Hollywood being what it is I still can’t help but marvel at the many connections I have made over the years. It seems as though everywhere I turn I see a news story about someone who acts as a conduit to so many other people I’ve met or worked with in Show Biz. Today’s story provides a glimpse of recent history and is well worth the read.
Recently the Los Angeles Times did a story entitled “The Kardashian Spell” that chronicles the meteoric climb to popularity of three sisters whose last name happens to be Kardashian. Their TV-series “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” has just concluded its fourth season, spawned a spin-off show, and Kim Kardashian.com is the world’s most popular official celebrity website.
Despite lacking traditional talents, Khloe, Kim and Kourtney have achieved stardom of sorts. Middle age daughter Kim hung around L.A. nightclubs with Paris Hilton. Magazines and gossip blogs cover every aspect of their personal lives. Madison Avenue calls on the family to sell everything from diet pills and orange juice to NASCAR and fast food.
Several weeks ago, Kim, along with legendary Carol Shelby, gave the revered “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” to the drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Shelby American at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Kardashians have succeeded where other programs purporting to show the real lives of beautiful people has mystified others in the industry who have tried to replicate them. Their late father is Robert Kardashian, a lawyer who helped O. J. Simpson win acquittal in his murder trial. Kris (formerly Robert’s wife) is now married to former Olympian Bruce Jenner, who won a gold metal in the decathlon in 1976.
I was film editor and post-production supervisor on the feature film “Wishman,” starring Paul Le Mat. In a fantasy sequence with multiple moons hanging in a deep purple sky, two little blonde-haired girls, Paris, age 10, and sister Nicky, age 7, sit on a blanket on a tropical beach as Hitchcock the Genie, played by Geoffrey Lewis, appears and does his Genie-thing — magically sparkling — then disappears into thin air. Paris Hilton has a website that includes her film credits and I’m listed on it. Several years ago I chatted with Paris at paralyzed surfer Jessie Billauer’s charity event Life Rolls On, for which I’m an avid supporter, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Paris graciously bid 10 thousand dollars for an item listed in the live auction that night.
I met Robert Kardashian around 1980 when he and Bob Wilson published the influential music industry magazine Radio & Records. They owned the rights to the live performance show “The Great Rock & Roll Time Machine” that was playing at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. Showbiz powerhouse attorney Mickey Rudin, who represented Frank Sinatra, brought in music mogul Irving Azoff, manager of the Eagles, and then presented this package to Neufeld-Davis Productions, for whom I was working. I was made the producer of this project by Mace Neufeld and given the challenge of turning the live show into a theatrical motion picture which was to be a compilation of mostly stock footage featuring legendary R&R singers and singing groups. The assigned budget was $2,000,000.
Irving Azoff is currently Executive Chairman of Live Nation Entertainment.
Mace Neufeld and Barney Rosenweiz had been in the TV production business. After their relationship ended, I continued to work for Mace Neufeld Productions. Billionaire Denver oilman Marvin Davis was introduced to Mace Neufeld by attorney Mickey Rudin, and Neufeld-Davis Productions was born.
Davis was a heavy-set man, and I remember him coming into my office and introducing himself. What I remember most is that his black shark skin suit fit him like a second skin. Most heavy-set people have multiple wardrobes and no piece of clothing fits them exactly.
I had previously worked as Post Production Supervisor for Mace Neufeld and Barney Rosenweiz on ABC-TV network’s award winning mini-series “East of Eden,” as well as the TV movie “Angel on my Shoulder,” and the TV pilot “American Dream.” I also worked for Mace on Toby Hooper’s horror feature, “The Funhouse,” for Universal Studios.
For “R&R Time Machine,” I immediately hired David Blewitt to be the editor, whom I knew from my Wolper Productions days, and who was the film editor along with Bud Friedgen on the critically acclaimed Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, “That’s Entertainment,” a richly satisfying feature documentary commemorating MGM’s 50th anniversary. The compilation movie, produced and directed by Jack Haley Jr., was loaded with movie stars: Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Donald O’Connor.
I travelled to London, England, to research some footage that was going to be used to establish the time frame during which the R&R music was popular. At the Pathe News Library I actually wound through the original 35mm black & white negative that showed President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office, speaking to our country and the world about the Cuban Missile Crises.
My staff consisted of Secretaries, Runners, Researchers, Writers, Film Librarians, Film Editors, led by the talented David Blewitt, and outside legal counsel provided by Mickey Rudin’s office in Beverly Hills. One major obstacle was negotiating the price to license the performance film clips we wanted to use in the movie. Because of the multitude of sources providing these musical clips, and the fact that this was to be a feature motion picture, no one would commit to a specific price, so the decision was made to negotiate favored nation contracts with all of the parties. Unfortunately it made it almost impossible to the estimate the final negative cost of the movie. “The Great Rock & Roll Time Machine” movie collapsed because one of the executive producers, who shall remain nameless, reneged on his promise to place the movie into a major distribution outlet, which had been the underpinning of the deal with Neufeld-Davis Productions. I was told to dismiss my entire staff, with no severance pay, two weeks before Christmas. I argued with Business Affairs and managed to get everyone paid one additional week. It was not a very Happy Holiday for all parties concerned.
I worked for David L. Wolper Prods. as Film Librarian and Assistant Cameraman, on the NBC-TV series, “Hollywood and the Stars.” narrated by Joseph Cotton, and produced by David L. Wolper and Jack Haley, Jr. In 1962 I was sent to Puerto Vallarta to work as Assistant Cameraman, alongside David Blewitt, to film the behind the scenes making of “Night of the Iguana,” directed by John Huston and starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon. The movie was featured in Life Magazine and created an international buzz that put the tiny fishing village of Puerto Vallarta, with less than 5,000 residents, on the world map as a major vacation destination.
I filmed an interview for television with Gene Kelly and Barbra Streisand on the 20th Century Fox backlot several days before the big parade scene with hundreds of costumed marchers was filmed for the movie “Hello Dolly.” Years later, I had lunch many times in the Executive Dining Room at MGM with Gene Kelly, legendary Music Supervisor, four-time Oscar winner, Saul Chaplin, Walter Shenson of “The Beetles” movies fame, and writer Allan Balter, with whom I worked as Associate Producer on the two-hour NBC TV Movie “San Francisco International,” at Universal Studios in 1970.