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 A Visit to Warner Brothers Studios by Tony Piazza

   I was in Hollywood on April 22nd 2010. I hadn’t planned the trip, and the reason for being there was not a happy one. A dear family member passed away and was buried at the Forest Lawn Cemetery (Glendale) the previous day. She had a beautiful ceremony in the same chapel that Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman was married during the 1940’s… in LA everything seems to be connected with Hollywood.

   Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan

   

   Famous Warner Brothers water tower

   In any case, we decided to spend an extra day there before traveling back home… and ended up at Warner Brothers Studios. I had been there back in the late 1960s long before the studio was opened to the public (this tour, I believe is something recent). We knew the head of transportation and my family was taken on a private limousine tour of the studio soundstages and back lot. The lot was more complete then. They still had the Western set… although they had just torn down the fort from F Troop. One particular soundstage we visited that day was used in Camelot and the Errol Flynn pirate films…it was very large (one of the largest in Hollywood at the time), and the floor could be turned into a tank and filled with water to contain a large pirate ship mock up. We also watched them film The F.B.I. television show…the director of that episode was a man I would work with a few years later on The Streets of San Francisco, Virgil Vogel (I have mentioned him in an earlier story). I also remember seeing Kim Novak stick her head out of her trailer dressing room to see who we were… I still find that funny.

    Kim Novak

   I was curious how the studio might have changed from the time I had seen it, and so we decided to take the new tour so I could make a comparison. The main thing I noted was that its’ activities seemed to be more focused on television than film production. The Ellen show seemed to be the big item. Feature film work seemed nonexistent.

   On another note: It was strange to see Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” outfit in the museum… I remember him wearing that wardrobe when I worked with him back in 1973. Also, another soundstage that we stopped to visit on the tour listed on a bronze plaque (under television productions shot there): The Streets of San Francisco… well, that was not entirely true. The police headquarters interior (and only that set) was there for the pilot and first season; after that, even it was constructed in San Francisco in a converted warehouse on Kearny Street. I felt that the plaque gave the impression that the entire show was filmed there. Most of the soundstages we saw were empty, and the ones that were occupied were set up for sitcoms and live audiences.

   Eastwood on location for Magnum Force.

Warners Soundstage.

   Bronze plaque outside soundstage 1.

   They say you can never go back, and I have to admit that I found it kind of sad that most of the Warner’s magic had disappeared with the passage of time. Location work has stolen away a larger portion of the mystique that the movie studio once held for movie going outsiders. Where once great ships sat in studio tanks and mighty palaces adorn soundstages, now the lots are taken up by administration buildings and (in the case of Universal) Theme Park rides. To a lover of classic Hollywood history the time spent at Forest Lawn seemed a prelude for what came later.

City Street on back lot

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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 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

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An Encounter with Ricardo Montalban- A Class Act by Tony Piazza

   We shared the same birthdate, but not the same year. He worked on radio, televsion, theatre, and film. So did I. His career spanned six decades, mine only one. He was a star, and I…a fan. His name, was RICARDO MONTALBAN and he was every inch a movie actor in the classic sense. Granted there were other actors that could project the charm, wit, and sophistication that he did, but somehow his performances always seemed to do it better. Perhaps it was because it was no act, but film capturing the real man. 

   Montalban with Herve Villechaize (Fantasy Island).

   RICARDO MONTALBAN… to most, he needs no introduction. From early MGM musicals with Esther Williams (whom I also met) to Star Trek, Fantasy Island, The Naked Gun, and Escape to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes…he has been a prolific actor that has brought us much enjoyment through many generations. This photograph (below) was taken in 1971 on location in SF for a televsion mystery movie called “The Face of Fear’, co-starring Elizabeth Ashley.

   Montalban- a class act!

  They were filming at San Francisco’s Aquatic Park, close to the boat club, a very dramatic scene that included both Ashley and Montalban. On screen it was a private conversation, but in life they were surrounded by lights, camera, reflectors, sound recording equipment, booms, and a couple of dozen people which included director and film crew. That is the reality of the movie industry; creating an illusion that will convince an audience to accept what is projected on the screen as life. I have to admit that working in film does rob you of some of that magic, but it also instills in you an admiration for a film when it is really done right. That is where the actors come in, and the concentration and intensity delivered by both Montalban and Ashley in this scene really sold it for me.

   Co-star Elizabeth Ashley.

   “The Face of Fear” production company shot for forty-five minutes at that location. I was there the entire time, watching with the crew- others, a much larger crowd of onlookers were roped off at a distance, but because my father worked with the company I was given a front row view. After the scene was completed , Mr. Montalban was whisked away to his car. My father took my mother’s hand and led her towards the parked limo, I in close tow. When we reached it, I saw him sitting in the front passenger side, exhaustion etched on his face. My father called his name and tapped lightly on the car door. Always the latin gentleman…when he saw us with my father…he got out of the car…and then took my mother’s hand, a smile stretched broadly across his face…kissed her hand, and said, “you are a very lovely lady” and then asked “who is this gentleman?” (me), and shook my hand. There was class, and a fine example of what a gracious man he really was in life. If only the stars of today could conduct themselves with such panache, perhaps then we would have a few actors that years later we could call a class act.

 

Great memories. Thank you for letting me share them with you.

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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 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

My Italian Buddy, Paul Sorvino by Tony Piazza

   Paul Sorvino and my mother in 1976.

   My Italian buddy, PAUL SORVINO (Goodfellas, Law and Order), and accomplished actor who has appeared in numerous roles on television and feature films. He was born in April of 1939 to an Italian American family whose descendants came from Naples. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, he  completed his schooling and eventually found a job in an ad agency. While attending the American Musical and Dramatic Academy he decided on a career in theatre.  In 1964 he appeared on Broadway and transitioned to films six years later in the motion picture “Where’s Poppa?” I’m behind the camera in this photo (above) of him and my mother (who stopped by for a visit). They posed for the picture just inside the studio entrance of Quinn Martin Studio’s soundstage.- a converted warehouse located on Kearny Street in San Francisco. One memory of this Italian actor that I have, has to do with Paul and I having lunch one day…he a salad (he was always on a diet), and myself roast beef, which he was eyeing with envy. I thought he was joking and laughed…only to realize to my embarrassment that he was serious! He was a good sport about it, but I can’t eat roast beef to this day without thinking about him.

   Paul now has his own line of food (notice the sauce).

   I should have added that this photograph was taken during the filming of the detective show “Burt D’Angelo Superstar”  (1976) in which he starred. It was a spin-off from “The Streets of San Francisco” and lasted just as a summer replacement. It wasn’t picked up by the network for the Fall season.It was a good show, but too much like “Streets”…in fact the police headquarters set was the same, just re-dressed. I was Bob Pine’s (Chips) stand-in on the show… he was Paul’s detective partner, much as Michael was Karl’s.

   My father (left) with Bob Pine (center).

   Paul also enjoyed singing opera…he would do so in-between takes. He wanted to do a bio. film on legendary opera stars Enrico Caruso or Mario Alonzo, but it hasn’t as yet come to pass. He shared that dream with both KARL MALDEN and myself during the filming of the pilot. He took voice lessons for 18 years, which I find incredible because he suffers from severe asthma.  He later started his own organization, The Sorvino Asthma Foundation to find solutions to combat the disease.

 

   His daughter MIRA SORVINO, is also an accomplished actress. I met her as a little girl back in the 70s. In 1995 she won Best Supporting Actress for her role in the Woody Allen film, “Mighty Aphrodite.” Paul was extremely proud of her.

 Paul and his daughter, Mira Sorvino.

   I was a good friend of Paul. Recently I was watching him in the film “The Brinks Job” with Peter Falk (another actor I knew personally) and suddenly remembered an amusing story that Paul once told me. When he was going to marry his first wife Lorraine, he told his Neapolitan family, and immediately uproar broke out amongst its members. You see, Lorraine was an Americano (definition of “Americano” is anyone who isn’t Italian), and it was considered very radical back then when an Italian married anyone who wasn’t also of Italian descent. During all the screams, protests, and tears, his grandfather leaned over and whispered into his ear, “Tell me, Paolo, is she economical?” In which Paul replied, “Yes, Nonno, she is.” The old man padded him on the arm, and then nodding his head stated, “Then you got my blessing!”

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   His first wife Lorraine was an attractive woman, and an excellent mother. I remember when she would bring the girls, Mira and Amanda onto the set. They were dressed like little ladies, in long wool coats, hats, and gloves! Very East Coast, but refreshing.

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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 released this last January.  He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.

  Steve McQueen and Bullitt History – Part 3 by Tony Piazza

   My first meeting with STEVE McQUEEN at San Francisco General Hospital is documented elsewhere https://authortonypiazza.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/the-day-i-met-steve-mcqueen-by-tony-piazza/ and not wanting to be repetitious will not bother retelling it here. However a story that I would like to add regarding this location concerns actor GEORG STANFORD BROWN. He played a doctor amongst the real personnel in the Emergency Room. During the intense examination sequence he was doubled by a real doctor (surgical mask hiding a fair portion of his face) who stated later that he was almost ready to actually use the scalpel on the actor on the table. He really got into that role!

   Georg Stanford Brown as the emergency room doctor (Background).

   Later the action switches to Chalmer’s residence which was located in Pacific Heights at the corner of Vallejo at Divisidero. On this high end real estate with magnificent views of the bay and Golden Gate Bridge you will find some of San Francisco’s most impressive mansions, and the one used in the film was no exception. Chalmer’s was a sleazy politician played by ROBERT VAUGHN, and his portrayal of the character was so “dead on” that it killed his real life aspirations of going into politics. Prior to this role he was actually contemplating a run for office, but the Chalmer’s image finished that. I visited that location, but as mentioned in another post, Vaughn was not an easy man to approach. This was the one disappointment that I came away with from this production. He was the one actor that I didn’t get to meet. A bit of trivia: amongst some of the extras at the “tea party” was the actual owner of the mansion- a very elegant lady who did a silent bit as Chalmer’s mother and host. Interestingly, as I view the scenes today I can put names to some of the guests- fellow “extras” I got to know well just a few years later as I started working in the industry.

   Scene at entrance to Chalmer’s mansion (Vallejo at Divisidero).

  I described earlier Bullitt’s apartment, but one detail I forgot to mention was that in visiting the location I happened upon JACQUELINE BISSET. Even at thirteen I found her attractive (what can I say, I was advanced for my age). I watched her from a few paces away as she talked with director Peter Yates. There was something angelic about her…the flawless skin and slightly upturned nose set between those remarkable blue eyes, and she had that trace of an accent that seemed so intriguing to me back then. However  instead of wasting words (who could accurately describe a Botticelli), I’ll let you see for yourself from the photos I included. They illustrate what a beautiful and talented actress Jacqueline is. She was also definitely the perfect choice for the role as Cathy- a normally cool architect who becomes unhinged when she comes face to face with boyfriend, Frank Bullitt’s cruel, hard world. Regarding that scene following her seeing the woman’s body in the Thunderbird Hotel room (this hotel near the airport later became the Clarion and has since been torn down and a parking garage taking its place)- Peter Yates stated in a documentary that that dramatic scene of conflicting worlds (played out off the highway near the marshes) probably would have worked better without dialogue. That pantomime would have best conveyed the emotions that each were feeling. He used a similar effect earlier in the film at the Coffee Cantata (Now the Betelnut restaurant on Union Street in Cow Hollow) where he set the camera outside the restaurant looking in through a partition and shot vignettes of eye exchanges, casual conversation (pantomimed), and gentle caresses between McQueen and Bisset.  A montage of gestures, minus the dialogue attempting to relay to the audience glimpses into their relationship . Lalo Schifrin’s wonderful score as performed by the trio in the coffee house dominating the soundtrack. This was another instance where Yates effectively applied European fimmaking techniques to the shooting of this movie.

Tender moment shared between Cathy (Bisset) and Frank Bullitt (McQueen).

MORE BULLITT STORIES to follow in Part 4 including how DON GORDON and FELICE ORLANDI ended up having a real home cooked Italian meal!

Bisset and McQueen in Bullitt.

Publicity photograph of Jacqueline Bisset.

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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.

Walter Matthau- Never Cracking a Smile by Tony Piazza

  

     In 1973 actor WALTER MATTHAU was in San Francisco filming the police procedual drama “The Laughing Policeman.” The movie’s screenplay was by Thomas Rickman, and adapted loosely from a novel (of the same name) written by Sjowall and Wahloo. Walter Matthau starred as Sargent Jake Martin (Martin Beck in the novel) and BRUCE DERN as Inspector Leo Larsen, Jake’s police partner. Both are assigned to investigate  multiple murders on a public bus. One of the victims turns out to be an off-duty detective which raises the question whether his presence had anything to do with the bus massacre. In the book the setting was Stockholm, Sweden, but for the film the location was changed to San Francisco.

   Bruce Dern & Walter Matthau in Laughing Policeman.

   I was assigned as a stand-in for Bruce Dern on this picture, and had a “walk on” about mid-way through the film. It was an interesting shoot. At one point during production we spent time in the actual Homicide Bureau at San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, with real detectives who were eager to share stories of some of the real dramas that took place on the city’s streets. Believe me, it would make the hairs on the nape of your neck rise to hear and see the photographic evidence of man’s inhumanity to man. It was an eye opener.

   My “walk on” stepping from an elevator at Hall of Justice.

   Bruce Dern and Walter Matthau complemented each other. They were both extremely easy going, and blessed with a subtle sense of humor. A conversation that I can remember with Matthau took place in a courtroom at City Hall. It started with me complementing him on his performance in “Kotch”- a film directed by his friend, Jack Lemmon. He seemed truly humbled by my words. We next discussed the “Odd Couple” and I told him that I had been in a stage production of it at my college. Seeing that I was interested in the profession he very generously offered his advice on acting; something that you could tell was dear to his heart.

   My mother visiting the set. Notice my dad’s helmet which Matthau snatched to wear for the shot!

   We had many locations around the city, and a fair portion of them night shots. The bus sequence took up the majority of the after dark work. Starting at the bus terminal, through the detailed massacre, culminating in a dawn sequence at Portsmouth Square near Chinatown (as we see the bus towed away from the crash site). These scenes accounted for a large portion of the night shooting, although there were also some night shots of Matthau returning home to his dysfunctional family. A residence that was in reality owned by the parents of a former school mate. The house was located up on a hill that overlooked the Pacific Ocean and served as a perfect location for what the production crew had invisioned from the script. Some neighbors were not as thrilled as others by the sudden invasion of a film crew, but Matthau assisted with public relations by entertaining the local kids- sitting on a curb at their level and answering questions and telling amusing tales.

  Ever the clown, Matthau exchanges a helmet for two briefcases.

    “The Laughing Policeman” wasn’t a big hit. Not that it was bad film, but I believe the moody, somber atmosphere didn’t play well with moviegoers at the time. I can say that neither Matthau, nor Dern in real life were that depressing or mournful. And although the title character Sgt. Jake Martin never cracked a smile in the film,  Matthau off camera presented plenty of laughs, and made for a pleasant working atmosphere that I remember fondly to this 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 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.

M.I.6 Briefing: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY: From the desk of M to 007 fans everywhere.

 

   A couple of years ago (time goes by so quickly) I ran a six part series on the Turner Classic Movie Fan site detailing my adventures on the set of Bond movie number fourteen, and Roger Moore’s seventh and last appearance of 007- A View to a Kill (1985). Unfortunately it ranks as one of the worst of the series,  with Moonraker and The Man with the Golden Gun tying for a close second. On the plus side, it did afford me the opportunity to meet its star Roger Moore and the Bond series legendary producer, Albert R. Broccoli, as well as watch both the first unit (principle photography) and second unit (stunts) in action. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the series (1962-2012). I was there from the beginning, and to this day there is no other Bond than Sean Connery. Dr. No, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, and Thunderball were the films in their finest forms. After that it started on a gradual- although slight- downhill, with the exception of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service which although it lacked a good Bond, the story was pure Fleming. Daniel Craig is presently doing a good job, however their shift to the darker side has taken some of the tongue-in-cheek fun that those early Connery vehicles had away. Granted Moore went too far towards the absurd, but ultimately what Bond was and is all about is balance. Enough with the introduction however, it’s time we dim the lights, part the curtain, and wait in anticipation for that gun barrel to make its appearance- the signature of grand adventure to come- T. Piazza 3/20/2012.

A View from a Fan- Part 1

   I have been saving this blog for all you James Bond fans; myself, being one of the biggest. I am going to spend some time relating this story because there is a lot to tell; and especially for the fans, I have separated the story into six parts so I am sure not to leave out any of the details.

Goldfinger (1964)

   In the summer of 1984, I finally got my dream of being on the set of a James Bond film. If I had had a choice, it would not have been this particular production; for being an admirer of SEAN CONNERY, I would have preferred to see him in action. However, it was still an official James Bond movie, and as a long time enthusiast, who could ask for more!

Dr. No (1962)

   I had been a fan (although a late one) from the films’ fourth entry into the series, “Thunderball”. Once I saw that film- which was nothing like anything I had ever seen before- I was hooked!  Thereafter I made sure that I was first in line for the re-release of the three earlier ones (“Dr. No”, “From Russia with Love”, and “Goldfinger”) and present on the first night for all the subsequent new releases.

   Thunderball (1965)

   Secretly, I had hoped that since Bond was such a globe trotter, that his film adventures would some day take him to San Francisco. Those expectations were raised during the summer of 1970 when I had learned through my father that the Bond producers (Broccoli and Saltzman) and some of the writers (Tom Mankiewicz, amongst them) were searching out locations in the Bay Area.  To my disappointment, nothing seemed to have developed. However, as I learned later, this was not an uncommon practice for the Bond production team- who were known to scout locations far ahead of time, using what they found in films produced later. So, in 1984, the research that they had done 14 years earlier was finally put to use for the production of “A View to a Kill”, starring  ROGER MOORE in his last Bond outing.

   A View to a Kill (1985)

   For weeks, the local paper and television news broadcasts- no doubt to the producer’s angst- announced their coming, and expectations grew high in the city. Finally the trucks started rolling in and a Fuji blimp could be seen making an unusual number of “fly-bys” over the Golden Gate Bridge.

The adventure was about to begin!

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN in PART 2 of “A View from a Fan”

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   I was not in the film industry at the time, having left 7 years earlier, and was then employed as a research biologist at a private university. However, I still had contacts, and so putting them to good use was able to find the Bond Company one Friday evening working on a chase scene at Market and California Street.

   Second unit working on chase down Market Street.

   It was around 10 pm and traffic on Market St. was surprisingly light. I remember the evening was warm- shirt sleeve weather- for San Francisco was experiencing one of those rare occasions of an Indian summer. Amber lights lit the street, but as I approached the intersection of California I spied some arc lighting, covered by  blue gels, and knew that I had arrived.

  Placards designate this a company car.

   Parking my car, I wandered out onto the area where the trucks were located- placards placed prominently on their windshields announcing that they were from the 007 Production Company. There was also a SF hook-and-ladder fire truck amongst the other vehicles which displayed an equally obvious sign announcing the film’s title “A View to a Kill”.

Company bus for transport of crew.

   After noising around a bit, I determined that this was the second unit  filming the hook-and-ladder chase scene where Bond (in fire truck) is being pursued by the police, after supposedly killing an official at city hall and setting the building on fire. Allow me to transgress here, but that was probably the worst chase in Bond history- more keystone cops than 007! Anyhow, at the time that I arrived they were rigging up two police cars with attach bars- in the film they had locked bumpers- and were attaching those to a tow car equipped with the camera, lights, and sound equipment.

Camera car towing police car,  filming actor’s dialogue. 

   The famous stunt driver, Remy Julienne was in charge of the action- along with the 2nd Unit director, Arthur Wooster. Julienne had his entire team there, which included family members as well.

Remy Julienne

   Once the rigging was done, the unit, escorted by two SF solo police officers on motorcycles, moved onto Market Street where the running shot took place. Two actors dressed as police officers were placed at the wheel and were exchanging dialogue (shouting of course) between the two cars. This was repeated a number of times before they were satisfied with the results, and announced a “print”.

Hook-and- ladder- on loan to 007 company.

   On television productions- a usual number of pages shot a day range from 12 or more- the scheduled work load for example of a 1 hour show such as “Streets of San Francisco” having to be completed in 7 days. Feature films have the luxury of incredibly more time- perhaps as little as 5-7 pages could be shot a day- and so, when it came to action that evening, that was pretty much it. They wrapped just shortly after midnight, and I headed home satisfied with my nights work.

BOND WILL BE BACK! in Part 3.

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A View from a Fan- Part 3

   The following Friday evening I came across the 1st unit of the Bond Company at San Francisco City Hall.  As I walked up to one of the grip trucks I spotted (from the local branch of teamsters) an old friend I had worked with on “Streets” several years earlier. I eagerly asked him what was being filmed that evening. He told me that it was the burning of City Hall, and (to my disappointment) only the doubles were scheduled to work. I followed with the question, when would the “principle” actors be shooting? He replied, the following day at this same location. Immediately, I started (mentally) re-arranging my schedule so I could be there.

Actor’s dressing rooms parked outside SF city hall.

   As the sun sank, the arcs started firing up and filming commenced. From behind the barriers, off to one side, I watched with mounting excitement the evening’s activities. Butane gas tanks were placed on the roof of City Hall on either side of the dome and burners were lit by the special effects team to simulate a major fire engulfing the building. It was an extremely convincing effect, and one which I caught through the lens of my own still camera.

   Special effects doing their magic.

   Next, I moved closer for a better view, to where a group of fans were gathered in the park directly across the street from the activities. On “action” from the director, John Glen, the same hook-and-ladder I had seen a week before on Market Street came roaring down Polk Street, siren wailing. Pulling up to the steps at the entrance of the building, several firemen poured out, hooking up hoses and raising an extension ladder towards the roof where the fire blazed. Just after a couple of firemen started the climb, the director yelled “cut” and the scene was complete. Of course this took a number of “takes”, and since they all seemed good to me, I wondered what the director was looking for.

Movie fire truck and police car at the scene.

   As they set up for the next shot, I wandered around observing some of the “movie cars” parked amongst the equipment. One particular caught my eye- a brand new Mercedes sedan, jet black, with wipers for the headlights! Another fan caught me gazing at it and commented, “Now that is a real Bond car!” at which I agreed. It was used as General Gogol’s (WALTER GOTELL) car in the movie.

Gogol’s car.

   The next scene filmed had stunt doubles for Roger (James Bond)  Moore – Dick Ziker and TANYA (Stacey Sutton)  ROBERTS– Karen Price, climbing down the ladder and the crowd of “extras” waiting on the sidewalk bellow applauding the rescue. That also took a number of “takes”, which took the production well into midnight.

Another shot of the city hall fire.

   As the hour was growing late, and as I had had more important plans for Saturday, I decided to call it a night before they wrapped for the evening. I had expected more exciting things would happen the following day- and as it turned out- I wasn’t disappointed!

BOND WILL BE BACK– in Part 4 of “A View of a Fan”

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A View from a Fan- Part 4

   I arrived on the set around noon, and noticed that their caterer had set up tables for lunch in the same park I was standing in the night before. Glancing over the tables, I spotted Roger Moore wearing a navy blue jogging suit, with a cigar in hand, sitting across from the Producer, ALBERT “Cubby” BROCCOLI. Immediately I started snapping pictures using my long distance lens, and as I got braver moved in for some more shots. I knew I was taking a chance because paparazzi have made it difficult for the average “Joe” to take pictures without raising the suspicion and ire of film people- however, to my surprise, Mr. Broccoli actually looked my way and smiled! This puzzled me at first, but then I realized (and I swear this was not planned) that I was wearing a T-shirt I had purchased some months earlier at the SF Italian Fest. It said Italy on the front and had an image of the Italian flag. Obviously (and it is the only conclusion I can come up with) our common background had something to do with the friendly reception. In a biography I read on Broccoli later I learned that his family came from Calabria-the same area in Southern Italy that my Mother’s side of the family came from. Of course, he (nor I) knew that at the time.

Moore enjoying a cigar and conversation with “Cubby” after lunch.

   During that afternoon, I spent some time snapping pictures, and watched as others approached Moore- who seemed very receptive- to ask for autographs. One young girl passed by me, exclaiming excitedly to a friend, “I got James Bond autograph, how cool is that!”

Cubby (foreground) and Moore in park across from city hall.

   I remember thinking, “he is not really James Bond- he’s Simon Templar. Sean Connery is James Bond.” But then again, that was just my own preference speaking. Anyhow, after watching numerous fans approach him and leaving with all limbs in tack, I mustered up enough courage to approach him myself and ask for an autograph. He was extremely pleasant and complied readily. I was also tempted to ask for Mr. Broccoli’s as well- but decided not to press my luck. Besides he signed the checks for the company- and if he knew I was also half Sicilian-he might view that with suspicion!

My Roger Moore autograph.

   The scenes that afternoon were all interior shots, inside City Hall. I therefore did not get to see any actual filming- public access being prohibited. But still, I felt content- after all, I had gotten plenty of pictures of my own, and got to meet and get an autograph from Roger Moore- so who could ask for more (pun intended) then that.

   This however, was not my last encounter with the company- in my next blog  I will describe the festivities of James Bond Day in SF- and seeing the entire cast and key people from the production.

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN in Part 5.

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A View from a Fan- Part 5

Moore with proclamation in hand- James Bond Day in SF.

   All my encounters with 007 seemed to be at city hall, and this was no exception. I did once catch them just wrapping a shoot at Fisherman’s Wharf, and I saw the blimp flying high above the city often during those weeks that they took seize of the city. However, this meeting was under different circumstances than my earlier ones, which will be seen as follows:

Patrick MacNee, actor who played another secret agent, John Steed in tv’s The Avengers.

   I was sitting in my lab, mid-work week, reading the paper, when I came across an article announcing that later that day (noon) the mayor (Feinstein) would be proclaiming “James Bond Day” on the steps of city hall with full cast in attendance. Seeing that I had a long lunch period owed me, my plan was to spend it at the festivities. Grabbing my camera, I caught a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train and got off at Civic Plaza. As I walked up the block, I could see a crowd gathering at the foot of city hall. Barriers, police, and a podium placed upon the landing set the stage for things to come. Gingerly I made way forward as best I could, and actually found a good spot to watch.

Broccoli, Walken,Wilson, and Gotell.

   Precisely at noon they all filed out- Diane Feinstein in a yellow dress and Roger Moore (dressed more Bond- like than in my previous encounters), in sport coat and tie, both leading the pack. Those in attendance were; CHRISTOPHER WALKENTANYA ROBERTS, GRACE JONES, DURAN DURAN, WALTER GOTELL, and my favorite, PATRICK MacNEE (he still looked great -even after gaining a few pounds- from his John Steed days). Of course the producers Albert R. Broccoli and his step son, MICHAEL WILSON and the director JOHN GLEN was also present.

The Mayor, Jones, Gotell, and Glen.

   The mayor presented Roger Moore with a proclamation mounted on a wooden plaque, and he followed with a few words of thanks. He next directed everyone’s attention to the sky where a helicopter was hovering some distance above the crowd. On cue, a stunt man dressed in a tuxedo leaped from the aircraft and came parachuting down into an area cordoned off (for this purpose) by the police. This was the same stunt man, B.J. Worth, and type of parachute that was used in the film for the Eiffel Tower jump. Upon landing, he instantly shed the chute, and came running through the crowd, where upon reaching the Mayor, he handed her a check (from the company) made out to the Mayor’s Youth Fund. The crowd was thrilled, and as usual  I took plenty of shots of the activities. If one thing could be said about this Production Company- they really knew how to put on a show!

JAMES BOND WILL RETURN (for the finale) in Part 6!

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A View from a Fan- Part 6 Conclusion

Tanya Roberts, Duran Duran, and Cubby watching sky diver.

   Once “A View to a Kill” was wrapped and in the can, preparations were made for its’ premier and San Francisco was chosen as the site. It was announced that the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre would provide the venue for the viewing of the film and an adjacent hall for the reception. 007 Martinis were on the bill and no, I was not in attendance. The cost was beyond the salary of a Biologist, and so what I report is drawn solely from the local news crews that covered the event at the time.  All the cast and some of the crew was in attendance- and I believe music was provided by Duran Duran. It was a red carpet affair- and I remember watching on television as a limousine drew majestically up to the entrance. The reporter got very excited, and built up the expectations of the audience, only to end with a thud as two “unknowns”- teenage girls exited the vehicle with broad smiles on their faces.

Entrance to premier at Palace of Fine Arts.

   As films go, it was unfortunately one of the worst. I got to see it with the peons during the general release. Moore seemed tired of the role, and was obviously just going through the paces. And the plot, it was simply outlandish (which is saying a lot considering that this was the same team that robbed Fort Knox!). And what about that soundtrack…Bond escaping the enemy on a snowboard to the music of the Beach Boys! Ahem! Of all the films, this one, and “Moonraker” I believe, have vied for last place. All attempts of making a serious spy film (or at least as serious as a Bond film could be) was obviously thrown out with the bath water in this script and in its place, a hybrid that made the Charles Feldman’s version of “Casino Royale” a masterpiece. The chase between the SF police and Bond in the fire truck was pure Keystone Cops…only devoid of the laughter. And if Tanya Roberts shrieked her shrill, “Help, me James!” one more time, maybe Bond would have been better off leaving her with Zoran. In short, what Blofeld and S.P.E.C.T.R.E tried to accomplish against Bond…this film nearly did.

And so ends my experiences with 007. It was not one of his better missions, but it was still personally an exciting event.

Joseph Wiseman as Dr. No.

  Bruce Glover in Diamonds are Forever.

 Pleasance (as Blofeld) and Persian friend in You Only Live Twice.

  I don’t know if I mentioned it earlier, but this wasn’t my first brush with the secret agent. I did work with some of his allies and enemies during the seventies. On “Streets” I got to work with “Dr No” himself, JOSEPH WISEMAN*, and BRUCE GLOVER* of “Diamonds are Forever” fame. Some of the camera crew on “Streets” had also worked in Los Angeles and Las Vegas on that same film in-between seasons. I also got to work with the original Blofeld, DONALD PLEASANCE, in a film starring CHARLES BRONSON– “Telefon”, which also filmed in the Bay Area. Of these and others, I have more stories to tell, but for now, we will leave the world of James Bond, Martini in hand…shaken, but not stirred!

* I have personal photographs I have taken of both these men, and will post them in a later blog.

My favorite author, and the man who started it all- Ian Fleming.

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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.

Meeting Peter Falk: One of a Kind by Tony Piazza

   I’ve always liked PETER FALK. He was a brilliant actor playing usually less than intelligent characters- mainly sidekicks to mob bosses. His throw away lines were a riot. He had other roles, more serious and handled those with a deft hand. And who could forget “Columbo”- the series that put a twist on the classic mystery story and introduced the seemingly lame-brained Lieutenant who wasn’t what he seemed. Falk did it perfectly.

   I met Peter Falk in 1970. He was filming a television movie entitled, “A Step Out of Line.” His co-stars on that show were PETER LAWFORD and VIC MORROW. Peter Lawford of course needs no introduction, and Vic Morrow was the star of the 1960s television series “Combat” and the unfortunate victim of a helicopter accident that took his life on the set of “Twilight Zone the Movie (1983).

 Peter Falk, my mother, and me in 1970.

   The plot of “A Step Out of Line” was fairly simple; a trio of Korean War buddies (Falk, Lawford, and Morrow) are overcome by a run of bad luck. With creditors literally knocking at their doors, Falk, Morrow and Lawford decide to resort- just this once- to crime. Combining their skills as honed by their military experience, the men plot to knock over a bank safe.

 

   Peter Lawford.

   I was sixteen at the time, and drove down with my mother to the location which was the Taraval Police Station on 24th Avenue in San Francisco. We were introduced to both Lawford and Falk at the station’s entrance by my father who shot this article’s photographs. Both men were gracious. Falk spent a fair amount of time, first exchanging pleasantries and then talking about some of his roles. We told him how much we enjoyed his characters, especially in films such as “Pocket Full of Miracles” and “Robin and the Seven Hoods.” He seemed humbled by our complements. My mother asked if he was part Italian, having read that he spoke the language. He laughed and said no, but that his wife was.

   Later we went inside to watch the filming. It was an interrogation scene, with a manacled handed Falk under the spotlight. As the camera started to role, the actor playing a detective slams Falk’s head down onto the table. Suddenly a voice from behind the sidelines shouts out, “No…you can’t do that!” It was my father. The camera and action stopped. As an advisor, my father (another of his many roles as liaison) said that it was a misrepresentation of how police were to conduct an interrogation. They would not manhandle a prisoner- it was not lawful or ethical and would lead to immediate dismissal of the officer. This display would only play into the myth that this was a usual and accepted procedure of the SFPD. The director immediately agreed, and Falk asked my dad if the detective were to just push him slightly, would that be okay? My father reluctantly agreed, and that was how they shot it. My mother was impressed by my dad’s input, and so frankly was I.

Falk with Victor Buono in Robin & the 7 Hoods.

  The details regarding my visit with Peter Lawford, I’ll save for another post, but I will only add that both Lawford and Falk had the highest regard for my father and what he had to contribute to the production.

Falk & friend.

Peter Falk died in 2011 at the age of 83. He was certainly one of a kind…they sure don’t make them like they use to! Ya, know wat I mean?

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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.

Karl Malden: Threatened for Not Leaving Home Without It! By Tony Piazza

 Did you know that KARL MALDEN actually got death threats because of that American Express commercial he did years ago? Some disgruntle user of American Express sent the company letters with inflammatory language and quite blatantly announced that they would like to kill the actor who said, “Don’t leave home without it!” We had gotten word on the set of “The Streets of San Francisco” and security was immediately beefed up. I could see the difference when I reported on location that morning…enough that it caused me to ask questions. I learned however that quite frankly from the start they were not taking it too seriously. Karl was alerted and didn’t seem too worried. Nevertheless they had to go through the motions. It seems this has happened before. In fact threats like these happened more often then one would think. It is pretty much understood by all concerned that if a celebrity becomes identified with a product, and that product doesn’t for some reason come up to the standards of the consumer, that celebrity would become the focus of their anger. And regarding the threat; it is usually the person who doesn’t advertise his or her intentions that are far more dangerous than those who do. Nine times out of ten the others are just blowing off steam. That was fortunately the situation in this case, and after a few days everyone relaxed on the set.

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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.

Darleen Carr, Television’s Good Daughter by Tony Piazza

DARLEEN CARR played Mike Stone’s (KARL MALDEN) daughter on “The Streets of San Francisco.” I will come up front and say it now, I had a “crush” on Darleen, and I think Darleen knew it. She would on occasion tease me on the set and I am convinced that it was because she sensed my shyness. We were on location one day at the Presidio in San Francisco, and in-between shooting I joined her and Trudi Schoenfeld (a fellow stand-in, and wife of our make-up man, Don) on the lawn and we had a long discussion. We eventually got around to talking about “The Sound of Music” and her sister, CHARMAIN. Darleen said that her sister wasn’t really interested in show business and had retired after just one picture because she preferred the normal life. She also revealed in the conversation that she had dubbed portions of her sister’s musical numbers in that film. Their voices were very similar and Darleen was a trained singer, so I didn’t really find that surprising. Darleen was very sweet and very unaffected by the business. No wonder she ended up playing good daughters. She was HENRY FONDA’S daughter in the television series, “The Smith Family” before playing Jeannie Stone on “Streets.” After our show she worked on many other films including “Maverick” with JAMES GARNER, and did voice work for animation features, most notably, Walt Disney’s “The Jungle Book.” She had a serious accident some years back when she was kicked in the head by a horse. She was in a coma for some time, but pulled through. She is now married to actor JAMESON PARKER of “Simon & Simon” fame. I’ve met so many wonderful celebrities in my time, and most I must say were such pleasures knowing…with Darleen being at the top of my list!

Darleen Carr on The Streets of San Francisco.

Darleen in another episode of “Streets.”

As Henry Fonda’s Daughter.

Darleen’s Sister Charmain as Liesl in “The Sound of Music.”

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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.

Steve McQueen and Bullitt History Part 2 by Tony Piazza

As the film opens the credits appear over the action backed by a wonderfully jazzy score by composer Lalo Schifrin. The setting is the interior of a modern office somewhere in Chicago. Mob hit men are after a desperate character hiding behind an office desk. The killers are uplighted in the shot and shown eerily in partial shadow. Suddenly they crash through a plate glass window as their prey tosses a smoke grenade in their direction. Even though this is supposed to be Chicago, as indicated by an inserted stock shot, the office was in actuality a set built on a soundstage at the Warner Brothers lot. It was the only scene that was not shot on location. How do I know? I asked my father when we first viewed it together at the theatre. The subsequent chase through the interior of the garage however was done in San Francisco (even though we were still supposed to be in Chicago-three cheers to movie magic). This was located in the Sutter Medical Building, and the alley from which the car emerges from the garage is off of Bush Street between Stockton and Powell. Next we switch scenes and are finally (plot wise) in San Francisco. Here we are introduced to a sleepy Frank Bullitt (STEVE McQUEEN) and his partner, Delgetti (DON GORDON) at Bullitt’s apartment- a real SF location filmed inside and out, on the corner of Taylor and Clay Streets. McQueen does some nice, subtle acting in this scene as he tries to spoon out instant coffee from a nearly empty jar, as his partner helps himself to some orange juice from the frig. One commentator made a remark about Bullitt’s pajamas in that scene…that it took a real man to be caught in such gimpy sleepwear. I’ll leave you to your own judgment regarding his wardrobe, but remember this was the sixties and some of his later outfits were pretty cool, and calculated by the wardrobe department to be timeless in fashion- the jammies may have slipped through the cracks however.

Bullitt apartment, corner of Taylor and Clay Streets.

Don Gordon and Steve McQueen.

In this scene Frank learns that their assignment is to keep a witness against a mob boss alive through the weekend until he could testify at a hearing. Earlier this witness is seen at the classy Mark Hopkins Hotel atop Nob Hill asking the desk “if there were anything for a Johnny Ross”, but later is held in protective custody at the Daniel’s Hotel, a flop house on the waterfront. Obviously, even though he had high hopes, the Daniel’s lodging was the best that the SFPD could afford. Regarding the Daniel’s; this was an actual dive called The Hotel Kennedy. It was located on the Embarcadero. Today it has been transformed into a chic hotel, but in those days it was lodgings for alcoholics, drug users, and near destitute with a few prostitutes thrown in for good measure.

Mark Hopkins

Director PETER YATES loved the atmosphere of the place. He said if they were to build this on stage, it would lose its character. For one thing, they would construct the hallways too wide (thinking of the camera) and it would look artificial. To his thinking there was nothing like reality to lend to the believability of a story. Remember, he came from England and was use to the European school of filmmaking. There they shot on location long before it became a regular procedure in Hollywood productions. This was the first location I went to visit, and although I didn’t go inside, I did work with a television company (QM for “The Streets of San francisco”) that used this location some ten years later. It was small, cramped, and dirty. The rugs were worn and threadbare and the smell of dust, stale cigarette smoke, vomit, and urine pervaded the air everywhere. Other than that it was a nice little place and the rent was reasonable! There was a tiny elevator (as seen in the film) that opened into the scuffed linoleum floored lobby (as I recall of a sickly green color), but we didn’t trust it and opted for the stairs.

Some visitors and crew members posing with my dad (officer, center)  outside The Hotel Kennedy during the filming of Bullitt.

Yates loved this location- especially the way the elevated Embarcadero Freeway ran behind the building (this section of roadway was torn down after the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989). He referred to it as artery or vein, and felt it leant a noir feel to the narrative. I remember visiting the location one dark night and looking up to the second floor window. The room they were filming in was easy to find. It was overly lit by production lights. In those days they didn’t have high speed film and lighting a set was a challenge. They normally threw everything they had on it. There was also a crane outside with a revolving lamp. It was to simulate the car’s headlights reflecting in through the window. Again, for more atmosphere.

Some stories come to mind regarding the hotel. Peter Yates over the years have been asked why the victim unlocked the door and let what turned out to be his killer in? His answer: “There wouldn’t have been a movie if he hadn’t!”

 The other had to do with that shooting. If the victim’s fall onto the bed from the blast of the shotgun looked real in the movie I have to tell you that it was. The harness holding the actor broke in the shot and actually dropped him onto the bed. He was okay however, just a few sore spots and a reluctance to sit on any hard stools for awhile.

When McQueen looks around the hotel room’s crime scene after the murder, there was some improvisation there. He knew what he was looking for, but the director didn’t tell him where the property and set decorator boys placed the items.

NEXT TIME: Part 3: More locations and stories from Bullitt.

Robert Relyea, Executive Producer and close friend of McQueen with my father on location for Bullitt.

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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.