This past frenzied week as I continued my sprint on the economic treadmill, I called a television production company and pitched my projects for television. After breaking the ice the producer and owner of the company said we had a like friend from the past. I quickly responded with “and who is that?” He said Chip Hand. I thought back and said “oh yeah, Chip Hand, he worked with me as a co producer on projects we ran around the world buying and optioning movies-how is Chip these days?” I keep meaning to check in with Chip and just keep getting distracted with my priorities. I have this habit of telling my mind….tomorrow.
The TV producer responded, “Chip died a few years back.” I said “What??” He responded, “Chip committed suicide.”
The phone went dead and then was littered with mutterings and discordant sounds of confusion searching for balance in a world of unmeaning and finite abandonment. Where is the corner post as my outreached arms flailed and my hands grabbed at the inanimate air?
Chip Hand was this kind of angel put on this earth who was a gardener for us, for the weeds who wanted to become flowers in the garden of life. Chip seemed to understand the depth of modeling a rich and productive life. He seemed like the virtuoso on so many levels and his presence had a deep impact on my life. However, once again, my feverish attention to my manic work schedule to perpetuate and nurture my embedded denial, had showed me the credits as they rolled again blazing in my conscious the finality of the title, THE END.
I have always been a late bloomer in life and even in my late 20s I think I had the maturity of a reckless teenager lacking so many parts of my framing “architecture”. I was missing so many parts but I sprinted forward with moxie and reckless abandon. There have been many times in my life that I have questioned my brain and its warp speed. Often it seems to race forward with enormous amounts of information but it speeds by the outstretched hands of people and continues to do so repeatedly until the credits roll again and my tardy core weeps. At times I feel like my brain is or sprints in some other dimension, and my soul and the other empty cans and ornaments are tied to the bumper.
Yesterday I had a 2-hour meeting and the parties were blown away with the information I shared with them. Often people will say wow, I feel like I have put my mouth on a fire hydrant full of information, and how did you learn all of this Larry. On the other hand, the people I love in my life, they seem to not quite touch the soul of the person they so want and need and they never get to frolic in the life game of heart-tag. Heart-tag is why we are here and I have missed so many touch points.
Chip Hand was put in my life for a reason, and he subtly architected some of my “corners and cross members”. My late attorney and business manager, Martin Leeds, had recommended that while I was doing the television series CHiPs (ironically) that I branch out and create other revenue centers and assets on my so-called balance sheet of life. Learning the basics of your own financial balance sheet of assets and liabilities and how to structure real assets is an elementary key to success.
Martin Leeds and others were like a father to me. They saw this kid who just wanted to learn something every day, and who had a work ethic like none they had seen. They knew I was driven, but what they did not know was how sandy my foundation was and how important they were in my reactive life. My life skills were missing and I was a young hormonal male proud of emotion instead of logic and was thrown into the world thinking I was clothed and yet I was so very naked. There is something to be said for passionate ignorance.
One of Martin’s ideas was to create a production company and the other was to start my singing career. My agent, David Shapira and Martin Leeds became good friends and they both were impressed that I had studied music and played some piano and guitar and had studied classical music at the Beverly Hills Music Academy. Sometimes a line like that reads well for public relations but if anyone ever drills down, they will discover that studying music in Larry Wilcox’s case is very shallow, and meant very little, yet it was leveraged in the circles called media. Leveraging smoke and mirrors can be encumbering. It is funny how a press release can add one line to your biography and it sounds like you, Bach, and Beethoven studied together in Paris. The art of suggestion in marketing creates subjective tributaries for thought and presumption as we authors’ scamper away rollicking in indulgent and tickling glee. Innuendo you say?
Chip Hand was involved in many aspects of life and was also a very good voice coach for singers in Beverly Hills. He lived in a small home near the famous restaurant row, La Cienega Boulevard. Chip was chronologically a few years younger than I was but in many ways a decade more mature. When I met Chip I remember thinking that he was an extremely handsome young man who really looked like a movie star. He had girls coming and going when I met him, and these were all singing students. I often wondered what else he taught them as my immature hormonal imagination rendered images. Chip was extremely sensitive and could seem to look into one’s conscious and read emotions. He would talk about those emotions and how to relax and sing from your core and not from a manufactured sound. Relaxation was the triggering key and I was tightly wound so relaxation did not come easy for me. People always think I am easy going and relaxed but my mind seems to be going at warp speed most of the day.
As a funny aside, I will momentarily digress regarding warp speed. One day three of us decided to go and interview this UCLA professor lady at her home in Malibu. She discussed the layers of energy that emit from your chakra points on your body. She had done lots of research on this in quiet dark rooms with students and patients and had amazing results and so called empirical proof of energy waves. She kindly invited these three vibrant young men into her “studio” which had some Navajo blankets and some oblique art, simple tile floors and one massage table. She asked each one of us to lay ourselves on our backs, close our ideas and relax. Each of us took our turn and then she would suspend a crystal cut stone over various chakras on our body tied to a thin nylon string like a fishing filament. Each person seemed to make the crystal suspended by a long thread, spin and have some motion created by what she said was the energy coming from your chakra. My two buddies had the crystal spinning a little when the crystal was near their gonads. We all laughed as she suggested my buddies had some strong sexual drive issues.
When she placed the crystal over me, I closed my eyes and relaxed to her hushed environmental music she had playing which was a little hypnotic. Then I heard her gasp and utter,”Oh my goodness!” My buddies started laughing in the background, and she said, “My goodness, that is some energy!” The crystal was spinning very fast as it was over my brain. She said, “you are truly a mover and shaker….that is an enormous amount of energy coming from your brain and I mean enormous. Moxie might be an understatement.” she said.
I do not like the pomposity of the term mover and shaker so I simply said OK, and quietly and humbly exited wondering if this was all more southern California hocus- pocus with a label. I have no idea what this energy crystal meant if anything but I do know that my brain can approach redline quickly and I can be construed as a bull in the china closet. I think I have learned to curb that or veil it, and if I have done that to any of you, I am truly sorry! Slow people drive me nuts at times as my brain wants to scream, please synapse! The threshold of speed is often reflected in the culture or community and as I travel from state to state I am surprised at the consistency.
Chip Hand was a victim of Larry’s warp speed brain because often one, who sprints, is moving forward to tomorrow and not thinking about today. How does one think about today when my today is almost always yesterday? Chip taught me exercises for my voice for a year or so and we eventually picked a Carol Bayer Sager song (famous song writer) that he picked out and we recorded the song. Chip was the producer and going to the studio was an interesting evolution. After we finally finished the various recording sessions and mixed the songs, we then went to Wolfman Jack’s old manager and marketer. He began testing the record on various radio stations and talking to rack-jobbers to place the record in retail. Martin Leeds, my business manager recommended that I form my own record label to get more revenue from the asset instead of simply being the recording artist. So I named my record company after my family ranch in Saratoga Wyoming, and called it Flying Diamond Records. The old ranch in Wyoming was the Flying Diamond Ranch. At one time I even called the branding inspector and bought the brand which I subsequently allowed the brand to expire. Once again, I should not have allowed this to expire but running fast and shallow creates this same result, time after time. The trite saying a Jack of all trades a master of none does often haunt my conscious. The record tested very well and I began doing radio interviews with disc jockeys across the United States, some of whom were polite and others who treated me like some newcomer inviting myself to their dinner table. The disc jockey’s reaction to me seemed veiled and bi polar, full of love and disdain in one fell swoop. The gentleman who was handling my record told me I had a hit on my hands and that I needed to gear up and start doing personal appearances and shows. Oh did that frighten me! I knew my song was double mixed and reverb was added for effect. Next, I was asked to sing the song on the Bob Hope Christmas Special and I knew the snowball was gaining speed and I was losing control.
I had been rehearsing some songs in my motor home on the CHIPS set and Shelly Levine, the wardrobe man, used to come in and say how much he liked my music which in retrospect probably fed my ego which helped to dampen my fears. I was thinking back in the day singing with my old friends like Jimmy Brubaker, Terry Lehti, and Steve Paul strumming our guitars and singing in harmony. I mean is this singing thing what you really want? LOL, I was going to be a singing star my young un-nurtured soul yelled. When I arrived at NBC I went to the green room for the actors and over the speaker system they were playing my song, Me and My Love. Chip Hand was there and so was Martin Leeds and David Shapira and a slew of other people.
I ran into Erik Estrada and he seemed “oblivious” to why I was there in my tuxedo so I did not bring up the song I was about to sing and I found this whole exchange or non-exchange as it were, rather odd but sped forward with positive thoughts. Erik and I did a simple scene with Bob Hope and later I was to sing. Finally late in the evening it was time for me to sing my song and we rehearsed for the various cameras. I wore my tux and was not comfortable at all being a performer which is much different than being an actor. So, I sat on a stool, and sang my song, to quell my lack of entertaining “chops” as they say. Linda Hope, Bob Hope’s daughter was the producer and we had negotiated a deal where we had the right to review the filmed singing sequence and the right to edit it ourselves and to accept or deny the singing scene. I did the song about two or three times and Linda Hope yelled, “That is a wrap.”
I was flabbergasted because we were not done with how we wanted to produce it. Everyone began leaving and the lights dimmed. We complained and eventually exited NBC in Burbank. A few days later I got the tape of the show and looked at my singing which was a lip synch to the song playing in the background, which I had never done before. The cuts were atrocious and it was not in synch in any form and almost looked like a comedy or a parody on some dumb TV star who thought he was now a singer.
I pulled the song from the show and my posturing really angered the Hope family. Later I ran into Bob Hope and he would not even talk to me, so I surmised, it was because I had “snubbed” him by pulling my song from his show. I decided that day; I would not be a singer and entertainer. My attorney and agent were upset but I knew I was entering an arena that I should not enter and I was close to making a complete ass of myself. Talk about the Peter Principle! I moved on in life and told Chip thank you and no thank you. You only have to hear Chip Hand sing once to remind you what a real melodic voice sounds like, what vibrato is and what range is supposed to be with a vocal muscle that is in shape. I should stay singing in the shower or at home on and off key.
Chip entered my life again later on and sang at my wedding and he was spectacular. His voice was truly amazing and he was the entire package and I always thought he should have been an amazing star. He just did not seem to be impressed with all of his talents and I sensed something missing in Chip. He seemed to still hurt from a lost love. I remember he used to talk about his girlfriend who was Pat Boone’s daughter and how she broke his heart. I always wondered why Chip did not have an entourage of 4 or 5 girls with him. Chip was always the consummate gentleman, kind, and articulate and presented himself very well.
Later Chip Hand approached me and wanted to know if he could work for me in my film and television production company. He brought me my first project which was The Dorothy Stratten Story, the Death of a Playmate. Typical of Chip, while others were sleeping we were making deals to beat them at their own race. We had midnight negotiations with the investigator and finally beat NBC, MGM and Hugh Hefner and optioned the product at midnight. Hefner and NBC were flabbergasted when they woke up to see we already had the deal done.
We then produced that movie and began my production company, Wilcox Productions. Chip would come to my little dungeon office in the basement of MGM with my shingle hanging and he would pitch me projects. He brought me in an article in the Chicago Tribune about Walter Polavchek, a young Russian boy who wanted to stay in America and not go back to Russia. It was a headline story and had lots of controversy with the cold war and such issues. I said I was interested but I really had no idea how to consummate a deal of this nature. Chip said, “come on, we will fly to Chicago tomorrow, and we will meet with the journalist, the attorney, Walter’s relative and find someone to get the rights.” I said, “Well how are we going to beat Time Magazine, because they have already written an article?” Chip responded, “We will find someone to get the rights from and we just have to be there in front of all the parties.”
I reluctantly said OK, and the next thing I know is Chip and I are in a limousine meeting the attorney for Water Polavchek in downtown Chicago. Chip had the entire itinerary in place and meetings scheduled. We met with 3 or 4 parties and after each meeting he and I would excitedly dictate a letter, go to a secretarial service (no computers then and no fax) and within an hour of our meeting we had reiterated our interest and deal points on letterhead and we would hand deliver the letter with a messenger. We thought we were so impressive to be Johnny- on- the -spot and we actually impressed a lot of people. Of course, since I was the TV star of those days, I got most of the applause but it was really Chip who arranged and did most of it for me as the Vice President in charge of Development.
Next, Chip told me of an author named P.D. James in London and we needed to fly to London to meet her. He had found a project that she would be perfect for and she was a famous novelist. I was of course, the weed, being mentored by Chip who was politely teaching me how to be proactive and to lead instead of following. The next day or so Chip and I flew to London and I took my wife with me. During the night at 11 pm or so, Chip, being sensitive not to call me and interrupt me, would slide notes under my suite door. This project he wanted to acquire was based upon the famous story called the Yorkshire Ripper. He had arranged for interviews with the Yorkshire Constabulary and we were going to option the project. I would scribble my notes on his notes in red and then put them under his room door. In retrospect, I think my notes were not about the story or his writing. My notes were probably making sure he knew I was in charge which was my immature reaction and representative of my lack of maturity.
These are the rungs in the ladder of evolution you try to teach your offspring so they will not perpetuate the same malaise. When I saw Chip the next day, I said, did you get my very extensive notes and he responded with a reserved yes. I sensed his reservation and asked him what was wrong and he said that I made a bunch of grammar and non substantive changes and the creative writing is not about the limits of grammar. We politely debated the issues however, I realized that he was being sensitive to me and he was graciously extending a mirror. The sensitivity, the time, the place to assist someone to the next rung on the ladder is what parenting is all about, isn’t it? Obviously the real issue was not my input and critique of his writing but it was a reflection and transference of my own lack of identity.
We talked more about life and goals later and I asked him what he did last night as I was dining with my wife thinking about my daughter Wendy and her birth one day. He said he had been depressed and just did some thinking on the bridge over the Thames. He seemed distant and removed. I remember I ignored that statement, and thought maybe tomorrow I would ask him about that Thames River introspection, but today the visual reflection seems so very lonely and telling. I was not sure how to engage other than my traditional forward momentum in finding solutions to life by working on tomorrow. People would say that Chip and I were like two turbo charged producers and we could create a 24-hour frenzy with quick results. I was proud of this frenzy and of course we optioned the Yorkshire piece and returned to Los Angeles where I sold it to a major studio, MGM. My strengths began to evolve in pitching and deal making.
As my education grew I began to appreciate logic versus emotion. Being proud of the wrong things in one’s life is so symptomatic and so reflective. As a young boy I remember my Mom saying I had a hair trigger temper. I thought that was a compliment, later to learn that is not socially acceptable. Definitely the power tools in life misconstrued as ornaments are simply parasitic drag. Discernment becomes a fascinating tool for people to utilize in a positive fashion. The passionate ignorance that I have carried often into a room rewarded me instead of educating me. Chip Hand was one constant subtle, educational experience.
Discernment has always been too slow for my high rpm mind and it proved recently to be catastrophic. Sometimes my wife will listen to me and say didn’t you hear him say X and Y. And I look at her in bewilderment and say….NOPE. I really did not hear that or pick up on it and of course ignorance is not a plea as I know so well. As a result of my own lack of discernment, often I will discuss meetings with my children or a dinner that our family attends and ask them if they recognized certain things. We will discuss our choices in expression and provoke inner analysis if you will. Perhaps they might want to express themselves differently under these or those circumstances and did they think or see the triggers. I want them to recognize the signals and triggers in life and not become simply Mr. On- The- Job -Trainee. Learning curve can be such baggage and it is our obligation as parents to accelerate learning curve on so many levels. This kind of wise nurturing takes many quiet exchanges. That is why I love that country song about the Dad taking his daughter FISHING and she thinks that is what they are doing, simply FISHING. He knows how special that exchange is during that special quiet time and he knows what a BASE he has put on her foundation.
Chip brought me another movie deal, The Wolfman Jack Story and we did a similar aggressive deal on that project. We practiced and rehearsed pitching it and I went with my agents and pitched the movie idea to the head of Columbia Studios. I played Wolfman Jack howling, and I played the southern preachers selling goods on the radio with the music blaring in the background. The Columbia Executive loved the pitch and laughed and slapped and said let’s make a deal. I just kept pitching as I enjoyed the performance more than he did. He finally told me to stop and said, ”Larry, stop, I love it, we will make a deal tomorrow…..I do not need any more of the pitch…I am sold.”
Listening and recognizing triggers was not my youthful forte coming from the plains of Wyoming and in those days you may have needed a baseball bat to stop me. I remember once in an acting class the instructor said that some young actors enjoy doing an angry scene with raw anger as they enjoy the emotion. He said the subtly of how one displays the suppressed anger is so much more interesting and triggers deep emotion laced with logic. Removing the cathartic experience of emotion is a positive section of healthy evolution. Civil debate and provocative discourse were not part of my childhood and I sure enjoyed it as an adult.
After I left the show CHIPS at MGM Studios and NBC I kind of shut down my production company. That was a mistake. On my own, I quickly optioned some other projects and due to the aggressive and polite style of Chip Hand I now had some basic aggressive acquisition skills, a ton of tenacity, and I bought the Waco cult story, and made a deal. I then bought the rights to the movie FLIPPER and made a deal with Universal. I helped my attorneys write the contract with lots of protective language which I am proud of because it later saved me the FLIPPER deal. I continued making acquisitions with other projects like Celebrity Rodeo for ESPN. I hired a development guy named Mark Massari and he helped me to develop The Ray Bradbury Theater for HBO. I became a good negotiator and deal maker.
I then started a clothing line and I lost track of Chip Hand and as I raced to tomorrow and the years piled up. I heard Chip got married and I often wondered what beautiful and smart young woman won over Chip as she must have been a quality lady because he was definitely a quality person. I would so like to meet her now and talk with her and to meet Chip’s extended family. I am so famished to know who and what Chip was like. He loved to learn and he was always growing on so many levels. I love to learn and we had so many exciting projects to learn about. We would often discuss words and the Latin roots that he enjoyed studying at UCLA. He was indirectly a fine model for my life and without knowing it; Chip re-architected a lot of my being. Often, leadership and mentoring models are presented to us in our lives and the subtly warrants acknowledgement. As I take the slow time to reflect on those mentors and life models, I humbly recognize that I was a guest on God’s train, even though I probably thought people were a guest on “my train”…..…..or caboose as it were.
Chip Hand was a fine young man. His father worked with Lyndon B. Johnson and is a highly respected attorney in Washington D.C. I never got the opportunity to meet Chip’s father, mother, or family and I found that a bit curious after spending so much time with him. When I would ask him about his family it seemed to me that he did not want me to enter that arena so I politely demurred. Once in a while his brother would show up and I asked if they were close. He said no, and told me that his brother had some mental problems and I could tell I should not intrude. Once again I met mystery with Chip. His lack of sharing this info seemed to create confusing intrigue but I would back away. One naïve theory of mine was since Chip was the son of a famous father he was searching for his own identity and he wanted to succeed on his own. That is just a guess as I have no clue. I remember asking him if he had a good childhood and he would hesitate and ponder and say yes without conviction. Then he would tell me something warm and fuzzy about his Texas youth and then his father going away on business. It was always, bizarre and a degree or two from being mentally tangible, and then it would be whisked away.
When I found out this week that my good friend had committed suicide, I wept. I wept because maybe I had not slowed down enough in this whirlwind life of mine to check on Chip and to make sure he knew he had a friend. At times I felt like I could define Chip and at times he seemed to be an oblique shell of illusion and reality mixed. I felt bad that he had given me so much in my life and directly and indirectly had graciously shared so much of his wisdom and intellect with me, the Wyoming Weed filled with passionate naiveté.
On this day, Chip is gone and I did not even know about his funeral. I researched him on Google and found a short paragraph which said very little and created more craving for my searching soul. I went through page after page to find some meaning, some explanation, some real background and some Latin roots that would make sense but instead read the cold paragraph of birth, death, and survivors. I was surprised to see only sisters and no mention of his brother. I wonder if Chip even had a brother. More mystery, creating more famine.
I then researched his wife and his parents and stopped to wonder whether it would be rude for me to call and ask about the passing of Chip Hand. How could I call them and prickle such a tender and soulful wound. How could I do this? I wanted to share the wonderful contributions Chip had given this Wyoming boy. I wanted his family to know how gracious and giving Chip was and what a great intellect and mind he had as a young man. I had thought of Chip in my past from time to time but it was always with a semi colon next to that encumbering word, tomorrow.
Finally I decided to call Chip’s father Lloyd Hand. I called his legal office in Washington D.C. and reached his secretary who informed me that Ambassador Hand was out to meetings but she would pass on my message. His father must be in his 80s now and I was impressed that he was still doing meetings in high powered city. Low and behold, my phone rings and the caller I.D. is the legal firm. I answer it with trepidation and his father thanks me for reaching out and tells me how wonderfully Chip always talked about me, our productions and experiences getting deals. He told me that Chip had long suffered from depression and was bi-polar. Chip had battled this for most of his life and my eyes got teary. I questioned again my warp speed and wondered about my own dimension. I sensed when I was with Chip something was askew but I could not put my finger on it and so blocked it out and continued forward. Sometimes the look of his eyes, the pupils, sometimes his distant stare, sometimes his nuance were just….confusing. I thought back on our conversations searching for hints and triggers.
I remembered him talking about a UCLA Psychiatrist once that he was seeing but I quickly discounted that with….oh well, maybe he has some personal issue and that is none of my business. Perhaps, tomorrow I will ask him about it and see if I can help. Mr. Hand, Chip’s father, told me that Chip wrote his family a very lucid and articulate letter of why he was taking his life. Mr. Hand also said that he has a collection of Chips songs that he listens to daily in his car and at home on a CD and he would send me a copy of that CD. He told me his favorite song and he knew that Chip’s spirit was with him daily. He loved hearing Chips voice each day even though he is gone. I thought of TOMORROW and cried.
I hope you all do not wait till TOMORROW to help someone, to hug someone, to love your family members. Mental disorders are so misdiagnosed and so mistreated often. To this day, bi-polar symptoms are often misread, and the compartmentalization of LABELS are so encumbering and conflicting. They knew very little about bi-polar personalities in those days and are still having problems diagnosing it especially in youth. The other day on CNN they talked about having the government doing psychological background checks and to have any “disorders” on file. I shudder to think of another Scarlet Letter that we will give the government authority for designation.
Chip Hand’s passing has reminded me again, I have so many tomorrows to make up in my life. Now, I will quietly weep alone and make a few calls TODAY to simply say I love you. Thank you for TODAY. Thank you so very much Chip Hand (1954-2009). What a gift in so many ways you were to society and mankind. What a GIFT! I sincerely hope that Chip found and enjoyed some reciprocity while here. My confusion with respect to Chip and his life remains, confused and curious. Ray Bradbury used to haunt me with short stories with no ending. Chip seemed like an island in a society. I wonder who and what Chip Hand was and who touched him in his life. I wonder if he had holidays with family or did he stay alone with his so called mental illness. Was he hidden, or was he shared? Was he defined or was he illusion. I shall once again, place an exclamation mark at the end of Chip Hand, and this time, this grammar insertion is not transference but sadly finite.
May you all enjoy the varied Valentines surrounding you, and slow down on this two way street called life. May you blossom into the flower that you are and may you be the gardener for someone. Use your auditory, visual and kinesthetic senses to appreciate and understand your friends and loved ones. Remember when you pitch or talk that you should be discerning! Oh, has discernment been a long encumbering learning curve. The hues, strokes, layers and subtleties of the canvass are to be appreciated and shared with your children. Parenting, you say? Flowers and Gardeners……
Chip Hand 1954-2009