The Law of Contact

Charlton Heston, Lily Tomlin and Jeff Daniels

by Frank M. Roberts - September 2015

Of all the stars I've been associated with, Charlton Heston has to be the most interesting - even though we never met - even though we never conversed.

For about a decade I worked for Studio Center which, at the time, was the third largest outlet for dreaming up radio and television ads for a variety of products and services around the country. If the powers-that-be felt you were the right person for some commercial coming up they would call, and you would go in and do your thing. It paid well, and I did a slew of them.

The only one I remember was a Buick dealer in Florida and, of course, I remember being part of a PBS program narrated by Heston. It was during the Viet Nam war (conflict). PBS did a program on VN, and some folks thought it was too liberal - too one sided.

I got a call to participate in the 'answer' program, Conservatives answering Liberals. I should add that almost all of their announcers were from radio and teevee stations in the Norfolk-Virginia Beach area.

They called me in to be a teevee newscaster (typecasting). My spot was to report on what was happening in Viet Nam. I had a couple paragraphs which were designed to put down the people who complained and campaigned against our presence in that country.

A political organization, which took umbrage to the opinions expressed in the broadcast asked for, and were given time to answer that group. By the way, I still have the tape.

As I was recording, two gents from the sponsoring group were in the booth listening to my efforts. After I did my 'one sided' news report, Heston responded noting, in effect, that I knew not what I was talking about.

When all that was done, one of the men came in to the studio to tell me I did an excellent job, sounding authentic. "That's exactly what I was looking for," he said. Talk about a morale booster.

The 'skinny' is that both Heston and I were one-sided - me with my report and he with his response.

The first thing people asked me was - how was it like working with Charlton Heston? What kind of guy was he?

To the first query, I said, "I don't know." To the second query, I said, "I don't know." And, as Lily Tomlin might say, "that's the troof." Heston recorded the program in Hollywood, and I did my portion in Norfolk. (Studio Center has since moved to Virginia Beach).

And, how's this for a segue? Speaking of Lily Tomlin, I gotta tell you she was my favorite telephone interview - friendly, chatty, pleasant.

Recently, I silently cheered when she was recognized in the 17th Annual Kennedy Center Honors. Others honored at the same time included Tom Hanks, and Sting.

The comedienne, who once graced the cover of Time Magazine, was the winner of four Emmys, two Tonys, and a Grammy.

The interview was for an internet program I was doing. (I'm still at the same time but, this go-'round as a deejay. Check it out - RCH103).

We talked about her career - "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," and "Murphy Brown" among other TV shows, and movies, such as "Nashville," and "9 tO 5," which co-starred Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda.

"We had great fun," Tomlin recalled, adding that the three became good friends.

The "Laugh-In" characters of telephone operator, Ernestine, and 5-year-old Edith Ann were two of her favorite 'characters', and what characters they were.

---- Jeff Daniels was an interesting character. He came to the area a few years back, plugging his music, rather than his acting.

After his pop music presentation, he invited me backstage. One of his sons - Benjamin or Lucas was with him. I remember the teen asking dad for his car keys, which the actor tossed to him. There is also a daughter, Nellie.

Daniels is the most 'un-Hollywoodish' actor in the business. He lives in Chelsea, Mich, and commutes to the movie capital when he is invited - which is very often.

Sine 1979, Daniels has been married to his childhood sweetheart, Kathleen. They wed on a Friday the 13th, because that was his number when he was playing baseball in high school. Speaking of sports, he is an avid Detroit Tigers fan.

Musically, he cut five albums containing mostly self-penned songs, with proceeds going to the Purple Rose Theater in Chelsea, named for Woody Allen's favorite movie, which starred Daniels, "The Purple Rose Of Cairo."

He loves living in Chelsea, and the deal is that as long as he didn't mind the constant commute between there and Tinseltown, it was fine with the producers.

"Don't ever tell us that you can't afford it," one producer said.

"In Michigan, I do fireworks, shovel snow and live life," the actor said.

Some of his multitudinous movies are "Speed" (one of my favorites), "Arachnaphobia," "Terms of Endearment," "Dumb and Dumber," "Pleasantville," and, "Good Night And Good Luck."

The complete list is looong.

Heston, Tomlin, and Daniels. Quite a trio, and I was happy to be part of their lives - if only for a few minutes.

By the way, should you want to visit Chelsea, wait 'till there's snow on the ground. You might find Daniels shoveling it. Chelsea was a village all the way up to 2004 when it finally became a city - population: 4,944. What goes on there? They have a factory where Jiffy Mix is made. By the way, it is in Washtenaw County.

* * * *

Speaking of my fave Daniels movie, "Speed," reminds me of the story of the gent who was testifying in a trial. He said he heard two shots.

He was asked how far apart the shots had been and answered by slapping his hands together twice, to indicate an interval of a tenth of a second. The attorney asked, "where were you when you heard the first shot?" The witness said, "I was in my hotel room next door."

"Where were you when the second shot was fired?"

At the airport - buying a ticket."

"Speed" indeed!

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