I never met him but he means a lot to me. He embodies, at least in my idealized imagination having never come face-to-face with the man, an authentic and genuinely good-natured artistic spirit that transcends pop culture, much as through the decades he has weaved in and out of the spot-, lime-, or any other colored or flavored light.
Several years ago I got in touch with him through my father via e-mail and he had the following advice to give me. I have it saved and still look it occasionally for motivation, or as a de-stresser, or whenever I need a dose of humanistic reality.
Hope these words do for you anything near what they do for me.
Your son [that’s me] sounds like he’s going to be fine. My advice would be to do everything you can to urge him on in the arts, Except giving him money. It’s good to find out as early as possible what a tough road that is, unless you’re on American Icon—although to judge by some of the winners, that generation has yet to find a match for Nat Cole.We can probably use, say, the example of The Beatles, Van Gough, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, to illustrate that art has usually been the beneficiary of hardship. Getting his degree before he’s learned his art might be like bputting the whores before the art. You know what Ph.D stands for, don’t you: Piled Higher and Deeper.As a last resort you could tell him about my career. I didn’t graduate from high school, never went to college, was working for a living when I was fifteen (my Mum, a widow, ran a boarding houe for service girls during WWII, so it wasn’t a total loss to my education) got my first BBC-TV series when I was twenty-two, wrote my first film “Bond of Fear” when I was twenty-three, got my heart broken when I was twenty-five (by a dazzling beauty, Christine Norden (Google her bio, credits and photos) was deported from South Africa during the apartheid era, (a badge of honor in my circle) Struck gold in Australian television, winning their equivalent of the Emmy (Logie) three times and having a show that was so good it is still used as a measure of excellence, came to the US in 1963 (credits available on MDB) was invited to join the USC Faculty in 1971 by Dr. Edward Borgers and formed the Watts Writers Workshop with Budd Schulberg, set up the MFA in Dramatic Writing at the University of New Mexico where I had seniority, tenure and Chair of the Bob Hartung Dramatic Writing Program, staying for fourteen years before coming up here to Canada to teach creative writing in the Maximum Security Forensic Unit of the Penetanguishene Mental Health Centre in 2002. Nothing in that story about getting the money first! Tell your bright and shiny boychik to put a spare shirt in his saddlebas and point the Yamaha towards anywhere but Hollywood. For the impact of too much money on the soul you need look no further than the BHTC where, of the few real gentlemen I met there, I count Ron Dunas as one of the most authentic.—and Alan Rippner (before your time) coming close behind.To close—here’s an anecdote for your son: A friend of mine was waiting table at Joe Allen’s in New York. It was very busy and he found himself serving a particularly obnoxious, ill-mannered group, one of who kept snapping his fingers for the waiter. My friend, who’d had enough, said to this gent: “I’ll have you know I’m not a waiter—I’m an actor!” Came the answer: “Then act like a fucking waiter!”Cheers!Digby