(Guest Post) Stephen Schochet

Title: Hollywood Stories: Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and the Legends of the Movies!
Author: Stephen Schochet
Pub Date: June 2010
Publisher: BCH Fulfillment & Distribution
Pages: 324

About The Book:
high noon on a cold November day in 1974, sixty-seven-year-old John Wayne faced off with the staff of the Harvard Lampoon on the famous campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The students had issued their challenge by calling the beloved American icon a fraud. Wayne, who had his new movie McQ to promote, responded by saying he would be happy to show his film in the pseudo-intellectual swamps of Harvard Square. After the screening, without writers, the former USC footballer delivered a classic performance. When one smart young man asked where he got his phony toupee, Wayne insisted the hair was real. It wasn’t his, but it was real. The appreciative underclassmen loved him and after the Q and A session, they all sat down to dinner. Later Wayne, who was suffering greatly from both gout and the after effects of lung cancer (sadly the Duke only had five years to live), said that day at Harvard was the best time he ever had.

Just when you thought you’ve heard everything about Hollywood comes a totally original new book — a special blend of biography, history and lore.

Hollywood Stories is packed with wild, wonderful short tales about famous stars, movies, directors and many others who have been a part of the world’s most fascinating, unpredictable industry!
What makes the book unique is that the reader can go to any page and find a completely engaging and illuminating yarn. Sometimes people won’t realize that they are reading about The Three Stooges or Popeye the Sailor until they come to the end of the story. The Midwest Book Review says Hollywood Stories is, “packed from cover to cover with fascinating tales.” A professional tour guide in Hollywood, Stephen Schochet has researched and told thousands of entertaining anecdotes for over twenty years. He is also the author and narrator of two audiobooks Tales of Hollywood and Fascinating Walt Disney. Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen,” The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard.”Full of funny moments and twist endings, Hollywood Stories features an amazing, all-star cast of legendary characters and icons and will keep you totally entertained!

Q: Will you share with us what’s your favorite decade or trend in Hollywood movies and why. What stands out the most during that time period?

The 1960’s for me stands out because it was when I was first introduced to movies and I love musicals; Seeing West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and Oliver on the big screen, just incredible experiences especially when you are a kid and every thing seems bigger. West Side Story is often made fun of movie because the gang members didn’t look so tough to everyone but the energy level of that movie is off the charts, especially if you can suspend disbelief:

When Robert Wise directed West Side Story, he was faced with the challenge of making cinemagoers believe that street hoods would suddenly burst into song. He insisted to reluctant studio bosses that the movie’s prologue be shot expensively on

location in New York. The musical started with panoramic views of Manhattan taken

from a helicopter, then seamlessly closed in on the dancing gang members. Later, all

the interiors were filmed on Hollywood sound stages. The only giveaway that the

company was no longer in the Big Apple came during the violent rumble scene.

Written on the wall, behind the on-camera knife fight, there was graffiti that clearly

said, “GO LAKERS!”

My Fair Lady was another favorite. I actually got to see Rex Harrison perform on stage as Henry Higgins; he was in his eighties so the potential love connection with a twenty-something Eliza Doolittle was a little hard to swallow so I was happy I got to see the film. Apparently in real life Rex Harrison had some real life Higgins-like qualities he saw right through Jack Warner’s companion at the premiere:

A lifelong gambler, seventy-two-year-old Jack Warner spent seventeen

million on My Fair Lady, more than any other film in his career. The wisecracking

tycoon had fallen in love with the story of a cockney flower girl who tries to better

herself by taking lessons from a snobbish English professor. Warner insisted that the

musical be a first-class production all the way. The cream of New York society was

invited to the premiere, the picture was well received and it went on to be extremely

profitable. But at the after party at the Sherry Netherland Hotel, there was a great

deal of talk about Warner’s companion. Who was this stunningly dressed, quiet

twenty-something beauty that looked like My Fair Lady’s fictional Eliza Doolittle at

the ball? The mogul referred to her as Lady Cavendish, but no one there had ever

heard of her. At the end of the night, Warner instructed his limo driver to return his

date home. The mysterious girl, whom Jack had met earlier that night in the lobby,

told the chauffeur, “You know, I had such a fun time; I’m not even going to charge

him!”

For production values The Sound of Music beat them all. One thing I learned though if I have tour customers from Austria don’t bring that movie up, they are tired of it. So apparently was Christopher Plummer who usually won’t speak about it interviews; over the years it became a bit of a sore spot:

Sixty-year-old Maria von Trapp had a great time watching Hollywood change her life

history for the 1965 musical, The Sound of Music. The escape from the Nazis in the

film was so exciting. Audiences would be bored to find out that the von Trapps left

Austria in 1938 with a tourist visa; no one had tried to stop them — the train station

was actually right behind their family estate in Salzburg. And they made her seem like such a wonderful governess and mother. Nobody wanted to hear how in real life,

Maria, the driven leader of the von Trapp Family Singers, verbally battled with her

stepchildren when they wanted to quit their music careers. While constantly touring

around America, the kids complained so much to her about living out of a bus for

eighteen years. The best thing about the picture was this handsome Christopher

Plummer who played her late husband, Captain von Trapp. So romantic was this

movie! In truth, young Maria had at first loved her seven stepchildren far more than

her twenty-five-years-older spouse. When introduced to the thirty-six-year-old

Plummer on The Sound of Music set, Maria, who once intended to be a nun, shocked

the actor by greeting him with a big kiss on the lips. “My God, darling, I wished my

real husband had looked as good as you!”

Mary Poppins was actually the first movie I ever saw. Again when you are a little kid tea parties on the ceiling are the bomb. It took me a long time to realize that Dick Van Dyke played not only Bert the chimney sweep, but also the avaricious old banker who steals the tuppence out of little Michael’s hand (reflecting Walt’s real life views about bankers). Van Dyke’s co-stars didn’t realize it either:

Thirty-nine-year-old Dick Van Dyke fooled both audiences and co-stars, playing an

old banker in the 1964 classic Mary Poppins. The TV sitcom star, who was already the

leading man in the film, donated four thousand dollars to Walt Disney’s newly

formed Cal Arts University in exchange for getting the secondary role. With his cane,

white hair and whiskers, the two child actors who had already worked with Van Dyke

had no idea who he really was. One day in front of the Disney Studio, a bus full of

tourists caught sight of the make-believe geezer just as he was about to cross the

street. Leaning on his cane, he slowly walked to his destination, pausing sometimes to clutch his chest for dramatic effect till he made it. As the vehicle pulled forward, the passengers’ sighs of relief turned to gasps of surprise when they saw the grinning

senior citizen running full speed alongside them.

Of all the 60’s musicals Oliver! was probably the scariest to me because of the chilling performance of Oliver Reed as the murderous Bill Sykes. One of my buddies who worked at a movie theater in Westwood met him and said once you got over the intimidation factor Reed was a great guy. He turned out to be quite the character:

When Oliver Reed joined an all-star cast in Madrid to film the 1973 version of The

Three Musketeers, the producers fretted about his hell-raising reputation. Yet, in

spite of his all-night booze festivals, the British actor endeared himself to his coworkers

by always being on time and knowing his lines inside and out. The biggest

hurdle for Reed’s bosses was keeping a roof over his head. One night, in the lobby of

the posh resort the cast was residing at, Oliver reached into an aquarium, pulled out

one of the tank’s inhabitants and appeared to bite its head off, causing some old

ladies standing nearby to faint dead away. It was revealed that Reed had gotten the

hotel chef to mash some carrots together in the shape of a fish, and after some hasty

bribes and apologies, he was allowed to continue staying there.

Extra: Playing the world-weary musketeer Athos in The Three Musketeers (1973),

Oliver Reed (1938-1999) had no prior experience with sword fight scenes. Yet he

refused to rehearse for them and insisted on performing his own stunts with great

ferocity. The Spanish extras who fenced with Oliver were literally shaking with fear

after their on-camera battles. Finally, one burly man stabbed Reed in the arm sending

the British actor to the hospital, where his room, not surprisingly, became the scene

of a wild, overnight booze binge for him and his pals.

I want to send out a huge thank you to Rebecca at Pump Up Your Books for contacting me and allowing me to showcase this book & author and for also allowing me to have Stephen guest post today.

I also want to thank Stephen for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do this guest post.

About the author:
professional tour guide in Hollywood, Stephen Schochet has researched and told thousands of entertaining anecdotes for over twenty years. He is also the author and narrator of two audiobooks Tales of Hollywood and Fascinating Walt Disney. His latest book, Hollywood Stories: Short, Entertaining Anecdotes About the Stars and Legends of the Movies!

Tim Sika, host of the radio show Celluloid Dreams on KSJS in San Jose has called Stephen,” The best storyteller about Hollywood we have ever heard.”

You can check out The Hollywood Stories webpage by clicking on this for more information.

You can check out Stephen Schochet’s page on Pump Up Your Book  to see the rest of his virtual tour.

Here is a clip about the book:

copyright 2010, Cindy (Cindy’s Love Of Books)
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Comments

  1. My hubby and I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with Stephen in Los Angeles when he was the person assigned to give us a tour. He regaled us with stories and funny anecdotes as the bus swept through the streets of Hollywood. So happy that his book is having wonderful success!

  2. Great book. I really enjoy all the vintage stories about Hollywood.

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