Can I Have Your Autograph?Written by Stephen Schochet
Can I Have Your Autograph?
By Stephen Schochet
Being a celebrity means dealing with fan demands for autographs, ranging from polite and appropriate to rude and overbearing. One time Katherine Hepburn was performing on Broadway and tried to exit backstage through a crowd of jostling autograph hounds. Bodyguards helped her to her limo and once safely inside very private star rolled down window and shouted," Run em down! We'll clean up blood later!" The crowd scattered and limousine sped away, pausing long enough for Hepburn to roll down window and wave goodbye to her fans, accompanied by an evil laugh. Strangely enough, when she lived in Beverly Hills seclusion loving Hepburn developed habit of sneaking into her neighbor's houses as a hobby. She became expert at climbing trees, avoiding alarms and dogs, and revealing herself just before her nervous neighbors called police.
Walt Disney had strange experience in 1930s of having his name famous around world when his face was not. Often he would forget his identification and that combined with his casual attire sometimes kept him out of fancy restaurants. Later in 50's he became a recognized figure because of his television hosting duties. The lack of anonymity made it increasingly difficult for him to walk through Disneyland without being badgered for autographs. Disney struggled not to be brusque while explaining he didn't have time, he was trying to make park a better place. In 60's when company was trying to purchase Florida marshland for a second amusement park, he was warned by his advisors to stay away from state, real estate prices would go up once identity of buyer was known. But Disney couldn't resist. Eating in a Orlando diner Walt was approached by a curious waitress,"Pardon me. Aren't you Walt Disney?" Walt who was known for being brutally honest, replied," Hell no! And if I see that sob, I'll give him a piece of my mind."
Stars making movies at Universal Studios often try to avoid tour guides leading autograph hounds. One particular fellow became ingenious at tracking down Michael Caine, who toyed with idea of having young man fired, then decided, "What hell, I'll just sign" and was gracious. It turned out to be a good move, tour guide was Mike Ovitz who later became most powerful talent agent in Hollywood.
The Warner Brothers Make NoiseWritten by Stephen Schochet
Hollywood was an attractive place for early filmmakers to settle, full of good weather, orange and lemon trees. For producers who owed money on borrowed camera equipment if a creditor came after them, they could hide among trees. It was a hard business full of causalities and took a pirate's mentality to survive. Most of studio heads were from poor backgrounds, with limited English skills and never forgot their childhood or a personal slight. Included were Jack, Harry, Albert and Sam, four Warner Brothers from Youngstown, Ohio. They had begun with showing movies off side of a tent in Youngstown, borrowing all chairs from local undertaker. Every time there was a funeral in Youngstown, they had to give all chairs back and film patrons were forced to stand.
As a boy Jack Warner wished to be a singer and a comedian. His brothers, recognizing his lack of talent instructed him to sing in tent when they wanted audience to leave. He was later advised that money was not in performing, it was in paying performers. Among stars that would be under contract to him would be Betty Davis, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and Errol Flynn.
The silent days were a struggle for Warner Bros. Rin Tin Tin, a German shepherd that according to his publicity was born in a foxhole in World War I, was their biggest star. Heroic as he might have been on screen, he proved to be, like many stars, cantankerous in person. Jack Warner took dog on a publicity tour. As he introduced him to crowd, his ungrateful employee bit him on behind, leading to dog's dismissal. It proved to be a prelude to Warner's many future battles with stars.
Trying to make a name for themselves, four brothers got great publicity by announcing that renowned opera tenor Caruso would be arriving from Italy to make a film for them. They paid him 25,000 dollars and then put him in a silent movie.
The movie studios had technology to make talking films years before they made them. One of reasons why they resisted idea was that they didn't want to risk losing their overseas market. Stars like Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford rarely ever had a flop as their films were shown around world and knew no language barriers. But in 1926 silent films faced their biggest competition with a new device called radio. As movie attendance dwindled studio heads shut their eyes and pretended radio was not there. But Warners lead by ambitious Sam, decided to push envelope and try to save their sinking studio by experimenting with movie sound.