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The Don’t Make Waves Interview, Part Two


Dave with Claudia Cardinale, promo shot for Don't Make Waves

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This is Part Two of two. Miss Part One? Read this first.

Continuing on with the section specifically on the movie Don’t Make Waves…

Did Alexander McKendrick give you much acting guidance?

Sandy McKendrick, a nice man and an honor to know and work with, asked me to lunch at the MGM cafeteria early in production. He was quiet and I was quiet, and from there on he would point and I would go. 

He was looking for an image of a musclehead on screen and my incompetence as an actor portrayed that image well. I missed cues, looked naturally unsure of myself, forgot my lines and made up my own, and I bet Sandy thought to himself, “Why screw it up? Just let him be himself.”
 
What was it like working with Sharon Tate and Tony Curtis?

He’s a prince and she was not unlike a female version of me in my shyness. 

I liked Tony and felt equality with him, though I tended to kneel when he stood by my side. He was fun, honest and full of energy. He was a friend.

Sharon was young and consumed by her attendees and guardians. She was a star in the making and I watched her from a distance. She was gutsy and willing and quiet and wanting to yell aloud, I think. Once we flew in a small aircraft over South Carolina and she held tightly onto my hand, yet she didn’t hesitate to leap high from a trampoline and into my arms.

We hung in the shade and talked about this or that or nothing with the rest of the crew ’till it was our turn to tumble in the forsaken house in Malibu. She was a friend and we hugged.

With all these bodybuilders in the movie what was it like off the set during breaks?

Like metal to a magnet, I chose to hang with the extras during lunch and the lengthy breaks. I was invited to eat at the long table with the lead actors and the director’s crew and the production people, but I chickened out.

In reality, I felt it would be a disloyalty to my own -- a snub, a dishonoring, false. I chose to relax among the few I knew. We lifted, sunned, had curling contests, did back flips in the sand, worked the trampoline, read, nodded and twitched and scratched. 

A smarter person would have enjoyed and learned in the companionship of the cast and crew. They were terrific people, admirable and had a lot to offer a guy if he was half awake and not so dern shy and unsure.

Do you think Don’t Make Waves presented an accurate picture of the Southern California bodybuilding scene?

It was not entirely accurate nor was it a mindless spoof. The early bodybuilding scene, like a diamond, had many facets. It was dumb and innocent and lazy, and it was fast, sharp and visited by courageous and hard-working men and women.

There were artists, mail carriers, airline pilots, cops, engineers, school teachers, heroes and bums. Some lived in the back of their cars or at the old Muscle House on the beach or in homes in Culver City and North Hollywood.

That picture was painted by one man’s brush and palette of colors. Hollywood highlighted it with bright tones and impressionist strokes. Yeah, the picture’s worth framing and hanging on a favorite wall in your living room. Better than another fading sunset or a still life of wilting flowers.

For you, what was the most positive and negative experience doing this movie?

There was the negative. One sunny afternoon in the late summer a small crowd of crew, actors and extras watched in fascination as parachutists descended a half-mile off Malibu Beach, the location depicting the famed Muscle Beach. A daring team was shooting the skydiving sequence featured in the movie. One chute fell quickly and there was alarm, fear. Small speed boats raced to the site, too late to rescue the cameraman who became entangled in the cords and sank in the sea. We all witnessed his death in cold, helpless disbelief.

The set designer, a favorite character at the studios and on location, like Bo Jangles he up and died one day. Where was the enthusiastic Italian inspiration with colorful fabrics draped over his arm, towing props and offering encouraging words with the lilt of a language no one could speak but everyone understood? Gone in silence. Cancer they said.

Rumors of a monster budget crunch added a gray cloud to the mostly sunny skies. I tried hard to remember my lines and not waste anyone’s time.

These were the incidents of life, the junk, the crap that happens here and there and everywhere and that were not particular to Don’t Make Waves or my involvement in the project. There were no negative experiences for me personally, unless I look back and see the things I would rather have done better.

The positives came on a daily basis. Being an actor in the familiar part of a Hollywood film production was subtly awesome. I could go here or there with freedom and permission. The guard at the studio gate waved me through, “Hey, Dave,” the prop man asked my advice, makeup fussed over my eyebrows, the director gave me directions and asked if I was ready before he said, “Rolling... and... action.”

Wow.

Claudia Cardinale and I sat together in folding director’s chairs on a dark and deserted set as we waited wearily for some late pick-up shots. We talked about her sister, a fashion photographer, and Italy and her villa, and I listened to her wonderful accent. And then she winsomely walked toward a harsh cluster of lights and activity a world away after someone yelled, “Camera’s ready” and it was time for her to shoot.

Wow.

I won Mr. Universe during the last week of major filming and was awarded a hand-painted sketch by the MGM art department of an Oscar in a muscle pose, titled Super Oscar for Mr. Universe. It’s enclosed in an antique-gold frame made by the MGM prop department and says above the statuette, “We’re Proud of You.” The cast and crew signed it and it hangs on my wall above the staircase.

Wow.

The filming led to 15 minutes on stage with Johnny Carson while he showed me off to his audience like a prize bull. How can you beat that?

Two years later as I walked across an LAX terminal, a voice called “Dave, Dave, Dave” across the desolate late-night floor. I turned and it was Sharon dressed in black and wearing high heel boots. She ran and jumped into my arms, excitedly introduced me to her young friends and was off. That was the last I saw of the beautiful girl. 

You received some decent reviews for Don’t Make Waves.  Why didn’t you continue your acting career?

There’s usually not just one reason why we do or don’t do important things in life. There’s a list. I was neither internally prepared nor internally directed toward an acting career. In my life stuff either happens or it doesn’t. Pursuing the rocky road and crossing the barrens and climbing the heights was too much trouble for something without substance, a hope, a dream, a passion.

I took acting classes for two years with young actors under a popular director, Peyton Price, but I didn’t study acting. The artistic or egotistic or materialistic or fame and power-thirsty tentacles were either under-developed or they had withered.

I tired quickly of going on interviews and cold readings and playing the necessary Hollywood games, and was between Hercules Unchained and Rambo, Reeves and Stallone, slightly out of step. There’s more to the tale, but I had to leave town and head for the clear air of the Santa Cruz hills.

It was a priceless trip through the famed and curious streets of Hollywood where the action is: the secret and private alleys where the elite movers walk about, nonchalant and privileged; the off-limits studios, stages and back lots workplaces of celebrities; the junky and crammed offices interviewing the sad wannabes for a one-time one-liner and the well-tanned, slick, gray hair dude making a million-dollar deal as his Rolls unwinds the hills overlooking the town of tinsel.

Makes you want to laugh, cry, beg and steal. 

Makes me smile as I think about it.

The end... and there you have it.

God’s speed...

Drapes


*****

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