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Interviews: 1970s Movie Stars at the Hollywood Celebrities Show

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CHICAGO – The 1970s were the golden age for the youthful, angst-ridden style of filmmaking, but it also had its share of fun with James Bond, super bad action films and Burt Reynolds comedies. Richard “Jaws” Kiel, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson and character actor James Hampton experienced that side of the 1970s, and told all at the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show.

The Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show is a biannual event in Chicago where attendees can meet and greet the stars, collect autographs and find cool collectibles at the comprehensive memorabilia market. The next show in the area is scheduled for September 25th and 26th, 2010.

HollywoodChicago.com was there at the last show in March, and ran into those stars from the 1970s, who sat down and talked about the era. Photographer Joe Arce was also there to capture the moment.

StarRichard Kiel, “Jaws” from the James Bond Film Series

The mountainously tall Richard Kiel – 7 foot 2 – has had a long career playing variations of science fiction invaders and imposing villains. He made his first splash in the classic show “The Twilight Zone” as one of the interplanetary visitors who published a cookbook in the episode “To Serve Man” [1962]. After a long credit list of TV and film character roles, he hit pay dirt with the role of Jaws, a metal-mouthed foil to James Bond in the films “The Spy Who Loved Me” [1977] and “Moonraker” [1979].


Richard “Jaws” Kiel at the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show, Chicago, March 13th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HollywoodChicago.com: Since you did one of the most recognizable episodes of ‘The Twilight Zone,’ what did you admire about Rod Serling, as the writer and producer of that show?

Richard Kiel: He’s a great writer, but I never met him. I don’t think anyone who ever did a Twilight Zone ever met him. But he was smart, a great businessman and a great writer. I also want to note the casting on the show, because if you look at the line-up of the actors who did the Twilight Zone, they became TV and movie stars, from William Shatner to Robert Redford.

HC: You seemed to have a great relationship with Roger Moore in the James Bond movies. What are some of the incidents you remember that best characterizes Roger as Bond?

RK: Roger Moore is a wonderful person. The best way to describe Sir Roger now is that his heart is bigger than his ego. He is a team player, and he never cared if I stole a scene as long as it was entertaining.

I also loved his ad-libs. Like in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ when he’s standing on the running board of a car, and giving [co-star] Barbara Bach someone to look at, while she is driving and grinding the gears. [makes gear grinding noises] Roger just looked at her and said, ‘do you want me to drive?’ The look on her face, since it wasn’t a line in the movie, was shock. So the director asked for a close-up of Roger saying that, just because the look on her face was priceless.

In ‘Moonraker,’ when I’m chasing Roger and Lois Chiles [co-star] on the cable car, and they drop off their car and escape, Lois says ‘who is that?’ and Roger as Bond said, ‘his name is Jaws.’ Chiles line back was ‘do you know him?’ And Roger’s ad-lib was ‘not socially.’ [laughs] I love Roger’s sense of humor.

HC: You authored a book about the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay. What was the motivation behind choosing that subject?

RK: My wife is from the South, and the whole South has been broadbrushed with racism by shows like ‘Roots,’ the perception that all Southerners were whip wielders and nasty. The reality was that only seven percent of white people in the South owned slaves. The other 93% were victimized by slavery, in that they couldn’t make a living competing with free labor. The typical cook, painter and gardener were categorized as ‘poor white trash’ simply because they couldn’t make any money.

Cassius Clay realized this, became a legislator and published a paper called ‘The True America’ to convince the voters of Kentucky to put a moratorium on slavery. To prove his point, he taught his best friend growing up, an African American named George. how to read, write and play chess. He also made a very prophetic statement. He said that blacks need to be educated, because one day they are going to be part of our governing society. But at that time, he was considered a madman. His story is full of drama.

HC: Later, one of the more interesting films on your resume is ‘The Giant of Thunder Mountain’ [1991], which you wrote and produced. What motivated you to do this film?

RK: Well, I’ve experienced the prejudice of giants, so to speak, from mothers in supermarket lines, for example. If a little girl smiles at me, and I smile back, her mother would immediately pull her away. I thought it was all a product of stereotype casting. In real life, generally big guys are easy going and docile. The real bad guys are pretty short, like Adolph Hitler, Napoleon. [laughs] I thought it was a strange phenomenon, and I wanted to bring it out in the film.

Where we shot, Yosemite National Park, with the huge redwood trees, was an example of that. It really humbled me and and we thought it would be a neat thing to use in a film to measure how big creation really is.

StarFred “The Hammer” Williamson of “M*A*S*H” the Film and “Monday Night Football”

Evocative and still full of life, Fred “The Hammer” Williamson has had three different entertainment lives. He began his career in pro football – where he received his nickname for his punishing style – and played mostly for the fledgling American Football League [AFL] with the Kansas City Chiefs. He also played in the first Super Bowl [1967].

His second career involved the movies, where he appeared in the classic Robert Altman film, “M*A*S*H” [1970] and black action films like “Hell Up in Harlem” and “Black Caesar” [both in 1973]. He has continued to work in films including the recent “Starsky & Hutch” remake [2004].

Finally, he did a quick stint on Monday Night Football in 1974 as a replacement for Don Meredith. The chemistry never clicked with co-broadcaster Howard Cosell, and The Hammer was unceremoniously replaced before the regular season.


Hammer Time: Fred Williamson at the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show,
Chicago, March 13th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HC: Since you observed the extreme popularity that the NFL has evolved into, and having played in Super Bowl 1, what’s better about the game today and what is worse in comparing your era to now?

Fred Williamson: Who says there is anything better, it’s not better. Things change but things don’t always change for the better. The players today make more money, that’s all. That doesn’t mean the talent is equal to the amount of money they make. I see a lot of guys playing today that couldn’t even make the team back in the day.

It’s not about conditioning it’s about attitude, it’s about how you play the game. Do you play the game to be a champion or do you play the game for money. Now it’s about being as good as you can negotiate. That’s your value, how much you get paid, not how good you are.

Back in the day a lot of our guys would have played for nothing. They would have played to be one of the chosen few, who becomes a professional athlete.

HC: What did the type of bad ass films that you and Jim Brown did in the 1970s mean to an African American community coming off the civil rights movement of the 1960s?

FW: That’s kind of heavy, dude. I’m a badass now, kicking badass today. We’re into the 2000s now, dawg, kicking ass is an important thing in my life. It’s not about civil rights, it’s about me kicking ass and winning the fights, that’s all.

HC: As a young actor, what did you think about the methods of Robert Altman on the set of M*A*S*H. Did you have any inkling that it would become a legend?

FW: No, because we were stuck way in the back lot [of 20th Century Fox]. They were doing ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ at that time, that was their big budget film. We had to pass the set every day of this huge ship in a fake water tank, as we went to the lot way in the back with nothing but tents and dirt and mud. We were just having fun, having a good time, we never thought it would become a cult film. Tora! Tora! Tora! bombed and our film didn’t.

HC: Your brief stint with Monday Night Football became infamous. What was really happening behind the scenes in your decision to part ways with the production?

FW: Yeah, they forgot to tell Howard Cosell that I was more controversial than he was. [laughs] So he was in shock. He wouldn’t talk to me. I would say things like ‘that hole is so big even an old crippled guy like you could get five yards’ and he would turn to Frank [Gifford] and change the subject. I would indicate that I was talking to him, and the booth would tell me to leave him alone. And I would say that’s why you hired me. You hired me to take on Cosell and be controversial. I wasn’t going to be a whipping boy, like everyone else in that booth. I’m the Hammer, I had things to say.

HC: I never got the impression that Cosell was a happy man. What was your impression?

FW: Howard was good at giving it but he couldn’t take it. So if you topped Howard or was quicker than he was, then he didn’t like you. So he and I did not get along for that reason.

HC: Finally, tell us something about Jim Brown that the world doesn’t know.

FW: If I told you something the world doesn’t know, he’d kill me. [laughs] I would like to remain pain-free for my remaining time on earth, thank you very much.

Star James Hampton of “F Troop,” “The Longest Yard” and “The China Syndrome”

James Hampton is a character actor with a long career in both TV and film. He was a regular (as Pvt. Dobbs) on the 1960s hit “F Troop” and did a number of episodes as Leroy Simpson in “The Doris Day Show.” His association with Burt Reynolds landed him three film roles in a row with the star, in “The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing” [1973], “The Longest Yard” [1974] and “Hustle” [1975]. He later had notable roles in the original “Teen Wolf” [1985] and “Sling Blade” [1996].


The Caretaker: James Hampton at the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show, Chicago, March 13th, 2010
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com

HC: What was the most enjoyable aspect of your ‘F Troop’ experience and did you catch the reference to it in the Coen Brother’s ‘A Serious Man’?

James Hampton: I haven’t seen A Serious Man, I beg your pardon. But it is part of everybody’s cultural memory. Nowadays people will tell me that they sat in their father’s lap and watch the show, and how both of them would laugh. It’s wonderful and worth making the trip here.

HC: You worked on three films in a row with Burt Reynolds. Did you have a connection to him or was it just coincidence?

JH: I met Burt on the first TV show I ever did, which was ‘Gunsmoke.’ He was the blacksmith named Quinton. We just hit it off. Two guys from the South, he’s from Florida and I’m from Texas, so we just got along fine.

HC: Now do you still keep in touch with him?

JH: He tends to go underground a lot. I hear he had a quintuple bypass, so I’ll pray for him.

HC: Why do you think the original ‘The Longest Yard’ still resonates with audiences and what did you think of the remake?

JH: [Making a face] I saw a politician on television comment on a book written about him with ‘I haven’t read it yet.’ So I thought, that’s a pretty good idea, if I don’t go see the remake. Then I could say [goofy voice] yeah, it was a really good show.

Burt always said that movies are about relationships. We had it built in with that original one. [Director] Bob Aldrich just turned us loose.

HC: As a character actor, what was your favorite role of your career or the one that best defined your skills as an actor?

JH: I always did my best. ‘Sling Blade’ I felt was a magnificent role. I liked working on ‘The China Syndrome’ with that great cast. It’s hard to answer the question. I’ll tell you what, though, there was a little film that I made that we all thought would just be a summer movie for the kids. But it was Michael J. Fox in ‘Teen Wolf’ – I had a nice chemistry with him. It’s probably one of the better ones because you can’t catch me acting.

HC: Finally, can you tell us something about Forrest Tucker that the rest of the world doesn’t know?

JH: I think everybody knows. [laughs]

The Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show is back in Chicago, September 25th and 26th.
Click here for details.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2010 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

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