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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)!
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”:
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.
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.
Myself and Richard Hatch in the 1970s
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.
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.