Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Follow The Bouncing Beach Ball



Episode 33

"We owe a lot to Thomas Edison. If it wasn't for him we'd be watching television by candlelight." (Al Boliska)

"Aw, Geeze, Guys, You Gotta Help Me," pleaded the Code Red Location Manager. "I'm getting royally fucked on that fireworks story."

"But we already fixed the sucker once," Chris pointed out. "Turned a car on fire in a canyon into a pickup truck explosion in a parking lot."

"An abandoned parking lot," I added. And just in case he'd forgotten our wonderfulness, I ticked off fingers: "Approved by the fire department. The air pollution people. And the environmental control agency."

"No, no, that gag's all set," the Location Guy said. "It's the big fourth act fire that's giving us conniptions."

"The restaurant deal?" I asked.

He sighed. "Yeah, the restaurant deal."

"But we're shooting on Monday," Chris said - a fact the guy already knew, or he wouldn't be here on his knees begging for help.

"That's the thing," the Location Guy said. "The owner waited until the last minute, then demanded more money." Another sigh. "A lot more money."

The restaurant in question was not only way, way out of business, but the lot the building stood on would be worth a helluva lot more if the building was demolished. We had offered the owner a bundle of cash if he let us burn it down first. Now he wanted more and unless something was done pretty damned quick, he'd have us spread-eagled over a fire hydrant.

It's not easy to find something to burn. Unless they are in league with Terry The Torch, people generally don't like to have their houses and business burned to the ground. Also, the fire department tends to frown on such activity, as do the county air pollution people. That goes double in LA, where sometimes the smog is so bad you can't see across the street. (The car burning in the canyon was nixed by the environmental control agency. Spotted owls, or something.)

It was an especially hard task on Code Red where we had to have two fires a week, one small and cheap, but the other something spectacular - and cheap. Fortunately, we had one of the best Location Managers in the business, and he and his crew scoured the area 24/7 to find things we could (legally) set on fire.

Don't Mess With The Actors
Unless we wanted to pay the actors and crew golden time or put them up in hotel rooms if it was a night shoot, the location had to be within what Hollywood calls "The Loop." Loosely defined, The Loop is within a 30-mile radius of SAG (the Screen Actors' Guild ) headquarters, which started life as a one-office dump near the La Brea Tar Pits and over the decades meandered into pretty nice digs on Wilshire Boulevard.

Ideally, the location would match whatever was going on in the script, but the fireworks story had given us a helluva lot of trouble, starting with the fact that the freelance writers responsible were so pissed off at Irwin (The Towering Toupee ) Allen that they just dumped it on our desk and ran like hell for the nearest bar.

Also, the story idea was pretty lame: kid dealers selling illegal firecrackers to their chums. You know, start 'em on sparklers and pretty soon they're hooked on M-80's.

The biggest problem, however, involved locations that kept falling out. When that happened, it was the job of the story editors to find a substitute flammable object with minimal changes to the story. Not because we were loathe to mess with the writer's artistic intent. I mean, get real, this was network television folks. But because at this point the script had been approved by legions of vice presidents of this and that, including the most important of all, Susan (The Censor) Futterman.

She was not only a VP, but for reasons involving making nice to the Federal Communications Commission so ABC could get away with all those T & A shows, she was on the board of directors of the Anything But Class network.

"We could always burn Irwin's toupee," Chris suggested. He held his nose. "What a stink! Imagine the grief the EPA would give us if we set fire to that."

Laughing, the Location Manager handed us some photographs of possible sites. "Already talked to the owners, plus I've got permits drawn up and ready to go."

"That restaurant was a two-story job," I observed. "And there's a big action-packed rooftop scene, so we have to match that."

Chris pulled out a picture of an old, two-story warehouse, with a boarded over garage set into it. "How about this?" he asked. "We can change the victim from a fry cook to a mechanic, no problem."

"Perfect," the Location Manager said. "We can get that dump really cheap, too."

Okay, so everybody was going to be happy, except for the greedy guy who owned the abandoned restaurant. Now, he would not only be out the money we had offered, but the cost of the demolition job just went up, since he wouldn't have our crack special effects maestro - Joe Unsinn - to burn it down first.

We got busy making the changes and then called the Casting Office to alert the actor hired to play a fry cook that we were waving our Magic Writer Wands and poof! he was a garage mechanic. Both involved grease, so what the hell, right? If he was a Method Actor he could just imagine car grease instead of deep fry grease. And if he wasn't, shit, he could just read the lines like they do in the U.K. where most of the best English language actors and actresses reside.

After work, we had a beer or three with the Location Manager. We asked what locations were the hardest to manage.

We thought he was going to say the gang areas of LA, but he said, "Oh, they're pussycats. Get all Hollywood starry-eyed when they find out we're going to shoot a TV show on their turf."

"No problem with warring gangs?" Chris wondered.

"No way," he said. "We hire guys from both gangs for security, plus we tell them that if they are good boys, we'll put 'em on TV. Make them and their girlfriends background extras, and such." He chuckled. "You'd be surprised how many already have SEG (Screen Extras Guild ) cards."

Don't Shoot In Chinatown
He swallowed beer, then said, "Worse place to work is Chinatown. The shop owners there are always trying to find ways to screw greenbacks out of you."

Location Managers typically carry thick rolls of cash for emergencies, like getting rid of trouble makers, or tipping employees who might be surly because their boss makes them work harder when the shoot is going down.

"One time on a cop show in Chinatown," the Location Manager said, "we were shooting up the hill - you know where the main entrance is?" We both nodded.

"It was a handheld deal, tracking the detectives to this antique shop where they're following up on a clue. Anyway, I paid the shop owners on both sides to keep out of the way for a few hours. Greased everybody who would be in camera range - which was about halfway up the hill.

"Well, we're shooting away, and all of sudden there's a creek running down the middle of the sidewalk. Director's going, 'What the fuck? Cut, cut! Where'd that fucking water come from?' I go up the hill to see, and damn if there isn't some guy - way out of camera range - casually hosing down the pavement outside of his shop. He sees me and just smiles and aims the sucker more down the hill.

"I'm thinking, no problem. I give him a few twenties and he stops with the hose. But, I had no sooner got back to the action, when more water starts running down the middle of the sidewalk."

"The other Shopkeepers, right?" Chris said.

The Location Manager nodded.

"So you had to pay them off too?" I guessed "Must have been an expensive morning."

The Location Manager shook his head. "Nope," he said. "Pissed the director off so much he brought in a rainbird (a machine that makes it look like rain) and we changed the scene so the actors were walking up the hill in a storm."

"Shit, it never rains in LA," Chris said.

"Did that day," the Location Manager replied.

Laughing, we finished our beers and headed home, well satisfied with our day.

As it turned out, we didn't need a rainbird for the storms that followed. And on the same blinking episode, too.



Here's where to get the handsome CD version
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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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Bring all the stories and people 
To life in the audiobook version
Of My Hollywood MisAdventures.


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 has issued all three omnibus volumes on this side of the Atlantic. Here are the links to buy the books:

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.