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Friday, November 4, 2011


Manny Perry - Stunt Hulk
The enormous Green Man stands - cornered on a forest road. A gang of badass bikers charge him on thundering steeds of steel. But The Incredible Hulk swats them away like so many puny fighter pilots trying to strafe King Kong.

Insane with rage the Biker Chieftain hurtles toward the Hulk, flanked by his Number Two man. The engines of their big Harleys roaring, drowning out even the bellows of defiance from The Incredible Hulk.

But the infuriated Hulk doesn’t back down. He grabs up a huge log. Turns it sideways, ready to sweep the bikers off their charging machines.

And then... and then...

It all goes horribly wrong, and the bikers smash into the log, the Hulk goes reeling back and the director shouts: "Cut! Cut! Fucking cut, goddamnit!"

Then everybody is running, shouting, "Manny, Manny, you okay Manny?"

You’re probably asking yourself a couple of questions right now. Like who the hell is Manny? Why weren’t they shouting, "Lou, Lou, are you alright Lou?" After all, it was Lou Ferrigno who played the Hulk, right?


But Lou didn’t do his own stunts. The guy who actually crashed through buildings, jumped off cliffs, and generally beat the hell out of the bad guys, was Manny Perry, one of the premier body builders and stunt men of his era. He was also black.

It seems they cast seventy or eighty guys to stand in for Lou, but only Manny was big enough to double Ferrigno and athletic enough to do the stunts. As Manny once told an interviewer, "They figured green is green and who could tell the difference?" (If you want to know more about Manny Perry - a helluva guy - check out this site.)

Lou Could Really Roar
Okay, we’ve all got that straight now, right? A big black dude played the big green dude when something dangerous was going on. When everything was cool and safe as pie again, Lou would take off his robe for his closeup, flex his mighty muscles, take the cue and roar into the camera.

Second question you are surely asking yourself: What the hell was happening in that scene?

It was like this. When it came time to do the charging motorcycle gag, Manny got into position on the forest road. They put a big damned Mitchell (a big damned movie camera) right behind him to catch the action over his shoulder when the bikers charged. Other cameras were strategically placed to get the wide shots.

Step one: Manny picks up the log as the bikers charge. Now, the script says they are going to hit the log, which will break as they go flying into the bushes. Then the director will Cut, then Lou will shed his robe and take Manny’s place to do the above mentioned flexing and roaring.

Only thing is: (a) The log is supposed to be scored nearly through so it will break at the slightest pressure. And, (b) the bikers are supposed to hit their mark, stopping just in time so no heavy contact occurs.

Well, none of that happened. The log wasn’t scored anywhere near enough, plus the stunt bikers missed their marks and slammed into the log full force, knocking poor Manny back so his head hit the fucking Mitchell.

Ouch, and double ouch. In fact, it’s the Incredible Hulk of all ouches.

Fortunately, Manny wasn’t hurt and they were able to re-shoot the scene. But if you ever watch the episode, look closely and you’ll see that they left some of the accident footage in because it was so - well, realistic, I guess is the best way to put it.

Now, a lot more things went wrong with that episode, titled "Long Run Home" and written by me and Chris. It was a good script - everybody said so. But, as they say, there’s many a skid between the bike and the road.


"You’re gonna lose this car gag, guys," Al Godfrey said.

Godfrey was one of our producer/ mentors and the car gag in question was a scene in the above mentioned script. We were a little anxious and Godfrey was kindly taking a break from his Show Runner chores on Quincy, M.E. to peruse our first draft.

"What’s wrong with the scene?" I asked, puzzled as hell.

I mean, this was supposed to be a simple little bit of fun in the second act when a pissed off Hulk bangs heads with some bad ass bikers in an auto wrecking yard. Going after a biker, he hammers the hood of an old heap, which is smashed to suitably smither, smithereens.

"Too expensive," Godfrey said. He flipped pages of our script. "You’ve got a borderline budget breaker as it is. The car hood gag will fatten it even more."

"How can it be too expensive? Chris wanted to know. "It’s supposed to be an old junker to begin with. Says so in the script. And the breakaway hood should be no sweat. I mean, there’s more rust than paint."

"Yeah," I said, having been saddled with many junkers in my youth and confident in the cost estimates. "Couldn’t cost more than fifty dollars for the car."

Godfrey sighed that weary sigh he gave when dealing just as patiently as he could with green horns like me and Chris. "Guys," he said, in the film business there is no such thing as a fifty dollar anything. Especially a fucking car. Be it an elderly junker, or otherwise. You have to buy the heap from some old retired Teamster - there’s three or four in town who do that kind of thing. And they are gods in their union who will want several thousand dollars for the junker."

We were incredulous. "Come on," I said. "Several thousand dollars?"

Godfrey shrugged. "If you go to an actual wrecking yard for the car you might save money in the short run, but in the long run you are going to piss off the Teamsters. Before they are through, they’ll ass drag your show to the tune of many hours of double golden overtime."

Now it was our turn to sigh. Chris said, "Shit." Ran a hand through his hair. "Okay, we’ll lose the car gag."

"No, no," Godfrey said. "Leave it in."

We gaped at him. "But you said to scrap the scene," Chris said.

Godfrey shook his head. "No, I said you were gonna lose the gag. I didn’t say take it out." He thumped the script. "It’s a good first draft. They are going to love it. But, take it from me, it is in a producer’s nature to fuck with things. So you need to leave them something to fuck with. In other words, leave the scene in so they can get all happy and say take it out, and it’ll be a lot less work for you in the long run."

After making Godfrey’s suggested fixes, we took the script to Jeff Freilich. He’d wanted an early look because he was new in the producing game, and besides, he’d brought us onto the show.

Jeff was an editor of the picayune variety. Fussing over typos and misplaced punctuation marks. This is when we first thought of him as "The EatAnter." He reminded us of the character in the old comic strip who was very smart, but wasted his smarts whining about teeny things. Jeff also had a habit of making suggestions that not only took you nowhere, but fattened a script he already said needed to be cut.

The meeting, however, was fairly brief. And Jeff was well satisfied.

Especially after he’d told us to take out the car gag. "Too expensive," he said.

Okay, the EatAnter was happy, just like Godfrey had predicted. Onward and upward to the rest of the production staff. Nick Corea was the main man - after Ken Johnson. And it was he who had made the pretty good tale we had pitched him into something way more than pretty good.

Nick was one of the best story men I ever met. He’d sat there with us for nearly two hours, tearing the story apart, then helping us put it back together again, adding interesting twists and turns.

The Socratic Bixby
He’d also coached us on David Banner’s dialogue. Bill Bixby saw his character as Socratic - he asked questions, rather than making statements. Drawing out others to make the points. If we did it right, Nick advised us, "You'll add more dimension - depth - to the scenes."

Bixby's methods also shone the spotlight on the guest stars, which is one reason so many fine actors ended up appearing on a show about a comic book hero. It was also damned generous of Bixby. Most stars want the light flooding over them, not the guest stars.

Like I said before, the way most actors read a script is "My line, my line, bullshit, bullshit, my line, bullshit, my line."

The late Bill Bixby was not known for being an easy guy to get along with, but in that area, he was the king of hearts.

The crux of our story - Long Run Home - was sort of a 60 minute modern version of the Odyssey, except where Homer had a God-tormented hero on a ship, we had a angst-ridden biker on a Harley chopper. After a chance encounter, David Banner joins him in his quest for self knowledge. Meanwhile, the biker’s former outlaw brothers pursue him like so many demons perched over red-flamed peanut gas tanks.

Okay, so Nick liked our script. Karen Harris and Jill Sherman Donner liked it. And I suppose Ken Johnson did as well, otherwise I would not be telling this tale.

Before we left the final meeting, Chris had a warning for Nick. "I assume you’re gonna use real Harleys right?" he said.

Nick nodded. No self-respecting outlaw biker would ride a rice burner," he replied.

"That's great," Chris said. "But watch out for one thing: there’s a scene in the script that has the gang roar away from a bar in pursuit of our heroes."

Nick nodded again, he recalled the scene. "What’s to worry about?"

The Tree That Wouldn't Break
"Harleys really are hogs, just like their nickname. They sound great, but they leak oil on the garage floor, and worst of all - they are a bitch to start. Sometimes you can boot them over with one kick, but other times you can kick yourself blue in the face and they still won’t start."

"No electric starters," Nick said. I knew that. So what?"

"So don’t let the director get all artsy fartsy and try to get the whole thing in one continuous shot," Chris said. "It will be a temptation. Bikers come running out. Jump on their bikes and roar away in unison."

There were few people - especially in Hollywood - who knew as much about bikes as Chris. At one time he wrote for - or edited - all the top bike magazines - from Big Bike, to Chopper Magazine, to Easy Rider. And he also knew all the outlaw gangs as well as their leaders in both America and Europe. In short, when he spoke of two-wheeled motor monstrosities, it was best to listen.

Nick listened. He said. "I see where we could get royally fucked. Everybody takes off except one or two guys who are hopping up and down, kicking at the starters like clowns until the fucking sun goes down and the fucking stars come out to shine."

"You fucking got it," Chris said.

And we left, well satisfied.


Come the week of the shoot - things started going to shit on Day One.

The director of the episode was Frank Orsatti, Bill Bixby’s stunt double. Mainly known as a stunt man and stunt coordinator, Orsatti went apeshit with the opening sequence of Act One. In it, cops raid a bikers' camp, with shots fired and much squealing of tires, and bikes going this way and that, and pebbles and dirt splashing the (hooded) camera lens. Mr. Orsatti was a passionate man when it came to action and he shot the hell out of the scene. Take after take. Close up after close up.

In short, he ate up all the time in the day, which meant there would be less time for the other scenes in our story. It was a six-day shoot; and with the seventh day costing double golden time for all unions concerned, there would be a day of rest decreed from the Black Tower. Shoot the sucker in six or look for a career in some other town. And if you wanted to stay in show business maybe - just maybe - they'd let you work at the circus cleaning up behind the elephants.

Okay, then we get to the bit where the Hulk confronts the bikers with a log and with time running short it was surprising that other stunts were not fucked up and that Manny only got a bruised noggin from being conked on the head by a camera.

Another screw up for lack of time to think things through was the dramatic end shot (things are generally filmed out of order in TV and movies), when the exiled biker chieftain - and Banner’s new best friend - shows his disdain for his former life by burning his Originals - his jacket with the nifty biker brotherhood patch on the back.

Although the costume directions called for the jacket to be an oil-soaked never washed rag, the jacket was, in fact, typically Hollywood clean. When the renegade biker chieftain tried to set it on fire with his cigarette lighter nothing happened. Not even a wisp of smoke.

Orsatti had somebody squirt lighter fluid on the sucker.

Nope. No go. Maybe a weeny bit of darkish smoke. But no flames.

Then he had somebody douse the jacket with gasoline and when the lighter was applied a huge ball of flame burst out, eliminating the actor’s eyebrows and eyelashes. (Make-up reapplied them every day after that until the end of the shoot.)

Finally, the jacket burning was put off for another day when they could do a controlled shoot on the Universal lot. Then insert it into the film. This is what they usually do in similar circumstances, but the director had his "vision," you know?

The last day of the shoot they made the ultimate fuck up. Remember Chris’ warning about the difficulty of kicking over a Harley? Yeah, you got it. They didn’t listen.

Actually it was the director who didn’t listen, because Nick Corea had passed along the warning, underlining it to make sure. But Orsatti was an old stuntman in real life and knew better than Chris-Effing-Bunch about motorcycles and such.

Intent on making his Grand Artistic Statement, he ordered a wide shot as the greasy biker gang slammed out of the bar. There must have been twenty of them. And, lined up in front of the bar, twenty chopped Harleys awaited their masters.

As one, the gang members leap aboard their mechanical steeds.

As one, they lift heavy boots, then slam them down on the starters.

Only two go Va-room. The rest just go Ka-chuff.


They do it again - starting with the gang coming out of the bar so the director could do it in one smooth artistic take.

Hop aboard. Boots down in unison.

Maybe six va-room. The rest more or less go Ka-chuff.

"Cut! Cut! Cut!"



To shorten the wait time - you have to set up, or at least check, the lights and sound levels with each go - they shoot the gang coming out of the bar. Cut. Then Another Angle and another shot as the gang members hit the bikes and boot the starter.

Finally - after many, many takes - all but one bike starts and the gang thunders away, leaving one poor slob back at the bar, kicking and kicking and kicking and kicking. Ka-chuff. Ka-chuff. Ka-chuff.

In the end, the sequence was re-staged with Chris' warning in mind, and with a little editing it all came together so you wouldn’t know that anything ever went wrong.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Some months later, at season’s end, we were invited to the Wrap Party. There was me and Chris, his new girlfriend, Karen Eisenberg (who would remain with him until the end) and my wife, Kathryn, Chris’ sister.

The Hulk company took over one side of a huge sound stage and there was music and loud talk and laughter, and good food and good booze. All the stars were there: Bixby, Lou and so on. Also the various guest stars from throughout the season, and the crew and other cast members. Hot rods from the network and the studio. Nick, Karen, Jill, Jeff, Ken Johnson, and everybody down to the secretaries and the story editors.

We had a great time and at bash's end, the lights darkened and they showed a reel of bloopers from the season. All the things that went wrong that in retrospect were humorous.

Ka-Chuff! Ka-Chuff!
Of the twenty two episodes that appeared that season, they started with ours: the bikers coming out of the bar scene. Jump on the bikes. Boots stomping on starters in unison. Some bikes starting. Some bikes futzing.

The audience goes ha, ha.

More bloopers shown from other episodes.

Then return to the biker scene. All the bikes but one, roar off. The remaining guy kicks and kicks and kicks.

Tight on the kicking. More ha, ha's.

More bloopers shown..

Back to Tight on the kicking. The ha's are getting louder and louder.

More bloopers, until we come to the end.

Last shot: Boot kicking Harley starter. Ka-chuff. Ka-chuff.

And then, finally, we hear the biker groan: "Fuck me!"

The laughter was - well... Incredible.

(Click here to see the episode.)


The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 110,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration.  Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?


  1. As usual an a wonderful story, perfectly told in the 'propping up the bar anecdote' style. I love reading these and discovering the inside side (does that make sense?) of all the Hollywood programmes I used to watch as a child. Plus the creative gestalt of you and Chris makes me wish I was a better writer (or just any kind of writer) so I too could find a talented colleague who would also swear, drink and inspire me to write.

    Just one small nitpick; "Harley's"? Shouldn't it be "Harleys"? The Butcher's Apostrophe strikes again!

  2. Thanks, Ben. When I started this I was sort of loosely inspired by Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories. Things really haven't changed that much since his time in Tinsel Town. Just the technology, but certainly not the bullshit. As for that dratted 'pos S'- fixed the sucker when I did the final proofs for the book, but forgot to go back to and kill the s.o.b. here. If you decide to team up, just make sure your partner and you drink the same brand of Scotch. (or, whatever else is your poison.)

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