Barry and I were packing for our trip up to Ferndale, CA. , a long but gorgeous drive up the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). There is nothing more beautiful than the rugged central coast of California with its jagged cliffs and towering Redwoods adorning the crystal blue sky. Air so fresh and crisp every breath invigorates. Peace. Calm. Beauty. Home.
We left Los Angeles early on a Sunday morning, arriving in time for dinner. The studio trucks had arrived days before. They had set up down the road from the old mansion that would serve as the "Marsten House" - 850 Bluff Street, Ferndale in Humboldt County.
We picked up a few groceries at the local market and checked in to our room. We settled in for the night, preparing for our early 6 am call the next morning.
Settled in 1852, Ferndale is a charming, Victorian town with a population of about 1000. Historic storefronts line Main street where locals greet visitors with a welcoming smile.
Barry and I and much of the crew stayed at the Ivanhoe Hotel. The main players, David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia, James Mason and others stayed in local B and B's or in personal motor homes. Such was the case for David Soul. His motor home was lovely and adorned with all the comforts he required. It was a good time for David as he was riding the crest of his four-year success with the television series - Starsky and Hutch - and a hit song, "Don't Give Up on Us". David was fun and warm. When he wasn't on the set, you'd find him in his motor home, door open playing his guitar. I enjoyed our off-set time together listening to him strum and sing and chatting about life. I enjoyed being his stand-in.
(A stand-in for film and television is a person who substitutes for the actor before filming for technical purposes such as lighting and camera setup.)
As you probably know, Salem's Lot is based on Stephen King's 1975 best selling horror novel. Mr. King was on the set nearly every day as our technical advisor. He was an interesting character to say the least. A very bright man and also very quiet. He used to pace back and forth on the set with his hand clasped behind him. One afternoon, I got up the nerve to introduce myself. He looked up with a slight smile and said hello. I told him I was a big fan of his work and said that I was amazed at how prolifically imaginative he was in his writing. "Thank you," he replied. "I have to write. Everday. If I don't, I would go crazy." He went on to tell me that of all his books, Salem's Lot was his favorite.
Reggie Nalder, 72, was a charming Austrian actor. and a consummate professional. Sadly, I didn't get to talk with him much. When not called to the set, or spending long grueling hours in make up, he kept to himself.
James Mason and his wife Clarissa were absolutely lovely. Mr. Mason was chatty, witty and a fine actor in all regards. However, the two actors that were hands down my favorites (other than David) were George Dzundza (Cully Sawyer) and Geoffrey Lewis (Mike Ryerson). We shared so many laughs together. They made our long hours fly by.
In fact, George, Barry and I maintained our friendship for the next couple of years, grabbing a beer whenever time permitted.
There were many others cast members I could mention. Suffice it to say, if you don't see their names above it is either because I spent very little time with them or because I don't have anything positive to say..a road I’d rather not go down.
During the shooting, Tobe Hooper and Bonnie Bedelia were quite the item. Tobe was single. Bonnie was not. No surprise she divorced her husband Ken Luber the following year (1980). I found Tobe to be a talented director, albeit extremely hyper. Tobe loved his Coke..both kinds. The white powdery version was plentiful back then and said couple was indulging daily as were many others.
After roughly 8 days of shooting in Ferndale, we returned to the Burbank Studios to finish all the interior shots. The sets were amazing. The way they created the inside of the Marsten House was frighteningly perfect.
In the film, poor Danny Glick (Brad Savage) was bitten and then hospitalized with acute anemia. I had the good fortune of being cast as his nurse while he was in the hospital. Producer Richard Kobritz liked my scream so well that he used it in some of the short promotional trailers. That was awesome. Residuals flowed in for years to come.
Of all the films I worked on, this was my favorite. Cast and crew were great. Money was awesome, and life was as good as it gets for this 23 year old.
See ya next time on the silver screen...