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Escapade
Part One

by Steven Axelrod

Two women start the disspiriting process of making an indie film. 3,231 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


On a warm evening in July, Rachel Scanlon and Stacey Clark were sitting at a tiny table overlooking the Chateau Marmont hotel bar.

"Andy Dickson," Stacey said. "Tommy Bell. Marty Cohen. Mark DeSalvo. Peter Steinkamp. Susan Drexel."

Rachel looked up. "What made you think of all these people?"

"They’re on my list. Don’t you ever read those alumnae reports that Dalton sends out?"

"I never open my mail from Dalton or Hampshire. They always want money and I never have any."

"They also have a section with information on your classmates. Annie Sobel is a painter. She just bought a loft in Tribeca and had two one-woman shows at the Holly Solomon gallery. Mark DeSalvo inherited four million dollars from his grandfather. He supports the arts and collects Rookwood pottery. Peter Steinkamp has a seat on the New York Stock Exchange and is renovating an old firehouse in Brooklyn."

"Does he support the arts, too?”

"I bet he does. And I have two artists in mind. They’re planning to make a low budget movie."

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About The Author:
Steven Axelrod
Steven Axelrodis an author and screenwriter who has written for Gil Cates, Irvin Kerschner, Roger Spottiswood, Howard Intl, Hemdale, Concorde, Tapestry and Arama Films among others. Son of writer/producer George Axelrod, Steven is currently writing mystery novels for Poisoned Pen Press. This book excerpt is from his work in progress Hollywood Parking.
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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Six

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic thinks he’s found the Cannes Film Festival killer. 2,626 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Five. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Ingrid Bjorge stretched across the hotel bed, then opened her eyes. “Good morning. I did not know you were here,” she said as she propped herself up.

“You were asleep when I came in last night. I didn’t want to wake you.” Ryan claimed.

Just as the Norwegian actress opened the room door, Ryan’s girlfriend Delisha nearly collided with her as the fashion model leaned forward to knock. She carried a bottle of Cristal and an envelope addressed to Ryan that was left for him at the front desk.

Ryan gestured toward Ingrid. “Does she look familiar to you?”

Delisha stared at Ingrid for a long second, then gazed at her from a side angle. She pointed to the window. “Look out in that direction with your chin tilted up. Look real serious.” Ingrid followed her direction, angling her head and gazing off with a blank expression.

Delisha clasped her hands. “It’s crazy. Is it true? Is it true?”

“Yes,” Ryan answered.

Delisha embraced Ingrid. “Oh, my God, the star of The Ice Princess. What is going on?”

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Ryan said. “Delisha, you can’t tell anyone in the meantime about Ingrid’s being alive. Not a word.”

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About The Author:
Duane Byrge
Duane Byrge worked for The Hollywood Reporter as news editor, senior film critic, reviews editor, box office analyst and reporter. He is currently Coordinator of Film Studies at Virginia State University. Three of his books are published: Screwball Comedy Films, Private Screenings and his newest Behind the Scenes With Top Hollywood Producers. He has two novels: The Red Carpet and Sundown In Sundance in progress.
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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Five

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic gets a gorgeous surprise at the Cannes Film Festival. 2,590 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Part Six tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


In the days since Ingrid Bjorge’s death, the entire Norwegian nation had taken the slain actress to its heart. The Ice Princess starlet’s murder when she and her film were supposed to open the first night of the Cannes Film Festival was a countrywide shock. Now her body would arrive on the ferry in a few minutes, then be carried by Viking pallbearers to the pyre.

The Bygdoy Peninsula is the untrammeled part of Norway’s capital city, the area with the museums and the Viking burial mounds. With its aggressive environmental protection laws, the Norwegian nation had kept it largely off limits to developers. An editorial in that morning’s Dagbladet acknowledged the irony of having the multibillionaire oil developer Gunnar Severeid, the mogul behind her movie, using it for the site of Ingrid’s funeral.

Following the autopsy, she had been transported back to her homeland on Gunnar’s personal plane, a Gulfstream G650. Her ashes had been placed earlier that morning in a magnificent oak coffin in Oslo. On this day of national mourning, Norway’s crown prince Harald had delivered a moving eulogy at the Ibsen Theater in Kungs Gate Park.

Erik Bjorge, the costume designer of The Ice Princess and Ingrid’s one-time husband, had gotten little sleep in the last several days. The Cannes police had grilled him, and, even more vexing, Gunnar had questioned him aggressively about the evening of the murder. With his fashion line positioned for the entire world to see at the premiere of The Ice Princess, Erik had believed he would be the Versace of Norway, the Gucci of the fjords. Now that dream was gone. Most of his clothing creations were still on a shipping vessel back in the Cannes harbor. He never bothered to unload it after Ingrid was killed. Instead, he went back to Oslo for her funeral.

Considering that Ryan had been up for several nights, found not one but two corpses, been chased through Cannes by what he thought were cops, had delivered an impromptu speech before a packed room of journalists, Ryan wasn’t too worse for wear. He recalled that Sean Connery line from the third Indiana Jones, where Harrison Ford is whizzing along on a motorcycle with his dad clinging on the back for dear life. “This is not archeology,” Connery groused as Indy accelerated away from the bad guys.

“This is not film criticism,” Ryan muttered to himself.

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About The Author:
Duane Byrge
Duane Byrge worked for The Hollywood Reporter as news editor, senior film critic, reviews editor, box office analyst and reporter. He is currently Coordinator of Film Studies at Virginia State University. Three of his books are published: Screwball Comedy Films, Private Screenings and his newest Behind the Scenes With Top Hollywood Producers. He has two novels: The Red Carpet and Sundown In Sundance in progress.
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On The Red Carpet At Cannes
Part Four

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood film critic is a suspect in a second murder at the Cannes Film Festival. 2,903 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Five tomorrow. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


There were enough security guards to stock an island dictatorship. Instead of colorful uniforms with feathered hats, gaudy medals and polished swords, they wore Armani tuxedos. The crack unit stood at attention in front of the mansion gate for the Cannes Film Festival’s elegant party. Despite their disciplined pose, their eyes were riveted on Ryan’s model girlfriend Delisha.

Within seconds, an attendant pulled up with a gleaming Aston Martin V12 bestowed on Ryan for the long drive back to town and belonging to one of the movie producer-distributors. At least half the valet parkers rushed to help Delisha into the passenger side. She slid into the classic vehicle. “Allons y,” Delisha called out, bestowing a celebratory wave.

Ryan idled the car as the iron gates snapped open with crisp precision, spreading their steel in a deferential backward swoop, like an old-fashioned servant. Only then did Ryan punch the pedal and sail through the estate’s stone entrance.

Delisha clasped his hand. “Home, James.”

“Bond, James Bond,” Ryan called out in his best 007 accent.

Delisha giggled and planted a quick kiss on his neck. For the moment, Ryan felt like the glamorous super-agent. The trouble was: he didn’t really know how to work a shift. Maybe, if it was all downhill, they could continue in this gear.

“You’re grinding. You’ve got to let it out,” Delisha said.

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About The Author:
Duane Byrge
Duane Byrge worked for The Hollywood Reporter as news editor, senior film critic, reviews editor, box office analyst and reporter. He is currently Coordinator of Film Studies at Virginia State University. Three of his books are published: Screwball Comedy Films, Private Screenings and his newest Behind the Scenes With Top Hollywood Producers. He has two novels: The Red Carpet and Sundown In Sundance in progress.
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On The Red Carpet In Cannes
Part Three

by Duane Byrge

The Hollywood movie critic, no longer a murder suspect, tries to cover the Cannes Film Festival. 2,640 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


When the Hollywood New Times chief film reporter swooped out of the elevator, he nearly ran down the trade’s top film critic, Ryan Hackbert.  “You haven’t returned any of my messages,” Stan Peck said as he came through the entrance to the Hotel Savoy. ”I’d like to get your side of the story.” Peck pulled out a digital recorder and flicked the switch.

“My side of the story is nothing,” Ryan answered. “The police asked me in for questioning and were satisfied with my answers. I know nothing about the murder.”

Ryan quickened his step. Peck clicked off the tape and said unhappily, “You know it’s ironic that you, a member of the press, aren’t talking to me, another member of the press.”

“I’m a very ironic guy. You can quote me on that.”

“Seriously, you were hauled in. You said in your review that she should be strangled.”

“I criticized the dialogue. A new editor mangled it with the scarf thing. The police understood,” Ryan answered.

"This murder of yours is screwing up my Cannes coverage," Peck continued. "I’ve got to go to this stupid press conference about it when I should be having breakfast with the TriCoast people. They’re going to announce a new slate." Peck paused to twist the knife a little deeper. "But a lot of people out there still think you’re guilty. That you killed that blond actress from The Ice Princess at the Carlton."

Despite the momentary high of jerking Peck around, Ryan was pissed at himself for giving Peck between-the-lines hints about the police interrogation. As much as Ryan hated to admitt, Peck reflected a fair amount of what would be movie industry opinion, as berserk as that could be. By doing nothing, Ryan was screwing up everyone’s Cannes Film Festival including his own. This was his eleventh time here. He needed to get back into his normal festival mode.

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About The Author:
Duane Byrge
Duane Byrge worked for The Hollywood Reporter as news editor, senior film critic, reviews editor, box office analyst and reporter. He is currently Coordinator of Film Studies at Virginia State University. Three of his books are published: Screwball Comedy Films, Private Screenings and his newest Behind the Scenes With Top Hollywood Producers. He has two novels: The Red Carpet and Sundown In Sundance in progress.
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The Hard R
Part Two

by Gordy Grundy

The movie marketer needs to know who misspelled the mega-producer’s name. 1,839 words. Part One. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Normandy was frosty. "Do I have to worry about the deadline?" she snipped to Buzz.

"Have you ever?" he smiled and snagged the passing waitress. "Can you bring us some more wasabi? My friend likes it hot. Thanks."

They were sitting at Katsu-Ya near the Burbank border of Studio City. The restaurant was Normandy’s favorite because it was the hot cool spot for all the studio marketing and publicity elite.

"Normandy. I want you to go back to the office and tell your boss that this misspelled sample is a gift that may grow in value, like a misprinted stamp or a miscast coin. Think Sotheby’s. The Smithsonian. Film history. Fore Score. One of a kind."

She smiled at that. "Do I get one, too?"

"Absolutely not. I think I’ll send you to the Rihanna concert instead." Her eyebrows twitched and she began to soften. An extra ticket would give her a sweet advantage in the socially competitive marketing department at the studio.

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About The Author:
Gordy Grundy
Gordy Grundy is a contemporary fine artist, columnist and creative producer. He has written for Artillery magazine, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and numerous art journals. He is the author of two collection of essays on art: Artist’s Pants and Blood And Paint.
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The Hard R
Part One

by Gordy Grundy

Movie marketing is hard enough without misspelling the mega-producer’s name. 1,777 words. Part Two tomorrow. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The phone on Buzz’s desk beeped twice. He picked up the receiver and punched the blinking light and it beeped again. The receptionist said, "Normandy on Line Five."

Buzz replied, "Thanks, Stinky." After the shenanigans of the Valentine’s Day office party, everyone in the company now lovingly called her Stinky.

He punched Line Five and greeted Normandy with an excitement that bordered on the romantic. Her reply was unusually tense and chilly. He caught the drift immediately.

"It’s Bruckheimer," she said, "Brrrr-uckheimer." This was out of the norm. She was his most important client and he was extremely sensitive to her needs, attentions and moods.

"Brrrr-uckheimer. Huh?" he puzzled.

"Ginger just got back from CinemaCon. She looked at the cap and said, ‘Brrrr-uckheimer.’ I said it was a sample. She asked who made it and I said you’re fixing it." Her last three words were pointed.

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About The Author:
Gordy Grundy
Gordy Grundy is a contemporary fine artist, columnist and creative producer. He has written for Artillery magazine, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly and numerous art journals. He is the author of two collection of essays on art: Artist’s Pants and Blood And Paint.
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Heiress Alert!
Part Two

by Anne Goursaud

When the paparazzi princess disobeys the law, her neighbors suffer. 2,170 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Once news of Venice Hyatt’s arrest hit social media, the paparazzi and TV news vans invaded the streets and crowded the driveways throughout Maureen and Paul’s neighborhood. The gold-diggers had arrived; but instead of picks, rakes, and shovels, they had all sorts of cameras and microphones. Because a picture or a word from the scandalous heiress was worth a fortune on the gossip world market.

A neighbor, Craig, contacted Maureen by phone. He lived up the street from Venice and worked as a nurse at the UCLA hospital. He related how coming home one early morning he had to chase a newsman urinating on his doorstep.

“Now that she has been arrested, the circus will only intensify,” Craig griped. “We need to do something.”

Then came another news break: VENICE HYATT RELEASED FROM JAIL.

What happened was the L.A. County Sheriff ignored the judge’s sentence of 23 days and let the celebutante go free after a mere 72 hours. For an “undisclosed medical condition.” She was to be sent home to serve her sentence while wearing an ankle monitor.

The media as well as trolls on Twitter and Facebook questioned what kind of medical condition it could be since, a few hours before being jailed, Venice was photographed at the MTV Movie Awards. Apparently in perfect health.

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About The Author:
Anne Goursaud
Anne Goursaud belongs to the Directors Guild, Editors Guild, and AMPAS. She has edited for Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Beresford, John Duigan and Janusz Karminski and films like The Outsiders, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ironweed, The Two Jakes and Idlewild. Her directing credits include Embrace Of The Vampire, Poison Ivy II, Love In Paris. Her two documentaries are Ultrasuede and A Classy Broad. She will direct Coronado, Betsy & Napoleon and Petite Americaine.
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Heiress Alert!
Part One

by Anne Goursaud

When a paparazzi princess moves in, there goes the neighborhood. 2,075 words. Part Two. illustration by Thomas Warming.


Maureen and Paul lived a peaceful productive life on a small winding street five minutes above Sunset Boulevard.

Early mornings at their house were particularly glorious: the chirping birds, the chittering squirrels, the basking sun all contributed to the tranquil bucolic mood, as did the magnificent view. But it was especially the quiet street that made Maureen and Paul’s living environment the envy of all their friends. “You can work here! You can create here! You can sleep peacefully here!” they exclaimed again and again.

Maureen and Paul felt privileged. They earned a good living writing for television but were not rich. Paul was toiling on a second-grade broadcast series. After Maureen’s series was canceled, she was finally trying to write that novel she has been talking about since her glory days in the creative writing program at at Columbia University. They’d acquired their house quite a few years back when prices were still affordable. Today only rich people could build or purchase a home there. The location was so desirable that Maureen and Paul’s neighbors were cashing out by selling their homes to the voracious developers, contractors and flippers eager to buy up any and every property.

One day Maureen heard from her friend Rob, a long-time resident like herself, that the house right below her on Trasher Avenue had sold. Rob walked his dog everyday; dog owners love to chat and keep their ears to the ground. So Maureen got all her neighborhood gossip from Rob.

A week later, he delivered a gold nugget.

“Venice Hyatt bought that house below you.”

The Venice Hyatt?”

“Yes, her.”

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About The Author:
Anne Goursaud
Anne Goursaud belongs to the Directors Guild, Editors Guild, and AMPAS. She has edited for Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Beresford, John Duigan and Janusz Karminski and films like The Outsiders, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Ironweed, The Two Jakes and Idlewild. Her directing credits include Embrace Of The Vampire, Poison Ivy II, Love In Paris. Her two documentaries are Ultrasuede and A Classy Broad. She will direct Coronado, Betsy & Napoleon and Petite Americaine.
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The Gift

by Howard Rosenberg

The TV showrunner’s betrayed wife is intent on vengeance. But can she get it? 2,207 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.


VALERIE

Outrageous! The price had jumped to eighty-five dollars for a dozen pieces, each no larger than a thimble.

Yet Condazini Triple Chocolate Italian Crèmes were worth it: roasted almond butter with a hint of espresso, and in a dark chocolate shell that melted slowly on her tongue. The complex aroma alone stimulated her taste buds. It was heavenly, and Valerie Lasky adored every sinful calorie.

She paid cash, then watched the sales clerk slip the slender gold box into an elegant Chocolatier bag and slide the guilty pleasure across the gleaming glass counter.

The saleswoman smiled and said, “Enjoy!” Valerie nodded but didn’t speak, careful to do nothing the clerk might recall. A word or a glance could form a memory. Though low odds of that; she was one customer of many. Besides, Valerie felt anonymous behind her dark sunglasses and her hair folded under a generic baseball cap. Plus, Chocolatier was too many zip codes from her Pasadena neighborhood for anyone to make a geographical connection.

By late afternoon, Valerie had disarmed the alarm in the large Craftsman house on leafy Laguna Road. It was empty except for the family’s calico cat. Their eldest son was at Stanford, and the twins, were at summer camp.

The solitude was lovely, the only sound her stiletto heels clicking on the heart pine floors. Valerie now needed privacy. Her husband Raymond had texted in the morning that he would be working late. Again. Something about an emergency reshoot. Again. Such was the predictable unpredictability of a highly paid TV showrunner with a moderate hit and a homelife relegated to a footnote.

This showrunner, at least.

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About The Author:
Howard Rosenberg
Howard Rosenberg was a Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic at the Los Angeles Times for 25 years. He now teaches critical writing and a TV symposium at USC's School of Cinema and Media Studies and formerly taught news ethics in the Annenberg School for Communication. He authored a satirical mystery novel Up Yours! and two non-fiction books: Not So Prime Time and No Time to Think (with Charles S. Feldman). He writes the blog Rosenbeast.
LUIS DELGADO

Luis And Just Ann

by Richard Natale

He’s starring in a story that he never dared to dream about. Until now. 1,484 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The shift ended early due to a water main break near the construction site. Since he was downtown, Luis Delgado decided to head over to Clancy’s Tavern, two blocks away in San Luis Obispo. The bar was a step up from Barbary, his normal haunt, and a brisk walk from the studio apartment he’d moved into after divorcing Helen. From the start, his mother predicted the marriage wouldn’t last and Luis stayed in it longer than he should have, partly in defiance of her prescience.

Entering through Clancy’s back door, he proceeded down a darkened hallway and arrived in the main room which glowed softly with filtered afternoon light. The place was sparsely populated: a few middle-aged men seated at intervals along the mahogany bar, hunched over their drinks.

As Luis grabbed a stool, he noticed the bartender chatting with an unusually attractive woman at the far end. When the bartender broke away and walked toward him, the woman made eye contact and graced Luis with a smile. Something about her was familiar. Had he met her before? Not likely. He would have remembered that face even though it wore barely any makeup.

“The lady would like to buy you a drink,” the bartender said leaning over the bar. “What’ll it be?”

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About The Author:
Richard Natale
Richard Natale is a writer and journalist. His stories have appeared in such literary journals as Gertrude Press, the MCB Quarterly, Chelsea Station, Dementia, Wilde Oats, and the anthologies Image/Out, Happy Hours, and Off the Rocks. His novels include Love The Jersey Shore, Cafe Eisenhower (which received an honorable mention from the Rainbow Book Awards), Junior Willis, the YA fantasy The Golden City of Doubloon and the short-story compilation ISland Fever. He also wrote and directed the feature film Green Plaid Shirt which played at film festivals around the world.
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The Big Skedaddle
Part Two

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

Private eye McNulty returns to flim-flam a filmdom fugitive. 1,765 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The ex-President of Production of Vantage International Pictures, Vern Clybourne, was aware that Cuba had long been a haven for celebrities and scoundrels. Author Ernest Hemingway made it his home for 20 years,. Then there was fugitive financier Robert Vesco, a close friend and contributor to Richard Nixon, who took advantage of Cuba’s lack of an extradition treaty with the U.S. to create the perfect sanctuary for a wanted multimillionaire evading American justice. Despite the U.S. government’s 50-plus year travel and trade embargo, the mystique and charisma of the Caribbean island nation’s revolutionary leader Fidel Castro proved an irresistible lure to many of Hollywood’s A-list filmmakers. Oliver Stone, Sean Penn, Steven Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio were just some of the names who over the years openly defied the travel ban. Their positive comments about both the country and Castro were later decried widely by the conservative media and U.S. officials. Vern basked in the warm realization that soon he, too, would join the ranks of these illustrious film names.

Now he licked his lips in anticipation as Senior Miguel Chavez opened the polished teak box. Nestled inside was a Soviet made TT-30 automatic pistol which was an exact replica of an American-made Colt M-1911-A1.

“Magnificent,” Vern whispered with lust in his eyes. “Che Guevara’s authentic sidearm.” He eyed Senior Xhavez suspiciously. “What about Che’s M-16 shotgun and grenade launcher that you promised me?”

“Still in Havana,” Chavez apologized. “It will be presented to you upon your arrival.”

“I see,” Vern nodded. Clearly the Cubans wanted to be sure he wouldn’t renege on his commitment to serve as an international judge for their newly revived Cuban National Film Festival. “As long as there’s still no extradition treaty between Cuba and the U.S., I’m there,” he promised.

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About The Author:
Jeffrey Peter Bates
Jeffrey Peter Bates is a longtime member of the WGA and the Academy for Television Arts and Sciences. He is currently the Creative Director at Onyx Productions Direct Inc where he writes and directs commercials and infomercials. He sold a screenplay, had several scripts optioned and has written for Rod Serling, Kirk Douglas, Vincent Price, Jack Palance, Jonathan Winters.
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The Big Skedaddle
Part One

by Jeffrey Peter Bates

P.I. McNulty is back to uncover a major con by a moviedom con artist. 1,764 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The big muscled middle-aged guy stormed through the front doors of LAPD’s Hollywood Division police station so forcefully that the duty officer instinctively reached for his holstered sidearm. There was no telling what kind of freaked-out meth head or crazed gangbanger might come bursting through those doors at two a.m., but this dude, apart from being pissed-off, was clearly none of those.

“I need Detective Whitley,” the man barked, the fire in his eyes as intense as a blast furnace. “Tell him McNulty’s here.”

A quick phone call later, the private eye was issued a visitor’s badge and directed to the desk of Detective Owen Whitley. Not that McNulty needed directions. The infamous investigator had been here many times before, usually to bail out some of Tinseltown’s higher profile celebrities. The last time was when his late friend Lenny Hazeltine was clocked doing 120 mph on the 101 in a brand new Ferrari and arrested for speeding, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. (“Like I told the officers,” Lenny said, a twinkle in his eye. “My first wife ran off with a cop. I thought they were bringing her back!”) But there was nothing funny about McNulty’s early morning visit now.

“Where is she?” McNulty snapped.

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About The Author:
Jeffrey Peter Bates
Jeffrey Peter Bates is a longtime member of the WGA and the Academy for Television Arts and Sciences. He is currently the Creative Director at Onyx Productions Direct Inc where he writes and directs commercials and infomercials. He sold a screenplay, had several scripts optioned and has written for Rod Serling, Kirk Douglas, Vincent Price, Jack Palance, Jonathan Winters.
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Falling Off Horses
Part Three

by John D. Ferguson

The Hollywood stuntman is under investigation for that WWII rescue. 3,158 words. Part One. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.

1955 – Saratoga, New York

I’m about two inches shorter than Gary Cooper but I have the same hair color, same build, same jaw line and same profile. In fight scenes I have to move like him and on horseback I need to ride like him. For the record, Coop does a lot of his own stunts but, fortunately for me, the studio isn’t about to risk their top box office draw on cliff dives, getting shot off horses or crashing into a saloon mirror. Because of such, I’ve been employed for over two decades as Coop’s stunt double.

People get confused between a stand-in and stunt double so let me explain: A stand-in is simply a man or woman who’s used by the director and the director of photography to get the lighting right for a particular scene. The person has to have some similarities to the designated actor. A stunt double is much more.

Not that I need the money. Only a handful of people in Hollywood know my family’s background or wealth. Even less care. Stunt doubles are props, called upon for one very specific need for a motion picture – to be seen and not heard. A few stars talk to me and show a genuine interest; Coop is like that. So is Randolph Scott and Duke Wayne, if he’s not too busy getting yelled at by Pappy Ford. But the majority keep me at a professional distance which is fine by me. We all have jobs to do and as long as I show up on time, sober and alert, I have no trouble on the set. It’s the perfect job for me, requiring athletic skill, paying a decent salary and providing a free lunch.

In 1955 I had the occasion to double for Coop in his latest feature, Friendly Persuasion. It wasn’t what you would call a very physical movie, being about Quakers and all, but it was good to be able to work with Coop again. There was one fight scene in which Coop gave me the majority of the falls even though, after reading the script, I was sure it was a stunt that he could handle on his own.

Tap Canutt, the son of my mentor — well, truth be told, every stuntman’s mentor, Yakima Canutt — was going to be the heavy in the scene. We went through some gags and worked with the director William Wyler to block out the scene. Coop walked off to his dressing room.

This was not like him; he usually stuck around to provide advice on how his character would move or react. I found out later that he had a hernia and was in great pain. Coop told me he had four operations for it in two years.

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.
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Falling Off Horses
Part Two

by John D. Ferguson

The Hollywood stuntman is recruited for a daring anti-Nazi mission. 2,791 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


1939 – Saratoga, New York

I suppose all those years of stunts and other movie risk-taking had prepared me for the biggest real-life acting role I would ever play as part of a secret mission organized by my brother Babe Wyatt and his boss Wild Bill Donovan and the British secret service MI6 in the pre-World War II days. My WWI military training also qualified me to participate.

At the time, my brother didn’t understand me or my life. He thought I was aimless and without purpose. He couldn’t have been more wrong. I knew exactly how I wanted to live and what gave meaning to my life: Hollywood and its movies. I had chased a lot of dreams and even caught a few. But I never had any doubts on how to make my way in this world.

I was just like my father, or so my mother said. Black Jack Wyatt spent the better part of his life chasing dreams and risking steady employment by learning the arts of gambling, horse trading and keeping a step or two ahead of local law enforcement. Luckily for him, these interests brought him wealth. Then marrying my mother, the daughter of a U.S. Senator, brought him respectability.

He had all the happiness in the world that one man can expect when he was shot down by one Harlan Diggs, junior on New Year’s Eve in 1913. Something to do with Mr. Diggs’ wife, a tall beautiful redhead. My father was no innocent in this affair, I’m sure, but being gunned down was not the way Black Jack Wyatt should have gone out. Babe thought otherwise. I thought our father should have fallen off the back of his beloved black stallion at full gallop.

My father had worried about Babe during the eldest son’s two disastrous semesters at Yale where he’d majored in poker, girls and pranks against the faculty. Babe was transferred to Princeton, where Black Jack hired a former Scottish guard to the Queen to get the kid through two and a half years of college. After Dad’s death, that guard became less of a babysitter and more of a friend to Babe and myself. He taught us how to ride English style, become great shots and use “our wits,” as he liked to phrase it.

It became apparent that there were things Babe did well, chief among them that he got people to move and plan and react to his orders. Soon Babe Wyatt commanded everything like it was a military campaign.

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.
Falling Off Horses 01

Falling Off Horses
Part One

by John D. Ferguson

A Hollywood stuntman gets his start in motion pictures. 2,030 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


1924 – Hollywood, California

Let me tell you the story of how I got to Hollywood.

My family is wealthy and, by that, I mean my elder brother, Charles “Babe” Wyatt and our mother Ellen Dryer Wyatt. They run the Wyatt Publishing enterprise. Also, there’s the horse breeding farm and ranch just west of Saratoga, New York, the mansion in Albany and the beach house in Glen Cove, Long Island. All of these residences and the publishing empire would not have been possible without my father, John “Black Jack” Wyatt. I didn’t follow in all of his footsteps but, then again, he was killed before my thirteenth birthday.

I ran away from home when World War I broke out to join the cavalry at Fort Upton. I was only sixteen but I planned to lie about my age and show off my horsemanship to those in charge. I figured they would certainly take me in once they saw how well I could ride and handle a rifle. I was filled with dreams of adventure and gallantry, helped along by reading President Teddy Roosevelt’s exploits in his days with the Rough Riders. I was told not to be ridiculous and that I still had to finish school. Who could think of school with great world events happening all around us? Clearly, my mother and Babe had their heads in the sand. Safety and security were for cowards and men of little imagination. I wanted to ride through the charging enemy, shooting a Colt .45 and swinging a gleaming saber.

My army years were uneventful, much to my great chagrin. After basic training, I was stationed at Fort Benning and spent the latter part of the Great War teaching aspiring Calvary officers how to ride. They were mostly city boys more attached to the tailoring of their uniforms then to the drills they were required to learn. I taught them to sit a horse, trot, canter and finally gallop. Soon the great horse would be replaced with a mechanized military; armored vehicles and airplanes.

After getting mustered out of the army, I spent most of the next two years getting reacquainted with the ranch in Saratoga. where I repaired stables and fences, took care of the horses and maintained the grounds. It was generally grunt work but I loved every minute and after a hard day of work I’d go to bed happy. My brother, however, felt I was wasting my time and feared that my restlessness and lack of ambition would lead me to a life as a dilettante.

So when I turned twenty-three, Babe threw me into the Wyatt publishing world where I was a total disaster. After only four months, Babe called me up to his office in midtown Manhattan where I also found my mother. My brother looked cheerful but my mother had that look of pity and sympathy planted on her face. Babe leaned back in his chair and said, “Maybe I jumped the gun, Caleb. Maybe this is my fault. And maybe you’re not born to this business the way I am.”

Babe picked up a folded slip of paper and handed it to me. “That’s a telephone number I want you to call. I spoke to Joe Kennedy. He’s producing Western motion pictures out in Hollywood and I told him that I had a younger brother who was just about the best handler of horses I ever saw. It turns out they can use a few hands on this new film they’re starting. Interested?”

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About The Author:
John D. Ferguson
John D. Ferguson is Director of Broadcast Operations at Starz Entertainment LLC overseeing the quality and origination of 46 nationally televised channels via cable and DBS transmission. He began his broadcast career at AMC Networks as a tape runner and worked his way up to Manager of Channel Scheduling. In 1995 he joined the Starz and Encore Networks as Traffic Manager to create a feature movie database and content library.