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.
* 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.”
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.