Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Speaking of "Animal House"...

It was the fall of 1995. I was still in school and working part-time at my first ad agency. A friend of mine who made props for the local commercial industry got a gig working on a made-for-TV movie set in Milwaukee that was going to film exteriors there for a week or so before heading up to Canada to shoot the rest of production on the cheap.

My friend called and said that they had some jobs for drivers available and that he could get me 3 or 4 days work at $150 a day. This was easy work (sit around and then drive "the stars" to the set when they were needed ) and good money for a guy in school, so I was certainly interested. But what sold me was the fact that the movie was called "A Family of Cops" and would be starring the one and only Charles Bronson!

I eagerly accepted the gig and spent a couple days driving around the insane Daniel Baldwin, one of the Baldwin brothers and a man who's problems with substance abuse have been well-documented. He was chatty and nice enough to me, though.

But the real thrill came on my third day. It was nighttime, and I was hanging around the production office with nothing to do. A production manager came in and said "Is anyone available to go to the airport and pick up John Vernon?" My mind raced. Where had I heard that familar name before? Wait a minute! John Vernon is...Dean Wormer from "Animal House"! Holy shit! I quickly volunteered and speed off to the airport. And yes, they gave me a sign to hold up at the gate that said "John Vernon" on it. Not that I needed it. He came off the plane and came over to me and let me tell you, the dude was well cast as Dean Wormer. He was a big, imposing guy - about 6'3" and 220 lbs.

And he was super cool. He wouldn't sit in the back and let me chaffuere him around. Instead, he hopped in front with me. He was very chatty and more than willing to talk about "Animal House" and "The Outlaw Josey Wales" (which he was awesome in). And now for the best part. He asked if I minded if he smoked. I said no, go right ahead. He then said "Do you want one?" I looked down, and he had a pack of Kents extended towards me. I didn't smoke, but rightly figured, "When am I ever going to get the chance to smoke with Dean Wormer again?" So I accepted, and Dean Wormer and I smoked as we drove down I-43 in Milwaukee. The next day when he saw me he smiled and waved from a distance, which was also cool. Suffice to say, I was sad when John Vernon passed away in February of 2005 at the age of 72.

I only saw Bronson in the flesh once or twice. But people said he was nice. One of the times I saw him was when I was walking by a trailer, and I saw him sitting inside, alone and staring at the wall. Weird.

The movie turned out terrible, by the way. But I knew it would. And even the thrill of seeing my name in the end credits was snatched away when the promos for the local news came on, causing the credits to be crammed into a little box on the side of the TV screen, distorted and spooling by so rapidly as to be indecipherable.

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