Chapter 2: Lunch Time

(Beginnings of Speakeasy Digital Singapore)

Other duties were less onerous. I was frequently a bi-lingual go-fer and interpreter. Familiar with local sensitivities, I was able to offer insight into Thai protocol on many occasions, thereby reducing friction due to cultural misunderstandings. I was also the unofficial provider of weed for the crew. It wasn't that they were a crew of stoners, but there were more than a few who appreciated a good smoke.

 I had access to what was probably the best marijuana in the world at the time; Thai Stick, or Buddha, as it was know by the GIs. 

Ron Calloway the props master and only black on the crew had a great selection of music. We got along very well.

 Buddy Van Horn, the stunt coordinator was a likable man with a dry, Texas sense of humour. He was Clint Eastwood’s stunt double for many years. Once, walking down a dirt road near the set with him, I picked up a smooth green rock and asked him if he knew what kind of stone it was. He held it in his hand, examined it closely and said, "I reckon that's Leverite."

 "Leverite?" 

 "Yeah, I think maybe you ought to leverite here, cause the natives might not like you messing around with their rocks."

 Mike Grillo was 1st AD. Barry and I worked mostly under his direction. He was a pleasure to work with; good-natured, competent and civil, he didn’t need to scream and shout to achieve what was needed and often he bore the brunt of Mike Cimino's tantrums, and at times almost infantile, impatient behavior.

 

Michael Cimino on set - Deerhunter

Michael Cimino on set - Deerhunter

Fortunately, I rarely worked directly under Mike Cimino. He was frequently in an irascible frame of mind.

 Once he ordered his Thai bodyguard to shoot the art director, John Blezard, and I watched him throw 5 expensive walkie-talkies (back then 700 USD apiece) into the River Kwai during one of his tantrums. He was often extremely foul-mouthed and abusive to his subordinates, so I preferred to keep my distance.

 Once he took umbrage with something Barry said and fired him on the spot.

 In Barry’s words, “The reason I was fired...it was a lunch break and the extras being extras, were milling around, wandering all over the place. Mike Grillo told me to sort them out, queue up, etc. Thus was my task as whatever we were nomenclatured.

During this melee, I was told Mr. Cimino wanted his lunch and to see it was sent to him without ado, to which I replied, he could wait a minute until I sort this out. This was duly related to the god, and the ensuing dismissal.  ‘Get him off my set!’ ”

“Thus chastised, I wandered off leaving the madness and sought David Anderson.  Deer Hunter was an English EMI and American co-production. David Anderson hired me so Cimino could not rightfully fire me. David offered me the choice. Go and apologize or leave.  A bitter pill, but I liked the job and was not about to let a little shit like Cimino chuck me, so I went and expressed my deepest and heartfelt apologies for his slightly delayed lunch. I was reinstated ”

I managed to duck his wrath but later learned I did not entirely escape his notice.