Thursday, June 6, 2013

Who's Next?

"Betty Boop" drops in on producer Steve Leiva
Twenty years ago, I was directing the ill-fated  Betty Boop Movie for Richard Zanuck and MGM Studios. We were doing casting sessions - producers Jerry Rees and Steve Leiva, casting director Ronnie Yeskel  and me.  A parade of famous faces came through my office for three solid weeks.  What I found very surprising was the anxiety they felt about auditioning.  Many of them asked our receptionist if we were cool, and left saying, "That was the most fun I ever had at an audition."  No one told me we were supposed to be cruel to them.

To drop a few names....Chris Penn gave an hilarious read, came back ten minutes later, and asked to do it again.  Teri Garr was in a mood after getting horribly lost on the way, but about half way through her audition, she got that spark in her eye - the one you fell in love with in her movies.   We gave her a round of applause when she finished. We met with Bud Cort of Harold and Maude fame.  Paul Reubens, then recently of Florida porn theater arrest fame.  Met Shelley Long, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Helen Hunt, Virginia Madsen - had instant crushes on them all.  Ned Beatty came in to tell us that he does not read for parts and how dare we ask so much of the man who was raped in Deliverance.  Okay, Ned.  

With all the stars coming through our little studio offices in Burbank, our crew never expressed more than a cursory interest in what was going on.  But one afternoon, there was a big commotion.  I saw people walking with great purpose past my door toward the lobby, and lots of laughter and chatter.  Ronnie called to me, "Steve, I have someone here to meet you."

Huh?  Was this a gag?  Was I being set up?  A woman dressed as Betty Boop had stopped by once, was she back?  I rounded the corner and nearly bumped right into Roger Daltrey.  Roger "who the fuck are you" Daltrey.  Roger "teenage wasteland" Daltrey.  Roger "mama's got a squeezebox daddy doesn't sleep at night" Daltrey.  Roger Daltrey.  He was shorter than I expected,  super fit, and very friendly.

He came to read for us!  He was in town for  the wedding of John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, and stopped in on the way.  His limo was waiting outside.  He was exhausted, saying "Ronnie, I haven't had a moment to fart." He read, wasn't very good and knew it.  "Can I come back tomorrow?" he asked me.

"Uh.....yeah!  Sure! Any time you want."

And he did come back the next day!  He told us all about the wedding, how all the rock and roll gods were there and how they all jammed together after the wedding.  We told him we'd be in London on business and he gave producer Leslie Hough his phone number and invited us over.

For weeks the studio buzzed about Daltrey's visit.  Board artist  Steve Wahl had the used tea bag he fetched for him hung up on his wall.  And Leslie did call from London, but he wasn't in and she left a message.  We came back to the hotel after dinner  and the desk clerk gave her a message "Mr. Roger Daltrey returned your call."

We left for L.A. in the morning, wondering what kind of evening we missed.  

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