Celebrity Encounters by Tony Piazza

 

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CELEBRITY ENCOUNTERS. Not all the celebrities I met over the years were involved in productions that I was visiting or working on. In 1990 I ran into TONY BENNETT in SF at Borders Books off of Union Square. I was standing in line with him on the second floor (Music section). He was buying some music. He was dressed in a long, heavy gray overcoat- NY winter style. A few minutes later I was standing in line at the coffee section, and happened to glance at the person standing next to me. Yes, it was Tony once again, and we stared at each other for a second or two…and sensing he wanted his privacy…neatly looked away. He sat a table, moodily reading a newspaper, sipping a coffee and everyone pretty much left him alone. I guess he really did leave his heart in San Francisco!

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My other encounter was in the 1980s. I was on my way to Lake Tahoe, and stopped off at the Black Oak restaurant in Vacaville, CA. I’m sitting at a table, and noticing a lot of waitresses flocking about a table across from me. It was JOE DiMAGGO. Extremely friendly, and very personable, taking time from his meal to sign autographs. Back then he was known as the spokesperson for Mr. Coffee, more so than a ball player, or one-time husband of Marilyn Monroe.

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Another celebrity I happened across outside my own involvement in the television and motion picture industry was actor, RODDY McDOWALL, who I ran into during the production of the disappointing motion picture, “Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen” starring Peter Ustinov. (Peter, I met at another function, and have a full story about him here: http://www.authortonypiazza.com/two-anecdotes-from-peter-ustinov-by-tony-piazza/  ) Regarding Roddy, who is a classic film legend- having been a part of that galaxy of stars coming out of M.G.M.- this film was a sad note to his career.

 

Charlie

When I saw Mr. McDowall, he was doing a scene in a motorized wheelchair (as I recall- this was back in 1981), and exiting and re-exiting, take after take from a building off of San Francisco’s Market Street. Not too taxing on the actor- maybe on the wheelchair, or the actor’s nerves.

 

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Roddy McDowall as Cornelius- The original “Planet of the Apes” (1968)

Roddy played the chimp scientist, Cornelius in the ground breaking 1968 science fiction film, “Planet of the Apes”. Another actor in that now classic film was the actor, MAURICE EVANS. He played the orangutan, Dr. Zaius.

 

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Maurice Evans in make-up for “The Planet of the Apes”

I had lunch with Maurice on location, when we were filming an episode for “The Streets of San Francisco” in which he’d guest starred.  Very cultured man, with a wicked sense of humor. During lunch he’d announced to all of us at the table that he didn’t like brussels sprouts- they made him (you fill in the rest)!

 

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Dapper, Maurice Evans

You may also remember Maurice as television’s Samantha Stevens warlock father on “Bewitched.” I also worked with another cast member from that show- Darren’s boss, Larry Tate- DAVID WHITE.

 

Back to “Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen”:

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During the production much was made in the press about a Caucasian once again playing the role of the Asian, Chan- this time around in the person of Ustinov- and how there was an outcry in the Asian Community about this. After the fact, I would say they were lucky not having an actor from their community associated with this film…the box office was disappointing.

 

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Peter Ustinov (Chan) and son (Hatch)

 

As a side note: actor, RICHARD HATCH played Chan’s son. I knew Richard, and was his stand-in during the final season of “The Streets of San Francisco” when he replaced MICHAEL DOUGLAS. He’s a nice guy, and am really sorry that he landed this role in the Chan film.

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 Myself and Richard Hatch in the 1970s

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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.

CofD

ASofM

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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DOUBLE EVENT!

DOUBLE EVENT! Tomorrow, December 15th, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” will be the featured e-book on BookDaily. Watch for it!

Sunday, December 16th, I’ll be reading my short story “My Most Precious Gift” at an anthology event at Coalesce Bookstore, 845 Main Street in Morro Bay. Time 1-3. There will be food, drink, readings, and signings. Hope to see you there!

Tony Piazza's photo.
Tony Piazza's photo.

Bestselling Mystery at Bargain Price- $1.99

ON SALE- LIMITED TIME.  The bestselling novel that started it all is now available on Amazon for Kindle at the incredible price of just $1.99 !

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HERE’S A TASTE from Chapter 1.
“I was getting a quick bite at one of those high profile delis on
Hollywood boulevard; you know, one of those places
reputed to cater to the stars. Of course, the only star I ever saw
go into this joint was usually attached to the uniform of a beat
cop. Anyhow, I was biting into my pastrami, sitting in my usual
spot at the counter, when a rather slinky blonde cozies up to my
side and whispers something rather encouraging in my ear. It
isn’t what you think, but something equally tempting; she
offered me fifty dollars in cash. A commodity I have recently
been short of. I responded, “Lady, if it’s anything short of murder,
I might be interested.”

REVIEW:
Anything Short of Murder is a great book! It reminds me of the great hard-boiled detective novels of the first half of the twentieth century… and reads like it too! Tom Logan is a private investigator who finds himself in the middle of Hollywood (during its illustrious 1930s Golden Age). On the surface level, everything is glamorous and cinematic, until Logan gets deeper and deeper into the corruption and disillusionment of its gritty realism. Anything Short of Murder is a book for any classic film lover, any classic mystery “Whodunit” lover, and any lover of pure fun entertainment! I highly recommend if you want to get thoroughly sucked completely into a book.

Please consider adding it to your Kindle library.

http://www.amazon.com/Anything-Short-Murder-L…/…/ref=sr_1_6…

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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.

CofD

 

ASofM

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.

 

amongstangelsfront cover 3

Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein- The Event

 

A&CF

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.

 A&C7Movie Poster

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.

 A&C10Chris Costello signing pictures

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.

CofD

ASofM

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.

 

amongstangelsfront cover 3

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.