Some people might speculate that A Dinner Party with a grouping of nice tables and table cloths is simply that; a dinner party. I would beg to differ. A Dinner Party changes with the people invited. I mean imagine having a group of actors over and there is some fine music, a well appointed and served meal and some good old fashioned and casual exchange of stories laced with love humility and gratitude. Imagine the calm patience in the room of each actor sharing his or her story to the crowd and it is uninhibited and full of a rich, wonderful exchange. Now, take that same dinner party and invite some new comers and some teenagers and change the music and location, the gestures, the density of people and for some….the PARTY is ON or in some cases…the CIRCUS is ON!
The 35th CHIPS Cast Anniversary was a splendid evening of relaxed exchange of all parties. The Hollywood Show is a whole different event and perhaps more like a Hollywood Media Circus where the Public (Fans) and Collectors get to come and get their collectibles autographed in their original boxes by the Celebrities of the past movies and television shows for a fee. I suppose this event reflected on the mentality of doing business in America to some extent and on the American Public if one looks deeper into the hues of the canvas. I experienced lies, diplomacy, humor, anger, humility, ego and a few facts along with some very sincere joy. The jockeying for position, for rights, for attention, for talk shows, for interviews, for pecking orders, for parking, for reimbursements, for payments, for seating, etc was a cacophony of chaos littered with the hybrid carcinogenic blend of ego and greed and marketing.
This so called CHIPS evolution got its kick start by Sue Walsh, a dedicated and loyal fan of CHIPS who took her own savings and put on the 35th Cast Re-union for all of the cast members. She invited everyone of course and all but Erik Estrada and Randi Oakes showed up. Even some of the crew members showed up and of course the Producer Cy Chermak. It was a fine evening and I think everyone felt closure from that event and felt like it was an evening of balance and a sense of freedom to exchange any and all information without having to repeat for the media, “sound bites” in a bullet like fashion. Those media bites become orchestrated over time and easily noted.
The CHiPs culture began gaining momentum when MeTV contracted with Warner Brothers to re-run CHiPs on their TV Network every night of the work week. I was happy as the fans wanted the DVD or BlueRays of the remaining seasons but could not find or buy any as they just were not for sale yet. Through Me TV, the quasi adult/child fans could once again watch the show that had nurtured the crevices of their youthful identity and in some cases was recharged and that child psyche so wanted to be spawned in some fashion or form even though it had been now conditioned by Father Time and so called emotional adulthood. Perhaps this quasi adult/child psyche, now alone in their living room with their 60 inch digital monitor they just bought from Costco or some discount house could come out of the closet on their HARLEY with headphones blaring and donning the CHiPsl sun glasses. Here they were safe….45 year old men, smiling, repeating the CHP dialogue of fifteen seven mary three or four, and singing the CHIPS theme before their wives got home to see them overcome with their new found skipping gait of a 12 year old idenity. Ohhhhh, what joy…and in some cases…..with the women or wives…..a flushed cheek and the memory of those dreams of having one of those boys in tight pants as their Beau secretly hugged and kissed them and…..well, just imagine….….…….IF some of us saw or heard the graphic depths of their secret indulgent fantasy escapades these quasi women/girl psyches dreamed………oh we might blush with lust. …… and yes, we would have to write a different genre of story for my column and change the title to Guess Who’s Coming to Bed perhaps. I teased Ponch at the Entertainment Tonight Interview that he was not only the sex symbol but he was the horny sex symbol. We laughed at the old times….!
So MeTV contacted Sue Walsh and asked if they could talk to me about producing some spots for the re-runs of CHIPS. Sue forwarded me the info and I politely reached out to the liaison of MeTV and I said I would be more than happy to accommodate his needs. Then he asked me did I think that I could produce them and I suggested using the Motors and some drones I had access to so that the quality of the promo would be more than a talking head. He said he would get back to me and did not do so in a few weeks so I reached out again. He then said he was in discussions with Erik’s people. I wondered why he had reached out to me then but I suppose that was symptom number one. I checked back with him a week or so and said I see you are doing the advertising and not using my name per my contract and he said it was all tongue in cheek. I thought to myself, branding is not tongue and cheek but that was symptom number two. I then said, well did you work something out with Erik’s people and he said no they did not. I then said do you want me to shoot these spots and I presented some sample ideas and he said he would get back to me. A week went by and I checked in again and he informed me now, after all of these ideas and exchanges and emails, that they never pay their actors for any spots. I said that is weird, you are using their brand to sell advertising and yet you want them to do this for free and promote you Network. He reiterated they do not pay actors. I guess they just collect money from advertisers. LOL. So a week or so went by and I thought…..you know….I could really shoot some neat stuff with motorcycles and GoPros and Drones and digital stuff today…….maybe I will do this for free as an actor and just produce them and have fun producing because that is what I enjoy. So I went back to them and said that they did not have to pay me as an actor but did they have ANY budget for the production of these spots and he said he would “get back to me”. Another week or so goes by and he gets back to me that they just do not have the budget right now. I say OK and take him for his word and kind of verbally had a hand shake and moved on. Oh, the humor of a handshake in Hollywood.
Next I get a call from Calvin Spiker who does these kinds of celebrity autograph signing shows and acts as the liaison or manager for the talent and interfaces with the show promoters. Calvin said that he thought I should do the infamous CHILLER show and I said OK and then later we found out that the CHILLER show guy said that he felt it was too soon since I already did that show last year. So when the CHILLER show dropped off and we had to tell fans NOT to fly or come to that show, Calvin, began work on the Hollywood Show at the LAX Westin Hotel. When he came back to me and said that they wanted me to do it and I said OK. These shows are generally fun and Calvin sells my photos and I autograph them and it is a pleasing event for the fans and you can make some good money for the day with the various group and single photos offered. As this drug on, and time approached, Calvin began telling me that the promoter wanted me to do this interview and that interview and wanted a bunch of free pictures to sign and other such demands. I said……slow down. I need a deal memo or a contract with all of this outlined to review before I say yes to any of this and until this is agreed upon I am not committing to appearing at this Hollywood Show. So, of course, my name is used to promote the show on the Hollywood Show site and I remind Calvin to please express to the promoter that we do NOT have a deal and it is a misrepresentation to say that I am going to be at this show. With that in mind, I finally receive a contract which is unacceptable. So I take and edit with good old RED LINE TRACKING CHANGES ON and begin to mark up the contract with changes and limiting certain ambiguities. I send it to them and I do not hear back and finally they say they have agreed to all of my changes. I laugh, knowing in business that many people give you a verbal, and a slap on the back, which mean nothing. So, I say thank you, then please sign the contract and return it to me. Days later I still have no contract and they are now telling me they have got Erik Estrada and Randi Oakes coming to this event. I found this perplexing contingent upon the history. The good news is the dinner party will now be different as some of the invitees are different than before. In fact they ask me can I get Robert Pine, Paul Linke, Lou Wagoner, Lew Saunders, Michael Dorn, and Brodie Greer to come so the entire cast is there. I tell them that I will politely ask and invite them all but of course it is up to each of them. They all respond back with a YES and so now there are even more people coming to the dinner party.
Now the show is about a week away and I still have no contract so I remind Calvin that I am not your average excited individual who craves to be a celebrity, and if there is no signed contract, I will not appear no matter who is going to be at the show. It took me a longer time than it should have but Principle is a major thing for me. Finally I get the contract signed and I countersign it, scan it, and email it back as proof of a deal. I am then asked if we will do an interview with E and I say yes and I am told the entire cast will also be in that ensemble interview. I suppose the Promoter makes a deal with E TV on this and we are not privy to that deal but that is only a naïve assumption on my part. Then I receive word from the promoter that he has structured more deals with not only E Tonight but with MeTV. They are sending a producer and crew to do interviews and to produce some promos with the actors. Ohhhhh, I say (thinking back on my numerous communications with low budget Me TV)……Integrity you say? Fact or fiction…..prevarication or truth…….my lips to your ears……LOL. So the promoter asked me to do the interviews with MeTV and I say NO. Calvin asks me if I want to do some of the MeTV stuff and I say NO. I explain to Calvin that I some of us perpetuate social maladies or habits, however, I explain that principle is more important than publicity and I do not want to be the whore who compromises his values for my own Public Relations. I email some of my fellow actors and explain my position. So when the MeTV producer comes up to me on Sunday and explains that they did not use me to produce things because they heard I wanted too much money……I knew this diplomatic charade was being perpetuated and just shook my head at the Hollywood art of lying. My cast members of course went to do the promotions, as they should have. I thought…wow Larry, you have produced an award winning TV Series for HBO in the past (Ray Bradbury Theater) and they did not take advantage of all of this. Oh well, focus on your turbines and your digital distribution vision.
When we did the E Tonight show interview it was interesting and requires a lot of narrative that I will not bore you with in this column but depending on how they edit this show, it should be rather reflective and insightful. I hope we all get to see it soon. The producer/director in me wanted to shoot some b-roll for them for free because the show just did not work and it needed an architect as it was all over the place. At times I thought we were doing Judge Judy, and at times the History Channel, and at times referencing historic names and figures no one knows any more, including the host. It was at times comedic as each actor forgot they were in yesterday’s time capsule… Of course, I wanted to architect a more relevant reference point or visual but I had to remind myself I was a guest. It is at these moments I often feel like I am up on the ceiling watching my life and it is often comedy trying to be serious. I think I should point my finger at myself like Blake Shelton does on The VOICE.
Today I got a call from TMZ as they heard that some chips cast member got assaulted or someone had to be escorted out of the show. I said that was news to me but sounds like a P.R. person trying to get more publicity. Who knows…….but as you enter this Media World the “spin” velocity picks up to mach one quickly. Later I got an email from some Celebrity Group who wanted contact info. Of course this is all part of what sales organizations call the sales and marketing funnel.
During the day various actors would come by and say hello and say how good you looked…..and I would reciprocate in kind. Saw good old Dan Haggerty from Grizzly Adams, saw Ron Masak from Murder She Wrote, and the actress Sandra Santiago who I read with for Miami Vice test…..and Annie Lockhart who I starred in a Disney Movie with (Fire on Kelly Mountain) and others…….and those are old friends who are always so polite and nice to see. I sold some of my Lil CHP show for kids at the autograph signing session and Ron Masak and John Schneider were kind enough to do roles in that wonderful little kids show for me. A few excited kids got LIL CHP that day and their excitement was fun to observe.
During the first day which was very busy, we were signing and selling autographs like crazy. The price for all of us was the same, $25 each and there were lines of people interested and buying. The Chips cast was in the long hallway preceding the big room where everyone else was signing so we got first dibs and first money if you will. The first person they saw was Randi Oakes, the Paul Link, then Larry Wilcox, then Robert Pine, then Brodie Greer and Lew Wagoner and then at the end was Erik Estrada. Randi Oakes came up and introduced herself and it was so fun to see her and to see her beautiful family. Gregory Harrison (of Trapper John M.D. fame) is her husband and he is still the extremely handsome gentleman that he was as a youth….and says he still surfs every day. Later Erik came rushing by and told me that he wanted 3 of every one of my photos and we laughed and hugged and went back to selling. Brodie thanked me for including him and Lew, Paul and Robert were as always consummate professionals and gentlemen. Robert and I reminisced about the days when we got jobs on Westerns and received a salary for playing cowboys and Indians. I really enjoyed stepping back at times and just observing each individual and the path they had taken in life and reflected on the meaning of lack of meaning of such. I thought about what life means to each individual and how they express it in a multitude of ways. I wanted to do a quiet interview with each one for our upcoming DVD and hope that will bring closure for all of us. During this frenzy I was approached by the promoter’s staff and said that everyone had signed these photos except me and he would appreciate it if I would take the time to sign them also in between fans. I know this old guilt trip so well in sales (everyone has signed them but you)….but ignored the trite quality of the statement and realized I was donating the signed photos. I forgot during this frenzied moment that this was not part of my contract……..of course. We also did some group shots where people lined up to be in a photo with Erik and myself and or the cast and luckily Calvin Spiker counted everyone because the payment for that was wrong…….of course…..and it was just an oversight but it was through Calvin who corrected it. Oh yeah….there is a Whole lot of shakin going on in Hollywood and if you are not careful you will get back slapped right into poverty. This is why actors want agents on the premises. Then later on one of the ladies who checked in the Celebs comes up to me and said that you know you got a bag of goodies from some of our sponsors and we wanted to take a picture of you holding some of the products. I said no. She looked at me in shock and aghast at the candor and rude, bluntness of my statement. I said….look, I would love to help everyone with ALL of their products but that is how I make a living. I do not offer my celebrity for free……come on! She left shaking her head but the guilt ploy did not work. I also shook my head but smiled. Man….bullets are firing a way….better have fast twitch fiber in this world for sure. But, it is better to have bullets firing because that is actually a good sign in Hollywood.
But the soul of the event was surely the fans. I got to talk with them, pose with them, cry with them, hug them and give back. I almost felt like God gave me a healing wand and for a day I could LOVE their hearts and their yearning souls. We talked about a lot of things and I will only share a few. These people came from all walks of life. They were articulate and not; they were well traveled and not; they were well dressed and not; they were handsome, pretty and not; they smelled good and Not; they were AMERICA. One grown strong adult male came up and all he could gyrate about was CHIPS and he literally wanted to kiss my hand as if I was the GodFather. He was so out of his body with joy and just could not take his eyes off this illusion in front of him from his favorite all time show, his hero, Jon Baker. We talked and talked and he came back the next day with his beautiful wife and children. He told me all about how the kids now love the show and what it meant to them and now they all sing the songs and they all know the CHP dialogue. Later he just kept re-appearing and wanting to talk more. Finally he came back and almost on his knees (this is a big man with big shoulders about 6’4”) and asked me is there any way I could do a short scene with him and his wife would film it. For a minute I just stared incredulously….not knowing if I should laugh or oblige and of course I obliged. So his wife used their iPhone to video er husband with Jon Baker (gray and tubby)I doing a scene where I am going to cuff him. Ohhhhh, was he elated….jumping up and down as he reviewed the video on his wife’s phone. He disappeared and came back an hour or so later with another request….and said is there anyway we can do a pick up on one part of the scene where I hand cuff him…..and I said ….NO. Sorry our scene is done. I think he knew he crossed the line. I got to be his hero for a few minutes and his family just stared in elation. Some people ask me if this caresses my ego and I reply with a No. However, it makes you really feel good when you can give someone joy and that feeling is a gift I deeply appreciate.
Another mother from Montana brought her two daughters who spent the entire two days with us at the autograph show. These two young girls in their teens were shy and had a hard time expressing themselves but just loved being in every photo with all of us. AT first we all made a very big deal about them and each actor included them in their photos and sat on the Motorcycle and shot a photo and sat with and stood with us and shot photos, etc….on and on. The last day in the last hour I was there they came up with their Mom and asked if they could kiss me good bye and so each of them kissed me (awkwardly) on the cheek and blushed and began to weep. They told me they loved me and I told them I cared for them also….and good luck to all of them and drive home safely. I momentarily did a flash back on my age and said….be careful what you say here to these very young girls…..don’t get creepy on them. Ohhh, the life and times of perceptions and the Political Correct.
We all departed and Calvin walked me to the door as he had a red eye flight back to the East Coast. I thanked him for doing a great job, for protecting my fanny with the money and contracts. I got in my car hopped on the 405 freeway and realized I had hardly spoken a word to any of the cast members as it was surely not a reunion or dinner party……it was a GIG. I finally arrived home in about 40 minutes. I walked in the door smiling and handed the wad of cash to my wife and asked what was for dinner. She had it all ready and we shared a glass of wine and talked about our children and what I would do next week with the technology I was working on and the so called funding groups. I asked about her father in the hospital and did her mother need anything. I tried to wind down and so put my brain on dial tone and turned on the TV and watched some Bronco football and records being set by Peyton Manning. Oh the dimension of “records” and yet…..our really important record is our children and family. Learning the importance of family means you missed something along the way in your own life. I learned it and continue to learn it at this late date. I often have referenced true north on your compass spindle and Family and Parenting are true north for me.
In life one can create their own reality by either habitually accepting your first thought with no capability of educational editing or hopefully, in some cases….. re-adjusting and editing the thoughts you accept per situation and creating a “different’ reality. Choosing thoughts and thus a reality makes you the architect not the victim. I like to think we really do create our own reality with thoughts and so I choose to remember these fans and their needs as humans that were placed in this dimension for whatever reason. I am not serving them….I am interfacing sincerely with their energy systems. It is wonderful. As I watch business people get sloppy with commitments and their word, I usually cut them some slack and hope that one day they will have their own meeting with their conscious about responsibility and reasoning from Principle. Some have that meeting and some never do. I have made equal or greater mistakes and I hope I continue to learn and not judge.
I have been lucky enough to see most of the colors in the spectrum of life and some I selfishly enjoyed. I hope I never do that again….as I want it to always be a two way street of joy and sensitivity. Anyone can seem bad or seen to harbor a hidden agenda….but it is always out of context and or distilled through our own encumbered litmus paper. The above was a fun and enjoyable experience. Even the perceptions of bad symptoms, re-aligned, came out OK and acceptable. Remember, every person could tell my story in a different fashion. Unfortunately, spinning a story or intent is the virtuosity of many attorneys always mitigating risk….and has become the habit of many Americans. I hope you all get to see the E Tonight show but not sure if the edited version will be candor or another media veil with some patina called lipstick. However, each day I get to sharpen my skill sets on all fronts…..and smile while exchanging energy…………thank you all for the gifts! I thank the promoters, the actors, the managers and the FANS.
Humbly and Gratefully,