Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Part 2: A BADASS INTERVIEW WITH #2 BADASS, RICK BOOM

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Johnny Weissmuller, Jr. & Rick Boom toss around The Toad like a rag doll
  Welcome back to Pt. 2 of my conversation with the fascinating Rick Boom on Kip Pullman's American Graffiti Blog. So without further ado...  CLICK HERE TO GO TO PT 1
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KIP:  Did you act in any scenes that were cut out of the final print of the movie?  
 
RICK: Yes. There was a scene where we stole the ’58 Impala Chevy. They never did use it. I was paired up with a guy named, Steve Tomasini for that scene. He was 6’ 7” and his father was part of the big wigs in town. Later they brought in Johnny Weissmuller, Jr to do the fight scene.
   
KIP: Was that at the canal bank in Novato?
   
RICK: It was not completely in Novato, but out behind the Petaluma Municipal Airport, on the left going in and we went through a couple of gates. 
 
KIP: Can you describe a little more about the scene where you guys steal the car?  
 
RICK: Well, it was a long time ago. I think once Candy Clark and Charlie Martin-Smith had left the car by itself we were supposed to walk up with a flashlight and check out the empty car.  We then started to walk quietly towards the couple and one of us springs open a switchblade. Once we realized the two weren’t aware of our presence we walked back, got in their car and drove away with it.   
 

KIP: How many takes did you do before Lucas was satisfied with what he’d filmed?  
 
RICK: We had to do it a few times because they couldn’t catch the gleam or flashing of the knife right. It seemed like we were out there all night.
 
 
KIP: The first part of the scene where the couple is walking down to the canal holding hands it looks like it was filmed during dusk using a dark lens…
 
RICK: Well, at the time I had no idea about movie making. I thought they had their heads up their butts ‘cause it took so long between scenes [laughs]. They’d shoot one scene and then it would take them 3 hours to get around to the next one. I thought they would be saying, “We’ll set this up, move this one here and let’s do this.” But, oh no, that’s not how they did it. They all sat and talked for a while, drank coffee, and fooled around. Then all of a sudden everybody got galvanized and away we went again.  

KIP: So it took a long time.

RICK: I quickly learned that on a movie set people spend most of their time waiting. Often times they are waiting for the director of photography to announce that the lighting is at last ready and the scene can now be photographed.


KIP: Your white 1960 Impala can be seen slowly cruising in the parking lot at Mels Drive-in. What recollections do you have of being at the famous drive-in?

RICK: It was fun but we did a lot of waiting and killing time. Mels was kind of in a Y between Mission and South Van Ness. When they weren’t using us we parked where the two streets split. I think there was a Firestone Tires store there or something. We’d back in there and sit there. We’d have the trunk of my car filled with cold beer and once actor Paul LeMatt found out about the beer he hung out with us too. When there were scenes where he wasn’t needed he sat in the back seat and drank beers with us. That was a lot of fun.  Other times when they were shooting at Mels and they didn’t need us for anything a lot of us would go out and cruise Broadway in San Francisco. Once in awhile we’d sit inside of Mels and watch them shoot outside.
 
KIP: Sitting in a booth at Mels made you an extra or participant in the film as you got to watch them film. That sounds interesting.  

RICK: Yeah, that’s interesting for about a half-hour and then it’s boring. We’d get restless just sitting there under bright lights while the crew took hours to set up a shot.

"When there were scenes where he wasn’t needed actor, Paul LeMat sat in the back seat of my Impala and drank beers with us."

KIP: Did you drive any cars besides your own?    

RICK: There was a guy, Al Taylor who had a 1957 Buick called the “Cubik.”  It was a show car. His thing was he wanted pictures taken on location with the actors so he could display them at car shows. He lived in Oakland and there wasn’t much percentage in Al driving his car back and fourth every night so I kept the Cubik for a couple of weeks at my house in Petaluma. Then we’d do a shuttle thing: We’d take the Cubik down and park it on location and then somebody would drive us back and we’d bring the other car down.   

KIP: I’m familiar with the car because I’ve seen pictures of it on location but I don’t recall seeing it in the film. 
   
RICK:  I always felt the poor guy got screwed because they didn’t use his car in the film. George Lucas thought it was too fancy because they didn’t have paint jobs like that in those days. Maybe the modifications were too modern to fit in with the era that the film took place, I don’t know.
   
KIP: I don’t think they had full side pipes and American Racing Magnesium, Torq Thrust II wheels in 1962.
 
Charles Martin-Smith & Candy Clark pose with Al Taylor's '57 Buick known as the "Cubik."

RICK: But, I remember driving that car in certain scenes that never made it into the movie. There is only one scene in the entire movie where, if you look closely, you can see the front of the car. Even in the drag race scene out on Frates Road [called Paradise Road in the movie] we had it parked in line but you can’t see it because it was so dark out there.   

KIP: That’s a shame it didn’t make it into the movie after all the time you spent driving it around. Although the car didn’t make it in the movie somebody took pictures of that car because several photos exist with Candy Clark and Charlie Martin-Smith posing in front of that beautiful car. In fact, some of the pictures were used as lobby cars in other countries.  

RICK: They had a staff photographer come over and take some pictures. But they told us at the start they frowned upon us taking pictures of the actors or posing with the actors so most of complied. Nobody had a camera.
 
My personally autographed lobby card by Candy Clark featuring the two actors in front of the Cubik

KIP: It's interesting that Lucas was so adamant about the '57 Buick, "Cubik" not appearing in the film. It seems if he was so concerned about anachronisms he would not have had one of the lead characters, Curt driving a 1967 Citreon CV. Plus, if one looks closely during some of the cruising scenes you can spot a few cars parked on the curb that are newer than the film's 1962 timeline.  
 
RICK: The film crew would take over downtown and then they would put signs up that said, “No parking past 6:00pm.” Well, if a driver was in the bar and he didn’t come out ‘till 10:00 the car sat there. They weren’t going to stop filming so, they tried to shoot around them but they still managed to get a couple of the newer cars in the movie. When the guy would show up he’d move his car but until then they weren’t going to go and look for ‘em.    
 
Parked on the curb is what appears to be a 1967 Chevy, Caprice with a dented door.

KIP: You mentioned you parked the ’57 Buick on the side of the Frates Road for the climatic drag race scene at the end of the film… 

RICK: That whole drag race scene was a mess.  

KIP: Why was that?

RICK: Well, they took us out there after midnight and we sat there for the longest time waiting for the sun to come up because that’s when they wanted to shoot it.
 
KIP: The “Golden Hour,” I think they call it.
 
RICK: We waited and waited. Pardon my French, but the dip-shit stunt driver they had to roll the ’55 Chevy was unbelievable. He had all these excuses for not being able to get the car to roll. He’d say, “I can’t do this, I can’t do that.” He blew it twice. So I was out there digging a trench on an angle that hopefully he’d slide into and then the tires would catch on the trench and he’d roll it. I spent half an hour digging this friggin’ trench and then he drove up there and missed it. So they stopped right there. That was the end of it. I think we spent two days out there fooling around and we didn’t get anything done. So, when they came back a few weeks later to film it again they had a different driver and they finally got the car to flip over.
"I spent half an hour digging this friggin’ trench to help role the car and then he drove up there and missed it."
  
KIP: So after filming had completed did you continue to own and drive your Impala?   

RICK: I had it for a couple of more years after the film came out and I think I finally sold it to someone in 1975.  

KIP: One last question. Considering all the work you did on American Graffiti how come you weren’t listed in the credits at the end?  

RICK: Simple.  I wasn’t in the union.

KIP: Rick I had no idea before I talked with you how much involvement you had in my favorite move; you drove your 1960 Impala and other cars in the film, you assisted in directing all the hotrods in the cruising scenes in downtown Petaluma and San Rafael and you had an bitchin' acting role as a Badass car thief in the film. I’m very impressed.  I can only imagine what an exciting experience that must have been for you.  

RICK: Oh yea. I was young and impressionable at that age… and indestructible.

 
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ENDE  ~  
 

Rick grew up in Petaluma and was a resident for almost 30 years before moving to Port Orchard Washington in 1979 where he worked at Puget Sound Naval shipyard until he retired. Rick has two boys and five grandchildren. Nowadays you’re more likely to find Rick on a fishing trip rather than fooling around with cars.

NOTES:___________________________________________________  

This printed interview was transcribed from phone conversations with Rick Boom on 10/01/2015,  10/08/2015, & 10/16/2015    

This page is exclusive content. No unauthorized reprinting, republishing or other use without prior authorization or proper referencing. © 2015 by Mark Groesbeck.   
   

Monday, October 26, 2015

A BADASS INTERVIEW WITH #2 BADASS, RICK BOOM

Johnny Weismuller, Jr.  & Rick portrayed car thiefs who enjoyed pushing around The Toad

Rick Boom was a 28yrs-old resident of Petaluma, CA in the summer of 1972 when he inadvertently became involved in the production of American Graffiti. In the film Rick was paired up with Johnny Weissmuller, Jr. as one of the two car thief/thugs who beat up Toad, and are eventually chased away by Milner. Recently I spoke with Rick about his participation in the film over the course of several phone calls. Before we chatted I thought Rick’s only involvement in the film was acting but as our conversation progressed I discovered that he was also an important member of the production crew as well. What follows is a fascinating conversation with a friendly individual revealing his experience working on the Lucas’ nostalgic classic. 
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KIP: How did your involvement in American Graffiti begin?

RICK: I became involved in American Graffiti by accident [laughs]. The local police department was doing security for the movie and I happened to be friends with several of the police officers. At the time, I was working as security at one of the local bars in Petaluma and as I was driving home one night I noticed all these big vans and trucks parked downtown near Mayflower Van and Storage. I later learned that the van and storage building is where the cars and filming equipment were stored. It was also where the cast, crew and car owners ate their meals. I wondered what was going on. I spotted some of the police officers I was friendly with so I got out of my car and we started talking. Then this little hippy looking kid came up from behind me and asked me if I wanted to be in a movie. I said, “Ah, nah, you’re not sucking me in.”

KIP: So you thought he was joking around or bullshitting you? 

RICK: I wasn’t sure.  As it turns out the kid was Jim Bloom the Production Associate for the movie and he wanted to include my white 1960 Chevy, Impala in the film.  I learned later that white is one of the preferred colors because it stands out and they can put any other color against it.

KIP: So you were hired first because your car fit the time period and atmosphere and not because of your acting potential?

RICK: The acting part came up later. Jimmy Bloom was just kind of concerned with the cars. So, that’s when I halfway blew him off. Then once my cop friends told me he was serious, I had to go back and suck up. I said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ So, he told me where to be the following night and what we were going to be doing. So naturally, I had to get my car washed the next day and wax it. 

KIP: What basic power features did your Impala have?

RICK: My car had a stock 8 cylinder 283, a Powerglide automatic transmission, chrome rims and mags in the back.

Boom's 1960 Impala cruising the parking lot at Mels Drive-in
KIP: Do you remember how much they paid you to use your car in the film?
RICK: Well, it started out we were getting $20 a night plus meals. At the time I knew one of the other local drivers, Jim Bergstrom who owns the Red '41 Ford Pickup. I got to know the other drivers and actors as the filming progressed. 
 
KIP: Your white 1960 Impala is visible in several key scenes in American Graffiti. 
 
RICK: Yes. You can see my car in about three scenes in the movie. One of the scenes is towards the beginning at Mels drive-in where there’s a brief close-up of my Impala cruising through the parking lot. Another scene is when Toad it trying to buy booze in front of Gilardi’s Liquors.  The guy Toad approaches to buy booze is driving my car. 
"Excuse me sir, uh do you know how long you'll be driving Rick Boom's car?

KIP: Any other scenes?
 
RICK:  You can see my car parked in Jerry’s Cherries. It was the only white ’60 Impala in the used car lot where Curt hooks a cable to the rear axle of the cop car.  Curt is leaning against my car.
 
KIP: Did you have any other jobs besides driving your Impala?
 
RICK: Well, Jimmy started paying me $30 a night so I could start directing traffic. He was really busy and running around everywhere.  He couldn’t be in two places at once so he had me telling the drivers when to stop and when to start driving and had me positioning the cars for various scenes. Bloom just said, “This is what we have to do so make it happen, I’m going over here, now you take care of it.”
  
KIP: Did you guys use radios or walkie-talkies to communicate back and forth?
 
RICK: No we didn’t have radios, everything was by word of mouth. For example, when we were in San Rafael all the cruising took place on Fourth Street, which is a one-way street. So the cars would cruise down the street and circle back. I would stand on one corner and Jimmy Bloom would stand kitty-corner at the other end of the street. So, one of the drivers would go by and Jimmy would tell him what to tell me and once the driver reached me he’d relay the message and I’d stop the cars or whatever.
Filming in downtown San Rafael, CA
KIP: The task of directing so many cars sounds overwhelming. It was reported that there were about 300 pre-1962 cars used in the film.
 
RICK: That’s probably true. There were a lot of cars especially on the few nights we were in San Rafael.  However, 300 drivers and their cars didn’t show up for filming every night.   

KIP: I imagine most drivers had jobs and had to be at work in the morning so they couldn’t come out every night and stay until dawn.

RICK:  Yes. It varied from night to night. We weren’t always sure how many cars would show up. It was unpredictable.
 
"We weren’t always sure how many cars would show up. It was unpredictable."

KIP: What were your impressions of lead cars such as the ’32 yellow coupe?
 
RICK: That little yellow coupe was a piece of shit! God forgive me, Henry Travers [laughs].

KIP: Tell me about it.
 
RICK: As with most of the lead cars in the film, they took it slapped paint on it, put chrome on it and it was ready to go. The coupe was made to look good on camera. The camera didn’t know the difference if it was a piece of shit or a functioning car.  One problem I recall is the coil wire around the coil was too short. So every time Paul LeMat would rev it up the sucker it would stop. This happened a couple of nights in a row. It pulled the wire off the terminal with the engine torque. So, we added a piece of wire to it, fused the whole thing together and made it work. But Henry Travers generally took care of most of the problems that the various cars might have had.  I think the taillights used to fall off the ’58 Impala and they’d have to stick those back on every once in awhile. 
 
KIP: So, as long as the cars moved everything was good.
 
"Every time Paul LeMat would rev up the engine the sucker would shut off."
  
RICK: Getting back to the coupe, when they had the drag race scene downtown the yellow coupe and the black Chevy were suppose to hit their mark on Washington Street. Well, each time they filmed the scene the black ’55 Chevy would leave that little coupe in the dust. Well, that wasn’t what was supposed to happen. It was supposed to be a close race. They tried it three times until both drivers, only going about 35mph, were able to hit the intersection at the same time. Later they sped up the film so it looked like they were going much faster. I think the coupe is now in much better shape than it ever was back in 1972.
 
"Each time they filmed the scene the black ’55 Chevy would leave that little coupe in the dust."
  
KIP: So tell me about the famous fight scene. How is it that someone goes from directing traffic and driving cars to acting in a major motion picture?
 
RICK:  I got that part for several reasons: One, because I was there, two, because I was helping so it was like throwing the dog a bone, and three, I fit the build.
 
KIP: In the film Johnny Weissmuller, Jr looks so serious and angry but your character on the other hand, has a big smile on his face and he’s laughing as he pushes Toad and catches the helpless little guy in his arms. The contrast in demeanor between the two sadistic thugs highlights a personality difference, which heightens the realism and makes the scene more intense. You guys toss him around like a rag doll back and forth between the two of you and then one holds him while the other punches him repeatedly in the stomach.  Milner [Paul LeMat] eventually comes to the rescue.  How long did it take you to film the fight scene with Paul LeMat?
 
Rick Boom as the car thief/thug appears to enjoy picking on The Toad
RICK: It took two takes to complete the fight scene with Paul LeMat. They didn’t like the first one for whatever reason. The first time I was thrown on the ground, I did this fantastic roll over, flying through the dust and the dirt and tore the hell out of my elbow.   Then they said, ‘Let’s do it again.’ So the second time, the one that made it into the movie, they had a blanket on the ground. If you look closely in the right hand corner you can see the blue edge of a packing blanket. They decided to put that down so I could land on it.
 
KIP: Who choreographed the fight scene?
 
RICK:  I think it was Lucas. He kind of gave the perimeters of what he was looking for but I think most of it was between the other two actors, Le Mat and Weissmuller Jr.  By the way, I used to go fishing with Johnny Weissmuller, Jr ‘cause he lived right there in Mill Valley. We used to go Silver Salmon fishing out at Point Reyes and he’d come along with us. But, it’s just like anything else you lose touch after awhile.
Weissmuller, Jr as Badass #1
KIP:  Is he still around?
 
RICK: I believed he passed away.
 
KIP: Sorry to hear that. 
 
RICK: I was too.
 
KIP: I just looked his name up on Google and it appears Johnny Weissmuller, Jr passed away on July 27, 2006.
 
RICK: He was a great guy but man; he was hard on the pocket book.
 
KIP: How so?
 
RICK: Well, during the night of production he told us about the proper time that they were going to start filming our scene. Well like a dummy, I said you want to go to the corner and get a beer first? He said, yes and so we walked to the bar and went inside. The bartender put two bottles of beers in front of us and when his bottle hit the bar again it was empty. So, I bought two more. Well, about four beers later, we’d run up a tab. I thought, ‘My God this sucker is going to spend all my money and get drunk before we even get this going’ [laughs]. But, he did just fine.
 
KIP: Where was that scene filmed?
 
RICK: The fight scene was staged in an area in the alley behind what used to be Berton’s Furniture. Berton's was at the intersection of Washington Street and Petaluma Boulevard North. That was where Curt [Richard Dreyfuss] first spots Susanne Somers in the white T-Bird. There was a Chinese restaurant next door to Berton's. 
 
KIP: Today I think a Chinese restaurant is now in the location where Berton’s used to be.
      
RICK: They were always changing businesses.   

KIP: Did you get paid more than $30 for acting in that scene?

RICK: Yea, I got $180, over and above my $30 a night.

   
~  END PART 1 ~
To learn more about Rick Boom's perspective and involvement in American Graffiti, including a scene that he acted in but was eventually left on the cutting room floor- Continue on to Part 2:
  
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This page is exclusive content. No unauthorized reprinting, republishing or other use without prior authorization or proper referencing. © 2015 by Mark Groesbeck.