THE YEAR IS 1967. MY NAME WAS CHRIS BEARD…I ADDED THE “E” LATER.
As promised here is the second installment of the tribute to my pal Noel Harrison who passed this week in Devon…a most beautiful county in our mutual home country of England. Noel had been host of a special I had written at the CBC in Toronto. We had bonded in a likewise love of music and comedy.
Noel was heading back to Hollywood to be host of an NBC prime time special called “Where the Girls Are”. and he wanted me to come down and write the show . This was, as they say in show biz, my big break.
The executive producers of the special were Al Burton and Burt Rosen and the producers and head writers were Saul Turtletaub and Bernie Orenstien.
So after the Morris Office made my deal I was on an Air Canada flight to Hollywood.
“Hollywood” … little Brit-Aussie-Canuck writer dude on a plane to “Hollywood!”
I was shitting bricks…I was all alone on the big plane …shitting bricks…
Actually I was not alone on the big plane ..a young Canadian folk singer was on the same plane, He was going there for his first gig also…This was Gordon Lightfoot. He’d been on my Canadian late night comedy and music show NIGHTCAP a few times. We discussed nervousness!
As we walked into the terminal we became aware of music and a small crowd gathered..cameras and press. I said to Gordon:” They know about you already”..Gordon said…”Not me..look at the signs.”
The signs, which were being held by a bunch of really great looking girls in skimpy outfits, read “WELCOME CHRIS BEARD!” A small jazz band was playing and I was suddenly surrounded by a enthusiastic crowd of great smelling girls shouting “We Love Chris Beard.”
I’d been in LA less than 5 minutes and I was a hit ! I had done nothing..
What the hell on wheels was going on?”
Through the throng of great smelling girls, press and musicians there appeared a diminutive well dressed little man with a deep tan..Obviously he was a “Hollywood Producer”….This was Al Burton…the executive producer of the special..I had talked with him on the phone I thought.
“Welcome to Hollywood Chris we thought this would be a great way to get you started ” Al said with a sly smile.”
Let’s get you to your hotel!”
I followed Al out of LAX with the entourage intact to Al’s waiting convertible.
As we drove Al gave me the nutty-gritty. There was a power struggle going on between the producers, NBC and Noel as to the content of the show. Noel had told them he didn’t want to discuss content of the special until I had arrived with my ideas. This was Al’s way of making sure I would be neutral.
‘Good move” I thought…”Great smelling good-looking girls” I thought …”Does everyone get treated like this ?” I thought.
I had now been in Hollywood for an hour and I was the center of a huge show business creative struggle. I’m shitting bricks again I thought…
What ideas was Noel talking about ?.
At that early Hollywood moment I had none! We were now tooling down Sunset Strip..the weather warm perfect..Al’s hair was perfect…
I was feeling psychedelic.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW….