Sunday, August 12, 2012

WEIRDEST PITCH MEETING OF MY CAREER




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. 

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this story! Our dad was colorful, to say the least, and lived life to the fullest. We've had a great time reliving memories while the documentary was being made.

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  2. Thanks, Paula! Although our meeting was brief, your dad was a charming and interesting man, and I'm eager to see the documentary!

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