would always end up talking to the people at your table, and it was always interesting. Rockers on tour and locals,tumbled out of bed with tousled hair, threw on some clothes, and ambled in to Duke's for a strong cuppa joe and a monster omlette.

I found myself there, one day, with my aunt, and during our meal, we noticed that a bag lady at the table had ordered a glass of water. That's it. I was surprised they let her stay. As we chowed down on our giant platter of food, the bag lady, was spooning jam, from the jar at the table, into her glass of water. My aunt and I watched her for awhile, and were giggling, what's next the ketchup packets? As we were watching, the guy at the end of the table said, "What you mock, you will become." We looked at him and he said it again. So we laughed, and of course struck up a conversation, and he told us his name was Chuck. He had a band, he was playing at The Central on the Sunset Strip,(later to become The Viper Room) and we should come and see him. Chuck E. Weiss and The Goddamn Liars.

So, I'm at the Viper Room, waiting for the band to come on. They walk onto the stage, and there is my friend Spyder, who I knew from another friend's band! A wild and crazy sax player, with a little Pacino thing goin' on, with a pompadour and a cream colored zoot suit.

The band starts playing "Rumble". From the shadows, Chuck struts onto the stage to the music, in a zoot suit with a looooong chain hanging from his trousers. He took the stage, and went into his set.

Afterwards, I went to say hi to them, and Spyder gave me a big hug, and introduced me to Chuck, and I said we had already met. Chuck wagged his finger in front of my face, narrowed his eyes, and said, "What you mock you will become." I cracked up. I went and saw the band a few more times, and Spyder had told me that the song by Rickie Lee Jones, "Chuck E.'s in Love", was about Chuck. I said, "Oh, that's the Chuck!?"

One lazy mid-morning, the phone rings, and it's Spyder, who was one of the funniest people I had ever known. We hung out for awhile, but later on I found out he was hanging out with Katy Sagal. Anyway, so he says, "Stay on the line and don't say anything." He does a conference call, and gets Chuck on the phone, and the two of them were making phony phone calls, and had me in silent hysterics. I had to muffle the reciever so I could laugh out loud. They did this a few more times to me. Occasionally, I would run in to Chuck around town, and he would look at me and his eyes would narrow, and he would shake his finger at me, and say, "What you mock, you will become." I would laugh, and the last few times I saw him he would just do the eye thing and the finger shake.

Around this same time, I was working in my friend Carolyne's boutique on the Sunset Strip, Cheap Thrills, right next to the famous Schwab's drugstore, were many celebrities frequented, and Shelley Winters held court. An artist friend of mine, had painted the place up all crazy, and we had painted a leopard print on the floor. It was vintage, and punk. We took on some hand-made consignments, one of a kind fashions. One time, Dodd Darin came in. We had made a big collage on the wall behind the register, and on the wall, was a 45 sleeve of a Bobby Darin record. The girl he was with said, "Hey, look, there's your Dad". I looked at the photo, and looked at him, and there was a strong family resemblance. (Also, I had donated the autographed 8x10 of Grouch Marx to the collage, that I had recieved from the evening I spent at Groucho's house with Laraine Newman and Bill Murray. But that's another blog post.) So, you never knew who might walk into the shop.

One day, I was there, and it had been a slow week. My friend was a little concerned. She had been spending time at home with her new baby, so I would fill in a few days a week for her if I didn't have a show to work on. The store was empty one afternoon, and then in walks Rickie Lee Jones! Cool. I greeted her, and she was looking around, and started picking out things to try on. I showed her a few choice items. She went into the dressing room, and everything she tried on looked fabulous on her! One thing after another. I brought her more stuff to try. Even the WAC outfit, which was kind of drab, hugged her voluptuous curves perfectly! After trying on and modeling outfit, after outfit, she piled a bunch of stuff on the counter, and I started ringing it up. Ka Ching! Ka Ching! I bagged up all her stuff, and she left smiling. So was I; she spent hundreds! I excitedly called Carolyne, and said, "You won't believe who was just here! Ricky Lee Jones just bought a shit load of stuff, and everything she put on looked GREAT! Even the WAC suit!" Carolyne was very excited, and laughed, and said, "I knew the right person would come along and get that!" Rickie Lee had made her week.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Party Animal

So my pal Alice and I were out at the Improv, the famous comedy club on Melrose Ave. Being in the comedy world, you were almost always guaranteed to run into someone you know there, or at least a few celebs.

It was busy, and bustling, and Alice spotted Jerry Seinfeld, who she had a big crush on, and he had just finished his set. This was way before "Seinfeld". We went over to him, and he was talking with a few other guys, and I guess he and Alice were acquainted, they chatted a bit, and then he said he had to have a "comedy pow wow", so we left them to their business, and went to drink some wine.

So we are having our wine, and looking around the room. We thought we might hit another place, and Alice mentioned her friend's after hours underground dance club, so that was always an option. It was starting to get a little late, and I spot this guy in the bar.

"Hey, Alice", I said, "isn't that that cute guy from that show "Moonlighting"?"
"Oh, yeah", she said, "I like him".
"Me too", I said. "Let's go kidnap him!"

We walked into the bar, and Bruce was just tossing back the last of his cocktail, or beer, or whatever it was he was drinking, and when his head came back, he looked at us standing next to him.

"Hi", I said. "My girlfriend and I want to kidnap you. We're going to an underground club, want to come?"

He looked at me then at her, and said, "Well, I have some other people with me".

"Bring 'em."

He rounded up his posse; who all called him Bruno. It was his name he used in a band he played in. There were 3 or 4 others, including a couple of girls, and his brother, David. They all went in one car, and Bruce jumped in my car in the front seat between us. I had a Maverick with a bench seat. He settles himself in between us, and points at Alice and says, "You, are pretty darn cute." He then turned to me, and points to me and said, "And you are exactly cute." Driving away from the Improv, through West Hollywood, he had Russian Hands and Roman Fingers with the two of us.

"Hey, I'm driving!", I said, and waved his hand away. We headed toward Sunset and Vine, to a old auto repair garage on a side street. We found parking, and as we walked by the Cinerama Dome theater, Bruce steps up to the wall in the front foyer area outside of the theater, unzips his pants, and relieves himself!

We get to the garage, and could hear the music throbbing within. The posse met up with us. Alice got all six of us in. We all danced in, and danced together in a big group, to one great song after another, and did not stop for, oh, maybe a couple of hours. Finally, Bruce drenched in sweat, danced closer and shouted, "Let's go up to the house!"

We got back to my car, and winded our way up into the Hollywood Hills. I thought, "Oh, good, maybe we can talk now, and get to know him a little bit". As soon as we got in the house, music was on, champagne was popped, and the guys took all their clothes off and jumped in the pool! David, Bruce's brother, asked us girls if we wanted a t-shirt to wear in the pool. I thought that was nice and considerate of him. He took us into the bedroom, and pulled out t-shirts for all of us to wear. Once in the pool, Bruce was going around to everyone, and pouring champagne in their mouth, and whooping and hollering. It was all very fun and funny, and the guys were all cutting up, and jumping in and out of the pool. We were all having a great time.

After a while, I realized, this guy is never going to stop! I'm never going to be able to sit down and talk to him. He did not stop jumping around and hooting and hollering the whole night! I was getting tired, and the sun was starting to come up. Pumpkin Time.

"Come on, Alice," I said, "I think I'm ready to go. You can stay, but I want to go." She decided to come too. So we dried off and got back in our clothes, and started to say our "Thank yous and Good-byes, and as we were making our way to the door, Bruce jumps out of the pool, naked, dripping wet, runs past us, and bars the door with his wet, naked body.

"No, don't go! You can't go yet!" We just stood there looking at him.

"It's late, we're tired, the sun is coming up", we kept saying. He would't let us out.

"We can do it again", I said, "here, we'll give you our numbers, and we fished out a pen and paper from purses, and wrote down our phone numbers.

"Ok, bye! See you later!" We made a move for the door. Then, he wouldn't let us leave until we shook "little Bruce" good-bye! We looked at each other.

It was late. We were tired. The sun was coming up. He wouldn't move from the door. What's a girl to do?


We got out the door.

A few days later, Alice and her roommate partied with them again. Even though I was on a real date, and couldn't go, I was still jealous when I heard. (Her roommate made it with David)

A few weeks later, I see a tabloid with a big front page story about Bruce Willis' wild parties, and how all the neighbors were complaining. Damn. Those front page stories are big bucks!

Less than a year later, I see in the tabloids, Bruce Willis married Demi Moore.

Many years later, I am talking with my friend who writes for the tabloids, and got on the subject of Bruce Willis,and she starts telling me this story about how these two girls took Bruce from the Improv and had a wild night of partying!
"Uh, that was me," I said. "You mean you heard about it from someone else!?" "Oh, yeah, it was going around", she said. "That was you? I had no idea!"

Yep,that's me. Hollywood Party Girl.