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Volume 4589

DENNY MILLER FLASHBACKS
Denny shares anecdotes from his long career in show business
PAGE XI
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Contents
1. SUPERMAN ("S" is for Silly)
2. An 80-Year Adventure
3. Toreador-Agent-Friend
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Denny and Nancy

"Denny Miller Flashbacks" is an ongoing feature in ERBzine
in which Denny will share a different anecdote each week.
Readers are reminded to join us each Friday for a new Miller flashback.
MAIN CONTENTS PAGE: ERBzine 4550
EDITOR'S NOTE FOR FANS OF DENNY:
 We thought it might be fun for our readers 
to write anecdotes about the first time they met Denny 
- either via the screen or in  person.
We'd love hear your stories.
Send them to our ERBzine e-mail account:
ERBzine@westman.wave.ca
SUPERMAN ("S" IS FOR SILLY)
He's known around the world as a hero. He's looked up to by all kids. He's stronger than anyone, everyone. He's kind to ladies, young and old. He's on the side of the underdog. He can't be killed. And he flies. What better person to tell the youth of America to join the United States Air Force?

Now link that guy with the concept of "Team Effort" and you have a perfect thirty-second Air Force recruiting TV message.

In the spring a young man's fancy turns to baseball. Okay, the love of baseball. And Florida is covered with a migration of the best baseball players in the land. It's called spring training. 

I'm going to spend several weeks at ten of these training camps making a one-minute or thirty-second TV recruiting spot at each camp. We'll shoot on the baseball diamond with the players in the background. In the foreground will be that team's manager talking with Superman, me. I get to meet and work with Joe Torre, Yogi Berra, Walter Alston and seven other managers. Plus, I get to meet some of the players. 

It was a baseball fan's dream. That was the good news. The not-so-good news was that I have to get dressed and have make-up put on in the team's locker rooms.

Now I've been a jock most of my life. At twenty-six, I'd spent many hours in the locker rooms just like these. Basketball teams' locker rooms are the same as baseball locker rooms. The guys are taller in basketball but that's about the only difference. 

Just a bunch of young guys, buddies, teammates laughing and scratching, getting ready to spend two or three hours playing a sport that they know they play better than anybody. A bunch of more confident, more outspoken guys is hard to find. Throw a "Hollywood actor in that pond and watch the fun.

I forgot to mention, being a blond, I had to have a black rinse on my hair each day. There never has been a blond Superman. Tarzan yes, but man of Kryptonite, no! The spring weather in Florida is classified in the category called "sauna/monsoon." A locker room full of fifty sweaty guys is even hotter and muggier. This was not the atmosphere to have a black rinse stay on your hair. I had small black streams running down my forehead and along the bridge of  my nose most of the time.

Do you think the players noticed this? Naw! Do you think they made any comments about it? Naw! Nobody threw anything at me except a tidal wave of barbs. I was thankful that it was a baseball team. I was much larger than most of them. If it had been a bunch of NFL teams I may not have survived. I can hear the chorus now, "Superman needs a shower!" As it was, a bystander could tell I wasn't exactly accepted as one of the boys.

It was a long tour of duty. I lost twenty pounds. That was a good thing. And I got to schmooze with the best managers in pro baseball. But as a Superman I felt more like a "Hollywood actor" who took a wrong turn. . . ten wrong turns.

I apologize to the millions of Superman fans. I was miscast. I know you can find hundreds of ex-baseball players who will  agree with me. 


1974 Superman Air Force PSA Commercial on YouTube
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AN 80-YEAR ADVENTURE

I will be eighty in April, 2014!  As I look back over my life it has taken a lot of interesting twists and turns along the way.  Who would have guessed that a kid born in Bloomington, Indiana, would end up playing Basketball at UCLA, for the amazing Coach John Wooden?  Well, if that wasn’t enough, off I went into the jungle as Tarzan. I only played the role of Tarzan in one film but it has filled my life with so many wonderful memories and friends! I plan to write several future anecdotes about the wondrous experience it was for me to play Tarzan at 25 years old and about some of the amazing friends I have made through the “jungle experience”!

For years I went horseback riding, on 28 different Westerns, through some of the most  beautiful mountain areas, with some beautiful women, and great guys like John McIntyre, Frank McGrath, Terry Wilson, Bob Fuller, Ward Bond, Harry Belafonte and Sydney Poitier. I even went surfboarding on a lagoon at Universal Studios, to get to Gilligan’s Island. I got hit with a dart to the forehead by the talented Peter Sellers, in one of the most fun movies THE PARTY.  I shot bad guys and got shot by good guys too. I got to work in Hawaii with Jack Lord and Tom Selleck. I actually got paid to play Juliet Prowse's husband for twenty-six weeks! Even now, I shake my head in wonder!

Over this 50 plus year career, I have made a lot of commercials. I have sold roast beef sandwiches, paper towels, beer, cigars and cigarettes, Texaco gas with Bob Hope, Parisian coffee, trucks, spark plugs, introduced a new game with Lucille Ball, and promoted many other products.

One memorable commercial gig was as the on-screen spokesperson for Gorton's.  We sold a “boat load” of fish sticks for fifteen years!  I shot commercials in just about all of the beautiful sea ports from Tampa Bay to the Straits of Juan De Fucha out of Vancouver.  I have collectable Teddy Bears wearing yellow slickers, my own slicker and a wonderful Helly Hansen Seafarer’s jacket that Gorton’s gave me, which I still wear with pride. Sometimes when Nancy and I are out, people still recognize me as the trusted fisherman – either it’s my beard or my voice, but it is nice to be remembered! And whenever we attend a film festival, at least 7 or 8 people will tell me they remember the Gorton's commercials.

It is amazing to me that I have been lucky enough to live the life I have.  Thank you to those happy accidents that alter the course of my life and to the fans and friends that have made it so much more meaningful!

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TOREADOR-AGENT-FRIEND
Hollywood agents can make or break an actor's career. They're that important. I don't know any working actor, in film or TV, or doesn't have one. 

My first agent, Robert Raison, was totally responsible for starting my career. I would have been a basketball coach all my professional life it he hadn't given me his card that day in the fifties. I believe in "happy accidents." That was one.

I've always envied actors who have an agent that is also their friend. Tom Selleck is one. There are many others. They are very lucky actors. 

There is an old saying in Hollywood about agents: "Changing agents is like changing deck chairs on the Titanic." Like any old saying, many time it's not true. 

Actors get old. Happily, in my case, my gray beard and wrinkles are working for me. Gray hair or no hair, weather-beaten faces, weight gain or loss, beards and limps, new teeth and glasses happen. If an actor still wants to work as this aging process happens, his agent submits him for older roles.

A thing called timing is involved. The agent who represented you in your youth tried to cast you in totally different roles from the roles you are right for years later. It's unfair to blame your agent for not getting you parts at any phase of your career. You're changing, the parts available are changing, the casting directors are being changed, and the viewing public's tastes are changing.

Examples - Blond, blue eyed, scar-faced men were in demand as the bad guys when we were at war with Germany, the same with Oriental actors when Japan was our enemy. Cowboy types made good careers when there were twenty-six Western TV shows on per week. There's not one Western TV series on now, unless you count reruns.

Is it a mystery that very few actors have film careers that last ten years? The most asked question in show biz: "Whatever happened to what's his name?"

So an agent who is also your friend -- is a gift. When you're turned down for an acting job, it's a one hundred percent rejection. You weren't turned down for a bad sales pitch for the car you're trying to sell. You didn't get the part because they didn't like the fit of the shoes you peddle. You didn't get the job because they didn't think YOU fit the part. If you can't deal with that much rejection, get out of town. Actors at ALL levels of success have to deal with pure rejection. It ain't easy, but most of them are dreamers and it takes a lot to kill a dream.

Here's where an agent who is your friend enters the picture. Friendship doesn't happen overnight. Good friends get through all your baggage layer by layer and still stick around. It takes time. And when rejection strikes, a friendly agent gives you support.

When I got sick and incapable of holding my job, David Moss was there. HIs frequent phone calls propped me up when I needed propping.

When I had regained my health, David called one day and said, "Now that you're feeling good, why don't I call your old boss and see if he's interested in working with you again?
 The thought hadn't entered my mind and I told him so. "You mind if I give him a call?" David asked.

"I think that'd really be a long shot." I mumbled. Not working for so long left me with a short supply of self-confidence.

"I'll call him," he said.

Two weeks later I was on a plane to New York. The screen test went well. Well, I guess it did because I returned to my old job. My whole life was turned around. Why? Because David Moss is my agent and he is also my good friend.

I forgot to mention, David made a living in his youth as a toreador. No bull. In Spain, when he was a young man, he fought bulls in the ring. He faced death every Sunday. He almost bought it twice when he was gored. He still fights bulls into his senior years three times a year in northern Mexico. I'm pretty sure he's the only agent in the history of agents that fights that kind of bull. So he's not only my good friend and my agent, he's a fearless S.O.B. That fearless part comes in handy in Hollywood.

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