The Hardship of Filming an Eddie Munster Music Video- “Whatever Happened to Eddie?”

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1983

We had both sides of the 45 single recorded and the master passed on to the record company for pressing and distribution. We did the promo photos ourselves with the assistance of a real pro.

Now we needed a “rock video”

Mind you, this was 1983. God help us… the crap that was out there…and we were going to add to it. The following was the top 10 songs of the 1980’s.

1.Love Shack – B-52s
2. What I Like About You – Romantics
3. Dancing With Myself – Billy Idol
4. Rock The Casbah (Mustapha Dance) – the Clash
5. Antmusic – Adam and the Ants
6. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper
7. Train In Vain (Stand By Me) – the Clash
8. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
9. Situation – Yaz (Yazoo)
10. Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel

Butch was parking cars for his dad at a casino in Gardena, CA. He was certainly down on his luck…and prime for molding. I had a studio… and a mutual friend. It became a project.

The film crew was famous cinematographer, Marvin Rush. He filmed most of the Star Trek series and movies….as well as TV shows: “Bob Newhart” and “TAXI.” And he was mine for free because he was intrigued about the project. At this time, Butch wasn’t doing promotional overkill with signing conventions and the such like he does today. He had just disappeared.

We were a day away from filming at mortuary and I hadn’t written the shooting script yet. There was no story. So, at some point in the evening, I did a line of coke and sat on the recording studio couch with a legal pad and pen. In 25 minutes, the script was done. I tweaked it a bit, but it pretty much was canonized.

WARNING: I VIOLATED THE RULES OF TRUTH AND ETHICS BY GETTING THE STREETS MIXED UP. IT WAS SUNSET BLVD, NOT HOLLYWOOD BLVD. THANKS TO LESPETOMANE FOR BECOMING A MEMBER FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE OF CORRECTING ME. THANKS ‘MANE.

I catered the shoot at the mortuary. The mortuary was the biggest chain in Southern California and the kid that worked there gave us permission to shoot later in the evening. Except, as it turned out, he didn’t have the authorization to allow us to do so.

MORTUARY

Marvin, his crew, and film truck, showed up on time. I had arranged to have about 50 extras sitting in the chapel, with a coffin with Butch in it, for our first shot. We had already scoped out the place and I jotted down notes for the angles, etc.

MARVIN RUSH TODAY

As Howard sat up a nice Kosher buffet, the extras rolled in. It was a full on Jewish deli. Everyone was excited. So was I. Until I noticed that children were coming in. I blew my lid. I screamed at the crowd, “Who brought children into this mortuary?”

Hands raised. I took them aside and asked them if they were fucking crazy? I told them to leave…and they did, unhappily. We had the first shot set up, the extras in the pews, the smell of brisket and corned beef wafting in the air and the “Monsters” in full make up.

Just before I yelled, “Action,” a bunch of goons stormed the mortuary, with baseball bats, threatening to beat the hell out of me and everyone else if we didn’t get our asses out immediately. I grabbed the kid who gave us approval and he admitted that he didn’t ask his betters if it would be OK? So, instead, he bragged about it at the mortuary to his co-workers and they formed a scheme to bush whack us.

One of the goons asked who was in charge? I stepped forward and as I did, I felt something hard trying to crush the back of my skull. A fight broke out. The goons were outnumbered. so they called the cops. We managed to get everyone out, the film crew packed up and burned rubber and we were all gone before the cops showed. Harvey was the only one still there, trying to pack up his delicious food, and miscellaneous shit. The cops tried to arrest him but he talked his way out of it, made them brisket sandwiches, and he split.

We were in big trouble. I ended up at the E.R, and got some stitches. All the while.., trying to figure an alternate plan. I assured Marvin we would get this right and please don’t bail on me. He was a great guy and said he would follow me to San Quentin, if necessary, to get this done.

THIS IS OUR CINEMATOGRAPHER GETTING ANGLES FOR THE SHOOT.

The next day, I took a ride to the Princess Louise, docked at San Pedro Harbor. It was an old, 3 deck private yacht, that had been transformed into a tourist attraction. Two restaurants and a chapel on top. I met with the chaplain and negotiated a fee of $200. It was a lock. We shook hands and moved to the next step. The filming on the boat would take place about 4 days later. I used that time to do another dangerous shot.

HOLLYWOOD HIGH SCHOOL

There is a line in the song that Eddie sings that says, “I got up and split from school.” So we headed to Hollywood High on Hollywood Blvd. Butch managed to borrow John Travolta’s Trans Am that George Barris was doing some customization on. The only way we could have the car was if George provided the driver. No problem.

We had no permit for filming. No permit. Let me say that again: NO PERMIT!!

I did this shot without extras. But still, my crew was large….maybe 25 people. 4 of us had walkie-talkies and were positioned strategically around the shoot. It was 7PM. Night school was in session.

The shot was to have Butch run down the steps of this ancient school wearing a graduation gown and cap and jump into the Trans Am. He then peeled rubber, did a couple of fish tails, and headed down Hollywood Blvd. Cut.

The steps were at the front of the main entrance. It was lighted nicely. A huge class was going on just above on the second floor. 75 people had moved to the windows to see what was happening. The streets started to flood with onlookers.

I was the director. I was in charge. Huge klieg lights lit the area to be shot.

“ACTION!!”

We did several takes. And then one of the guys, on a walkie talkie, called me and said cops were driving up to check things out. I put a temp hold on production while I watched 3 squad cars slowly drive to where I stood in the middle of Hollywood Blvd.

They got out of their cruisers and stood beside their cars. Not a word. Obviously, they assumed we had a permit because no one would have the balls to shut down this heavily trafficked area.

I said “Action” for the last time…the shot went without a hitch, and then I yelled “Cut and… Print!!”

Everything went perfectly. We quickly packed up. Applause came from everywhere. It was deafening. Even the cops were clapping.

We got into our vehicles and headed over to the Brown Derby where I treated everyone for dinner.

We would be ready for the Princess Louise…..I just needed to make a visit to Cassandra the Casket Queen.

I got the L.A. Yellow Pages out and searched. There she was. Casandra the Casket Queen. Butch and I took a ride to her beat-up Hollywood home. No furniture except for a bedroom. The place was laden with real caskets but painted in psychedelic colors. Wild. Crazy. Nuts! Cool! Perfect!

We negotiated a rate for renting 5 of them for one night. Butch called George Barris, the car customizer to the Stars, and asked to borrow 2 hearses. We managed to shove all of the caskets inside.

We parked it at my house in Long Beach. The shoot at the Princess Louise in San Pedro was set for that night. Everything was lined up. People were paid off…either in cash or coke. Marvin Rush, the cinematographer, was set to meet us there at 6PM. Our make up artist would be there on time, or so she promised.

Even my financial backer would be there. He was an ex-San Quentin con that was a big dealer of cocaine. He and I became good friends because I wasn’t a mooch. Everyone around him constantly hung on the hope of hand-outs. I never asked. And for the most part, I turned his offers of a toot down. One little snort and I was good for hours…whereas, his hangers on needed a toot every 20 minutes. And I just didn’t like the shakes it gave you if you did too much. I was the only one in his life like that. And more importantly, we liked each other. Rick was a big bear of a man who you wanted on your side. Never betrayed his trust. Another story there.

 *     *     *

We stood outside the boat waiting for everyone to assemble. Rick had driven his Rolls Royce. So that was our focal point for assembly.

THE EXTRAS

Once everyone was there, around 100 people including extras, I went up to the chapel to finalize and make sure we were set….I met with the chaplain and he was sweating bullets. He was dressed in his captain’s clothes. Looked very cool.

Standing next to him was a dapper man that I had never seen. He OWNED the boat and told me we could not use it because the chaplain had no authority.

Fuck! Shit! Piss! Cunt! Cock! Screw! Motherfucker! Motherfucker!

NOT AGAIN!!

He told me to calm down and told me that for $4000 we could use his chapel for filming.

$4000. If I fucked this up, Marvin would bail on me and the whole project would go up in smoke. I ran down to Rick and told him. Rick, at first, offered to tune this guy up. I told him no. I asked Rick for $2000 in cash. I would go home and get my $2000. Rick did not like this one bit but got into his Rolls and headed for Torrance to get his dough. I headed to Long Beach.

An hour later, Rick and I handed the guy his $4000. Then…..he said, “I’ve changed my mind. I want $6000. And in a blur of fists, the owner of the Princess Louise lay on the floor moaning, bleeding, and probably wondering what happened to him?

Rick had no truck for cheats. A person’s word is everything and this guy was a hustler. He tried to hustle us so  Rick spanked him. We all helped the owner up to a chair and Rick whispered in his ear. I could not hear what he said… And Rick never told me what he whispered to the owner. I think it was better that way.

We started loading the equipment up a ramp and 3 decks to the top of the boat and into the chapel.

The last thing we took upstairs was the outrageous caskets..

This had to be the funniest thing I had ever seen…worthy of a Mel Brooks movie…..The second deck had a swanky restaurant on it and the only stairs to the chapel was inside the eatery. We held 5 caskets like pall bearers through a crowded restaurant…”Oh..excuse me….sorry…may I get through there please?”, etc. You could hear utensils drop to the plates. You could hear 50 people inhaling but not exhaling. No one blinked. I wish I had filmed, or at least taken photos, of that. It was priceless.

I handed Marvin the latest shooting script. One of his guys looked at it and said, “No way. 31 scenes???” Marvin immediately chastised him for questioning the director, me.

Our song was exactly 2 minutes long. We had already filmed the high school which accounted for 2 edits that lasted 2 seconds each. In all, the script had 33 scenes. That was an average of 4 seconds per edit.

And I had to do it that night. I would not have Marvin again because of his schedule.

We started filming around 8PM and finished at 6AM. I got every scene I wanted and got them in no more than two takes. I improvised on the fly as situations presented themselves. The out-takes are hysterical.

The last scene has Butch sitting by a lagoon with the moon reflecting on the water. We had only minutes before the sun rose. We ran down to the shore by the boat mooring. Butch sat next to a small body of sea water…pebbles and rocks. There was no moon that night but the Cosmic Muffin smiled on me that night. There was a light standard on the boat dock and the light from it was reflected in the water looking exactly like the moon.

“Action!” Cut!” “Print!”

We were done. Marvin took me aside…the man that went on to become the cinematographer of the many Star Trek series and some of the movies…..and told me that he thought that it would be impossible to get all the shots I had written down, but we did it and he patted me on the back and hugged me.  I broke down. The stress of this shoot had finally hit home.

My adrenaline was running high. The night started with a hundred people. At 6AM, there was maybe 15 left. I offered breakfast but we were so tired that we just wanted to sleep.

Oh no. I had to take the caskets back. So we loaded them into the 2 hearses and I drove it to Cassandra’s with a few guys. We unloaded them, I dropped people off, and headed home. The hearse stayed parked in my driveway all day while I slept with a smile.

The next part will be the torturous editing of the video, the fight with Rocshire Records, and the illegal bribing of radio stations and distributors. Then the fall of Rocshire Records to the F.B.I.

To be continued….

BUTCH SLAPPING ME WITH A LEMON MERINGUE PIE FOR A PROMOTIONAL VIDEO TO BE SHOWN AT THE HOLLYWOOD PALACE ON HALLOWEEN.

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Categories: CIGAR REVIEWS