GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cameron Mitchell, Zen and the Berlinetta Lusso

In the second half of the 60s, I was constantly looking for reasons to take road trips. This habit began when I acquired a 3.8-litre, Series 1 E-Type Jaguar coupe--probably one of the most beautiful cars ever made--and carried on through my ownership of two other magnificent cars, the Ferrari Berlinetta Lusso and the Ferrari GTO. On one particular occasion, I drove the Lusso to Tuscon, Arizona where my friend and mentor Paul Stanley was directing an episode of the television series The High Chaparral.

The show was a western drama starring Leif Erickson and Cameron Mitchell created by David Dortort, who had created the hit series Bonanza also for NBC. It was filmed at Old Tucson Studios, a movie studio and theme park that put on the sort of western shows one would see at Knott's Berry Farm when production companies weren't filming.

They say that getting there is half the fun and when the vehicle is a Berlinetta Lusso, one could accept that claim as understatement. No other engine sounds like a Ferrari V12 and the long stretches of road between Los Angeles and Tuscon made for a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the Ferrari's uninterrupted song at high revs for such prolonged periods of time. I especially liked the way the tightly sprung suspension caused the fenders to bob as the Lusso consumed the pavement in front of it traveling at twice the speed of other cars on the road. When I would stop to fill the tank at a service station, I had the same curious feeling I would get after spending time on my sailboat--that of still traveling at speed the way I could still feel the rocking of the boat long after I had come ashore.

I enjoyed watching Paul shoot as he was always well prepared ("Preparation, preparation, preparation!" Don Logan, Sexy Beast) and knew what he wanted. He seemed to enjoy good relations with his actors and crew though I noticed he was not averse to showing his displeasure in a manner that brought things quickly back to how they should be when it was merited.

One day on the set, I was having lunch with Cameron Mitchell and Harry Dean Stanton (who was guest starring on the episode) at a table set up by craft services on the western street. They were both in their western costumes and the subject turned to Zen. It seemed Cameron had become interested in the subject and I had the impression that Harry Dean was familiar with the teachings of Zen as well. In explaining Zen to me, Cameron picked up a pack of cigarettes and threw it onto the table. "That's Zen," he said.

Whether Cameron's was the most Zen-like explanation of Zen ever given or merely a hint of what he understood Zen to be didn't matter. His explanation stuck with me as a reference and how many things said to you can you recall with vivid clarity after forty-seven years?

On the way home, I found my own Zen at 7,000 r.p.m.

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