This is a short memory, but a fond one. We (the crew of “The Streets of San Francisco”) were shooting a scene for an episode near Ghirardelli Square. As with most location shooting, we were attracting a crowd. And with this being a Friday night and a popular tourist spot, even more so than normal. People were everywhere. Areas were roped off on a grassy knoll in an effort to separate the onlookers from the shooting location. It was a chaotic night. Some friends stopped by to surprise me- old buddies from school. They said that they just wanted to come by and say hello, but I suspect it was more likely to impress their dates. They kept telling me how lucky I was to be able to work on a television show. Sure. Six days a week, and a minimum of twelve hours a day- in other words, no social life at all. In truth I envied them, with a pretty girl on their arm and a free evening to enjoy courtship- of course I didn’t tell them so. However, on the flip side, I’d made friends on “Streets” with such wonderful people as KARL MALDEN, and MICHAEL DOUGLAS; and Director of Photography, MICHEL HUGO, and Director VIRGIL VOGEL. So on second thought; it had its advantages. I was part of a unique family, and what social life I did have, revolved around co-workers and those moments in-between shooting. That was the reality of working on a film or television project. Karl Malden, more than anyone realized this, and tried to keep the atmosphere around the set always warm, fun, and friendly. For example, I’ll return to that Friday night. As I’d just mentioned, there was a large crowd of fans rubber-necking to see the action, and especially the stars. Karl was not in any of the scenes that evening, and had it off. His wife, Mona was visiting, and so they decided to use the time for sightseeing and shopping. Whether it was on purpose, or not, I’m not certain, but somehow they crossed paths with the production company. Karl and Mona were now standing behind the ropes among the fans looking in on our activity. Karl was not in his trademark dark suit, maroon vest, and gray hat. In fact, he was out of make-up and dressed in a tan leather jacket, comfortable slacks, and shirt opened at the collar. Fans hadn’t realized he was standing among them. They were too busy looking for him and other stars on the opposite side of the ropes. I spotted him however, and watched with amusement as he asked some of the gawkers with a gleam in his eye, “What’s going on here? Are the filming something?” Eventually a few caught on, and when they did, he and his wife disappeared. Karl was a great deal of fun, and I miss him, and those glorious days tremendously.
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 next novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was released early 2012 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 where fine books are sold, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.
Also: Watch for the new Tom Logan mystery thriller published soon by Amazon!
Due out mid-2013!