Friday, March 6, 2009

Whatever Alice wants...

Alice Cooper came to Las Vegas as the guest of Barron Hilton in 1977 because his manager loved Las Vegas and Alice loved playing golf .

Each year, Mr. Hilton turned over the main ballroom of the Las Vegas Hilton, and hosted The Victor Awards Show where big Hollywood stars and professional athletes came together to raise money for The City of Hope.

There is only one Alice Cooper. He is one of the great musical talents and stars of our time. He was perfecting the art of 'rock opera' long before anyone else. His stage performances were pure theatre, and world famous for breaking all the rules.

But my job this particular weekend was to make sure that his appearance on the show and his stay at the Las Vegas Hilton went off without a hitch. So, my opening line was Whatever Alice wants", which meant keeping him and his 'entourage' happy. It was an easy gig...all he had to do was show up and give out an award. And play golf.

About 2 hours after they arrived, Alice was already on the golf course. As a guest of Barron Hilton, there was no trouble getting the best tee times. I am sure that few if any people there even recognized Alice Cooper the rock star.

The other two members of the entourage were his manager, Bob Emmer and his wife Sue. She was happy to go directly to the Las Vegas Hilton spa. Bob and I got to know each other. Alice was there to give out the award for Golfer of the Year, so we went over the schedule for his spot on the show.

Mr. Hilton hosted a private reception high atop the hotel with breathtaking views of Las Vegas which Alice and the Emmers attended. It was a chance to meet and take photos with the other presenters and sports stars.

It was amazing to watch how everyone wanted to have their picture taken with Alice Cooper. He 'worked the room' like a pro and talked to everyone. He was exactly NOT what any of us had expected.

There were a few 'requests' over the course of the weekend in terms of photos or adjustments to schedules. Without exception, the answer was always yes...and then he always added Whatever Barron Wants.

By the end of the weekend, it had become a running gag. We coined that phrase, which we still use to this day whenever we see each other.

But the 'Barron' had one more request of Alice before the weekend was over.

I was also working on a TV show called KidsWorld, which was a kid's version of 60 minutes where youngsters interviewed famous stars. Larry Einhorn was the Producer and Director of The Victor Awards...and KidsWorld. Small world.

So, enjoy Beth Einhorn's interview with Alice Cooper from 1977 in Las's what 'the Barron' wanted...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My First Hollywood Home - 4616 Cahuenga

I arrived in California on July 28, 1974 after a 4 day cross country drive and went directly to my first apartment at 4616 Cahuenga Boulevard in Toluca Lake.

A mutual friend of Fabian who was living in LA had found the place for me before I left New York. When I pulled into the driveway, my apartment was ready and waiting. It was a typical 'California' complex, 24 apartments encircling a big pool with palm trees. What I didn't know is that the people who lived there were anything but typical.

Don't get me was great. We had Hollywood stars, a LAPD detective, a retired pit boss, two writers and a hooker. It's where I met my wife, and learned to cook. There were parties, dinners and a few earthquakes just to make life interesting.

My rent was $150.00 per month for a fully furnished one bedroom apartment. Universal Studios was down the street, as was NBC and Disney and Warner Bros. Toluca Lake was (and still is) home to hundreds of movie and TV stars.

We had our share of resident stars. Ben Murphy (photo on the left), was starring in the ABC hit, Alias Smith and Jones. A young actor, Bruce Boxleitner, who would go on to star in Tron, Babylon Five and How the West Was Won was my downstairs neighbor. But the real stars of the building were the resident managers, Roberta and Earl Kirk.

They held court poolside, regaling residents and visitors alike with their stories and opinions. Roberta did all of the talking...for the first few weeks I didn't think that Earl could talk. She started as an extra in the early Mary Pickford films, and then went on (as she told it) to run a Hollywood brothel and then as social secretary for Sunny Sund, the heiress to the Don the Beachcomber Restaurants. Earl was a pit boss for Ben Siegel. That's all I ever knew about him. He was the strong silent type.

I became Roberta's pet project. She took me around and made all the introductions in Toluca Lake. Breakfast at Patys, lunch at Lakeside. Yes, there actually is a small lake right next to the famous Lakeside Country Club. Because it was so close to the studios, it was a who's who of Hollywood. Errol Flynn, Walt Disney, W.C Fields, Bob Hope, and Bing Crosby all lived there. Going to the post office on Riverside Drive usually meant running into Jonathan Winters.

I was living and breathing Hollywood, and I was as obnoxious as a 22 year old know it all could be. I lived on the second floor, but paid to have an extra phone jack installed by the pool so I didn't have to run upstairs every time my phone rang. Not that it rang that much anyway.

Here are two of my favorite stories from those years.

The Girl Across the Pool.

Betty Evans lived directly across from me overlooking the pool. I was there about two weeks when one night she came home early and closed the curtains to her apartment. About two hours later, 4 guys came walking up the stairs, knocked on her door and went into her apartment. My imagination took over. What in the world was going on in there?

The next morning I went straight to Roberta. It seems as though Betty was a great cook, and she had formed a food club. These 4 guys paid her to buy and cook them dinner once a week. My illusions about Betty were gone. But I still didn't know what she did. She kept pretty much to herself. Then one morning she emerged from her apartment wearing a girl scout uniform. Betty Evans ran a cooking club for 4 single guys and was a professional girl scout. I was in Hollywood for sure!

The First Hollywood Manager
Mike and Gert Froug lived in the rear apartment, which was part of the old Weddington Mansion. Roberta introduced me, and I spent many days (and a few dinners) with them soaking up stories about early the golden days in Hollywood.

Mike was Mary Pickford's business manager. He was an accountant by trade and met Pickford early in his career. We would sit in the kitchen telling me stories about how they built Pickfair, working with the studios, the whole thing. I could kick myself for not getting a tape recorder. It was amazing to hear. Without really knowing it, he created the concept of the Hollywood manager. He told me how once signed Dick Powell as a client by getting him to autograph a piece of paper that turned out to be the signature line of a cashier's check for $50,000.

Mike was 80 and still sharp. He could sit down with a pad of paper and add a row of numbers 8 across and 8 deep in his head. Some people can say they've seen it all, Mike was one of the few who started it all.

When my father came out to visit, we had dinner with Mike and Gert. I thought my Dad would enjoy Mike's stories about Hollywood. Upon hearing that my Dad was a furrier, Gert came out with an old Lambskin coat and asked my father what she should do. My father, who was not known for his tact, suggested that she cut it up and use it as a cushion for the toliet seat.

I loved my first Hollywood home at 4616 Cahuenga...and it only took me about 4 months to learn how to pronounce it.

PS. The apartment is still there, although the pool is gone and the rent is now $1500. Sometimes, I really miss 1974.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rusty in 5.....

Every Saturday morning, my father would drive me 10 miles to Freeport at 5am. That was the only way I could get to WGBB, where I was the Saturday morning news announcer.

It was a pretty simple job and I loved it. First, I'd check the AP and UPI wire machines for national and regional news stories and the local weather. Then I'd check the morning edition of Newsday or the Long Island Press for coverage of local high school & college sports. I got the scores and then add my own descriptions like; Baldwin Smashed Great Neck 17-8, or Long Beach High squeaked by Rockville Center 6-5. I had 5 minutes twice an hour. The only thing they really showed me was how to rip the paper off the machines.

My next radio job came a few years later while I was going to University of Nebraska at Lincoln. I worked weekends as a DJ for the local country-western station, KECK-Proud Country. I knew nothing...nothing...about country music. But I knew how to run a board and had a good radio voice and delivery.

The program director selected the records to play. They were all color coded. Red songs in the first 15 minutes, Yellow songs in the 2nd segment and so on. A song would be playing on the first turntable, I was cuing up the second song and picking out the third song while reading over the ad copy. And we had to keep a live FCC log of everything we did. You really appreciate the value of 5 seconds when you're on live radio.

I had no idea of who these singers were, and almost got fired my very first day. I was on the air for about two hours when I saw a song that I liked, Drift Away. For some reason I thought it was the Dobie Gray version, but it wasn't.

I wish I had an air check for what happened next...
" It's 45 right now in downtown Lincoln, looks pretty clear for tonight so all you guys and gals headed out to the Circle Barn on L Street should have a great time. We've got more great country music for you right now on 1520 AM KECK-Proud Country Lincoln Nebraska with...

Drift Away...."

By Narvel Felts??????

I started to laugh really hard and couldn't stop. Live. On the Air! Narvel Felts? You've got to be kidding! What happened to Dobie Gray? I hit the button and the song started. And so did the calls. The first was from my boss. It went downhill from there, but thankfully I didn't get fired.

Later that year when KECK held their annual Proud Country Festivalat the Lincoln Arena, I meet Narvel Felts. Nice guy. Naturally I didn't mention a word about our 'first meeting'.

That night I had the pleasure of introducing a young 16 year old singer in one of her first appearances. She was nervous, and I stood backstage with her dad and sister.

The song was Delta Dawn, and the singer was Tanya Tucker.