GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Friday, April 5, 2013

A GTO at the drive-in

When I first got my Ferrari GTO, I was going to school at night studying film courses that were taught by Peter Gibbons who was head of the camera department and Elliott Bliss who was head of the sound department at CBS Cinema Center on Radford in Studio City. I wanted to take classes that were instructed by industry professionals rather than English teachers looking for extra credit.

One of the benefits of this decision was having access to the sound stage and mixing board at CBS with which to practice and learn. One of our assignments was to remove the sound of a barking dog from a fire chief's recorded speech. I accomplished this removing every one of them and for extra measure, I strung all the dog's barks together at the end of the speech. I think the dog ended up having a longer speech than the chief.

Another benefit of studying with these men was it allowed me to be absent during final exams. Family friend and director Paul Stanley hired me onto the CBS TV movie Sole Survivor which called for me to be out in the California desert for about a month while shooting on El Mirage dry lake bed with a B-25 bomber. Having professors who were directly involved with the production allowed me to take my final exams while on location.

James Crabbe (Rocky, Karate Kid 1 & 2) was the director of photography on that production and he was always interesting to watch as he did his job effortlessly and with unparalleled equanimity. Nothing seemed to bother him. Steve Shagan (Save the Tiger, The Formula) was the executive producer. Steve was also a writer who wrote novels on which some of the films he produced were based.

My most frequent dinner companion during that month was actor Alan Caillou who had been with the Palestine Police in the 1930s and joined the British Army's Intelligence Corps during World War II. He operated behind enemy lines in Libya and Tunisia which resonated with the story of the movie we were making. Alan drove a cycle-fendered Bentley wearing goggles with the windshield folded down and I had often seen him driving around the San Fernando Valley. His stories recounted to me over dinner and margaritas in the dining room of The Green Tree Inn were quite vivid and memorable. Though I drank one for every two of his margaritas at these dinners, all I can say is it was a good thing I could walk back to my room at the end of the evening.

Being the director, Paul was able to have his car--a pristine, 1959 fuel-injected Corvette--on the location and did some high-speed runs on El Mirage on weekends. My GTO remained at home obliged, as I was, to use studio transportation. When I wasn't being regaled by Alan, I was usually having dinner with Paul who would fill me in on the behind-the-scenes developments of the production. Steve Shagan and Richard Basehart, one of the movies' starring actors, would stop by the table for a few words.

I managed straight As in all my cinema courses and also in my Italian class. As for the rest of the curriculum, I couldn't be bothered. I took what I needed and left the rest behind. And so it was that, on some evenings, I didn't attend classes choosing another form of education in its place--one that has continued to serve me well, if truth be told.

What did I do instead of going to class? I drove the GTO to one of three different nearby drive-in movie theaters in the Valley where I would see a double bill featuring movies that inform my taste to this day. You could say I was taking supplemental cinema courses.

Would that I could take the GTO to a drive-in today.

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