On the Set with Brenda Vaccaro by Tony Piazza
I knew BRENDA VACCARO through MICHAEL DOUGLAS. During the years that we filmed “The Streets of San Francisco” they were an “item”. There was a five year difference between the two; Michael being born in 1944 and Brenda in 1939. When they met, Brenda’s career was already well established. One of her more memorable works being “Midnight Cowboy” (1969), however even before that she had numerous productions on Broadway and television to her credit that date from the earlier part of the 1960’s. Michael on the other hand had less than a handful of films behind him when he started “Streets” and his star was just beginning to rise. Brenda was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Italian American parents, and raised inTexas. She returned to New York to study acting, and debut in 1961 on Broadway in the comedy play “Everybody Loves Opal” for which she won the Theatre World Award.
She and Michael were very close during the years that I knew them. Often she would visit him on location. As most actors and actresses they try to remain incognito when out in the public, and Brenda was no exception. She would usually show up on the set with her hair tied up in a bun, no make-up, dark glasses, plain dress, and sandals. Once she almost got thrown off the set by security. Someone made a comment that a woman was bothering Michael, and luckily the officer recognized that it was Brenda before a fuss was made. Most times they would go off to the many wonderful restaurants in San Francisco for lunch, and return to share stories with the rest of us about their experiences. Brenda’s parents by the way were co-founders of a restaurant – “Mario’s” in Texas. Her mother particularly helped pioneer Italian cuisine in Dallas beginning in 1943. Brenda’s and Michael’s relationship hit the skids as Michael’s career started to take off on “Streets”, and particularly after an ‘Enquirer’ article came out reporting his womanizing activities while on location in SF.
Brenda guest starred on two episodes of “Streets”. On one she played a policewoman, who incidentally was driving my car in that episode. I had (I know I will hear from one of you on this!) a powder blue Ford Mustang (It wouldn’t have been the color I would have chosen…it was used…and I got it at a reasonable price!) and Transportation hired it as a picture car for her to drive in the show. It was fun seeing it again in re-runs.
Brenda’s career has continued successfully to date. In 2010 she worked on the TV movie “You Don’t Know Jack” and won the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress- Series, Miniseries or Television Film. She also was nominated for a Primetime Emmy.
I can still hear her deep throated description of one restaurant they had visited, “It was Marvelous!” So are you Brenda!
Just an aside, but I got to meet Brenda’s co-star on “Midnight Cowboy” Jon Voight, but I will save that story for another day.
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 next released early 2012, and in July of 2013, his latest Tom Logan Mystery, “A Murder Amongst Angels” was published and is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. A new Tom Logan novel has been completed and is scheduled to be released in 2015. 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 three prestigious writer’s organizations: Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the SLO NightWriters.
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