Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

My First and Last Job Interview

It was spring, 1972, and suddenly I needed a job. Make that both of us needed a job.

My friend Chuck Pogue and I had written a musical. It was a sure boffo smash. It had everything, gangsters, gals, bumpkins (besides us), 20-30 songs (all stunners), and repartee (snappy, very snappy).

We had just spent the afternoon recreating the script and songs in Professor Charles Dickens’ (yes that was his real name) backyard. Charles seemed amused and amazed at the rampant hubris of two college actors whose musical education consisted of several years singing in a rock band for one and a teen years’ immersion in the films of Fred and Ginger for the other.

But the 100-page script and the sheer number of songs were undeniably real – maybe not real good, but real. How could Charles break the news to these aspiring Harbach & Youmans without also breaking their hearts?

He punted.

He promised he would mount a “backers’ audition”-style production of the show next fall if we would rewrite over the summer.

Great!

But…

Chuck was from Northern Kentucky and my folks were living in Michigan. If we were to stay in Lexington that summer, we’d have to find a way to pay the bills. That meant getting a job.

Chuck got the bright idea of calling an acquaintance of ours who acted in local productions and owned a small chain of women’s sportswear shops. Our acquaintance gently pointed out our deficiencies for selling women’s sportswear, but mentioned his partner was just beginning to open a string of liquor stores and seemed to always need help.

Contact information followed and was followed up. There were two openings at two different stores. I got one interview, Chuck got the other. Off we went.

Chuck went to his interview impeccably groomed, coat and tie…and cape……and cane.
I went to my interview with shoulder-length hair, wearing jeans, moccasins, and my floppy leather Clint Eastwood hat.

I’m not sure which of us was more proud.

The store manager who conducted my interview was desperate. He had no other employees and was expecting a houseful of dinner guests in about 27 hours.

The interview consisted of four questions;

1. Do you know anything about liquor? Answer; nope.
2. Do you know how to run a cash register? Answer; never have, but I’m a pretty quick study.
3. Are you 21? Answer; yeah, my birthday was last week.
4. Can you start tomorrow? Answer; what time?

Chuck’s interview wasn’t quite as sanguine (I suspect the cane was a bit intimidating), but he soon got a job for the summer at Shillito’s department store.

My four-question grilling led to a job for the next 44 years.

It was a different time.

What THE POST is Not – Spoiler Alert

My friends continue their assault. They are determined I should watch some films from this millennium. But you’ll notice the films are set in the 1960’s. They’re trying to ease me into it.

Tonight it’s THE POST. It’s real good. I liked it!

BUT, it’s not ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN…and that’s OK.

It certainly looks like ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN…happily so. Ben Bradlee was there, in his same office, with his feet up on the same desk…happily so. The news room looked and sounded the same…yes, happily so. Nixon is foiled…so very happily so.

But the stakes are different in the events depicted.

In THE POST, the object of intrepid journalism is “The Ellsberg Papers”, a collection of reports about the history and motivations of a war in Southeast Asia assembled by a team in the Secretary of State’s office mostly by simply asking the Pentagon for the information. It was devastating information confirming the worst fears of a movement of young people opposed to a conflict that killed one to three-and-a-half million people (depending on whether you consider Cambodia, Laos, and political assassinations as part of the casualties – I tend to do so).

In THE POST, this devastating information was not that hard to obtain. The drama…the courage…the journalism was deciding to publish in the face of threats of court action by the White House.

The lesson to be learned was in the question of why it took so long to assemble the information that had been gathering since the early fifties. The answer was in the cozy relationship that had developed (festered?) between the press and the people in government. Hard questions, awkward questions got delayed and forgotten in the warmth of golf with Ike and touch football on the White House lawn with Jack and Bobby.

THE POST makes this point. My hippie sensitivities might wish the point had hammered longer and harder but that’s not fair. It’s a movie, a work of art, and a damn fine one, and the point was made within that reality.

The events depicted in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN are about the clumsy burglary of the political office of an already defeated candidate. What’s the big deal?

– Only that the burglary was authorized in the office of the Attorney General of the United States.
– Only that the money paid to the burglars to buy their silence was raised by fundraisers of the President of the United States at his behest.
– Only that the President’s suggestion to the newly appointed head of the FBI was to drop his evidence in the Potomac.

I repeat; what’s the big deal?

I mean…no one died.

But two young nobody reporters sifted through files, pounded on doors, waited on recalcitrant elected witnesses, cornered reluctant participants, lingered in parking garages, and endured the public berating of the most powerful office on Earth to deliver a truthful report.

A report that a few years before might not have been published had not the Washington Post had the guts to publish “The Ellsberg Papers”.

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN is the better film.

How could it not be?

I might be the world’s biggest Meryl Streep fan and I can’t be far behind on Tom Hanks. But ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN has complete performances by Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Penny Fuller, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, and Martin Balsam.

Wow!

I have confessed to being both an old hippie and a true geezer. I have lived through these events.

If you are interested in moving towards a relevant-to-today understanding of these happenings, may I offer a triptych?

– See THE POST, it’s real good.
– Read ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (Woodward/Bernstein).
– See ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN it’s even better.
– Read THE FINAL DAYS (Woodward/Bernstein).
– Read BLIND AMBITION (John Dean).

I have a writer friend who talks about the mystic power of three.

It seems much of my art-consuming life, I have encountered trilogies regularly (…and happily so); THE LORD OF THE RINGS, STAR WARS, Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS, Clint Eastwood’s DOLLARS westerns, THE GODFATHER, and INDIANA JONES.

Might this be another?

THE POST, ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, ……?

Cowboy Tommy

Willie Nelson said it well with the words by Sharon Vaughn;

 

“I grew up dreamin’ of bein’ a cowboy

And lovin’ the cowboy ways.

Pursuin’ the life of my high ridin’ heroes

I burned up my childhood days.”

–“My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”

 

Before I discovered astronauts, it was cowboys for me. I wanted to grow up to wear a mask and have an Indian sidekick.

No, wait.

I want to ride a palomino and have girlfriend named Dale, and a sidekick who drove a jeep named Nellie Bell.

No, wait.

I wanted to wear a black, beaded outfit with a floppy hat and be called; “The Robin Hood of the West”.

No…no…wait!

I wanted to be Gene Autry, play a guitar and sing while ridin’, and live by the Cowboy Code;

  1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.
  2. He must never go back on his word or a trust confided in him.
  3. He must always tell the truth.
  4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.
  5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.
  6. He must help people in distress.
  7. He must be a good worker.
  8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.
  9. He must respect women, parents, and his nation’s laws.
  10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

Yeah, THAT was the ticket.

It still is.

I understand that “cowboy” has come to mean a few different things than it did when I was a cow “boy” and my bike was my palomino. I have great affection for the cowboys of Clint Eastwood;

  • Rowdy Yates in “Rawhide”
  • The “Man With No Name” in various spaghetti westerns
  • The revenge-driven shooter in UNFORGIVEN.

Ditto for the cowboys described in the songs of Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, and Ian Tyson.

Ben Johnson and Clu Gulager in THE LAST PICTURE SHOW, Robert Duvall in HONEYSUCKLE ROSE, James Garner in “Maverick”, Richard Boone in “Have Gun, Will Travel”, and John Wayne in just about whatever film you’d care to name (he was pretty much always a cowboy)…all of these mean much to me.

But the cowboys that reach me most immediately have always been in the pictures of children in their cowboy outfits, with or without the itinerant photographic pony. Those pictures always trigger (pun most definitely intended) my remembered cowboy aspirations.

This week, I attended the memorial service of a friend and fellow actor.

Why should I praise him? What were my path-crossings with him that were so inspiring that I should shout hosannas?

  • He enlisted my help to fleece an innocent man in a real estate deal.
  • When I was in charge of a city, he flaunted and mocked my every effort.
  • He spit in my face every night for a month.

……on stage……pretending.

Off stage…there were nights when I wanted to strangle him over political differences…

…but he never wanted to strangle me.

I believe he forever “had my back”.

I believe he was deeply wrong about many things, and so he believed about me.

I believe he made the world better for having been in it, and suspect he believed that about me.

That’s called “civility”.

It’s also, in my mind, the cowboy way.

At the memorial service there was an array of pictures from Tom’s life. One of them was a picture of him as a child in his full cowboy regalia. Yes, it triggered my own atavistic career urges. I was un-surprised, but profoundly moved.

 

“Them that don’t know him won’t like him

And them that do sometimes won’t know how to take him.

He ain’t wrong. He’s just different,

But his pride won’t let him do things to make you think he’s right.”

–“Mama’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” – Ed & Patsy Bruce.

 

I still have my yellowed copy of the Cowboy Code and still harbor hopes…hopes that may flicker a little brighter…

Rowdy and Petulant

Movie night!

One of the commentators on last night’s broadcast from this week’s political convention described a speech as “Clint Eastwood without the chair”. That prompted me to pull out PLAY MISTY FOR ME for the 384th time.

My experience with Clint Eastwood begins with his rowdy and petulant portrayal of Rowdy Yates in the TV cowboy series; “Rawhide”. He had a great squint even then.

Later, I loved his spaghetti westerns; A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE and the monumental and rambling THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Mr. Eastwood’s character in these films had no name so I just assumed it was an older Rowdy Yates in need of a shower. I wore a poncho myself for several years. I’m not proud of that but I did shower regularly.

Then he created Harry Callahan in the “Dirty Harry” films; talk about rowdy and petulant! But this time, he packed a lot more firepower. For you conspiracy fans, notice that Dirty Harry and Rowdy Yates have the same number of letters in their names. Hm-m. A clue?

The 1992 flick; UNFORGIVEN is a great western. In it, Mr. Eastwood’s character is once more rowdy and petulant, but now also older and slower. He’ll either break yer face or break yer heart – you choose.

These films make me feel as if I’ve watched Rowdy Yates’ entire adult life in movies and enjoyed the hell out of it.

PLAY MISTY FOR ME is not part of that experience. This character (Dave) is not rowdy and petulant, he’s selfish and bewildered.

Random synapses firings from MISTY;

  • It strikes me how similar Clint Eastwood’s radio show in the film is to “Chris in the Morning” on the TV show; “Northern Exposure”. Of course there’s a degree of difference – about 70 degrees of difference.
  • I also wonder if Adrienne Barbeau’s radio show in John Carpenter’s THE FOG might be inspired by Mr. Eastwood. In my travels by car around Kentucky, I’ve caught myself scanning radio channels searching for Clint, Chris, and Adrienne. A little poetry on I-65 would relieve the pounding of the semi convoys.
  • Donna Mills is luscious in her cuter’n-pup-turds pixie haircut. But I cannot get her “Knot’s Landing” character out of my head and I keep weighing who’s truly more dangerous; her or Jessica Walters?
  • I have the similar issues with the amazing picture postcard shots of the Monterey Peninsula director Clint Eastwood employs in this film. Yes, the images are beautiful. Yes, I’ve visited the area AND read Kerouac’s tone poem in BIG SUR and know for certain the beauty of Monterey is not a trick of movie-making, it’s there. But the cumulative effect of these shots keeps summoning the croonings of Rod McKuen recordings…not so good in a film of terror.

Unlike Rowdy Yates, this film doesn’t age well, but I love it.

The Invisible Dog and “The Book”

It’s Movie Night and we’re headin’ south.

Janie and I used to go Hilton Head on vacation with some regularity. We didn’t have any money, but Janie’s great friends had a condo there and were kind enough to share it with us occasionally.

Hilton Head was great but we don’t play golf or tennis and the charm of driving 600 miles to stroll through outlet shops plumb evades me, so we would fill our days with day trips to surrounding areas. Beaufort found us hanging over the gate of The Big Chill house. We had Hunting Beach and its lighthouse totally to ourselves. Fripp Island was a new experience for us; a gated island…so much for southern hospitality.

And then there was Savannah. Our first visit to Savannah was one of these vacations from our vacation. We slipped over there one day and wandered around the squares and shops. We even took a horse-drawn carriage tour. We’re suckers for ‘em and tolerant of tour guide mendacity. We understand the guide’s not lyin’, he’s just tellin’ us a story and hopin’ for a tip. I do recall though, a memorable afternoon in Charleston on a horse-drawn carriage ghost tour when Janie corrected the newly-hired guide at every stop. He was mortified which, if you ponder it, might improve his effectiveness as a ghost tour guide.

What can I say? I’m married to a paranormal fact-checker.

On that first visit to Savannah, everyone all day kept referring to “the book”. We didn’t know what they were talking about. Finally, as is miraculous when traveling with me, a bookstore found us and there it was in the window, recently but firmly established on the New York Times Best-Seller’s List; MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL. We bought it. I read it the next day; Janie the day after. We were completely charmed and our southern accents broadened at least 20%.

Then the movie came out and I was charmed all over again.

I’m not qualified to comment in depth on Clint Eastwood’s directorial abilities but I love this film.

I love the music. I loll in the the accents and cadences. The lushness and warmth pulls you through the story. AND I love Kevin Spacey’s performance. His stroll through the park with John Cusack at the beginning of the film and his pressing through the crowd at his party, simultaneously communicating with his voice, his eyes, and his hands with three different people… It was masterful.

How can you not love a film that features;

  • No hint of winter.
  • An invisible dog.
  • A line like; “Savin’ face in the most difficult circumstances, it’s the southern way.”
  • Houseflies on strings.
  • A line like “Billy was known to be a good time, but he was not yet a good time had by all-l-l.”
  • The Lady Chablis, aka Frank.
  • The songs of Johnny Mercer, especially “Fools Rush In”. “Oh, I see the danger there. If there’s a chance for me then I don’t care.” Can I get an Amen?

I love this film and I love Savannah.

Remind me one day to relate how Janie and I were in Savannah for the end of the world.

It’s true!

Oh, the world survived its demise (in case you hadn’t noticed during this presidential administration), but if it hadn’t, we were goin’ out with sweet sherry on our bedstead and chocolate on our pillows.

“Savin’ face in the most difficult circumstances…”