'Twas the day before the night before Christmas and all through the Werewolf's house, every critter was stirring, and as far as I know, not one of us was soused.
We were all too darned busy figuring out new and interesting ways to scare hell out of people and besides, it was going to be a short day in a short week because our boss, Frank Lupo, was throwing a big party for the staff and crew.
To locate everyone, this was Wednesday, Dec. 23, 1987, and we all had Thursday off as well as Friday, which was Christmas. In the high speed, high stakes world of weekly television, this meant that everything had to be done by the (early) close of business, because shooting would resume in Salt Lake City, Monday morning. (The day starts before the crack of dawn for actresses because of makeup and costume requirements. The guys wearing the Werewolf suits started even earlier.)
To further locate you, this was a little before Chris and I got to TWEEP Chuck Connors on the new Fox Network series, so we still had that little bit of fun ahead of us. (For details, see Chuck Kisses The Ring. For the definition of TWEEP, see The CIA dictionary.)
We were just working on our second cup of coffee, when our secretary buzzed us to say that Bob Butler was on the line. Butler was a hot, hot, hot television director who had a nice production deal with Viacom.
Chris slapped the speaker phone to "On" and said, "Ho, Fucking Ho, Robert!"
I heard Butler chortling at Chris' greeting, then he said, "And Merry Fucking Christmas to you too, Bunch."
I came in. "Gonna come over and check out our new digs? See a werewolf or two? Let us buy you a couple of drinks?"
Butler said, "Maybe later, boys. I'm just calling to give you guys an early Christmas present."
Chris said, "Hmm, let's see. I already asked Santa for a new crossbow and a speedloader for my Ak-47. Got something like that in mind?"
More laughter. Then Butler said, "Actually, I was getting ready to call your agent and re-up the option on We Take The Palace." He was referring to an hour-long comedy series Chris and I had created about a group of screwball mercenaries who end up running an equally screwball island. Sort of like "F Troop," but with an ocean view.
I said, "Same deal? Option for another year at the same price?"
"That was my thinking, " he replied.
"Far fucking out," Chris said.
"Would that be a 'Yes, thank you, Mr. Butler, sir?'" Robert said.
"Fucking A," Chris said. "And Merry Christmas back at you... Mr. Butler... sir."
We exchanged a few more pleasantries, then got off the line.
Chris said, "Now, that's gonna brighten our Christmas." He started flipping through his Rolodex. "Gotta call Kurtz Jewelers," he said. "Buy Karen something shiny."
A little over an hour later - and I swear I'm not making this up - we got a similar call, this one from Phil Fehrley, a producer, but one of our favorite people, just the same.
"Ho, Fucking Ho, Uncle Phil," Chris greeted him.
"You're such a heathen," Fehrley laughed. "Better watch out for lightning."
Chris said, "Hey, it wasn't JC who said Ho, Ho, Ho. It was Saint Nicholas and he was a fucking Turk, and last I heard the Pope yanked his sainthood stripes. So, I'm pretty sure I'm safe."
I said, "Let me guess, Phil. You're calling about the option on The Berlin Reel, right?" The Berlin Reel was yet another TV series proposal, this one a drama about an American newsreel journalist in pre-war Berlin.
Phil said, "That's the size of it, Allan. And Merry Christmas to you both."
The option for The Berlin Reel was similar to We Take The Palace, so Christmas was looking merrier by the minute. Chris called Kurtz again and I made grander plans for Kathryn as well.
Naturally, things couldn't continue in that vein, even if it was the day before the night before Christmas. The next call was a little troublesome and involved outgo, not in-go. It was from the artist/owner of a crystal-making shop in Venice.
Chris and I had conspired to create some special gifts for people on the show. We'd scored photographs - from different angles - of one of the werewolf costumes. We'd given these to the artist to make crystal statues for everyone. Lupo was to get the largest - about ten inches high. John Ashley, his right hand man, John York, star of the show, and Rick Baker, who created the costumes, would get smaller ones - about six inches high. And we'd had another two dozen or so made up for our secretary and other key people on the show. These consisted of the werewolf head, mounted on a base.
They were very, very cool, if I do say so myself.
Anyway, the order was a week overdue. The good news - the artist was calling to say they were finally done. The not so good news - he was so swamped by Christmas orders that he couldn't personally deliver the gifts to our office.
I jumped on the line, called ABC Messenger service, and arranged for a pick up. Naturally, with the holiday, ABC was pretty busy. But for an extra fee, they promised delivery before the party.
Finished what we were doing and went to see Lupo. Stuck our heads in the door. Chris said, "Want to hear how we're going to kill that son of a bitch, Chuck Connors?"
Lupo paused, hands dangling over his keyboard. "Ah, geeze, guys, it's the holidays. I never kill people during the holidays."
I gestured at his typewriter. "What's the body count on the Fade In? Two hundred? Three hundred?" He was working on the pilot for his new science fiction series, Something Is Out There, which opened with a violent break out on a prison space ship.
Frank chuckled. "Fuckin' guys," he said. Then he waved us off. "See you at the party."
When we got back to our office, Kathryn and Karen had shown up. They'd both come directly from work. Karen was the top designer at a fancy flower shop. While Kathryn owned an escrow company at Wilshire and Bundy in West LA. (Escrow Revue, decorated with antique movie posters and sporting a big, working popcorn machine just inside the front door.) Kisses and embraces were exchanged. And we shared the good news about the two timely options.
After chatting awhile, Kathryn said, "I saw the funniest thing this afternoon. It was right outside of my office. We wouldn't have noticed at all, if it wasn't for the fabulous old car."
Chris, who was making drinks, looked up at his baby sister and asked the typical guy question: "What kind of old car?"
"Oh, I don't know," Kathryn said, impatient. "The story isn't about the car, it's about what happened while we were looking at the car."
Wisely, Chris said no more, but just delivered the drinks.
"You know how I have all those big windows in my office?" Kathryn said.
We did indeed. The entire front of the long building was all window, with mirror coating. People in the office could see out, but people trying to look in only saw their reflection. Kathryn and her staff used to love to watch people pause to pose and primp, not knowing they had an audience.
"Anyway, we were all looking at the old car, when who should come out of the Bicycle Shop next door, but Arnie and Maria." The Bicycle Shop was a trendy Hollywood lunch stop. Arnie and Maria were, obviously, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife, Maria Shriver.
"It was Arnie's car," Chris guessed correctly.
"Right," Kathryn confirmed. "And that's where they headed when they came out of the restaurant. They were in the middle of a knock-down fight. Maria was furious about something, and Arnie was stupid enough to argue back. Can you imagine? Making a Kennedy mad?"
Chris and I laughed, guessing what the fight was about. A friend of ours was a Below The Line craftsman on one of Arnie's recent shoots. He said Arnie had been after one cutie something awful, demonstrating in spades, what he would later call in his run for Governator of California, "My playfulness." The girl finally came around to his way of thinking, but the director spotted them in mid-act, and a couple of minutes later, Arnie begged: "Don't tell Maria. Don't tell Maria. It was jus' a ploh jhob, jus' a ploh jhob. It doesn't count."
Kathryn continued, "They stood right in front of our windows yelling at each other. Except Maria was doing most of the yelling. Arnie took off for the car, but Maria got in front of him, and she kept on yelling. And she was shaking her finger at him - she's so teeny, and he's so big, but he wilted like a scared you know what. Oh, it was so funny to see. Finally, they both got in the car and took off, but you could see her still yelling at him."
We had a good laugh at that. Chris looked at his watch. Frowning. "Where the hell's that messenger with the werewolves?" he wondered.
I started worrying. The party would start any minute and our presents hadn't shown up. Then our secretary buzzed us. I answered and she said, "Allan, there's something weird going on."
I asked what could be weirder than working on a show about a Werewolf, and she said, "What's weird about a Werewolf?" When I couldn't answer, she said, "There's some loony guy running all over the building asking for Brunch and Cola. He's going from office to office and floor to floor. Somebody thought it was a practical joke, or something. You know, Brunch and Cola? So they sent him to the restaurant. The receptionist finally figured it out and called me."
Right away I knew it was our missing gifts. I said, "Tell the receptionist to send the guy up."
She said it was too late, he'd already left. Chris and I bounded up and headed for the elevators. We searched for the guy floor by floor. Finally, we ended up in the basement in the Security office and there we found our missing presents in the keep of an hysterical guy with the looks and thick accent of somebody whose native land was South by Southeast of Somewhere The Hell Else. Obviously the messenger service was short-handed during the holidays and he was a temp. We showed Security our IDs and they released him into our custody.
There were several boxes and he wanted to help, but he was so screwy we were afraid he'd drop them and next thing we'd know there'd be this horrible crash and crunch of all those crystal figurines. We tipped him, snagged a nice rent-a-cop to help, and elevated the boxes upstairs to our office.
Christmas music blared over all the hallway speakers and it was time for the party. We carried the boxes into the main meeting room, which had been turned into a Hollywood Christmas Wonderland. Our set decorators had really gone overboard and we had glitter and lights and glorious Yuletide props everywhere.
A copy of the scarred Skorzeney Werewolf's head was set up as a centerpiece of the table, with lights and candy canes dripping from his ears and muzzle. Spread around the head, we had plenty of drink to drink and goodies to eat. In one corner, there was a huge stack of presents piled under a spectacular tree blazing with lights.
The room filled up quickly and everybody got something to eat and drink and the fun began. Frank came in and he and Ashley handed out presents to everyone. Chris and I got new Sony stereo systems with all the gadget trimmings, including dynamite speakers.
Everybody oohed and ahhed over their loot, then Chris and I started handing out the boxes of crystal werewolves. When Lupo opened the box meant for him and drew out the large Werewolf figurine - an exact crystal copy of Rick Baker's original - he was speechless.
"Fuckin', guys!" he said, choking up.
Then everybody else got their crystal mementos, including Ashley, York and Baker. And the reactions were equally appreciative.
The party moved on and we had a nice chat with Rick Baker, a superb costume artist. He told us some of the tricks of the trade, such as the hydraulic puppetry he'd developed to bring the werewolves to life.
A short, but muscular stuntman was inside each costume for the main movement. But the really cool scary things - like the opening of slavering jaws, sharp claws reaching out, the head turning to show those blood red eyes - were performed by a team of technicians with control boxes hooked up to hydraulic lines that were connected to the werewolf. Wherever the werewolf went, the team followed, all dressed in black, and keeping carefully out of camera range.
Then we got to talk to our star, John York, who was a little shy and unassuming - a lot like the character he played. York joked about the werewolf transformations. All his clothes would be ripped off, of course, and later there'd be a scene where the human York - quite naked - had to score new clothing. Stealing them from clotheslines, or whatever. It was a challenge to come up with something different for each transformation.
"You guys are always making me flash my butt," he said.
Chris said, "Hey, we're past masters of flashing actors' butts, John." He clapped York on the back. "Just ask Bill Bixby. Two, maybe three Hulkouts per episode. Losing all his clothes every damned time... And poor Lou Ferrigno... There was the Hulk, always stuck in ripped up shorts with his balls hanging out."
"Happened so often," I lied, "they had to spray paint 'em green to match the rest of him."
York had to agree that he wasn't as bad off.
Rick added, "At least the guys in the werewolf suits don't have to worry," he said. "I made them smooth between the legs, like Barbie's boyfriend."
The party wound down and finally, Chris and I and our ladies made our separate ways home.
Thursday. The day before Christmas. Kathryn and I slept in, recovering from the party and a hard (albeit) short work week. The doorbell bing bonged and I grumbled and got up. It was chilly for California and the polished wooden floors weren't so charming in bare feet.
We were in our new house on Amoroso Place, in Venice. It was a two-story 1918 Arts & Crafts home, with leaded glass windows looking out on a wide front porch. I could see a young man in a suit and tie waiting there, with a big box beside him.
Even though there are few things in Venice Beach more worrisome than a short-haired guy in a suit and tie, I answered the door. He was too young and the suit was too nice for him to be some breed of cop. Also, even though I was a Venice denizen, I didn't have any current reason to feel guilty. That I knew of, anyway.
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Cole," the kid said, beaming like one of Santa's elves. He told me his name, then added, "I'm from 20th Century Fox, Mr. Cole. The studio sent this little gift to thank you for the fabulous job you're doing on the show."
And he lugged the huge box into my house, shook my hand, refused coffee, and rushed out into the chill beach air, probably on his way to Chris' place in Manhattan Beach.
My sleepy-eyed wife wandered into the living room, tying her robe about her. "Who was that?" she asked.
I indicated the big box. "It's from the studio," I said.
Sleepiness was replaced by bright interest. "Ooh, let's open it," she said.
And so we did. The first thing we found was a large, wooly lap rug. It was red and black and white, and in the center was a big 20th Century Fox logo - like you've seen at the beginning of every Fox movie since 1935 when the legendary Mr. William Fox merged his company with the equally legendary Mr. Darryl F. Zanuck.
Beneath that were all kinds of goodies. Bottles of champagne and cider with two glass flutes. Cakes and cookies. Fine cheeses and sausages and crackers. Two 20th Century Fox mugs with packets of gourmet hot chocolate to go in them. And lots, and lots of other things, too many to remember.
While Kathryn made some hot chocolate and unpacked the cake and cookies, I finished setting up the new stereo Frank had given us.
Kathryn put on a record, then curled up with me under the 20th Century Fox lap rug, sipping at mugs of chocolate. Kathryn clicked the remote, a record fell into place, there was the hiss of a needle in the grooves and the music purred out of the speakers.
And this is the very first Christmas song she played.
...I'll be taking the next two weeks off for the holidays, gentle readers. But, never fear, these Misadventures will return in the New Year, with more exciting Tales Of Yesteryear, starting with:
NEXT: CHRIS BUNCH VS STEVEN SEAGAL