On February 14th and 15th, 2009, Burr Middleton will be a special guest star at Ray and Sharon Court's Hollywood Collectibles Show, held at the Burbank Marriott Hotel. Joining him for a reunion of the cast of The Choppers will be star Arch Hall, Jr. and Richard Kiel. This convention draws fans and collectors from all over the world, and will be memorable event for genre fans. So for any of you who are in or planning to visit the Southern California area, this will be a great opportunity to meet these show business luminaries, along with a host of other legendary actors and actresses.

Click Here for PART ONE

In the last installment, Burr took us through the beginnings of his grandfather's stage and sreen careers, and into the wartime environment of the mid-1940s. So let's pick up the fabulous story in Part 2 of "Behind the Ming Dynasty."

JAH: Charlie played Ken Colton in the first Batman serial for Columbia Pictures in 1943, didn't he?

Middleton: I had two pages from his Batman script that we found in a trunk. Those scripts were as big as city phone books, but we only found two pages. Your readers wouldn't believe how simply those things were written - things like "Heavies get into fight." He played a good guy in that, the character Ken Colton who had a secret radium mine that the insidious Dr. Daka sought to control. He was only in two chapters, and veteran character actor Terry Frost played the male nurse who visits him in the Gotham City Hotel and tries to slip him a mickey. I believe that was one of Terry Frost's first on-screen roles. Terry later went on to play heavies, most notably in Sam Katzman's two Superman serials.

He had a small Derringer with an apparatus that was up his sleeve that he called his "little black widow." He shows this to Lewis Wilson and Douglas Croft (Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, respectively). It's funny how he pronounced it - he called it his little "widder" instead of "widow." What's amazing is my grandfather could pull that Derringer gag off like lightning. There was a time in his life where he actually carried one of those.

JAH: Why?

Middleton: The days of vaudeville were rough, and they never knew what city they were going to play in. At one point in my life, I had that little Derringer that was featured in the Batman serial. It was a two shot pistol. I don't believe that gun was in the original story line. That was something he brought into the picture on his own. He talked to the director, Lambert Hillyer - he loved to talk to him when they had time on the set. They'd spin tales together because Lambert had a career a mile long as did Charlie, and had done a lot of Westerns and a horror film for Universal, Dracula's Daughter (1936). The serial itself has problems. There are fight sequences where Batman trips on his cape, doesn't have it on in the next cut away, and then the cape miraculously reappears the next sequence. But these films were for eight-year-olds.

While he was on the lot, he also did a noncredited role in the Three Stooges short called Spook Louder. He was Mr. Graves' butler. So, he had worked with three of the greatest screen comedy teams by 1943 - Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and the Three Stooges.

From there, he went over to PRC to do The Black Raven as the sheriff, another good guy. He trades quips with George Zucco, and that isn't a stunt double who gets soaking wet in a PRC rainstorm.

From there, he goes back over to the Columbia serial unit, and does The Desert Hawk (Col 1944) as Coda Bey, a consort to Gilbert Roland, who plays a dual role. On the heels of that, he plays Tom Whitney in the serial Black Arrow. In 1945, he played Patton, the butler, in Columbia's serial Who's Guilty?, a red herring role.

In Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, he plays the part of a farmer. That was with Edward G. Robinson and Margaret O'Brien. This was for MGM. That was probably a one-day job.

From there he did another PRC called Hollywood and Vine, so you can see one day he would work at a prestigious studio like MGM, and then another day he would be back at PRC. Now he's supposed to have done a film called Captain Kidd, but I obtained several videos of Captain Kidd (starring Charles Laughton), and I don't see my grandfather in one frame of that picture! Nor do I see him in any frame of Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. So some historians have mis-billed him in two films that I know of. What might have happened is that he was cast in these pictures originally, and there are old studio records with his name on the cast sheet, and he could have had a prior commitment which took precedence over appearing in these particular shows. I'm told that happened a lot.

JAH: Your grandfather played another farmer in The Killers which starred Burt Lancaster, didn't he?

Middleton: Yes. He had a small role as a farmer in that film, which costarred my friend Charles McGraw, who played one of the killers with Bill Conrad. If you see the movie, there's a sequence where my grandfather has no dialogue, but he's an old farmer. Every time I used to look at that movie and think, "That sure looks like him, but he's not saying anything. Why would he do that?" Well, there;s a reason for it. He had the rent to pay.

JAH: Grandpa Charlie worked on Spookbusters with the Bowery Boys. Tell us about him working with the Bowery Boys.

Middleton: He thought they were nuts, anyway. Shall we say politely their reputations preceded them, on and off the screen. Spook Busters was one of the first Jan Grippo produced, Bill Beaudine directed Bowery Boys pictures.

When I lived out in Woodland Hills, which was really country at the time, Leo Gorcey was a neighbor of mine. One of the funny things about Leo was he built the most hilarious substandard, non-permitted swimming pools that was ever built in California. The thing of it was, Leo did all of the work himself. If you could have filmed the construction, it probably would have been a blue version of a Bowery Boys film, with dialogue unfit for consumption at the time. You have to realize, Leo was Woodland Hills' town character.

I used to see Leo, shall we say slightly lit, dancing by himself to a jukebox in Babe's Dragnet Cafi, a combination cafi/saloon. There was no lady partner, just Leo enjoying his own company, dancing. Leo would mimic like there was a girl in his arms, with the twirls and so on and so forth. Leo used to hang around the local golf course in Woodland Hills. Leo was friendly to me because of his association with my grandfather on Spookbusters. Leo, from what my grandfather told me, wasn't a problem on the set because he was a professional. If you look at Spookbusters , they do a bit where they go in and out of doors, kind of like a vaudeville routine, or a French farce kind of scene. Leo displayed excellent comedy skills at that time, and Charlie Middleton had terrific timing. He was well versed from years of experience in these types of scenes. Those things were all ad-libbed - those pictures were done in four or five days.

We once visited the Bowery Boys on location, I believe it was Dig That Uranium, up around Iverson;s Ranch. When we were on the set, Leo acknowledged us by winking at us. On that day, Leo drove up in his car, and there were a bunch of lizards. This wasn't a gag on camera. He opens the car door, and sees the lizards and yells, "Yoiks! Lizoids!" in that typical Muggs McGuinness/Slip Mahoney accent. He was basically, at that point, living the life of Slip Mahoney. I used to see Leo Gorcey in hardware stores in Woodland Hills, buying material for his swimming pool from hell. I imagine if you took a full dive in that swimming pool, you might have broken your neck. Leo loved an audience, and young folks like myself and my friends were his prime target audience.

Leo's situation was tragic around the time I would see him. His father, Bernard Gorcey, who played Louis Dumbrowski in the Bowery Boys series, had just been killed in a car accident. I think it affected Leo deeply, even though he didn't show it. One doesn't go to the local bistro and have several dances with oneself unless something is radically wrong. Leo died in 1969, during the making of the film of the Warner Brothers production of The Phynx, which was a parody of rock and roll films of the era, with cameos with people like Johnny Weismuller, Maureen O'Hara, Pat O'Brien, Xavier Cugat, and of course his Bowery Boys buddy, Huntz Hall. Leo died shortly after shooting his scenes, in which he is obviously inebriated.

From Monogram, Charlie went over to PRC to do Strangler of the Swamp. Frank Wisbar directed that picture. He was a German refugee who had escaped from the Nazis. He had made that film previously in Germany before he had escaped from Adolph Hitler. As your readers may know, Charlie played the Strangler. Rosemary La Planche had been Miss America of 1941. Blake Edwards played the male lead. It has a mystical quality about it, and it has a host of great character players. The ghostlike effect looks like they put a couple scrims over the camera, but it could be an optical trick. There were no makeup appliances, it was just a white-face, corpse-like makeup. One day he phoned my mother while he was making that picture, and told her "We don't even know what the hell we're doing! We're walking around saying these lines, and this man seems to be an adequate director. There's fog machines all over the place." It was shot on the Monogram sound stages, which is now public television studios KCET.

JAH: Tell us about the Jack Armstrong serial.

Middleton: Jack Armstrong was made in 1947. At that time, we were living in Hermosa Beach, California. We had an Hispanic housekeeper, and this lady had a little boy about my age who kept looking at my grandfather, who visited us quite frequently at that time. And she said to my mother, "Is your father an actor?" or something to that effect. My mother said, "Yes." She said, "I'm going to see this serial every week with my boy, it's called Jack Armstrong." Of course, Charlie had never seen the serial. So the very next week we all met there, the Hispanic housekeeper and her son, my grandfather and myself, and we enjoyed the serial in Hermosa Beach. Jack Armstrong only saw one theatrical release, and five or six years ago, VCI Productions re-released it on video. The kids loved that serial so much at the theater where we were, that it was going to another theater in Manhattan Beach, an adjoining community, that following week, and the kids were going to follow it down there, even though they'd already seen all 15 chapters of it.

John Hart played Jack Armstrong, All American Boy, and John's been a friend for years. The production of Jack Armstrong was troubled from the beginning. The heavies weren't cutting it, and some of that is still visible on screen today. There was a man named Jack Fier who ran production at Columbia. When Orson Welles was at Columbia and married to Rita Hayworth, Orson posted a sign on the lot that said, "The only thing to fear is Fier himself." As we all know, Orson Welles feared no one. Columbia had already done the optical titles for the serial Jack Armstrong, All American Boy.

The problem was, is all the footage they shot with other heavies just wasn't working. Sam Katzman calls Charles, and says, "Come on down here, Charlie. This just isn't working with these three other plug-uglies." Now by this time, Charlie was sitting around waiting at home for any kind of pickup work he could get - a day here, a day there, it didn't matter. Charlie was waiting for the phone to ring so he could go back to work. His character is Jason Groud. Actually, he was only doing Ming with modern day garb on, you know, an evil guy that wants to rule the world. The problem was, Jack Fier was so cheap - remember, this was not Katzman's doing - he would not reshoot those titles and including my grandfather's name in the screen credits. He's a lead villain, he's got all kinds of scenes and dialogue, and at the end of the day his name is nowhere in the credits. All due to Jack Fier. But he was happy to get the work.

At that time, things had been very slim for him. While it was OK to do Spook Busters and things like that to pay the rent, taking two and three day jobs would square you away for food and shelter. They weren't making a hell of a lot of money in those days. You'd work for three or four days, and then you might not work for five months. In 1946 there was a great fan of his by the name of Michael Todd, who brought him back to Broadway in a show called January Thaw that he costarred in with Robert Keith, the father of Brian Keith from the television show Family Affair, a wonderful character actress named Lulu May Hubbard, Helen Carrew. It was a big hit on the Broadway stage for a short amount of time. At that time, Todd had several hits on stage in 1946 - Would-Be Gentleman with Bobby Clark, Around The World in 80 Days starring Orson Welles on stage (which was later broadcast on radio), and a couple other shows whose titles escape me. Todd pulled all of those, because he was going through a divorce so that his soon to be ex would not participate in any of the revenue. He gave the actors severance pay. So the show left Broadway - not because it wasnt a hit, but because of the personal situation. In 1946, after being away from the theater for years, not only was Charlie back in the theater but he was on the Broadway stage. It was really a full circle for him.

JAH: Before Charlie died, he played Abe Lincoln once again in a picture called The Decision of Christopher Blake.

Middleton: It was for Warner Brothers, and he was in a dream sequence. Alexis Smith was one of his costars. She was a big Warner Brothers contractee at the time, a tall, stately woman. He does one of the greatest versions of Lincoln that I've ever seen. He was known for his stagey, melodramatic roles, but when he plays Lincoln in this dream sequence he's as natural as anything you see today. He does Lincoln in his natural voice, which was a rather high speaking voice. This was not the way Huston played him, not the way Raymond Massey played him. Lincoln was a great orator, but he really had no vocal power. My grandfather did a lot of research on this. The makeup was magnificent. I don't know who the makeup artist was - maybe Perc Westmore - but it was magnificent.

JAH: Is it true that you went on the road with your grandfather?

Middleton: In the late Forties, running into the Fifties, movie houses would offer a double feature, as well as a stage show. We played around town here at the Paramount Theater, which is now Disney's El Capitan. There was another El Capitan theater on Vine Street near Capitol Records. It was the original. We played the Hollywood Palace, which is now known as The Palace, and a theater downtown. This is around the time Ken Murray was doing his Blackouts. We weren't involved in any of those shows. The act was a reworking of his vaudeville routines, except he didn't have my grandmother in the act. Charlie would come out and tell stories, he'd do the lariat tricks with the rope, the kind of thing Will Rogers used to do. After he concluded the rope tricks, he would call up to the projectionist to show a reel of his portrayals, which included Ming the Merciless, as well as his serials and Western roles. Then he'd have questions and answers from the audience, which was unusual.

JAH: What did you do in this act?

Middleton: At first, I came on and sang. Then, when I was about six, I played the drums in the act., which I still do. In those days, I had a knack for acing a solo. Now, I'm not saying I could play like Gene Krupa. At that point in my career, I was not a timekeeper. It was a bit of flash. It was a little kid behind a set of drums. When I was singing, I was billed as the boy who sings like a man. My phrasing was that of an adult. I had a natural mimic's ear. The audiences would be intrigued, because all of this was coming out of a little boy. In our act, Charlie used to refer to me as Little Pal, and I referred to him as Old Pal.

The sad thing was, toward the end he was being offered fewer and fewer jobs. He would arrive at a casting office in a beautiful suit and tie, and the casting director would say to him, "Well, too many people have seen your face." What a stupid thing to say. Here he is in his three-piece elegant suit, taking crap from someone less than half his age. I remember he would get very depressed about it, and end up sitting around all day. This was his craft, and he was being denied work. He had been a widower for four years. So the business wasn't terribly kind to him toward the end of his life. Remember, he'd had a fabulous career. In vaudeville alone, he was one of the biggest stars. If you asked Milton Berle, he would tell you this. I had an interesting encounter with Milton Berle regarding this subject. Milton said, "I was the little kid who used to come out and change the cards between acts. I'm a little guy from the east side of New York, and when Middleton and Spellmyer came to town it was a big deal! And by the way, your grandmother was one of the most beautiful women I ever saw."

In the later years, this is what he had to put up with. He didn't die a bitter man. I wish he could have lived longer, so I could have known him better. I would have liked to have known him as a teenager. Actually, the up side was he spent most of those latter days at the Masquers Club. Regrettably, it has been torn down and replaced by a condominium complex. The Masquers was a place that these veteran actors could talk about their triumphs. It's a shame that it's gone. That building itself had more history than any single structure in Hollywood. People like Edward G. Robinson and Jack Warner would come to testimonial banquets honoring Grandpa Charles and people of that ilk.

Charlie died on April 22, 1949. I was eight years old at the time, and I was completely devastated. But in those eight short years with him, I absorbed a wealth of knowledge about acting and life. I have always cherished my time with my grandfather. Not only was he an outstanding actor, but he was also one of the most giving human beings I've ever encountered. I don't think anyone else could have done a better job with Ming the Merciless, although I think Max Von Sydow did a fine job in the 1980 remake.

JAH: Wasn't Errol Flynn a friend of your family's?

Middleton: My uncle, Buster Hoyle, was in the Navy in World War II, a Lieutenant J.G. (Junior Grade). Now, most people would assume that we met Errol Flynn through my grandfather, but it was through my uncle that we got to know Errol. My uncle had won the Navy Cross, and received other citations for valor. He received an honor for his bravery at the Battle of Midway. He was a pilot based on aircraft carriers. Now the aircraft carrier that my uncle was stationed with was being used as a location for one of Errol's World War II films, where of course he single-handedly wins the war. There was a dispute with the director of that show, whose name escaped me now. He was chewing the Admiral out, calling him a stupid bastard. So my uncle got in the director's face, and said, "You're not going to talk to the Admiral that way, at least not while I'm around." Of course the Admiral turned to my uncle, and said, "Lt. J.G., you let me handle my own situation."

Errol Flynn is standing there taking all of this in. At the end of this altercation, he had a big smile on his face. So he walks up to my uncle, shakes his hand, and says, "You're a man I want to meet." So they struck up a friendship right then and there, thanks to a World War II picture, and Flynn became a friend of our family's. My uncle was a career military officer, as was my father. I knew Flynn when I was a teenager. There's no doubt, Flynn was a rascal. Errol and I were not bosom buddies, but I always knew if I got into trouble, I could go to him for assistance. Later on, Melvin Belli was my attorney, and he and Errol were like brothers.

My father had a great relationship with Flynn. My father had a wonderful time with Flynn, between marriages. We used to go hang out on Flynn's famous yacht, the Zaca. This was when I was about 6, and Sean Flynn, his son, was about 8. Lili Damita was Sean's mother, a very famous Latin actress. We went down to Long Beach with Flynn one time when I was a youngster. So while we were down in Long Beach, these young Marines were coming in from Oceanside with their dates. Their dates made a big thing over Flynn, made the young leathernecks jealous, and immediately they wanted to challenge him. Flynn, being the gentleman he was, as well as being an amateur middleweight boxing champ in Tazmania, said, "There, there, old boys." Because everybody to him was 'old boy' or 'old chap.' And they replied, "Ah, we're going to beat the hell out of you." And he took three of them out there and just beat the bejesus out of them. They thought they were tougher than hell, having just come out of boot camp. Then he picked them all up, brought them back, sat them down at the bar, and said, "Now let's all have a drink and forget about it!" That's the kind of guy he was - have a drink and forget about it. It was sad to see his end. He died in 1959 at the age of 50.

JAH: Weren't you a child actor?

Middleton:A lot of the stuff I did in the beginning were walk-ons. In those days, I was known as Mickey Hoyle. Hoyle is my true surname, and I picked Mickey from Mickey Rooney, who I admired tremendously at the time. You can barely see me in a picture called The Boy With Green Hair. I'm one of the kids playing out in the yard. The Boy With Green Hair starred Dean Stockwell. Pat O'Brien costars in that. I did a lot of television work in the early days. I was in practically every TV series that had a kid in it with the exception of Leave It To Beaver. I did Father Knows Best. Usually I was the sassy kid next door, you know, the bratty type. I don't even list these jobs on my resume any more. I was never featured in films or television like people like Tommy Rettig or Billy Gray. I wasn't exactly an Extra, but I wasn't a featured player, either.

From there, I started doing hotrod pictures. They used to show these as second features, mostly in drive-ins. I worked primarily for a man by the name of Arch Hall. I met Arch Hall through my parents. My mother knew everyone who was anyone in Hollywood, a lot of those connections from Grandpa Charlie.

Archie Hall was a delightful man with a wonderful wit. Arch Hall was my first roommate. I was eighteen years old, and Arch was fifty. He owned an office complex over on Olive Blvd, at the intersection of Lincoln Blvd in Burbank, California. He had an apartment upstairs in this office complex. I roomed with Arch until the apartment next door was vacant, a good six to eight months later. But I was Archies roommate for half a year. We used to stay up all night writing scripts. At that time I had an old Wollensack tape recorder. After we'd write the dialogue, we'd run the lines into the tape recorder to see if they worked.

Arch used to cook up something he called a Chickawa stew. It was made up of anything he could throw in the pot. Because he was proud of his Native American heritage, as was my grandfather. I believe Arch was from the Dakotas. I know it might seem odd that an eighteen year old guy would be rooming with a fifty year old man, but those were vastly different times. We were, after all, both in show business. But we were the original Odd Couple. We weren't the greatest housekeepers in the world. My mother used to come over there and just be shocked by the slovenliness.

I appeared in two of Arch's pictures, but I was around for the shooting of a lot of them. First came The Choppers. I played Snooper Pinelli in that. What's odd is that the surname is Italian, and I am more an Anglo type. They didn't dye my hair black or anything. I was the kid with the glasses who couldn't get the girl. I played bongos on Arch Jr's musical number, and even took a solo. Arch Jr. was doing a lot of recording at the time, and was being groomed to be a teenage idol like Ricky Nelson. His career went a lot further than most people know about. He had a backer by the name of Bob Thiele who was behind him. He had Signature Records at that time. Thiele was also a personal manager, and I believe he married Teresa Brewer later on. A whole bunch of us, along with Arch Sr., would stay up all night writing postcards to radio stations, and signing fictitious names, requesting them to play Arch, Jrs records. The funny thing is wed have to think up fictitious names on short notice because we usually cranked out 200 postcards per night. One of the records was called "Konga Joe." Another I remember was titled "Valerie," which was a very cool tune. Arch Jr. wrote his own music, but it must be noted that Arch Sr. was also one hell of a songwriter. Arch Sr. tended to write more Western music.

I was an occasional pal of Arch, Jr.'s, but I had a more adult buddy type relationship with Arch,Sr. I was two years older than Arch, Jr. He was sixteen at the time, and I was eighteen. Archie would have loved to have seen his son become a big star, but Arch wasn't like a stage parent. Arch wrote most of those pictures, and appeared in a number of them. Arch was a darn good actor. If you look at several of the old B Westerns starring Buster Crabb, you can see him.

Archie and I used to go clubbing, listening to jazz music in those days. I was always in a suit and tie, so nobody ever carded me. We used to have marvelous times when wed go down to his homestead in Palm Desert, California. That's where young Arch went to high school, and where they filmed Eegah, down at this home in Palm Desert, in their back yard. On these trips, which would take between ninety minutes and two hours by car, we would have these lengthy conversations. Arch taught me a lot about life and the entertainment business. You see, being raised in the business where you mostly encounter adults, and the only kids you run into are show business kids, I had a bit of a problem relating to non-showbiz kids my own age. Arch was my mentor.

I had always been a jazz drummer on the side, so after my stint with Arch, I went on the road. I had outgrown the teenage hot rod type roles, and there didnt seem to be much work to be had in Hollywood, so I hit the road with my traps. Hollywood in those days did a terrible thing. They would tell young actors, "You're too old to be a kid any more, and too young to be anything else." It's not a nice thing to tell a child, who already has ego problems from being in the business so young. I had grown up around jazz music. My parents took me to jazz clubs regularly, right after the Second World War, sometime around 1945 or 1946, and I had become a competent jazz drummer by that time. At that time in Los Angeles, we were having a Dixieland revival, and naturally I got to know all the jazz players on the scene. I started drumming with Pete Daily and his Chicagoans. They were a very popular group at that time, and on Capitol Records. Today, unfortunately, many traditional jazz groups have to put out what they used to call vanity albums. To put it plainly, at that time I needed a job, so I worked with Pete Daily, who had a very popular Dixieland band after the Second World War and into the Fifties. He was signed to Capitol Records. I worked with Pete Daily in the late Fifties. The group was still called Pete Daily and His Chicagoans. From there I was scouted by Jack Teagarden, the ultimate jazz trombonist of that time. This was the era when people still carried their own flasks. Jack had a flask, but he had a lock on it, and kept the key in his pocket. I had never seen a flask that you could lock.

I also worked with Matty Matlock and played modern jazz with people like Art Pepper. My drum instructor was Nick Fatool, one of the greatest drummers in the world. I was never their first choice; I was always either a sub - at that time there were some fantastic players in this town - including Shelly Manne. I was on the list, and went on the road with many of these groups from time to time. I was only eighteen at the time, and was like the mascot for these great musicians. The only recorded performances of mine that are out are bootlegs. I never went into a studio with these groups and cut sides. Most of this material comes from telethons, and they put out these bootleg albums.

I had been on the road with all of these great bands. As an actor, I was literally unemployable. You had to be a very good-looking guy like Troy Donahue, Fabian, Tab Hunter, and so on, which I never was. I was an average looking person. I wasnt the beefcake type. There were very few character roles for young guys. After the Fifties, where do the character actors go? No place, but low budget, independent productions. I was reluctant to appear on stage, but I could have. There's never been a lot of money on stage. Every stage actor who reads this will hate me for saying this, but its not that I've always been after the money, but I do need to make a living. Arch Hall used to call people who were pure artists of the stage 'artsy-crafty' way of acting. The attitude was, "Ahh, I'm not making much money, but on the five people who came to see the show, at least I am practicing my art."

JAH: You struck up a friendship with actor Charlie McGraw through Pete Daily and his Chicagoans, didn't you?

Middleton: I first met Charles McGraw when I was thirteen or fourteen. It was when The Bridges at Toko-Ri came out. Bill Holden starred in that I met him in the lobby of the old Paramount Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which is now Disney's El Capitan theater, across the street from the old Grauman's Chinese. Charles was about forty or thereabouts at that time.

After that one initial meeting, I lost track of him for years. Then he surfaced when he started hanging around Pete Daily and His Chicagoans. They had a residency at Astor's Bar and Grill. All the great Dixielanders played there - Jack Teagarden, Red Nichols, and players of that ilk. McGraw was a great fan of Dixieland music. So I knew him then. The Astor was another jazz club my parents frequented, and in those days because it was a restaurant, a kid could go in with his parents and there were no problems with a child being in an establishment that served alcohol.

I didn't see hide nor hair of Charles McGraw until 1973, when I arrived back in Hollywood. I met him at the Hollywood Palladium at an annual Screen Actors Guild meeting, shook his hand, became fast friends with him, and we began hanging out at The Players, which was a nightclub in Studio City. We would hit a couple adjacent nightspots in Studio City. One was the Red Coach Inn, and another was called The Stop.

Sometimes in these nightspots, people would recognize Charles, but they never really knew who he was. Hence, some of the patrons mistook him for a real gangster that they might have seen in the press. So a couple of people from Podunk would show up at these nightclubs and begin staring at Charles, but they couldn't figure out where they'd seen him. So he'd pick up on this, and hed turn to me with that sandpaper voice of his and say, "Ya gotta help me on this one, pal." So we'd start adlibbing this mafioso dialogue at the bar. Charlie would say things like, "Hey, pal, didja get the heater?" "Ya, it's in da trunk of da car." Charlie would say, "All we godda do is get two shots, and we're in and we're out. The fuzz'll never know the difference." So we'd be going through these vignettes doing our play-acting, all the while staying in character and keeping a straight face, while these onlookers would think it was the real thing. They probably came hoping to spot Hollywood stars, and end up being horrified at these two gangsters in their midst.

Once a uniformed officer showed up at one of our performances. One of these people must have run and called the police and reported there was a murder about to take place, after they had overheard our conversation. And of course, when the cops arrived, they laughed like crazy, because they recognized Charlie. I guess the nightclub owners thought it was a hoot, because we didnt get eighty-sixed, but we sure had a great time, laughing with the cops when they showed up!

We also used to go to a place called the Backstage Lounge, across the street from Republic Studios, which is now CBS Studio Center. All the great stunt men went in there. I believe it's now a place called The Subway (not to be confused with the sandwich chain). Subway is now a Thai restaurant. Charlie Horvath, one of the greatest stunt men of all time, was bartending. He was a great friend of Charles McGraw. They did many pictures together. When some of these yokels would come in star-struck, all these stunt men would start fake brawls. We had a great crew of stunt men in there - Jesse Wayne, Wild Bill Mock, Dar Robinson, Jock Mahoney would visit, Dick Durock (who played Swamp Thing). John Mitchum also was there from time to time, and Ken Swofford and also Glenn Corbett. We had a stuntwoman named Ann Chatterton.

These stunt guys would get blood capsules that they would bit into during these mock fights to add to the realism of their pranks. It was all good fun and highjinks. They'd go ass over teacups, all fake fistfights, merrily chomping on their blood capsules, just to freak the tourists out a bit. One time the stunt guys went as far as to get a breakaway chair, to add to the realism. There were always a lot of sugar glass bottles being busted over stunt guys heads. What it amounted to was a bunch of guys who had too much time on their hands, guys who were reveling in any mischief that came their way. We even went so far as to buy some 8mm sound movie cameras to film our highjinks! Unfortunately, all these films have been lost over the years and many moves. I know for sure I don't have any of this footage.

Another legendary McGraw story - Robert Mitchum and Charlie McGraw were under contract to RKO at the time of this story. There was a famous makeup man at the time, nicknamed Shotgun Britton. Shotgun was working on a picture, and he had a little false nose he would put on Ann Miller. She may have had a little sunburn, which the use of a nose appliance facilitated. I think it may have been a picture called Two Tickets to Broadway, but I'm not sure. Charlie and Mitchum were at liberty at the time, even though they were drawing salaries from their RKO contract. So they were raising all kinds of hell, terrorizing La Cienega Boulevard. So they decided to go to the soundstage for a visit. The Melrose Grotto was a popular lunchtime watering hole at the time. I think we all know what Robert Mitchum's idea of lunch was. Just before they went to lunch, Shotgun took that appliance off the end of Ann Miller's nose, and tucked it in his pocket. So they all went to lunch and had a jolly good time. They come back from lunch, Shotgun reached into his pocket, looking for the rubber nose - gone! Nowhere to be found! Not there! The three of them bolt back the Melrose Grotto, all three of them are down on their hands and knees in the restaurant, and in comes a tourist couple. There's always tourists in Hollywood. Of course they recognize Mitchum, and some recognize McGraw, but they don't know who Shotgun is. "Mr. Mitchum! What are you doing down there on your hands and knees?" Mitchum looks up and says, "We're looking for Ann Miller's nose!"

Unfortunately, Charlie McGraw had a tragic end. He slipped in the shower, his arm crashed through the glass shower door and severed several arteries, and bled to death. I went over to his house a couple of hours later. They had already hauled him away. He was only 66 years old. Unfortunately, the bleeding couldn't be stopped by any means.

Coming Soon - Part 3!

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