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MARCH 2011

Howdy! Where were you when the Eagle landed? 1969—Neil Armstrong took one giant slo-mo leap for mankind—where were you? I was in Paris. Down dark, narrow streets I had to go in search of old haunts from my army daze. Armstrong moon walked; I ghost walked. I’d traveled far—took a rather circuitous route from La La Land on my way to Spain, where I was supposed to work on a western. A rock is a rock. Shoot it in Spain.

Flying down to Rio, I glanced out my window in hopes of seeing high kicking chorus gals on the wing. At the airport in Joburg, South Africa, customs confiscated my slightly read book of THE GODFATHER. If you know how it ends don’t tell me.

On the drive to Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) we ran over a puffadder—beautiful creature, not unlike a rattler sans rattles. I now sport a spectacular belt. Stayed a few days on a ranch with George Montgomery who was in the throes of directing and acting in an adventure yarn featuring a slew of wild beasts. Some of which were not human. Hard to read at night, bats kept swooping down on my PLAYBOY magazine. Heh, heh. I’d craftily hidden my copy from customs.

The head rancher constantly practiced his marksmanship. To improve his hunting prowess? No, he said he was expecting a civil war. Wonder how he fared? I shot a host of animals—with my trusty 8mm Canon movie camera. I followed the rancher out into the veldt where he shot a stately eland to feed the troupe. I felt mighty bad. ‘Twas like killing Bambi. Even so, I got a great shot over the rifleman’s shoulder. Later, I strapped into an open cockpit Tiger Moth. The pilot performed barrel rolls and other stomach churners. A baboon ran along awadi—caught it all on film. Later, the Joburg lab mysteriously ‘lost’ all my action stuff.

Autographed artwork of Will on his horse Penny.

The star of George’s epic, to me, was a lion—Dandy, by name. He was a big, lovable pussycat. Months after, I heard tell another movie company had moved in and hired Dandy. They forgot to give him his rations, so Dandy Lion took matters into his own paws and ate a crew member.

Moved on to Botswana and Zambia where I swapped some clothes for wooden sculpture. Then, at heaven on earth, William Holden’s game preserve in Kenya, we laid out some loot to visit a Masai village. While dancing with the lady villagers I took out my trusty Canon, and the ladies covered up. The Masai warriors with their long spears returned after the hunt, and we hopped aboard our Land Rover and drove into the sunset.

I ventured deep into the bowels of a pyramid outside Cairo. Suddenly, the feeble light went out. I shouted, “What is this? A do-it-yourself burial? Is this a wrap?” Someone lit a match.

In Athens I signed my name on a wall directly beneath Lord Byron. The cops chased after me. Loved Venice. Admired the street walkers—great swimmers. Asked Ingrid Bergman if she thought her marriage to Roberto Rossellini had affected her acting. “No,” she said, “Hamma no a thinka so.”

Now, Armstrong had hit the golf shot heard ‘round the world, and I was on a winding, dark street in the City of Light. Paris had changed—No, she hadn’t, I had. Paris is forever young. And so is Vikki Dougan who was on my arm. This enchantress had previously achieved 15 minutes of fame by appearing at a Hollywood hoohaw clad in a flimsy hank of silk that revealed more than a starlet’s share of cleavage—not frontal—rearal. The Lamplighters had eternalized that magic moment in song, “Vikki, Vikki, turn your back on me.”

But I digress—I was steering Miss Vikki clear of the high rent district, hoping the aroma from my favorite eatery would waft by and guide me there one more time. The night was balmy. The Spanish flick had fallen through and we were lost. Around a corner we chanced upon a quaint cinema showing two westerns. One was “The Shooting” with Millie Perkins, Warren Oates, Jack Nicholson and ol’ Hutch. We upped to the cashier. In sign language I asked her could we get in for half price if we promised to leave when “The Shooting” ended? “Oui, monsieur.” Heh, heh—Ol’ Spend-a-Million struck again. Although filmed in 1965, it had yet to play in the states. The world was waiting for Jack Nicholson to become famous.

Just as Miss Vikki, one memorable night flashed her back, I’d now like to flash back to April, 1965, when I first got involved in shooting “The Shooting”. But I see by the old clock on the wall that we need a new clock on the wall—so, pardners, till next we gather ‘round the campfire, I’ll gather my memories so I can tell y’all about the time a bunch of Hollywood pals went to Kanab, Utah, to play cowboys and Indians.

   —Adios!