My Favorite Week…

Most film fans are familiar with Richard Benjamin’s wonderful direction of Dennis Palumbo’s script of “My Favorite Year,” which chronicles a young writer’s experience on a “Your Show of Shows”-type live 1950’s television comedy show. In the film, young writer Benjy Stone (played with manic glee by Mark Linn Baker) is charged with the task of ‘babysitting’ (‘handling’ is the preferred term in Hollywood these days) drunkard and former matinee idol Alan Swann (portrayed by Peter O’Toole, nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the role). As the story unfolds, young Benjy (a thinly-veiled Woody Allen/Neil Simon-type character) grows in his understanding of the ‘real world,’ while Swann, in glorious denial, finally comes to grips with his estranged child, his movie reputation, and the pressures of live TV. The result is nothing short of delightful, and I urge you to see it if you haven’t already.

BUT – that’s not why I am writing about ‘my favorite week.’ Personally, I had my own Benjy Stone/Alan Swann experience when I was able to recommend to my alma mater that they invite one of their most illustrious (auspicious?) cinema star alumni back for a retrospective of his work.

 ‘Back in the day’ in Los Angeles, as a member of the Yale Club of Southern California board of directors, I went to an event that was also attended by Mr. Vincent Price, Yale Class of 1933; as a film devotee and big Vincent Price fan, I made a beeline to talk with Mr. Price. He was very warm and social, and we exchanged contact information.  Within hours, I must confess, I got in touch with a former college film professor who currently ran the Yale Film Study Center, and I related the eagerness Mr. Price expressed to be recognized by his university- something which hadn’t occurred in the 50 years since he had graduated, and which we all felt was well past due.

That was the genesis of ‘my favorite week.’ Within a few days, my old professor was lobbying his History of Art colleagues to host a week-long Vincent Price film retrospective, and, shortly after, they extended the invitation to Vincent Price. He was delighted – as was I, since it was agreed that, as a recent transplant to New York City, I’d head up to New Haven as well and be Vincent Price’s ‘handler’ while he was present at the retrospective for approximately four days. Things pulled together rather quickly, and Mr. Price arrived in New Haven in the spring of 1984.

Picking Vincent Price up at the New Haven train station  was an ordeal, because the place was undergoing renewal and Mr. Price was not at his best, healthwise. To be honest, I led the ‘welcoming party’ directly past Mr. Price; fortunately, he recognized me, and waved to gain my notice. Boy, was I embarrased! But we ultimately connected, and it was a truly fun experience from that point on…

To be continued…

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