John Boston | That Time I Played Bill Hart on a Miniseries

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Last weekend’s Fourth of July was spent quietly, inspecting fences and sprinkler lines, water tanks and bird baths. Didn’t see a single looter, firecracker or mouth breather. Wasn’t tarred. Wasn’t feathered. Didn’t sit in a Rolls, waving to people, like that Independence Day in Newhall so long ago. 

I now need a Mayan long-count calendar to cipher when Andy Jauregui’s granddaughter Camille and I almost got into fatal beau coup trouble with the local Parade Committee.

Cammy was movie-star stunning. Still is. In the most lady-like fashion, she was capable of saying those two words guys just love to hear: “OK!” 

Here’s the tale:

Today, everyone owns computers, printers and enough fonts to publish their own travel guide to India. In Sanskrit. Forgery wasn’t as easy 40 years ago. I hand-designed a major motion picture studio logo, Mega Epic Boffo Something Or Other, LTD. A photographer pal took steamy photos of Camille in a sombrero, Mexican skirt, peasant blouse and that killer smile and me in full period silent movie star hombre regalia. Both our faces were shaded by the giant hats. The lighting?

Steamy.

Using a friend’s Beverly Hills address and unlisted phone number, I claimed to be a big-time film exec producing a 10-part made-for-TV miniseries on the life of William S. Hart. You know. The most famous Western movie star who ever lived? His ghost still haunts that big, empty castle overlooking Downtown Newhall? Figuring the merchants might check, I borrowed an actual identity stolen from the Producers’ Guild, something mellifluous, like Abraham Adelman Ackerham. My producer alter-ego, Abe, humbly wrote that if it wasn’t an imposition, could my two miniseries stars ride in the parade?

You couldn’t pull something off like that today. Three seconds into Googling, a third-grader could see through the ruse. But back then? Hollywood was like The Holy Grail. Mysterious and inaccessible.

Anywho. We left Camille’s voice on the answering machine, welcoming any rare caller to Abe’s private line of Mega Epic Boffo Vainglorious Pictures and apologizing that we were all out of the country, scouting locations — for our upcoming not-so-mini-series on “Tumbleweeds On Fire — The Untold Story of Bandit/Murderer/Thespian/Nudist Wm. S. Hart.” A few days later, one of my Newhall rube captain of industry friends left a breathless message fawning over how completely groovy it would be to have us ride, on horseback, in the SCV’s Independence Day parade.

Oh! It was such a darn good plan!

At the last possible minute, we’d ride into the lineup, pretending to be Two-Gun Bill Himself and Señorita Hotsy-Totsy Hubbazita, Hart’s breathy secret love interest. Cammy and I were both horse people. We figured we’d act disinterested, like everyone in Hollywood, wave to the crowd then gallop like scalded banshees after the parade to a nearby ranch owned by someone possibly named Corky.

Alas. In war and parades, all plans go awry after the first explosion.

A week went by. A special delivery letter from the Newhall Fourth of July Parade Committee was waiting in Beverly Hills. Seems the Newhall’s parade organizers wanted me and the Camster to be DIVISION MARSHALS, which required us being driven in a fancy convertible.

With the top down.

Camille and I both contracted serious bouts of Scardy Cat Syndrome. Should we bail? No guts, no glory? We compromised. More dishonesty was called for. We changed the plan slightly. My BH pal would drop us off as the parade was starting, then pick us up at the end. We’d apologize and vamoose, the insane hope being neither Camille and I would be related to the driver. 

Our crime began to spin out of control. Now what?

Comes another letter — followed by frantic calls.

All the grand old buzzards of SCV Society wanted Cammy and me to be — are you sitting?

Grand. Marshals.

Could we provide movie posters for the marching baton girls to carry in front of the convertible? Oh. BTW. The committee had rented a Rolls Royce, just for us. A Rolls. Oh. BTW No. 2. Could we judge a pie or 12? Give a speech? DANCE at the dance? Meet the Chamber of Commerce’s inbred relatives and sign autographs?

Cammy and I were not just feeling ill. We were Going To Prison Sick. The two of us were hysterical, talking rat-a-tat-tat-tat in machine gun bursts, like Dillinger and The Lady in Red. When the enraged SClarita villagers discovered this was a Big, Fat, Ha Ha Not So Funny ruse, in lieu of fireworks, they’d burn us alive.

Worse?

Ruth Newhall.

Ruth, The Signal editor — my boss who already had me on Permanent Death Probation DefCon 5 — was asking me questions. Did I know anything about the two mystery actors, and, if not — Why? Ruth wanted to MEET THEM, Ruth wanted to do a big, splashy, giant UFOs-Land-In-Saugus front-page feature. With photos. Blaming the ruse on Camille’s sister Julie wasn’t going to work. The investigative reporter in Ruth would eventually discover Julie was 9 and get suspicious.

To this day, I feel we dodged machine gun bullets, lightning strikes, charging animals, Ninjas and yelling, lots of yelling. We extracted ourselves the same way we got in. Through lying.

I penned a short letter to the committee on the fake production house stationery. Funding for “Beneath the Planet of Bill Hart” dried up. Sorry. Can’t make parade. No miniseries. 

I’m so glad that’s behind me.

Funny thing? I’ve heard rumblings recently from Hollywood. 

Seems they’re planning an X-rated, loosely historical version of the St. Francis Dam Disaster featuring our saintly Presbyterian minister, Wolcott Evans and The Hooker With The Heart of Gold.

With a little padding in the right places, a Tweedie Bird’s giant grandma wig and bifocals, I see Camille as the gracefully aging libidinous fille de joie. On horseback…

John Boston is a local writer and, possibly, world-famous producer, Oscar-winning movie star and parade entrant…

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