Saturday, May 19, 2012
In 1975 I played a pivitol role in an NBC TV drama entitled DEADLY TOWER directed by Jerry Jameson.
About a year after that production was completed and aired on NBC Jameson returned to Louisiana to cast and direct a made-for-TV pro-football epic entitled SUPERDOME. He remembered my DEADLY TOWER performance and cast me (without audition) as the Coach of the Cougars Pro Football team.
When I got the script I found that my role was quite substantial. I lost no time learning the script and letting family and friends know of my good fortune.
The cast included David Janssen, Edie Adams, Peter Haskell, Ken Howard, Van Johnson, Donna Mills, Ed Nelson, Jane Wyatt, Tom Selleck and a bevy of recently retired NFL players including Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith.
The script dealt with illicit game wagering among the Cougar players. As the coach my locker room lecture dealt with admonitions regarding player gaming and the possible consequences of such behavior. In the course of rehearsing the locker room scene, the players (mainly Dick Butkus and Bubba Smith) took pleasure in razzing me, trying to throw me off, playfully trying to intimidate me. And of course they did occasionally get the desired effect. But when the camera rolled and I got it right, I was asked by one of them “You a real coach?” What a complement?! The scene went great and Jameson was quite pleased as was I.
Months later when ABC announced the air date, I let everyone know. But when it aired, my only scenes were my few field side-line appearances. What happened? What happened to my great locker-room scene? The next day I managed to get a call into the production office. I asked about this disturbing omission. I was told that the NFL had previewed the film and had objected to a plot structure that would include active players being involved in illicit gaming. Because the NFL would have no problem with retired players being so involved, the script was re-written and edited to exclude active team players from such nefarious activities, thus rendering my locker room scene unusable. My heart was broken, but at least I was not cut entirely. Lesson learned – DON’T tout forthcoming productions for fear of possibly suffering humiliation. I have adhered to that rule ever since this SUPERDOME disappointment.
And since then I have appeared in some 20 major roles that I have not been cut from, but nonetheless dared not boast about. I did violate that vow with my recent role in TNT’s HIDE because I was tipped off that my scene (a nice little cameo) was left in, that it was pivotal to the story line. But I will continue to beware the possibility of exclusion UNLESS I know for certain my scenes have not been cut.
The heartbreak I can handle. It’s the embarrassment I have a hard time with.