CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Interviews: Those 1970s Celebrities at ‘The Hollywood Show’
CHICAGO – When “That ’70’s Show” was merely a twinkle in the eye of Ashton Kutcher’s pappy, there were real TV, film and music celebrities actually working in that disco decade. Denny Laine (of Paul McCartney and “Wings”), Eric Shea (“The Poseidon Adventure”) and Richard Anderson (“The Six Million Dollar Man”) helped to define that freak show era.
They appeared last March at ‘The Hollywood Show,’ a twice-a-year event in which fans can mingle, take photographs and get autographs from the participants – like the 1970s celebrities – who appear there. There is also a great opportunity to purchase memorabilia from a host of showbiz vendors, all in one room. The fall session of The Hollywood Show will take place at the Hilton Rosemont Hotel on River Road in Rosemont, Ill, on September 7th, 8th and 9th, 2012. For complete details click here.
HollywoodChicago.com was there to interview all three star refugees from the days of Nixon and Studio 54. Photographer Joe Arce took pictures of “Those ’70’s Dudes” at the event.
Denny Laine, Guitarist and Songwriter for Paul McCartney and “Wings”
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com
Denny Laine is a historic force in both the British Invasion of the 1960s, and as the third most important “Wings” band member, after Sir Paul and Linda McCartney. After leaving his first band in 1964, he joined the “Moody Blues” and sang lead vocals on their first hit, “Go Now.” After leaving that band in 1966, he played throughout the rest of the ‘60s in journeyman groups, before joining the McCartneys in 1971 for the post-Beatles “Wings.” The group disbanded in 1981.
HollywoodChicago.com: Do you have a story that best defines the period in the mid-1960s British invasion, where everything seemed possible and everyone you knew was part of it?
Denny Laine: We all came from different parts of England at the same time, and met in London in the clubs. We started in a state of friendly competition between the bands and we also toured together a lot, so it was a bit different in those days. Also we saw each other on the road a lot doing tours, so we were playing together and helping each other out.
HollywoodChicago.com: When you did the first bus tour with the band, what kind of backlash if any did you meet up with, and how did it bond the band emotionally?
Laine: Well, it was because we were going through Europe and the South of France in an open top bus made it great advertising, but it was very slow. Many times we had to be picked up by other cars to take us to the gigs because it took so long to get anywhere. We did have a lot of fun, we treated it like a holiday, and so did the kids that saw us. We sat on the top of the bus, playing guitars and writing songs. Although we’d all been in big bands before that, we treated ‘Wings’ as a new group, and since we were also practicing as a new band, we didn’t want all that much scrutiny.
HollywoodChicago.com: Given the legendary stories surrounding ‘Band on the Run,’ which song on that fantastic album do you feel is most miraculous, after going through what you three went through?
Photo credit: paulmccartney.com
Laine: Everyone likes to bring up ‘Band on the Run’ as the main song on that album, but I’m going to plug my song, ‘No Words,’ which I co-wrote with Paul. It was two songs that we put together to make the one song. It was one of the main songs that Paul and I wrote together, so it was a turning point for me.
HollywoodChicago.com: You were close to McCartney during the era of John Lennon’s passing. How did you observe it effecting Paul, and did anything change in your relationship with him?
Laine: No, but it caused him to have a lot more security around him. That forced him to put an electric fence around his home at the south of England. He came into work the morning he found out, and we were talking about it, looking out the windows of the studio and it was very emotional. But I think he felt that if he was working he wouldn’t be staying at home and having it go through his mind.
I knew John Lennon well. We did the second tour with ‘The Beatles’ when I was in the ‘Moody Blues.’ So I knew him very well.
HollywoodChicago.com: Was that 1965?
Laine: If you say so. [laughs] If you were there and remembered it, you weren’t there.
HollywoodChicago.com: After all these years, what still thrills you about taking the stage, and preaching the gospel of rock and roll?
Laine: Nowadays, I write and do my own material, even more than when I first started. And I am getting my songs across more. I’ve been in a band since I was 12 years old, and always the best experience is the live performance. Not the recording or writing, it’s the live performance. I love the feedback of that.
Eric Shea, Child Actor in “The Poseidon Adventure”
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com
Eric Shea, for such a brief child actor career, certainly possessed a memorable screen presence. He was “Phillip North Beardsley” in the family classic “Yours, Mine and Ours” (1968) and portrayed “Robin” in “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972). His siblings were also in show business, his brothers Stephen and Christopher was the voice of Linus Van Pelt in the “Peanuts” TV specials, and it was Christopher who voiced the famous stage speech that Linus gives in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
HollywoodChicago.com: What was the background of your family being involved in show business? How did it all happen?
Eric Shea: My brother Chris started out with Art Linkletter on the ‘Kids Say the Darnest Things’ TV show. They went around to Los Angeles schools and picked him. He made an impression, appeared on the ‘Jack Barry Show,’ and got an agent. When they signed him up, they signed all of us up.
HollywoodChicago.com: You abruptly left the business in 1978, right as you were transitioning into adulthood. What was behind that decision, had you just had enough?
Shea: It was a little bit of that, but also I just didn’t make the transition. At the same time, I was losing interest. I moved to St. Louis and learned the electrical trade, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
HollywoodChicago.com: At what age do you have your first memory of being on a film or TV set? As you got older, did you feel more in control of your acting skills?
Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Shea: It was 1965, when I was five years old, and the show was ‘Felony Squad,’ with Howard Duff and Michael Cole. It was my first TV job, after doing commercials. I remember I had to ride my tricycle up to the house where Duff and Cole were asking questions. That’s all I remember.
I did feel more confident as an actor, as I went on. When you start out so young, you take it for granted. I did what they told me to do, but as I got older I realized that reciting the lines wasn’t enough. I don’t remember when that happened, maybe it never did. [laughs]
HollywoodChicago.com: Which iconic role do people like to remind you of, once they realize who you are, and why do you think that one sticks out over the others?
Shea: Definitely ‘The Poseidon Adventure.’ It’s always that, but I also get that thing when people meet me, they think they know me, but they’re not sure from where. They think they went to school with me. [laughs]
I do get ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’ often, but not as much as The Poseidon Adventure.’ There was a retrospective in Los Angeles at their museum about Lucille Ball [who played Shea’s mother in the film], and I attended a couple events related to the film.
HollywoodChicago.com: If you could go back in time and talk to that kid actor and give him advice, what would you tell him?
Shea: Why would you get out of this business? [laughs]