HAIL CAESAR!

Even though this blog is reserved for all things Lee Marvin or Lee Marvin Point Blank related, the news of Sid Caesar’s passing compels me to break my own rule. I was privileged to interview Caesar for Filmfax magazine back in 2001 to promote the video release of his classic variety show(s). It remains one of the highlights of my career.

It was fascinating from the start as I waited in his living room for him to finish up his interview with an NPR reporter. While waiting, I couldn’t help but hear an eruption of obscenities bursting forth from the next room. The NPR reporter was leaving, escorted out by the video producer. The exchange as they walked was of the reporter asking what was wrong with Caesar and the producer apologetically stating Caesar just felt bad for breaking his leg, recently. Now it should be said, Caesar’s temper in show business is the stuff of legend so when the prodocer smiled at me and said I was next, I had just to ask, “What the hell was that really all about?” The producer smiled sheepishly and said, “Well, Sid doesn’t like it when media people are unprepared.” I  gulped loudly. The result of the next several hours, can be read below. It’s lengthy, but I think worth it, and it’s the best way I can think of to pay my respects to one of the most talented and influential individuals I ever met. Enjoy.

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RARE PALIMONY PIX

It had to start somewhere and for better or for worse, it started with Lee Marvin. Decades before the high profile media circuses surrounding the divorces of Paul McCartney, Tom Cruise, Woody Allen & Mia Farrow, Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston, even before the unsavory murder trials of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake, there was the media frenzy of the Marvin vs. Marvin palimony suit.

The media of 1979 didn’t have the internet or 24 hour cable news to report their findings. Instead, they laid in wait outside the L.A. Courthouse (Judge Arthur K. Marshall wisely banned cameras from the courtroom) to pounce on every possible sound bite elicited by the participants. While the media at the time constantly sought and received daily interviews from Michele Triola, her lawyer Marvin Mitchelson and countless court observers ( including Gloria Allred),  Lee Marvin: Point Blank devoted an entire chapter to the trial, covering it in a way that was not done at the time of the actual proceedings (pp. 215-229).  Lee Marvin, his lawyer A. David Kagon and others refused to kowtow to the press but Kagon and others did give lengthy interviews to this author to tell the story as it had never been done before. Some of the images from that time period were all the media got from Lee Marvin and they tell an interesting story, not having been seen since 1979…..

palimony1With his ever present cigarette in the days before smoking was banned in public buildings, Lee Marvin (above) is snapped by wire service photographers on the first day of the trial in January, 1979.

 

palimony2Refusing to comment to reporters, Lee and second wife, Pam Marvin (above on the right) patiently wait outside the courtroom for the day’s proceedings to begin.

 

free leeAn enterprising court watcher handed Marvin a homemade memento of the trial and a perfect chance for a photo op.

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As the lengthy trial finally began to draw to a close, Marvin surprised the ever present media outside the courtroom with some statements for the press. Part of his statement made the perfect title for the chapter in Lee Marvin Point Blank.

 

palimony4The trial over and the verdict rendered, Marvin was caught by reporters in NY’s JFK Airport as they jockeyed for a quote. Based on the smile on the actor’s face, the often misunderstood verdict was self-explanatory.

 

 

 

 

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