Archive for February, 2012


Steve McQueen and Bullitt History- Part One by Tony Piazza

 

   Earlier this year I was on live radio talking with the show’s host, Dave Congalton and  his other guest, Bob Whiteford- film buff, about the motion picture “Bullitt.” As with preparation for any show, I ended up doing a lot more research and memory prodding than was used during that hour of broadcast. Therefore I thought I would draw on that research for this blog series, and take my readers through the history of “Bullitt.” My approach will take you chronologically from its beginning- the novel, through the filming, and finally to its release. Obviously this cannot be done in one posting, so I will release them throughout the coming months in parts. Today’s blog looks at the background.

 BACKGROUND

    “Bullitt” was adapted from a Robert L. Pikes (aka Robert L. Fish) novel, “Mute Witness.” The novel was very different from the film’s screenplay that was written by Alan Trustman and Harry Kleiner for which they won an Edgar Award (“Best Screenplay”). The original novel told the story of a cop named Clancy who was to protect an underworld boss that was ready to testify against the mob. He was to keep him alive throughout the weekend until his appearance at a hearing of the New York Crime Commission the following Tuesday. It was a nice mystery, but very different from its celluloid incarnation and lacked the film’s signature moment- the chase. The property was originally bought by Warner Brothers for Spencer Tracy, but his death shelved it until it found its way into the hands of producer Philip D’Antoni. A chase was not in the original concept, but added later, and the location changed from Los Angeles to San Francisco at the suggestion of Peter Yates, the film’s director. Yates felt that there were too many cop shows being filmed in the city of angels at the time, and he didn’t want to stand in line for shooting  permits and then end up tripping over another production company also filming  near the same location. He felt San Francisco (with its scenic views from seven hills) would be an ideal location and the over-the-top cooperation they were promised by San Francisco’s Mayor Alioto finally cinched the deal.

    “Bullitt” was the first picture that Steve McQueen’s company Solar would produce with Warners, and assisted by Robert Relyea, executive producer and close friend of McQueen they would select Peter Yates, a British filmmaker to come to America and direct. Yates had just completed a film in England entitled “Robbery” and both McQueen and Relyea were impressed with it- and particularly its chase scene, so he was selected.

THE MYSTERY OF THE SCRIPT

     Back in 1968, my father was assigned to “Bullitt” as a liaison between the City of San Francisco and the production company. He worked closely with Mr. Relyea and Mr. McQueen in the making of the film. He had a script from the film which I read 44 years ago. In my recollection- I remembered being disappointed- the details of the chase were missing from its pages. In fact I believe it only said CHASE in that portion of the story where it was supposed to occur. Recently an on-line script came to light that goes into incredible detail of the chase, and I found that puzzling. Being a writer of mysteries this discrepancy bothered me and it set me to thinking. Three possibilities came instantly to my mind: 1) my father had an early working version of the script. 2) The script on-line was the FINAL version, or the details were added later by whoever posted the script or, 3) age has taken its toll on my memory. For awhile, I was starting to think (and worry) that it was the latter, but I am now relieved to say- thanks to a recent documentary- that I may have been correct. Actor Don Gordon (Delgetti) stated in an interview that his script only had the word CHASE and no details in it. Still, I have been searching frantically for this Holy Grail amongst my parent’s belongings… I’m talking about the script of course…but to the time of this writing, no luck. I’m not giving up however, and will take another look up in the attic when I find the time. Finding a proof that I can hold in my hand will (to my mind) bring this mystery to a satisfying conclusion.

 

NEXT TIME, I will discuss the shooting of the film…those locations that I visited, and give some inside information on those that I did not. I also plan to relate some personal observations concerning the actors.

HOPE TO SEE YOU BACK.

 Some quick facts: AFI had “Bullitt” at #36 of its list of thrillers. The film was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Registry by the Library of Congress. It received an Academy Award (Frank Keller) for best editing, and was nominated for sound.

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  Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

THE GREEN HORNET Re-visited by Tony Piazza

 Van Williams and Bruce Lee in character.

I never got to work on a superhero film; I guess unlike Metropolis and Gotham City, San Francisco wasn’t worth saving. Although James Bond did save Silicon Valley once!

Van as Britt Reed, owner of  The Daily Sentinel.

The closest I ever got to a superhero was working with an actor who was briefly “The Green Hornet” on television back in the sixties.

Lee and Williams, production photo.

Van Williams (The Green Hornet/ Britt Reed) was a guest star on “The Streets of San Francisco” and another of those normal guys that was always a pleasure to meet in the entertainment industry. He was also an actual crime fighter in the real world- working for the Sheriff’s Department in Los Angeles County-going after real criminals without his stunt double!


Myself and Van Williams on location for “The Streets of San Francisco.”

He was a pleasure to talk to and I remember that part of our discussion revolved around the (then) recent death of his former partner in the show- Bruce Lee (Kato). Speculation abounded in the press about Lee’s “mysterious death”. Williams said there was no mystery at all, but simply a brain hemorrhage brought on as a result of some past martial arts injury- certainly not murder as the papers were suggesting. How people love mysteries! I remember him mentioning that he enjoyed his work with the Sheriff’s department and talked a great deal about it…and of course about his first love, acting.

His show, “The Green Hornet” was not as campy as the then popular “Batman”, and only lasted two seasons (1966-1967).

 Recent publication on The Green Hornet’s History.

Here is some further information regarding The Green Hornet which began as a very popular radio show in the 1930s, two movie serials in the 1940s, and then graduated to television in the 1960s  (1966-1967)  running alongside Adam West’s “Batman” on the A.B.C. network.

 Movie Serial from the 1940s.

It was the brainchild by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker, the same two who created the highly successful Lone Ranger series. The Green Hornet was Britt Reid, a publisher of the Daily Sentinel by day who goes out disguised in his “Green Hornet” identity at night to fight crime. He was accompanied by his Asian valet Kato, who acted as chauffer and drove their car, a technological wonder equipped with an arsenal of advanced technology, called the “Black Beauty”.

 1960s Black Beauty.

Sadly I had high expectations for the recent film release of “The Green Hornet,” but was extremely disappointed. It was quite evident neither the star, Seth Rogen, nor anyone connected with that production had a glimmer of an idea what “The Green Hornet” was all about. I’ve never saw such a disregard of the original source material!  The Sting of the hornet in this case was what I felt after putting down my hard earned cash at the box office. It was even worse…they charged me ten dollars extra because it was in 3-D…a bad movie looks the same in 3D as it does in two dimensions. The only character that had personality in the film was the car…yes, it was that bad!

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Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

MISSION: EMBARRASSING by Tony Piazza

      One fine summer day, A.T.A. (during the Age of Television Antennas) I decided to go visit my father on location for an episode of “Mission Impossible” (The original T.V. series, C.B.S.). Actually the company was shooting the prologue for a number of episodes where Phelps gets his instructions via the most advanced technology of that day (1970) – a reel to reel tape recorder! These were hidden in various locations around the city -San Francisco Zoo, Golden Gate Park…a telephone booth?* and later they would dub in the voice giving the instructions… “Good morning, Mr. Phelps,” etc. (you know the routine). This day they were at Civic Center at the library building across from City Hall. I had met and talked with one of the I.M.F. members, Rollin Hand (MARTIN LANDAU) on the set of “They Call Me Mister Tibbs” (He was married then to another “Mission” member Cinnamon Carter (BARBARA BAIN), but now I was going to meet the big boss himself…Mr. Phelps (PETER GRAVES). I made two mistakes that day however; one was that I brought a high school friend with me, and the other was that I brought this high school friend with me. Yes, it was that bad! No sooner had we arrived and started walking towards the location when Peter Graves stepped out of a building in front of us and my friend shouted to my extreme dismay, “Hey, look…there’s James Arness’s** younger brother!”

IMF Team (Landau, Graves, and Bain)

“Good morning, Mister Phelps…your assignment if you wish to accept it, is to kick this smart mouth kid in the…”

Well I guess that summed up my attitude at that moment.

Graves was a good sport about it, but I’ve never forgot it!

Martin Landau and myself (1970)

THIS MESSAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN….

As an aside, I first met the director of photography, MICHEL HUGO on that show. Subsequently he would become my boss on “The Streets of  San Francisco,” “Bert D’ Angelo, Superstar”, and two TV movies. He and his wife, Gloria also became good friends. Sadly he passed away a couple of years ago.

Cinematographer Michel Hugo, lobby of QM Studios 1970s 

* What writer with a massive salary came up with that gem!

** For my younger readers- James Arness was Matt Dillion, Marshall of the long running TV show “Gunsmoke.”

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 Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

A Couple of Anecdotes Peter Ustinov Told Me by Tony Piazza

  

 

  Sir Peter Ustinov

   Sir PETER USTINOV…actor, author, and man of too many other accomplishments to fully do him justice here. I took this photograph (below) just before a personal introduction we were given him during a reception in San Francisco back in the early 1990’s.

  During that visit he told us anecdotes about some of the actors that he worked with. Two of them particularly stand out in my mind. One had to do with CHARLES LAUGHTON. He was a house guest of the Ustinov’s and came down to breakfast one morning with pink curlers in his hair. Promptly at his appearance, one of Peter’s children spoke out and asked (to Ustinov’s embarrassment), “Who the lady was?”

   Charles Laughton in “Witness for the Prosecution”

   As some of you mystery fans know, he played Poirot in both motion picture and television movies. This second story has to do with that.  When he was going to do “Death on the Nile” he was introduced to Dame Agatha Christie’s daughter Rosalind as Poirot, in which she responded, “You are NOT Poirot!” To which he replied, “I am now, Madame!”

Sir Peter Ustinov as Poirot

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  Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His newest novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was just released January of this year. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

Davy Crockett and Me by Tony Piazza

   Fess Parker as Davy Crockett

   When you hear the lyrics, “born on a mountaintop in Tennessee…” what do you think of? If you were around in 1954 the answer would be instantly evident. It was describing Davy Crockett, and the infant medium’s latest small screen hero. For Walt Disney, he immediately became a marketing phenomenon. A superstar, that sold hundreds of thousands of coonskin caps, toy rifles, T-shirts, lunch pails, and anything that could carry his name or image on it to children around the world. The actor who introduced us to him, and as a result became an overnight success himself, was FESS PARKER.

   Parker winery in Los Olivos

  I met him one summer in 1994. It was at his winery in Los Olivos,California. After his success with Davy Crockett, he continued making family films, like “Old Yeller”, before eventually donning the cap once again for another frontier hero, Daniel Boone in the popular N.B.C. series of that same name. Wisely over the years he invested his earnings from television and film, and by the time I met him he was already an established and very successful business man in the Santa Barbara area. Besides his winery, he owned a bed and breakfast inn in the town of Los Olivos, and a Double Tree resort hotel in Santa Barbara. Every forth of July he held a celebration at his winery, and that particular year my wife and I were invited as guests. We found him an extremely patriotic man and every bit as moral as the family friendly characters he presented up on the screen. He was a humble man, who loved visiting with each and every guest at the celebration. We witnessed a young couple introducing to him their young lad dressed as Daniel Boone complete with coonskin cap and costume. He thanked them most sincerely for the kind gesture. With pride he presented his wife, son (Eli), daughter-in-law, and poodles to the audience. He made it a family affair. He also talked with pride about his family tree, the Parker’s of Texas, and read from the Declaration of Independence. My wife and I bought a poster of him, which he signed. He was thoughtful enough to ask the spelling of our names. He said that some people have unusual spellings and he always wanted to make sure that he got it right. I think of that now when I sign my books. As a fan, it would be a disappointment if, for example, he spelled my name as Tony when I called myself “Tonnie.” Of course my name is Tony, but I am using this as an example. This was the possible pitfall he was concerned about when it came to signing autographs. I found that extremely thoughtful on his part.

  Parker at the fourth of July Celebration, 1994

   I was so sorry to hear of his death in 2010. His passing was a personal loss to his family and a source of great sorrow to his friends. As a fan, and person who knew him briefly, I also felt a great sadness…for his death was not that just of a man, but of a cultural icon that was linked to the more innocent times of our youth… His death particularly touched a small lad…one I once knew so intimately, who used to sing, “born on a mountaintop….” 

The poster he autographed that day

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 Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His new novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” has just been released. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

Hawaii Five-O Revisited by Tony Piazza

Hawaii Five-O was a police drama that premiered in the late 1960s produced by CBS television and Leonard Freeman. The show centered on a fictional state police unit Five-O run by Detective Steve McGarrett, portrayed by actor Jack Lord.

  IoLani Palace. On TV, headquarters of Hawaii-Five-O (Piazza-photo)

   I was so tempted when I took this photograph to run up those stairs, but with my receding hairline I don’t think I would have been mistaken for Detective Steve McGarrett. The original Hawaii Five-O ran twelve seasons from 1968 to 1980 and starred JACK LORD. When I was recently on Oahu doing research for my latest book, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” I took a “Hollywood in Hawaii Tour” of the island. Everyone aboard the excursion bus and the young guide as well, all agreed that the original show was the best. And everyone admitted hands down that it was because of the cast; Jack Lord, James McArthur, Kam Fong, Zulu, and Richard Denning.

The original cast of Hawaii Five-O

   I worked with, and was good friends with the first makeup man on the original Hawaii Five-O, Donald Shoenfeld. His wife Trudi and I were stand-ins on “The Streets of San Francisco.” Don indicated that Lord was a difficult actor, and very much the perfectionist. Many of the cast members would agree, but indicated that he was that way for a purpose. Many of the members of the show were Hawaiians, and this production gave them the advantage of stepping out into the spotlight as actors and being noticed by the public; an opportunity that wasn’t available to them up to that point. He felt responsible for them, and took the role as mentor on the show seriously. Many didn’t realize it then, but in retrospect are very grateful now for his tough tutelage. When he died in January of 1998, Lord’s estate donated $40 million to the Hawaii Community Foundation.

The Statue of King Kamehameha  that stands in front of Aliʻiolani Hale  used in opening credits montage (Piazza-photo)

The memorial at the punch bowl- another piece of the montage (Piazza-photo)

 

“Book ’em, Danno, murder-one!”

ALOHA!

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Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was just released in January of this year. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

“Happy Days” Memories by Tony Piazza

The Cunningham’s (Bosley and Ross)

   I got to work with the Cunningham’s, Mr. and Mrs., on “The Streets of San Francisco.” They were not together however, but on separate episodes. Of course the Cunningham’s were not their real names, but the characters they played on “Happy Days” (1974-1984). I am of course talking about TOM BOSLEY and MARION ROSS. Tom worked on two episodes, and we became friends in spite of the fact that I spilt coffee on his suit- we won’t go into that! The first show we worked together on was an episode that took place on Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay. This was just after the Indian occupation, and we were the first group after the incident to be allowed on the grounds- shortly afterwards this historic former federal prison would be cleaned up and opened by the Park Department for public tours. The place then was a mess, and both Tom and  I were sitting out in the rubble strewn exercise yard watching a scene where a stuntman was to take a high fall from one of the walls. I helped him (he had asked my assistance) with his new camera -he was having trouble unlocking some feature on it. He was planning to take pictures of the stunt, and as I said elsewhere, actors are no different than the fans. This acting assignment was prior to his “Happy Days” fame (Season 2: Going Home (1973) with young Brad Savage as his son). The next time he returned (Season 5: Dead or Alive (1976), the crew was really razzing him about his role on “Happy Days”, calling him Mr. Cunningham, etc. He was great about it. In fact I think he enjoyed it!

 Tom Bosley

   Marion Ross (Season 5: The Thrill Killers (1976)) was a sweetheart. She was Mrs. Cunningham; so kind, thoughtful, and caring. I was sitting next to her on a couch located in the interior of a home we were filming at in the Potrero District of San Francisco. My father had passed out on the set a week earlier due to heart problems and had been in the hospital. That particular day he had been released and came down on the set with my mother. There was a great deal of excitement by the crew at his return, and Marion, not privy to the circumstances, was curious what the fuss was all about. I told her the details and could see the compassion in her eyes as I related the story. She spent some time talking to me as a mother to her son. I can’t say enough kind words about Marion.

Marion Ross

Just as an aside- recently in watching “The Best of the DEAN MARTIN Show” I was reminded at one point in the series that Tom Bosley was a regular in the comedy sketches.

Tom Bosley on The Dean Martin Show

Tom passed away in October of 2010 at the age of 83. Thanks Tom and Marion for such great memories…you certainly were  two memorable people!

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 Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

My Experience with Terror! by Tony Piazza

   MY FIRST “EXTRA” WORK, although unofficially, was on the film “Experiment in Terror” starring GLENN FORD and LEE REMICK. They allowed my mom and I (age 4)  to sit with the crowd of background artist on location at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. It could have been uncomfortable work (readers who live in the bay area would need no further explanation, but for the rest of you…) chilling winds could blow through that stadium and turn it into an icebox. However in August through October we would on occasion have Indian Summer-like weather and that was exactly what it was that night. So here we were, sitting in a grandstand, staring out at an empty field, and jumping up and cheering at an imaginary Giant’s ballgame. Welcome to the realities of Hollywood- a baptism by fire that would serve me well some 14 years later. I can’t remember much about the film’s director BLAKE EDWARDS, although he did return to the bay area to shoot “Days of Wine and Roses” a few years later. My father worked with him again then…and that’s when I learned that he was married to Mary Poppins (sorry, but as a kid that was how I knew JULIE ANDREWS back then). She came to visit him on the set of that film…an “elegant and charming woman” (as described by my dad). Lee Remick also starred in that drama with JACK LEMMON, who would return to San Francisco once again to play the lead in “Good Neighbor Sam.” One actor I remember from the “Experiment in Terror” Candlestick shooting was ROSS MARTIN. He was wearing a jacket with a hood and dark glasses. He was also wheezing when he delivered his lines… very scary…at least to a four-year old (maybe some adults!). He was playing a psychotic killer named “Red” Lynch, a character very different than the jovial Gordon of TV’s “Wild, Wild, West.” He had several “tense” scenes with Remick (a very beautiful actress with striking blue eyes)…a nice lady too. I got to work with her when I was in my 20s but more about that later. I remember that my mother was disappointed in Glenn Ford. She waited to see him, but it turns out that he was exceptionally shy away from the camera and hid in his dressing room between “takes.”

  Lee Remick and Glenn Ford

Director Blake Edwards

   That pretty much wraps up this adventure…as far as this aging memory goes. However I did recall visiting two other locations for that film; the house (Remick’s character’s) on Twin Peaks and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf’s location was unusual because they were shooting on a Sunday. Most production companies (actually the producers…the guys that fork out the money) like to avoid Sundays because of overtime, but the logistics of this “shoot” required a helicopter to hover overhead and the city wouldn’t allow this disruption on a busy weekday.

 Fisherman’s Wharf location (notice Remick’s coat)

Production photo with same coat ( photo from Piazza personal collection)

   I had the pleasure of seeing Lee Remick again when working on the film “Telefon”, starring CHARLES BRONSON. We were at the Embarcadero Center which was supposed to be in Texas (hey, this is movie magic. All the “extras” wore ten gallon hats!). In-between shooting I glanced over in her direction and she smiled sweetly at me- acknowledging my attention (perhaps because I was staring- as I said earlier, she was a striking lady with lovely blue eyes). One piece of trivia- this film introduced a young actress as the sister of Lee Remick’s character. She would become a star herself, especially on television. Her credits include “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and “Hart to Hart”, and I had the pleasure to work with her as well. Her name was STEPHANIE POWERS.

Stephanie Powers in her first role

    I hope you have been enjoying these glimpses into my past. I assure you these are not an exercise in ego…mine could fit into a nutshell and still have room for the entire population of the U.S…but really the result of growing older and feeling the need to put in writing something of my life. A little nostalgia that has been arising in me, one that created the need to remember back fondly, especially to the two great parents that helped set me on this path. That’s what happens with age! Please consider “following” my blog series.

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 Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

You Won’t Like Me When I Am Mad! by Tony Piazza

 

Aside from working with 1960s Green Hornet (VAN WILLIAMS), I got a chance to spend time with another comic book hero. This character will soon make an appearance in “The Avengers” film due out this summer, so I thought it was timely to make him a subject of this blog.

   This comic book hero hit the small screen in the 1980s right out of the pages of Marvel Comics… he was big and green, but did not go “Ho…Ho…Ho”- as you probably figured out from the accompanied picture, I’m talking about “The Incredible Hulk”. Looking back on the show today, and comparing it to the recent big screen features, it visually comes up short on the “Hulk” side. Somehow seeing a muscle builder with translucent contacts, a body covered in green make-up, and wearing a bad punk wig wasn’t just bordering on the ridiculous- IT WAS ridiculous- not to mention that his dialog left a lot to be desired. However, they did pull it off- and for two very good reasons; good stories and the fine acting skills of BILL BIXBY, the human half of the Hulk. He made the unbelievable, believable.

   I got to work with Bill Bixby twice. Once on “The Streets of San Francisco” and then on its’ spin-off “Burt D’Angelo Superstar” starring PAUL SORVINO and ROBERT PINE. In the first instance he was a guest star and I photo-doubled him in a couple of scenes. I am slightly taller and broader than he was, but our hair, eyes, complexion, and facial features were similar. Also he was dressed as a motorcycle cop with leather jacket, dark glasses, and helmet which also helped the illusion.

I am the reporter taking notes. Look behind me to the left. That is Bill Bixby from “Streets”

   The second time I worked with him, was as a director. In that instance I was able to spend more time talking personally with him, and in doing so, we found that we had attended the same High School (but at different times- he was older) and knew some of the same people associated with it. One day I brought my yearbook to the set and he looked it over. He couldn’t get over the fact that his home room teacher was still working at the school (now the Dean of Girls) and he said that he always “remembered her as this little old Italian lady” and was surprised that she hadn’t changed in all these years!

   Bill Bixby and Ray Walston- My Favorite Martian (1963)

   Bill Bixby had a lot of accomplishments- mostly on the small screen- “My Favorite Martian”, “The Courtships of Eddies’ Father”, and of course the Hulk. He did do a feature- a Disney film, “The Apple Dumpling Gang”; and I believe (based upon the successes of those previous shows) he could have gone farther – he was also a very good director- but unfortunately he was taken early in life, which cheated us of any accomplishments he might of achieved in the entertainment world.

He was a very pleasant to know – very personable- bright- and much accomplished- and unlike his counterpart- even great to know when he was mad!

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Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s  Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

Performing  with Pernell Roberts by Tony Piazza

 

 Roberts as Adam Cartwright (Bonanza)

   This reminiscence is due to a wonderful biographical article that I read recently on the Turner Classic Movie site. It reminded me of the time when PERNELL ROBERTS was a guest star on “The Streets of San Francisco” in 1977. The episode was entitled “Breakup,” and he played a character called Charley Finn. For me, he would always be the oldest Cartwright brother, Adam on the long running “Bonanza” (1959-1973) series. Others may also recall him from the show “Trapper John, M.D.” which he did later (1979-1986) for CBS. My “Streets” remembrance of him takes place on the steps of San Francisco City Hall- one of the locations used for that episode. He had been cast to play Prof. Harold Hill on stage for the “Music Man”… his next job after filming this episode. During a break in filming he started singing the “Trouble in River City” number from the musical… well; I couldn’t help it, but joined in with him to the amusement of the crew… so you might say I performed with Mr. Roberts! I always loved that musical… it was my favorite and I couldn’t resist joining in.

Roberts as Trapper John, M.D.

As an aside I have an autographed copy of “The Music Man” book signed by Robert Preston (but, that’s another story for another time).

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Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel; “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” is due out early 2012. He was an actor/extra during the 1970’s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.