In Praise of Rod Taylor and Howard Schultz

It's been a busy week in the Flipside.  A number of pals of mine have stepped off stage, from the reality TV Producer and pal Howard Schultz, to the great actor and star of my film Point of Betrayal Rod Taylor.

Howard was a unique individual.  

Howard Schultz TV Producer Dead Obit
Photo from Variety

He grew up down the block from me in Northbrook, Illinois, in a unique stone house that sat at the end of our long street.  Some years later, Howard agreed to do a between life hypnotherapy session for me for my "Flipside" project.

During his session, which appears in the book under the chapter heading "THE SOUL RIVER" Howard (as "Steven" in the book - I offer anonymity to everyone who is in the book, as their hypnotherapy sessions reveal usually more than anyone wants to admit, but with Howard's blessing, no reason to keep that a secret now) began by going back in time during his life.  And at some point, he was talking about playing "Kick the Can" in his backyard, with his beloved dog, the sound of cicadas calling through the summer night.  

It's my childhood as well, and so unique to be 50 years older, listening to my neighbor describe events that happened to me as well. It also served as a verification of sorts, that Howard's memories of this lifetime were accurate, because I'd had the same ones.

It was his previous lifetime that gave me pause.  He quickly remembered being a young child in a country in Europe during World War II.  And after describing a kind of fearful existence with troops running around outside, and the parents hiding the children from them, Howard remembered dying in Dachau.  Literally remembered the moment of standing over a pit of bodies and being shot in the head.

I was startled.  Even when he said the word "Dachau" in reference to being asked "Where are you?" he said it as they say it over in Germany.  That hard CH sound, that even as he said it, reminded me of my trip there in my 20's when I was going to school in Italy.  A dark, drab place to be sure, but here my friend was reliving that awful moment in that awful place.

In the between life portion Howard lightened up.  He spoke of how he normally had lifetimes that were "filled with light" and "filled with laughter."  Even as he spoke about them, the odd coincidence that he had named his company "Lighthearted" took on new meaning for me, and for him as well.  He had many lifetimes where he was light hearted, or that the light from that realm filled him with memories of unconditional love.

And at some point, Howard spoke of how that lifetime in Dachau had "scorched his soul."  And so the hypnotherapist, Scott De Tamble, asked if Howard could find a way to alleviate that pain, or to help heal it.  And he said "They're taking me to the river of souls."  He described being escorted into this river where he felt whole and complete again, and experienced that powerful intense feeling of being healed from that dark lifetime.  He was asked "Why did you choose that lifetime?"  And he said "Because I had forgotten the dark.  It's important to remember the dark so that you can really enjoy the light."

Howard had the courage to choose a difficult lifetime so that he could "remember the dark."

Anyone who knew or loved Howard will tell you that he had a memorable laugh, and his eyes kind of twinkled when he laughed or recounted a great story.  He hired me at some point to write a film about his odd adventures in Mexico with Dog the Bounty Hunter - and how he very nearly wound up in prison while trying to film an extraction of a criminal.  There was incredible comedy in the story, but also it showed the amazing resilience of Howard.  He didn't feel that the script captured the chaos of what he'd gone through while he was down there - and I'm sorry that we didn't take it further along.  

We had dozens of meetings, over at least a decade, talking about doing a spiritual show together, a reality show based on past life research - a "past life detective" kind of show where people would be under hypnosis and we'd track down whether or not their stories were true.  He could never get anyone of his writing staff to be invested in the idea however, and he used them as a sounding board for whatever he wound up putting on the air.  If they didn't get it, then he reasoned, an audience wouldn't either.  This is how he wound up with "Naked Dating" and his other dating shows on MTV and elsewhere. It wasn't just the titillation involved - although there was that to be sure - it was because these shows were about connecting people on some level. 

Only a few months ago he called me about the afterlife show.  We still couldn't figure out how to make the project together, and I'm sorry we did not.  However, I'll bet he's putting together a hell of a show as we speak.  One thing he said during his session that's worth repeating - when he spoke to his departed mother during the session, she told him that speaking to someone in the afterlife was like picking up a cell phone and dialing a loved one.  We don't actually know how a cell phone works, we can't really get our minds around the mechanics, but we do know if we push so many buttons, our loved ones answer.  She said it was the same thing when communicating with the afterlife.  They can hear us when we speak to them, or reach out to them, and although they may not be able to have a direct response to our entreaties, they'll eventually get back to us in some manner. 
 1963 Rod Taylor Ed Fury Dorian Gray Daniela Rocca Picture

I met Rod Taylor while making a film called "Point of Betrayal" 20 years ago.  We had cast a couple of other actors who fell out the weekend prior to shooting, and the producer Jonathan Krane suggested Rod Taylor and Dina Merrill as replacements.  They both agreed.

Rod was the smartest actor I've ever met - he knew more about the camera, about directing, about staging, about choreographing a fight scene than anyone on the crew.  He would come in with new scenes that I had encouraged him to rewrite - and they were always 100 times better than what I had written or were on the page.  He was funny, smart, and told some great Hitchcock stories.


Rod choreographed this scene, we were losing the light and it was shot in one take.

One I remember is that one day during "The Birds" the studio had invited the international press to the set.  And during a set up, Rod noticed that the practical light in the refrigerator wasn't on, so when they went to do a take, Rod asked Hitch if "he was going to have them turn on the practical light in the refrigerator for the scene."  Hitch took a long pause and said "And now I will take a break while Rod Taylor directs the picture."  Everyone laughed but Rod, who was furious for being made a fool of.  During the lunch break, Hitch's secretary came looking for Rod, who was furious over Hitch mocking him.  

The secretary apologized profusely and insisted the Hitchcock wanted Rod to see him right away.  Rod went up to his office, thinking he was about to be fired, and when he came into the room, it was filled with all the international media - Paris Match, etc, all seated around a table having lunch with Hitchcock.  Hitch stood up and gestured to the empty seat next to him  and said "Ahhh, the star of the film has arrived.  Please, Rod Taylor, come and sit next to your biggest fan."

Of course they were best pals after that.

He last appeared in a Tarantino film - this is a wiki foto from an interview he did - via PDX retro

The saga of Point of Betrayal is short and sweet. Made for under a million, it was a thriller that was purchased by HBO and Paramount Home Video for distribution.  I thought that was fantastic.  Then it turned out no one had done an E and O for the film - an insurance document.  So Paramount sued the producer, and the film was put on a shelf - distributed overseas (I still get checks from odd territories for the musical score I did for the film, as well as checks from the Director's Guild) but the film has never been seen in theaters in the U.S. outside it's premier at the Palm Beach Film festival.


I had a number of memorable dinners with Rod.  Funny, smart, didn't suffer fools lightly, he was also a terrific painter. 

Let's see if I can dig up one of his pix.

Anyways, as we grow older, more of us won't be on the planet much longer.  Both of these fellas made the world a brighter place, and I'm sorry to see them go, but looking forward to seeing them again at some point in the future, on the Flipside.

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