Make Your Move

— Jim Russo

In the fifties and sixties he was a T.V. cowboy
He would show up on “The Virginian”, “Cheyenne”, “Bonanza”, “Wagon Train” or “Have Gun Will Travel”
He starred as Billy the Kid in his TV series “The Tall Men” with Pat Garrett played by Barry Sullivan
After many, many years of work as an actor and director in major films, Indy films and TV playing cowboys, Dads, detectives and bad guys
Twelve anxious actors were seated on metal folding chairs in a huge warehouse in downtown industrial LA
Clu Gulager was to have these dozen actors for six weeks, he offered an on- camera and on-location workshop, we had all been interviewed for admittance
We were facing a newly built wooden loft with bedroom and study up top and wide wooden stairs on the right coming down against the concrete wall, kitch-en, bath, laundry and office were on the ground floor
Clu entered from behind us and sits in a chair facing us, saying nothing, he gets up moves toward the stairs, stops, turns, swings around a post a few times, turns around again, goes up the stairs about four steps, stops and runs down to the bottom, runs to the top, runs half way down, back to the top and to the bottom, turns to caress a post wrapping around it like it’s a woman, stops and throws himself against the concrete wall, face flat pressing the surface, spread eagle, stretching arms high, he stops and turns and as he’s headed for that post again
That’s when I knew what was next
He was going to ask one of us to do exactly what he had done
And that someone was going to be me
He looked right at me and asked, “Were you paying attention? Then do it.”
I thought I did it ok
I wanted to be perfect but all he said was, “Not bad, a little dyslexic”
I might have missed one or two hunches against the wall but not much more
Or so I thought
After I finished, everyone applauded
A few nights later we all went to downtown L.A, to First Street; Angelinos didn’t go to First Street at night
We were to perform rehearsed scenes, six couples, some in costume
We were told to come during the day and choose our locations
All walking together to the next location, in front of a dive bar and then asked to leave by the intoxicated patrons, then onto the park, drug deals going on all around us
Clu fearlessly leading the way
Earlier that afternoon at French’s Book Store on Sunset
I was looking for another scene from any play to perform for Clu
My jacket was open and my T-shirt was readable and
Mr. Spock was grinning from across the room
Lenard Nimoy grinning at my black T-shirt with large white print that read “FUCK OFF and DIE” You knew he was a poet, right?
I smiled back, zipped up my leather jacket, got on my 650, went home and wrote a scene for two guys
Called what’s his name, we rehearsed it a few times and we were ready for Clu’s camera
The scene was a hostage situation; a neighborhood kid doing another stupid thing
He kidnapped circus people traveling through town, the sword swallower, the bearded lady and the lion tamer, he has a gun
I play the character of the detective called out at three-thirty in the morning because he knows the kid
The detective is shot and killed because I wanted to play a death scene
I fall into a pile of plastic chairs and they scatter everywhere
Clu created menacing shadows by twisting a chair in front of the floor lights
My knees buckle, fighting to stand up, fall to the floor, while trying to dig two bullets out of my chest, using my fingers, shouting No! No! No!
I die in disbelief

 

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