Playing Tennis Can Lead you to Influential People
One day, Bob came into work and asked me if I played Tennis. He mentioned that his dad was having a barbecue at this house in Beverly Hills and would I like to come. He said that a lot of his dad’s friends would be there and everyone would be playing tennis. I, of course, told him that I would love to come, and assured him I played Tennis.
Well, truth be known, I had never held a tennis racket in my life. I figured, how difficult could it be. Someone hits you a ball and you hit it back. I could do that. As poor as I was I went out and bought myself a tennis outfit and a tennis racket. And showed up appropriately dressed to play. Well everybody who was anybody was there. Pretty much all the Universal Studio Producers and more stars than you could name. I was so intimidated I hardly engaged with anyone. The day just got worse for me as they were going to have sort of a mini tennis tournament and everyone got paired up. I got paired up with Charlton Heston and we were the first pair up. There were two courts and the other court was paired with Patricia Neal and Julie Andrews, just to give you an idea of some of the celebrities at the event.
Mr. Hestson and I were the first ones up and he was chosen to serve. He served and I hit the ball so hard that the ball went over the fencing and into the neighbor’s yard. I, of course, freaked out. We got another ball and I hit the ball again too high and out of bounds. At this point Mr. Heston came up to the net and said to me; “Have you ever played Tennis before”? I fessed up and said I hadn’t ever played the game in my life. He laughed and said let’s have a drink. It was then that he introduced me to Fresca and Beer, saying the carbonation in Fresca gave the beer a real kick to enhance its carbonation. After a couple of these beverages, Mr. Heston got matched up with someone else and I left after the most embarrassing day of my life. I did get a short-lived job at Universal as a gofer running messages back and forth between the sound stages and producers. This opened up some really strong relationships around the studio. One of which was Bert Metcalf, the Executive Producer of MASH, the television show. He gave me a piece of advice that I ultimately reluctantly agreed was my best option for my future.
Talent Is Important For Success
He told me that I was very talented and had proved it more than once. He told me that the problem in Hollywood was that only 3% of the Actors in Hollywood that were members of the Screen Actors Guild actually made a living as actors. He said, and I wanted to believe him, that he felt I had the talent to ultimately make it as an actor. “That said, let’s assume you become a star in film & television, Let me remind you that the average life expectancy of a film star is 5 years, and then you are done as tastes move on”. He said that Mega Stars represent less than 1 % of all actors in the Screen Actors Guild. “You have an excellent understanding of how the business works and what it would take to succeed. You need to refocus your efforts in learning how to produce events in film, television, concerts, and stage so you can continue to be successful until the day you die. It never matters what you look like, it’s all about your talent in creating products and events your audience wants to see. Do that and you will always make a great living, especially if you create the product and own the rights to it”. I still wanted to act but realized he was dead right and I was going to dedicate myself to that goal.
Hollywood was kind of crazy in the ’60s, as the sexual revolution was in full swing. Women, as well as Men, had become very sexually promiscuous, women started burning their bra’s and going topless whenever possible. There were see-through blouses and micro-mini skirts that barely covered anything. Add to this, there were topless restaurants, car washes, and beaches in many movies. Women felt there was no issue with their ability to be aggressive with selecting partners until AIDS came along and changed everything to a much more cautious attitude.
It was the age of bell-bottom pants and ruffled shirts and shoes with lifts. There was hardly a need back then for the “Me Too Movement”. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of abuse in the film industry, because there was and still is to this day. It was just a time that sexuality was much more open and accepted. I mention all of this as it was a time that Hollywood was in a great transition, it was becoming much more youthful, The President of Paramount was 24 years old, and The President of 20th Century was 26. The only studio to not make any shifts in Management was Universal Studios, whose management stayed in place for over 40 years, this all became necessary as the Hollywood Studios were going broke and many had to file Chapter 13 bankruptcy. So new thinking was necessary to turn the industry around, 20th Century had spent so much money over budget on Hello Dolly that they couldn’t even take the sets down for several years. Another thing that happened was a rush of independent studios that were creating films on budgets that would have been impossible. The first example was “Easy Rider” that was a huge success and only cost a few million to produce. It also created two mega stars in Peter Fonda and Jack Nicolson.
This was unheard of, a low budget back then would have been around $9.000.000.00+. One of the reasons this was possible was technology, and a flow of independent theaters investing in films and new talent coming into the industry, remember we are talking about the ’60s here.
Back then when you wanted to make a film you had to go to the studio to make your pitch, in the hope they would give you studio space (well they really didn’t give it to you.) From the ’40s to the late ’60s when you produced a film you only got a third of the box office revenue after the distributor (Generally this would be shared with the studio) and the exhibitor (the theater) got another third. The studio also gets all costs upfront. Also, the producer needs to acquire what was then called a completion bond which had to be cash to ensure that the picture was produced on time and on budget and the stars completed their contracts. Today, pretty much everything is streamed to the theaters so it illuminated the distributor and a lot of the costs going to the theaters. Also in the 60 & the ’70s, due to a lack of product, a lot of the theater chains investing a lot of money into film production to have films to fill their screens. The reason for all of this information is that the cost of making a movie has gone down substantially, with major corporations buying up studios and film production. This time, you have to remember this was well before actors and performers owned the rights to their talent and performances. Royalties were yet to be distributed to performers and producers in the television production world.
Also, television was really bringing costs down with new shows. The theaters both live and film were suffering for a while but recovered rather quickly. One of the on-going fears back then was cable television. The film industry was going to destroy the film and movie theater industry. Which was totally an over-reaction by the industry.
Their fear back then was the explosion of cable television. Also, another entertainment venue was the shift of the concert business from night clubs to stadiums.
Pasadena Playhouse leadership had wanted to manage me but couldn’t approach me until after I was no longer a student. They had better contacts with the studios (Universal Studio for one) and could have probably done more for me with the studios with them representing me.
To tell the truth I just wasn’t very good in the beginning of the auditions and I had a partner named Patty Pricket, who would do scenes with me at the studios, one of my problems was we were starving and every time we went to an audition we were scared to death and praying we would get accepted. My other problem was that I had a birthmark on one of my eyes and I had dark brown hair in a world of blondes. Back then, no man with dark hair was even slightly considered for any roles on television. There were a few support actors with dark hair but no starring roles.
Up next, learn how the Mail room became a Stepping Stone to My Production Event Career.