The CHIPS Reunion will bring together a lot of diverse personalities and lives. I am excited to see my old cast and crew who worked so hard to do a show that was filled with southern California life with the two stars….the motorcycles. I am also very excited to meet the many fans who loved CHIPS and who employed us indirectly with their viewership.
Each of the characters were special and each went on to their own live and in the case of Michael Dorn, bigger stardom. Often today I think about the egos of each of us, and how others had to suck it up and not express their egos or their needs because the show was written around two stars and the supporting cast. The musical chairs of Hollywoood in retrospect mean nothing, but when you are sitting center state in your youth, you sure think it has meaning. Like all teams, you all realize how important ROLE playing team members are to the success of you and the show. Two men do not make a team!
Yesterday, I was in the gym working out and I ran into a crew member from CHIPS and he said….Larry….Larry Wilcox, is that you? I said yep. He said, “wow….I used to work with you on CHIPS and I was a gaffer!” We talked and joked about the fun times we had and he went on to say something that stuck in my mind. He said, “when I meet young actors today, they just do not realize what it was like in our time TV was so special and so big and powerful. We enjoyed 20 plus Nielsen ratings and today they enjoy a 2 Nielsen rating. I am so grateful Larry it was a great time and thank you.” I said thank YOU and we smiled and we parted. I thought about his eyes and the meaning of the gift of his memory. Yes, we were so very lucky!
Paul Linke and his life story is one that is bigger than CHiPs and he continues to press on and is a highly acclaimed playwright and actor. I could spend hours just asking Paul about his life but have always felt it was rude and intrusive. We only tapped a small amount of his blessed talent but he was funny and a nice comic relief for the show. I look forward to listening to Paul.
Randi Oakes for me was a special girl but I just was not sure how to get too close to her. I always felt like she was a constrained nucleus of beauty and wisdom. Sometimes I flirted with her, and sometimes I felt like she was my sister and family. I never really got to know or understand Randi and it is my “bad”. She is happily married now with a wonderful family, and I missed an important chapter in her life. She was a special girl in a tough gender biased environment. However, most men say they loved Randi!
Erik Estrada …well I have called Erik and he has not returned my call. Robert Pine has called Erik and he has not returned his call. Erik may or may not show up to support the CHP 11-99 Fund (officers killed in the line of duty ) and their families. He may not be able to help the Optimist Club and School for Kids and his manager, according to my agent, said he no longer wanted the limited identity of CHIPS because he was trying to establish a broader horizon now. I hope Erik takes the high road and decides to come but who knows what conflicts one has in life these days. But, once again, for the record Ponch, we sure had some fun and I will never forget it. I hope you have good memories because I sure do ……and the PRESS can write whatever they want which was B.S. Of course we have and had our differences but they were a long way from a feud, and if they only knew our private good times together in each other’s motor homes. LOL
The Senior Senator and Diplomat was and is Robert Pine. Robert has always been a fine and well raised gentleman who enjoyed the life of a thespian. His wife was also a very talented actress and of course his famous offspring. His daughter I remember as full of life and so very vivacious and cute. Robert is the kind of person that you can talk to for an hour of polite exchanges but if you probe Robert you will be the guest of some impressive acumen and wisdom. Robert is simply……gracious.
Brianne Leary was so happy and vivacious and was willing to try and be vulnerable. She was smart, witty and cute on the show. It was a time when she seemed to be breaking out as a star and then she left the show. She has so much to say herself and it will be another fine time for me to listen with sensitivity.
Lou Saunders was handsome, a smiling African American and the real jock in the cast. When we played basketball against the Los Angeles Rams Lou could actually hold his own! He moved like an athlete and his demeanor was one of a kind man.
Brodie Greer was another great guy and great athlete. He was tall, handsome and got lots of fan mail. Brodie has moved on in life and lives up north and is in Real Estate. I am anxious to hear his stories.
And of course Lou Wagner’s Harlan the mechanic was a wonderful character introduced in the show to give more comedic relief. I often thought he had the best written character in the show!
Bruce Penhall was probably the most handsome actor ever on the show with his boyish good looks and his world champion status as a motorcycle racer, off shore boat racer and on and on. Every girl loved Bruce and his stories are amazing.
Bruce Jenner was full of positive energy and ready for life. He was a natural on the show and was used as a pawn to get Erik Estrada to settle his legal matters with MGM and NBC. So Bruce, who everyone liked, was a sacrificial item in the politics of legal actions but he was a good guy and did his role well.
The crew had the hardest job, and that was to support all the actors and all of the egos without taking sides and working 15 hour days for a lesser pay. Erik and I would show up at 7 am in our Rolls Royce convertibles and go to makeup while they had been working for 1-2 hours already. These guys became special family and they really made us look and perform much better than we did in reality. Cy Chermak was a very smart producer and he knew how to put lipstick on a pig in the editing room. I quietly marveled at his talent and yet my O.D.D. kept me from openly thanking him for so much.
Rick Rosner cast me in CHIPS and I am forever grateful. Bob Hayden was my CHP double and he was the best and really should have been cast before Larry Wilcox.
Most of the cast members lost family members during and after the show some recently and some long past. Each of these scars added a tributary in their lives.
My worry for the reunion is that there will not be enough time and I will want to LISTEN to my colleagues, instead of talking. There is so much to catch up on and to reminisce about all the guest stars who went on to become bigger stars.
You also come to know your fans over time. It is an interesting journey and as an actor I always wondered WHY? However, after many years I have realized that WHY is the problem of perspective and one should get to know this family who have scrutinized your every piece of film. These people have their own majestic reasons for watching CHIPS and some are dramatic and represent the miracles of survival through a TV Screen as an escape mechanism. In my own case, today I walked in to Loews to buy some equipment and I greeted a gentleman and his wife and he said how much excitement and hope CHIPS gave him as a boy. Later today I promised a US MARSHAL that I would bring him an autographed photo and his demeanor became that of a 12 year old filled with joy and gratitude. And I have many fans from many countries now who know that I am not impressed with actors or celebrities but I am impressed with people and our ability to share gifts. Sue Walsh started as a young fan and has become a great and loyal friend.
I hope all of you will come to the CHIPS Reunion on Sept 15th at the LAX Hilton and support the charities of fallen police officers (11-99 foundation) and Kids at risk within the Optimist School. CHIPS cares about all of them and we care about YOU. Please come buy and get your ticket online at CHIPSReunion.com
Sincerely grateful – Larry D. Wilcox – Jon Baker – 7M3