Friday, September 23, 2011

Super ‘70s and ‘80s: “Legends of the Superheroes”—the actors, part 2 of 2

Introduction to series “Super ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Introduction to subseries “Legends of the Superheroes” (including list of interviewees).

Legends of the Superheroes actors, part 1 of 2.

[NOTE: The actors included here are Garrett Craig (Captain Marvel), Rod Haase (Flash), and Bill Nuckols (Hawkman). I did not interview them at the same time; I combined their answers since they were part of the same production.]

What, if any, mistakes or accidents happened during the shoots?

Garrett Craig: Did you ever own anything that looked really, really awesome but didn’t work well? These yellow boots made me the Man of Steel from the knees down and yet everybody wanted Action Boy. Like the day Regis Philbin came to do an interview with someone from the LOTS cast…

I did sometimes ad-lib on set. So you can imagine how wet-finger-in-the-socket shocked I was when they told me to go with Regis for the interview. At the time, I think Regis was working A.M. Los Angeles. When I swung open the padded door, in my Santa red skinny jeans, the rafters immediately rattled with Regis’s electric Bronx [accent], “Hey Captain Marvel—fly over here.”

I’d seen the show and I knew he was quick to riff with. Regis [said], “Why don’t you jump off a ladder into the interview, like you’re flying in?” I told him that normally I loved being wicked ape, but that I’m not really wearing Superboots. [They were more] like solid yellow sewer plates. I [said I] can’t do it—I’d land harder than an anvil on Wile E. Coyote.

When Regis has an idea, he seems to move faster than the speed of sound because he didn’t hear me! Since he thought it was a union job, he kept looking for some Teamster to move the ladder he found for me to jump off of. We waited and waited. Finally, I just grabbed the ladder, climbed to the second step, and jumped off. Regis stared at me like he had just seen Mary Poppins in a thong. Regis laughed so hard, he ended up, I think out of pity, asking me to [a] party [he was having].

What were your expectations for the shows?

Garrett Craig: If you have any idea of what is going to succeed in Hollywood, you probably already work for Pixar. As long as I can remember, critics have said this genre or that is as dead as Robert Downey, Jr.’s career. In defense of critics, picking a winning flick is a lot like guessing what mistakes from your past the woman in your life will be using in your next argument.

We all worked and hoped to make it a creative, funny take on superheroes. There were so many talented people, production, acting…[but still] the lightning could have gone into the bottle from any direction.
Bill Nuckols: I hoped it would do well.

Did you think the concept would get picked up as a series? Did you want it to?

Garrett Craig: We didn’t get to see dailies and we were shooting in so many different locations [that] I don’t know if it [would have been] possible to know how the parade would end. And even if we could see what the producers were seeing, what would you base the success on? New Family in Town fails [to be picked up], [is retooled as Happy Days], [and] ends up running forever. There is such a magical combination of everyone involved in a series, you have to understand that, in most cases, talent won’t get you there…but it will keep you there.
Bill Nuckols: That would have been nice, but I don’t know what the producers had in mind.
Rod Haase: I didn’t think there was any chance of LOTS being picked up as a series—there were too many superhero characters. As I recall, Batman and Robin were in LOTS and they had already had a TV series. The other thing about this production was that it was so cheesy, with really inane dialogue—not much imagination in the way of plot or story arc.

Was there a wrap party or did any of the cast get together to celebrate in any way?

Garrett Craig: I’m not even sure if actors getting together qualifies as a celebration. If a huge number of people with varying degrees of multiple personality problems get together, that’s [either] rehab or Congress. Besides, at that time, we weren’t sure what we had to celebrate. If there was a cast party, much like my prom, I didn’t know about it.

How long did you keep the shows on your resume? What other jobs, if any, did they help you get?

Garrett Craig: My agent pointed out that most actors work five to ten years to be “discovered from nowhere.”
Bill Nuckols: Always kept them on. Was in movie Sunset Cover and TV series Supertrain.

What did you do professionally after the shows?

Garrett Craig: I wanted to stay near show business so I tried to think outside the forum. I started [by] becoming the after-game “crowd coordinator” for the L.A. Lakers. It just seemed to me [that] most real Lakers fans were so unprepared for that level of civil disobedience.
Bill Nuckols: I slowly drifted out of acting.

Did you stay in touch with any of the other stars after the show?

Garrett Craig: I tried to [ask] Burt Ward to help me with the marketing [for my Lakers job], but apparently he wants some kind of fee to call you back.
Bill Nuckols: I did not.

Did you bump into any of the other stars at any point afterward?

Garrett Craig: During the LOTS shoot of “The Roast,” Ed McMahon had been the very positive, vocal, sell-the-product kind of gent that you heard he was. He always had an uplifting attitude and made no excuses; he wanted to see LOTS become a success. All the conversations we had were both very humorous and very driven to find ways to make the show better.

Back [then], there was a club called Dino’s Lodge where a lot of people would go to have breakfast waaay after hours. It was a place where you could kind of hide after the other clubs or studios were closed. [One] evening as I glanced up over my favorite, [a] mountain of Eggs Benedict, I saw McMahon’s 6’4” expansive self fighting his way through the jungle of people. With a smile like a warm beacon through the darkened room, [he said], “Hey Captain, where’s the cape?” [When Ed was] almost to my table, I could see [he] had two very attractive blond friends under each arm. “How bad was the accident?” I said. Ed was waving at other friends but turned back to see what I was on about. “What?” he [said as he] stopped at my table. “The accident…so bad you have to have crutches?” Without [missing] a beat, McMahon said ([accompanied by] that booming laugh), “No, no…these ladies are security. If I fall, one cushions the blow and the other gives me mouth to mouth.” The girls laughed even harder. Too many years with Carson for anybody to corner the big man on the chessboard that easily.

Did anyone on the street ever recognize you from the shows?

Garrett Craig: There was this one time and I did get very excited! I was walking through Westwood and this girl went into hysteria shouting, “I know you…you’re that guy on TV!” I was thrilled and said, “Well, yeah.” She [said], “You wear that red suit.” I was trying to keep shy and cool “Yeah, I do.” Now she was jumping up and down saying, “I knew it! I watch Teletubbies all the time with my little sister!”
Rod Haase: Not as I recall.
Bill Nuckols: No. My face was covered in the show.

What memorabilia, if any, did you save from LOTS (TV Guide ad, your costume, press kit, call sheets, your contract, props, etc.)?

Garrett Craig: I did save some of the TV Guides, complete with Doritos stains.

Have you ever heard from fans about the shows (letters, phone calls, e-mails)?

Garrett Craig: Actually…no. The only fans I have use crayons.
Rod Haase: Two or three comic book fans in 30 years.
Bill Nuckols: I got some fan mail shortly after the shows.

Have you ever heard from writers (before me) about the shows? If so, do you know how they found you?

Garrett Craig: Are you kidding, Marc? Who else would take a year to find this long gone LOTS cast? You’re the only one I know with such dynamics and perseverance that you make the Energizer Bunny look like Eeyore getting a ransom note from Winnie-the-Pooh, written on his broken honey jar.
Bill Nuckols: You are the first.

What was your reaction when you heard I had found you and wanted to interview you?

Garrett Craig: I felt like anybody else [these days] who gets a message from someone [he doesn’t] know…panic!
Rod Haase: Hmmm.
Bill Nuckols: I was surprised.

Did you know what a cult following the show has today?

Garrett Craig: I don’t know how many fans we have. It would be great if it were true. And on the side of stranger things have happened, I suppose if the E*TRADE talking baby, Cats & Dogs 2, Vampires Suck, and karaoke can have fans, then I suppose LOTS could, [too]?

And if you’re out there LOTS fans, HOLLA! Wazup? RESPECT! You walkin’ to yer own rhythm.
Rod Haase: No.
Bill Nuckols: No, I didn’t.

Where do you live now?

Garrett Craig: California.
Rod Haase: California.
Bill Nuckols: Baltimore/DC area.

What do you do for a living?

Garrett Craig: Elementary school substitute teacher.
Rod Haase: Mortgage broker. I did a number of other TV shows, movies of the week, features, and commercials, but by 1985, I was pretty much out of the business. I didn’t go into mortgage brokering until 2001.
Bill Nuckols: In between work right now.

Do you have children?

Garrett Craig: I have one daughter named Cindy, who to date has kept this immaculately organized life in her home and the children’s ministry she oversees. She has been able to lead a sure balance in her family life. It has been a perfect picture until now! Now, however, the picture contains new royalty, Princess Aubree, three years old. The Queen is not dead but has met with her majestic match.

There is also a son. I think we call him Jim or at least that’s the name we keep on the refrigerator to remind us of him when he comes home. He is very funny.

And finally there is our party girl, Donna. She makes every birthday, Christmas, holiday like a Disney theme park. She truly puts so much love into everything she plans, which is why we had so much hope for her newborn son. But it’s not quite the way she planned it. Let’s just say if Mattel made a “Toy Son” that ran through walls, bounced off stairs, leaped from the tops of trees, and never slept, our daughter’s newborn son, Josiah, would have broken Mattel’s Toy Son within ten minutes.
Rod Haase: None.
Bill Nuckols: No.

What do your kids think of your time as a superhero?

Garrett Craig: If you look online, you can see some good reports and some people just talkin’ smack about LOTS. For my time on this planet, I find the goal is as important as the people and the experiences during and on the way to Oz. Guaranteed there will be flying monkeys, but you learn to see the good hearts and wisdom of people who become great friends. I try, do not always succeed, to be as worthy a service as I can to the mission I am given. I sincerely felt like everyone did their best to bring laughter to LOTS.

Of the six billion people on this planet, we got to try and create something very special. Is it special if only 30 million people see it? Or is it enough that [only] the mother bird sees her baby fly? For a few minutes, we flew! So was I honored? Was it too cool to have been chosen to run rampant through a comic book fantasy? You bet! It was the best of times to pretend, with a lot of other great pretenders. So I do gratefully thank everyone involved in this super providence…especially Mr. Marc Nobleman for the opportunity to say it out loud.

If a comic book/pop culture convention paid your way, would you attend and sign autographs for fans?

Garrett Craig: Yes, I would go to sign autographs for our fans. But wouldn’t it be easier just to go out for a hamburger with both of them?
Rod Haase: Probably not.
Bill Nuckols: Perhaps.

How do you look back at your experience on this show?

Garrett Craig: I look back on it a lot like I look back on kindergarten. It would have been nice to have known more, to have done more but…it brings back awesome memories.
Bill Nuckols: It was fun. Maybe I should have stayed out there, tried for other parts.

Do you have a favorite memory about the LOTS shows?

Garrett Craig: My last scene was with the incredibly versatile Frank Gorshin. I had seen him do his stand-up impressions. When Frank came along, impressions were kind of cheesy and corny. He [recast] it into whole new 3-D experience. Frank was like Rich Little [crossed with] Jim Carrey. I assumed he was too big to rehearse with a newbie and we would just go live on set. That’s when I felt the tap on my shoulder. I turned around and Gorshin, as Jimmy Cagney, asked me, “You wouldn’t be Marvel, would you?” I hung my head, swayed my shoulder, peered up as John Wayne, and said, “Well, Pilgrim…that would be me.” Later, when we got to know each other, we would argue who had the best “Duke.” In my act, I did some of Frank’s characters: Cary Grant, Eddie G. Robinson, Jimmy Stewart, Karloff, Brando, and Bogie. But none of my characters came with the speed and expressions of Gorshin’s; he was a master. Without hesitating, he asked, “You know your lines? I said ‘I [do]…and I know yours, too!” He waved me towards his Cadillac and said, “Good, ‘cause I don’t know any of mine yet. Let’s rehearse.”

For the next few hours, I was treated to a position I had not begun to earn but I was beyond blessed to be part of. I got access to years of training and experience that you could not begin to pay for. There were stories about actors, engagements, trials and errors, hard work ethic, and a whole lotta’ laughter. Frank told me that in his act, he had a bit where he sang a popular commercial of the day: “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.” He said the people at Oscar Mayer [then] sent him a year’s supply of hot dogs. “Now in my act,” [he continued], “I sing, ‘I wish I were a Lincoln Con-ti-nen-tal.’”

We actually [developed] a far funnier routine [with] Marvel actually going crazy and off into impersonation wonderland with Gorshin. But Carruthers would not allow one word to be changed…

It was getting late. Carruthers [said], “I’m sorry, Frank, we don’t have enough sunlight to shoot the scene. Frank [said], “What d’ya mean, there’s plenty of light!” Carruthers shook his head no [and said], “Only to do the master; the sun will be over the hill by the time we get to the pick-ups.” Frank: “Okay, no sweat! Marvel and I will do it in one take.”

Note: A four minute scene in theater…no sweat. A four minute scene on tape, shot/reverse shot, close-up, wide, all of which the camera people have to choreograph in what is known as a R-E-H-E-A-R-S-A-L…forgetaboutit!

Carruthers: “Frank, I’m sorry. We just don’t have enough time. I think it’s already too dark.” Frank motioned to the lead camera [and said], “You got enough time if we do it in one take?” Not wanting to cross Carruthers, he looked down [but said], “I think so.” Carruthers shot me a hard glance [and said], “Marvel, don’t screw up!”

Usually there are a few nerves before a scene, but Frank and I had shredded this script like a CIA secret. [If this were] vaudeville, I [would’ve been] what was called the “second banana”; I had to do the straight lines and give Frank something to bounce off of. He was slipping in and out of personalities like Madonna through an all-men’s college. My character was supposed to be very confused…so I could not show how much wicked crazy fun I was having doing comedy with one of the best in town. When Carruthers yelled cut, Frank looked over at me sweating big time from all his antics; [he gave a] thumb up and mouth[ed] the words, “One take!” The entire cast and crew erupted in a standing ovation, which you can’t quite understand unless you’ve tried to be in the business.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Garrett Craig: I thank and appreciate everyone who believed in all of us enough to give us a chance to become [superheroes]. I thank you for recognizing we tried our best. I hope in the true spirit of all superheroes that you are inspired to try, to enjoy, to never give up becoming. To persevere until you find your gift. It is my true wish that you become the superhero you were made to be.

Next: Barbara Joyce (Huntress).


R.A.M.'67 said...

I've waited until the posting of part two to comment. Needless to say, good interviews, Mr. Nobleman!

Of course, you struck gold with locating Garrett Craig, who has many fond memories of LOTS and the gift of gab! The man's definitely ready to do comic book or sci-fi conventions.

I recall liking Craig as Captain Marvel; heck, I wanted to watch LOTS more for the good Captain than Batman and Robin! (As Captains go, my fave is still Jackson Bostwick.)

While it's lamentable Rod Haase and Bill Nuckols didn't offer much, compared to Craig, it's still nice they took time to talk to you.

Looking forward to your chat with Barbara Joyce.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thank you, R.A.M. '67! Yes, Garrett is a writer's dream on more than one level. A class act. I think Rod and Bill were reluctant to spend too much time on this not knowing what form it would take; I interacted with Garrett much more.

Barbara...alas, I did not speak with her. As you will see, she passed away less than a year before I "found" her...but I did speak with her closest relative and you will see lots of info about her (more than Rod or Bill!).

R.A.M.'67 said...

I meant PROFILE of Barbara Joyce; oops!

Ben Churchill said...

Wow! After all these years of finding next to nothing about this production, you really went above and beyond! I'm amazed at what you found, and the level of detail. I've always liked LOTS for it's campiness and the fact that we got to see these heroes in live-action.

I think Garrett Craig has a way with words, and it's too bad he wasn't allowed to re-write the script, or ad-lib at all. I'm sure he could have livened up the corny jokes. I would like to hear more from him.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Ben! I appreciate it and am glad you enjoyed this. Hoping Howard Murphy and Danuta Wesley will reappear, too...

Andy Mangels said...

Nice job on all of the LOTS interviews, Marc, and glad you were able to find some of the folks I hadn't in the two times I wrote about LOTS (for Amazing Heroes and Back Issue). Between you and I, we got almost everyone who is alive (and I had interviewed some people who have since passed on)!

Glad Garrett was as amiable as could be; too bad neither Rod nor Bill were as forthcoming, but maybe they'll add some things at a future date.

And I know of at least one romance on the set, but until both parties have passed on, mum's the word. ;>

Unknown said...

here's a webpage by Rod Haase with a lot of information both on his Mortgage career and his acting career.