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Robert A. Mills

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Blogs by Robert A. Mills

. . . BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD SMELL AS SWEET
3/24/2010 6:36:48 AM    [ Flag as Inappropriate ]

My tongue rebelled momentarily against moistening the rubber suction cup, but when I heard the phone ringing at the other end, I switched on the mini-tape recorder.

“Good afternoon!” chirped the operator. “Waldorf-Astoria, Park Avenue! How may I direct your call?”

“Uh, suite 717,” I said. “Mr. Gregory Peck.”

“May I ask who is calling?”

“Yeah, sure, Bob Mills, uh, Robert Mills, from, uh, Rochester.”

A fleeting pause. “Oh. Yes, of course. . . . . One moment, please.” In less than twenty seconds, a phone was answered.

PECK: Hello? Mr. Mills?

ME: Yes . . .

PECK: Hi. This is Greg Peck.

Good grief. That voice. That phlegmy inflection and whistling consonants. It was him!

PECK: Sorry I took so long getting back to you, but ******* didn’t get your letter until just last week. You addressed it to MCA, and they didn’t send it over to ******* until Monday. After I read it, I said I’d call you from New York.

ME (stupidly): Why are you in New York?

PECK: I’m on my way to London, doing a film with Lee Remick and David Warner, working title is ‘The Omen.’ I figure to be over there for four or five weeks, at most. How’s your Professor Riso coming with the TV script?

ME: Riso? I don’t think he’s even started.

PECK: Well, plenty of time. Look, I’m really interested. If I like what he does with it, and the money is all right, I’d really like to take a look at it, sounds like a solid, worthwhile project. Have you talked with HBO or PBS?

ME: Well, no, not really.

PECK: When you do, tell them I am considering it. Look, it’s pro-Israel, isn’t it? Nothing negative or anti. . . . I can’t be involved with any anti-Jewish propaganda, or anything like that. I assume this is genuine history with nothing negative, or anything like that. I am very pro-Israel, you know, and anything I do has to been one hundred percent supportive of any Israeli or Jewish position. We have to be very clear on that.

ME: Well, as I say, Professor Riso is the head of Middle Eastern studies at ***********, and his book—I think it’s called ‘A State of Affairs’—will be followed to the letter in his, uh, TV script. Have you read his book?

PECK: No, I haven’t.

ME: Well, I’ll send you a copy. Or he will. One of us will. I guess.

PECK: Okay, I’ll tell you what. . . . When I get back in the States—we have one scene in Chicago, I think it’s a final scene—I’ll call you either from Chicago or New York, or maybe not until I get back to California, I don’t know for sure, but by then your Professor Riso should be able to show me a few pages, maybe an outline—and we can go from there. You might want to give ******* call. He’s at *** *** ****, and you might want to send him what you have. At least a copy of the book. Does Riso have all the rights? Got a pencil? . . . Take this down: ******* *********** ********* at **** **** ******* ****, *** *******, ** *****-****. He’ll be your main contact from now on.

ME: Okay. Yeah. Got it. Mr. Peck . . .

PECK: Call me Greg. Look, tell Mr. Riso I’m really—excited—about this, Bob, and I look forward to seeing some pages of his script. I’ve got to run, there’re some people waiting for me downstairs . . .

ME (fumbling and uncertain): Well . . . have a safe flight. Tell Miss Remick I think—I think she’s beautiful.

Once the phone was dead, I hung it up and stared at the min-tape recorder. I shut it off and pressed the rewind button, then the ‘play.’ It was amazing. The fidelity was as good as what I’d enjoyed in my ear.

Gregory Peck! Good heavens!

I extracted the cassette from the recorder and walked down the hall to my exec producer’s office. “Whaddya want?” he snarled, looking up from a pile of papers on his desk.

“I just got off the phone with Gregory Peck,” I told him.

“Yeah. Sure you did. What else you have to drink for lunch?”

“I’m serious. You want to hear it?”

“Why not? I got nuthin else to do.”

This all occurred about thirty-five years ago. ‘The Omen’ was nominated for ten awards (it won an Oscar for Jerry Goldsmith’s original music.) Directed by Richard Donner, the child actor, Harvey Stephens, who played Peck’s be-deviled son, Damien, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. Lee Remick passed away at the age of 56 in 1991, and Peck himself died in his sleep in 2003 (he was 80 that summer.)

‘A State of Affairs,’ for one reason or another, was never adapted for HBO, PBS or anyplace else. I sent a copy of the book to Peck’s agent, and to my knowledge, no one in Hollywood made further contact with Prof. Riso or his publisher. I never heard from Peck again.

Over the years I played the audiotape of my conversation with the actor for a number of people, most of whom shrugged and said, “Well, I’ll be damned.”

Do I still have it? Yes, it’s somewhere around the house. I’ll look in a box down in the basement; maybe it’s there.

Maybe, but I don’t know for sure. We moved down here to Georgia in 1993. Some boxes in the cellar haven’t even been unpacked yet. Besides, a lot of stuff got ruined in the flood of 2009.


Copyright©2010 by Robert A. Mills


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