Friday, December 4, 2015

An Interview with Dick Gautier - Part Four

Kliph Nesteroff: December 1962 - you did the television pilot Butterball Brown with Mickey Shaughnessy.

Dick Gautier: Mickey Shaughnessy, I did two pilots with him, both written by Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth. Neither worked. Jim Nabors was in one of them. I don't know why, but the premise didn't work. It was about a football team and Mickey was the coach. I met my wife there. She was on the show and we got married and were married for twenty years.

Kliph Nesteroff: I always enjoyed Mickey Shaughnessy in movies. He had a great, grizzled face.

Dick Gautier: He was great, although I never saw his stand-up act.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yeah, me either. I heard about his nightclub act from Will Jordan.

Dick Gautier: I am a fan of all those character men. You love them and when they come on screen you go, "Oh, good! I'm going to have a good time." You know? Like Franklin Pangborn.

Kliph Nesteroff: Yes, a couple months ago I did a big long interview with William Schallert and I don't know if anybody can actually calculate this definitively, but he may be the single most prolific actor. Certainly of anyone still alive. He goes back to 1947 and was one of the most prolific guys even when all the other character guys were still around.

Dick Gautier: I think you're probably right. And there isn't a nicer guy around. A very sweet guy. I haven't thought about that, but I think you're right. There was another who died who would have come close - Kevin McCarthy. He lived to be 92 or something and did a lot of that stuff.

Kliph Nesteroff: Those kind of actors - when they come on the screen - I can't help but shout their name. "Kevin McCarthy!"

Dick Gautier: That's right. I'm like you are - I know all their names. "Edward Brophy!"

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs) I love Ed Brophy.

Dick Gautier: I know all those guys from the 1930s and 1940s. They had like a stock company in all the Thin Man movies. A great piece of trivia - who played The Thin Man?

Kliph Nesteroff: I don't know.

Dick Gautier: A guy named Edward Ellis. He was the guy who was the thin man that Nick Charles was looking for. Everyone says, "I know about that movie. Yes, of course, the Thin Man was... uh..." "Edward Ellis." "Who?" 

Kliph Nesteroff: You mentioned Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth. I think that other pilot was called The Jones Boys.

Dick Gautier: That's right. That's what it was. Sultan and Worth were great guys. I loved them. They were really, really terrific fellows. They became fans and put me in a couple things that didn't go, but they kept plugging away. They have a pretty distinguished writing career between them. They said, "Let's try again." I said, "You're going to use me again? I think I'm a jinx!"

Kliph Nesteroff: Speaking of things that were jinxed - you costarred in a 1960s sitcom called Mister Terrific. 

Dick Gautier: Ohhhhh. It wasn't terrific. That was a piece of crap! I didn't even audition or read or do anything. They had seen me on The Patty Duke Show where I played a musician. Kind of a good part that was very showy and I was fast-talking and glib and stuff. They saw it at Universal and said, "Man, he'd be great for the other guy in Mr. Terrific." Bill Schifrin, my agent called and said, "You wanna do it?" I said, "I don't know, it's about a guy who takes a pill and becomes a superhero... It sounds like shit."

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Dick Gautier: He said, "Yeah, it's a piece of shit, but we're guaranteed thirteen episodes. Could you use the money?" I said, "Yeah." We did thirteen and that was it. Goodbye.

Kliph Nesteroff: And speaking of character actors - it co-starred John McGiver. 

Dick Gautier: Oh, he was great. God, he was so good. I loved John, yeah. The guy who starred in it, Stephen Strimpell, had delusions of grandeur. He thought he was doing the Cherry Lane Theater. I mean, really. He went into a producer's office and said, "I won't say this crap!" And he threw the script in his face. I said to him, "Jesus, man, this is a kiddie show! What are you doing? Get your money, button your lip and go home." God, that's all that was, a kiddie show. I don't know what he wanted, but he was very hard to get along with. But John was as sweet as could be - and realistic. He said, "I know it's a piece of crap. So what?"

Kliph Nesteroff: A job is a job.

Dick Gautier: A job is a job, exactly.

Kliph Nesteroff: John McGiver, another of these guys like William Schallert - just so prolific and professional.

Dick Gautier: (doing John McGiver voice) Yes, I remember him so well.

Kliph Nesteroff: (laughs)

Dick Gautier: He had that voice. I remember him in Breakfast at Tiffany's. He was a terrific man. Did you know that he bought a town? He bought a town and gave each of his children - eight or nine children - a house. I'm not kidding. In Connecticut somewhere.

Kliph Nesteroff: You did an episode on another failed show called The Baileys of Balboa.

Dick Gautier: I remember that show so well and I'll tell you why. I was born in Culver City, spent some time in Montreal, came back. But I was never taken to the beach, I was never taken to a pool, and I couldn't swim. In The Baileys of Balboa I had to play a Hawaiian champion swimmer and I had to dive in the water and all kinds of stuff. You know what I did? I went up to Peter Marshall's pool and I practiced diving, Saturday and Sunday, all day so I could do the show.

Kliph Nesteroff: And nobody caught on that you were a novice...

Dick Gautier: No, nobody caught on.

Kliph Nesteroff: You mention Peter Marshall. You guys collaborated on a couple screenplays. Maryjane and...

Dick Gautier: Yeah, you know, we were together and said, "Let's not just kill time - let's write a screenplay." We were in Acapulco. It's all very fuzzy... 

Kliph Nesteroff: Maryjane turned into a campy, low-budget drive-in movie.

Dick Gautier: It was awful. They said, "Here's what we want. We want a movie about marijuana." We said, "Okay." We started researching marijuana. We weren't smokers, but we started researching and discovered that the worst thing about it was that it was illegal. So we wrote a beginning, before the titles, where you see it being harvested and grown and cut into packages and sent to America. Then when the movie starts we follow the five packages.

One goes to a house wife in Encino, another goes to a bank president, another here and another there - and it tells you what happens to these people. It was interesting because we had five interesting actors. They didn't like it. They said, "No, this is too literate and too boring." So they had Fabian under contract. They wanted him to play a high school teacher who starts selling it to kids. They almost dictated the thing to us. We wrote it in eleven days. A piece of shit. The only scene in Maryjane that I like, I happen to be in it. When Fabian is thrown in jail - I am in the cell as a hippie. I come in with a beard and all kinds of shit. I don't know if you remember it.

Kliph Nesteroff: I'll have to watch it again.

Dick Gautier: Jesus, no, don't! I come up to Fabian, "You want to get out of here? I got a plan. You got a gun?" He says, "No." I say, "Well, there goes my plan." We just threw that line in just for fun, but the movie was awful. 

Kliph Nesteroff: I've seen Maryjane, but I've never seen the other one you guys did, which goes under a couple different titles - Wild in the Sky and...

Dick Gautier: Yeah, the original title was God Bless You, Uncle Sam.

Kliph Nesteroff: You hosted a game show remake of Can You Top This.

Dick Gautier: No, Wink Martindale was the host. I was the joke-teller. That's my forte. I tell stories very well and can embellish with shtick and dialects. That is my strength, so that's why I was on the show. They had seen me do that on The Merv Griffin Show. It was very lucrative and was going very well when my niece gave me the mumps. I couldn't go on with the show. Richard Dawson took over and replaced me. I took polaroids of myself because I looked like George Hamilton had fucked a chipmunk. 

Kliph Nesteroff: I saw George Hamilton on Craig Ferguson and he was pretty funny.

Dick Gautier: Yeah, he is. I'm used to really funny guys. Bob Ridgley was one of the funniest guys in the world. You know him?

Kliph Nesteroff: I've only seen him do that homoerotic John Wayne impression...

Dick Gautier: Oh yeah. One day we were all sitting in a room, waiting to audition for a voice over. There was a woman sitting there and when they called her and she left, he went and sniffed her chair and said: "Capricorn." He was really one of the weirdest, funniest men. He and Pat McCormick. I don't know if you know about Pat, but he lived around the corner from me in Toluca Lake. He had a baby. Pat went in and took a giant dump. Now Pat is six foot seven and a half. When he takes a dump, it's a dumpHe took one of those things you put on a toilet for a kid and said, "Honey, come here! Look what your child did." And he pointed to this incredibly large shit and she called the doctor! He was filthy, but priceless.

Kliph Nesteroff: Now I must ask you about Get Smart. I've heard different things from different people, but for you - how was Don Adams to work with?

Dick Gautier: Is this going to be in the article?

Kliph Nesteroff: That's up to you.

Dick Gautier: I'd rather the rest of our conversation be off the record.


Kevin K. said...

I saw Gautier on TV so much when I was a kid, but somehow never realized how hilarious he is. Too bad about going off the record, re: Don Adams. But from what your other interviewees have said, it's pretty easy to fill in the blanks. Thanks for the interviews, Kliph, I really look forward to them.

Jeff said...

After the Don Adams question, did your conversation continue off the record? Just curious.

Dale Hale said...

A real talent. Good artist. Gets lost every time he comes to visit me. Never quite made it to the house. Needs a GPS. Try again Dick!

Bill Peschel said...

I remember seeing Dick on various things (especially When Things Were Rotten), but I was too young (then) to see all the other things. So it was a pleasure to meet him now.

Anonymous said...

Kilph... Did you offer to work as a liaison to reconcile Dick and Peter Marshall? Please do.

Anonymous said...

Kilph... Did you offer to work as a liaison to reconcile Dick and Peter Marshall? Please do.

gog magog said...

Do you know anything about "Aunt" Esther Anderson?