Right Stuff listed for 6/9/2003 at the Egyptian
space suit prop used in the film
rocket plane prop used in the film
X1-A prop used in filming The Right Stuff
Yeager and Barbara Hershey stop for questions and photos on the red
with the life size Mercury capsule prop
and I attend the 20th anniversary screening
tells the photographers how it will be done
Scott Paulin poses for a photo with Mary
Yeager poses for a photo with me
Cooper is introduced in the theater
Cooper, Mary, and me after the 20th anniversary screening of The Right
Stuff at the Egyptian
was the 20th anniversary of the release of the movie “The
Stuff”.To honor that anniversary,
Warner Home Video re-released the movie as a deluxe two disk DVD
On June 9th, 2003, Warner Home Video and
Cinematique celebrated the re-release with a reception and viewing of
at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, California.
the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, my wife Mary and I were guests of
Astronaut Gordon Cooper for this special screening and reception for
Stuff.” This is my story of our Hollywood experience.
and I were scheduled to fly out to Los Angelus on an America West
on Saturday, June 7th,
2003.Our travel experience was anything but smooth.
got to the airport about to check in for our
flight. We did not
think it would any good to get there earlier since the airport would
not be open before that.We were shocked
that already at
there was a line of about 200 people waiting to check in at the America
asked an America West employee if they had electronic check-in and
they did.Within 5 minutes Mary and I
were checked in and avoided that terrible queue of 200 people.
boarded the Airbus 320 and after some time we were greeted by the voice
pilot over the load speaker.The pilot
informed us that there was a problem with the computer that controls
control surfaces of the airplane.That
sounded like a very important computer to me.
pilot told us that it was nothing to worry about.They
would power the computer down and reboot
it just like our home PC.I prayed that
the flight control computer did not run Microsoft Windows.
a while the pilot told us the bad news.The
computer did not reboot.We were already
an hour behind schedule and it would take longer. A
technician was called to look at the issue. So we waited.
hour later, the pilot informed us that the technician arrived and was
reboot the computer with some effort.He
assured us that the computer was fine for flight.I
took off from the runway at about 2 hours behind the scheduled
Thankfully the computer did not act up in flight.With
our two hour delay, we missed our
connecting flight in Phoenix.
good news in Phoenix
was that the America West representative had boarding passes already
for us on a different flight with new seat assignments.Mary and I found that we were bumped up to
first class.I thought that was pretty
good fortune for us since not everyone on our flight was bumped to
were excited.Sadly that excitement was
misplaced.When we boarded the airplane we
found that it was
only a small commuter
plane.First class seating on this
flight really bought you no extra service on that plane.They couldn't even serve alcohol before take
finally arrived at LosAngelusInternationalAirport
about 2.5 hours behind schedule.Our
luggage wasn't so lucky; it missed the connection in Phoenix.At
least the airline representative handling the
luggage claim was very nice.They told
us they would send it to our hotel when it arrived. It was amazing but
I really wasn't stressed at
all. As long as my luggage arrived before Monday night's premier I
really didn't care.
and I then went to Hertz to get our rental car.The
rental car was supposed to be there waiting with
my name on it and
the keys in it. That is the standard practice for a Hertz Gold Club
member. We were shocked to learn that our
not there.I learned that Hertz cancels
if you are over two hours late.A little
more delay but they came up with a car for us.
took a circuitous route to our hotel to check out some of the local
scenery.This was Mary's first trip to California
and I wanted to show her around.Our
first stop was VeniceBeach.I
had been there 21 years ago and found it to
be a pretty strange place with weird patrons.This
time is seemed much more sedate and touristy.
were still remnants of odd behavior though. We noticed a large crowd
looking at a stage. We stopped to see what was going on and found it
was “The Sexiest
Woman in LA” contest.Madam Heidi Fleiss
one of the judges. The contestants paraded around in thongs displaying
their assets. There are reasons why the public display of thongs should
banned in most states and I think we saw a few of those reasons in that
we drove up to Santa Monica
to the pier.At the Santa Monica Pier,
have restaurants, shops, and a small amusement park. At the end of the
a Mexican restaurant and we ate there.I
chose seafood burritos from the menu.I
just had to try them, since seafood burritos are not a common menu item.
our meal we strolled through the amusement park on the pier. I was able
Mary into riding the Ferris wheel.Mary
doesn't like heights, so it was no small feat in getting her to agree
this.If you couple that with the fact
this Ferris wheel overhung the water and it was truly a thrill ride. Fortunately Mary did fine and we really
the spectacular view.
wanted to take Mary back to Hollywood
via Mulholland Highway
and Mulholland Drive.
I had been on these roads many years ago and remembered them to be very
scenic. The road follows the ridge line
of the Santa MonicaMountains
and the Hollywood Hills.
time I discovered that it was really pretty hard to find Mulholland Highway from the coast.There was a lot of construction going on and
at one point we even found ourselves dead ended into a private gated
estate. No doubt we were being watched with security cameras.
a few stops and starts we found our way back to Hollywood.We
were getting pretty tired at this point
and we looked forward to relaxing in our hotel.
wanted our hotel to be special for this trip so I selected a boutique
called the Le Parc Suites Hotel.This
hotel is nestled in a residential neighborhood in West Hollywood. It is located near the
intersection of Melrose
and La Cienga. If you are looking to get away from the hustle and
bustle of Los
Angelus, you can certainly get lost at Le Parc Suites.
suites include a kitchen/dining room area, a living area with a gas
and an elevated bedroom area.Each suite
has a private balcony.They have a CD
player, a DVD player and Nintendo on the television. There
was even a doorbell.
the best feature of this hotel though, was its rooftop swimming pool.Around the pool there are ample seating areas
which are either covered or shielded from the sun by umbrellas.A fabulous view of the Hollywood
hills is available is available from this vista.
One thing that was
visible in the hills was a huge lighted skull and cross bones with a
red pirate bandana. This display was a harbinger for the movie,
“Pirates of the Caribbean.”That
ominous and illuminated pirate symbol added
a sense of mysticism to our twilight view of the Hollywood
and I chose to dine at a candlelit table by the pool that night.For most of our dinner we were the only
patrons at our rooftop location.It is
difficult for me to conceive of a more romantic setting.
next morning was Sunday, June 8th.We
had a nice leisurely breakfast in the restaurant
of the hotel.This dining experience was
intimate.There were no crowds. We
dined in peaceful serenity.The food was
an advertisement, back at the room, we noticed that the musical “The
playing at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood.This
musical production was starring Martin
Short and Jason Alexander.
Pantages Theater is a Hollywood
landmark.It originally opened on June 4th, 1930
and has a long and colorful history.We
thought it would be nice to see a production at such a historical venue.There was one catch. We didn't have tickets!
all of our travels there has been only one time when a concierge has
helped us.That time was during our stay
at Le Parc Suites.The concierge was
able to obtain tickets for us to that afternoon's show.The tickets were in the center of the theater
4 rows back from the stage.They were the
best seats in the house. It's good to be king.
and I really enjoyed the musical.Short
and Alexander did a great job. The architecture and glitz of the
something to behold. It was worth the price of
admission just to admire the architecture.
Monday, Mary and I had a tour of Warner Brothers Studio.It was a great tour.A
highlight of that tour was a stop where
props were displayed from the history of Warner Brothers
pictures. A special treat for me was Professor Fate's
submarine from "The Great Race."
floor was dedicated to the recent and very popular Harry Potter movie.We wished our granddaughter had been with us
to see those props since she was a big Harry Potter fan.
was also the day of our “Right Stuff” gala at the Egyptian theater.The excitement was building for us as the
time drew near.The reception was
supposed to start at
with the screening at .
and I got to the area around the Egyptian Theater a little early for
reception.Robert Perlman was supposed
to meet us there and he was supposed to escort us into the reception.He had not yet arrived.
pass the time, we decided to get a glass of wine at the Pig ‘N Whistle
restaurant which adjoins the plaza for the Egyptian theater.The restaurant has been renovated back to
appear as it did in its glorious past. It was a nice place for us to
before our Right Stuff event.
from days gone by of the Pig ‘N Whistle included the likes of Spencer
Shirley Temple, Loretta Young, Howard Hughes, Barbara Stanwyck, and
Garland just to name a few.
Pig ‘N Whistle served food for movie patrons at a time before
came into vogue.A side door out of the
restaurant onto the Egyptian Theater plaza facilitated ease of movement
movie patrons. The renovated restaurant is truly a Hollywood
midway through our drink, Robert called my cell phone to let me know
had arrived at the theater with his sister.They
met us in the Pig ‘N Whistle and sat with us
while we finished our
got a flavor of a glitzy Hollywood
premier when we stepped out from the Pig ‘N Whistle.A throng of autograph hounds and
photographers had assembled on the sidewalk hoping to get a glimpse at
arriving star.The voyeurs were kept
nice and orderly behind a velvet rope to avoid chaos.Security guards maintained the order.
whisked us past the voyeurs and through security into the plaza for the
Egyptian.A red carpet had been put down
for the impending arrival of the stars.Spot
lights illuminated the plaza like they do for
the walkway to the
Academy Awards.This was Hollywood
baby and we were part of it!
the entrance of the theater were some actual props from the filming of
Right Stuff.”There was a life
size Mercury capsule, a large model of the X1 rocket plane and a large
the X1-A rocket plane.Electricity was in
the air and it just wasn't from the cords powering the spot
barrage of camera flashes signaled the arrival of a star.This star happened to be Barbara
Hershey.Close behind her was a man who
was not an actor.He was truly one of
the right stuff brethren.It was
legendary General Chuck Yeager.
Yeager exuded his
presence.He was not
dressed up in some monkey suit.Yeager was
adorned with a simple white baseball hat and a sleeveless dark green
vest over a navy blue short sleeved shirt.He
looked more like he was outfitted for a hunting
trip than he did for
a walk down a Hollywood
There was a certain
attitude that Yeager
projected.He had nothing to
prove and no one to impress.He had come
face to face with the demon in the sky and he triumphed.How could anything after that battle intimidate such
stopped with Barbara Hershey for a few questions by the press.He then moved over towards the rocket plane
props from the movie.Photographers
hovered around Yeager like a school of sharks sensing blood.I was one of those sharks.It was a rush to be one of the
was trying to get Yeager’s attention for their photo.Not fazed by their pleads, Yeager told the
photographers exactly how it was going to be.A
few quick shutter releases and Yeager slipped away
from the cameras
into the relative solitude of the reception in the theater lobby.
the photos was fun, but Mary and I had passes to go into the reception.Why should we mill about with the common
photographers, when we could rub elbows and chat with the
famous? We were, after all, guests of the legendary
entered the theater and saw tables offering delectable hors d’oeuvres.Bartenders were keen to serve whatever
libation was desired.People milled
about in small clusters.
had brought with me an Easton Press leather bound copy of Tom Wolfe’s
“The Right Stuff.”It seemed like a good
keepsake to have autographed at this event and everyone seemed happy to
oblige our request.
first actor that we met was Scott Paulin who played Astronaut Deke
the movie.Paulin was very friendly to
us and was more than happy to pose for a photo with Mary.
Yeager was off to the side of the room by himself.We introduced ourselves and inquired about
the possibility of posing for a photo and a signature.He was less guarded in this environment than he was
out on the
red carpet.General Yeager was gracious
and accommodated our request.However, it
was apparent to me that he would rather be out fishing for trout or
Cooper arrived and we introduced ourselves to him.We thanked him for inviting us to be his guests at
event.Cooper was very friendly. His
voice, although weak. still pointed back to his Oklahoma
origins.He sounded more like a cowboy
than a rocket pilot.Cooper graciously
signed our leather copy of “The Right Stuff”.
continued to mill about when suddenly Robert approached us with a great
concern on his face.The original plan
called for us to sit right next to the Coopers in the theater.Cooper’s agent changed that plan and said
that Cooper would be sitting on the aisle. Robert assured me that he
the situation resolved before the movie started.
told Robert not to worry about it.Even
if we didn't get to sit right next to Cooper, that was Okay.We were still his guests and a few seats over
really wasn't going to matter in the grand scheme of life.
time came for people to take their seats.Robert
escorted Mary and me to our seats.Here,
once again, two decades later, "The
Right Stuff" was being shown on the silver screen. Just
in front of our
row of seats were seats reserved for the guests of Chuck Yeager.
The lights went down and we were back in those historical
days pursuing the speed of sound. There
is one part in the movie where the scene portrays Astronaut Gordon
falling asleep in his Mercury capsule while waiting for launch.
this darkened theater, I fell asleep watching “The Right Stuff” in the
all this excitement.
felt somewhat embarrassed at having fallen asleep during the movie, but
think I was alone.It was late and I was
exhausted from traveling.
the movie the actors, producers, and of course General Yeager and
Cooper were introduced.There was a
question and answer session where the audience could ask questions of
of the questions seemed to fall to General Yeager and the producer.At one point, someone asked a question to
Gordon Cooper. It was difficult for Cooper to respond to a question in
forum.Suffering from Parkinsonism, it
just was not easy for Cooper to answer.General
Yeager intervened and said, “Let me field
that one Gordo.”It was a kind gesture on
the part of Yeager.
the question and answer session, Mary and I thanked Astronaut Cooper
experience.I mentioned to Cooper that
like he did in his capsule I had fallen asleep in the movie.Cooper smiled and responded, “That was a
really long movie.”
had our photo taken with astronaut Cooper.Somehow
a finger print had gotten smeared on my
camera lens.The result was that our photo
with Cooper was
somewhat clouded.The effect was fitting
as we felt like we were on cloud nine.
the Coopers and their agent left, we headed down to the stage where
some of the
actors and producers stilled milled about.More
autographs were added to our “Right Stuff” book.
Goldblum came by to talk with another of the actors.I had always admired Goldblum as an actor and
wanted to talk to him.Unfortunately, I
could not really think of anything appropriate to say.At last minute I reached out my hand and told
him “Hello, my name is Jerry, it is a pleasure to meet you.”Stoically, Goldblum responded, “It is a
Sadly, our Hollywood experience and our brush
with the right stuff had come to a close. One
thing was certain. It was a trip that exceeded our wildest