Tuesday, July 24, 2012

More From My Mis-spent Youth

      Just in case you missed the first of this series of posts, while going to school in California in the 1960's, I found employment (without real work involved) as a movie and TV screen extra and occasional stunt man. People who know me now don't recognize me then.

It's the hat! It's the HAT!
     Believe it or not, television and movie stars were far more accessible then than they are now. One of my favorites was Duncan Renaldo, star of film, televison, and comic books as THE CISCO KID. I bought a Guide To Hollywood Star's Homes, and knocked on his door. He answered dressed in old jeans and a work shirt (He had been planting a bush in his back yard.) He invited me in, we had tea, and when I told him I was a big fan, he excused himself, went into his bedroom, and when he came back the following picture was taken. One of my favorites.


     I also worked in televison for a number of years, and - at the time - at least one station in every market ran monster movies on Friday nights with a live host, so here I am in 14 pounds of torn bedsheet spoofing one of the famous Boris Karloff Mummy movies ... (A decade of years later I had the extreme pleasure in interviewing the great horror master. I told him about my experience as a "mummy." He asked if the costume had itched me. I answered that it had. He chuckled, commenting that some things never change.)                           

     And here is my favorite surviving picture from that time period. This is the middle of three pictures; the first picture shows me approaching the camera. The next picture - this one - shows me turning to the camera with absolutely no clue that the horse is in the process of bucking. The third picture shows me laying on my back in the grass while the horse is easily clearing the fence in the background.

    The first picture is around here somewhere. I have long ago torn up and thrown away the third picture.

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Third Dead Indian From The Left

Okay, so my fiancĂ© enjoys my stories … (or at least is polite and says she enjoys them. We are not married yet, so …)

 Anyway …

 Anyway, she has encouraged me to share this one with you, so, if you don’t like it, blame her. I’ll be glad to point her out – myself, I never would have thought of doing this. Never. Ever. Never ever.

 Anyway …

 (Boy, that felt good, ya know? Kinda clears the emotional … something …


 American movie westerns had passed their peak in popularity, but still being mass produced. John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart had passed their peaks as well, getting on there, but showed absolutely no signs of slowing down.

 And movie westerns were being cranked out at a frightening pace, sucking every movie extra in Hollywood into the black hole of spurs, chaps, feathers and war paint.

 And that’s where I came in. I was attending school in California, and used to pick up money – first by being in crowd scenes walking down the street … (Oh? You didn’t know those people were paid? Why do you think a movie costs enough to bankroll a small South American country for a year?)

And later I worked as a stunt man. (More money.) My specialty was in portraying an American Indian. Why? Because I was a natural at falling off a horse. And I never went to school to learn how to do it. I was a natural at it. Why, falling off a horse was as easy for me as falling … uh … well, you get the idea.

Here’s how it worked: They would dig a trench in the ground, fill it with foam and sand, and I would ride along, pretend to be shot, and fall onto the pit (trying not to bounce.) At least that was the theory. My horse was FAR better trained than I. She knew if she dumped me in the right spot, she would get an apple. She also was aware, I think, that if she dropped me beyond camera range (onto rocks, bushes, or an occasional gopher hole, she would be taken back to the barn where it was cool and she would receive a bucket of food. This was supposed to be punishment …)

Ha! And again ha! After about the third time I am deposited unceremoniously onto whatever horse finds interesting, she looks at me and … (They say animals don’t have the facial muscles to smirk. Don’t believe that for a minute.)

… and I have the scars to prove it.