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Volume 4590

Denny shares anecdotes from his long career in show business
1. It's A Jungle Out There
2. March Madness
3. Impractical Joker

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.

 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:
Fan Anecdotes

It's A Jungle Out There
Animal crackers. Not the tasteless ones I used to eat by the thousands. I'm thinking about the times animals make us crack up. The things that animals do with us or to us that make us giggle, snicker, and laugh out loud -- crack up.

Playing the role of Tarzan is like being in a zoo. Chimps and elephants, lions and tigers and bears, oh my, are in your neighbourhood. Well, not tigers and bears. They are in the Indian neighbourhood, not African. Snakes and hippos and zebras too, but in our production they were stock footage. We couldn't afford the real thing.

A chimp's DNA is ninety-eight percent the same as ours. Smart? You bet, and strong. But then human hands and arms would be as strong if we walked on them like chimps do.

They can be dangerous, as they get older. Ask Mike Henry about that. A chimp bit him on the chin during the filming of a Tarzan movie. He only got sixty-seven stitches. Mike said he noticed the nibble right away.

The chimp on our show seemed docile but the trainer warmed me up front, "If he bites you, punch him in the nose."

Once scene was about the chimp running up to Tarzan, grabbing his hand (my hand) and pulling Tarzan back in the direction of the camera, all this to save Jane for the umpteenth time.

To get the shot, the chimp trainer stood behind the camera; I was in front, walking away. "Action!"

The trainer commands, "Go get him!" The chimp runs in and grabs my hand. Bring him here! yells the chimp's boss. I resist because I'm angry with Jane, a lovers' spat.

Now what's the chimp to do? This hairless clown won't let him obey his trainer's command. I felt his teeth sinking into the meat of my left hand. I lifted my hand and the chimp came with it. A right cross to his nose and I saved a chunk of my hand from becoming chimp lunch. It took a long time to get the chimp to grab my hand again. It didn't take a long time once he grabbed it for me to turn around an go with him, back to his trainer and friend. 

Jane (Joanna Barnes), the "white hunter" (Cesare Denova), the chimp and I were riding through the jungle, toward the camera. I was first no, the chimp was cradled in my left arm, and Jane was right behind me holding on to my latissimus dorsi, and Cesare was last. 

It had taken forty-five minutes to get everyone in place. We each had to climb a ladder and get settled up there, and then one elephant train er stood in front of the grey mountain and fed him some straw, while the other trainer came up the ladder and handed the chimp to me. This particular elephant didn't enjoy chimps riding on his back That was our reason for being so sneaky.

We heard "Action!" filter through the plastic jungle. The camera was forty yards down the trail. The trainer yelled whatever you yell at elephants to make them go and we were off at two miles per hour.

We hadn't gone far when I heard Jane (Joanna) cursing. She could say anything she wanted as long as she stayed behind me,. There was no dialogue so the microphones were off but it would ruin the shot if the camera picked up her mouth moving.

This is what I heard, "Stop this#*?#~+\\<!#!" The problem? The chimp was reaching under my arm and with his extremely long arm could reach certain parts of Joanna's anatomy. He seemed to enjoy squeezing.

The way I was holding the chimp, his mouth was in range of my chin, and my right hand was busy holding onto the strap that held the rubber African ears in place. So I did nothing to stop the chimp's explorations.

The more important problem was not to crack up. A laughing Tarzan in this time of peril in the script would not do. So I bit my own lip. Joanna did not enjoy the stroll.

The elephant was big. He was taller than I when he was lying on his side. That's where he was in this scene. He had been shot by a poison arrow and the trainer got him in position so I could pull the arrow out, turn and show Jane and the hunter why the elephant was headed for the "elephant burial ground."

The prop department had made a rubber socket to put the arrow in. The socket had a rubber border about ten inches in diameter. It was thin and looked like the skin of the elephant and it allowed the socket to be glued on the side of the elephant. Insert the arrow and it would stay there until I pulled it out. The prop man warned me to put my left hand flat against the border and press down while I pulled the arrow out. Otherwise the whole thing, the socket and its rubber border, would come unglued and ruin the shot.

"Action!" I pushed down firmly on the border glued on to the elephant's stomach. Do you know the difference between a cocktail lounge and an elephant's fart? One is a bar room and once is a BAHHHROOOOM!

The show must go on. I turned to show the arrow to Joanna and Cesare. They were gone. The camera operator was gone, along with the director and the rest of the crew. Crack up! 

March Madness

Being former Basketball Player, Hoop Madness was always a part of my life; not just the month of March. My younger brother, Kent, is a taller and a more gifted athlete. He and I bounced a ball endlessly. My father had a special hoop made three inches smaller so we would learn to "swish" our shots. We were outside playing one-on-one until the sun went down!  We played ball in school and on church leagues and our parents never missed a game.

My father played ball at Indiana University. His Purdue opponent was none other than John Wooden. Twenty years later John Wooden would be my coach at UCLA.  Kent also got a Basketball scholarship at UCLA. It was a dream come true!

Basketball is a team sport. It teaches many life lessons. For one thing, you have to rely on your teammates; trust is an important and necessary component for success.  You have to put in the time; practice, practice, practice.  Passion and dedication are necessary for success in sports and in life.

I was a Physical Education major at UCLA and my plan was to become a Basketball Coach. Well, as we know, that did not happen. Although, there was a Junior transfer at UCLA that played behind me named Denny Crum. He not only became a Basketball Coach at the University of Louisville, he is in the Coach's Hall of Fame. Nancy and I have had the pleasure of visiting with Denny and his wife Susan, when we were in Louisville. He us a Super Star there!

 Denny Crum ~ Denny Miller ~ John Wooden

My path went a different direction when I was chosen to play TARZAN in 1959. What a path it has been!

I knew nothing about making a movie or being in front of a camera. I was terrified!  But I quickly realized teamwork was key. I could only be as good as the other actors and those behind the camera. Like anything in life, we are a work in progress.

March Madness has grown over the years and has taken on its own life. This year Billionaire Warren Buffet has offer a billion dollars to any one who turns in a perfect bracket . . . picking every winner throughout the playoffs and the final champion. Imagine, college basketball getting so much attention!

Every year Nancy would runoff the brackets for Kent and I and we would watch all the games.  Kent and I would discuss the teams and enjoy the tournament. We cheered for UCLA of course.

Nancy is a big basketball fan and very loyal to her teams. The Lakers, Duke and UCLA. She is suffering through the Lakers season right now.  She and her grandsons text back and forth during the games. By the way, I don't text.

Well Nancy has a good friend, Debby, whose sons have a March Madness Bracket each year. Nancy participated in it last year and her brackets looked good until the round of 16. Then her alma mater, University of Miami let her down. This year she filled out her bracket and March Madness hit me! I not only filled out my brackets, I paid my $20 and entered the fray. I am just about to celebrate my 80th birthday and this is my first gambling experience!

I do not expect a check from Mr. Buffet!

Warren Buffet


Impractical Joker
Facebook and I have evolved!

For a long time I did not embrace the concept of Facebook.  To me it was a lot of lonely people communicating with other lonely strangers.  Psychologists have stated that people often are far more comfortable expressing their feelings to strangers rather than those they are close to. They say things to strangers/acquaintances more easily.  Facebook offered that type of platform and more.  It was a way to express yourself with anonymity.  It had its problems and it was difficult to keep up with the rapid growth.  People do need to be careful how they use it and what information they put out there. Fortunately, there seems to be more safety guidelines now and millions of people use Facebook.  So, there is obviously a need for such a communication option.

I did not want to be involved.  Nancy signed us up because she felt it was a very good way to stay in touch with fans.  She does not get involved with the more personal side of postings.  She reads the posts to me and I answer specific questions put to me.  She has only "unfriended" a couple of people.

As it turns out, with these limitations, I have been pleasantly surprised by the number of people that have requested "friend status."  I am amazed at the world-wide contacts we have made. And, some have really become friends! It is gratifying to hear such kind words and as I have always said, I consider it delayed applause. I have reconnected with high school and Army buddies which has been very nice.  I have seen photos I had never seen before.  It never ceases to surprise me as to how much "stuff" is out there! 

Many years ago, when I first started acting, I began getting fan mail.  That was a pleasant surprise.  My mother was responsible for answering the mail and requests.  She really enjoyed it and kept me in the loop.  I did make some new and long-lasting friends. 

Technology has rapidly taken over our lives.  I do not have a cell phone.  I do not text or tweet and have no plans to start.  But, the way I see it now, Facebook has taken over most of the fan mail in my life.  It has become an avenue for me to keep in touch with fans. Nancy oversees the mail and keeps me in the loop.  So, we have evolved.


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