Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Lorne Green Rides To The Rescue

Episode 18

Our Hero
"He lay face down in the desert sand/ Clutching his six-gun in his hand /Shot from behind, I thought he was dead/ But under his heart was an ounce of lead / But a spark still burned so I used my knife / And late that night I saved the life of  Ringo... " (Lorne Greene Singing 'Ringo.') 
Everyone was still wondering when the hell Glen Larson would finally burn that damned schoolship when the word came down that Actual Production had begun. Film was being by-God exposed.

Now, Chris and I hadn’t even seen a script and since we were story editors on the show, this was rather weird. Normally, we were left out of the loop about everything, except the scripts. This was because we were the guys who had to answer to the Studio, the Network Boys, and Susan #%$% Futterman, the very scary woman who was the network censor for ABC.

Never mind that nobody paid any attention to what we said when any of the above decided to relieve themselves their excrement streamed directly downhill into our home-away-from-home, a double-wide trailer that sat on the banks of the lovely, cement enclosed, LA River. Which was empty, except for a trickle of water and speeding Universal Studio stunt vehicles, eleven months out of the year. (See previous episodes for an enlightening tour of the Writers' Trailer Village.)

What happened is that when Mr. Larson turned in one of his scripts, always at the very last tenth of a second, everybody in the chain of first draft Scriptland snatched it up, read the sucker, got pissed, then called us on the phone to vent their spleens, livers, hearts, lungs and rectums.

They’d learned that it was dangerous to yell at Glen. He’d just say fuck off, order his crew to shoot the script anyway, then put it on the satellite cue for national broadcasting. Leaving them with the choice of either showing his episode, or something in the can - like a documentary about ski touring in downtown Oslo. Or, the plight of young minority males in Urban America.

Anyway, the first notice we got of Episode #1 of the School Ship Burning was a call to our office from our producer,  Jeff (the EatAnter) Freilich, to hustle our butts down to the sets to do some on the spot cutting. It seems Mr. Larson’s script was so overly long that no matter how fast the crew worked, they couldn't move the lights, sound booms, or cameras fast enough.

Glen Larson Script On The Way
Dolly entered our office, handed us both a copy of the script that was Episode One and said, "The cuts have to be made here, boys." She was indicating paper clipped pages. (They didn’t have sticky notes in those prehistoric times.) "There’s a driver waiting outside to take you to the set."

"Never fear," Chris said. "Bunch and Cole to the fucking rescue!" 

And we exited to peels of unladylike laughter from Dolly. 

On the way, we scanned the indicated pages. When we reached the end, we gave each other puzzled looks and started in again. But this time from the script's Fade In.

"Fuck!" Chris finally said. "This story - and I use the frigging term in its loosest god damned sense - does not track in any way, shape or bloody form."

"We aren’t being asked to fix the story, Chris," I pointed out.

My partner tended to look at things in the larger, bleaker picture. Such as, is there actually a story here? But our job didn’t involve anything as impossible as fixing a Glen Larson script. It was only a little bit of latrine duty we had to perform. What Chris called, "Burning the shitters" - GI speak for hauling out the oil cans full of sewage from the 6-to-12-hole outhouses used at forward firebases, dumping AV-gas into them, and setting them ablaze. With luck, your friendly neighborhood sapper squad was in lurking position downwind.

I said, "Let’s just concentrate on the piece of excrement in front of us. Do our job and with luck, the show will be canceled by and by and we can get the hell off the lot."

"Okay, okay," Chris said. "What’s their goddamned problem?"

"The sequence is too long," I said. "We need a time cut."

"Meaning," Chris said… reminding himself, more than me… "That cutting this shitty dialogue won’t help."

"No," I agreed. "It’s the setups we have to cut. Mostly the shitty dialogue will remain."

Chris groaned: "No way out. No way out. No way out."

(At the time, we were among the few people in town who not only had seen and loved "The Producers," by Mr. Mel Brooks but who quoted key lines regularly. As others picked up on the film, it was a nice conceit to think that Bunch & Cole had been an Influence For The Good. Zero Mostel's plaster cast-enclosed Attitude Finger making his perpendicular point for all time.)

Sound Stage
So, we went to the shoot at one of the big Universal sound stages, with the usual warren of double-entry-and-exit doors with blackout chambers in between. There were red and green lights fixed overhead telling you to STOP, don’t enter, on pain of getting hit over the head with a Mitchell. Or, Go fast as you damn can before shooting resumes and you let in light and noise from the outside.

Sound stages are enormous. It’s hard to image how vast they are because only certain sections - the places where they are shooting - are lighted. Comparing them to a hangar for 747 jetliners might give you an idea about the size. You tip toe over what seems like miles of cables snaking off God knows where.

Finally, you get to the place where they are shooting and you see the huge lights playing across anything from a posh living room to a jungle set, to a whole damned city block.

Whatever you can imagine, Hollywood artists can duplicate a set so well that if it were your childhood bedroom you couldn’t tell the difference from the real thing. They’d have it down to all your favorite toys and books. Well, maybe it'd be neater than your old room, but you get the point. They are aided in this illusion because a camera is a one-eyed devil. Inconsistencies, such as size and distance are easily overcome. (Try it: Cover one eye and look around the room. Now uncover it. See what I mean?)

Robyn Douglass
As we approached the bright lights we saw the elaborate bridge of Galactica 80's Mothership. Off to one side I thought I saw the shapely figure of Robyn Douglass, who played Jamie Hamilton on the show. A fine actress - a double threat in both drama and comedy - and a noted beauty.

"What a fuckin' waste," I heard Chris mutter.

Then Vince Edwards rushed out to greet us. (In the previous episode you learned that the former, 1980’s TV doctor heart-throb was now a lowly TV director.) I have to say, he looked pretty damned good. Of course, he was older than his Ben Casey days, but he’d kept that rugged handsome look that a lot of Italian guys can maintain if they watch the pasta and vino. The rumor around town was that he’d been "difficult;" a Method actor, in constant search for Motivation, which is why his days as a heart throb petered (so to speak) out.

Old Hollywood joke: (Q) Know how an actor reads a script? (A) "My line, my line, bullshit, bullshit, my line, bullshit, my line."

Edwards, we were told, was of this breed of Brando wannabes.

Vince was frantic when he came running up. "Boys!" he cried. "Boys!"

I said, "Yessir?"

What's My Motivation?
Chris said nothing. I could feel him curling up - wary. Thinking: who the fuck is this clown?

Edwards laid the open script down on a high, four-legged stool. In the gloom, it looked like he’d conjured it out of nothing. Then one of the lighting magicians completed the move and we had our own by-god spotlight beaming down on us. We could see Vince's once famous brow furrowed in worry.

He said, "The actors have memorized all their lines, so you can’t… you must not cut the lines. It will fuck with everybody’s motivation… We’ve spent hours on Motivation! Hours!"

Before we could answer, he whirled and hurried off, shouting, "Ten minutes, everybody! Ten minutes!" And his assistant echoed: "Ten minutes! Ten minutes!"

Chris and I looked at each other. Then the spot went off. So we were in the dark, both literally and figuratively.

"What a load of horseshit," Chris said.

"And we only have ten minutes to deliver it," I replied.

Before we could say more, a deep voice made itself known. It wasn’t a shout or even a voice that seemed raised above the normal. But it was a commanding voice that seized your attention.

It was none other than Lorne Greene. Mr. Bonanza, himself, and a gentleman of the old school. We had met Lorne several times before, as you probably remember from a previous episode of this particular Misadventure.


In my previous existence as a newspaper man, I had written a nice little review - accompanied by a picture - of a spoken-word album he had just released. (My newspaper's circulation area included the Pacific Palisades, where Lorne lived.) Not only had he sent me a nice, personally written note of thanks, but he followed it up with a brief phone call.

It made my day. Hell, it made my week. Poppa Bonanza had just called and said, you did okay, son! Take that, Adam and Hoss. You too, Little Joe!

Anyway, when we met in person on the show I reminded him of the article and his kind response and he was gracious enough to say he remembered.


"Allan," Lorne called out… "And Chris. There you are. How pleased I am to see you boys."

Then the beam of light winked on as if by command and he strolled over to greet us, shaking each of our hands in turn.

"I’ve been given to understand that there’s a time problem, boys," he said. "And that we must eliminate some scenes to reduce the number of times the lights and cameras must be moved."

We agreed that this was, indeed, our mission.

"Have you had a chance to look this over?"

We said we hadn’t. That the script had been delivered into our hands only moments before.

"Mind if I make a few suggestions?"

We sure as hell didn’t. Lorne had been in the business for two small forevers. (Click here for details.)

Lorne removed the script from the stool’s surface, handed it to me, then laid his own well-thumbed and dog-eared copy next to it. He thumbed through it, jabbing a finger here and there.

"There are words residing on these pages," he said in that deep and mellifluous voice, "that no decent actor - an actor with any sort of training - would wish to speak."

It was Chris' turn to say, "Yessir." He liked Mr. Greene a lot.

I said, "But we’re not here to cut lines, Mr. Greene. And we aren’t authorized to rewrite them. We’re supposed to just cut the setups."

The fact was that by this point every spoken line in the script had been vetted by the Powers That Be, including Glen Larson, who no doubt had decreed that anyone who touched a single precious line would be dirt.

MCA/Universal Contract Writers
Not wishing to be dirt - only wanting to return to our freelance TV and novel writing careers - Chris and I were loathe to piss off Larson. Theoretically, our contracts were almost up. (Unless Peter Thompson picked them up for seven fucking years.) And the show surely would be canceled. To defy the Black Tower now would be like escaping from the chain gang the week before your legal release. After all, MCA-Universal had nearly a century of dealing with greater malcontents than the two of us.

But we were young and dumb and it wasn’t until a few years after we made our escape that I appreciated just how graciously Mr. Greene had come to our rescue.

"Look here, boys," he said, pressing the open script on the stool. At the same time, he withdrew a pen from his pocket. He struck the pen across the page, flipped that page, struck across another, then wrote some things in, saying all the while: "Chuck this. Chuck that. Write a short description of transition here and another there… to be delivered by yours truly, of course - and we’ll be back on the time track."

He straightened… to quite a respectful height, looming even over Chris who was 6’2”, to say, "And the nice thing is, boys, that it not only saves the setups but eliminates some of that awful dialogue I was required to commit to memory. And have even less than no desire to speak."

He turned, then paused to add, "And if anyone - including Glen - complains, send them to me."

Lorne walked away and it was if he was followed by his own Theme Music and I swore later I could hear the ghostly strains of "Ringo."

Then the spotlight winked off and he vanished into the gloom.

"God damn!" Chris said in awed tones.




Can't wait to read the blog each week to find out what happens next? No problem. Click the following link and buy the book. 

Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.

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Ever since my British publisher put all eight novels in the Sten series in three omnibus editions, American readers have been clamoring for equal treatment. 

Well, my American publisher – Wildside Books – was listening and is issuing all three omnibus volumes on this side of the Atlantic. The first two volumes were issues at the end of 2016. Stay tuned for the publication date of the third and final volume

THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.


A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.



A True Story About A Boy,
A Teacher, And Earthquake,
Some Terrorists And The CIA

LUCKY IN CYPRUS is a coming-of-age story set in the Middle East during the height of the Cold War. An American teenager – son of a CIA operative – is inspired by grand events and a Greek Cypriot teacher. 

He witnesses earthquakes and riots and terrorist attacks, but in the end it is his teacher’s gentle lessons that keep him whole.

Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 

Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke,



What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.

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