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The Don’t Make Waves Interview, Part One


Dave with Sharon Tate, promo shots for Don't Make Waves

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More from Laree’s attempt at ferreting the old history:  here’s another interview to add to your folder of the Draper saga. People seem to like these, so I guess she’ll keep doing it. Maybe she’ll run out soon and I can relax back into modern life. Meanwhile, this is part one of two.

How did you segue from bodybuilding into acting?

There was no segue. The two ventures occurred side by side, like running and jumping when you were a kid and life is a breeze. A life-long Jersey boy, at 21 I moved to Santa Monica in the spring of ’63 to work for a muscle magazine publisher, Joe Weider. I trained with the Muscle Beach gang and won the popular title of Mr. America.

During that time, as was the tradition, I responded with all the other muscle guys in southern California to a Hollywood cattle call seeking a muscleman. The major Los Angeles television studio, KHJ-TV, chose me for some strange reason to be David the Gladiator, the host for Saturday Night TV adventure movies.

I was a local celeb for a year, though I didn’t know it. Mr. America was busy training for Mr. Universe. It was amid that training that another cattle call echoed through the beaches and gyms in close proximity to Hollywood. Filmways of MGM needed one Harry Collard to lift weights on Muscle Beach in the movie Don’t Make Waves. The bulk of the filming was completed in mid-September, the same week I competed in and won Mr. Universe, 1966. 

It was all as if by accident and coincidence, as no ambition or planning is evident in either experience. 

Was there ever talk about sending you to Europe to appear in the muscle gladiator movies?

If there was, it was short, in whispers and behind closed doors. I knew nothing. You have no idea how growing up in the swamplands of Secaucus in the ’50s stunted one’s growth and awareness. I pursued little more than the last rep and the next gram of protein. I read about Europe in ninth-grade history. I wasn’t hustling Hollywood, knocking down doors or studying while I starved to become an actor.

I believe I was super lucky -- blessed by God, actually -- to do what I did in Hollywood, and was between times for further good luck. European hero film-making was momentarily spent and American hard-bodied stars were yet to be born and embraced during my blip on the screen.

What do you remember most about making Lord Love a Duck?

A stirring memory of Roddy McDowell is the first thought that comes to my mind. For those weeks on the set and on location for my minor role in the movie, the two of us neither met nor talked.

Then one hot afternoon we concurrently entered an outdoor john placed discreetly behind the Santa Monica Courthouse, the scene of the day’s filming. As we stood there in the stinking heat attending the most important business of the day, we talked about the weather, the ocean and the hard day’s work. Nice guy. We buttoned up, nodded and I never saw him again. Hollywood.

There was a fight scene. I vividly remember stepping into a dark, off-set area with a cameraman, a stunt man and a funky, rumpled bedroom mattress. The stunt man was 160 pounds and all business; I was 240 and curious about our brief and unspoken relationship.

I was not welcomed, informed, consulted or directed. I was motioned. Fine.

Camera sez to Stunts, dragging the mattress, “This is a good spot.” Stunts drops the mattress, mutters something to me, I eagerly nod and then I’m flying over his shoulder and onto the miserable mattress. I bounce like a fresh 240-pound sack of raw, living flesh on a mattress of lifeless straw. Camera says, “Got it”and Stunts says, “Good.”

I walked at a tilt for a week, looking for a pair of wise guys with a shabby mattress and a camera. 

You did a guest spot on an amusing episode of The Monkees.  What do you recall about working with the guys?

I was honored to work with the guys and I admired their young world of fame and celebrity and fun. Though New Jersey was three to four years behind me, I wasn’t yet broken of my naivete. Alas, I never will be.

I stood on the sandy shores of a beach on a studio back lot, looked down on Davy Jones and said my line as the cameras rolled, “Beat it, Twerp.”

Davy flipped out. The script called for the uncomplimentary designation “Shrimp,” not the “T” word, which evidently held an especially nasty connotation to Davy Jones of the Monkees. He assumed a karate stance before me and called the action to a halt.

Already nervous, out of my territory and getting hungry, my jaw dropped. It took me a full 10 seconds to realize he wanted revenge, and the crew around him, assistant director, wardrobe, makeup and stage hands were holding him back.

I was bewildered. I did something really wrong. Oh, geez.

Clusters of people gathered according to rank and job description. Where did I belong? I started to move toward a group of carpenters when I was encompassed by a handful of fidgeting executives -- where did they come from? -- imploring me to apologize to the star. I said absolutely, sure, no problem, certainly, you bet, guys. I was reluctant to ask why, but decided the information would help me in my sincerity and prevent me from stepping into another pile.

“Sorry I called you a twerp, Mr. Jones.”

My apology was awkward, but I was sufficiently contrite. We went back to work and the sun shined on Burbank.

How did you land the role of Harry in Don’t Make Waves?

As before, I joined some 75 guys of all shapes, sizes and ages at an MGM cattle call. Remember, this was the spring of 1966. Times have changed, but back then the word got out fast around the gyms via agents, extras and bit-part players when movie and TV makers were looking for muscle. The herd gathered to pick up whatever there was to pick up.

It was a ritual, a social event where old faces met to kill time, exchange stories and shoot the breeze while they collected their unemployment.

I heard about the occasion on a Wednesday night at the Muscle Beach Gym (AKA, The Dungeon), and appeared with the rest of the livestock on Thursday morning after my workout. We were reviewed in groups by varied assistants and the gleaning began.

In a day, eight finalists, including me, were chosen for outdoor screen tests before the bigwigs, and in another day I was chosen to be the brilliant and loquacious Harry “Big Boy” Hollard of Don’t Make Waves.

I said, “Yes.”

*****

Next week we’ll find out what happened next. [LINK to part two]

Dave


*****

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