He Was A Contender

Perhaps the Writers’ Conference attendees were spending just a little too much time at the bar at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort during Budd Schulberg’s thoroughly entertaining appearance on Sunday afternoon, June 25th. Less than fifty people were in attendance to hear the 92-year-old celebrated author speak. Apparently, conference members had to choose between eating lunch or listening to Schulberg – who wrote the screenplay for “On The Waterfront” and authored the immortal scene in the back of a taxicab wherein Charley Malloy berates his younger brother (a once-promising young boxer) for giving the mob-controlled union a tough time on the docks.

Alongside equally memorable movie utterances like “Rosebud,” “Make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn,” “Top of the world, mom, top of the world!” “Houston, we have a problem,” stands Terry Malloy’s (played by Marlon Brando) plaintive words to Charley (Rod Steiger): “It was you Charley; you was my brother. You should’ve looked out for me … I could’ve been a contender; I could’ve been class and been somebody, instead of a bum...”

Schulberg also wrote “What Makes Sammy Run,” “The Harder They Fall,” “A Face In The Crowd,” and was an un-credited contributor to the 1937 MGM classic, “A Star Is Born.”

Writers’ Conference founder Barnaby Conrad introduced former NBC-TV White House correspondent (and Montecito resident) Sander Vanocur, who introduced interviewer Connie Martinson, host of L.A. Cable TV’s “Connie Martinson Talks Books,” and Mr. Schulberg, who was then honored with the very first Ray Bradbury Achievement Award. Barnaby informed the small gathering that the scholarship will be given to future recipients in the name of both Budd Schulberg and Ray Bradbury.

One of Ms Martinson’s first questions concerned the noted taxicab scene. She had heard Marlon Brando had refused to do it at first.

Schulberg nodded that, yes, it was true, Brando had said he wouldn’t do the scene, and he, Schulberg, was baffled. Budd says he turned to director Elia Kazan and said, “’You like it. [the film’s producer] Sam Spiegel likes it.’ “’What the hell does [Brando] think is wrong with it?’

“‘He can’t do it. He can’t play it. He says it’s unplayable,’ Kazan said, adding ‘Let me talk to Marlon.’”

Kazan promised to set up a meeting with the three of them, but every time a meeting was to occur, it was canceled. By the morning of the shoot, Brando had even told the script girl that he couldn’t do the scene, sending Schulberg into a rage, demanding to know why. Finally, the three – Kazan, Brando, and Schulberg – met to discuss the problem. The following is Schulberg’s version of their discussion, verbatim:

“Kazan says, ‘Marlon, Budd’s a little upset and I am too. What do you think is wrong with that scene? Why can’t you play it?’

“He said, ‘I just can’t play it, that’s all. I can’t play it. It’s not good. I won’t do it.’

“Kazan says ‘Look, try to be more specific. There must be something about it that’s really, really bothering you. What is it?’

“Brando takes a deep breath and says, ‘Look, I’m saying a whole bunch of words about you’re being my brother and you’re supposed to be looking out for me, and all the time I’m saying that, Rod Steiger has a gun pointing at me. How can I say what I’m saying if he has a gun? It doesn’t feel right to me.’

“After thinking about it, Kazan said, ‘Marlon, what if you could reach out and put the gun down and then go on?’

“Marlon said, ‘Well, that would be fine.’

“In the movie,” Schulberg explains softly, “you’ll see exactly that. Marlon did it exactly the way Kazan showed him to do it, and then went on. And, he did it very well.”

What Makes Sammy Run?

Schulberg freely admits that in those days he was an active member of the Communist Party and that many of his friends and co-workers were too. One of their tasks, in fact, was “to recruit young Democrats” to their cause.

Connie reminded Schulberg that after publication of his first novel, “What Makes Sammy Run?,” – an exposé of Hollywood movie studio corruption – he was no hero to either Hollywood or the Communist Party. “It was a book that you evidently had to do,” Connie says, “with your parents [father B.P. Schulberg had been a major Hollywood producer] saying, ‘Are you kidding? You can’t do this to us.’”

“Every night, we had specific things we were to do [for the Party],” Schulberg relates, “to organize young Democrats and recruit new members, and every Friday we’d give a full report of what we were doing. I told them I had the opportunity to write a novel and asked for a leave of absence to write it.”

Schulberg says he was told that he couldn’t, “’unless what you are writing is valuable to the Party.’

“I told them I didn’t know if I could answer that,” Schulberg recounts. He was told he’d have to speak to the head of the Party (John Howard Lawson, co-founder of the Screen Writers Guild and head of the American Communist Party). Lawson told Schulberg that he could indeed take time out to write a novel, but that the Party would need to see an outline and that Party members would advise him as he went along.

Schulberg says he said, “‘Jack, I can’t. I can’t write a novel that way.’”

After several weeks of debating the issue with his communist overseers, he told his wife he was “just going to drive away” to write, which he did, to Vermont, where he stayed for a year and a half and wrote “What Makes Sammy Run?,” a caustic exposure of Hollywood’s seamy side. The book became a best seller but because of it, Schulberg, at least for a time, became a pariah. Film producer Sam Jaffe, for example, said that “if he could, he would deport me” (Santa Catalina was mentioned as an appropriate exile).

After his discussion, Mr. Schulberg spent a half hour or more signing his books and discussing writing and publishing with a crowd that seemed larger than the one that attended the interview. Those that could have, but didn’t, partake of this illuminating event, missed what is likely to have been one of the very last interviews or talks ever given by one of the few remaining giants of filmdom’s best and most productive era. And that’s a shame.

Susan Has A Novel

Susan Chiavelli, winner of the very first (and only so far) Montecito Journal Literary Award, has rewoven her award-winning short story into a novel called, “Up Here In The Future.” She says it is “a literary novel that is going in reverse chronology,” starting with Book Three, with the main character as a young mother living in Seattle in the mid-‘70s (she is in her mid-twenties). Book Two goes back to her teenage years and Book One goes all the way back to her childhood and to her very first memory, which is a traumatic one.

Susan attended this year’s writers’ conference (thanks to her MJ literary award that featured not only a check for $2,000 but also tuition. As a conference member, she was offered the opportunity to sit down with a bona fide agent for a full fifteen minutes to make her pitch.

She explains that conference participants get to peruse a list of agents and publishers and to choose among them by signing up for an appointment with one of them. Susan’s pitch is: “This is a novel that opens like a set of Russian nesting dolls as we go backwards in time. It’s the story of Lily McCloud as she searches for love and she finds forgiveness.”

We say, good luck to Susan.

The Conrad Party

Most of us at the Journal eagerly await the annual Mary and Barnaby Conrad Cocktail and Conference Party held on the patio of their Rincon home. The get-together always features many of the honorees, awardees, and participants, past and present of the now 33-year-old Writers’ Conference.

This year was no exception. Among those in attendance were stalwarts like Ernie Witham (who only comes for the good wine, but Fernando is on to him and switches bottles before pouring), Grace Rachow, Marcia Meier, Don Seth, and others. But, trolling among the attendees, we spotted literary luminaries T.C. Boyle, Thomas Steinbeck, and Dean Mars in the crowd. Past years have included “Peanuts” creator Charles Schulz, bandleader Artie Shaw, novelist Fannie Flagg, L.A. Times columnist Charles Champlin, Ray Bradbury, and well, a host of authors, writers, journalists, editors, and other ne’er do wells.

A word to the smart: if you are invited to this special event, change whatever plans you may have and go. Budd Schulberg won’t be around forever and neither will the Conrads – or you (or me!).

Another Summit For Danny

This time, the 19 mountain climbers that set out to conquer Ecuador’s Cotopaxi peak (at 5,897 meters or 19,374 feet, Ecuador’s highest active volcano) did not actually reach the summit. Sixty-plus mph winds and freezing weather foiled the small party attempting to reach the top, stopping just 200 meters short of their goal. One of the climbers, Eliane Alexandre, apparently became so distraught at learning they could not make it that she turned around in frustration and set off alone back down to the base camp. She had forgotten, however, that she was connected to the rest of the climbers and says she is still apologizing for causing her team members to lose their balance.

Ecuador was the fourth fundraising destination for the benefit of the Daniel Bryant Youth & Family Treatment Center; the others were Kilimanjaro, the Canadian arctic, and Mt. Pisco in Peru. This year’s expedition, arranged by Travel Sobek, raised $370,000 for the Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

“I’m thrilled with the success of ‘Summit For Danny,’ says Bob Bryant, father of Daniel Bryant who died of a heroin overdose on June 27, 1995, eleven years to the day of this year’s gathering of “Summit For Danny” participants at the home of Peggy and Richard Lamb near Hope Ranch. “[Danny] was thirty-six at the time and had struggled with the problem for some time, which I was not even aware of,” Bob recalls during a short conversation with him and his wife, Patty. “It started with drinking in high school,” he continues, “then marijuana – the entry-level drugs.”

The Daniel Bryant Youth & Family Treatment Center “started out as a dream (in 2000),” Bob says. The goal “was to set up a program so that no parent would have to go through [what I went through].”

Bob’s oldest son Michael has remained close and manages Bryant & Sons Jewelers; number-three son Shannon is a firefighter and an engineer in Salinas, and daughter Kathleen Shields has recently opened Savoy Truffle in downtown Santa Barbara.

The climbs have helped raise some $1.7 million over the past five years, and the Center is attempting to purchase the building it currently rents at West Anapamu and Chapala. “The cost is around five million,” Bob says, noting that while it may seem expensive, “if we could buy it, it would relieve the pressure of worrying about future rent increases or having to move.” Bob says they have an anonymous $1-million two-for-one matching grant they are trying to take advantage of (“We raise two, they give us one,” explains Patty).

Bob boasts that his center is “being replicated throughout the country because its success rate is so high. In the basement, the group is experimenting with another innovation: Summit High School, with six students currently. “Summit High has one teacher,” Bob informs, “and is funded by the State Board of Education.” In order to be eligible, students must first go through a rehab program, but “once they’re clean, then they can come to the school. It’s like having a prep school for them; we have our first graduate this year,” he notes proudly.

As for not having reached the summit this year, he says, “No, we didn’t make it. The conditions were too severe and the climb became way too technical for us; it was beyond our abilities; it was too extreme.”

“The real danger was,” interjects Patty, “that the wind was so strong it was slowing our rate of ascent and you have to be down by approximately 10 am or the snow gets too soft and it becomes very unsafe to travel down the glacier, so we had to make our descent.”

Next year’s projected trip is to a remote valley in Bhutan, but Bob expresses some concern because of the time it takes to get there (two full travel days each way), and the cost of about $7,500 per person. Anyone interested in either volunteering at the rehab center or donating is invited to call the Council on Drug & Alcohol Abuse at 805-963-1433, or visit the website: sbcada.org.

Their Fabulous Wedding

Montecito resident Steve Rottman (he moved here in 1990) and Lisa Zamudio are scheduled to be married in the Crystal Garden of the Beverly Hills Hotel on Saturday, July 15th, followed by a reception in the Crystal Ballroom. The couple is planning, under the guidance of wedding planner Julie Pryor, what has become an extravagant wedding for 450 guests that will be featured on an upcoming VH1 program called, appropriately, “My Fabulous Wedding,” set to air “in August or September.” The rehearsal dinner (for about 50) will take place at the Bel Air Hotel, where Steve proposed (the Bel Air is too small to accommodate the wedding party). This will be Steve’s second marriage and the first for Lisa; his daughters Emily, Danielle, and Alexis are bridesmaids.

VH1 was searching for eight couples about to be married for four hours of programming (one-half-hour per wedding) and Lisa and Steve’s upcoming nuptials fit the bill: A classical quartet will take some of their favorite songs, like Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” “Is This Love?” by Whitesnake, a Van Halen song and others, and remake them into classical pieces to play during the ceremony. An enormous ice bar featuring the spotlighted monograms – a big “L” on one side, an “S” on the other – will turn out special Martinis. A 12-piece band will rock out during the reception.

“There’s three aspects to the [VH1 TV show],” Steve explains during a visit to the MJ office on Coast Village Circle: “our lives – and it’s all about people – then all about planning, that’s the second act, and then the wedding and everything around the wedding.”

A camera crew (with three cameras) followed the couple as they went around Montecito. They were filmed at Lucky’s, eating breakfast at Jeannine’s, buying jewelry at Bryant & Sons, and walking on Butterfly Beach. The VH1 team also filmed Lisa working at the Unity Shoppe and the two taking dance lessons at Arthur Murray Studio.

The two met on a blind date three years ago when Lisa, who was living in Carpinteria, worked at the Bank of America on State Street (she’s now a private mortgage broker). Steve heads up The Rottman Group, a thirty-partnership Santa Barbara-based real-estate development company. Their blind date featured dinner at Grappolo, in Santa Ynez, with dancing at the Maverick afterwards, though they spent the next four hours talking and never hit the dance floor. The couple became engaged May 12th of last year.

Monique Lhuillier designed her antique white wedding dress and the four-tiered Rosebud Bakery wedding cake will feature a male and female swan at its base, representing Hotel Bel Air’s Swan Lake, where Steve proposed.

“He got down on one knee,” Lisa recalls, “with his nice slacks, in the dirt, and asked me to marry him under the gazebo. The four swans came over and the moonlight was shining on the lake.”

As the wedding grew more elaborate, Lisa, who not only volunteers at the Unity Shoppe but is also a member of Friends of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), began to realize they were spending so much money on the wedding that perhaps there should be more of a balance. “Steve has been living in his house for a long time,” she says, “and we have everything we need there. So, we talked about it and said, ‘You know what?’ Forget gifts, let’s ask our guests to write a check to the charities.”

“We did ask that they make out their check to the charity but to send it to my office so that we could follow up (with a thank you letter, etc.),” Steve explains.

“Another reason [for sending the checks to them],” Lisa adds, “is that people want to give a present, but it’s not the same if they feel we are not even going to know what they gave. It’s just like giving us a present, but by making the check out to the charity directly, they get the tax deduction.”

With four hundred fifty guests and counting, we suspect those checks will total quite a handsome gift for both non-profits.