Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein- The Event

 

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I’ve been very fortunate in life to experience many memorable moments. My most recent was so unexpected that I’m still stunned by it all- and it’s entirely due to the kindness of Lou Costello’s daughter Chris, who proves that being the child of a famous celebrity doesn’t always mean being better than everyone else. In fact, Chris is just the opposite, humble, thoughtful, and extremely giving. She’s also a living example that the fruit doesn’t fall too far from the trees, because Lou Costello was also well-known for all the attributes demonstrated by his daughter. Lou loved children, and was a great humanitarian when it came to causes. He cared about people, and was always ready to lend a hand upon a moment’s notice. Paddy Costello Humphreys, Lou’s oldest daughter is likewise another stamp of her dad. A warm, gentle lady, who has a deep respect for her father and all the fans who’ve loved him over the years. I’d like to add that it’s blatantly obvious  that they’re both a product of a loving, stable  family, which seems so rare in Hollywood circles- a credit to both their parents- Anne Battler Costello and of course Lou.

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Now about the event:

I saw advertised on their website that Chris and Paddy were going to be present at the showing of “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Long before I was married- actually going back to my youth- this film was always a staple Halloween fare in our home. This carried over to my adulthood- as it happened, my wife, Susan is also a big fan, and had the same tradition in her home growing up. After we were married, every Halloween we’d place the DVD of this film in our player and laugh again at the antics of Bud and Lou, while also re-living the thrills and chills of those marvelous Universal monsters.

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So, naturally when I saw the ad for the program I jumped at the opportunity. For not only would we get to see our favorite A&C film as it was originally shown- in a real movie palace, but with the added bonus of sharing that experience with Lou’s daughters. This certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I wasn’t about to let slip by.

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I’d e-mailed Chris that we were coming- we’d recently become friends on FACEBOOK- and was stunned when she offered that I join her at the Costello table to sell my books! This was their venue, and she was so sweet to share it with me. I was stunned and it was so unexpected, that I couldn’t believe it for some time afterward. I still can’t thank her enough.

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The weeks went by slowly leading up to the event, and I think I worried about everything that possibly could go wrong and prevent us from attending. As an example; a few months earlier we had a book signing in Fresno, California, and on the morning we were to leave our car battery went dead. So, bad, unexpected things do happen. However when the day came to make our four hour journey to Glendale, thank goodness, all went off like clockwork.

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Glenn Strange and Lon Chaney Jr.

We’d arrived a couple of hours before the event, so that gave us time to check in at the Alex, have some lunch, and take a few pictures.

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The Alex Theater is a beautiful, restored (completed Spring of 2014) movie palace built in the 1920s. It first served as a vaudeville house and then as a movie palace. This elegant venue was constructed during the days when going to a film was an event. Many early studio films previewed here and attracted the stars of its time, like Charlie Chaplin and Bing Crosby.

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Here’s a shot of the 100 foot tower…

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…and marquee that was added in 1940.

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The theater’s impressive entrance at the end of the courtyard.

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Inside the theater’s lobby

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Bela Lugosi haunts the lobby

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The restored auditorium. They certainly don’t build them like they use to!

My wife and I met Chris and Paddy in the lobby, by a wall panel detailing the history of the theater. Within minutes it was like we were old friends- they actually made us feel like an extension of the Costello family. What a thrill. I spent some time talking with Paddy while Chris was setting things up. Lou’s oldest daughter is charming- and we both agree that the old days seem so much simpler. By the way- just as an aside; Paddy’s favorite A&C movie is “The Time of Their Lives.”

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(L-R) Paddy Costello, myself, and Chris Costello

Chris made sure a table was set up next to theirs for my books, and her assistant from the film society suddenly became mine as well. How unselfish is that. I know I sound like a broken record, but in this world of “me’s” it’s so refreshing to find someone concerned about others. I try to live my life that way, but to discover another- and of a legendary celebrity no less, I’m still finding that remarkable.

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At the Costello table with my books

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Courtesy of A&C fan Mark Abel. My wife Susan can be seen far right, with (L-R) Chris, Mark, and Paddy Costello.

The doors opened at 2pm, and all the fans came flooding in. Honestly, I was so fascinated listening to Chris and Paddy tell their stories, and watching them interact with fans that I didn’t go into my usual pitch regarding my books with the passing crowd.

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After the lobby cleared out, Chris asked that we follow both her and Paddy into the auditorium. Here my wife and I found our seats, while Chris and Paddy took to the stage to be interviewed. We caught the end of a Disney, “Silly Symphony” Cartoon, “The Skeleton Dance” before the lights went up and Chris, Paddy, and their interviewer, Joe Furey entered onto the stage.

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The stories they shared were heartfelt, sentimental, funny, and informative. For example: Lou did actually pay for Dean Martin’s nose job; a Universal prop of a large swan was in the backyard of their family ranch; Paddy remembers with amusement seeing Frankenstein (Glenn Strange) sitting in a chair at the studio, smoking a cigarette and reading a newspaper- and there were so many more stories- too many to tell here. I suggest Chris’s book, “Lou’s On First” if you want to read more.

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 Here’s its link on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Lous-First-Biography-Hollywoods-recounted/dp/0312499132/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1414723544&sr=1-2&keywords=Lou%27s+on+First

Once the interview was completed the floor was open to questions, and Chris found an opportunity to introduce a surprise guest- Tanya Lees, granddaughter of Robert Lees. Robert Lees was a legendary Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” Chris asked her to stand up and be recognized. What a thoughtful gesture.

 Robert LessScreenwriter Robert Lees (1912-2004)

 

The feature began at the conclusion of the Q and A session. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is just as fresh and funny as the day it was first screened. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times we’ve seen it, but we were laughing just as hard as if we were seeing it for the first time- and so was the audience. Actually, as I’d mentioned before, we’d never experienced it in a theater with an audience- what a new thrill that was!

CostellosPaddy on the set of her favorite A&C, “The Time of Their Lives.”

When the film ended, we returned to the lobby and waited as Lou’s daughters graciously posed for more pictures. Both Chris and Paddy signed a photograph for us, and with fond memories tucked firmly in place, we said our goodbyes to began our journey back home.

A&C 17 Visiting with A&C fans- So much fun!

I cannot thank Chris and Paddy for allowing us to touch their lives. It is a memory both Susan and I will cherish for the rest of our lives. In fact you could say that it was the time of our lives!

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Remember to check out the dedicated A&C page on FACEBOOK:
Who’s On First? Abbott & Costello

The November 1st issue of the A&C  e-newsletter is just around the corner but it’s not too late to get on their subscriber list. Email Chris Costello at: ACCollectibles@aol.com and she’ll add you on. It’s free and you can cancel at any 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 second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was next released early 2012, and in July of this year, his latest Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels” was published and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.  His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites,  or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.

My earlier bestselling novels, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” and “Anything Short of Murder” now joins “A Murder Amongst Angels” on Amazon’s Kindle at a new, low price of $2.99. Now you can have hours of adventure, thrills, mystery, and romance for the price of a cup of coffee- and just as stimulating! Look for it on Amazon. Print versions have also been reduced.

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Also: The new Tom Logan mystery thriller, A Murder Amongst Angels . 

Find them all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Also available for $2.99 on Kindle.

 

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Bargain Alert- Hawaiian Adventure for .99 cents!

 

FIRST TIME LISTED SO LOW! For a limited time only. The KINDLE version of “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” for ONLY .99 cents!

SEE one of many of my reviews:

“In this new fast-paced adventure, an American air hero of early World War II, Captain Matthew “Rogue” Ryan, retires to Hawaii to start his own air-tour-of-the-islands business, only to face Nazi enemies and every conceivable kind of villainous entity of evil since H. P. Lovecraft and Dashiell Hammett penned yarns for the pulps. Enjoy living in the literature of yesteryear? Then you’ll savor leaping headfirst into these pulpish pages. The flowing action and excitement never let up, even during the expository or exotic love scenes, as Ryan faces down every kind of life-threatening situation. The sweat never stops pouring out of Piazza’s prose, and the sweat never stops draining off Ryan’s face as he tries to save all of us innocent folks from certain destruction at the hands of Hitler’s henchmen and other monstrous killers of both sexes. If only more writers reminded us of how much fun reading was in the days of Planet Stories, Argosy, Fantastic Adventures and Blue Book!” – John Stanley, author of THE GANG THAT SHOT UP HOLLYWOOD and I WAS A TV HORROR HOST at stanleybooks.net

 

 

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HERE’S THE LINK…To your passport of adventure:

http://www.amazon.com/Curse-Crimson-Dragon-Tony-Piazza-ebook/dp/B00NJ5PNFK/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1413822913&sr=1-4&keywords=tony+piazza

Exciting Announcement- A Halloween Treat!

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EXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT! Please note all my FACEBOOK friends in LA and HOLLYWOOD. The announcement in October’s Abbott and Costello newsletter says it all: Meet Tony Piazza in person at the Alex Theater on Saturday, October 25th at the 2 pm screening of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. Tony will have copies of his book on sale at the Abbott & Costello table.

I’m so excited to be part of this event, and to meet the Costello family in person! I found Chris Costello every bit as kind and thoughtful as the stories I heard about her father Lou, who’d built a pool and recreation center for LA’s inner-city kids. Please come out and enjoy what is sure to be a fun and extra special event. Tickets can be purchased through the Alex Theater box office. See ad for further information.

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A Murder Amongst Angels

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Sexy, platinum blonde movie siren, Gertrude Hurd had it all-fame, men, and riches. But now she was dead. A fallen angel, whose broken body and tarnished halo was lying on a hillside behind her beach front cafe. It’s 1931, and private detective Tom Logan is back, once again immersed in a perplexing mystery, that has him racing against time to track down a merciless killer. As the body count grows, so do the suspects, as his investigation soon has him bucking against corrupt city officials, the mob, and the Hollywood studio system. Packed with mystery, action, romance, humor, and characters you won’t easily forget, this fantastic sequel delivers everything promised from the first novel and more. A Murder Amongst Angels is an nostalgic, hard-boiled detective mystery that takes readers back to the era of Chandler and Hammett, while creating a niche all its own.

Central Coast Writer’s Conference Appearance

Author Tony Piazza will be making a personal appearance at the 2014 Central Coast Writer’s Conference, September 19th and 20th. His books, “Anything Short of Murder”, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon”, and “A Murder Amongst Angels” will be for sale at the Central Coast Sisters in Crime table. Two of his novels (Anything Short of Murder and The Curse of the Crimson Dragon) are now in their revised, 2nd editions, and can be personally autographed upon request. Look for him also on two panels: The Anti-hero panel and Writer’s organizations panel-of which he is a member of three: SLO NightWriters, Mystery Writer’s of America, and Chapter President (one of the few males) of the Central Coast Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Author Tony Piazza with Tyrone Tann- Radio Interview

 

A fun and informative interview with author Tony Piazza (A Murder Amongst Angels) by dynamic host, Tyrone Tann- talking movies, television, celebrities, and books. Tyrone is no stranger to Hollywood…he’s done it all- producing, acting (Starship Troopers), radio…you name it, Tann’s there! If you missed the original live broadcast, here’s your chance to catch it on the link below. Enjoy.

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http://www.staurosentertainment.tv/Stauros_Entertainment.tv/INDIE_100_RADIO_-_%28IN-STUDIO_GUESTS%29/Entries/2014/7/10_EP107-_TONY_PIAZZA_%28Author__Film_Historian%29.html

 

On The Dave Congalton Show- from 6/27/14

Dave, Victoria, and Me.

 

Here’s the link to my appearance with Victoria Heckman on The Dave Congalton Show (6-27-14). Photo courtesy of Dave Congalton.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Tony Piazza Interview with Stan Weisleder

 

Tony Piazza interview with Stan Weisleder and Malcolm Burman on “The View From Over Here” CRN radio.  6/24/14. Link below.

 

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Working with Streisand and O’Neal on “What’s Up, Doc?”

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My first assignment came out of a “cattle call” that was held at the SF Casting Agency in the summer of 1971. The casting directors for Warner Brothers Studio were present at the office to select from hundreds of people (why, “cattle call”), those to be casted for various “extra” roles during an airport scene at SFO for the film What’s Up, Doc?. The agency had been around for some years, but at that time they were shy on younger people to fill roles as stewardesses and military personnel- thus, I became a Marine- but only for two days.

 

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My first job- playing a Marine

  After reporting to the wardrobe truck and changing into my costume, I went to the set which was located at the TWA wing of the airport. The lobby there was enormous- which was lucky because between, cast, crew, extras, and on lookers it was filled to capacity. It was also hot- lit by many photographic lights- arcs, inky dinks, eye lights- you name it!

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On location for “What’s Up, Doc” at San Francisco International Airport

  If you have ever worked on a set you will understand the saying, “hurry up and wait!”- and we did a lot of waiting! However, the one benefit of that was that I had time to meet a lot of other fellow “extras”, and made many future friends. One particular was Johnny Weissmuller Jr., we talked for hours about his Dad. He referred lovingly to Johnny Sr. as the “old man”, and it was evident in our conversation that we both shared the same admiration of him and his work. We also both had the same movie book, “Tarzan of the Movies,” and discussed that as well. We worked together many times afterward. The last time I ran into him, he was trying to contact a collector who had some of his father’s Olympic Medals (this was just after his father had passed away).

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Gabe Essoe’s excellent book, “Tarzan of the Movies”

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My friend, Johnny Weissmuller Jr.

                                                             

All the stars were present for the shoot- and it was a real treat: Streisand was and is undoubtedly very talented- gifted with a beautiful singing voice and an excellent talent for comic timing. Interestingly, she was more attractive in person than on film. She also had a very dynamic personality and exhibited ‘star’ qualities on the set.

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O’ Neal I believe was overwhelmed by the crowds that flocked around him. His fame from the television show “Peyton Place” still pursued him and he seemed to shy away from the public when possible.

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Bogdanovitch (in his signature tennis sweater) was there directing- very directorial in appearance and style. It was fun watching him in action.

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 Director Peter Bogdanovitch 

 I was also exceedingly impressed by a lesser know actress (at the time) who co-starred in the film. She would become a big star later, due to Mel Brooks (who, incidentally I got to work with a few years later)-  and I just have to say, “It’s true, It’s TRUE!” and you probably know who I mean. Madeline Kahn stole all the scenes I watched her shoot- and I knew then that she was going places. She was extremely outgoing in front of the cameras and surprisingly shy behind.

 

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Madeline Kahn in her role as Eunice Burns

Another future alumni of Brooks’ films, Kenneth Mars was also present (very funny in person) and Liam Dunn (preacher of Blazing Saddles) also had a role as a judge. Also of note, the screenplay was by Buck Henry, another associate of Brooks (Get Smart).

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Kenneth Mars

There is a lot more I could say about this experience; because it WAS my first , the impressions have seemed more lasting. However, I will spare you of further rantings for now- but if you are interested, I will leave it for another 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” was next released early 2012, and in July of this year, his latest Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels” was published and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.  His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites,  or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.

Also: The new Tom Logan mystery thriller, A Murder Amongst Angels is now available!

Find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Also available for $2.99 on Kindle.

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Serial Killer Stalks Underground Seattle by Tony Piazza

Kolchak

In 1972 a television movie starring Darren McGavin caught my attention. It was called The Night Stalker and told the story of a Las Vegas newspaper reporter, Carl Kolchak as he tracks down a serial killer who turns out to be a vampire. It was based on the then unpublished novel,  The Kolchak Papers written by Jeff Rice and adapted for the small screen by Richard Matheson. Dan Curtis was the producer. You might remember that name from another television series thriller, Dark Shadows- a macabre spin on the afternoon soapbox opera which aired in the 1960s. The Night Stalker premiered January 11, 1972 and became the highest rated television movie for that year.

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Glowing with the success of the first film, ABC commissioned Richard Matheson to write a sequel, The Night Strangler, which aired a year later in 1973. This followed Kolchak on yet another search for a serial killer; only this one hid out in the underground city of Seattle and strangled victims for their blood which he used to keep himself alive for over a century. It also became a ratings success, and so it logically followed that, Kolchak: The Night Stalker became a new series that ran on ABC from 1974-1975;  again starring Darren McGavin as Kolchak, with regular, Simon Oakland as his long-suffering editor, Tony Vincenzo- not to mention every ghost, ghoul, vampire, or monster you could ever have nightmares of.

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A youthful Tony Piazza with Darren McGavin working on a TV movie in the mid 1970s.

In 2005 the series was re-imagined with Carl Kolchak portrayed by Stuart Townsend. It was canceling however after a couple months due to low ratings.

Night Stalker 2005

Night Stalker 2005

I enjoyed the original show, and have it in my DVD collection. Both television movies were intriguing… but the second, with its images of the buried city of Seattle continued to hold my curiosity even up to today- especially after I’d learned back then that such an underground city existed.

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Darren McGavin in character as Carl Kolchak

Flash forward to the present, and a recent trip to Seattle, where I saw in a brochure that tours of that underground city were being offered. How could I pass that up after being haunted by the images long ago of that spooky strangler running through the ruins of a century old buried city in pursuit of our hero, Kolchak. Well, let me say that the reality was not exactly like the celluloid image… but was it disappointing? I would say, definitely not. Let’s take a look:

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Start of Tour at Pioneer Square, Seattle, WA.

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Spooky Sidewalk Skylight

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Entrance to the old Seattle bank

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Bank vault where guard was shot dead. Guide says his ghost still wanders the corridors

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Door near the bank. Someone buried behind those bricks? Hmmm.

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Old sign in rubble…Sam’s Bar? For Spirits?

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Inside of the old bar…notice the pillar- it’s an original

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Lounge seating from adjacent hotel

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Hotel wall painted to look like wallpaper

Finally, I have seen the lost city’s celluloid version, however it wasn’t in Seattle buried under the streets, but very much above ground in downtown Los Angeles. Yes, it is the famous Bradbury Building, (it was dirtied up for the movie- not pristine as in the photo), but very recognizable. Luckily I didn’t come across any century old stranglers, but then again, that’s Hollywood!

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Bradbury Building, Los Angeles, CA

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The Night Strangler- who didn’t make an appearance-  thank goodness!

This guy’s in desperate need of Dr. Whosits French melon extract creme. 

As an aside, I’ve also met and talked with Simon Oakland on the set of Bullitt in 1968, and visited with Jo Anne Pflug (co-star) of Night Strangler when she was filming A Step Out of Line in 1971.

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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 next released early 2012, and in July of this year, his latest Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels” was published and is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden.  His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites,  or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.

Also: The new Tom Logan mystery thriller, A Murder Amongst Angels is now available!

Find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Also available for $2.99 on Kindle.

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