Eric Kaldor

Telly Savalas & Kojak

I had the opportunity to write for the TV show Kojak, back when the dawn of uber-detective TV was popular. In those days as a freelance writer, I was never allowed on the set. We were hired hands, and once we turned in a final version of our scripts, that was it until the next assignment.

On Kojak (which I loved writing for) there were even more restrictions. One of the characters, Telly, created his own quirks to draw attention, with the use of lollipops and the line “Who loves ya baby.” As writers, we were never supposed to include them in our scripts.

One day I got him in a round about way. I created a boxing gym scene and placed the action close to a punching bag. I knew what would happen, and I was right. To button the scene, Telly smacked the bag, uttering his usual line “Who loves ya baby.”

I was never able to insert lollipops into scenes. I tried once using them as an important clue in a murder. The clue was changed to a different confectionary–salt water taffy.

Although I never met Telly Savalas, I learned quite a bit about him while writing for the series.  I knew he loved gambling, could toss a few with the rest of them, was super proud of his Greek heritage, and faced death like a man.

When he discovered he had incurable prostate cancer, he moved to The Sheraton in Studio City and held court in the bar that bore his name. I was told he was always gracious. He laughed and joked and gave autographs to everybody who asked, and definitely did not play the movie star.

Though I never met him—I’m proud he said my words.  And I’m glad I put in the punching bag.

A word about myself:  I am a cantankerous, old guy who had a lot of fights during my show biz career, but none of them took place on Kojak. I had fun there. It was a happy period and I will be blogging about some of the people who made Kojak such a great experience on my site, My site contains a variety of items. There’s a novel, podcasts, and blogs that are inflammatory and XXX rated.  But everything I have written is how I saw and see American Life.

I hope you take the time to browse the site and let me know your reaction.

A Not-So-Pleasant Encounter with Adrien Brody

I am going to blog about some of the strange, wonderful, and awful people I have known during my up and down career in Hollywood. Here is my first story:

A Not-So-Pleasant Encounter with Adrien Brody:

I had been acting for a couple of years when I got a call to audition for the feature Hollywoodland. I was the type they were looking for; an old, skinny bodybuilder— and there were damn few of us—which is why I got the job immediately.

The first thing production did was shave my beard and gave me a 1950’s haircut. In wardrobe, I got fitted into something that made me look like I was a denizen of muscle beach—circa 1950. The costume was a pair of skimpy shorts and I was told not to wear underwear as the undergarment would show.

Many scenes in the movie took place in a dilapidated apartment house, and I was a conspicuous part of the set, lifting dumb bells while smoking Lucky Strikes. Actually, they were herbal cigarettes and they made me cough. The first few scenes I did solo around a scum-filled pool and in various decrepit hallways within the house. Then, in my ill-fitting costume, I was placed on the roof with my weights and cigs. Pool side was Mr. Brody. He had just gotten out of a make-believe fight and had phony black eyes and bruises. In the scene, Brody was suppose to look up from some undercover papers and gaze at me quizzically.

I took my position on the roof. The sun was setting directly behind me and I heard the second AD speaking to the director, who said he thought the shot was great.

The AD then introduced me to Brody. I yelled “Hi” to him from my perch on the roof, and he barely nodded. That was fine with me, the guy had just won an Oscar, but I still thought he was an arrogant SOB.

So, we began the scene. I lifted my weights as I puffed on the herbal cigs, but I was not getting enough smoke. The second assistant—a lovely, young girl—was positioned between my legs to relight the cigs when they went out. We did a number of takes and then I felt a draft. I ignored it because we were in the middle of the shoot, but then I noticed that the young girl between my legs was pointing at my crotch. They kept filming. Nobody yelled “cut,” so being a good trooper; I ignored her until it finally became impossible. I looked down and realized my nuts had fallen out of my skimpy costume. I stopped to tuck them back in but the director yelled “Keep lifting and smoking!” I did as I was told with a twenty year old lighting cigarettes under my balls.

Finally it was over. The sun set behind me and the director was ecstatic about the shot, and I was told to wait around for some added scenes. I got down from the roof and passed Brody. I said “Hi.” He totally ignored me.

During the rest of the day I was in many other scenes with my weights and herbals, but unbeknownst to anybody, I put on my jockeys so my nuts were secure.

And then it came time for the final shot. It was dark outside and I was positioned in an apartment window. Brody was supposed to walk by and give me a jaundiced look. But he didn’t want to do the scene, and I knew why. I was stealing every scene with my skinny bod and insane costume.

Brody of course knew it too. He argued with the director. He insisted it was more natural to do the scene not looking at me. The director stood his ground for a while but you don’t cross your star performer—especially one who had just been awarded the highest honor in Christendom—an Oscar. Eventually, the director caved.

I was grateful. I had been on the set for some 14 hours, but when I went to sign out, the AD whispered that I should stick around.

Brody shot the scene without me and then left with his entourage. Soon after, the director shot me in the apartment as originally planned. I knew he was going to edit me into the movie as Brody’s POV.

When the shot was complete, wardrobe was closed and I exhaustedly drove home in my skimpy costume. I got lost and stopped at a 7-eleven for directions. The Bangladeshi clerk looked like he was reaching for a gun when I entered the deserted store. I threw up my hands and gave him my most engaging smile, and the turbaned clerk gave me halting directions to the freeway.

When the picture came out, the shots used were not the ones where I was exposed. That was a shame, But I was still happy with the outcome. Just as I expected, I had stolen every scene I was in with Adrien Brody.

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