Friday, May 11, 2012

Paul Newman

It was 1989 in Winfield, LA when I found myself in the role of a Times-Picayune photographer in the movie BLAZE. This Touchtone Pictures film starred Paul Newman portraying the latter years in the life of Louisiana’s colorful Governor Earl K Long.

I was in only one scene, but I was stuck in a Winfield motel room for a week. Rain had been plaguing this production for several days and my scene, an exterior scene with Richard Jenkins, kept being pushed back. Of course this delay considerably increased my salary, but I was going stir-crazy. In 1989 I had neither pager nor cell phone and I was asked to remain on stand-by in my room. At least the room had a cable connection and I watched old movies until they all started running together.

The day before my scene appeared on the call-sheet, the Tiananmen Square protests topped the news. Just as I was becoming absorbed in this tragic series of events, my phone rang and I was escorted to the set. 

My God! The sun was out! It was hot, but nonetheless a gorgeous day. The AD took me to the honey wagons and showed me to my dressing room. When I opened the door, I was met with a general clutter - shoes, clothes and personal items obviously belonging to someone else.

I had to find out what the deal was, so I started making my way to the wardrobe trailer. While en route I heard my name: “Hey Jerry,…. JERRY!” I looked over my shoulder and saw my friends Harold Herthem and Sid Lacy racing toward me. Slightly out of breath Harold said: “Jerry, Sid and I hope you don’t mind, but we saw your name on a dressing room door and decided you probably wouldn’t mind if we used your dressing room.” I said “Of course not, Harold. But wardrobe didn’t assign you guys your own dressing rooms?” Harold said “Hell, Jerry, Sid and I are just extras. We’re playing Earl Long cronies. You see that truck over there?” I looked and saw this big stake body truck with a tarp over it. Harold said “That’s what they told us we had to change in. Man, was it hot! Sid and I told the wardrobe ladyAre Long’s cronies supposed to be old, SWEATY fat guys … because that’s what we’re going to be if we have to change in that truck’, so when we saw your name, we figured ol’ Jer wouldn’t mind if we changed in his room. Hope you don’t mind.” And of course ol’ Jer didn’t mind and it was fun being with these 2 friends for the remaining 2 days of my schedule.

Later in this shoot Harold would be upgraded to a bit player and he lost no time joining the Screen Actors Guild. A year later he was cast by Oliver Stone as a coroner in JFK. But Harold’s big break came when he was cast as the family doctor in FORREST GUMP. To know Harold was to love Harold. He enjoyed boasting about his big contract fees and huge residual checks he was getting from JFK and FORREST GUMP.

One day, while I was en route on foot to the YMCA, I heard a horn on Capitol Heights Ave. Harold pulled up beside me and flashed his first FG residual check. I must admit I was impressed. It certainly was more than I had ever gotten in a residual. In fact it was more than I had ever gotten in a session fee. I was jealous, but nonetheless very pleased for Harold.

Harold went on to appear in 8 more films until his very tragic passing in 1998. His nephew, Louis Herthem, has essentially continued his uncle’s meteoric rise in the film industry. I couldn’t be happier for Louis. Again I must admit I’m jealous, but of course very pleased for Louis. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer, more deserving friend. High FIVES, Lou!!

Pardon the quality of the 3 pictures in this post. These were screen shots from .mpegs. In the middle picture are Harold (cigar in mouth) and Sid. The picture at the top is a shot of my dialog with Richard Jenkins who was playing the Picayune Reporter and in the lower picture is Paul Newman, as Earl, flipping the bird as I snap his picture.

Richard Jenkins would become a big hit 10 years later in a movie entitled "The Visitor" winning several nominations including Best Actor.  Go Richard!!

1 comment:

  1. I love reading all of these. My mom knew Harold herthum. I went to high school with Louis!