Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Pierre Cardin

 One night, I was working at Sanger Harris, and I had two men come into the Record Dept.  One was kind of tall and the other one was short.  The tall man asked me if we had the 8-track tape for "American Graffiti".  I said yes.  He had a very thick accent.  The shorter man spoke only French and was saying something to the tall man, who then told me in English.  Unbeknownst to the shorter man, I spoke fluent French, so I knew what the man was saying.  He said some very rude things about me, including calling me a "peasant".  I rang up the tape, and then turned to the shorter man, who was Pierre Cardin.  I told him in French that I thanked him for his purchase, and that I was not a peasant.  His face turned red.  The taller man's face turned red.  Cardin then apologized in English.  He may have thought of himself as a big shot, but I brought him back down to size.  Thanks to high school and college French.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


 A call went out for anyone interested to be a movie extra for a film being made in Dallas at the Cotton Bowl.  The time was Sunday afternoon, and I went.  It was cold and rainy, but a few thousand people showed up.  The weather was so bad that they decided not to do much filming, but they did give us nachos, which was the first time I had ever had that dish. 
 The movie they were making was called "Semi-Tough".  It starred Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, Jill Clayburgh,  Robert Preston, Carl Weathers, Richard Masur, Norm Alden, and more.  Since the weather was so bad, they shot a few scenes of football players sloshing around on the field.  The rest of the time, they brought in the stuntmen to put on a show for the crowd.  They had guys jumping out of helicopters into pads.  Hal Needham did a lot of the stunts. 
 Since the weather was not cooperating, they told us that anyone who wanted to come back on Monday could and would be filmed.  My school was on winter break, so I said I would be back.  The next day, not as many people came back.  Maybe enough to fill up one end of the stands.  They introduced Burt Reynolds.  He was a big star and had a security entourage around him.  Kris Kristofferson was much more approachable.  He was just coming off of "A Star Is Born", but he hadn't let it go to his head.  The Assistant Director was named David Sosna.  His job was to be in charge of the extras.  Dave was a cool guy.  He went on to work with John Landis on several of his films like "The Blues Brothers" and "Trading Places".  Dave was a practical joker, and he did several things to lighten the mood, because there was a lot of waiting around.
 The film was set in Miami, but they filmed almost everything in Dallas.  Since it was supposed to be Miami, we had to wear short-sleeved shirts.  It was very cold in the stadium, so when they were ready to shoot a scene, we had to take off our coats and look like we were hot.  Another trick I learned was how to cheer.  They said that everyone born between January and June cheer for one team, and everyone born from July to December cheer for the other team.  That way, there  were some standing while others were sitting and vice versa.  We figured out that we wanted to get as much camera time as we could, so there were many of us who changed our birthdays, and we stood up a lot.  They caught on to our trick and told us that if we didn't follow directions that we would have to leave.  Because it had rained, the areas of the stadium closest to the field had ankle-deep water accumulated down there.  Anyone who sat there had the best chance to get on camera, and also got very wet feet.
 I was there for a week.  The crowd dwindled down each day until there was about twenty of us.  In order to look like there was a crowd behind the sidelines, they would move us into the shot.  When it was time for the next shot, we would all move to that spot behind the players.  It made it look like a full stadium after editing.  One of the scenes was for the Super Bowl.  We were there cheering away.  When the movie came out in widescreen, I made a startling discovery.  The cameraman did not frame us too well, and you can see empty seats on either side of us. 
 The football teams were made up of stuntmen and professional players from the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys.  There was one Oiler player who was about 6'9" tall.  He was very big.  Dave told us that he wanted us to play a joke on this guy, so we were to cross the field from one side to the other.  As each of us passed this guy, we were to hit him in the back.  So, we did.  The guy was not very pleased with Dave's joke.  But, we were following the direction.
 In the end, we didn't get paid much money, but they fed us, and we got to be around the stars and players.  Except for Burt Reynolds.  We saw him, but that was all.  One interesting side note.  The film was directed by Michael Ritchie.  He later directed "The Bad News Bears".  That film was written by Bill Lancaster, who was Burt's son.  During the auditions for "The Midnight Man", I had gotten to know Bill, and he recommended me to his father who was directing that film, which is how I got that part.  Small world.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Star Wars

 I have never seen "Star Wars".  I have never seen any of the sequels, prequels, or quells (whatever they are).  It isn't that I don't like action movies or sci-fi movies.  I do.  But, I have no desire to see anything "Star Wars".  Why, you ask? 
 It comes from an experience I had, when I worked for Sanger Harris Department Store in Ft. Worth.  The movie had just come out, and there were a lot of action figures and other toys connected to the movie.  I worked near the Toy Dept.  We kept selling out of everything "Star Wars".  We couldn't keep them in the store, especially the action figures.  It wasn't just us.  They were selling out everywhere.  We couldn't possibly have enough for everybody.
 So, I would have children (mostly boys) and their mothers come into the store looking for the figures.  I would tell them we had sold out.  The kids would raise a fuss, and I had some kick me in my shins.  The mothers would get upset, and cuss me out.  I didn't really blame them.  They had probably been all over town to try and get these toys, but they took it out on me.  I got so turned off by their responses to me that I vowed never to see any of the movies.  I guess it sounds a little extreme on my part, but that was my response to their abuse. 
 I have had friends tell me that I should see "Star Wars" anyway.  They tell me it is a very good movie.  I guess it is, but I do have principles.  Years later, I was at home and watching TV.  I was flipping the channels and found a movie to watch. It was pretty good. I had seen about ten minutes of it, when it went to a commercial.  The announcer said, "We'll be back to Star Wars in just a minute."  I was horrified.  I had actually seen a portion of the movie.  But, I immediately turned it off.  I couldn't risk having flashbacks of the bruises on my legs from pouting children.  Or, hearing words coming out of women's mouths that they shouldn't have said.  I have even been threatened by a friend that he is going to tie me down and force me to watch the movie.  Never.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Wreck

 I was rushing home late one afternoon from work in 1977.  I loved to drive fast.  There was a misty rain, and the roads were slick.  I was on the freeway and hit the off ramp a little too fast.  I hit the brakes, but they locked up and I started sliding.  There was a Lincoln in front of me, which was stopped at the light.  There was nothing I could do but watch my car slide into the back of it.  That was a horrible feeling.
 I wasn't injured except for bruised knees from hitting the dash.  I got out of my car, and apologized profusely to the people in the Lincoln.  They said it was okay, and we both pulled around the corner from the ramp. Their car had a broken taillight.  My car was bashed in big time.  The front wheel on the passenger side was messed up.  The radiator had moved further toward the windshield. 
 The police came had decided that weather was the cause, so I wasn't cited.  I got back to school, as it wasn't far from the wreck.  The next day, I called the Ford dealership and asked them to tow my car to it.  Then, I called my insurance company who told me I should have called them first, because they wouldn't pay for the card being at the Ford place.  It wasn't recognized by the insurance company as an authorized service place.  I did not know how to deal with the insurance folks except screaming and crying, but they wouldn't budge.  The Ford folks told me that the work was going to have to be somewhat specialized, and they could do it better than just a willy-nilly body shop, but I could not afford to get it fixed without the insurance.  I asked the Ford guys if they could work on it, while I dealt with the insurance, and they said no, so my car sat at the Ford place for a week.  Meanwhile, they did give me a rental car from my insurance.  It was a Ford LTD, which seemed like driving a tank compared to my car.  The front end was so long that I felt like I had to brake a half of a block before stopping at a light. 
 I called my father in SC to ask him what I should do.  He called our insurance rep, who got on the phone with the company, and said a few choice words with them.  The insurance company decided to pay for the repair on my car at the dealership, and I had some money leftover afterwards that I used to buy a TV for my dorm room.  By the way, it cost $600 to fix my car, and 50 cents to fix the Lincoln.
 For a long time after that experience, I was very nervous driving in the rain, and I tried to avoid it as much as possible.  My car was never the same after that accident.