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.