Archive for the 'James Garner' Category

25
Apr
12

Rockford Files: On The Set in 1979 James Garner rare photos!

Rockford Files On The Set in 1979

By Jim Suva

I recently had the pleasure to talk to Michael Mundy.  Michael is a big fan of James Garner and “The Rockford Files”.  He was kind enough to share some stories and these pictures from the set of the “The Big Cheese” episode.  Michael and his Mom your visiting the set back on 11/5/79, when he took the following pictures.

 

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Notice the picture below of Michael and Rocky’s Truck.  On the bluff above you can see two Firebirds and two Police cars.

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The Firebird ready for the next scene in front of The Sandcastle.

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Now the pictures below were taken in 1981 in Toluca Lake.  James Garner rented this house across the street from Bob Hope.

 

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The picture below is Luis Delgado’s van parked in Toluca Lake in 1981 by Jim’s house.  Mary Ann Rea’s red VW can also be seen parked two cars behind the van.

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This last picture was taken at the LA Covention Center in 1979 of Michael with James Garner’s 4 passenger race car.

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This last picture was taken by Michael as Jim was entering NBC studios to appearing on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” back in 1978.  He was promoting “The Rockford Files”.  Jim was rushing in when Michael asked to take a picture.  He said: Let me finish this candy bar first.  He then was kind enough to pose for this picture.

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I would like to thank Michael for sharing these picture with us.  If anyone else has a good story about James Garner with pictures,  please contact me atjimsuva34@aol.com.

19
Apr
12

Rockford files makes a Firebird Esprit station wagon?

Rockford Files and Vista Group

  

Written by Jim Suva

GarnerFirebirds

I recently had the opportunity to interview Eric Dahlquest and Chuck Koch of Vista Group. They gave me the insight into the vehicles of The Rockford Files. Eric Dahlquest is the President and founder of Vista Group. Vista Group is a product placement, public relations and marketing company. Chuck Koch has worked for and has done contract work with Vista Group since 1978.

Jim S:   How did James Garner and you decide on the Pontiac Firebird Esprit? Plus how did Vista Group get involved with the show?

Eric:     Jim Garner and I didn’t decide on the Firebird Esprit. Vista Group didn’t get involved with the show until later, after the Pontiacs were established. I think the original deal was made with Jim Graham, Pontiac’s Marketing Director. I recall speaking with Jim Graham about this and I think it was because the Esprit was a new model and could use the help to gain awareness.

We got involved with the show through Vick Hickey whom I had known from my days when I was an editor on Hot Rod Magazine, 1964-68. We did stories on Vic’s cars and trucks that he had developed mostly for Chevrolet because that’s where he had been a Development Engineer. Vic had worked with Jim Garner when Jim had his race team, American International Racers (AIR). If memory serves, I met Jim at Vic’s shop.

Regardless, during these years AIR fielded teams in off-road, Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring and when I left Hot Rod to become Editor of Motor Trend, I spent a lot of time with Vic and Jim on their various programs.

When I left Motor Trend in 1975, Vista Group’s first GM public relations client was Pontiac and shortly thereafter Vick recommended us to GMC Truck’s visionary Sales Promotion Manager, Jim McLane who hired us to do all kinds of promotion programs including movies and television. It was a natural step from there to The Rockford Files because we had all worked together before. Pontiac dealers sold GMC trucks, so it was an obvious product tie-in and the topper was our boss at GMC was a native Oklahoman, as was Jim Garner. It was like the perfect “old-boys” storm.

Jim S:   Were the Firebirds and GMC pickups given to Cherokee Productions, Universal, or another company, or were they purchased? 

Eric:     I just looked though our files and didn’t find the original loan agreements, but I think it was Cherokee Productions. But if it wasn’t, it was Universal Studios, since they would have the biggest liability. No vehicles were “given”, everything was on loan for a specific time on a specific loan agreement with insurance documentation.

Chuck:  Ownership was retained by General Motors for $1.00 fee for 1 year. Cherokee or Universal had to pay taxes, license plates and insure the vehicles. In fact, the support vehicles for Cherokee Productions were all GMC. These vehicles were with James Garner through The Rockford Files and a number of his movies.

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In fact, Vista Group worked with Jim on his movies like “Murphy’s Romance”. They purchased an older GMC pickup for him to drive to keep him with the GMC brand. They also worked with Jim on the Indy Pace truck and the red GMC pickup “Sportside” that Jim drove and was used in The Rockford Files. The red pickup was used in the episode titled “Material Difference”.

Jim S:   I know that there were 3 Firebirds per season, until the 79 Firebird style changed. Were there 3 pickups per year too? 

Eric:     I think there were just two pickups, but Chuck would know that.

Chuck:  They had two trucks for the series.  They were not replaced every year.

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Jim S:   Since Mr. Garner stayed with the 78 Firebirds, did Universal purchase additional Firebirds from a local dealership?

Eric:     No, I remember them just keeping them [cars from the previous year] in company inventory.

Jim S:   The Firebirds were painted the same color each season. What company painted them and repaired them if they were damaged?

Eric:     A guy named Vince (Carriage Craft) painted the GMC’s I’m not sure about the Pontiacs. But, why wouldn’t he have done both?

Jim S:   The GMC pickups were customized with Vic Hickey equipment. Who did the work?

Eric:     If they had Hickey Equipment, then Vic probably put it on.

Jim S:   Any cool stories about working with James Garner?

Eric:     Stories? Yeah, there’s probably a million of ‘em. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the details except for a few.

When we worked on “Maverick, the Movie”, (the stagecoaches were GMC’s) with Jim and Mel Gibson and Jody Foster, I was sitting with Jim in his dressing trailer remembering some of the old times with AIR racing and Rockford, and how he got into the movie business in the first place. I recall Jim said something to the effect that even after the first Maverick hit television series where he became a star, he wasn’t sure if acting was going to be his lifetime career. At that point, 1959, he had been doing it full time for about five years. “So”, he said, “I thought, I’ll give it another five years and see what happens.”

Well, five years turned into another five years, and another five, and here we were in 1994, so I said, “What about now? Jim paused for a moment, “I think I’ll give it another five”, he said with smile.

Chuck:   To expand on Eric’s comments about the GMC stage coaches in the movie version of “Maverick” and mine about the vintage GMC truck in “Murphy’s Romance” to maintain brand identity with Jim. In the late 1980s, I think, they did a TV remake of “Maverick” wherein Jim’s character owned a saloon/gambling parlor. We wanted to maintain the GMC identity with Garner, so, working with Luis Delgado, we arranged for the building next to the saloon to have a sign that read “General Mercantile Company” with the G, M, and C letters being much larger and darker than the others so you could plainly read GMC. I always got a kick out that.

All dealings were done on a handshake basis, which is unheard of in Hollywood. Most of the dealings were with Luis Delgado, Jim’s friend and partner. Luis played Officer Billings on Rockford. Jim worked with charities where they would raffle off small roles on “The Rockford Files”. Plus the winners had lunch with Jim.

Jim S:   The Rockford Movies had GMC pickup trucks. Did Vista Group help get them for the movies?

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Eric:      If it was before 1998, yes.

Jim S:   I have heard that several of the Firebirds and at least two pickups were sold to individuals connected to the show. Do you know anything about this?

Eric:      If they were sold, they were sold through a dealer, but I don’t specifically recall.

Chuck:  The vehicles from The Rockford Files were usually sold by GM at dealer auctions to local dealerships. In some cases, if someone wanted to purchase a vehicle, they would contact GM and they would set a price and if you wanted it, that is the price you paid.

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I would like to thank both Eric and Chuck for their time and information on this story. They are both big James Garner and Rockford fans.

23
Dec
11

Rockford Files had more than one Star car, his house had wheels too!

Jim Rockford’s Trailer

By Jim Suva

RockfordFilesTrailer

The trailer used as Jim Rockford’s mobile home is a 1959 Nashua House Trailer. They used one trailer for exterior shots, mostly at Paradise Cove, Malibu. According to Rob Howe the interiors of the trailer were built on Stage 23 at Universal Studios.  It had the exterior trailer skin on one side(the front), but not the full length of the front side.  It was a set.  The fourth wall was removable, since most of the shots were shooting from behind Rockford’s desk toward the door.  When Jim sat behind the desk and the camera was on him, the fourth wall would be set up behind him with the pictures on it.  Picture above is from The Official James Garner Facebook Fan Page.

Here is an add for the trailer from 1959.

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Pat Mc Kinney is probably the most die-hard fan of the show The Rockford File. Pat owns three original screen-used Firebirds from the TV series, plus crew jackets and other props from the show.

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This past spring Pat came across a 1959 Nashua trailer, very close to the original that was used on the TV series. It belonged to a customer that Pat was working for at the time. Pat saw it out of the corner of his eye and asked the owner if he realize he had a trailer identical to Jim Rockford’s. The owner asked Pat if he would like to look inside. Of course Pat said yes! The owner’s daughter was living in the trailer at the time. Once he looked inside he could not believe his eyes! It was set up just like Rockford’s trailer! Pat gave him his business card and told him if he ever wanted to sell it, he would be interested.

Two months later the owner called up Pat and told him his daughter was getting married and moving out. He wanted to get a new trailer for his back yard. He told Pat the trailer has been in the back yard since it was practically new. Needless to say Pat jumped at the opportunity.

In June 2011, Pat had the trailer moved to a storage facility near his home. It arrived there in perfect time to be part of the 1st Annual Rockford File Fest. Below are some pictures of the trailer, taken at the Fest. It was so cool to actually walk inside this trailer and feel like you were in Jim Rockford’s home!

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Pat’s plans at the time were to repaint the trailer and redo the interior to look exactly like the trailer used on the series. Pat believes the front door and windows were actually moved forward, to make the trailer on the show more accessible. Pat’s trailer has the extra window near the front of the trailer, which needs to be relocated to the kitchen area. Pat has been collecting items that matched those used on the show. Pat met with Robert Zilliox, the set designer from the series and the movies. Robert is currently looking for his pictures from the actual set to help recreate the trailer. Pat’s intentions are to use the trailer at all future Rockford events.

However, Pat is currently at a crossroads. He wants to complete the restoration of his 1977 Firebird, and has two more Firebirds to go. Since the economy is not doing well, Pat would like to see if any Rockford/James Garner fans would be interested in donating funds to help keep the trailer in storage, or to help with the cost of recreating the Rockford Trailer.

Please contact Pat at pemckinney@hotmail.com if you would like to donate to the restoration fund, or would be able to help recreate this trailer.

This could be a great opportunity for the fan’s of The Rockford Files to help recreate a piece of television history!

26
Sep
11

Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

 Nate Truman

Well, heres some great info on Rockford Files by Jim!  Now where are the super fans for all the other shows?  Send me links to great informative stuff about star car shows, and you may see your work right here!

Rockford Files’ Roydon Clark

Written by Jim Suva

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Picture by Paul Santo
I met Roydon Clark on July13, 2011 at the 1st Annual Rockford Files Fest. Through Rob Howe, I later had the opportunity to talk to Roy on the phone and ask him some questions about the
Rockford Firebirds and GMC pickup trucks.

After speaking with him, I have to say that Roy is one of the nicest guys you would ever want to meet. I really enjoyed talking to him. In case you don’t know about Roy, he is a stuntman that has worked with John Wayne and many other top stars over the years. His best known work is with his good friend, James Garner.

Roy worked as James Garner’s stunt double since the days of the original “Maverick” TV series. He talks to him two or three times every week, and they remain good friends to this day. On “The Rockford Files”, Roy was not only a stuntman, but also the second unit director. He worked with getting the Firebirds and trucks for the show, and was in charge of setting up the Firebirds.

Roy confirmed that the Firebirds used on the show were Formulas, slightly altered to look like the Esprit model. Jim and Roy met with race car driver Parnelli Jones, for advice on what kind of tires and tire size should be used on the Firebirds. Parnelli Jones was working for Firestone at the time, and Roy believes they chose the wider Firestone tires.

Around the third season, Roy started to help set up one of the three Firebirds that Pontiac gave them as a sound car each year. This car was used a rolling sound stage. They mounted electric plug connections on the corners of the car and trunk. They mounted cameras on the hood or the doors for their cross-over shots. James Garner would be the director in the car and start the scene. Mr. Garner actually drove the Firebird as the scene played out. (Today the car would be towed, or on a platform.) Once the scene was over, James Garner would pull up to the director and they would plug into the Firebird and check out the scene. With the car wired like this, a scene in the parked car could be done easily, since all the microphones and wires were already mounted in the car.

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One of the safety items that Roy came up with later in the series was using inner tubes in the vehicle tires, since there was a lot of flexing of the tire sidewalls. This was a result of all the high-speed cornering.

The GMC Pickup trucks used on the show were set up by Vic Hickey Enterprises, using their equipment such as roll bars, spare gas tanks, winches, push guards, and lights. Roy believes James Garner helped design the truck. From what I have been told by others, James Garner loved to drive the trucks; after all he was an off-road racer!

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Roy calls James Garner “Jimmy.” As he told me, “Most of the J-turns done on screen were with Jimmy behind the wheel,” although Roy did some on the show as well.

Roy used to buy a new Firebird each year the show was on. As he said to me, “What better way to know a car, than to drive it every day?” Of course, Roy did get a special deal from Pontiac. He said, “Pontiac Firebirds made me a better driver.”

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Picture by Blake Delgado

I remember Roy speaking at Paradise Cove. He said he used to tell the other stunt drivers not to try to keep up with James Garner. He was just too good, and he loved to have fun with the Pontiacs.

Roy told me that when the transporter with the Firebirds pulled up at a filming location, people passing by would stop to check out the cars. In fact, the cars were almost as popular as the stars of the show!

Roy remembers filming at Paradise Cove at the end of each filming week. So when he came back to Paradise Cove this past July, it brought back a lot of memories. He feels he has been blessed in his life. He started as a kid working on a farm in Pennsylvania with migrant workers, and today he is one of the best stuntmen in the business.

Roy Clark and James Garner: two really nice guys!

27
Aug
11

Rockford Files shooting locations, then and now!

I have to admit I am a sucker for fan stuff like this!  Being able to stand in the very place where movies or shows that I loved actually shot is just a fun “touchstone” to bring me closer to the action that I remember seeing on the big and little screen!  Below is super Rockford fan Jim Suva’s write up on his trip to Rockford Files locations!  The Herbie owners are planning a three day event to do pretty much the same thing for their Sothern California locations next month, so any group of fans can pull this sort of thing off, and if you do, well tell me about it with great info and photos like Jim does!  Enjoy! 
Nate Truman

Rockford Files Locations

 

Written by Jim Suva

In July 2011, Pat McKinney and I went to find the locations that were used on The Rockford Files.  Below are some of the locations we found.

Here is the original location of Jim Rockford’s trailer in the parking lot by the Malibu Pier on Pacific Coast Highway.

The first two pictures are from the show.  Last two are 2011.

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First picture below is Lankershim Blvd. in 2011.  A number of scenes of Jim driving down this street have been used. The second picture is St Charles Boromeo.  The inside of the church was used while filming “Find Me If You Can”.  The church is located on the corner of Moorpark and Lankershim Blvd.

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“The Real Easy Red Dog”  First picture is from the episode.  It shows the Services entrance to Ruehmanm Pontiac in 1975. The next picture is of the dealership today.  It now sells BMW’s.  The third picture is the house where Stefanie Powers character lived in 1975 and the fourth is 2011.

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Jim entering the house and the side view of 4265 Denny Ave. North Hollywood.

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“The Trees, the Bees, and T.T. Flowers”  The church is located on the corner of Cahuenga and Whipple in Toluca Lake.  The first two picture are from 1976.  The third picture was taken 2011.

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“Beamers Last Case”  This is Tony’s Body Shop located at 4730 Blix Street in North Hollywood.  First picture is from 1977 and the next two are 2011.

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Here is Jack Kelly’s characters home at 4365 Forman, Toluca Lake.  First picture is the gate to the property in 1977.  The next picture is the gate 2011.  Third picture is the driveway 1977.  Fourth is the driveway 2011.

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“Hotel of Fear”  Here is the Mob Bosses Nova’s house located at 4256 Navajo, Toluca Lake.  First two pictures are from 1977 and the last two are 2011.

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“Rosendahl and Gilda Stern are Dead”  The intersection is at Cahuenaga and Riverside Drive in Toluca Lake.  This is where Abe Vigoda and Robert Loggia’s characters met.  The first two pictures are from 1978 and the last two are from 2011.

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This is Rocky’s House located at 3654 Lankershim Blvd., Studio City.  The house has had an addition built on the front of house.  It now has a row of trees in front.

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This is Bob Morse’s Beach Cafe, Paradise Cove.  It use to be called the Sandcastle.  It has changed quite a bit over the last few years.  Jim Rockford’s trailer use to be parked in the parking lot.    That part of the  parking lot is now a sandy beach with tables.  Below are pictures of Paradise Cove, July 13, 2011.

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I hope you enjoyed these pictures.  It is always nice to see what the locations look like today.

12
Jan
11

Original Screen Used Rockford File’s Truck

Original Screen Used Rockford File’s Truck

written by Jim Suva

I had the pleasure to talk with Robert, who lives in Florida. Robert is my age and is another dedicated Rockford Files fan. Robert is the proud owner of an original screen-used Rockford Files pickup truck. During the last season of The Rockford Files, James Garner appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jim told Johnny that this was going to be the last season for the TV series. Upon hearing that, Robert asked his wife to write a letter to NBC telling them that he wanted to buy Rocky’s pickup truck. Some time passed and Robert asked his wife if she ever received an answer. She hadn’t. So he asked her write another letter. This time, Mary Ann Rhea, Jim’s personal assistant called Robert. She said they lost the original letter while moving their office, but they had Rocky’s truck if he was still interested in purchasing it. Needless to say Robert and his wife flew to Los Angeles in May 1980. They were picked up at the airport by a man named Chuck … in Rocky’s pickup truck! Chuck worked for the Vista Group, the organization that helped supply the vehicles to the TV series. They were driven to the body shop where the truck was originally painted, and had a scratch touched up as they waited. Robert heard that the owner of the body shop wanted to buy all the Firebirds and trucks from The Rockford Files, but could not afford to buy them all. That is why Robert could buy this truck. After the scratch was repaired, they were driven to a nearby community called Toluca Lake, where James Garner’s new office was located. The office was right across the street from Bob Hope’s home. Once at Mr. Garner’s office they saw that he had a 1980 Trans Am and one of the Rockford Firebirds there. Robert and his wife met and talked with Mr. Garner for over two hours. He told them all about the pickup and how everything worked. He even autographed two posters for them, which featured the vehicles from The Rockford Files. Robert said Mr. Garner was just like a regular guy. Robert and his wife stayed a few days in Los Angeles. Mr. Garner got Lakers tickets for them, and they also drove out to Paradise Cove to check out the Sandcastle Restaurant. Robert then drove his prize pickup back home to Florida. This particular pickup truck is a 1979 GMC 4X4 Sierra ½ ton. It has a 400 cubic inch engine with a four-barrel carburetor. It also boasts full-time four-wheel drive with a turbo 400 transmission. Each wheel has two shock absorbers. It still has all the Vic Hickey Enterprise equipment, such as two additional gas tanks, winch, steering wheel, roll bar and fog lights. The pickup also has two original GM gas tanks that came with the truck from the factory. Robert remembers that the GMC trucks originally came only in silver, and with basic equipment. The Vic Hickey equipment and the maroon paint were added at a local body shop. The maroon color is actually a 1976 GM color called Rosedale Red with orange pinstripes. The pinstripes are about 1/8 inch in width. The rear of truck has the names Jim & Jerry written on it in pin striping. According to Robert, his truck can be seen in two episodes, “The Big Cheese” and “Paradise Cove.” Robert’s truck has Vic Hickey center hubs on the front wheels and the standard GM center hubs on the rear wheels. BigCheeseRFT2 Robert has not driven his truck much over the years. It only has 11,910 miles on it. He currently has the truck in his garage under a tarp. It is in need of restoration. His dream is to restore Rocky’s pickup truck and show it to James Garner in person!

 




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