Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Hawks Take Care Of Their Own


Episode 32

"I don't care if cock-a-roaches are watching my show, as long as they have a Nielsen box." (Irwin Allen)

Hawk Leader Tony La Torre And Adam Rich In Code Red's 'Framed By Fire'
Chris Was Studying the location sheet - the daily list of locations where Code Red was being filmed.

"They're shooting at the LA Yards today," he said.

I looked at my own sheet. "It's a night shoot," I noted. "The Great Train Robbery, Beach Ball Style."

The shoot in question involved the story mentioned in the previous episode where Adam (The Beach Ball) Rich is cozened by a gang of juvenile delinquents - The Hawks - into raiding a boxcar stuffed with small, expensive electronic gear favored by the young of that era - Walkman, mini-stereo gear, hand-held Pac-Man devices, and other early 80's high-tech stuff.

Chris chuckled nastily. "You mean the Not-So-Great Train Robbery," he predicted. "Hide and watch. Tonight's gonna be a cluster fuck of the first order." (A cluster fuck is GI slang for a bunch of Grunts clustering together during a firefight, presenting an easy grenade target for the Bad Guys.)

I picked up the script in question and thumbed to the scene. "What's the problem? Other than being at night, that is. Kids can only work so many hours. And night hours count double... Or something like that."

"You see the stars, Grasshopper," Chris said in a very bad Bruce Lee imitation "But you do not see the moon."

I thought a minute. Let's see...The Hawks... Beach Ball in tow... they're supposed to hop abroad a stationary boxcar... then loot it. I circled back to the word "hop."

The light dawned.

"Shit!" I said. "These kids are really, really - REALLY, short. And doors to boxcars are..."

"...Way the hell up there," Chris said, raising his hand well over his head. So, riddle me this: how the fuck they going to get up there - with ladders? Grapnels? Anti-gravity devices?"

"Maybe the director has already figured it out," I said. "Made arrangements. Got Props to cut down the boxcar, or something."

Another laugh from Chris. "Ha! I say to you. Ha! And Ha! once again. Look who's directing."

I looked. Damn, and double damn. I won't tell you the director's name, but he'd screwed up two of our scripts over at Universal.

Chris said, "The guy's IQ probably equals Irwin's sperm count. All single digits."

Couldn't argue with that. I reached for the phone. "Maybe we ought to warn somebody."

Chris snorted. "Fuck 'em," he said. "Let them figure it out their ownselves."

You are probably noticing about now that our morale was rather low. This had less to do with the awful show we were working on - which, despite all its flaws, had a really nice cast and crew - and everything to do with Irwin Allen 's management style. If you look up Shitheel Boss in The Dictionary Of American Slang, you'll find Irwin's picture residing there.

Irwin, it turned out, liked to manage by making everybody mad at each other, creating such chaos that only he could bring order. We'd just found out, for example, that Irwin had been telling Larry that we'd said nasty things about him - disparaged his talent, and so on. Meanwhile, he'd been telling us - a warning, as he put it - that Larry was out to get us fired. And telling terrible lies about us.

Now, I'd been a boss of people since I was 19. Restaurant personnel when I was a young exec chef; a newsroom full of reporters and photographers in my later newspaper city editor days. I'd even been to management school. (Don't worry. The bullshit didn't stick. Much.) And so I had realized what was going on the first time Irwin started bad-mouthing Larry. The second time, I went to see our story exec myself to prick the balloon, if there was one. Or clock the prick, if that proved to be the case.

Larry denied saying anything at all against us. In fact, he said, he'd been impressed with us from the beginning, and nothing had happened to change his opinion. Then I asked him if Irwin claimed we had been bad mouthing Larry.

"Absolutely," Larry said. "I was just getting ready to ask you about it. I thought it was bullshit. I've worked with Irwin on other projects and that's his style."

Within a few weeks, the entire cast, crew and all the other people it takes to put on a weekly show were either at each other's throats or creeping up behind their colleagues with knives aimed at their backs.
Attitude Check
Things were so bad that when we were summoned to Irwin's office, we'd sally through the banks of secretaries and other personnel and Chris would cry, "Attitude Check." And every single person in the place would raise their middle finger to indicate their attitude. (Chris had schooled them on this Army lower-ranks tradition early on.)

And so it was that I withdrew my hand from the phone and told Chris, "You're right. Fuck them."

Not long after we were summoned to Dailies. That's where you get to see rough cuts of what was shot the day before. It's not just rough, but raw as hell, and you can hear the director cursing when things go wrong and crewmembers accidentally wandering into the shot, actors blowing their lines and missing their marks. It's like watching Bloopers, but if you dare laugh, the Suits, who are watching Dailies along with you, will order some stuntman to punch you in the larynx.

I've never been able to see the use of Dailies. Everybody wants Dailies privileges, so they are always packed with execs and exec wannabes. As knowledgeable an expert as our producer/mentor Al Godfrey once opined: "Maybe three people in this town understand Dailies... And I'm not one of them."

Anyway, we were at Dailies. And they were screening scenes from the episode where The Beach Ball is wooed by the evil teenage gang - The Hawks.

If you recall the previous episode, there was a great deal of concern expressed by the Suits at the Anything But Class (ABC) network. They feared "grittiness." Injury to Adam Rich's pristine reputation. His mother's wrath. And most of all, they wanted Irwin's casting company to seek out All American Boys, who were no taller, or menacing than The Beach Ball.

Okay, so up comes the Great Train Robbery scene.

Picture this: It's night and we are at the LA Train Yards. There's a box car with wide open doors. And then we see half-a-dozen kids, trailed by a reluctant Beach Ball (Gee, Officer Krupke, his character isn't bad, just misunderstood.) All the kids, except the Beach Ball, are wearing expensive padded - and I mean, padded - jackets for gang colors, with "The Hawks" embroidered (Actually embroidered!) on the backs.

The kids rush to the open doors. Which, just as Chris had predicted, are way above their heads. The leader and the others grab for purchase and try to haul themselves up. Giving it the old Middle School try. They keep falling back on the ground. One of the kids tries to give the gang leader a boost and they both tumble over.

We hear the director shout, "Aw fuck!" Then, "Cut, cut, fucking cut!"

The Beach Ball turns to face the camera, presumably to address the director. "If we're gonna do this again, somebody has to fix my hair." He brushes at some locks that have strayed from his Prince Valiant do.

Beside me, I heard Chris chortle. I gave him the elbow to shut up, but mainly to keep myself from laughing with him.

They try again. Same result. "Cut, cut, fucking cut!"

Finally, the director strides into the shot. Looks around, scratches his head. Somebody OS says, "Maybe we could use some boxes." The director finally gets it. "Yeah, boxes. That'll work." Then, "Okay, everybody, break for dinner." (An expensive decision, since it was a night shoot and the clock was tick-tick-ticking close to everybody's union Golden Time. Plus the problem of kids working at night. In and out fast as a jackrabbit is best. But that required careful planning, which was not our director's strong point.)

The next scene rolls and we see that during the dinner break some wooden boxes have been artfully stacked by the prop guys to make a stairway to the boxcar opening. 

The kids appear again, along with the Beach Ball, whose hair is perfect, and they all trot easily up the boxes and hop into the boxcar. End Sequence, then the lights came on while the reels were changed. 

There was a buzz of unhappy Suits around the room. "That was fucked." And, "Didn't he fucking realize...?" Also, "Why didn't somebody warn him?"

At that, Chris and I slid down low in our seats until - Thank the Gods - the lights dimmed and the projectionist rolled a new set of stomach churners.

The scene unspooled: The Beach Ball and the Gang Leader, complete with padded Hawk's jacket, are talking in the school hallway. The scene was shot on the lot, where we had a permanent school hallway set, including some faux stairs leading up to the hallway, where we could see a closed classroom door and a water cooler.

Remember that water cooler.

Gangland Terror
The Gang Leader makes an impassioned pitch for the Beach Ball to join him and his kiddy gangsters on a train yard raid that night. (Scenes on TV and the movies are almost never shot in order.)

He's supposed to end his speech with: "The Hawks take care of their own." Except his 13-year-old voice is in the middle of changing, so it comes out like the squeals of a choirboy escaping a horny priest... The Hawks (screech) Take Care Of Their (screech) Own!

"Aw Jesus!" I heard Chris groan.

Then the Beach Ball turns and sidles to the water cooler, pretending he needs a drink to get some distance between him and the mini-Satan gang leader.

And... And... And...

"I knew it, I knew it! He can't fucking reach it!" Chris blurted.

And sure enough, the water cooler is so high that the Beach Ball has to stand on his tip toes just to get to eye level.

Chris is starting to say something, but he's drowned out by the sounds of pissed off Suits. Never mind it was their idea to cast Adam Rich, and their idea to get Beverly Hills Middle School kid actors to play the gang members in this episode. It was all everybody else's fault.

I grab Chris by the sleeve and we duck down and slide out, then up the aisle and through the door before all hell (excuse me, Ms. Censor Lady Futterman - all Hades) breaks loose. We were standing there, blinking in the sunlight, and Chris said, "We'd better get off the lot for a couple of hours. We are about to get a whole trainload of shit rolling down our personal hills."

Maybe I was shell shocked, but I still thought it was funny. "What's to worry about, partner?" I said. "Didn't you hear the guy?"

And in my best imitation of a goosed castrati I squeak, "The Hawks take care of their own."



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

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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.



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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. 

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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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