Sunday, September 9, 2012


On Saturday night my wife and I attended a wonderful concert at the Hollywood Bowl, given by the great film score composer John Williams and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.   Highlights included music from many Steven Speilberg collaborations, including SCHINDLER’S LIST, AMISTAD, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and they even ran the final reel of E.T. with the orchestra playing the score live.  In acknowledgment of other great film composers, they played David Raksin’s theme from LAURA.  The highpoint for true believers was the music from the various STAR WARS movies, which brought forth a sea of light sabers to pierce the night. 


One of my favorite themes that evening was from SUPERMAN, the movie that made the late Christopher Reeve a star for his portrayal of the man of steel (although to me there will only be one true Superman: George Reeves in the TV series’ first season).


I well remember seeing the Christopher Reeve version on the immense curved screen of the Hollywood Cinerama Dome, now the Arclight Hollywood, back in early 1979.  I had sold a script my last year in college, which had become SPEEDTRAP, and my producer and co-story writer Fred Mintz had brought me out from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to write a disco-roller skating version of Guy De Maupassant’s BEL AMI.  It was while I was writing this never-to-be-filmed epic, and living at the Sunset Tower West in West Hollywood, that I got to know a fellow New Yorker who lived in the building, whom I shall call Eddie, since that was his name.  He had the name ‘Erwin’ tattooed on his arm, which I never understood, but I was too polite to ask about it.  I will not mention his last name because, even though it has been decades, the last I heard, he had three outstanding arrest warrants in Los Angeles.


Eddie was a security guard for the building, and a terrible one considering that he was also a pimp.  At least he considered himself a pimp, but I like to think he actually aspired to pimpdom.  What he did was rent the unrented apartments to the Sunset Boulevard hookers for five bucks a pop.  When he had rented five rooms – or the same room five times – and saved up $25, which was then the going rate, he would pay it all to one of the women, and be back where he started. 


One night Eddie told me that he was taking a pair of hookers to Hollywood to see SUPERMAN, and wanted to know if I would like to join them.  And drive them, as I was the only one with wheels, being the proud owner of a 1972 Pinto.  Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity. 


If you’ve seen any LifeTime movies, or other gaudy fictional stories involving prostitutes, the descriptive term generally used is either ‘high class call-girl’ or ‘high-priced call-girl.’  I don’t mean to be indelicate, but these were not them.  They were nice young girls, I wince to think how young, but they were street-walkers and not at all glamorous.  But they were pleasant company, and pleased to be on a date where nothing but their company was expected of them.


If you haven’t seen the movie lately, it’s quite a charmer.  I loved the early scenes with Brando on Krypton. and with Glenn Ford as Pa Kent in Smallville, and got a huge kick out of seeing young Superman racing a train carrying Kirk Allyn and Noel Neill, the screen’s first Superman and Lois Lane.  The low point of the evening came when Eddie-the-wanna-be-pimp lit a cigarette in the auditorium, and threatened to knife a patron who quite rightly objected.  I got him to put out the cigarette by threatening to ditch him and the girls at the theatre, leaving them to walk home.


The high point for me came in the famous balcony scene.  Superman has saved Lois – I think he caught her when she was falling from a building – and he agrees to give her an interview.  He flies up to her penthouse (since when do reporters in Metropolis make that kind of money?), she takes out her little notebook (the paper kind), and they do a Q & A.  She quizzes him about his powers, and when he mentions X-ray vision, she says, “If you have X-ray vision, what color panties am I wearing?”   He glances at her, and tells her, “Pink.”  At this point, one of my dates leapt from her seat, furious, and shouted at the screen, “What?!  What did she say?  Lois Lane would NEVER ask Superman about her panties!  Not in a million years!  They’re makin’ a tramp out of Lois Lane!”  With that she stormed out of the auditorium, into the lobby, and it took a great deal of coaxing to get her back inside to see the rest of the movie.


I was fascinated, because I realized, though we may compromise our own standards and morals, we never want our heroes to.  It’s a moment I recall every time I’m asked to ‘modernize’ a character or a story in a way that cheapens them. 


Sunday, August 12, 2012


I was recently wasting time on Facebook instead of doing my work, when I came upon a page called Vintage Sleaze, which in turn led me to a page called DAD MADE DIRTY MOVIES.  It’s a page to promote a documentary film of the same title, made by Jordan Torodov, about a filmmaker named Stephen Apostolof, a Bulgarian refugee who made a slew of films with Ed Wood Jr., and a bunch of ‘nude-cuties’ besides.  I hadn’t thought of Stephen Apostolof in decades, but my memories of our meeting came flooding back. 

When I commented on the page that I had the weirdest pitch-meeting of my career with Stephen Apostolof, Jordan e-mailed me to ask about it.  Here is the story.

Back in the early 1980s, I was a struggling screenwriter with one credit, SPEEDTRAP (1977), and I was working as a security guard at the Beverly Hills headquarters of Litton Industries, in what was originally the headquarters of the MCA Talent Agency, which later owned Universal Studios.  I’d gotten the job through the recommendation of LeOnce Litel Sampson, a recently retired career Marine, who managed my apartment building, and was a security sergeant at Litton. 

LeOnce was a great friend, the personification in look and voice and personality of Robert Duvall’s LONESOME DOVE character, Gus McCrea.  He’d worked on several movies as a Marine Corps technical advisor, among them THE SUICIDE’S WIFE with Angie Dickenson, and THE LATE SHOW, with Art Carney and Lily Tomlin.  He wanted to put together movies, and had several scripts he was taking around, one being a horror movie of mine called THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE. 

One afternoon I got a call from LeOnce that I had a pitch-meeting the next day, with a producer named Stephen Apostolof.  The way it came about was classic LeOnce.  He’d been going into Schwaab’s on Sunset Boulevard for breakfast, when he saw a man in the parking lot having trouble getting into his car.  The man was Stephan Apostolof, and he’d accidentally locked his keys in his Cadillac.  LeOnce went back to his own car, came back with a wire coast-hangar, bent it and opened the Caddy in about a minute.   Stephen was very grateful, and took LeOnce to lunch at the Brown Derby on Vine Street that afternoon.  LeOnce told Stephen a little about THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE, and LeOnce made an appointment for me to pitch it to him at his office the next day.

Well, I hadn’t heard of Stephen Apostolof before, but LeOnce assured me he’d produced lots of movies.  But LeOnce was not a detail guy, and didn’t remember any of the titles on the posters in Stephen’s office.  But he assured me that the man had his posters all over the walls, and diplomas, and framed letters from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences! 

I spent the night polishing my pitch, then drove the next day to Stephen’s downtown address.  His office was above The Mayan Theatre, one of the most beautiful theatres in the world, though it was then used as a porno theatre (it’s now a night club).  I remember him having a pretty large, impressive suite, and his receptionist was a pleasant woman who told me Mr. Apostolof would be with me in a few minutes.  I’m standing in the waiting room, and I started checking out the framed lobby cards on the walls.  I remember one was for ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bares,’ and the still showed a man and two women on horseback, naked except for sunglasses.  I looked at several others, and they were all from nudie movies.  There were, as LeOnce had told me, several framed letters from the Academy, the Oscar prominent on the stationery.  I read one.  ‘Dear Mr. Apostolof, if you wish to submit your motion picture, LADY GODIVA RIDES, for Oscar consideration, please complete the enclosed forms, and return no later than…’  They were all form letters! 

There was a one-sheet poster on the wall from a Republic movie, but it was one I’d never heard of, and it didn’t look quite real.  When I got closer I realized that it was not a poster but a painting of one.  (In retrospect I realize that Republic did make a movie about his escape from Bulgaria, and this may well have been the original design for the poster.)  I am then ushered in to meet with Mr. Apostolof, who is very charming, and we talk about my friend LeOnce and how they met.  There is a diploma on the wall, and I see that it is from ‘State University’ and it is for the study of ‘Sexology.’  While Mr. Apostolof is a very nice guy, it is clear to me that he is in the sex-film business, not a maker of horror films, and probably would have no interest in my movie anyway.  I’d just recently had to track down an older actor who swiped one of my scripts from an agent’s office, then played producer, getting free meals by telling a bunch of young actor/waiters that they were going to have a part in it.  I was wary about where I left my scripts. 

So I started ‘un-pitching’ my script.  “It’s like everything you’ve already seen before, but I guess I can tell you about it if you like.”  It turned out to be unnecessary.  I got the feeling, though he was very polite about it, that he wasn’t really interested in it, and was meeting with me out of respect for LeOnce.  I managed to leave the meeting without leaving the script.  Of course, if I had it to do over again, knowing that he did make some non-nudie movies around this time, I would have tried hard to get him interested.  Maybe I would have gotten to meet Ed Wood.  I’ve still not gotten GINGERBREAD HOUSE made, even though LeOnce once had Amicus horror-director Gordon Hessler attached to the project, and Gordon had gotten a commitment from Trevor Howard (yes, that Trevor Howard) to play the crazy old man.  If you’re interested, I’ve got the pitch worked out pretty well now.

If you’d like to learn more about MY DAD MADE DIRTY MOVIES, the link to the Facebook page is HERE.