Well, dear readers, it’s still the holiday weekend, albeit the final day of the holiday weekend. I’m already being quite lazy, as I’m just beginning to write these here notes and it’s already after midnight. And, as some of you know, after midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out, whatever the HELL that means. Yes, I’m the laziest BK in town, and I shall not rush through these here notes – I’ll just write them lazily and I shall sing I’m The Laziest BK In Town in my best Marlene Dietrich voice and then I shall let it all hang out, being after midnight and all. What the HELL am I talking about? Speaking of midnight, yesterday was a very long day, as I had to get up way too early and then attend a put-in rehearsal. That went very well, and I was regaled with tales of the previous night’s show – the audience was apparently the best we’ve had (and we’ve had some fine ones), and they apparently howled up a storm from start to finish. I wish I’d gone down to see it – I thought about it and probably would have had we not had the put-in rehearsal. In any case, I watched the matinee performance, and it was a fine one, with an okay audience. The Wechter Clan was there and they enjoyed the show very much, and noticed all the new little staging bits. After the show, we went to Claim Jumper and ate dinner. I had the crab wedge and frankly I’m not feeling too well as I write these here notes and I’m hoping there wasn’t something rotten in the state of the crab. I don’t mind letting it all hang out after midnight, but I’d prefer that my dinner didn’t all come out after midnight, if you get my drift. We had a lovelier than lovely time, and then I headed home. Once there, I decided to take my newly printed script of Nudie Musical to the piano and there I played through the entire score, or attempted to. Lots of the score came back to me, but some of it is still eluding me. I did realize that I have some arranging work to do, as some of the film arrangements aren’t to my liking and certain vamps and rideouts can be improved, some key changes can be inserted, things that ended slowly in the film can end with more energy on the stage and stuff like that. And while reading through the Dancing Dildos sequence I realized that I have to completely reconceive the business that happens during the number. For those who know the film, you know that a lot of the havoc occurs with me on a large camera crane – well, we won’t be having a large camera crane in the show, and I just came to realize that all that slapstick has to be rethought, which I’ll be doing this week. After that, I went in my bedroom and sat on my bed like so much fish.
Last night, I watched another episode of The Mod Squad. The show favored certain directors and within the first ten minutes of each show I’ve successfully called out who they are, just from the style, camera placement, flatness of direction. The easiest to spot is always Gene Nelson, who really was a wonderful performer and a mediocre director of television. In any case, this particular episode was bittersweet, as it guest-starred Mr. Christopher Connelly. I’ve told my Christopher Connelly story before, but I’m always happy to tell it again. Back in December of 1970 when I got my first guest-starring role on a TV show, I was quite nervous – it was a substantial role and I’d never really filmed anything before other than one screen test for a pilot, several weeks prior to getting that job. I’d lost the pilot (it was between me and another actor, but I felt pretty good about getting that far), but had immediately gotten this guest shot. The show, The Young Lawyers, starred Zalman King, Lee J. Cobb, and someone who would go on to star in my show Stages, Phil Clark. This episode was being directed by Mr. John Newland, whom I knew from when he hosted One Step Beyond. Mr. Newland really liked me (and he loved playing movie trivia games and he was very impressed with my knowledge – I’d be off trying to study my lines and I’d hear Mr. Newland bellowing across the soundstage, “Where’s Bruce – we want to play trivia!”), but I was just petrified. First off, it was a dramatic role, and I didn’t feel comfortable at all – my thing was comedy. I played a draft resister, and the other guest star was Mr. Gary Lockwood. Gary sort of took me under his wing and made me feel very comfortable, ran lines with me, and just acted as if I were a fellow actor, which made me feel really good. On the first day of shooting, his pal Chris Connelly came to the set to have lunch with him. They invited me along, and like Gary, Chris was so supportive and nice and just accepted me as a member of the acting profession. I never forgot it. Over the years, I’d run into Gary Lockwood and he always remembered me and was always very nice to me and we reminisced about that show and caught up on what we were both doing. And I always inquired after Mr. Connelly.
Years later, I was slated to direct what was to be an “all-star” comedy – it was a pretty bad script that I rewrote as best I could. I was worried about the producers, who were more fans than producers, but we began casting the film. The film was designed to star the producer’s dear friend Ruth Buzzi. Right there you knew what you were in for. But, then they suggested Pat Carroll to play her mother, and I’d worked with Pat and loved her and she agreed, so that was a big plus. I was then determined to bring in every actor I liked who wouldn’t make a shambles out of what could easily turn into a shambles. We saw Kathleen Freeman, Marvin Kaplan, Roy Stuart, Steve Franken, and every other comic actor of that ilk that I loved. For the young sister of Miss Buzzi, we saw every then current young actress, and my first choice was Jill Schoelen, who’d recently done The Stepfather. But we weren’t seeing people I liked for the bad guy who turns good guy, so I asked our casting director for more names. And on the list were both Gary Lockwood and Chris Connelly, and I told her to bring them both in immediately. Gary came first, and, as always, he remembered me and we had a really good chat and he did a very good reading. Then Chris came in. I was chomping at the bit to ask him if he remembered me and to tell him how much his warmth and kindness meant to me and how I never forgot it. I didn’t know he’d been ill and was having terrible throat problems. He came in looking a little haggard and his voice was barely a whisper. I was literally about to launch into my story, when he came up to me and said, “I don’t know if you remember, but I met you a long time ago on the set of The Young Lawyers with my friend Gary Lockwood.” I couldn’t believe it. I told him my story and we just had the best time chatting. He then said, “You know what I do – can I just pass on having to read?” I said, of course, that I thought he was a wonderful actor and that he’d be at the top of any list I was making.
He left and a few days later the whole film fell apart, because the producers had neglected to fully finance it. This was in October of 1988. Two months later, Mr. Connelly died of throat cancer – he was forty-seven. He was a good actor, and a wonderful human being and I will never forget his kindness to a wet behind the ears first-time TV actor. And that is my Christopher Connelly story.
He was very good in The Mod Squad episode playing, in a bit of serendipity, a draft resister.
Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because after midnight we’re gonna let it all hang out.
Today, I shall be the laziest BK in town. I shall sleep in, I shall have peeled grapes and lounge about in my caftan (natfac, spelled backwards). I shall finish proofing my galley, I shall work on the final number of the show I’m mentoring, I shall work on Nudie arrangements, and at three I shall go to the DGA to see the four o’clock showing of the new Indiana Jones motion picture entertainment.
We have another cast member for our Nudie Musical reading – our very own Miss Alet Taylor will be reading the role of Miss Mary La Rue. I think she’ll be terrific. I’ve got to lock down all the other casting this week. A few people from The Brain cast will be reading the various and sundried ensemble roles and they’ll be coming over to learn the group numbers, so I’m not stuck singing everything myself. I think Miss Malone and Miss Taylor will be singing their material, too, so that will be nice.
Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, proof, work at the piano, and then see the new Indiana Jones film. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s everyone’s favorite – The Initials Game. I give a pair of initials, and you fine people get to name celebrities, sports figures, characters from films, Presidents and politicians, and folks like that. Remember, one name only per post. And today’s initials are: F.M. Let’s have loads of lovely postings shall we, and I must away now to let it all hang out.