Friday, February 15, 2013

Special Guest Star: George C. Scott

Back in the halcyon days in the last half of the century known as the 20th, the old hometown of Stockton, California and surrounding area played host to many a major Hollywood production. Several times a year, film and TV crews from the Land of LA congregated in our backyards to shoot a damn impressive array of titles over time.

One of those was 1973's OKLAHOMA CRUDE starring George C. Scott, Faye Dunaway, John Mills and Jack Palance. Produced and directed by Stanley Kramer, who also shot RPM with Anthony Quinn and Ann-Margaret at the University of the Pacific, CRUDE is a rollicking, unjustly forgotten Depression era saga of a wildcat oil well. It's nowhere near the caliber of THERE WILL BE BLOOD, but it's a damn decent piece of entertainment in the old Hollywood tradition. The Ospital Ranch northeast of Stockton stood in for the Oklahoma countryside.

At that time, my dad, Adam Cherney, ran a concession at Stockton Golf and Country Club. It was basically a snack shack on the 9th hole where Pop would flip burgers and pour drinks for players who took a break at the half-way point or those who just played 9 holes and didn't want to head back to the clubhouse. Since celebrities love their golf, many of those shooting in the area spent their downtime taking in a round at SGCC and most stopped by my dad's place.

One gloomy afternoon, Adam looked up looked up from his work only to see the only one and only George C. strolling up to his shack, all by lonesome, just like the other George. Gobel, that is. (Look him up, young 'un) On a midweek day off from filming OKLAHOMA CRUDE, George thought he'd kill a few hours on the links. After the first nine holes, the lure of an adult beverage or two proved alluring enough to put the game on hold for awhile. Being a slow day, he was my dad's sole customer that afternoon.

The rain began to fall, enough to cancel the remainder of General Patton's game entirely. Instead of calling it a day, George stayed put at the shack to consume a few more highballs and pound down half a pack of unfiltered Lucky Strikes. He passed the time away with my pop, chatting about this, that and the other thing. Since Dad was an experienced bartender from the old school, he undoubtedly treated Mr. Scott like a regular Joe and I'm sure he appreciated the normalcy of it. At that time, he was still riding on that PATTON gravy train and one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Flying solo and under the radar as it was that day, he probably wanted to feel grounded. And there was nobody that was more down to earth than my dad.

When the rain subsided, George decided to call it a day and hit the muddy trail.

"Besides, the wife's making soup for dinner," he told my dad. "You know you've got yourself a good woman if she can make you a good bowl of soup."

With that, he shook my dad's hand goodbye and tottled off to the house the studio rented rented for him while on location. That evening, my dad presented me with an autograph signed by the one only George C. Scott and relayed the soup story.

The wife Scott referred to wasn't Colleen Dewhurst, the great stage and screen actress he married twice back in the 1960s ala Liz and Dick. At this point in time, they had been divorced for good. I always felt that George and Colleen had to be one of those hard-drinking, hard-brawlin', hard-ballin' legendary show biz couples. They probably smoked each other's Lucky Strikes. They also sounded so much alike that calling them on the phone must have been difficult.

"Is that you, George?"
"No, it's Colleen."
"Sorry. Can I speak to George?"
"Is that still you, Colleen?"
"No, it's George."

But alas, they were no longer meant to be. At the end of marriage, round two, they made the film THE LAST RUN. George fell head over heels for his younger co-star Trish Van Devere. Months after he divorced Colleen, he married Trish. They too made several films together including THE CHANGELING, DAY OF THE DOLPHIN and George's directorial boondoggle known as THE SAVAGE IS LOOSE.
Even if their relationship didn't hit the Shakespearean level of his marriage to Dewhurst, George and Trish stay married up until his death in 1999.

It could have been the soup. After all, you can buy the best ingredients, use the most sophisticated equipment and employ the finest skills known in the culinary world, but nothing tastes better than when you cook with love. Maybe George knew that, but he was just a newlywed back in 1973. On the other hand, he and Trish stay married for an impressive 27 years.

My wife is a fantastic cook and makes a helluva soup. I always tell her where she fixes me a bowl that somewhere, George C. Scott and my dad are both looking on and smiling.
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