MICHAEL DUKAKIS, ROBERT REDFORD…AND ME

Yeah, that’s right. Michael Dukakis, Robert Redford and me. I know it sounds strange but we all kind of hung out together once. Seriously. Okay, it’s a bit of stretch so allow me to explain. It was the Fall of 1988, a presidential election year, and I was a student at New Jersey’s Mercer County Community College, long before I even thought about writing Lee Marvin Point Blank. I had made friends with the guy who ran the school paper, although I wasn’t on staff. When I told him about a rally for Dukakis that was scheduled on the campus of nearby Rutgers University, he asked me if I would cover it. I said I would and even took some pictures. He also said I could write it up any way I wanted so I did it as a sort of first person essay. Oh, and the presence of Robert Redford to a lowly New Jersey rally was a pleasant and welcomed surprise.
I tried to be as impartial as possible but I was an obvious supporter of Michael Dukakis. In fact, I canvassed for him door-to-door during the election in my neighborhood of East Windsor. Yeah, Bush, Sr. won the election and even took New Jersey, too. However, out of curiosity, I checked the precinct numbers after the election and in our little hamlet of East Windsor, where I canvassed, Dukakis won. Moral of the that little anecdote is not about bragging. Just wanted to point out there’s more that anyone can do in a democracy than merely vote. Just saying…
Anyway, below is my write-up of the Michael Dukakis rally where he and Redford and I all hung out one day. Well, kinda. I recently rediscovered the article and it reading it, numerous typos aside, I think it’s not bad. Judge for yourself, of course. As for Mike and Bob, I still don’t know why they haven’t answered my call for a reunion in the last 30 years…..
– Dwayne Epstein

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THE URBAN LEGENDS OF LEE MARVIN

Urban legends have a way of never fading into permanent obscurity no matter how great the effort is to exterminate them. You all know the ones: The faked moon landing, the origins of AIDS, the scuba diver scooped up by the water helicopters and then burned when dumped in a wildfire. My personal favorite has to do with Neil Armstrong and what he may have actually said when he stepped on the moon’s surface, but that, as they say, is another story.
Believe it or not, there are actually several such urban legends with Lee Marvin as the central focus.  Google the following words or phrases and you’ll see what I mean:
– Lee Marvin’s life was saved in WWII by Bob “Captian Kangaroo” Keeshan.

Bob Keeshan, aka Captain Kangaroo (L) and Lee Marvin probably never even met, despite urban legends to the contrary.

– James Coburn is Lee Marvin’s brother.
– Marvin had his sciatic nerve severed when wounded on Saipan which earned him the Navy Cross.

Within the pages of Lee Marvin Point Blank, readers will not find any reference to these myths, for the simple reason that they are not true. Simply denying them is not enough for some folks, which I guess is the reason the website Snopes came into existence. One of the things that keep such rumors alive (or at least believable) is the amount of details they are given to make them seem true. I can’t tell you the amount of people I’ve heard say to me, “I know it’s true about Captain Kangaroo because I saw Marvin tell it on Johnny Carson.” As they say, the devil is in the details.
As for James Coburn, well there is indeed a certain resemblance, but that’s as far as it goes. Lee Marvin did have a brother, though, Robert, who bore no resemblance to James Coburn.

Lee Marvin & James Coburn looking brotherly on an episode of M SQUAD.

(L-R) Actors Lee Marvin, James Coburn, Katy Jurado and director Sam Peckinpah enjoying themselves in the late 70s.

I remember once many years ago being in the great memorabilia shop, Eddie Brandt’s Saturday Matinee, when I overheard an argument about the very same subject. The owner walked over to me to settle it, calling me the resident Lee Marvin expert. A simple shake of my head may have lost somebody a very big bet.
As to Marvin’s war wound, that’s harder to disprove as Wikipedia and elsewhere still repeat it. I’ve seen his service record which includes a medical report. His sciatic nerve was NOT severed and he did NOT win the Navy Cross. Purple Heart, yes, but not the Navy Cross.
I’m sure such urban legends will continue no matter how great the effort is to squelch them. Instead of wondering whether they’re true or not, I have a better idea. Read Lee Marvin Point Blank. The real story of Lee Marvin is infinitely better than any urban legend.
– Dwayne Epstein

Urban legends aside, in LEE MARVIN POINT TBLANK yours truly DOES  write about these two miscreants and get the inside scoop on their “related” lineage to Lee Marvin.

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ROYCE EPSTEIN, ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF HER PASSING

Royce Epstein, my mother, passed away exactly ten years ago as of September 18th of this year. A lot has happened in those ten years that I wish she could have lived to see. Her first granddaughter, Natalie, graduated from Cal Tech, went on to Cornell, married a great guy and is living her dream as a research scientist. Her other granddaughter, spunky little Danielle, also graduated with honors, works in a phenomenal occupation and is engaged to a future U.S. Army officer.

My niece, Natalie (left), my mom (center) and Natalie’s sister Danielle at Natatalie’s Cal Tech graduation.

My sister, Belinda, Natalie & Danielle’s mother, has successfully retired from the phone company and is spending her retirement volunteering for various causes for which my mother would have been very proud. My other sister, Fern, is a surgery R.N. specially trained in robotics and is looking forward to retirement soon. Not bad for a family of transplanted Coney Islanders.
As for me, my mother missed out on the one accomplishment she would have also been extremely proud of but was also partly responsible for….

How was she was responsible? My love of movies came directly from her, and although she wasn’t much of a Lee Marvin fan, she knew and appreciated his work, which is why she would have been proud to see Lee Marvin Point Blank published, let alone make the NY Times Bestseller list.

Naturally, I miss her dearly but she was a difficult person to get along with a lot of times. As a cousin of mine said when my mom came up in conversation, “Your mother, Royce Epstein, was a force of nature.” I considered that an apt description.
There were good and bad times in dealing with my mom but now that she’s been gone for a decade, I like to remember the good times. My favorite childhood memory of her was watching old movies together. I remember being woken up in the middle of the night by her if a classic she always wanted me to see was on the Late Show, or if a cherished favorite was being repeated. When I reached adulthood, and went to the movies with friends, I’d get home late at night and she’d ask me to tell her all about what I had seen. Usually, is was a classic playing in downtown L.A. somewhere and I’d spend the next hour or so telling her all about it. She made me, like herself, a lifelong movie fan. For that reason, more than probably anything else, I am most grateful to her. I do regret that she, nor my dad, lived long enough to see my book published. I like to think of it in terms of the last few lines Bruce Springsteen wrote in a song about his mom called “The Wish.”  This is for you, ma…

“And if it’s a funny old world, ma,
where a little boy’s wishes come true.
Well I got a few in my pocket and a special one just for you.”

– Dwayne Epstein

Some time in the 1980s, my mother and I in our family room doing what we did best, watching old movies.

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