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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LEE MARVIN & MEYER MISHKIN, TOGETHER FOR 37 YEARS

From the first day he came to Hollywood to the end of his life, Lee Marvin’s sole theatrical representative was the late Meyer Mishkin. There was a brief period during the run of TV’s “M Squad” where they had a falling out, but shortly after that Marvin gladly returned to the fold.
The relationship the two men shared was in many ways typical of Hollywood actor/agent pairings, as described throughout Lee Marvin Point Blank via the exclusive interview Mishkin graciously granted me prior to his 1999 passing. Surviving together for close to four decades in the entertainment industry also proves that in many ways their teaming was quite atypical, such as their first meeting, or what Lee said and did the night he won the Academy Award.
As Lee would often say to Meyer, “You know, I learn Yiddish words from you. Like when you say to me, ‘Lee! Don’t be a schmuck!'”
Pictured below are the two of them at the 1969 London Premiere of Paint Your Wagon. Following that, an exclusive and unpublished anecdote by Mishkin that illustrates how they worked together…

m&m

Lee Marvin & agent Meyer Mishkin. Note the look in Marvin’s eyes. He appears to be rather ‘in his cups,’ as they used to say.

Meyer Mishkin: I’ll tell you this one story. He was doing a film at Universal. One day I got a call. “Meyer, you better do something about it. Lee’s shooting the film but tonight he went across the street to the bar. He’s getting loaded.” I said, “Okay.” I came to the studio, Universal, and I went across the street into the bar. I walked in and there was Lee, gyrating all over the place. I walked in, and as he was doing it, I just yelled “LEE!” He turned around, saw me, and went stiff as a board. “Okay.” [Lee said with his hands up]. I said, “C’mon, c’mon. I’m taking you home.” He got into my car and we drove to Malibu where he was living. When we got to the house, got out of the car, walked over to the door, I said to him, “Give me your keys.” He said, I don’t have them. I don’t know where I left them.” I said, “How are we going to get in?” He said, “Don’t worry.” Took two steps back and he kicked the door in. I sat with him for a little while and I said, “Look, I’m going to have a limo pick you up tomorrow morning. I want you to be on the set. You’re gonna be working, etc.” He said [with his hands held up] “All right.” That’s what he used to do. The next morning, he showed up. The limo came, picked him up, took him to the set. Everything was okay. He took, I think another day. I met someone in the industry who said to me about Lee getting drunk in the bar, “Hey, you walked in and he sobered up.” I said, “Yeah, but only ten percent.”

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BUZZ KULIK ON DIRECTING SERGEANT RYKER

ryker

 

Film & TV director Buzz Kulik, worked with Lee Marvin a few times and was gracious enough to grant me a phone inter view for Lee Marvin Point Blank. Most of what he told me went in the book. However, This little tidbit didn’t make the cut but is worth retelling…
Director Buzz Kulik: There is one story that stands out. I had worked with him on live TV. I liked him and thought he was a wonderful actor. He had a tough time with booze, though. Drunk, he could be belligerent. He couldn’t hold his liquor that well. Because of his past experience with it, I had heard he was difficult. So, what I did was talk to the head of security at the studio. I told him to tell the guards at the gate, “If he leaves at lunch, gets out on to Lankershim, hits the bars, gets into a fight, I want to know about it, right away. Tell me if he leaves.” I talked to Lee. I said, “I don’t want you to go off the lot for lunch. When we break for lunch, you could have lunch with me or whomever, but don’t leave the lot.” He said “Okay.” About five or seven days into shooting I called a lunch break. The hour goes by and Lee doesn’t come back. I wait a half hour, and he still didn’t show up. I yelled at security. I called all the gates. I said, “Look, all I asked is that you tell me if he leaves.” Nobody saw him leave. He finally showed up, bombed. Do you remember the old show, “Wagon Train?” Well, they filmed at Universal. When we broke for lunch, Lee wandered over there, sat with some of the old timers, and they must have had some booze in their dressing room because when he got back, he was all tanked up. He was very apologetic. I made him apologize to the cast and crew. What we wound up doing was shooting a different scene that day. I shot the scenes where he was at the defense table and all he had to do was listen. If you watch those scenes now, I think you can see him kind of hanging down. [laughs] He was a wild man.

 

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