Why Hannah Montana Co-Creator Rich Correll built a horror museum
In today’s star-powered episode, we get the chance to sit down with the remarkably accomplished and charismatic Rich Correll. He’s a successful sitcom creator and director, TV actor, writer, producer, author, and collector whose 2,900-piece private collection of sci-fi, fantasy and horror film memorabilia is famed as the largest in the world, and the only of its kind.
Join us as Rich shares exclusive and almost unbelievable stories from his charmed childhood growing up next door to the Playboy Mansion and having neighbors and close friends such as Walt Disney, Hugh Hefner, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, Carol Burnett, Fred Astaire, and Jerry Lewis, just to name a few.
Rich takes us on a journey from his start co-starring in Leave It to Beaver to eventually directing his 719th episode of television. He’s directed and produced some of the most well-known sitcoms in history, including Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Full House, Family Matters, Married… With Children, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and the show that he created with Miley Cyrus, Hannah Montana, and he doesn’t have plans of stopping anytime soon.
Tune in for a wild ride as we cover everything from his crippling fear of needles, to throwing epic 8,000 person Halloween parties, and his passionate commitment to preserving history.
Please hit the play button at the top of the page, and thank you for tuning in to today’s enthralling episode.
In this Episode
[01:52] Jason and Rich begin the show among a slew of spooky iconic guests. Rich introduces the lifecasts and props he brought to today’s show, and his role in preserving and collecting these acclaimed figures from movies that include Dracula, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Batman Returns, and Thor: The Dark World.
[06:37] Jason and Rich go more in depth about his enormous collection of film memorabilia and how they’re being exhibited at Icons of Darkness in Hollywood. Rich is also planning on opening a Horror and Sci-Fi Hall of Fame at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
[07:58] Rich reminisces on his love of horror and sci-fi that began as a child, and how he started collecting lifecasts and props while acting on Leave It to Beaver and getting tours of the makeup labs at Universal. He also reflects on the value of his hobby in terms of preservation, and the joy it brings him.
[13:13] Jason wants to know if Rich ever got into a bidding war while trying to acquire a piece, and who’s selling the movie props, costumes, and lifecasts. Rich lists a couple notable props he’s won at auction from The Silence of the Lambs and Jurassic Park.
[14:52] Jason asks Rich if he knows of any other sizable collections, and if museums ever contact him. Rich shares a story of how the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures tried to get him to donate some effects heads when someone picked up Harold Lloyd’s makeup kit at his house.
[17:05] Rich further explains how his collection and preservation efforts have rewarded him by being able to see the fascination and appreciation through fans of the films, and even the son of Stan Winston, who created a lot of the articles in his exhibit.
[18:11] Jason and Rich talk about the big Halloween celebrations that take place around Toluca Lake. Jason shares a story about the thousands of people they see on the streets during that season, and Rich recounts the massive parties he and his friends would throw in the area as well.
[21:01] Jason is interested about Rich’s upbringing among Hollywood superstars. Since Rich’s dad was half of the original iconic duo of Amos ‘n’ Andy, he had a ton of famous neighbors and family friends such as Walt Disney, Judy Garland, and Humphrey Bogart, and many more.
[24:28] Rich remembers the times he spent with Walt Disney riding the Carolwood Express in Walt’s backyard, attending the ribbon cutting ceremony at Disneyland, and the time Walt gave him some costuming and makeup tips for a replica of Frankenstein’s monster that Rich was creating in his parent’s basement.
[26:54] Rich also mentions his father’s table at Chasen’s was between Lucille Ball’s and Jimmy Stewart’s. Jason comments that it was just a normal life for them. Rich agrees and divulges his exclusive Catholic school education and being drawn to directing when he started acting as a kid.
[29:03] Rich informs us that he was in the same classes as George Lucas and John Carpenter when he was going to USC and before Lucas created Star Wars. He tells a quick anecdote of riding along in Lucas’ Porsche through campus.
[29:40] Jason inquires about how Rich made his directorial debut. Rich traces his journey back to meeting Harold Lloyd and helping him preserve his 35mm film collection. He recalls working his way up from editing, music coordinating, writing, producing, and eventually, directing through various classic hit shows like The Sonny and Cher Show, Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, and The Hogan Family.
[35:29] Jason is curious if directing was stressful for Rich when he first started. Rich explains the ease of it due to having already built a solid repertoire with the cast of The Hogan Family as a producer. He describes the great fun everyone had on the sets he worked on.
[36:57] Jason shares his Happy Days experience with Rich. Cathy Silvers’ daughter is a friend of Jason’s son and Cathy dropped by to pick her up once.
[37:51] Jason and Rich talk about the various sitcoms he directed in the ‘80s through 2000s. Rich gives us a fun fact that he’s one of the only directors to have had three shows on the same network airing consecutively during the primetime block of ABC’s TGIF.
[39:27] Rich reinforces the fact that he was a co-creator of Disney’s Hannah Montana. He discusses Miley Cyrus’ growth as an actress and her lasting impact on the show having the same energy as Henry Winkler on Happy Days, Robin Williams on Mork & Mindy, Jaleel White on Family Matters, and the Olsen twins on Full House.
[45:42] Rich credits his good luck for allowing him to be at the right place at the right time throughout his life and career. Jason brings up his son’s attempts at landing his big break in the acting world, and Rich expresses encouraging words so Jason’s son won’t give up on his dreams.
[47:54] Jason invites Rich to our signature segment “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart.” Rich fascinates us with more enriching stories about his favorite childhood memory, what he loves about his parents, the best concert he’s ever attended, and the best birthday he’s ever celebrated, the scariest movies he’s seen, and much more.
[59:53] Jason wishes he could go back in time and hang out with Rich throughout the extraordinary life he continues to live. Rich gives us the location of Icons of Darkness, the exhibit where we can go and see his vast collection and meet him. They exchange thank yous and end today’s episode.
Jason Hennessey: All right. Well, I’ve got the pleasure of having Rich Correll in the studio. Thank you for coming down here.
Rich Correll: Thanks, Jason. Happy to be here.
And so, when I walked into the studio, I noticed that it looks like a horror scene from a movie, like a sci-fi movie or something. And I imagine that these aren’t things that you just go to Walmart and purchase.
No, no, no, no. I spent my whole career in comedy, but my hobby has been collecting science fiction, fantasy, and horror film memorabilia. So, this has now turned into the biggest collection in the world.
And when I talked to your folks about coming down, I just said, “Do you want me to bring some stuff?” And they went, “Yeah, sure.” So, this was just stuff that was laying around the house.
Just laying around the house.
And I don’t live in The Addams Family house, I live in a completely normal house. But collectors and auction houses approach me like three times a week because I collect so much stuff, so I had some things here I thought you might think are fun and recognize.
Of course. Well, for those that are just tuning in from the audio only version, there’s about six or seven pieces here. Why don’t we go through ‘em. It looks like they’re guests on the podcast episode.
I’m going to share my mic with this guy right here. So let’s start with him.
Okay. The first guy you’re looking at is Bela Lugosi. That’s how he appeared in 1931 when Dracula came out, on February 31. That’s made off his lifecast, so that’s as close to his real head as you’re ever going to find. And I have guys put these things together for me to do punch, terror, acrylic teeth, glass eyes. So, that’s really Lugosi’s head as he was in Dracula, which was his most famous role.
The guy next to him is Robert Englund appearing as Freddy Krueger. And that head’s from Freddy III. Now, Robert Englund was a Shakespearean actor who a lot of people think he was British. He wasn’t, he’s an American, but he was the Shakespearean actor who happened to take over this one part as Freddy Krueger. And then in the ’80s, those movies, the Nightmare on Elm Street movies took off. So, he became like the Boris Karloff of the ’80s and early ’90. And he’s the nicest, nicest guy.
Most of the villains were always really nice guys.
It’s usually that way.
But he was super nice. I directed him in a show called Married… With Children and he played the devil. And he was hilarious, but he was the nicest guy. Great to my son.
Yeah, I see.
They made a number of these in various stages of deterioration. This is one of the later ones and it’s starting to fall apart. I mean, they did that on purpose.
But this is one of the originals. I have her whole suit and that’s on a display down in Hollywood. The coolest thing at the table is this hammer. There’s this great, big sledgehammer here. Okay. Did you see Misery?
It’s not. Okay. I get it.
This is a foam head.
Did you see the movie Misery…
The most famous scene in that is the hobbling scene where she breaks his feet.
This is the sledgehammer she uses to break his feet.
That’s the exact sledgehammer.
Oh my God.
Yeah, I just think that’s so cool.
It is cool.
You can see, I get very excited about these things. I’m like a little kid.
You’re like a kid…
Oh, yeah. I just love it.
…in an adult body. It’s so cool to see this. Yes.
And then I have a hammer sitting in front of me which is one of Thor’s hammers. One of the original screen-used hammers.
This one happens to be from Dark World, which was made in 2013. All of these hammers, and there’s a number of them, are actually really heavy. Some of them, they used to drop on pavement and they actually break stuff. And then some of them are lighter ones. But this happens to be one of the heavy ones. So, this is one of his screen-used hammers.
This little guy over here is a, I have another head here from, this is from a movie called Gremlins.
That’s actually from Gremlins.
Well, not only that, that’s the hero-bad guy. That’s Stripe with his Mohawk haircut. That’s one of Stripe’s original puppet heads from Gremlins.
And I love that. And then last but not least, certainly is Boris Karloff’s lifecast and makeup as the monster from Frankenstein. That’s also in 1931. Karloff was a player who’d made something like 80 movies before he got this break and played the monster. He didn’t speak and people thought, “Ah, is this going to be any big deal?” And of course, it launched his career and he became the most famous face in the history of horror movies.
And there was another nice guy, great guy. I got to meet him three times, and each time he just was such a nice guy. The furthest thing from a monster you could think. I mean, he was this British gentleman that was just such a great guy. He liked kids and if you knew about his movies, he would just talk to you about all of them. It was really cool.
So, that’s some of the stuff I brought down here. A cross-section of things from the ‘80s, from the ‘30s, from the ‘90s, and then the 2000s here. So, you have a lot of stuff here.
Well, first of all, thank you for bringing all this stuff in. This is so cool.
Happy to do it. I love showing this stuff to people.
Yes, it is too cool. So now, you brought in about six or seven pieces, right?
So, now how big is your entire collection, would you say?
It’s about 2,800-2,900 pieces.
And so, is most of this in your house or where do you store this?
No, none of it’s in the house really.
It’s stored mostly in a warehouse in Columbus, Ohio. Why Columbus, Ohio? I have a partner there who makes these pneumatic things that walk around and jump at people, like walking with dinosaurs and things like that. And he and I are going to start a Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Hall of Fame together.
Yeah. He builds all these really cool things. And so, he stores most of that stuff down there. And then, I also have an exhibit right now on Hollywood Boulevard called Icons of Darkness.
Yeah, that’s right down there on Hollywood and Highland right now. There’s a lot of stuff in there and people come in and they say, “Oh my gosh, there’s so much stuff. Look at all this stuff.” And it’s about 50% of it really.
So, when did that open?
That opened on the 27th of September so we’d be open for Halloween.
Right before Halloween.
Huh. And is it going to stay open?
Well, that’s what’s going to move up. It’s going to move next to the Chinese Theater.
And then become the Hall of Fame?
The Hall of Fame. Yeah, like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame except science fiction, fantasy and horror movies.
And when do you expect that to open up to the public?
Probably, I’m hoping it’ll open before summer.
Summertime. When the tourist things really start going.
So now, this is, it’s obviously a pure passion of yours.
Right? And I’m curious, when did this passion start?
Well, I was always crazy about science fiction and horror movies. My favorite movie was King Kong, the 1933 one.
I saw that, I freaked out. I was probably in second or third grade. I just figured, “Hey, these guys can transport me into this other world. I got to be in this business.” I ended up in comedy, not making horror movies, but still it’s really the thing that was the catalyst to get me in the show business. I just loved that movie.
I always loved Halloween and scary stuff. My parents thought I was crazy. They weren’t into any of that at all, but I always loved wax museums and heads and masks and everything.
So, when I was a kid, I collected a few Halloween masks, whatever I could afford, but then when I started working as an actor, and that’s when I was 8 years old, I started working as a professional actor. One of the shows that I got cast on as a regular was Leave It to Beaver. Now, you may be too young to remember.
Oh, no. Everybody remembers Leave It to Beaver.
When you tell people you were in the original Leave It to Beaver cast, they go, “How old is this guy?” Because that’s a vintage TV show.
But anyway, Jerry Mathers who played Beaver, he and I were great friends and we loved horror movies. And here we were at Universal where they made all these movies. So, we kept bugging our makeup men. I was like, “Can you take us to the makeup lab? Take us to the makeup lab. Come on. Come on.”
And you’re like a 9-year-old kid at this point?
Oh, yeah. Nine, ten, something like that.
So, they finally took us up to the lab. And of course, we were in heaven. We saw all these lifecasts and heads from the movies. But the thing that we noticed, especially me, was they were throwing all this stuff in the trash. And those days, no one cared about preserving this old stuff. They made those things to be used in a movie, maybe good for two or three months. And then they would put it on a shelf and let the stuff deteriorate.
I saw them throw the land suit from Creature from the Black Lagoon. Now that’s a 3D movie that Universal made in 1954. They threw that suit in the trash just because they just went, “Nah, it’s taking up space and it’s beginning to fall apart.” Today at auction, that’s worth about a million and six.
Yeah. That’s what I was going to say. They were doing this before the thing called eBay, right?
Oh-oh. Yeah, no. No one ever heard of any of that, but they threw that in the trash. If you fished it out of the trash, you would have been a millionaire just like that. But anyway, I saw a head in the trash from the movie called Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
And it was like a Mr. Hyde head, a half-mask, a foam half-mask. Karloff played Jekyll and Hyde. So, I knew what it was. And I said to this guy, I don’t know, some guy standing behind the counter. I said, “Hey, can I take that?” It’s a little kid.
“Yeah, sure. It’s in the trash,” before someone threw coffee on it or something.
And that’s what started. I still have that, by the way.
That was your first piece?
That’s the first piece. That’s what started all the movie collecting. And as a kid, there wasn’t much you could do. I was a very honest guy. I wasn’t going to run through the makeup labs and take stuff.
I mean, I can tell you stories about stuff that we saw that I wish I had had my hands on.
Yeah. Now, right?
Oh, just unbelievable. But I started collecting and it just turned into this hobby and then it got fun. And then I showed more stuff to my friends and, “Oh, it’s really cool you have this.” Then it became bigger and bigger and bigger.
And then, when I started to do more work and I could actually afford things, I started buying stuff from makeup effects guys and then auctions, these auction houses started auctioning all this stuff. So, it’s really been fun. And it’s also cool because there’s a preservation aspect to it.
Because a lot of this stuff would have been junked, and now somebody took it, and I have a whole crew of people that refurbish stuff for me and everything. And so, I’m preserving a lot of it and I’m having a lot of fun doing it.
And people come along and they see this stuff and they freak out because people remember where they were when they saw The Exorcist and they saw Batman and all that stuff. So, I’m just having a blast doing it. It’s really cool. I’ve been doing it for years and years, years now. So, it’s this huge collection of stuff.
I mean, this is part of our culture here. Right? And I guess my question to you though is you’ve got so much of this, but none of this stuff could really be replaced. Right? So, how does that work? Do you insure this stuff?
Everything’s insured, yeah.
It’s insured, yeah.
Yeah. But you know, it’s funny, Jason, with a lot of these movies, they make more than one piece. Like Freddy heads, they made nine Freddy movies. Then they made Freddy vs. Jason. Then they made a Freddy TV series. So, things like Freddy gloves and sweaters and hats, there were just so many of them that if you bought them when they first came out onto the auction market, they would be very, very expensive. And the more they stayed out, the less expensive they became.
The same with Batman and things like that. I mean, when Warner Brothers made the movie in ’89, they made 11 of those suits. Four of them were just for the stunt team. So, they made a whole bunch of these suits. Some were production-made, some were screen-used, but after a while, the more of them that circulate-
I mean, a collection like this can appreciate or depreciate. It depends. It depends on what the current climate is and it depends on what people will pay for it.
So, what would you say is one of the most fascinating pieces that you got that you had to go on a crazy bidding war for?
When you don’t care what it’s going to cost and you’re competing with people like Paul Allen, that can be a big problem. A big problem, because he was a big collector too. I have the muzzle mask they take Lecter off the plane with in The Silence of the Lambs.
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I mean, I’ve got the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, most of…
The full ones.
You do? Okay.
So that’s pretty cool. And so, people love to see that stuff. Like the T. Rex head that comes down, and tries to take the kids out of the car. I’ve got that. It’s on Hollywood Boulevard.
You can see it down there. There’s things that I really, really wanted. In most cases, the stuff I really wanted, I was able to get. I mean, right now the only dinosaur that’s ever been up for auction that I don’t have is The Spitter from Jurassic Park.
That was sold at a pretty good price but I had purchased so many of the dinosaurs. I was running out of money.
So, who’s selling these things? Is it the actual movie production companies or?
Well, like in the case of the dinosaurs, that stuff was built by Stan Winston and the Stan Winston Company. Then he had a 7-year license to be able to hold onto it. Then they were allowed to sell his personal copies of the stuff, even though they were screen used.
And then they went into what’s called a “public forum,” which is an auction, which makes everything you buy legal.
So, if you buy something at an auction, then you can display it to the public for money if it’s sold at an auction because it’s a public forum.
Now, how many collectors are there that’s at your level, would you say? Is there like five people that come to mind that have a big collection like you?
Yeah, five or six of them and then there’s a lot more people that collect, but not at the same level. And then there’s people who just collect Jaws, just collect Harry Potter, just collect Aliens. It’s that kind of thing too.
And is any of your pieces ever for sale?
No. I’ve never traded or sold a piece in 55 years.
Not once. No. Anything that goes to me, and this is one of the reasons I think the effects guys liked me is because they knew their stuff wasn’t going to end up on eBay or something.
Huh. Do museums contact you?
All the time.
I’d imagine. Right?
The new Academy Museum, my wife and I are benefactors of that. So, we were there from the beginning and they, I mean, actually donated Harold Lloyd‘s makeup kit. Harold Lloyd was a very, very famous silent movie comedian, but that’s, again, all comedy.
They came over to the house to pick up the makeup kit and they saw some of this stuff and they said, “What is this?” We have a theater and there’s, like, 27 effects heads in there. And I said, “Oh, this is the other stuff I collect.” And they said, “Oh well, would you donate that?” And I went, “No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, I’ve got other plans for it because I’m going to do my own.”
But I like the Academy and we work with them. That’s the only other museum that I know of. You know what’s really strange is in the history of the movies, and that history started around 1895. That’s when movies were invented and people thought they were some novelty. By 1903, 1904, people were going to nickelodeons.
In the history of the movies, the single most successful, continuing genre has always been science fiction and horror. It’s never not made money, it’s never gone out of style, it’s always been this mainstay for the business and nobody has ever paid tribute to any of that stuff. Nobody. No one’s ever had this size of collection and no one’s ever had a Hall of Fame replace the paid tribute to these movies. So, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Ah, I see.
I’m trying to build this place that does that.
So, it’s a Hollywood thing from a guy who’s been entrenched in Hollywood, even though my life was about comedy.
Yeah. So, what satisfies you? You’ve invested a lot of time, money, resources to building this collection. Does it really make you feel whole if somebody goes to Hollywood Boulevard walks in and is blown away by one of your pieces? Is that what drives you or what?
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s really fun if you can share it.
You like to share your passion with other people. So, I think that’s really fun. And again, I like it when people go, “Oh my gosh. I remember where I was when I saw this and this is great.” But then there’s people who come to it. Like for instance, Stan Winston passed away 13 years ago and his son is a good friend of mine. His son came in to see this exhibit and it actually made him misty.
Because it was a tribute to his dad. There was so much Stan Winston stuff.
There it is.
And that means something too, the preservation aspect of it and the fact that I believe that Hollywood should be paying tribute to my favorite genre stuff, I want to be part of that.
You’re preserving history.
Yeah. So, I really like that. That’s part of it that’s really fulfilling.
I love that. So, it’s interesting. So, I grew up in New York. Right? And then we moved to LA as a family. My family wasn’t raised in New York. We moved all over the place. Lived in Atlanta.
In LA? We moved here in 2015.
So, you’re newbies.
We’re really new. Right?
And so, where we ended up stationing ourself was in Toluca Lake. Right? And then Halloween came, and you know as well as I do what Halloween means, if you’re in Toluca Lake.
I was in Toluca Lake in 1969, ’70, ’71, ’72 and ’73. And we put on one of the biggest Halloween shows you could imagine.
Right on the corner of Toluca Lake Avenue and Mariota.
And we did a thing on a guy’s roof.
Where we did a whole stage show, which was very, very elaborate. Halloween to me has always been the best day of the year. And I- Now, at our house, it’s this really famous- We have like 8,000 people show up.
Yeah, yeah. We do. I mean, it’s crazy. The whole place is decorated from the roof to every window, just stuff in the French doors. And we actually designed the front of my house for Halloween.
Do you? Well, that’s what I’m saying. So, when we went trick or treating, not realizing what this is like. And so, we went to this area called Toluca Lake Estates where they literally close it down and there’s thousands of people just walking around.
Yeah, it’s so cool.
Right? And I’m just like, “What is happening right now?” People go out, they got boats. I’d imagine that’s what you’ve been living here.
Well, as I said, we used to do it in Toluca Lake. I mean, Toluca Lake was a huge Halloween deal.
Yeah, and that’s what we’ve been living. It’s such a big deal. And by the way, what’s funny is some of the neighbors, they love it. And then some of the neighbors are like, “Uh-oh, not this guy again.”
Want nothing to do with it.
“We’re not going to do this again, are we?” Because their tree lawns get trampled and everything else.
Yeah. It’s really cool. Toluca Lake’s the best. That’s a great place.
It is the best, right?
And I think LA is probably one of the few places where you have Halloween stores, like in Burbank, that’s open all year round too. Right?
Yeah. Well, yeah. The Halloweentown, friends of mine run that place.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Of course. Yeah. But you’re right. Yeah, there’s places that are all year round. They have Halloween, so it’s cool.
And I want to talk about your Halloween parties, but before I do that, I want to go back. Right? So, was Halloween always your favorite holiday?
Yeah. Oh, sure.
Even as a kid? Yeah.
As I said, my parents couldn’t figure it out.
Something about the orange and black and the pumpkins and candle, I don’t know what it was.
It’s our family’s favorite holiday too. Yeah, like my whole family. My son’s huge-
If you talk to a lot of people over the years, you’re going to find out it’s a lot of people’s favorite Holiday.
People like to get dressed up and be somebody else for a while, yeah.
It’s really cool.
So, you grew up in Hollywood?
Okay. What was that like? Mom and dad, tell me a little bit more.
Well, my father and his partner were the two most successful radio comedians in history.
They started on the air with Amos ‘n’ Andy in 1928 and they were on until 1961. So for 33 years, they had the number one radio show in the country.
So, we lived in this neighborhood in a place called Holmby Hills. And we had this large estate, a lot of property. My father, by the way, is extremely humble, kind, really nice guy. He should have been my grandfather because when I was born, he was 58.
So, I never knew him as a really young guy. But anyway, we lived in this house, and around us, all of these neighbors, I mean, if you were a younger guy, you would probably know a lot of them, but it was Alan Ladd, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Humphrey Bogart, and Lauren Bacall.
In the neighborhood.
These were our direct neighbors.
Is that right?
When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with him, yeah.
Yeah. And then the people who founded the Bank of America, those were our neighbors.
Huh. And is this just, where, in Beverly Hills?
Yeah. Our house was about seven doors away, but doors meaning, these were big properties, from the Playboy Mansion.
What was that like? Right? Because now you see all these people on TV as does all of America. Right? But then you get to hang out with them out of character as individuals. What was that like?
It was a blast. I mean, I just finished a book about my life.
I hope people are interested. I don’t know.
But the thing is about it, Jason, I was super lucky. I was lucky to be brought up where I was brought up. I was lucky to have parents who were entrenched in Hollywood who were normal people. And then, the people around us and the people we grew up with, my brother and sisters and I, I think we- I mean, we knew who they were, but we appreciated who they were.
So, if you had dinner with Fred Astaire or Bob Hope or you were sitting down with- I mean, I was playing football on Judy Garland’s back lawn with Johnny Luft, that was her step-son, this is when she was married to Sid Luft. And we went into the kitchen. And of course everyone, you never called her Judy. She was Mrs. Luft. I mean, everybody had to be very polite. This is the way we were raised.
But she was making soup and she was just in the kitchen. So, Johnny and I went in there and we got ourselves some cookies or something and we were eating. And he got up to go do something. I don’t know what he was doing. So, I was down there with just Judy and I said to her, “Mrs. Luft, I saw your movie last night.” Because The Wizard of Oz had just been on TV.
By the way, the first four times I ever saw it, I thought it was a black and white movie because nobody had color TV.
Nobody saw it in color. Anyway I said, “I saw your movie.” And she said, “Oh, that’s fine, honey.” I was a little kid. And I said, “Hey, will you sing that song for me ‘Over The Rainbow’?”
And while she [Judy Garland] was making soup and I was eating cookies in her kitchen, she sang “Over The Rainbow” for me.
Now, if you tell that to people, they even think you’re out of your mind.
Yeah or dream. It sounds like a dream, right?
Yeah, or you’re making it up or something. But this is the kind of stuff that would happen all the time. I mean, Walt Disney. We used to go to his house and ride this thing called The Carolwood Express. He lived on a street called Carolwood.
And it was a miniature steam train, his house was five acres, and he built this train that went around his whole property and went over gorges and it had bridges and all this stuff. And it was all in miniature but it was a real steam train and he was the conductor. He’d come and say, “Are you guys having fun? Let’s go on a ride.” He was like a big kid himself.
We would do that all the time. And then, when he cut the ribbon for Disneyland, my sister and I were like 10 feet away from him because he had invited our family down to go with him to the opening of Disneyland. I’d been there on a number of occasions when the-
So, how old were you when Disneyland opened then?
You were 6 years old. And you remember that?
I remember it really well.
Yeah, and I also remember that it was 105.
And everybody was- The longest line in the park was the Carnation pavilion so people could get something to drink and yeah, I remember all that stuff. I remember the Jungle Cruise. I mean, it’s the same. It was the same as it was 60 years ago. So, I remember a lot of the stuff.
I mean, and we had a great time with him. I set up as a kid when I was 10 or 12 years old, I set up a thing in the basement of our house, which was, again, it was a Frankenstein. I mean, I took my dad’s clothes and stuffed them with newspapers and put some cheap mask on it, and made it like a Frankenstein lab.
And on Sundays, dad would have these big parties. He would barbecue chicken in the afternoons. People would go swimming and then they had these barbecues. And I asked Ozzie Nelson from Ozzie and Harriet, Ricky Nelson‘s dad, and I asked him and Walt Disney if they would come into the basement and look at this thing I set up.
And of course my mom was horrified thinking, “Oh my God, you can’t invite people into our basement. Are you out of your mind?” So, I did it anyway. And I took them down there and showed them this thing. And Walt Disney said to me, “You have a little too much orange in one area and not enough light on this monster, so let me help you.” Ozzie had gone upstairs.
And here I was in the basement of my house with this thing I had set up, and Walt Disney and I were switching out all the lights to get a better look at it.
What the hell.
It’s like, how lucky is that? I mean, I told you, I was really lucky.
We knew everybody.
So, we would come in to have dinner and that’s who’s sitting there talking to you.
But for you, it’s just normal life.
It was a normal life.
Just normal life.
Our family was Catholic. So, my mom was a professional Catholic. We went to Catholic schools. The first non-Catholic school I went to was USC. I went to college.
Oh, you did?
And that was the non-Catholic school, but everything else was Catholic. So, everybody had to be really polite and everybody had to be dressed nicely. And if you went out to dinner, everything was in a suit and tie.
I can remember when they used- So tickets and theaters, and if we went with our parents like to The Ten Commandments or something, we had to wear a suit and tie to go to the movies.
So, it was a whole different time. But it was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun.
It sounds sure like it, man.
It was a blast.
I wish I was a fly on the wall for some of these stories that you’re sharing here. So now you get out of adolescence and now you become a teenager. Right?
And so, what was life like as a teenager for you?
Life was great as a teenager. I always had fun. Again, I was at a Catholic school. I went to Loyola, which was an all male school. So, anytime we could be around the Catholic high school girls or anybody else, this was a lot of fun. Great time. But I stayed- I always was directing shows or directing my own stuff or-
So, as a teenager, you already knew what you wanted to do?
When I was 9 or 10 years old, I knew what I wanted to do.
Yeah. And then when I started acting-
And it was in front of the camera or behind the camera?
When I started acting, I was much more interested in what was going on behind the camera.
Behind the camera. Okay.
And I didn’t say, “Oh, I want to be a director so I can direct everybody.” But I was always fascinated by the directors because they had their hands on everything. And I like that. I liked that responsibility and I liked doing that kind of stuff. I was dating and having fun and then I got into USC, and that was all cinema arts. I was a cinema arts major.
They went to the same school as you?
And he said, “Oh, this is a muscle car,” he said to me. Yeah, I bought it. No, it wasn’t a muscle car.
But he loved cars. He didn’t talk about science fiction.
And he had this secondhand Porsche. And he said, “I’m going to take you on a ride around the campus.”
Wow, man. Fascinating.
Yeah, it’s really cool.
So, you then graduated USC.
Okay. And then what happened? How did you make your debut into the directing world?
Well, while I was still a teenager, I met Harold Lloyd who had been in business with my dad in 1940. They started a radio station called KMPC. And so, Lloyd, I didn’t know too much about him because his films had been vaulted for so many years and I was able to see some of his films in the early ‘60s and I just loved him.
So, I met Harold Lloyd. This guy was one of the nicest people in the world. And so, what happened was I started taking care of his nitrate film collection and getting everything transferred from nitrate to safety film. Now, nitrate 35 millimeters is what they made all the old movies on. But that’s a really volatile stock that shrinks, it deteriorates, and it also is really flammable. So, you want to save all of that stuff.
So, I started working for him and that allowed me to become hands-on with 35-millimeter film. So, I knew about printers, and projectors, and soundtracks, and emulsion types, negatives, positives, all that stuff.
You’re getting real-world experience even before you set foot into college.
I got on-the-job experience being really lucky to have worked for Harold Lloyd. But first of all, we were preserving a very, very important American film collection. And second of all, it gave me all of this hands-on experience with labs and film and everything.
So, when I got out of college, the first thing I did was I went back to work at the Lloyd estate because Harold died just about the time I was graduating. But then I went to Time Life Films because Time Life Films had bought his catalog.
And I started doing more editing and dubbing and all this stuff. So, I had a really good 35 post-production background.
So, that was interesting. Hee Haw was shot in Nashville but it was posted in LA. The Sonny and Cher Show was really interesting. That was done at CBS. From there, I went to 20th Century Fox and worked on a show called That’s Hollywood which was produced by the guy that made That’s Entertainment, Jack Haley Jr.
And again, it was about being an archivist, film history, putting together clips of shows. And from there, a friend of mine, who I knew really well, had been over working with Gary Marshall as a music coordinator at Paramount on Gary shows, and they were moving him up to become the associate producer of Mork & Mindy.
And he just called me and said, “Do you want to come to Paramount and do this job as a…
Gary called you?
…music coordinator?” No, yeah, for Gary Marshall. And I said, “Are you kidding?” I was in the right place at the right time.
So, I went over to Paramount, I started working as a music coordinator. They started to realize- Gary Marshall and his family who ran- I mean, they had The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy. I mean, they were hot, hot. Like white hot.
They began to realize that I was a guy with post experience. And in those days, everything was shot on film and posted on film. Everything was all 35-millimeter.
And a woman named Ronny Hallin, Ronny Hallin Marshall, that’s Gary’s older sister, not Penny. She took a liking to me and said, “We want you to go down and dub a couple of the shows.” I’d been there for like 6 months doing this music coordinating thing. I played guitar and drums and-
…I have a musical background. But they said, “Go down and dub some of these shows because we’re looking for someone to fill in, take over as associate producer of Laverne & Shirley. Now, Laverne & Shirley was the number two show in the country.
I remember it.
It was like, “Really?” So again, they liked my work. Ronny Hallin advanced me. I became associate producer of Laverne & Shirley. That led to becoming associate producer and then the line producer of Happy Days.
I met a guy named Fred Fox Jr. who was one of the writers. He and I started writing together. I wrote a number of Happy Day shows. I ended up being one of the writers up at the tables.
And I worked for Gary for like 7 and a half years. I mean, Robin Williams used to come in- My first office at Paramount, I swear to God this is true, was like a broom closet.
Every story he tells, is like it gets just so much better.
And Robin Williams when he was just starting, I mean, not even a lot of people didn’t know who he was, used to come up. I think he felt sorry for me. I was in this closet. I had a desk. And to get to the desk, you had to climb over stuff. But I had all of these photographs of vintage comedians that had worked at Paramount. And he used to come in and sit down and just hang out. Talk to me about the guys on the wall and the Amos ‘n’ Andy radio and TV shows, and all this stuff. Robin was the best. He was so sweet.
Great guy. So again, that was just totally lucky. And so, from there, I started producing. I stayed with Gary for 7 years, and then one of his partners was a guy named Tom Miller.
It was Miller, Milkis, and Marshall did the Happy Days shows and all that. And Tom Miller formed a partnership with a guy named Bob Boyett. It was Miller-Boyett. Miller-Boyett left Paramount, went to Lorimar. They took me with them as a line producer.
The first show we ever did was called Valerie, which was The Valerie Harper Show, which became The Hogan Family. And while we were doing The Hogan Family, which I was producing, they asked me, there was an opening for a director and they said, “Do you want to direct?” I mean, I knew the ins and outs of it. I said, “Sure. I’d been an actor.”
Oh my God. 700.
So, I’ve done 719 episodes.
Do you remember the first time you got asked to be the director? Was that stressful? It’s like you are now the man. Right?
Well, I mean, see the thing that was really lucky, Jason, is the shows that I started directing had been shows that I was producing.
Oh. So, you already had, I got it.
If the cast liked you, and most of those people were really friendly. Valerie Harper was great, Sandy Duncan was great, Jason Bateman was great. They were all great. They were really nice people. If they like you and you’re coming in to do their show, everybody wants you to do well.
Sure, sure, sure.
So, you find that most of these people are on their best behavior.
I got it.
No one was copying attitudes and all this other stuff.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
And so, we just had a great time and it went well. I’d do lots of homework. I’m really prepped.
Gary appreciated that, Tom and Bob appreciated that, the studio appreciated that.
Yeah. And so, did the audience that was watching it. Right? Yeah.
I did so many live, in front of audience shows. That was so much fun to do these live shows. Oh, yeah. It’s a blast. And the sitcoms we did, a lot of people think a lot of that’s canned laughter, uh-uh.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
He’d come into the scene, like, walk into Arnold’s, people would give him an ovation that was so long, we would have to cut half of it. So, it’s not only that we were not using canned stuff, we actually were cutting some of the stuff that was real.
So, my Happy Days story is: so my son goes to school and one day he’s hanging out with a girl, and I get a knock on the door and a woman shows up at my door and she’s like, “Hey, how are you? I hear your son’s an actor. I’m here to pick up my daughter, Roxy.”
I’m like, “Oh, cool. Well, nice to meet you.” She’s like, “Yeah. I used to be an actress too.” I’m like, “Really? What were you in?” She said, “Happy Days.” I’m like, “Happy Days, really?” She’s like, “Have you heard of it?” I’m like, “Who hasn’t heard of Happy Days? Yeah.” So, it turns out that she was Jenny Piccalo, Cathy Silvers.
Oh, Cathy Silvers was awesome.
Yes. Yep. Uh-huh.
I saw her every single day.
And of course, I loved her dad.
Phil Silvers, right?
Oh my gosh. I mean, the best. But Cathy was always super nice. I liked her a lot.
So, that was really fun. Yeah. You never know when Happy Days stars are going to knock on your door. Right?
That’s right. That’s right.
Only in LA. So, you’ve got so many different shows that you’ve participated in, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Full House, Family Matters. What did you work on in the ‘80s? What were some of the other shows? You got Family Matters, Married… With Children? Was that one of them?
Yeah. And even some-
I did a thing once where I had- I was one of the only directors in the history of the Directors Guild that had three shows on, same night, same network, back-to-back.
Yeah. Which was a fluke. Again, lucky.
Yeah. But that was cool. So, I mean, I was always in production doing all this stuff and I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. I mean, I worked hard but I worked for really nice people.
Especially people who would advance you if you did good work.
Yeah, of course.
So, I mean, that was really important.
Well, it’s funny because you directed shows that my parents watched, you’ve directed shows that I’ve watched, and then you’ve even directed shows that my kids watch. Right?
I don’t want to tell you how many years I’ve been here. That’s the problem because people go, “Wait, wait, wait, wait, how long ago did you start doing this?”
So, Hannah Montana, so you worked with Miley?
Yeah. Well, I was the co-creator of Hannah Montana.
That was my show, yeah.
Yeah, I worked with Miley, and the- Miley’s still a completely sweet, really nice person. All the stuff about Miley in the last 10 years where people thought, “Oh, she’s losing her mind, or she’s doing all the twerking, or she’s doing this or what’s the matter with her?” No, it’s all calculated.
Because she did an extremely smart thing, which was, she was Disney‘s biggest star, which has an up and a big downside to it.
And as soon as she got released from the show, she decided to get out from under the Disney thumb. And so, she did all of these things that were opposite anything Hannah Montana would do.
And it worked. But Miley is a sweetheart. If you saw her or if she was walking by, I’d say, “Miley, come on in.” She’d sit and hang with us.
Is that right?
Oh, she’s a sweetheart. And her dad, Billy Ray, he’s the nicest guy. The only time I was ever late to be on stage when I was supposed to be back from lunch is because he cornered me, took me and put me in his car, and played his new album for me. And I just couldn’t…
Is that right?
He said, “No-no. Wait, you have to hear the next song.” But only because he was a super nice guy. Billy is a super, super nice guy.
So, was that show written for Miley or did you cast for that?
No, it wasn’t written for Miley.
No. The idea of Hannah Montana was a young girl who’s this unbelievably huge rockstar by night, and by day a high school student, and nobody knew her identity. So, it was the epitome of the high school girls fantasy. That’s how the show was sold.
And so, I wasn’t involved in the early casting of it so much, but they looked at 300 girls, Emily Osment, who ended up playing Lilly actually was the forerunner, but they couldn’t find a person to play Hannah.
And what happened was, they had the Sprouse twins, Dylan and Cole Sprouse who were Zack and Cody, and a pair of a group of triplet girls under contract. And Disney, I don’t want to say nasty things about Disney, but they’re a company that’s not going to spend one dime unless they get something for it.
And the year of the pilot of Hannah Montana, they shelved the pilot and they did a pilot called Triple Play with the three girls, and then they had Suite Life of Zack & Cody. And that’s the one that sold. But when they shelved the pilot, it was for two reasons, they had other kids under contract that they had to use and they couldn’t find the girl. They looked and looked and looked and couldn’t find the girl.
Miley came in and read, she was 12-years-old, very scrawny, not a great actress. Pretty good singer. But it was like, “Okay, somebody else. Let’s see some more people.” And we thought that’s the end of that. We had written the pilot, the first and second draft of it and a guy named Barry O’Brien. And Barry, I knew from Miller-Boyett days.
But we thought, “Okay. Well, that’s the end of it. And then it came back a year later and they said, “We’re going to do it. We’re still going to do Hannah Montana.” And then they went looking for people again. And Miley came in again, she was more mature, she looked a little better, her acting was pretty-
This was a couple of years later now, huh?
Yeah, but the thing is, one of the strange things that happened was, just on a whim, Billy Ray came in and read with her as her father, and she was more comfortable and seemed at ease. And everyone said, “Why don’t we just hire him?”
So much chemistry.
Not only that, hire him as the father because we’ll get the Country Western people to watch. So, he was as much of it as she was.
And then she needed some help with acting, but she was really appealing. The reason that Hannah Montana took off is because Miley took off.
I mean, period.
Perfect person to cast for that role.
Yeah. I mean, it’s like Happy Days. I mean, Happy Days was a monster, monster hit because Henry was Fonzie.
He was, yeah.
And Mork & Mindy. Mork & Mindy had been on the air for three shows and it was the number one show in the country, and no pilot. They always made pilots of things.
Is that right?
But Robin had been on Happy Days and they saw him on the Happy Days. He literally took over.
And just one episode and they said, “Who is this guy?” Right?
So they made no pilot, but that show became number one in 3 weeks. And Mork was because of Robin, Happy Days was because of Henry, and Hannah Montana was because of Miley.
I saw it happen at least three times. Oh, and Family Matters, which was on the verge of being canceled, it was show number 13. Unlucky 13 where Urkel showed up as a day player.
I was directing that show and I went to the producers and said, “This kid’s really funny. You hired him, obviously you know that, but why don’t we turn him into a physical wreck. Every place he goes, he breaks things and wrecks things. And they said to me, “Okay, well, the first scene he’s in, it’s a cafeteria.” And I went, “That’s all I want to know.” Watch this.
Total whim. And I went to him, I went to Jaleel White, who was 13. And I said, “We’re going to turn you into a 13-year-old Jerry Lewis.” And he went, “Who?” He had no idea who I was talking about. So, Family Matters was because of Urkel.
The twins, yeah.
…that got the high ratings because kids tuned in to see what Baby Michelle was doing.
Yep. That was the audience. Yeah.
In the case of those being there for those shows, I was standing next to Jeff Franklin and Bob Boyett when they cast Full House. They cast the kids, they brought in five sets of twin girls. They always had to have twins, because when you had a little baby in the show-
Can only be on set for so long, right?
No. Well, if one goes down and it’s crying, they bring the other one in.
So, there’s always twins. They put five sets of twins out in front of Bob Boyett and he literally looked at these kids. One of them was asleep, Mary-Kate Olsen was asleep in her little chair. They were only like 10 months old.
And he went, “Let’s see. I’ll take,” and his finger was going, he went, “them.”
And it’s just-
It was the hand of God. And now they’re billionaires. I mean, who knew? I mean, it was just completely lucky.
So interesting how there’s a little bit of luck that’s played into this.
There’s a lot of talent.
A lot of luck.
There’s a lot of talent, don’t get me wrong, but there’s also a whole lot of luck being at the right place.
Everything is about luck.
Yeah. Being at the right place at the right time in front of the right people. Right?
And that goes for everybody on the stage. Not just the actors, everybody’s got to be in the right place at the right time.
So, my son came out here. We moved out here so he can try to pursue this acting thing too. And my son, I wanted to help him pursue his young dreams. Right? And so, we moved out here. And he hasn’t really landed any breakout roles. Right? But he continues to show up.
But nowadays, like you said, he’s competing against kids that have 10 million followers on Instagram, on social media. And a lot of times they’re getting cast just so that you can bring the audience from-
Yeah. That’s a whole different factor.
When I was a kid and even directing stuff that was nonexistent.
Yeah. People are looking at stuff like that all the time. But I mean, the thing to tell him is you got to have thick skin in Hollywood. You can’t take rejection personally.
Because it just isn’t, I mean, from the beginning of the movie or TV business, you just can’t take rejection personally.
He might be too big, too tall, too skinny, too funny looking, too handsome, too whatever.
But it might be the perfect person.
Or the perfect person.
Yeah. So, tell him, “Keep at it but don’t get discouraged.” Just have thick skin.
And he’s still 17. So, he is competing with 22-year-olds that are playing 17-year-olds, right?
Yeah, but tell him that 17 is a great age.
Man, when you’re 17, yeah, you should have a lot of gumption and a lot of fight. Just tell him 17 is the best.
And his audition got far with Stranger Things, like shows that are big hits, but just never got his big break yet.
No. No, no, no. Tell him not to give up.
Yeah, yeah. If he’s 17-years-old, he’s got a long ways to go, but he’ll be fine.
Is he a good actor?
He is. Yeah.
Then tell him to keep at it and not to worry about it.
That’s life in general, right?
Yeah. I mean, 17 years old, you got your whole life in front of you, so-
You sure do.
… just have thick skin because you’re in Hollywood.
And he’s into all this stuff, you need to meet him. I want him to see some of your memorabilia.
Bring him by the show. Bring him by the exhibit.
I would love to do that.
He’d freak if he saw that.
No, he totally would. Yeah. So cool. Well, this is awesome.
So, we do this thing. It’s called “Hennessey Heart-to-Heart” where we just ask a couple of questions and just get your immediate response on some of these questions.
A couple of questions. Okay.
Yeah. Simple. Right?
So, do you consider yourself a pessimist or an optimist?
Got it. If you could pick a new golden rule, what would that be?
Always have an understanding heart.
Okay. How have your values changed from 10 years ago?
More sympathetic towards older people.
Oh, interesting. What do you think your greatest childhood memory is?
Christmas time with my whole family.
Okay. Worst childhood memory?
I had a brother that died when he was a kid. That was terrible.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
Biggest fear as a child?
It didn’t change. I don’t like blood tests and needles, and shots. And of course, in today’s world, everything’s injected. I’m vaccinated and I don’t look forward to that.
No, I never liked it.
Favorite subject in school?
I think in grammar school, it was probably English because I always loved to read. And then in high school, it was speech and geometry. I loved geometry. I’m not a math guy. I mean, algebra and all that, no good. But I loved geometry and I think geometry had a lot to do with camera blocking when you’re a sitcom director. But I loved geometry and I love speech. I love getting up and talking. Afraid of needles, but not afraid of talking in front of people.
Go figure. Right? What do you admire most about your parents?
My father was one of the biggest stars in the world and one of the most humble people I ever met. I just thought that was fantastic.
My mom was, her MO was trying to get the things for her family and her kids that she didn’t have because she grew up poor…
…and ended up like Cinderella.
She married this guy to put her in this big house and took care of her and she wanted to take advantage of that for her kids, so she was always looking out for her kids.
Okay. What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of my kids, I’m proud of my career, I’m proud of the fact that my hobby is part of the preservation of an aspect of Hollywood. I’m proud that I was able to make it in Hollywood without the help of nepotism or family.
My father was entrenched in show business but he was gone long before my brother and I got into show business, and I think we made it by just working our way up without having been helped by family and friends and stuff.
As far as celebrities dead or alive, who inspired you the most?
Well, my dad inspired me the most. Harold Lloyd really inspired me. Stan Laurel, who was a friend of mine, I loved Laurel and Hardy and I borrowed some stuff from them all the time doing shows. So, I love Stan, I love Harold, I love my dad.
If I would ask my son that question, he would immediately say Walt Disney, for sure. Yeah, that’s a-
Well, I love Walt Disney.
I mean, the greatest thing about Walt Disney is he was a kid and he listened to kids. If you went to a party and he was at your house or something, your parents would be like, “Now, don’t bother Mr. Disney. Don’t bother him.” But he’d say, “Okay. So, what do you guys talk about in school and what do you like and what do you watch and what do-”
Oh, yeah. Yeah, because that’s how he made his living and he knew it and he never backed away from that.
Totally great guy and really smart about that.
When, if ever, is it okay to break the law? That’s a tough question.
Is it okay? Well, I guess it depends on what law it is. It depends on what law it is. When is it okay to break the law? I don’t know. I don’t break the law very often, so I’m not sure. I don’t know. That’s one I’m not sure.
It’s a tough question, right?
It is. Yeah. Again, it depends on what law.
I would say if your wife is having a baby and you’re heading to the hospital, go past those stop signs.
Oh, I’ve done that. Yeah. Yeah, it was okay to break that law, yeah.
That was fine.
That’d be my answer.
Oh, that’s a good one.
What was the best birthday you celebrated? When is your birthday?
The best. You know what? That’s a tough one to answer because I love birthdays and there’s been a lot of them that have really, really been fun. For my 65th birthday, we rented the entire bottom floor of The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.
I put together a band of my wife, her sisters that are like a choir, the best singers ever. My brother-in-law played drums. I got a couple other studio guys. We put up a band and we played this big show and we did it at the Roosevelt and we had like 500 people and it was just this huge barn burner.
That was really cool.
That seems awesome.
That was a really good one. But you know what? I loved birthdays as a kid.
Birthdays as a kid, a lot of stuff I did as a kid was really cool.
More magical, right? Yeah.
Yeah, I just love that. I mean, I’m still a kid.
I can tell.
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
I seriously see that in you.
So, I loved all that old stuff. It was great.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
That was Beatle-year.
So, they were the biggest stars on earth.
And they were at the Hollywood Bowl, which was one of their most famous concerts ever. And by accident, somebody gave me a ticket and I’d sit up in the boxes to go to see The Beatles.
How cool is that?
It was so historic and so cool.
You live a fairytale life my friend.
I do. I do. It was really cool. It was really cool.
Here’s one. What’s one of your most unusual talents that people don’t know about you?
That they don’t know about?
Yeah. Like I just learned that you’re a musician too. Like what are some other talents?
What are one of my most unusual talents?
Can you juggle?
I can’t juggle. I was a really good sandlot football player.
Very, very fast. I ran track in high school and I did the 120 low hurdles, the 100-yard dash, the 70 high hurdles and I was a pole vaulter. I was a good pole vaulter. So, that’s an ability a lot of people don’t know about. But in high school, I was a big track guy, but the pole vaulting was cool.
Yeah, I was always a gymnast. I loved doing gymnastics. Pole vaulting was like doing gymnastics, so I was always into that. Yeah.
What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? This is right in your wheelhouse here. Now, you got to be careful about which one you choose.
Well, the Universal movies meant a lot to me and influenced me a lot, but I didn’t ever think they were scary, I just thought they were really cool. They really scared audiences in the ‘30s. Really scared them. And so, I can watch an old movie and assimilate into being an audience in the ‘30s. So, I understand why the lights in Bela Lugosi’s eyes scared everybody. I didn’t think they were scared.
I thought The Exorcist was really scary because I’d never seen a movie affect an audience like that. And the funny thing about it is, a friend of mine who ran the film program at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited me to a screening of it on a Sunday. And I had a complete industry audience, which is never affected by anything. And that movie picked up that audience and dropped it on its head and was like, every time there’d be this huge, loud, violence, scary thing, it would cut to something quiet and everybody would talk and murmur. You’d hear the whole audience.
So, that was great. And also John Lennon came in and sat in front of me. That was cool. That was scary. That was just cool. I think that’s probably the scariest movie. But I thought Silence of the Lambs was scary.
Because of the subject matter.
Yeah, I thought that was really scary. Oh, you know, James Wan‘s made some great scary movies. The Insidious is scary, The Conjuring is scary. He made a great movie called Dead Silence that nobody went to about a woman, an old lady that made ventriloquist dummies. That’s a really scary movie.
I’ll have to watch that one. I haven’t seen that one.
Yeah. Yeah. I think the James Wan movies are scary these days.
The one that comes to mind, as a kid, I would have nightmares about it every night. I don’t know why. I’d seen this or if it was just on, was Children of the Corn as a kid.
Yeah. Malachai, I think, was the kid’s name.
Right? And I don’t know, just as a kid seeing this cornfield with these kids that did bad and evil things, that was just-
But you see, what’s funny is, for me, like for instance, there’s two movies made in the very early ‘60s. Both in CinemaScope, both in black and white. One’s called The Haunting. This was the one that Robert Wise made with Julie Harrison. That was really scary when I saw it in the theater when it was released. Everybody screamed and everything. But that’s a very cool psychological ghost story because you don’t really see ghosts, you just hear things. That’s with all the pounding on the wall.
And then there’s this fantastic British film made by a guy named Jack Clayton with Deborah Kerr in it called The Innocents. And The Innocents is the film adaptation of Turn of the Screw by Henry James. And there’s a thing where she thinks these two kids living in this big manor, way out in the middle of the country are possessed by two people who had lived there and died.
And Deborah Kerr is sitting in a gazebo in the sunlight with this little girl who is on the bank humming this really weird tune. Then suddenly, she hears two voices. And she looks up and across this lake in the reeds is this woman in black just standing there staring at them. That’s really scary.
I mean, really scary. That gives me goosebumps thinking about it. But if I say to people, “Oh, The Innocents is really scary.” They go, “Eh, it’s this old clinker in black and white and who cares? Where’s the guys jumping out of the closet with knives?” So, what scares me is a whole different thing.
The real house.
Well, that book was really scary.
And the first movie, the first version of it was pretty good.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I thought that was fun. It was too bad that it turned out to be a hoax.
Yeah, I know. What would you rather do, go back 100 years or hop into a time machine and go ahead 100 years?
Oh, absolutely. No questions asked, go back.
You want to go back?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
I’m so interested in history, I’m so interested in the people that made the history, that time period being 1920, ’21, ’22. I know a lot about that time. And I just think the glamor of the city, what was going on, was being built, the people doing it, I just think it’s fantastic. I’m not afraid of the future, but I just think the past is so cool.
It’d be cool to see your dad and mom too in that timeframe, right?
Oh, man. Yeah. You go shake hands with Errol Flynn and yeah, yeah, yeah. That’d be great.
Yeah. Oh, if you can jump into any movie and live in that movie for 30 days, what would it be?
I want to live on the island and see all the dinosaurs and see the giant monkey.
I think at Christmas time of year, I’d like to jump into the Christmas Story and be in that movie for a little bit.
The one with the kids with the-
With the lamp? The leg lamp and all that?
Yeah, yeah, “Fra-gilé.”
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Yeah, I think that would be cool.
Well, thank you for sharing all these great stories. I would want to go back 50 years just to be your best friend and hang out with you, man.
I had a great time. I had a lot of fun. Again, I’ve been very, very, very lucky, really lucky.
So, if those that are listening want to come and see all of your pieces here and history, what is the name of- Well, there will be, eventually, the Hall of Fame, right?
Yeah, that’s going to be next to the Chinese Theater. Right now, we’re right down the street from the Chinese at a place called Icons of Darkness.
Yeah, which like…
Of the Hollywood-
…the heart of Hollywood.
If you want to see some of the stuff I collected, come on down and you won’t be disappointed, trust me.
I’m going to take my family. We’re going to go check it out.
Oh, you’re going to freak.
Just the dinosaurs are worth coming to see.
Uh-huh. We will do that. Again, Rich, thank you so much for coming today. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for having me. I loved doing it.