It was such fun to spend my late teens and early twenties in the company of superstars like the Monkees, David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman and Elvis. But I usually had just as much fun when I would be choose to interview or cover a potential new teenybopper star. I say potential because once producers caught on that introducing their young talented actors or singers in Tiger Beat sometimes helped turn them into instant stars, I received A LOT of requests to interview unknowns. The requests came from TV studio executives, public relations executives and record execs.
One I remember fondly was being invited out to the set of “Land of the Giants” to interview the teen actor Stefan Arngrim who starred as Barry Lockridge on the science fiction TV show “Land of the Giants,” which first aired on ABC TV in September 1968. Set in the then-future year of 1983, the series tells the tale of the crew and passengers of a sub-orbital transport spaceship called the Spindrift. In the pilot episode, the Spindrift is en route from Los Angeles to London via the ultra-fast route of a parabolic trajectory. Just beyond Earth’s boundary with space, the Spindrift encounters a strange space storm and is transported to a mysterious planet where everything is twelve times larger than its counterpart on Earth. The Spindrift crew calls the inhabitants “the giants”. Everything on their planet is built to their scale — buildings, cars, animals, etc. The Spindrift crashes on this planet and becomes inoperable.
The show had been on for a couple of months, but I had no clue what it was about when I went out to the set to interview Stefan. You can imagine my surprise when I arrived at 20th Century Fox Studios and went inside the first soundstage to meet Stefan. All around me were giant props, a matchstick bigger than a baseball bat, a “human” hand twice as tall as I was. This was cool! Stefan was a very nice boy, a young teen and yet he also exhibited a maturity that many child actors possessed. He could carry on an adult conversation and took an active part in my interview and my personally guided tour of the set.
During our interview Stefan told me about his new hobby photography. “I do character studies, and now I’m trying
my hand at fashion photography. I’m sort of trying out techniques and if someone is wearing something I love, I’ll shoot it. Like Angela Cartwright goes to school with me and when she comes in wearing something I like I’ll usually shoot that. I’ve always got a camera with me.”
He also told me all about playing in a band and when the band broke up he just continued writing songs.
I hadn’t thought about Stefan for many years, but as I Googled him to get his birth date, I found out he has had a very successful acting and music career! You can read about his career at http://www.stefanarngrim.com/bio.htm
Another “B” list fave, or at least that’s how it began, was Kurt Russell. I had interviewed him once at his home, a “day in the life” story, for Tiger Beat. The publicist out at Walt Disney Studios kept calling me and asking me to please come out to the studio and do a story on the star of their new movie, a musical, “The One and Only Original Family Band.” I was usually agreeable about doing stories on the “B” list actors or singers because getting to know them at the birth of their careers always paid off if they really hit it big. I liked Kurt and his family and having worked at Disneyland during my high school years, I also thought it would be fun to see the Disney Film Studios.
Before we went onto the set, the publicist gave me a golf cart tour of the studios and the sound stages. An amazing thing I learned was that the studios were built during World War II. Walt Disney had enough money to build the studios from the success of his “Mickey Mouse Steamboat Willie” cartoons, but he had to get special permission from the War Department to build a studio of this size, as building materials were rationed and much of the labor force was serving in the armed services. The War Department agreed to let Disney build as long as the studio was designed in such a way that it could be turned into a hospital immediately if needed. So, as we walked through the studio the publicist showed me how the doors were all wide (enough to accommodate wheelchairs) and the doors did not have regular door knobs or locks, but instead had the big hospital pull handles and windows in the doors.
It was exciting to see the cartoonists at work at their big drawing tables. Disney was making motion pictures, but they were still doing the animated films that were so loved by the public.
Once the tour had ended, I met with Kurt and his mom and we would talk in between filming of his scenes. Kurt was always one of the most down to earth “celebrities” I had ever met. He told me all about how disappointed he was at the timing of this movie because it meant he couldn’t play for Thousand Oaks High School baseball team that season. Kurt loved baseball and eventually played for the Angel’s Class A Bend, Oregon Rainbows club as a switch hitting second baseman. He loved going to school on the studio lot, though, and told me, “On the set we only have to attend school four hours a day and I learn more than I do in a week at Thousand Oaks High.”
Of course, we all know just how far Kurt went in his acting career. I continued to cover him for a couple of years,
once joining him for horseback riding at his family’s home where they had several horses. I couldn’t help but laugh years later when my sons were 4 and 5 years old their favorite movie was Kurt’s “Big Trouble in Little China” and they would watch it over and over again. And I have probably watched “Overboard” at least a dozen times.
These are but two of the soon-to-be stars I would interview over the years. Are there others you’d like to read about?
Good times. . .Ann Moses reporting about “back in the day.”