Crazy Characters – John Board

I recall Sasha Fox’s mother telling me about how people behaved during the war, meaning during WWII. How there was a general devil may care attitude toward life and behavior, how a man she was walking with stepped into a pond without bothering to take off his shoes or roll up his pants, in a demonstration of how little he gave a fuck about anything. That is an attitude toward life that I admire, applaud, and to a certain extent, try to emulate. Because, really, when we come right down to it, how much does anything matter. Not giving a fuck can be a super power. Such an attitude can get you out of a jam, as it did for Don Scagel when the beer was dripping off the headliner of the VW and the cop was approaching. Such an attitude can also be wildly entertaining for bystanders, if not for those directly affected.

John Board was the first AD on “The Grey Fox” and, I think, wore several hats during that production. After the wrap on the final day of shooting, he took the cast and crew out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant. When it came time to pay the tab, John presented the waiter with a thousand dollar bill. The waiter looked at it in shock, likely having never seen one before.

“I can’t take that,” he stammered.

“Well if I can’t spend it,” John responded, “What the fuck good is it,” as he crumpled up the bill and threw it across the room full of diners, causing a mad scramble by the waiter to retrieve it.

John Board promoting homeopathic remedies while undergoing bee sting therapy for cancer.

John was my first A.D. on “The Hounds of Notre Dame”, my second feature film. As an assistant director he was amazingly supportive, very high energy, full of opinions and helpful ideas. We became very close after working together on that film, and I often stayed at his home in Toronto when I was in that city. I ended up writing a script based on his recollections of his father’s final days, but like so many of the movies I tried to get off the ground we failed to find any support for that project.

John definitely had his moments of not giving a fuck. Sadly, in the end, it was just about the only thing I admired about him. He was a firm believer in astrology, and no matter what logical arguments I presented to him, he could not be moved in his belief. He also was firm believer in homeopathy and put together a selection of “remedies” he marketed as the “The Hollywood Survival Kit”. Again, no appeal to logic could shake his belief and promotion of that dangerous fraudulent nonsense. He’s gone now, and I suppose I should be more generous toward his memory. But all I felt when he died was relief. The bullshit was finally going to stop.

Crazy Characters – Don Scagel

This, hopefully, is the first in a series. I got to thinking about Don Scagel. There’s a lot to write about with the guy, but one story comes to mind.

Back in the days of my youth, drinking and driving was more common than it is now. It’s hard to remember the joyfully irresponsible behavior that people got into, myself included, before so many of my friends started riding bicycles of necessity. MAD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, was just gaining traction. The new seat belt law was freshly on the books, resisted by many and a hard sell to much of the public.

Don and his buddies were out for a night of whooping it up. Beer was flowing because it was a mobile party. Don was at the wheel of a Volkswagen bug, with one good ol’ boy riding shotgun and three more zoomers in the back seat. One of the guys in the back seat thought it would be funny to give Don’s beer a good shake before handing it to him. The result was predictable. Don popped the tab and the can exploded all over him.

Beer was dripping from the headliner when Don pulled into a traffic check. Surprise. Don rolled down his window and with a big goofy grin on his face and a sheepish laugh said to the approaching officer: “Oh damn, officer. Ya got me. I’m not wearing my seat belt.”

“Ah ah.” says the cop, whipping out his ticket book. He hands Don a warning ticket, because they weren’t yet playing hardball over that issue. Don clicks his seat belt, nods to the cop, and drives on.

I don’t want you to think I’m condoning drinking and driving. I’m not. But I have to admire the craziness of life in those days. Consequences be damned.