The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
It is night.
In 1988 I made a feature-length, deep-sea fishing documentary called, Battle the Big Tuna, for Rob Tapert, producer of Evil Dead. We shot for 9 days on the ocean, 300 miles from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Since I wasn’t living in L.A. at the time, Rob arranged it so I could stay and edit at Sam Raimi’s rented house in Silverlake. Since none of us was working at that time (except for making the fishing doc), Sam had sublet out his house. The tenants were: Joel and Ethan Coen, and their girlfriends, Holly Hunter and Fran McDormand. Sam and I both slept in the garage. Holly and Fran’s buddy, Kathy Bates, came by all the time. Joel, Ethan, Holly, Fran and Kathy have all won Oscars since then, but not Sam or me.
About that same time I got a production assistant job on an Amnesty International show at the Wiltern Theater. I worked the parking lot, making sure that the show’s guests had parking spots. I was given a list that included: Bruce Springsteen, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, on and on, and none of them showed up. Roseanne Barr was the host. She had recently married Tom Arnold, and now wanted to be called Roseanne Arnold, although I’m not sure she had told anybody. When the announcer introduced her as Roseanne Barr, she pitched a fit and made a complete spectacle out of herself.
When I first moved to Hollywood in 1976 I lived across the street from the Encore Theater. They were just having a show where they would show two films by a director, and the director would come in and speak and answer questions between the films. The first show I saw was with Sam Fuller. They showed Verboten! (1959) and Run of the Arrow (1957). Someone asked Fuller, “Why doesn’t Rod Steiger admit to having made Run of the Arrow? It’s not in his filmography.” Sam Fuller removed the big cigar from his mouth and said, “That’s because Rod Steiger is an asshole.”
I met Rod Steiger at the 1991 Houston Film Festival where I showed my film, Lunatics: A Love Story (1991), which won 4th place and I got a plaque. Rod Steiger seemed insane. I tried to discuss On the Waterfront, but to no avail. On stage, Steiger saluted the other special guest, Ginger Rogers, by grabbing his toupee and lifting it off his head. I got both Steiger and Ginger Rogers to sign the back of my award, which is the only reason I’ve kept it.
I screened my film, Running Time (1997), at the 1997 Phoenix International Film Festival. It was shown in a big, 700-seat theater, and there were possibly ten people in attendance. After the film the woman who ran the festival went up to the front of the theater and announced, “The first-place winner of Best Feature Film is Josh Becker with Running Time.” I went up and put out my hand to receive the award and she said, “Oh, we don’t have anything for you.” I said to her, “There’s nobody here.” She said, “I don’t think people like movies around here.” I couldn’t help but ask, “Then why have a film festival?”
Back at the Encore Theater in 1976, they showed The Last Picture Show and Nickelodeon with Peter Bogdanovich speaking in between. He wore his trademark bomber shades and ascot, and acted like a completely pretentious asshole. I had really thought about my question in advance. When the Q&A began, my hand went up. He pointed at me and I asked, “Since you got such brilliant black and white photography in The Last Picture Show from the great cinematographer, Robert Surtees, why when you made Paper Moon in black and white, did you use Laszlo Kovacks instead?” As flippantly as humanly possible, Bogdanovich replied, “I don’t use a cinematographer; I work with him. Next.” Not only was I utterly aghast, I then sat through the miserable piece of shit, Nickelodeon. Had I run into Bogdanovich in the parking lot after the show, I was still so offended that I’d have happily ripped him a new asshole, the pretentious prick.
And a new day has dawned.