Wednesday 31 January 2007

1946: A Brush with Death

In the summer of 1946 the three friends set off to what was perhaps one of their greatest adventures, their destination was the beautiful and picturesque Mount Lassen County in Sierra Nevada. It was here where they took on employment as fire fighters working the whole Mount Lassen area. Their conditions upon arrival where not particularly accommodating. Due to a seriously overcrowded bunkhouse, the boys were forced to sleep in the garage, sandwiched between trucks and varying forms of fire fighting equipment. They soon settled in and before long they began to enjoy the rugged lifestyle. The cool evenings were spent around a large open log fire with general boys banter and exchanging stories with their colleges. Weekends were again the time to kick up their heels, the excitement of hitting the town and of course chasing the local girls. This life was pretty idyllic as far as Clint was concerned, the clean mountain air that greeted him each dawn, his love for the forest wildlife including the deer and grizzly bear all added to a near perfect setting. Among Clint’s duties were the clearing and cutting away of brush and small trees, cutting firebreaks as it was known. A logical idea in theory, in the unfortunate event of a fire breaking out, these clearings were designed to act as some minor means of protection in stopping the fire from spreading beyond any one particular point. It was by no means full proof but essential work nevertheless. It was on a perfectly normal morning that Clint and his team were working clearing an area of loose brush. It was very hot and particularly dry, ideal conditions in fact for a fire. It was a mystery just how it actually started that day, maybe a discarded cigarette butt, no one knew for sure. The dry undergrowth began to burn, hot and fast, and before long Clint and his workers could see the flames rapidly approaching their immediate area of work. Together with the thick smoke and the increasing rising temperatures the situation was becoming distinctly uncomfortable, but still the team remained close to their firebreak eager to see if their clearing would work. Unfortunately, the winds were now also increasing which was bad news as floating flames of bush and deadwood were landing on the other side of the clearing. Before long the place became ablaze and Clint and his fire fighting team tackled the flames throughout the night and into the next day. It felt as if they were losing the battle against the inferno that was now moving at an alarming speed.

It was one of the team that raised the alarm when their hose had become snagged with the trees as the fire continued to get closer. It was becoming a worrying and increasingly dangerous situation, there was no choice Clint and his team had to retreat to the truck and get out of there. As the driver slammed his foot on the accelerator the truck almost immediately cam e to a shuddering halt. It was the hose, which was still tangled up within the trees of the forest, the wheels continued to spin, but they were going nowhere. Without contemplation Clint quickly weighed up the situation, grabbing an axe and leaping from the truck, he laid into the hose. With the driver’s foot still pressed firmly on the pedal, the hose broke free leaving the truck to spin off through the forest and Clint still running on foot in pursuit of the truck. As the smoke grew thicker Clint noticed a clearing and beyond that a small farm house that he turned and headed directly for. Staggering through a pumpkin patch he reached and pounded at the front door of the house. The occupants, a farmer and his wife took Clint to the kitchen where he slumped exhausted into a chair. The farmer was both smart and wise, he new of the dangers of such fires and had situated his home out of harms way, and he assured Clint that he was in no immediate danger and to relax. The coffee and pumpkin pie served to him in the kitchen couldn’t of tasted sweeter. He eventually caught up with the rest of his team, no one was surprised that Clint had coped with the situation, they were sure he could take care of himself. The fire continued for a further two days, but the young Clint emerged as a pretty impressive individual. As a 17 year old he was conducting himself as a man well above his years. It was probably the last of the great adventures that Clint took with his two friends Bob Sturges and Jack Macknight, but from here he would set out on his own and taste a whole new set of experiences.
Clint still returned to school where his results remained steady and adequate but nothing spectacular certainly nothing that warranted serious university tuition. In between semesters he continued to explore California and beyond. His family was happy with this and respected his wishes. Why wouldn’t they, he’d already demonstrated both an independence and a mature intelligence. By 1947, if Clint could have chosen a career in show business it may very well had been as a musician, he had become pretty good on trumpet, and particularly good on piano. In fact, he found himself playing piano at the Omar Club on Broadway in Oakland, there was never any money to show for his efforts but the young man was given free meals and all the beer he could swallow in return for tinkering at the ivories. Fritz Manes recalls, ‘everyone started gathering around and listening and having a great time. Then whenever we came back, they tried to get Clint to play and people would come in and ask for him. And he’d walk in and say, ‘Well, we’ll get to it later,’ but he always did because he wanted to, and he would play for hours, literally for hours.’

‘I was up 24 hours a day at that age’

He certainly adhered to his fathers’ words, in 1972 he told Geraldine Phillips ‘My family, they were a big influence on me. They taught me how to work. We didn’t have much, so I worked at everything. Like everybody, I sold Liberty magazine, sold spices door to door, hustled bags for old ladies at the supermarket. The most boring job I ever had was in a can company, sending sheets through the lithograph oven. I was 16 then, and a few times I’d daydream and they’d all crash. I was thinking about the evening before, or that evening- as I was up 24 hours a day at that age!’ If the hard work did anything, it certainly toughened him up, but Clint remembers the days fondly, ‘That was the happiest time of my life up till then.’ Clint made two important friends that particular year, Bob Sturges and Jack Macknight. As a rebellious threesome they bought various car parts and together they would construct drag cars that they would enter into furious races. Clint vividly remembers seeing his friends dragster burst into an inferno at 100 mph.

The Police were of course another part of the growing up experience. With the noise created by the dragster meetings it was perhaps natural that it would cause a spate of residential complaints. Clint particularly remembers a gathering in secret early one Saturday or Sunday morning. They had all barely arrived before the cops appeared from all angles. Obviously tipped off, the police had both ends of the road blocked. He recalls how dragsters split in every conceivable direction across the fields and meadows with livestock charging everywhere, and the Police following hot on their tails. ‘It was like a scene from a mad movie.’ The three friends became closer and closer, and by the weekends they were gatecrashing pretty much any party they could find. They would naturally be chasing the girls with rich fathers, why just a party when it could be a party set around a swimming pool with plenty of food and soda. Together they would change into their trunks and generally have a great time with the girls that were becoming more and more of an interest to the boys.
Back at Oakland Technical High School, Clint continued to maintain steady progress in his studies, while doing his best to avoid the continued attempts by his teacher to involve him in more school plays. He was now into his 16th year and attained his full height of 6ft 4 inches, and naturally he was somewhat forced into the schools basketball team. As far as Clint could remember ‘There was one guy taller than me at six-five.’

Tuesday 30 January 2007

Clint and the rebel Teenage Years

In the midst of an embarrassing situation he would immerse himself in a seemingly invisible veil. ‘I guess the girls reckoned I was just too dumb. Somehow, I could never get it right. I was just too nervous around women at that time.’ In a 1974 interview, Clint told Playboy Magazine, ‘I remember in Junior High School in Oakland, I had a teacher decide we was going to put on a one-act play, and she made up her mind I was going to be the lead. It was really disastrous. I wanted to go out for Athletics; doing plays was not considered the thing to do at that stage in life- especially not presenting them before the entire senior high school, which is what she made us do. We muffed a lot of lines.’ His mother Ruth was surprised that Clint ended up as an actor at all. She was pleased in one way, that her son had been volunteered for the school play. Maybe this was a way of drawing him out of his natural shyness. Clint hated every minute of the rehearsals and the thought of stepping out into the spotlight absolutely terrified him. ‘I’d seen a million movies, but up to that point the closest I’d got to acting was making a pistol out of my hand, hunkering down behind the seat in front of me, and shooting back at the Screen.’
It actually came close to never happening at all. Clint and a class friend, Harry Pendleton had secretly concocted a plan to skip the play and simply not turning up. It was only a fear of the consequences, which forced the two kids back to face their ordeal.
‘They’ll murder us if we let them down’ Clint told Harry on the phone. ‘Yeah, I guess it would be easier all round if we just did it,’ replied Harry. Clint would later explain that it went better than they had thought it would. His mouth dried as soon as he stepped on stage. He gazed upon the audience including Miss Jones who had picked Clint for the play, then the laughs started echoing from the audience, but strangely enough the laughs had come at the right place. The kids were actually laughing along with him and not at him. ‘I guess it was the time I realised you can act extroverted without really being so, and that being self confident didn’t mean people took an instant dislike to you or laugh at you.’ Remembers Clint, ‘I was only fifteen, but that was the day I grew up.’ They somehow got through it and Clint even conceded that he quite enjoyed the experience, but nevertheless concluded, ‘I made up my mind then that I would never get involved with anything to do with acting again.’

Clint was naturally the athletic type, reaching his 6ft 4-inch frame by the time he was at high school. At one point it looked as if a career in basketball was the natural path to follow. His immediate love was for cars, jazz and girls; they were the focal points of the teenager’s dreams. Clint was enjoying a great independence that perhaps most kids his age never really had. His father even managed to scrape together $25 to buy Clint his first car. From that moment on cars became even more of a priority than girls. While Clint was growing up in the Forties his mother would bring home some Fats Waller records, which he instantly connected with. Before long he began to acquire the taste for Duke Ellington and Count Basie and studied the way these artists played. Clint was accustomed to playing a little piano, and pretty soon he began to try and imitate their particular style of play. It was an introduction to Jazz, the American art form that would remain a real passion throughout his life.
Below: Oakland Technical High School
By the time Clint had reached 15, he decided to take off by himself and return in time for the next school term. He threw together a couple of bags, kissed his family farewell, jumped into his car and headed off to the great state of California. Clint had no well laid out plan as to where to go in California, it was the open road and he’d stop where he fancied stopping.
It was during this time that he also witnessed a life changing experience; when he saw for the first time to a young alto sax player named Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker along with Coleman Hawkins, Flip Phillips and Lester Young performing at the Jazz at the Philharmonic concert in San Francisco. ‘There was this guy in a pinstripe suit who just stood up and started going at it. I didn’t know who he was, but I was just mesmerized. And of course it turned out to be Charlie Parker. He could just do anything with that horn. Technically, he was just brilliant and innovative, yet there was emotion and great sensitivity. Jazz always represented a freedom in general, but also a freedom of expression in an artistic way. It was just a quality of being different, of not really fitting in but doing your own thing your own way.’
An inspirational moment in his life and one that would eventually lead to one of Clint’s most personal film projects. Continuing on his journey, he eventually stumbled across a farm up by Yreka where he was to spend the rest of the summer. Bailing hay was hard work and the young Clint could barely summon enough strength to crawl into his bunk of a night.
It was through Don that Clint would meet his first wife Maggie Johnson, both Clint and Don still remain friends to this day. Another classroom buddy whom he would remain close friends with was Fritz Manes. Fritz went on to play an important part of Clint’s production company Malpaso, producing a great deal of successful projects in the Eighties. By the time he attended Oakland Technical High School, Clint was tall, good looking and never had a problem attracting the attention of young girls. Towering over the over kids wasn’t always an advantage, it also lead to a fair share of general Mickey taking, not that the other kids were any tougher, but their playful games often lead to an inevitable cruelty. The Young Clint was more than able to dish out as much as he received, if not more. Fritz Manes speaking in Minty Clinch’s Book recalls, ‘He had a kind of natural charisma that was really maddening. You could sit in class and do all the little tricks of flirtation, flex your muscles, shuffle your ten-dollar bill, and nothing would work if Clint were in the room. He’d be sitting there doing nothing, just looking at the floor, and all the girls would be looking at him as if they were in a trance, locked in on some secret magnetism he had. It was very demoralising for the rest of us.’ Like every other teenager, it was at high school where Clint fell hopelessly for a girl. Joan was a red headed beauty and certainly one of the most popular girls in the class. Although Clint was crazy about this girl, she never made any outwardly show of interest toward Clint. Other girls of course followed, but for Clint simply just talking to girls was somewhat of a painful and uncomfortable experience. By nature he was ultimately a loner and asking a pretty classmate out on a date just didn’t come naturally, he was simply too introverted.
Above: Oakland Technical High School
With the prospect of an uncertain future, and the lack of security that every kid needed, Clint found himself daydreaming in class. He’d sit gazing through the class window, fantasising of becoming a great pilot. ‘He was a dreamer, he always had a lot of imagination’ recalls Jean. ‘I saved more people on the operating table than any other surgeon alive,’ he says. ‘Curiously though, I never dreamed of being an actor.’ Education was always going to be tough; constantly on the move to whatever town his father could pick up work. He’d walk into a new school, and find there were totally different standards and inevitably they would be at a different level of any given subject. Clint never felt ahead of the game. He felt he was constantly falling behind and always running to catch up. There was never time to settle, and he found it increasingly difficult to either fit in or hang out with a regular group of friends ‘It wasn’t a lot of fun’. He was always the new kid in class or the new kid on the block. ‘I must have gone to eight different Grammar schools. I didn’t have a lot of friends; our family – my parents and my younger sister and I – was a unit.’ The loneliness of a long distance traveller firmly helping to cement the well attributed loner image.

Talking to Tom Snyder in 1980, it was clear that Clint had typically drawn on the positive aspects of life on the road as a child. ‘It was hard, but I think you can find something good out of anything bad. I would have preferred to stay in the same place and enjoy the same people throughout the growing years. But I suppose there are benefits to it. You learn to get along with a lot of different people, in a lot of different places.’

Clint’s father always stood by his belief; ‘You don’t get anything for nothing he kept telling me, and although I rebelled, I never rebelled against that.’ There was a harsh truth to those words, Clint continues, ‘There was no public assistance then. There was no fallback position for anyone. You didn’t know how things could turn out. I think it left me with a feeling of uncertainty about life.’ Clint admired both his parents, especially his father’s ethics; an engraved philosophy that he would instil upon his own children later in life. He didn’t grow up to resent his father, he realised he had great parents and was lucky to have them. ‘When I look back now, I know dad had to think pretty fast at times because there was a lot of people out of work in America.’ Clinton Snr took any form of work to battle against the economic hardship, as long as it put food on the table. Clint recalls, ‘We weren’t hungry and my parents were always cheerful, but you saw people living in broken down vehicles on the roadside or in chicken shacks beside the field.’ By the time Clint had reached his early teens, the family had settled in Oakland. His father had found a stable job with the Container Corporation of America, and for the first time in his life, Clint felt some sense of stability, regularly attended Piedmont Junior High School. It was while here he made some lifelong friends including Don Kincade.

1930 You Don't Get Anything For Nothing

‘Let me assert my firm belief,’ said Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’ However, for the families living through the great depression of the 1930’s, it continued to resound with both fear and uncertainty. To call it a roller coaster ride maybe considered something of an understatement. No one would have believed that the Californian state, which had bathed in such dizzy heights of incredible wealth and glory, would soon to witness the worst economic collapse ever in the state's history. Throughout California, thousands of unemployed workers packed up their families and what little belongings they had to set off on an uncertain journeys across the great state. Their hopes and dreams pinned upon what little prospects the next town might bring. Makeshift encampments became their homes, here the family dined on such tasteless delights of mulligan stew, a watery cocktail of discarded vegetables salvaged from the nearest grocer. In downtown Oakland, the out of work destitute would take to living in large concrete sewer pipes, laying in wait to be sunken beneath the rich Californian soil. What became one man’s ultimate humiliation was another man’s shelter, and if a 6-foot length of dry concrete was all there was, you’d better take it or someone else sure as hell would. Some 200 people filled these pipes, a concrete labyrinth of tubular homes that the residents would aptly call ‘Miseryville’ but became infamously known by the press as ‘Pipe City’.

Above: Ruth Eastwood and her son Clinton
On December 3rd 1932 The Oakland Post-Inquirer released the following statement of Pipe City, ‘To qualify for citizenship in Pipe City you must be jobless, homeless, hungry, and preferably shoeless, coatless, and hatless. If one also is discouraged, lonely, filled with a terrible feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, one's qualifications are that much stronger. One belongs. Not all of Pipe City's inhabitants are that way. Some of them have learned that a philosophical attitude helps. One may tinge his philosophy with a drop of irony, even bitterness, and the concrete may seem less hard and the blankets less thin and the mulligan less watery. But it takes a lot of philosophy, you bet, to make concrete either soft or warm!’
It read like something from a Steinbeck novel, but it was during these deeply depressing times that Clinton Eastwood Junior was born at St. Francis Hospital, San Francisco on May 31st 1930. The Young Eastwood was attracting attention from the very moment he was born, weighing in at Eleven pounds, Six ounces; he certainly became a star with the nurses. ‘I always said he was famous from the day he was born, he was special from the start’ said his mother Ruth. She remembers him as a daring toddler, always a dear and charming boy whom she fell in love with immediately. A bond between mother and son that remained solid until her passing in 2006.
Above: Clint Eastwood Birth Certificate
Ruth and Clinton Senior were married at a very young age; Clint’s father was of Scottish – English decent, while Ruth was of Irish ancestry. As a family, Clint and his younger sister Jean, frequently moved from town to town. ‘That was during the depression, you know, and my dad travelled around a lot looking for work’. Although Clinton Senior was a relatively educated man, and trained as a cost accountant, the harsh truth of the great depression would begin to take its toll. He was reduced to moving around Northern California; taking any job he could, including pumping gas at local stations.
‘Jobs were hard to come by in those days. So there were times when we had to be separated, when times weren’t good, I had to live with my Grandmother, on her farm up near Sunol, near Livermore.’ Clint’s grandmother was quite a woman, living by herself on a mountain and totally self-sufficient. ‘She probably had more to do with my turning out the way I have than any educational process I may have gone through.’ He doesn’t remember either him or his sister being exactly poor or suffering as children. When looking back he can see how his father may have had some worries, but again, both Clint and Jean were never aware of it. As a youngster Clint would play mainly alone, it was a situation that prompted the imagination to become active, and from this he would create his own wondrous stories.

Monday 29 January 2007


The Young Clint with his father and surprisingly no Stan Laurel in sight, regardless of the much quoted and over inflated urban myth.


I've been a Clint Eastwood collector for some time now, well, for over 30 years at least! I have met the man himself, and was credited on the 2003 Biography Documentary 'Gut Instinct' for the A & E channel in the U.S. for which I was also responsible for naming. I am credited also on FSM's restored Where Eagles Dare Soundtrack CD and several other Eastwood related items or projects. Of late I have been helping out the Schifrin (Lalo) company ALEPH with their CD booklets for the restored and first time released titles; The Enforcer and Sudden Impact, both due for release this year (2007).
I will keep this brief as my first post, as I am new to this whole Blog experience and to tell you the truth I'm not even sure what I am typing is actually going to end up in any shape or form at all, time will tell..
All I can tell you is that I intend to build this blog as a way of publicising my material to companies who are seeking out rare items, photographs or memorabilia for use within future projects. As well as the Clint Eastwood side of my archive there is a general film collection consisting of 1000's of other images, lobby cards, posters and press books ranging from the 30's to the glorious 70's and beyond.
Soundtracks are also a great love of mine, and for the last 3 years I have written a regular soundtrack column within our magazine Cinema RetroI have also had the great pleasure of Interviewing the Legendary composer Lalo Schifrin (Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon, Magnum Force) at great length, exclusively for the Magazine. As well as a fan of Schifrin, I am a solid collector of the late great Jerry Goldsmith whom I had the privilege to see in concert on 3 or 4 occasions as well as the incredible John Barry and Ennio Morricone, who thankfully, I have also witnessed in all of their glory.
So there is always more than enough going on to keep me busy, which really makes me question why I started this extra activity up in the first place? Oh well it's done now, let's hope it works!