Saturday, December 27, 2008
I Lost Yet Another Remarkable Friend…
Paradise Valley, AZ—When I wanted to audition for my first acting role in the play, One Flew over The Cuckoo’s Nest for A Scottsdale theater I could not find a copy of the script anywhere. I just didn’t know where to look. Frustrated, I decided to try and find the author. I am, after all a private investigator.
The author of that great play was a man named Dale Wasserman. I was happy because with such an uncommon name he’d be easier to find than his script. I fully expected to find him in Los Angeles or New York. I was shocked to find him living only a few miles from my Phoenix home. I quickly obtained his unlisted telephone number and called him.
Dale turned out to be a delightful fellow who understood my difficulty and invited me over to pick up an extra copy of his script. Wow!
When I arrived Dale invited me into his large home office decorated in, “Man of LaMancha” motif. Yes, he wrote that huge international hit play too. Dale handed me a copy of the play and I could not resist asking him to autograph it for me. Dale suggested I read for Bromden, the Native American role.
I took the script home, studied it and came to the audition and read for it. I did not get the part. I did however get picked for the role of Dr. Spivey the psychiatrist. I went on to be in that play that sold out every night and was twice extended. I was hooked on acting.
Soon I was in Man of LaMancha too as a muleteer. After that, came more roles and membership in the, Screen Actor’s Guild, and later AFTRA. I have still paid more in dues than I ever made as an actor.
Dale later called me for a small business problem over some property he owned and I helped him in kind.
Dale offered to read the first script I wrote and then helped me by completely trashing it. He urged me to continue writing and confided in me that the royalty checks for his works have never stopped coming to his mailbox. His writing skills served him well. He put me in the right direction and you cannot buy that kind of help.
We became friends. Soon he invited me to audition for his play, A Walk In The Sky. How could I refuse? I went, I auditioned and was promptly rejected for that singing role.
I did however find a rare vintage photo of Dale’s friend, actor, Kirk Douglass, put it in a frame and gave it to Dale as a small present. Douglass was standing in front of the Broadway marquee where Cuckoo’s Nest was playing. Dale directed Douglass who created the role as the first R.P. McMurphy in the play. Douglass bought the rights and his son Michael produced the wildly successful movie that starred Jack Nicholson. Dale loved the present as he laughed and complained about Douglass being such a hard bargainer.
Dale had several Tony Awards in his home on display and chucked that they all came by UPS since he did not do Award shows. I think he enjoyed being a no show where others, more notable than him had to accept the awards on his behalf. Dale pulled that stunt nine times!
Dale told me he was a train hopping hobo as a youth. He never finished high school, came to Los Angeles started as a lighting assistant and wound up writing 100 or so published works. His first major film script was, The Vikings that starred Kirk Douglass, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
Dale was a mentor who taught me about the craft of screen writing. Without Dale’s influence there would be no script for Come Friday, written by me to tell the great story of Chicago policewoman Ann Leybourne.
It was congestive heart failure that took this giant of a man who was 94 years-old. Wasserman is survived by Martha Nelly Garza, his wife of 30 years.
See video of Dale in his home office here.