FINDING THE RIGHT AUTHOR PHOTO FOR DWAYNE EPSTEIN

You would think using a photo of myself, Dwayne Epstein, for the cover of Lee Marvin Point Blank would be a rather simple matter. Not so when the situation was complicated by several factors. Topping the list was not liking how I look in photographs. In fact, there are damn few photos of myself that I like. There are a handful of exceptions, of course, but they are few and far between. One exception was a photo of me taken in New Jersey back in the late 80s.

Author Dwayne Epstein in New Jersey, circa 1989.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to use that photo but publisher Tim Schaffner balked at the idea, stating that it was too old and I no longer looked like that. He was right of course. So, I thought about this possibility, taken a few a years later when I moved back to California. Problem was that I no longer had the beard and…I no longer looked liked. Cool posters, though, huh? Unlike the beard, I still have them.

 

 

 

Long Beach, Calif, circa 1991

 

 

 

 
Then there was the idea of this photo, in which I posed with Robert Marvin in front of the Marvin family home in 1994. Problem was….that’s right, you guessed it. I no longer looked like that. Sensing a trend, here?

 

 

Robert Marvin and author Dwayne Epstein in front of the Marvin home in Woodstock, NY, in the mid-90s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally, I didn’t understand why this was becoming so difficult. It had not dawned on me at the time that my publisher was trying to politely spare my feelings. It reminded me a lot of that scene in The Professionals with Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin. You know the one. Early in the film, Bellamy’s character of J.W. Grant points to a newspaper clipping on the wall that includes an image of Marvin during the Mexican Revolution. He tells Marvin’s character, Henry ‘Rico’ Fardan, “Your hair was darker, then.” Silver-haired Marvin responds, “My heart was lighter, then.”

 

 

 

Ralph Bellamy and Lee Marvin in ‘that’ scene from THE PROFESSIONALS.

It had gotten so bad between the publisher and myself that he hired a professional photographer to take a more recent picture. The ones the publisher liked I detested and vice versa. I suggested that my girlfriend Barbara take the shot. End result? His choice was used for the hardcover and my choice, by Barbara, was used for the paperback. Want to know what they look like? Ha! Buy the book(s).

 

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SHELLEY BERMAN INTERVIEW FROM FILMFAX, 2005

Shelley Berman, interviewed by yours truly back ’05 for Filmfax magazine, was part of an idea I had while trying to get Lee Marvin Point Blank published. I figured I’d keep my writing chops up by interviewing subjects within a given theme, in this case it was pioneering comedians. It started with the rare opportunity afforded me to interview both Sid Caesar and Steve Allen. From there the plan was to write about the holy trinity of Lenny Bruce, Mort Sahl and Shelley Berman. Well, I met Berman at a Hollywood Collector’s Show and he agreed on a day and time to be interviewed. When I found out he was good friends with Sahl, I thought the next step would be a breeze. It wasn’t. As for Bruce, I wanted to interview his daughter, Kitty, who was amenable over the phone but constant scheduling conflicts made the proposed piece prohibitive. Ahh well, maybe some day…
As for Berman, he remains one of the strangest interviews I have ever conducted. He invited me to his home and was very cordial but as our talk went on, he kept pressing me to ask him about certain subjects he wanted to expound on. I’m sure he wanted some specific comments on the record, but that was not why I was there. I maintained control of the interview and asked about subjects I knew the good folks at Filmfax wanted me to ask him about.
Then, at one point, a certain subject was brought up that so angered him, he said that I should turn off the tape recorder as the interview was officially over. I did turn off the recorder but it was to convince him to go back on the record. I won’t say what (or who) the subject was that angered him as I agreed not to go public with it. He calmed down and the interviewed continued to its conclusion. Later, when I told publisher Mike Stein about it, he laughed and said how cool he thought the whole thing was. That eased my worries a bit as I then turned in the article that you see below. Suffice to say, the subject that angered him is still present but only slightly altered. Can you tell what it is???
Oh, and one more thing. After the article, I posted the letter Berman wrote that stated a few of his objections and no, the subject that angered him was NOT in the letter. Go figure….

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Shelley Berman's letter to the editor after the interview was published. No, the angry subject is NOT in the letter.

Shelley Berman’s letter to the editor after the interview was published. No, the angry subject is NOT in the letter.

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RALPH O’HARA, REST IN PEACE

I’ve always been amazed by some of the people willing to talk to me about their experiences when I was researching Lee Marvin Point Blank, and one of the best was Ralph O’Hara. To this day I don’t remember how I was able to get in contact with him but once I did and we met in that park in Malibu near the Sand Castle, he proved to be one of the best sources of information imaginable. He was not well-known but his knowledge of, insight to and experience with Lee Marvin was incalcuable. Readers will attest to his poignant retelling of Marvin’s last days, the actor’s humorous flirtations with Angie Dickinson and his brilliant insignt into Marvin’s undiagnosed PTSD.

Ralph's own caption for this picture he had recently sent me: "Taken 1/16/94  Day before the Northridge Quake....I'll get back to you as soon as I finish reading your book."....And he did!

Ralph’s own caption for this picture he had recently sent me: “Taken 1/16/94 Day before the Northridge Quake….I’ll get back to you as soon as I finish reading your book.”….And he did!

Well, through this blog a kind neighbor of his in Florida informed me that Ralph passed away on March 11th of this year. A few weeks before I had recieved a letter from Ralph in which he joked a bit but also told me his was in failing health but still punching. I’m so, so glad I was able to reconnect with him all these years later before it was too late. He was a rascal, to be sure, but the best of them usually are. So, here’s to you, Ralph, Bartender extraordinaire and storyteller Supreme. We shall not see your kind pass this way any again any time soon.

In tribute to his memory,  allow me to share this excerpt of my orginal interview with him (from Dec, ’95) that didn’t go in the book but explains how he first met Lee Marvin. It’s classic O’Hara…..
Dwayne Epstein: Do you recall when you first met Lee Marvin?
Ralph Epstein: I met Lee in the fifties. I met him in the bars. I don’t remember the name of it. Anyway, how I met him was he was getting up to leave as I came in to sit down. When he stood up, he and I were almost the same size at that time. He looked me straight up and down like this.. Then he looked at the bartender and said, “You better pick up your two dollars. This guy’s getting ready to sit down.” (I laugh) I said, “Fuck you, too.” You know? What is this, gonna steal two dollars? So, he walked by me. I went and sat down. Then the bartender, there was two dollars and ten cents there. So he picked up the two dollars and stuck it in his pocket. He picked up the dime and threw it over his shoulder. he said, “What do you want?” I said, “Give me an Old Fitz and water, tall.” I drank hard bourbon in those days. Old Fitzgerald is a sour mash bourbon. What I was doing, I would order a shot of bourbon, shot of Old Fitz on the side, I’d wash it down with a bourbon and water. then they quit making Old Fitz. That disturbed me…Okay the bartender flipped the dime over his shoulder, yeah, and Lee walked out the door. He left. That was the first time I ever met him.
Dwayne: Incredible memory if you could remeber a passing moment like that.
Ralph: The reason I remembered is because of what he said to me. He just stood there and looked me up and down like this. By his judgment, I was going to sit down and steal the two dollars he left as a tip.
Dwayne: Yeah he loved to do that, shock people.
Ralph: I was a little strange myself. In those days..I’ll tell you a little story about place called the Marquee up on Sunset. The Garden of Allah and all those toilets were up there. Ciro’s, the Interlude, all them places. I used to go in there and sit down with John Coltrane, Miles Davis and all these people. A freind of mine was their dope connection and sold them bennies. They would take turns doing solos and get off the stage. They’d come and sit down with us and drop a few bennies. We had the bennies, 50,000 that my friend would buy at once. Anyway, I got off of a bar stool to let a woman sit down. She was gorgeous….

Dwayne: Okay, you told me your first run-in with Lee Marvin. When did you start seeing him on a regular basis?
Ralph: I would start seeing him once I started tending bar. I worked at a place right across the street from Universal Studios. They used to come when they were shooting. This is how I started to make more and more contact. He treated me different. He talked to me different. …….

If blog readers enjoyed this little excerpt, let me know and I’ll include some more. In the meantime, God’s Speed Ralph and lots of rest. You’ve earned it.

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