On The Jazz
On The Jazz Newsletter: Volume 1 Issue N°14

Date: March 12, 1995
Author: Nicole Pellegrini
Download: otjv01i14.zip

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The totally unofficial A-Team electronic mail newsletter


Submission address: [email protected]
Administrivia: Nicole Pellegrini
[email protected], [email protected]
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DATE: March 12, 1995
ISSUE: 14
VOLUME: 1 
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Hi ho everyone!

Well, thanks to spring break I managed to finally finish transcribing the TV Guide article, so here's the last (and rather lengthy) bit of it...


The big action sequence after lunch involves two helicopters in a chase past a pool-side coctail party.
Preparations are elaborate. Stunt and effects coordinators stand by the main camera and relay instructions from the director to the copter pilots via walkie-talkie. An assistant with a bullhorn shouts directions and warnings at atmosphere people and onlookers: "Pay attention to me, please! We can't afford to make mistakes! If you don't have to be here, go to the other side of the building!"
At the call of action, the pool-side tableau moves into life. The helicopters wheel and hover, the gusts from their blades bending the palm trees. A table overturns, scattering food and crockery. Stuntpeople leap into the water. The stench of explosives fills the air, and a thick mist of dust obscures everything.
Director Gil Shilton, wearing a gray-checkered cap and blue nylon windbreaker, calls up anxiously to the second camera operator on the roof above him: "We got the stuff? OK, great."
With the speed of an army unit, the crew grabs equipment and heads for the trucks, on the move to another location before they lose the light. A crew member, jazzed by all the action, thumps me on the arm as he strides past. Beaming, he says: "Pretty interesting stuff, huh? You're with the A Team now!"

DAY FIVE. Mr. T is subdued. He sits quietly in a chair in the lobby of the Arco Center, a Long Beach skyscraper. On his head is a goofy cap with a red rooster's comb, a gift from A-Team co-executive producer Frank Lupo. "Feels like a draft in here," T murmurs. One of his brothers immediately wraps an orange-and-brown wool shawl around T's huge shoulders. Mr. T has two of his own brothers with him on the set who keep him within sight at all times, big men with builds to match his own. One of them weilds some sort of steel exercise bar with plastic grips at the ends and middle.
Thinking to exchange pleasantries during this idle moment, I approach him. "Morning, T," I say.
In an instant, Mr. T transforms himself into a rigid Buddha, a stone statue wrapped in a brunt-orange shawl. Glaring straight ahead, he concentrates on making me invisible.
"Is there a problem?" It's one of his brothers, the one in the purple sweatsuit and the flowing LeRoy Neiman mustache. "I don't think so. I just wanted to talk to T for a minute."
"Oh, I don't think there's much chance of that, unless it's a matter of life or death."
"Hmmm. How 'bout during lunch then? Or maybe later this afternoon?"
"I'd say that's a definite no. He don't like to give up his lunch. He don't like to give any kinda interviews while he's working."
The brother smiles, as if we share some private joke.

T's lassitutde passes once lunch is called. He and all the cast move quickly to run the gauntlet of fans (mostly youngsters) who stand waiting outside the Arco Center. "I'll pose for pictures later, after work," T promises as he trots toward the food tables, "but not now, please!"
In the vacant lot where the caterers have set up, Mr. T wastes no time finding the desserts. "Put a whole pie on there, man! Gimme a whole pie! Aw, man! This what we *got* to have!"
Meanwhile, Benedict sits in his trailer perusing the Nielsen ratings. "No. 2," he says in a tone close to wonder. "60 Minutes is No. 1 and A Team's No. 2...."
Talk turns to the A Team's network, and Benedict says, "NBC doesn't like to discuss this show too much publicly. They're a snob about their own prodcut. They've come out as a network that's interested in Emmys, 'quality programming.' In their minds, this is not an Emmy kind of show; this is succumbing to 'mass entertainment.' It's such a terribly hypocritical predicament to put yourself in...."
Benedict was raised in Montana ("My childhood was Hemingway: hunting, fishing, riding"), and he says he got into acting because it seemed to him "a great adventure." Classical training and reperatory work led to Broadway roles and then on to Hollywood, where the thought of staying on a series for a number of years is not a happy prospect.
"Not because I find it professionally frustrating. Hell, I'm in the No. 2-rated show! How often does *that* happen? This is a great adventure in itself, but...after a while it becomes the Known. No surprises. It's the Known. I want the Unknown. So the idea of doing this for five years--well--I just gotta take it a day at a time."
A knock on the trailer door signals the end of the half-hour lunch period.
"Scuse me," says Benedict, "I gotta bruch my teeth."
From the sink, he asks, "Have you talked to all the guys?"
"Not quite."
"Well, there ain't a dummy in the bunch. 'Cept me, maybe. I'm the dumb blond." Teeth brushed, he checks his wardrobe in the mirror. "You don't have to be bright to be a TV star," he says. "You don't even have to be a human being! You can be a chimpanzee or a dog. I mean, what are we *talkin'* about!
"It's the bottom line, isn't it?" He laughs. "It's unbelieveable. But human beings start to believe it! A dog doesn't. Benji doesn't say, 'Yes. I'm different from those other pooches.' Huh? He's just a *mutt*. And that's all we are: a buncha mutts, and we're in a show, so all of a sudden people want autographs and somebody'll come in your trailer and interview you, but--the fact that we're having this conversation ain't got *nothin'* to do with Dirk Benedict. *What-so-ever*!"

Back in the lobby of the Arco Center, a woman from the crew is taking up a collection for the stuntman injured two days earlier. "It's George's idea," she says. "No names; it'll just say 'from the company'." The man suffered some displaced vertebrae and will be in the hospital for a week, but it looks as
if he'll be working stunts again before long. The A Team's first work of the afternoon involves the four guys, new girl in tow, blasting their way through a private door and past the lobby guard to escape in a hail of gunfire. As the scene is blocked, Mr. T takes issue with the way he and Peppard "We woudln't expose ourselves like that," T tells Peppard, "maybe got our legs all shot up. Man, we're professionals. We'd take cover."
"Well...let's see," says Peppard.
He paces through the motions, seeing whether he can duck a bit lower a bit sooner. When the scene is finally filmed the choreography will look virtually the same, but T's input will have been given due weight.
Moments before the actors' weapons are loaded with blanks, director Shilton takes a lok at the Lloyd's Bank branch adjacent to the lobby. Suddenly, something occurs to him. He asks, "Has anyonetold the people in the bank there's going to be shooting out here?"

DAY SIX. An overcast morning outside the Culver City sound stage.
Mr. T sits outside wearing a green bathrobe and his rooster cap, reading a magazine, a scowl of intense concentration on his face.
George Peppard, though, stans at his dressing-room trailer door with a smile and an open hand.
"Thomas! Come in, come in. Can I offer you a pop, or coffee? I hope I didn't offend you that day."
"Oh, hey," I reply.
"A newsman on the set should be known. Personally, I like tape recorders. That way, we know exactly what was said. So: turn on your machine. What do you want to talk about?"
The intense schedule everyone's alway mentioning seems as good a place as any to start.
"Well," he conceeds, "it's damned hard work. But then again, we're damned well paid. I feel very much that this show is a blessing, and that its success is due to the fact that God has smiled on us."
The role of Hannibal came to him, Peppard says, after a "really bad five-year period" of little employment. "I got a little movie here, little movie there, took another mortgage on my house...I was supposed to do a Broadway play. Someone else was cast. And I called my agent and said, "I want to do a television series."
"Two weeks later I was in [executive producer] Stephen Cannell's office. This all occured 14 months ago, and here we are today. So if you want to ask me if I'm a man who believes in prayer--yes, I certainly do."
And they've been going like this, on the killing schedule, for the last 14 months?
"We've been going like this for about...25 years," Peppard estimates, crinkling his blue eyes in a half-laugh. "I think we have about 10 years more before we finish this season, even. It's endless. At times it just seems inhuman. I mean, you can hear my voice this is about a tone lower than normal, maybe two. I'm just tired. I'm 10 pounds overweight. I can't get along on five hours of sleep a night. Right now I'm running on about two gallons of gas. I'm just trying to get through today! Survival is the real thing here."
But he doesn't go through all this alone, he points out. There's the crew--"a hundred-member family"--and the rest of his cast.
"When you're working these long days and everyone is weary, you look into another actor's eyes for help. And if they're not professional enough or good-hearted enough to make that effort, then your misery quotient goes up a notch. But if you look over there and there's someone working for and with you--it lifts you.

"When this season started I told the cast I wanted them all to become giant stars. I said if they could become big enough so that I could come on at the beginning of the program and say, 'Now team, this is the plan,' and then come back at the end and say, 'Beautifully done!' I would have achieved my ambition."
He's reluctant to talk of his past films, says he rarely looks at them.
But surely he watches The A Team?
"Always," he says. "That's part of the 'what-did-we-do-right, what-didn't-we-do-right, what-can-we-do-better.' Also, you know, there's some stuff I'm not in, and then I have some fun out of the rest of the cast. I've even laughed a couple of times at Hannibal, and that's unusual. There I have to give credit to the writers. Sometimes he's just irrepressible. You *know* he's going to pull off something that's typical of him, and if I'm just adequate in doing it--it comes out all right."
From somewhere nearby comes a burst of weapons fire. "Must be the A Team," says George Peppard.

*End of Article*

Well, hoped you all enjoyed that. Next issue I'll have something else interesting, I'm sure, but I'm not sure quite what yet... :-)

So with that it's now...
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TRIVIA TIME:
First, the answer to last week's trivia question. Writer Bill Nuss appeared very briefly as the "male contestant" in the "Wheel of Fortune" episode. And yes, I only first noticed this out of the corner of my eye while half-watching the end credits one day, so don't feel too bad if it slipped by you.

Here's possibly an easier one, but one *I* never noticed until I saw mention of it in an episode guide. We all know Marla Heasley played Tawnia Baker, but she actually had a small role in an episode before she landed that part. Who did she play and what episode was it? Answer to appear next week.

That's all from me and also all for the newsletter this time. So, until later...

nicole
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Quote of the week:

"Face, Face, you're *not* George Lucas!"
        --Hannibal in "When You Comin' BAck Range Rider"
-------------------------* End *--------------------------

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