Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Robert Goulet has passed away

This morning I opened up my New York Times and read that Robert Goulet has passed away. It made me think of Atlantic City and the day in Montreal where he came and worked with us as a lounge singer. I was very nervous about it all as the script certainly indicated that the singer was a send up of a lounge singer and my first thoughts were that this famous guy, Robert Goulet would have too much ego to send himself up. I wondered if Louis Malle had actually told him what the part was really all about. You know in life you often have impressions from past suppositions that just are not real. This was one of them. He came, he was gracious, friendly, did great work, wasted no time, understood exactly what Louis wanted and made us all have a great day of shooting. I was so pleased to be there and to hear him for he had a wonderful voice and a great presentation as well. He entertained us. It was easy to see how he captured hearts with his role of Lancelot in Camelot and how he became so popular and one of the Canadian icons of his time. I am sorry that he is gone now but I know he will be remembered by millions of people which he richly deserves.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I remember being at a yoga session and having a Guru say "Life Begins with the first breath in and ends with the last breath out." Simple statement and yet in its own way it led me to understand that, watching my breath seems to ground me. I read in a yoga book about meditation that "Watch your breath and see your life change." Again a simple statement but I can remember once when I was thankful to remember both the statements.

I was working in Halifax on a little TV series called, "Local Heroes". It was about people who were for the most part unsung except for their 15 minutes of local newspaper fame. Some were quite heroic and others just seemed to happen by chance and really be about being someplace at the right moment. Well we were at the end of a small river leading into the Atlantic ocean and the story involved a daughter in her twenties out for a row with her father when the boat capsized. A man on the beach swam out and saved them. Easy to see in one's mind but not so easy to capture in the fall of the year in the Atlantic ocean with tides to deal with and on top of that weather that could be good or just awful. A low budget was also a great impeding factor at times. So we got the two zodiacs (inflated rubber boats) for filming, and found a river that ran into the ocean with a sand beach that went out about 150 feet before it was over your head. Good to do most of the work in shallow water and not drown anyone. Drowning has a lot to do with the last breath out.
What happened in the story was that when the row boat capsized the daughter and her father clasped hands over the keel and yelled and yelled. The man heard them from shore and swam out. We put the upside down boat across a 14 foot zodiac and towed it with our bigger zodiac. Video cables were run from the bigger zodiac to the smaller one where the camera was locked down. The trick was to keep the locked camera with the two people hanging on to the keel in the foreground and the hero swimming toward them in the background. Sounds easy but with the outbound current from the river and the ocean current moving inward it was dicey. I was wearing a dry suit as I had been standing in the water where it was shallow. It was not done up and sealed. We rolled camera and I could see we would not get the shot, the man was not in the right alignment. This meant steering the camera boat a little this way or that to keep him in frame. I knew if we stopped and lined it up again the whole resetting would take 15 minutes or more so I jumped off the stern of the larger boat and got between the two zodiacs. Perhaps a dumb move but I had quickly sensed I could not be hurt by the rubber sides of these two craft squeezing me and I knew exactly what I had to do to keep the boat facing the right way. Perhaps not the job of a 1st Assistant Director which is what I was at the time and still am. But with a tight schedule and no money for overtime, every second saved to spend wisely later is worth it. That is the job to make the seconds count. Tough job.
So I jumped in and grabbed the ropes joining the crafts and delicately steered the smaller zodiac to keep the people in the shot. We got the shot in one take which was great. We broke off the cables and one cable they gave to me to swim the few feet to the large Zodiac that held a dozen people and was very fast and powerful with its engines and propeller well under the keel. It slowly started to pull away and remembering the fun of being towed by a rope in the water I lay on my back about 30 feet behind the craft and enjoyed the trip. In a sense it was a small reward for getting the shot and I knew I had a few minutes to kill before everyone was on shore and we could set up the next shot. I knew the water was shallow and I could stand whenever I let go of the rope so I just was having fun. The zodiac driver was not aware I was a freeloader enjoying the fun of it all. I let go and sank not to my shoulders as I expected but down, down, down about 8 feet. I jumped up off the bottom and popped to the surface and I could not kick with my feet in the dry suit all filled now with water. I was worried and I realized I did not know how to signal that I was in distress. I sank again and this time when I came up I raised one arm which seemed a logical sort of signal for attention. Nothing. I raised both arms nothing. I sank and jumped up once more now panicking that I was going to drown. I for some reason remembered that I should watch my breath and try to get under control. I do not know exactly why this came to mind but it relates directly to those two statements at the start of this story . Well when I watched my breath and I was immediately reminded of laboratory mice used for feeding boa constrictors hyperventilating when they were being squeezed. I was terrified that I would not get my breathing slow enough to really get any air. I was beside myself with fear and panic. There is no other feeling so profoundly debilitating. My arms started to paddle frantically underwater as they did when I was probably 5 or 6 when I was learning how to float on my back and this tiny action kept my head a bit above water and I slowly my breathing slowed down and I regained some control of things. I steered myself toward shore and people came and helped me out. They turned me upside down in my dry suit and I must have had 20 gallons of water in it which made me realize that the joy ride on my back had filled the dry suit with water from the neck down. Everyone laughed as I was deluged with water. I was happy to be alive. It was a lesson and I think the only time I have come close to death and had time to think about it over a minute or so. Fear led me to tense actions and in the end panic. I have experienced accidents but they happen in a trice and you either make the right move or bite the bullet. I have so far made the right moves and each motorcycle and bicycle accident I can remember in minute detail although none took more than 10 or 15 seconds to materialize and come to a conclusion. Each is a miracle of luck for other than a couple of cracked ribs I have never been hurt. Each seemed to go on a long time with many decisions being made mid air or in the moments leading up to the actual contact of the crash. It is amazing how fast the mind really is and how it remembers vividly what takes place in milliseconds. I do not think computers are faster. They just can keep the pace up for a longer time in a narrow simple task.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Life is revelation. Each moment is new and here are some of mine. You will find me in these blogs. My revelations.

I am a survivor. In fact you all are, or at least all of you who are reading the beginning of my blog. It is something I am joyful for as it allows me to experience my life. Somewhere in the early 60s I decided I did not want to Work as a Sales Rep. for Office Overload which was a temporary help agency. I know it was heavy on my mind for several months but I had no skills really and was coping at best. Not everyone knew that for at heart you can tell my mood in a millisecond, but you cannot tell my inner feelings of confidence or the lack of it, even if I claim to be one way or the other. I am a convincing liar to get my own way. I would not consider it malicious lying but just 'staying alive' lying. Since I was 4 I have been considered headstrong. I consider myself curious and just wanting to do what I want to do. After 73 years around here on earth I have to say yes, headstrong is an honest evaluation. It was spring and and sunny warm. I was driving to an appointment in my bosses Lincoln town car which was mine to use when he was not in town. On the radio, CBC was talking about the new Television station that was being built called CFTO, the new television channel is the core of the CTV national network in Canada. They were designing and building all the flats and sets for their regular programs out at some studios in Kleinburg just north west of downtown Toronto on Highway 27. It stuck so in my mind that I got a road map out of the glove compartment and found out were Kleinburg was. I drove there in by business suit, which was standard wear for me. Remember the image of the IBM executive and you pretty well sum up how I looked. I now have suits for weddings and funerals. Well, I went up to Kleinberg and talked to several departments who would only take experienced people but the man in charge of the Art and Paint Department said he would hire me to wash out paint brushes for 50 dollars a week. I said I really, really, wanted the job but I could not pay my bills earning so little. I followed that with "I can manage at 60". He gave me the job and the money I asked for. I remember when I walked out I was excited that not only did I have a new life ahead of me I had also proved myself as a salesman.

As I am writing this in my third floor attic office, I looked up on the wall. I have a framed picture of John Ritter. The caption is "Hey John - Have I told you how I got started in Show Business? Well... It all began as a kid with a dream" He would say that very slowly like the beginning of a long, long story and laugh and then get up; kidding me because he knew I wanted him on set. We worked on a TV movie called Lethal Vows. It was the only time. He was such a nice and thoughtful, happy, person. His vibrations just joined with my own and I am sure with other peoples in a most harmonious way. The whole experience of that movie is etched in my mind and milestones in my life happened during the shoot. It lead me to try a flower remedy for lack of confidence which can overtake anyone, and did me for about a week before I took the flower remedy, called Larch, prescribed for exactly that feeling. I was fine in less than 3 days and aced the picture. I fasted for 12 days during the shoot. Green grapes and water and towards the end of the 12 days some hot water with lemon and unpasturized honey in the evening. We were doing 12 hour days. Solid director, Producer and script with a great cast and an excellent crew. Smooth sailing. The producer Robert Phillips, I have lost touch with was an awesome producer on our project. Such a gentle man who knew his stuff and could and did exert his judgement when necessary. We would drive at night after the days shoot through different parts of Toronto and I would point out the highlights of buildings and houses and parks. It was summer and wonderful to do. I looked forward to them as the perfect way to come down from all the adrenelin use during the day. We talked about politics and life freely together. Very special.