I WORKED FOR MEL BROOKS! by Tony Piazza
In the summer of 1977 I got a call from the casting agency. They were telling me to report to the Hyatt Regency on Market Street the next morning. It was for the film “High Anxiety” starring and directed by MEL BROOKS. It was a great thrill for me because as most of the country at that time, I was a Mel Brook’s fan. I even had a copy of his script for “Black Bart” (eventually re-titled “Blazing Saddles”) on my bookshelf. It was given to me by an assistant director on the film who knew I was a big Brooks’ fan.
Whenever I was about to meet a personality in real life that I’m a fan of, I usually prepared myself mentally not to be disappointed if he/she didn’t meet up to expectations. I found one comedian I met to be very bland in person, and another an absolute grouch. MEL BROOKS to my relief was very much the MEL BROOKS you’d expect- creative, intelligent, and funny…VERY funny. In fact I had never worked on a set that had such a high level of hysteria. In between shooting RON CAREY (Brophy) was working the crowds gathered to watch the filming in the lobby. He was a one-man comedy act that continued non-stop for two days; “I’ve got it…I don’t got it!” Then there was the actual filming. Mel the director had a television monitor hooked up on the Panavision film camera…then Mel the actor would do his bit…and then Mel the director would review the scene on the monitor in which he and the crew were allowed to watch and laugh out loud at his or the other actor’s antics- Pretty nifty set-up. Of course we were all constantly biting our lips…so much comedic talent under one roof made it a real challenge!
I was part of the shocked crowd that witnessed Dr. Thorndyck (Brooks) shooting a colleague in the lobby of the hotel. Of course it wasn’t Thorndyck but “Braces” (RUDY DELUCA) wearing a mask of the doctor. What can I say, it is PURE MEL BROOKS and a great send up of the films of Hitchcock (I have also been on his set- FAMILY PLOT- but that is another story) …especially Vertigo! I got to talk to Brooks briefly…a real thrill…and was personally directed by him for a classic “Hitchcockian” shot of running feet…yes, my shoes got a close-up as well! Glad I polished them…and, no, my feet do not give autographs… just foot prints (a little humor… very little). You can see me in the film, a little blurred perhaps, but look for the man standing behind Brophy when he utters, “Why did you do it, doc!”
HARVEY KORMAN, MADELINE KAHN, and CLORIS LEACHMAN rounded out the Brooks’ stock company… and the end result I believe was another classic film!
So I can honestly say…as Slim Pickens uttered in “Blazing Saddles”, “….I worked for Mel Brooks!”
Tony Piazza (Courtesy of Charlotte Alexander)
Tony Piazza is author of the 1930s Hollywood murder mystery novel, “Anything Short of Murder,” which had its roots on the TCM fan website. His second novel, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” was published next in early 2012, and in November of 2013 his second Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels was released.” In July of 2015 his latest Logan mystery, “Murder Is Such Sweet Revenge” was made available for purchase, and has since been an instant bestseller. All are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. He was an actor/extra during the 1970s and worked with such legends as Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Karl Malden. His non-fiction e-book “Bullitt Points” is an in depth look at the making of “Bullitt” from a person who was there. Look for it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble websites, or at the link posted below. All profits go to the Boys Republic charity: www.bullittpoints.com.
Tony Piazza is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and SLO NightWriters.
All my novels in the Tom Logan mystery series have become audio books- read by actor James Romick, and is available on Audible, Amazon, and I-tunes.
The rollicking adventure novel set in paradise. The thrill-a-minute bestseller that two film producers are interested in…”The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” is now available as an audio book, read by the talented Broadway actor, James Romick. Find it at Audible, Amazon, and I-Tunes.
My earlier bestselling novels, “The Curse of the Crimson Dragon” and “Anything Short of Murder” now joins “A Murder Amongst Angels” and “Murder is Such Sweet Revenge” on Amazon’s Kindle at new, low prices. Now you can have hours of adventure, thrills, mystery, and romance for the price of a cup of coffee- and just as stimulating! Look for it on Amazon. Print versions have also been reduced.
Also: The new Tom Logan mystery thriller, A Murder Amongst Angels .
Find them all on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and wherever fine books are sold. Also available at an affordable price on Kindle.
Allan J. Emerson says
You have some great stories, Tony! I think High Anxiety is one of the best Mel Brooks films (my other favorite is Young Frankenstein.
Thank you, Allan. I also agree, “Young Frankenstein” is a comic masterpiece. I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.