A Storyteller, A Renaissance Man & A Show Biz Legacy featuring Bruce Belland and Susie Singer Carter
Bruce Belland pioneered boy band hysteria with The Four Preps. Hearts were won and minds were lost as The Preps created teen bedlam touring with Ricky Nelson. The Preps scored massive hits with 26 Miles, Down By The Station and Big Man before Bruce moved on to produce over 1000 hours of television including Wheel of Fortune, Name That Tune and Hollywood Squares.
We are also welcoming filmmaker Susie Singer Carter whose award winning short, My Mom and The Girl takes an achingly beautiful look at Alzheimer’s Disease while giving us Valerie Harper’s final soul moving performance.
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Louise Palanker (00:00:04):
Welcome to Media Path. I'm Louise Palanker
Fritz Coleman (00:00:07):
I'm Fritz Coleman
Louise Palanker (00:00:07):
Fritz and I are exploring the media landscape for you and recommending what you may like based on a highly scientific method, which we call telling you what we like. Today on the show, we are two guests strong. We'll be welcoming filmmaker Susie Singer Carter, who's award-winning short. My mom and the girl will move and warm your soul. And we have Bruce Belland, a boy band pioneer with the four preps, and a Renaissance man with more than six decades of diverse and fascinating entertainment industry accomplishments. First, Fritz, what are you recommending this week?
Fritz Coleman (00:00:40):
Well, as you know, I always have to call attention to a new Ken Burns documentary before it's released. You know, it's gonna be pristine, even when it's about something that has been supremely committed to a film since it happened, and that is the Holocaust. This one drills down on a topic that has either been swept under the rug, or at the very least, underreported. And that is our country's role in what happened in Europe during World War ii. The series is called The US and the Holocaust. It's three two hour parts on public television. One aired Sunday night. Part two was supposed to air last night, but a recap of the royal funeral bumped it. I'm assuming part two will run tonight, and then the third one tomorrow night if, uh, if it goes the way it was scheduled. This is a sweeping view of America's response to the greatest tragedy of the 20th century.
Very frank, very honest, often very unflattering looking in the mirror at the history of racism and antisemitism in our country. As the Holocaust unfolded in Europe, the US was unwilling to open its borders to even a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands of people who were seeking refuge. They called it restrictive quotas. This series asked the question, did America fail to live up to the ideals in its constitution? Why this work is so important right now is that it reflects on the rise of antisemitism and authoritarianism that grows all around us right now. Another cautionary tale screaming to us, please remember that this has happened and it could happen again. Uh, the first part was gut-wrenching, and it's a food for thought for many hours afterwards.
Louise Palanker (00:02:22):
Yes, I, I watched it too. And if you think about the, uh, the saying, circle the wagons, what we're talking about is people circling wagons because they're threatened by the people who lived there first and for centuries. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So it's like this whole kind of like mentality around the globe of, of being frightened of the outsider or seeing, you know, like, like little kids building a fort and saying, no girls. It's like the whole concept of like a fraternity or a sorority.
Fritz Coleman (00:02:49):
Us and them. It's the whole us and them like,
Louise Palanker (00:02:52):
I'm in, you're out. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And it's chilling to learn that Hitler was modeling his escalating dehumanizing of Jews after our Jim Crow laws and his herding, corralling and exterminating after our treatment of Native Americans. And of course, we enter the war claiming a moral hi high ground. It's so important that we teach our own history with honesty, which is what they do today in German schools. You are not culpable if your grandfather was a Nazi, but you do need to learn about what happened so that we can all understand what can go wrong to best ensure that it doesn't.
Fritz Coleman (00:03:26):
Louise Palanker (00:03:27):
So I watched a docu-series called Keep This Between Us. It's on Hulu and Freeform. As filmmaker, Cheryl Nichols re-exams her high school relationship with a trusted teacher. She uncovers an epidemic of widespread grooming, sexual abuse, and coverups in US high schools. Cheryl believed that she and her teacher were in love, but her devotion and deference to him came at the expense of friendships, experiences, and a coming of age that should have progressed at her own personal pace, rather than a course carefully outlined to meet the desires of her teacher. Cheryl was groomed to feel that this relationship was consensual, but the power imbalance was profound, and she was not, after all, at an age of consent. Most of us had crushes on teachers. It's their responsibility not to act on it. Another interesting dynamic highlighted in the series is that when Cheryl in her thirties reaches out to the classmates to better understand how they experience these events, this teacher and the school's culture, their initial reaction is to still blame Cheryl for coming on to the teacher. She was his favorite, and she was excluding them in favor of him. They were still not able to recognize that she had been the child in that scenario. Cheryl's purpose in this four-part series is to highlight just how common and mostly ignored this predatory dynamic is and how devastating it can be for kids. Keep this between us is on Hulu and Freeform.
Fritz Coleman (00:04:54):
Sounds awesome and very current
Louise Palanker (00:04:55):
Yes. So well done. So let us now welcome Susie Singer Carter. She has a film director and actor best known for her work on soul surfer brats, cake and Dance revolution. Her dramatic short, my mom and the girl is winning all kinds of awards. It is Valerie Harper's brilliantly touching Final Performance, and it's available for you to watch on. Prime. Welcome, Susie.
Susie Singer Carter (00:05:18):
Hi, Susan. Hello. Hi. How you guys doing? Thank you. You for having me. We're doing
Louise Palanker (00:05:22):
Great. Now, your film begins as you and your mom are struggling with her Alzheimer's. Tell us who she was before you were born and while you were growing up.
Susie Singer Carter (00:05:32):
My mom was, um, you know, like a lot of people with Alzheimer's. They were whole human beings that were dynamic. And she was a a, a singer. She was a protege At nine years old, she started singing opera on the East Coast. She was born in, uh, Bruce Springsteen's town. Mm. Asbury Park. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, she grew, she grew up on the East Coast. She went, she had her own radio show, and she was, was 16. She really had one of those amazing instruments. And then she came out to Los Angeles when she was 16. And, um, she signed with, uh, capital Records and was doing sort of, uh, contemporary jazz and, and, um, standards. And met my father who was an engineer and a, uh, a re he was pretty much a renaissance man in the, in the sound, sound industry. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and also was a trumpet player. And they connected at a, at a gig one night. And the rest is history. Here I am <laugh> <laugh>.
Fritz Coleman (00:06:31):
The thing about it is, though your mom was a very talented entertainer and had a huge gregarious, uh, full of life personality. And when she walked in the room, immediately took over the room and became very entertaining, she would break into song. Yeah. Which to me, made her fall into the abyss of Alzheimer's, even sadder, because it was this huge personality that just shrunk over time. And it made it even sadder than it might have otherwise been, had she been quiet and sort of off in the corner on her own.
Susie Singer Carter (00:07:03):
Yeah. Yeah. It, it's bittersweet because, you know, it's, it's a, it because of, because of her gravitas and her, uh, and, and her love of life, and her vie. She, you know, she, she li really even towards the, my mother just passed away seven weeks ago. Oh my. I'm so sorry. Yes, thank you. And, you know, it's, and all the, all the way to the end where, you know, even, even without language, she was, she was communicating with her presence, which was so strong, right? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, and you know, I always said my mom had more game than I have ever had <laugh> in a wheelchair without words, whatever it is. <laugh>. She'd look at a man and go, oh, hello, <laugh>
Fritz Coleman (00:07:49):
Susie Singer Carter (00:07:51):
And, and to this day, I mean, I have so many people from my, my stepson who thinks of my mom as like, you know, cuz my mom had that kind of sense of, of, of herself that was so beautiful and so healthy that she could, my mom was five foot tall, but she could look at, you know, as a, a leggy supermodel walking down the street and go, holy shit, <laugh>, are you gorgeous? Ah, <laugh>, let me look, let me look at you. Oh my God. You know, and my mom just could make you feel like a million bucks because she didn't have in, she wasn't insecure mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And she could really call it out and tell, tell, like, she would tell my my stepson when he was like 10 years old, you are gorgeous. You're like a movie star. Aw, <laugh>. And to this day, he would say, he says, I, you know, nanny, nanny always made me feel good cuz I didn't think I was good looking. And my, and she said, I look like a movie star. I said, you do. Aww. And, you know, it's something that stays with people
Fritz Coleman (00:08:45):
That, that personality trait showed up. When, when she has the encounter with a woman standing under the lamp and on the street, the street walker, and, and probably That's right. Complimented that woman more times in five minutes than she'd ever been complimented in her life and literally turned her around. It was really quite interesting. Was that a fairly true, uh, encounter?
Susie Singer Carter (00:09:05):
A hundred percent. Yeah. A hundred percent true. Everything, every moment in that film was a hundred percent true. And that's why I had to make the film, because I, I thought that, that when Arlanda my mom's, uh, caregiver, who started out as my, my daughter's nanny. Aw. And she became really obviously part of our family. Her whole family was part of our family. And when my mom started to exhibit her signs of, of Alzheimer's and Arlanda was just a natural. She knew how to, you know, get right in there, lean in, you know, redirect. She was just an amazing, she is just amazing. She
Fritz Coleman (00:09:44):
Was like the hero of the piece. I, I, I loved her. She was very patient. Followed your mom out in the middle of the street in the middle of the night. God bless
Susie Singer Carter (00:09:51):
You. Right, right, right, right. And she would say, you know, cuz she knew she would, when she first, when my mom was, before my mom was even living out of her own home, she would, she was helping her clean the house. And she would come on a Tuesday and my mom would forget that she was supposed to come and say, what are you doing here, <laugh>? I already paid you. Get outta here. Go home. <laugh>. So Arlanda would wait five minutes, ring the doorbell, get, and she'd go, Arlanda, come in, have some coffee.
Louise Palanker (00:10:16):
<laugh>. Oh my goodness. Well,
Susie Singer Carter (00:10:19):
She had that instinct, you know?
Louise Palanker (00:10:20):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, tell us about a shooting. It looks like you shot the film on location. Talk, talk about that experience.
Susie Singer Carter (00:10:27):
We did. We shot all over Los Angeles. We shot and Boyle Heights, which was, you know, where the, where she hails down the police car mm-hmm. <affirmative>, which happened for real, where she met the, um, transgender woman. And, um, we, we filmed it at night. Valerie was amazing. So was, so was Liz Torres and Liz and Val had this amazing relationship because they did a series together in the nineties. Oh wow. And, um, you know, when I, when Yeah, I'm getting off track, but yeah. All over Los Angeles and we shot, um, actually in my town home because I wanted it to reflect what it was like, and really just get a sense of what it's like to be, you know, that feeling of being woken up at four in the morning because you stole somebody's baby and, you know, and and being called every name under the sun.
And then that switching off in a second. Right? Yes. And, um, even to the, even to the, uh, the anecdote with the, with the, the, uh, valet park that, that really happened. I lived in a, in a work lived loft when my mom lived with me that year. And there was valet Parker was like, living in your own, in a, in a studio. Right, right. So people were coming, going. My mom would go up to the valet Parker and go, can you get my car? It's a Cadillac. It's brown <laugh>. And he'd got the first times, they were like, you don't, we didn't park your, your car. The hell you didn't. Where the hell's my car? You know, I'm calling the police. Right. <laugh>. So after a while, they got to know her and loved her and would say, Norma, your car is, um, is getting detailed. You don't wanna rush 'em. You pay a lot for that. She's like, Ugh, I love you. Right. <laugh>,
Fritz Coleman (00:12:08):
You know, you, you, you talked about police earlier in the encounter with police, which I think is a really interesting issue that you brought up police encountering a person with dementia or other challenges and, and to know the proper way to deal with that person. Al although, uh, the, the policeman in your piece was very respectful. He, he seemed to, he, he just took a deep breath and was patient with your mom. But we have this thing going on now where, uh, police interaction with mentally challenged people is really come being called under question. But no,
Susie Singer Carter (00:12:43):
It still is. But it's because actually it was a, she because, uh, the actress Don Marie Ferra, who is amazing, and she, a lot of that was so instinctual with her to, to allow Arlanda to show her a picture of the two of them so she could understand mm-hmm. <affirmative>, right. That they were actually, there was a relationship there because my mom would often, you know, forget who Arlanda was and they'd be, you know, out in the street walking and they'd be going somewhere. And then my mom would go, who are you? Good? What? Why are you following me? And she would, you know, hail down somebody. And the trouble, the problem is, is that's a, it's a very, it's a very severe problem that our first responders don't really know how to identify mm-hmm. <affirmative> what dementia or what Alzheimer's looks like. So it's mistaken for either aid the truth because they could be very convincing. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or B, mental illness, and they can get, and which happened to my mom at one point, she was locked up in a psych ward Oh goodness. For seven days. And so these are, these are huge problems because even in hospitals, they, they, you know, unless, you know, unless you're trained in it, you don't know what it looks like. Mm-hmm.
Louise Palanker (00:13:55):
<affirmative>. So how did you get Valerie and Liz? Because it's just, it's so beautiful, uh, their right relationship in the film, and they're just such pros.
Susie Singer Carter (00:14:04):
Oh, so beautiful. Yes. Well, I, I just took a chance. I, I, Peter Farley of the Farley Brothers at the d he was, it's a long story, but he was filming, he wanted to direct a piece for the diversity committee at, at the W g A, the Writer's Guild of America. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So, um, he read my script and he said, I'd love to, I wanna, I'd like to do the last scene. And so of course we were, so it was enabled me to, to workshop it. And he asked me my three top choices for my mom. Who would you, who would you, um, cast? And I said, well, I'd probably, well, I was thinking Laney Kaza, lady Kaza, who, um, I wrote a role for her in Brats, the movie. And she played Bubby. She played a Sephardic Jew, grandma <laugh>. And then, then, and so I was waiting for her to, to answer.
And I said, gosh, I haven't thought of anybody else. I said, you know, of course there's Shirley McClain that reminds me of my mom so much, you know, and then I do not know how Valerie Harper's name came into my head. I swear it's an angel, because I sent the script. My, my manager said, she's, come on. She's, she's, you know, America's sweetheart. She's not gonna do your a short film. Um, I sent the script to her manager, which turned out to be her husband, Tony Kati. And he called me, he said, who are you thinking of anybody else? And I said, well, just a few. He goes, well, call me when you're ready. I'm go, I'm ready. Let's go <laugh>. Wow. And so when I met her, it was like, she embodies my mother. She, she wanted to meet my mother. She loved the script. She just loved the script. It just spoke to her. Wow. Yeah. And, um, and it was meant to be. And it was, you know, just an incredible experience for all of us. We, you know, she passed away, Val, two years ago mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Um, and I, you know, I just feel like it was her gift to the world. It was a beau, it's a beautiful love letter and a, and a and a message. And, um, what can
Fritz Coleman (00:16:02):
I say? I, I don't know what the percentage of families that are touched by this disease, but it's gotta be like 40% of America. And I think this is a beautiful piece that will, they will relate to so beautifully. And I find it to be, there are endless documentaries about Alzheimer's disease and dementia, but dramatizing it and making it human like you did, I think made it even more powerful. And before we wrap up, I'd love to know, I know your mom's life ended just very shortly ago. We're very sorry about that. But, uh, tell us, uh, what the last part of her life was because, uh, did she finally end up in a, in a, in a, uh, a care facility?
Susie Singer Carter (00:16:40):
She did. And, and, you know, as quickly as possible, I'll just say that when I made up my mom and the girl, I wanted to show the positive parts of, of, of a disease that you can lean into it. And there's all kinds of gifts when you lean in and when you have lower your expectations, you can open your eyes and find gifts. Right. Which I did. Which, because when, when people, as they lose skills, other skills get fine tuned. Oh. And so my mother has always, always been there, always. And, and, you know, it's just, it's like Benjamin Button, but as, but what happens is, is that as they get, as they lose their skills, they, they need more care. So my mom did go into a skills nursing, but, you know, never, I was, I've always been very, very involved in her life.
But I am doing a documentary right now that, uh, based on that ending, because the, because it does, there's a, we, there's a big issue with the en with the, with our care, with our health system, and dealing with elders in their l say last third of their life mm-hmm. <affirmative>, and, um, it's called No Country for Old People. And we really need a, a, we need to revise what goes on and how we treat our, our elders as they, you know, progress into different stages of their lives. And, um, it's, it's, it's really a business right now. It needs to be person centered. Wow. And so that's my goal is to get, is to, you know, pull the curtain back, which Covid helped us do a lot. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But we need to really pay attention because we're all gonna get old, hopefully. And
Fritz Coleman (00:18:16):
Oh, some of us have already been there. I'm sending mail back from there already. <laugh>, Hey, listen, this is a beautiful tribute to your mother, and a beautiful gift to people who have been touched by this very complex disease. I, I've often thought, what would be the worst part if I had a parent who had Alzheimer's and neither did the, the hardest thing about it to me would be the, the time when your parents don't remember your name and has hap happened with you didn't remember that you were their child. That would be, that would tear my heart outta my chest.
Susie Singer Carter (00:18:49):
But, you know, I'll just leave you, leave your audience with this, is that I don't think they ever really do forget you. And I think that you might ask them, you know, if you, if you quiz them and say, what's my name? Do you know who I am? Da, da da, da da. They don't, that, that's not necessary because a baby knows who their mother is without words and without, without anything else, with just inner knowledge and, and our parents and our loved ones and our spouses, they're not gonna forget us because that love is so powerful. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That's why I say love conquers alls because it it does. And, and my mom never forgot who I was.
Fritz Coleman (00:19:25):
A lot of love in this movie. A lot of love in this movie. It's very beautiful.
Louise Palanker (00:19:28):
Watch a piece of work. You can watch it on Prime. So I say, everyone go watch it tonight. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it's just beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us.
Susie Singer Carter (00:19:34):
You So Susie, thank you. You're
Louise Palanker (00:19:36):
Welcome. You're a gift. Thank you.
Susie Singer Carter (00:19:37):
Louise Palanker (00:19:38):
And now I would, I would love to welcome Bruce Belland. Are you ready for your intro, Bruce? Because
Bruce Belland (00:19:44):
Boy, is this gonna be a lighthearted change of face? It really will. I, I'm very moved and touched in a, I've had several friends in the business and out that, uh, suffered with that. And that the thing, I was so touched by my friend Glenn Campbell, as he was on the w losing it, he, uh, he could get up on stage and play the most intricate guitar souls in the world. Remember every lyric, but didn't know his wife's name. And he finally wrote a song on his last album called, I Will Not, I will not forget. I will, uh, I can't, I will not miss you. I will not miss you. Meaning merely, I don't know who you are. I'm not aware of things like missing people now, but you will. And I'm sorry that's the way it is, but I'll always love you. I, that was quite lovely.
Fritz Coleman (00:20:28):
I, I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again because you invoked his name Eye opened for Glen at one of his final live performances at Sun City, the Dell Web Resort down in near Oh, California. And that, that was the great mystery to me at that time, his wife was managing the band, and two of his, his children were playing in the band. Yes. And he played an hour and a half of these great Jimmy Webb hits flawlessly with impeccable guitar solos and no searching for words in the songs, but offstage you couldn't hold a conversation with him without his wife having to sort of insert what you were asking. Yes. And, uh, it, it, I just thought, what an, it's, it's all about muscle memory and, but what an absolutely what an odd and interesting disease. But I just wanted say that. And I also say, welcome.
Bruce Belland (00:21:17):
Did you Thank you, Chris. You know, I, you and I have crossed path several times in the past. I was at N B C at the time, you were there at one point and, uh, at the Ice House, of course, with our buddy Bob Stain and Oh my god, Bob Fisher.
Louise Palanker (00:21:30):
Okay. You're both gonna have to take a, take a take a pause. Well,
Fritz Coleman (00:21:33):
We have to give you your proper intro. Introduce the man. Let to this conversation
Louise Palanker (00:21:36):
<laugh> so that our wonderful listeners and viewers know about Bruce. Okay. This'll be painless.
Bruce Belland (00:21:42):
Not, not everything. I
Louise Palanker (00:21:43):
Hope I wrote this myself. Please just say, oh wow. Sit back and enjoy it. Bruce Belland is a born entertainer. He's so packed with talent that his career spans a vast array of impressive accomplishments, including his creation in high school of the first boy band, the four preps, their hits 26 miles. And big man remain iconic. And Bruce has gone on to produce and create over a thousand hours of network television. Bruce is currently writing his fascinating memoirs, and he's taking a little break to join us right now. Hello, Bruce Gay Bruce. So I'm gonna go back, I'm gonna go back to your childhood for this first question because it sounds
Bruce Belland (00:22:16):
Like, Hey, Louise, by the way. Yeah. Hello. Louise. Hello. He never met. I feel as if I know you, Robert Morgan Fisher. My editor want me to give you his regard. So hello
Louise Palanker (00:22:24):
For him. Yes, he is. He and I worked together at Premier Radio, and he, for some reason, he knew as soon as you were booked, cuz he reached out to me. So, ha ha. I love that guy. So, I'm gonna go back to your childhoods because we're, you're gonna get talking with Fritz and then it's gonna be like off to the races, <laugh>. But, but your family moved to West Hollywood when you were 10, which was fortuitous for you because you knew you wanted to be a singer by the time you were four.
Bruce Belland (00:22:47):
That's right. Tell
Louise Palanker (00:22:49):
Us a little about that.
Bruce Belland (00:22:50):
Well, my father was a fundamentalist minister on the northwest side of Chicago. And when I was four years old, he drafted me to sing in the morning worship service. And the song they picked for me was God Bless America, Irving Berlin's new song. And, uh, when I finished the crowd, the congregation erupted and shouts and cheers and stood up and yelled Amen. And my father came over and hugged me and said, you are terrific <laugh>. And my moss sat at the piano, you know, with tears in her eyes. She was so proud. I thought, well, that's it. I I wanna be a singer <laugh> to tell that I wanted to play for the Chicago Cubs, my team. But that, that made up my mind. I really never looked back after that. I, from that point on, I listened to every singer I could, and, uh, just loved the whole idea of making my living, making music.
Fritz Coleman (00:23:36):
Mm-hmm. <affirmative> ha having a preacher as a father is interesting too. You had a great quote. Um, you said other fathers took their kids fishing or to a baseball game. Dad and I buried people, <laugh> <laugh>. I thought, well, that that's a great way to spend your youth. And so you, would you sing at these funerals or were you just an
Bruce Belland (00:23:56):
Assistant? Oh, I absolutely, I probably sang at a hundred of them. And in one in my book, uh, listen to unplugging it in my book upcoming, I talk about the one time when I was 14 and still kind of green. We did a service with a little lady organist, a wonderful little old lady with white hair and a flower dress and sensible shoes and too much makeup. And she was sipping from a flask in her purse, <laugh>. So by the time I got up to play Amazing Grace, she was playing it in the key of R
Louise Palanker (00:24:23):
Bruce Belland (00:24:24):
I just struggled through it because by then I had learned, especially in those funeral services with religious people, the lyrics are more important than if you're singing in tune or not. But it was really shook me up, but it was, again, I kept telling myself, well, this is what it's gonna be like if I'm gonna be a singer, these are gonna happen. So, so deal with move on.
Louise Palanker (00:24:43):
Yeah. Like you learned at, at very young age that musicians are often drunk <laugh> and you just have to work around it.
Bruce Belland (00:24:49):
<laugh> I wouldn't know a thing about
Louise Palanker (00:24:50):
That. Uh, of course not. No. That never, when you talk about on your website, I, I recommend everyone go even just like a, as a kind of like hors deu for your book, go to Bruce's website, bruce Belland.com, and you can read, uh, all the wonderful adventures of You being a little kid with a paper route in Beverly Hills. And, and talk about that a little bit for us. Paint
Bruce Belland (00:25:09):
The picture. Well, we lived in West Hollywood, which of course there's a very low income working class blue collar community, but we were buttered right up against Beverly Hills. And we were two blocks down from where the whiskey of Guro stood on Sunset Boulevard. It wasn't the whiskey at that point, but it would become that. And from 13 or 14 on, I started delivering the Hollywood Citizen news, which at that point was show business's favorite little hometown newspaper, a lot of gossip in it and so forth. So I delivered it on three streets in Beverly Hills. And if you're from la you know, the significance that they were Rodeo Drive, Beverly and Cannon mm-hmm. <affirmative> mm-hmm. <affirmative> between Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica. And my, my customers included Rosalyn Russell, Lucille Ball, Jimmy Stewart, Harpo Marks Jean Kelly, Jimmy g Duranti. And every chance I got, I'd hang around hoping one of them come out and get their paper. And I could talk from about show business, who
Fritz Coleman (00:26:02):
Is the best tipper.
Louise Palanker (00:26:03):
Bruce Belland (00:26:06):
Right, right away, uh, I had saw their lavish lifestyles. I remember dribbling flowers at one point to Ira Gershwin's Garden party for a hundred people who's who in Hollywood, in his backyard with a 20 piece band and lights strung across the, so I'm watching how these people live and thinking this beats the hell outta driving a truck. I'm going to do this. So it's just fortified my ambition. And, uh, you know, I grew up around show business. My playground was the back lot at 20th Century Fox, where we'd wander in and outta submarines and tanks and aircraft carriers and all kinds of stuff. So show businesses all around me. And then that got intensified when I got to Hollywood High. Of course.
Louise Palanker (00:26:47):
Yeah. So we,
Fritz Coleman (00:26:47):
We talk about, and you know, um, you, uh, say let's, let's talk about 10 and younger. You, you were a very small young man and you were subject to bullying, which is a really big topic in American culture right now. So talk about being bullied as a child and how it changed you.
Bruce Belland (00:27:05):
Well, I was, it happened to me so often that my father would've became time for me to attend, uh, junior High rather than enrolling me in our local junior high. Bancos had a very dicey reputation, a lot of tough kids from the inner city. He got me, uh, enrolled at Emerson Junior High out on the west side, which student body was made up of kids from Belaire, Brentwood, and Wesley, I'm a preacher's kid about five feet tall with blonde white hair, wearing hand-me-down clothes from the missionary basket at my dad's shirt. And I'm sitting next to kids who have been driven to school by a, they won't call 'em a driver, they call them a chauffeur. They call 'em drivers and girls with, you know, the different cashmere sweater set for every day of the week. And of course, being small right away that when they called me scrub and my nickname became scrub, cuz that was so little, and they just pushed me around.
Well, finally I learned that if I could make them laugh and make the people around watching us laugh, I might diffuse it. So I learned how to <laugh>, I learned how to imitate a couple of the most unpopular t-shirts. And if someone started to talk to me, I'd do Mr. Taylor say, well, let me talk you stop a young man, <laugh>. You simply can't talk to me that way. <laugh>. And everybody would laugh. And he kind of defused it. And then a guy came along that became my buddie and kind of took care of the buddies for the bullies for good. His name was Robert Redford. Wow. He was, I love that he was the golden boy at Emerson Junior High, already a, you know, gorgeous hunk of guy and terrific friend. He carried my books when I wrote my ankle. And, uh, it was just, it was quite an experience.
So, and then I also, a classmate was Bobby Driscoll. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, who was some movie fairs, may know, was probably the biggest child star since Shirley Temple. And he had just won a juvenile Oscar for a movie he made. And he was in the student mud there for about two weeks. But he caused such absolute chaos all over the campus, anywhere he went, that he finally gave up after two weeks and then dropped out. But it was quite a, quite a formative experience for me to be at that school, deal with bullies, learn how to diffuse the situation and make a friend.
Louise Palanker (00:29:10):
I then learn what fame looks like. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> so that you got
Bruce Belland (00:29:13):
Exact. It's funny, I say in the book, you know, I, because I do point out in the book that later Bobby Driscoll would die at age 30 in a, uh, in a walk-in flat in g Greenwich Village, uh, after serving time in a prison for drug abuse. And as I say in the book, and even watching what happened to him that day at school without leading a normal life, did not dissuade me. One moment I saw it wasn't all tin and glamor, but I don't care. I want the glamorous deal with, you know, so mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it was, was quite a lesson.
Louise Palanker (00:29:42):
But you kind of like, were cultivating all the skillset that you would later put into your stage show with the four preps was whi which was kind of like a vaudevillian, you know, full purpose act. And, and I wanna talk about that for a second because when you listen to the album, uh, your campus album, you're, you're hearing it <laugh>, but you're not seeing, you know, what were you guys doing? Were you guys, were you guys, well, let's back up for a moment. We're gonna get back to that. But first, okay, we create the four preps and the columnist called you four Clean Cut Milk Fed Kids from Hollywood High who are all the rage of late, wasn't everyone pretty clean cut back in the late fifties?
Bruce Belland (00:30:16):
Well, you know, we wore white bucks in, uh, short haircuts and Ivy League clothes. And, uh, we used to get kitted about how CLE cut we were. But that's just the way we grew up. I mean, I'm a preacher's kid. Two of the guys were Mormon, one guy was a jock, a football player. So we were pretty straight laced guys. And when I started Hollywood High School, I mean, I knew the history of the school. It's phenomenal. If you have any of you out there, a chance to check on Hollywood High's history, it's pretty amazing. Lata Turner went there. Mickey Rooney went there, Judy Garland went there, Carol Burnett, James Garner, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Ritter. So when I entered school, and let's not forget, my two guys that became my friends, David and Ricky Nelson from the Adventures of Ozzy and Harriet, they were all around me in the classroom.
I would have students sitting next to me in an afternoon math class that still had their makeup on from shooting at 20th in that morning. Wow. So it was very much a show, bis oriented school. In fact, I, some of the kids are even had moved with their parents to be in the district for Hollywood High in hopes that it would help their career. Well, there was a talent show every year there was a talent show and a lot of talent scouts would come to spot new young performers. And, uh, the school bulletin said the next day after auditions, oh, 35 girls, not one boy showed up to audition. Come on, there's gotta be some guys out there that can do something. So I went to my buddy Glenn Larson, and when I sang within the choir, I said, 35 to, are you kidding? We gotta, let's put it after together. <laugh>,
We grabbed two guys in the choir, we put 'em together. We, we went to Music City after school that day, bought a 45 record of Shabo by the Crew Cuts, learned it that night, auditioned the next morning. And of course, being the only guys we got, you know, books on the show we performed. We weren't called the four pep yet. In fact, the first time we went out for our first number, Glenn, who became my lifelong partner, a very competitive guy, the student body president is about to introduce us to, before he walks out on stage, what, what do I call you guys? I said, I don't know. So he goes out and says, ladies and gentlemen, the Bruce Belland Quartet. Well, Glen shot me and look, oh really? <laugh>. So we did, Shabo Stole the show, came off stage higher than the Kite. And Glenn, we had another number in 20 minutes. He said, okay, we got 20 minutes, minutes to think of a name for this group. So we're looking around, we school names were very good. The four freshmen were big, the four. So, so we tried the four grabs, the four scholars, the four classmates over on a nearby table was a prop newspaper from a play they did in the auditorium each night. And it was open the sports section with the headline that said, prep sports results for preps were born
Louise Palanker (00:33:04):
<laugh>. Awesome. That's and Prep. Is I short for preparatory or something like that. Right? Yeah. So you guys were always ready, <laugh> always
Bruce Belland (00:33:12):
Prepared. Oh boy, you bet. I get out of our way. We were driven, we were hungry. You know, look, Glen's Larson's mother was a widowed waitress who worked at Night up the hill at a restaurant on Sunset and he babysat his little brother. He worked at Ralphs as a bad boy. Ed Cobb, both parents worked full-time. One of 'em had two jobs at the phone company Mar was being raised, was an orphan being raised by his grandmother on Social Security check. And my dad's biggest take home his whole life was $145 a week.
Fritz Coleman (00:33:42):
I love the quote that you said, uh, the preps had show business goals that reflect a lot of the goals of show business greats. Number one, make a hit record number two, meet a lot of girls. And number three, ease the burden for your low income parents. Yeah, very touching.
Bruce Belland (00:34:02):
You know, I, I do these interviews a lot, I must say. I just love the way you guys have prepared and done your research and homework and even pronounced my name properly. I get Bruce Bolan sometimes. So let me tell you right here. Now, I'm enjoying the heck outta this. Oh
Louise Palanker (00:34:15):
Good. I, well, when it comes to a names, I, I, I watch other interviews and I watched to see what, oh, you know what I figured if you were on Network TV that they were pronouncing your name correctly. <laugh> <laugh>. So describe your live act cuz we can hear the comedy, the impressions, the harmonies, the entertainment in your live album on campus. And like half, more than half those songs are kind of parody songs. But that's right. If I had been there, what would I have seen on that stage?
Bruce Belland (00:34:41):
Well, we were determined from the start, not only because we thought it was a smart move that differentiated us from other groups in particular, but we couldn't help ourselves. Look, I grew up since age 10 with Ed Cobb. He was six four, I was five six. So right away you got comedy whether you wanted it or not. And we always had, we would do skits in summer camp, ed, ed and I, and we would make a big deal out of the, uh, difference in heights and do all kinds of comedy sketches. It's simply not my nature to get on stage as much as I loved being a singer and not be a little funny. And Glen was a very sharp, witted, highly witty guy. Uh, we loved him sat sati. We sat everything from Mel Elvis to The Beatles who sued us and uh, ah, <laugh>. So from the, from the very get with those summer camp sketches behind us with drama class where Glenn and I, for our final and drama class, we did word for word a Kyle Reiner, Sid Caesar routine about an absentminded mountain climber who comes out for the interview with a broken rope around his waist. Cuz he just lost his partner
Speaker 5 (00:35:46):
Bruce Belland (00:35:47):
Oops. Well, other kids in the class were the fine seen from on the waterfront <laugh>. We, well we, we got a day cuz the class left it. So we were all oriented to the business. We did the show and now we start, all of us have day jobs. I drove a delivery truck for a, a flower shop in Beverly Hills with a very high end clientele. Glenn was a box boy at Ralph's. Ed was a short order cook, uh, at a diner. And, uh, and Marv stayed home with his grandmother, took care of her. So we would do jobs all over La barbecues, bar mitzvahs, beach parties, you name it. Usually not much more than gas money. And I remember the first job we got paid big time. We got $75 for singing on the back of a truck in a opening event of a parking lot in El Monte <laugh>. So 75 was the big deal. We went to Harrison Frank Men's Shop on Hollywood Boulevard and bought whites PORs shacks. They were 9 95 on pizza
Fritz Coleman (00:36:45):
You know, uh, about, about your, uh, antics on stage, which are classic, uh, Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys said that first of all, he loved you guys. He loved you guys for your harmony. 26 Miles was one of his favorite songs as a youth. But he also said he learned the importance of the interstitial humor between songs from the four preps that he incorporated. Not exactly, but slightly different from the, uh, for the Beach Boys.
Bruce Belland (00:37:11):
Wow. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I've never heard that. I mean, I'll take a, a comedy read
Fritz Coleman (00:37:16):
Your own website.
Bruce Belland (00:37:17):
Speaker 5 (00:37:18):
Get it. <laugh>,
Bruce Belland (00:37:19):
I had, I had not heard that quote, uh, Timothy White's book on the nearest far away place. Right. Uh, Brian's biography. Yeah. Very kindly says that we did a show at Brian's school, which highly influenced his work and, and his career plans. And then I met him when he first signed with Capital and he told me the name, our, our producer at Capital had brought him in to meet us a rehearsal one day. And I said, what's the name of your group? He said, the Beach Boys. You know, well that's gonna last about six months. You know,
Speaker 5 (00:37:47):
Bruce Belland (00:37:48):
And then he went out to be Brian Wilson <laugh>.
Louise Palanker (00:37:51):
Yeah. Boys Forever. So you became friends with David and Ricky Nelson at, at, at high school and Ozzy had a real eye for talent and you guys were invited to become regulars, uh, the adventurers of Ozzie and Harriet playing Ricky's Yeah. Fraternity brothers and backup singers. But talk about the time you pulled Ricky out on stage because it felt like that you guys were performers and he was actually kind of shy about, about singing. Is that e do I
Bruce Belland (00:38:18):
Have that? Indeed, yeah. He was indeed. But you know, Glenn Larson, who went on to prove with a go-getter, he was with his television career, but he, he was very ambitious in in career oriented, as was I. So we, of course, as soon as we could we make, we made Rick aware of the, uh, of, of the group and, uh, you and that's how we ended up on the show. Well, we got very, I I, I forgot what question you asked me. I got it off. I'm sorry, what did you just ask me.
Louise Palanker (00:38:44):
Well, you can, uh, it's okay to talk about all of the Ozzie and Harriet stuff cuz we're all fascinated, you know, with that, because you, you stayed on the show for, for many seasons. But I kind of wanted to talk about when it, when Rick, when Rick wanted to become a singer. Yeah. Even though he, oh yeah. He was a precocious little kid on the show. He had all the wise cracks, but when it came to singing, it felt like he was shy about that part
Bruce Belland (00:39:06):
Of perform. Oh, he was very shy. I loved him to death. And I think he made some great songs. He was not the greatest singer in the world. He was fine. He sang in tune at a nice feel, but he didn't have great vocal chops. But, uh, we started to do, because Glen and I were so driven in marketing conscious, we started to do free assemblies at any high school. Were junior high in Southern California that would let us come do a show for them. Most of the schools used it as fundraisers to buy your student body card. You get admitted to the four prep show. So before we had a hit, before we even on Capitol, we started to do high school with assemblies. And one day on the set at Ozzy and Harriet, we were scheduled to do a show at a nearby high school called Hamilton High.
Mm. And as we were loading the car to go over there on the set, Rick came out and said, what's going on? We told him. He, he said, come on with us. He grabbed his guitar, got in the car, we drove to school, we went out on stage after the Pledge of Allegiance, of course <laugh> went out on stage and started to sing. And then after about three songs, Glen said, we got a buddy of ours here today, Ricky Nelson, and we'd like to get him out to sing a song. Would you like that? Well, they started to go berserko and we looked over Ricky and he heard and headed for the door. Oh, <laugh>. Three of three of us. While Glen continued his introduction, ran off and grabbed him by his limbs and literally dragged him out on stage. Somebody brought his guitar out cuz he had brought him with him.
He always had it with him. And we did, uh, all the history books, say we did a song called Blue Moon of Kentucky. I have never heard <laugh>. I have never heard that song. So we did not do Blue Moon of Kentucky. I don't, silly enough, I've asked, I asked Rick and later he, do you remember what we sang? He didn't remember either. But after that show, usually you had a high school or something. Of course, the students, the bell rings, the assemblies over, they go back to class. None of the girls would leave the auditorium. Oh. They were swamped around this stage. We came out into the driveway that you get in our car. You couldn't see our car. It was covered with female bodies. Wow. Trying to get in, trying to open the door, Terry, on our clothes, I lost a handkerchief, I think <laugh>.
So we, we managed to squeeze into the car and, and ease our way through the throng out round of the road. And as we're heading back to the studio, we're looking it, so we're a little dazed, frankly. We're glad we got out of there a lot. And it suddenly starts to sink in on all of us. Wow. Do you know what's happening here? You see what just happened to our pal out there mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And then we went on tour with them nationwide. And it, it was that on steroids. It was just, just insanity. Teen idol, insanity I call it.
Fritz Coleman (00:41:36):
Yeah. I was amazed to see that you guys were, were packing stadiums before that was even a thing you did with rock artists. Like 35,000 people at one concert, which was sort of unheard of at that time.
Bruce Belland (00:41:47):
Yeah, it was, uh, it was amazing. And because the whole country knew Ricky on television, the young women could not wait. And we'd come out before we stand backstage, before we went on and we could hear the crowd, it sounded like they were waiting for the gladiators to come out and punch the lions. I mean, we're screaming and roaring and almost hysterical. And as I said in the book, first number we did, we looked at it so we could see each other's lips moving, but we couldn't hear it. Right. It was just absolute pandemonium. So, uh, we went through several close calls, they beefed up the bodyguards because really, uh, we really had a couple of close, we got trapped in the tunnel once by a hoard of charging teenage girls <laugh>. Uh, and uh, you know, it was a lot of fun, but it was, it was crazy at times.
Louise Palanker (00:42:33):
It may have been the first, you know, they may not have even known what they were in what was in store because it may have been the first teen idol during the television age. I mean, they had Frank Sinatra, so they knew, they knew kind of what girls could do when they got excited about a performer. But this was maybe even more potent because they were, they felt like they knew him.
Bruce Belland (00:42:52):
Yeah, exactly. And of course, all in this 35,000 seat auditorium pack with girls, all any of them have ever seen about Ricky Nelson was about eight inches high in a black and white television set. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And suddenly he's down on stage breathing the same air that they're breathing. And it's, you know, it was just, it was wonderful. I mean, Rick, and whenever Rick really got overwhelmed by some, he would giggle. He would get the funny little giggle, make just funny little sound. So, you know, we'd stand on stage trying to hear the band for the next number, whether while Bedlam is ensuing in the stands.
Louise Palanker (00:43:25):
Fritz Coleman (00:43:26):
Did and, um, you guys were the youngest group ever to sign with Capitol Records? Correct. Did you record in the iconic building where Frank Sinatra and the Wrecking crew and all those guys
Bruce Belland (00:43:38):
Were? Oh, you bet. You bet. That building's I got, I got write a separate book about things that happened to me in that building. Yeah. Uh, it was, it was awesome. I mean, we're four kids from Hollywood High, you know, our background. And suddenly we're in our manager's Cadillac driving up Vine Street, parked behind this new round building. And we get out, we're straightening our ties and making sure we look okay. We're gonna go in that building and we look up at this round building, this is the coolest record label in the business with the coolest building on Earth. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So we walked in and, you know, marble hallway, I mean, it was, it was all the things we thought it would be in more. And we get in this elevator to go up to the 12th floor, which is the top one where the executives are knowing it's the elevator in that hole.
Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Ernie Ford all went up to the 12th floor. And here we are giggling and, you know, nervous. So it, it, and then we recorded our sessions in Studio Way where Sonata Nelson did their stuff with our producer who also produced Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima and Kiley Smith and the four freshmen. That whole tower to me, uh, was so emblematic of all the things I had Reed about as a kid at Hollywood High, practically in the shadow of that tower. And suddenly here I was on the 12th floor looking down in at my high school, the distance. Wow.
Fritz Coleman (00:45:04):
<laugh>. And so you were dazzled by working in the same studio where Tennessee only forward worked. Yeah. And the culmination of your dream was getting to open for him in concert along with George Burns and a pa of other stars, right?
Bruce Belland (00:45:18):
Yeah. Yeah. We, uh, we became a proverbial opening act. And I think one of the reasons threats that we worked as much as we did was all kind. We did comedy and music. So if he worked with the Comedy Act like George Burns, we do mostly music. And if he worked with Glen Campbell, we do mostly comedy. Ah. Uh, so it really worked out to, uh, to our advantage to be as multifaceted as I guess we were, we took great pride in that from the start. I remember one of us saying at rehearsal, let's be entertainers. Let's not just be singer, let's be entertainers. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And one of the things I always did pride in as compared to the other groups, which were great groups, was we already put on a show and we weren't afraid to be silly and look a little ridiculous and then turn around and sing. They called the wind Uriah and give 'em loose pimples. So we were very proud of that. Yeah.
Louise Palanker (00:46:06):
You could pull out all the stops, you were versatile and you could probably read the room and figure out what that room needed that night. And that's, and for four people to do that collectively, that's, you know, yeah. That's a heavy, that's a heavy lift. And you know, and you guys were young guys and you figured it out that, I wanna hear a little bit more about recording because it, you guys in the, in that time period you were recording singles, you weren't going into record an album. You'd record maybe a bunch of sides and they'd, they'd be like, like a single and a and a flip side, but it wouldn't be, well how did it work? Tell us like what you'd go in and what was
Bruce Belland (00:46:39):
The mission? This is, this is interesting. Everybody in the music comes as to whom I tell this story gets a huge laugh in the lates. Our first hit was, our first song was calling called Dreamy Eyes. So we go into the studio, uh, to record and we know who's been in this studio before and we're nervous, but it comes, turns out really well. It was a song we had sung for a long time at Rehearsed. So, uh, we felt pretty confident we did a good job and it came out and we're all got our fingers crossed. And the first time, of course, I'm driving down Sunset in my 41 Mercury Coner with the top down <laugh>. I hear our record on the radio. Well of course I turn it up as loud as you can go. And I put the hit up, hit the gas and scream down, set, set to the side street where my girlfriend lives.
Pull right up over the curb on her, her front lawn, stand up in the front seat and turn the radio up and sing along with it till she comes out. <laugh> followed by her mother, who is not pleased with what I was doing. The word front lawn <laugh>. Well, that record came out and first week, first week guys, it hits 56 with a bullet. I mean, that's halfway up the hop 100 chart in his first week. Yeah, we are be, could it really be this? See, is this all there is to it? <laugh> next week? It had totally disappeared. Never, never heard from again. That's one of the vagueries of, of the record business. And any guy in the business will tell you, yeah, that can happen. Now. We make four or five sort of disastrous attempts at getting hit. We do, we do reggae, we do folk, we do country, we do r and b, we do Duo, we do Latin, we do songs by Burt Baccarat. Nothing Sales, just Jockeys really like our sound and they play us a lot, but there's no sales. So, you know, ultimately, you know what happens with the song we end up writing. But uh, for that very fallow period, after that wonderful rush of getting on the charts, we struggled like crazy. And we'd go out with Rick on tour and we could see what hit records were doing for his career. And we're still, you know, scrambling. But, uh, we finally got there. Wow.
Louise Palanker (00:48:42):
And that was a song you wrote 26 Miles.
Bruce Belland (00:48:45):
Louise Palanker (00:48:46):
So, yeah. Did you feel like that was a hit while you were recording it or were you Yeah. Okay.
Bruce Belland (00:48:51):
We listen, Louise, we knew it was a hit for eight months before we recorded and Capitol wouldn't let us. We kept saying, please listen to our song. At the time I was dating a girl, the time we wrote it, a girl at a University High, it was in the same social club with Nancy Sinatra, who I sort of knew. We went over one night after their meeting, excuse me, sang 26 miles for him. About a week later I run in the, Nancy had a movie line in Westwood. She said, oh hi, how you guys doing? How's your recording? I said, oh, doing okay. She says, when you gonna record that song? You sang what song? We sang a lot of songs. No, that one about Catalina. And she sings a little 26 miles. That one. So I go in the Capitol now who's resisted recording of Frame once, and I say, Nancy Sina, Craig's daughter likes it.
Her, her girls club likes the song. They'll buy it. <laugh>. So finally said, fine, we'll put it on the backside. 26 miles when it came out with such a remote backside that I've got a copy of the ad from the new release. And the A side was a song called It's You from a Music called, um, a show called The Music Man, which is about to open on Broadway. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. That was the plug side in the ad. The, the letters for it's, you are probably an inch, inch and a half. If you take a microscope, you can see the little back 26 miles <laugh>. So it comes out now you talk about ingenious time. Your catheter releases it November 27th. Oh, good Christmas. That's a perfect time for a tropical <laugh>. Talk about an island. Well, as it turns out, over the years, I've had more than one person say to me, I was freezing my fanny off in New Hampshire, driving home.
I hear this wonderful song about this island with trees and tropical, and I thought, thank you, thank you for giving me a little escape. So it turned out to, not to be a mistake, but what happened? It was, it, it became a hit fight by accident, actually. Um, we were getting played on the other side because the jocks did, what Capitol told him was says, Hey, play the, A side from the new musical didn't go anywhere. So, uh, finally a disc jockey in Hartford, Connecticut, a late night disc jockey, wanted to go up the hall and <laugh> hit the men's room. So after he played 26 miles as he was told to do, he turned it over and played it while he went to the men's room and came back. When he came back, the song was finishing and the, and the switchboard was absolutely blinking like Christmas Street.
Oh my goodness. He got all kinds of calls. I'm writing a book now called Fabulous Unknowns, which is about people who helped my career that nobody knows about. He was one of them. He was actually resourceful enough. This never happens to call the Capitol Tower the next morning. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> say, you don't know me, I'm Joe. So-and-so from Hartford, Connecticut. Last night I turned over with the preps record. You guys were on the wrong side. Oh, Capitol Listen. Said to all their troops out in the field. Hey, it's the be side. Go with the visa, huh? Wow. And
Fritz Coleman (00:51:45):
It's one of the catchiest hooks in music. I mean, once you hear that song, you can't stop singing it over and over and in your head. Joanne, thank Smile across the scenes. No, I I I I can see why it was a hit instantly and you
Bruce Belland (00:51:57):
Guys were good for, you know how I got the idea to write it? No. I was a kid in Chicago. We hadn't moved to West Hollywood yet, and I'm 10 years old and I go to the news reel cuz I love the Chicago Cubs. I was a, you know, diehard fan. Look out a Chicago Cub fan isn't diehard <laugh>. And, uh, I went to the theater with my mom and I, the newsroom would come on before the feature film and there was always be a sports section. And now my Chicago cubs come on screen and marine short sleeve shirts and there were some all over them, but there's Sundre fielders, palm trees and horses behind them. And suddenly the announcers says, our favorite Chicago club hometown was Boys find themselves in spring practice on Catalina Catalina. What is a Catalina <laugh>? I mean, I love the word. The moment I heard, I had no idea what it meant. Fast way forward. I, in high school, I'm on the beach when they had my ukulele, some says, Hey, you can see Catalina out there. Wow. It's about 26 miles. I had never been to the island at the time, but I knew enough about it was like from the Cubs news reels that I started to write a song. So that's how the idea came about.
Fritz Coleman (00:53:03):
And the Wrigley family still owns a huge Manson over there overlooking the less fortunate people down in that. You
Bruce Belland (00:53:09):
Get there very often. Neither one
Fritz Coleman (00:53:10):
Of you guys. I was, I performed there about three weeks ago at the Cata Yacht Club and we had a great time. It was fun. Oh, go over on the Express. It's fun.
Bruce Belland (00:53:18):
Did you happen to get to the museum, Fritz?
Fritz Coleman (00:53:20):
I didn't this time I was just, it was, I was over and back and it was, but I love it over, over there. It doesn't even feel like you're in the United States when you're
Bruce Belland (00:53:27):
Over there. It's, well, I can't pay for a drink on the island.
Fritz Coleman (00:53:30):
Oh, I'm sure. Are you kidding me? The Chamber of Commerce would have a grand statue of you
Bruce Belland (00:53:34):
Louise Palanker (00:53:34):
Okay. So let me just say this. If you've never been to Catalina, it is like a toy town. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, everything is tiny. The cars, the streets, cop cars. It's adorable. And if you take a little tour up into the mountains, there's buffalo there. And Bruce, you can probably say, tell why there's buffalo there.
Bruce Belland (00:53:53):
Well, let me do a little tra log for 'em on other things. They've got, they've got, uh, three or four pairs now of nesting balded eagles. Eagles. They were in danger becoming a think because the d d t in the water in Southern California was making their eggshells so soft that they couldn't nurse the baby. Uh, a naturalist named Dr. Spader, I think, hired a helicopter pilot who flew him up over their nest way at the top of a tree. He lowered him by rope, by a sling. He took the eggs, took them home, incubated them, and when they were time the hatch and strengthened, he brought 'em back and put 'em in an nest and restored eagles on the island of Catalina. Wow.
Fritz Coleman (00:54:37):
Wow. That's a great story.
Louise Palanker (00:54:38):
Now, if you're, if you're in Southern California, you can get to Catalina in an hour for out of Long Beach or San Pedro that that boat just shoots. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I mean, it's really fun to go to Catalina, so I highly recommend
Bruce Belland (00:54:51):
Thank you for the plug. They, sometime ago they appointed me. I gotta think of the worldwide, worldwide Goodwill pass though I think it is. So any plug I can get into what happened that I'm happy to.
Fritz Coleman (00:55:02):
Earlier today you were talking about, um, driving to your girlfriend's house on Sunset Boulevard and just exploding with pride and hearing your song on the radio. But Sunset Boulevard was very important to you earlier in your career as well. And I related to this part of your story so much cuz I used to do the same thing. All teenage boys would sneak out of the house after their parents went to sleep. And I never thought I got caught, but my parents knew I did. I
Bruce Belland (00:55:31):
Thought I was unique.
Fritz Coleman (00:55:31):
No, you were that <laugh>. But, but when you snuck out of the house, talk about where you would go to the clubs along Sunset and that's where you learned about a, a lot about the music business.
Bruce Belland (00:55:40):
Yeah, well, uh, you know, sunset at that time was a haven of great world famous nightclub, the Mabo zeroes, Mulan Rouge, uh, all kinds of nightclubs up and down the strips. Some big, some small, some with major stars, some with very hitless or known acts. So I would sneak out of my parents' house when they fell asleep Saturday night and go up there and prowl back and forth <laugh>. And because that was a fast talk, a little conman, uh, and kind of cute, I guess the, the tech crew started to adopt me. Hey, here's that little blonde kid. Come on in, he can see the show. Well, one night I snuck up and went backstage ATSes and who should be appearing that night? I say I saw it in the Marquee before I snuck in the Mills Brothers. Well, I had grown up with the Mills brothers.
I can sing you every song. And they ever recorded, they're, they're my absolute idols. So I'm watching the Mills Brothers backstage on a folding chair that the stage managers gave me. And Harry Mills, the lead singer comes over after this show and talks to me. He says, I understand you're a singer, blah, blah, blah. Says, you know, stick to it. You can do it. You know, it's a great career. Boom, boom, boom. So I went home on Cloud 10, <laugh>, having met my hero Harry Mills. And by the way, when I got home, the light was on in the house. So my dad had awakened and discovered I was gone. So I got another sermon when I walked, walked into the house,
Louise Palanker (00:57:00):
I think it was worth it. Mill's brother, Mill's brothers are my idols too. And they, I was blessed in that they were family friends. Oh wow.
Bruce Belland (00:57:07):
Oh, till then.
Louise Palanker (00:57:09):
So yeah, if you'd like, I can introduce you to Donald's son, skip, cuz he's still a singer. He'd probably like love talking with you. Yeah,
Fritz Coleman (00:57:17):
Well the great cosmic connection is he saw the Mill's brothers at ces. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you were family, friends of the Mills brothers. And later went on to perform at the Comedy store, which is what took Ciro's Place. So four degrees of separation from Louise.
Bruce Belland (00:57:31):
Louise Palanker (00:57:32):
Bruce Belland (00:57:33):
I thought that was Kevin Bacon with the Four Degrees
Louise Palanker (00:57:36):
<laugh>. No, Harry tried to take me to, to the Comedy store and he had, uh, it's a long story, but it's kind of poignant. It's just show business I guess. But, you know, he had lost his eyesight to diabetes and I was a teenager and I was with my brother and, you know, we couldn't get in cuz we were underage. And he's trying to tell the doorman that I used to headline here and the kid just could not have cared. And it was like breaking my heart cuz like, here's this guy who's just a giant to me. And they're, and they, you know, it was,
Bruce Belland (00:58:06):
Oh wow, this is wonderful. Louis, we have to have dinner.
Louise Palanker (00:58:09):
Oh yeah, we'll have dinner <laugh>. We'll,
Bruce Belland (00:58:10):
Glad hear four.
Louise Palanker (00:58:11):
Fritz Coleman (00:58:11):
I have, she's got a picture of him right in, in a prominent position by her front door in her living room. Yeah.
Bruce Belland (00:58:16):
It was so interesting because later years at the marina, I was having lunch at Jerry's in the marina and Donald Mills walked in with his son Donald Jr. Right. They were touring the two of them as the Mills brothers. Others had passed on. Harry, of course, you know, hadn't passed as well as, uh, Herbert. Uh, so I went over and introduced myself and, uh, talked to him for a minute and I said, gee, it's just great. You're still out doing it. He said, yeah, I have to tell you. He said, I am <laugh>, I'm gonna be 83. I don't sure I wanna do this anymore. And I thought to myself, why would anybody wanna stop doing it? If they can get up and walk around, why would you vote and stop recording. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, by the time I hit 82 and 83 and missed a flight and had to stay up all night on the road, I thought, you know, I'm beginning to understand what he was talking about.
Louise Palanker (00:59:00):
<laugh>. Yeah. He was just the best.
Bruce Belland (00:59:02):
Oh, they were the best. I mean, all natural head harmony, you know, nobody wrote their harmony down. They sang it through one time and they knew how to go up above the melody and then third below. And, uh, just loved their harmony, but in a great natural buoyant seat of their singing. They just kind of bounced along on the une, you know?
Louise Palanker (00:59:20):
Well, they were, you know, they started as little kids too, like the beaches did. Yes. So they just,
Bruce Belland (00:59:25):
With their father.
Louise Palanker (00:59:26):
Yes. Well, their father,
Bruce Belland (00:59:27):
They started with their brother and he died. Yeah. And they father took this
Louise Palanker (00:59:30):
Place. So when they were little, their older brother John had a guitar, and the kids would mimic different instruments. And you've heard all these reports. How
Bruce Belland (00:59:37):
Do you know this? How do you know them?
Louise Palanker (00:59:38):
Uh, my mom was friends with Harry Mills and they just, when they were in Buffalo, they, they came to our house for dinner every, because you, oh my God. You'd stay in town for a few weeks and do, you know, a a nightclub. Yeah. And so during the summer that the Mills brothers were often at, at our home, and they just became fam they were family friends. And so I, I grew up just mesmerized by their records. Records. And those guys were bigger than life. And they'd come in and they had, they, you know, they were playing at like the, the Glen Park Casino where they had an amusement park and they'd come in Oh yeah. With this, these big stuffed animals for us and say that they had won them <laugh>. And it wasn't until I grew up that my dad said, and they probably just bought those things just so they could walk in. Like, but that's how they were to me, like larger than life. Like here's the biggest donkey.
Bruce Belland (01:00:25):
Yeah. I love the way Harry, when he sang an up template to, and he'd pat his generous belly pat his, they were, when Harry was the guy that talked to me after the show at night at CES and encouraged me. And I saw him years later in Hawaii. They were still performing and we kind of said hello again. But they were just wonderful. I'm so glad to hear more about them from you, Luis. They've always just fascinated
Louise Palanker (01:00:47):
Me. Well, they were larger than life for me. And as a kid growing up in Buffalo, New York, just like you, Bruce, I think knowing the Mills brothers was what gave me the confidence that I could come to Hollywood and make my way in, in show business that there'd be a path for me here because those guys
Bruce Belland (01:01:04):
And I read about you, you made your way. Aw. I'm telling you. I, I know a little bit about what
Fritz Coleman (01:01:08):
He's a great success story. That's the only reason I'm hanging around with her. <laugh>
Louise Palanker (01:01:12):
<laugh>. All right. So we can, uh, we can fanboy over the Mills brothers, uh, uh, at a, at a, yeah. At a date to be mentioned to be named later. Let me
Fritz Coleman (01:01:21):
Ask him one other question before we wrap this up. This is very important. So talk about Evan Fisher, a student at Hollywood High School, brother of Bob Fisher, a very close friend of mine who owned the Ice House and just sold it. And I'm a friend of Evans, who's retired in Prescott, Arizona right now.
Bruce Belland (01:01:37):
I turned, I talked to him today.
Fritz Coleman (01:01:39):
Oh my gosh, I'm so happy. Talk to him today. One of the nicest guys. And, and and did he sing with you guys? Cuz he went on to fill in for the guy in the diamonds after a while?
Bruce Belland (01:01:49):
Well, France, this is the funniest story. I thank God we could both laugh about it now. He felt it was a tragedy at the time. So now we, uh, not quite a year outta Hollywood High School, but before we graduate from Hollywood High, we decided we're gonna go after a recording contract, recommit ourself to doing that. Well, Evan couldn't. Evan had already, while still in high school, agreed to join the Navy to fulfill his draft obligation and get it over with, move on with his life. So when we graduated, he could no longer be in the group. Well, he goes, he joins the Navy, he's serving, serving on the SS Tearhar. It's a battleship in the sea of Japan. He's lying in his bunk one night, listened in our forces radio and our record comes on. Oh man. And now a great new group from Hollywood High ladies and gentlemen, the four rep, he was so startled, he stood up in bang his head on the con room, <laugh> and got us, oh my God, what have I done?
So he serves this time in the Navy for two years, gets out and the week he gets out. Lincoln Maga, who was the fifth prep, he was our arranger conductor genius. Our whole career. He hears from the diamonds that they're losing our high tenor. They near the good high tenor. Like see, I know this kid that signed with the preps had an assembly in high school once. He's a pretty good tenor, why don't you call him? And as Evan said, Evan Quad Lincoln a couple years late, uh, recently, and thanked him for changing his life. They called Evan, he came over and audition. And then for the next 10 or 12 years was the high tenor in the di <laugh> in the diamonds. So he missed the preps, but he did just fine. Thank you.
Fritz Coleman (01:03:19):
A great guy. You have good friends. He's just the nicest person.
Bruce Belland (01:03:22):
His brother. Good. I'm having lunch with, I think it's the eighth of next month. Evan's coming in.
Fritz Coleman (01:03:27):
Oh, good. Good, good, good. Please give him my best.
Louise Palanker (01:03:29):
Well, just before we close, we have to talk for a moment about your, uh, your, your producing skills that you worked at Ralph Edwards Productions and quadrupled the number of shows the company the company had on the air, including name that tune Diners Place, truth or Consequences, Hollywood Squares Wheel of Fortune. Did it, was it natural for you to go into the production end of things just because of all the talents that you had already amassed?
Bruce Belland (01:03:53):
Well, you know, it's interesting the way I got the job. By the time I got the job Glen had left, the preps had disbanded and he was a very successful producer at Capital. And he was in, I got capital, I'm sorry, at Universal. He was at a party one night with Lynn Boen, who was in the West Coast or East Coast, vice President of the daytime programming for N B C. Somehow the ties were Bruce Bellen came up and he said to her, you know, this guy really knows that Vince sizes in and out. By then I had written scripts and directed and so forth. She said, you know, she was looking for someone to be her man on the West coast in daytime programming. So she called me and went over and had an interview and ended up getting the job. It never occurred to me to be an executive. I mean, I became a suit <laugh> at the Network, which is the guys I used to make fun of <laugh>, but I a suit, I got a parking place three spaces away from Johnny Carson's, which was a whole slight of hand. Wow. I pulled to get it and suddenly, you know, I'm an executive at a network, but he, so those kind of things happen all my life. I mean, Fritz was also, he's out of the blue and you know, there you are.
Louise Palanker (01:04:55):
Fritz was also three spaces away from Johnny. So he's probably
Fritz Coleman (01:04:58):
Six. I was on the poor side of the spaces though. I was on the other side of the talent entrance where cars that cost less than a hundred thousand dollars parked.
Bruce Belland (01:05:05):
Hey, help me remember. I had a friend, he was married to a, a friend of a friend of mine who was the manager, I wanna say Roach John.
Fritz Coleman (01:05:13):
John Roach was the general manager, uh, of the station when I was there and literally gave me my career
Bruce Belland (01:05:20):
Fritz Coleman (01:05:21):
When he was almost to his death, I hand wrote him a thank you note for giving me my career on Legal Pad. And I hand wrote it to him cuz I thought it would seem more sincere. Oh. And I mailed it to him. And after he passed away, I spoke to his wife. I said, did he ever get that letter I wrote? She said he did, but he couldn't read your handwriting. <laugh>. Wow. So,
Bruce Belland (01:05:45):
Well, the thought was
Fritz Coleman (01:05:47):
There. Yeah, I know <laugh> like I, he, I, I literally, he, he promoted, he, he spent so much money promoting Fred Rogan and I and then do you have to go? Are you, are you done? Uh, do you have to
Bruce Belland (01:05:57):
No, I'm not done. I would love to go jump
Fritz Coleman (01:05:58):
Tonight. I'm having fun. And then, and it gave me my own late night show and spent tons of money producing us, and I will be forever in his jet. He's a wonderful man.
Bruce Belland (01:06:07):
I'm not gonna tell you a quick John Warrick story. Okay. The president of the network is out staying at the Belaire Hotel, and he invites John and his wife John, the new kid at the network to come out and play tennis with him. They come out and they're playing tennis and his wife, John's wife, misses a particularly easy shot. And he was going Tory and make a joke and say, because at that time, on 60 Minutes, there used to be a panel at the end with a woman named Shannon Alexander and a guy who corrected and says, uh, something like you, you, uh, you silly woman or something like that. So he's trying to mimic that expression when his wife misses the shot, gets it wrong and says, Carol, you ignorant slut. And they <laugh> his wife and John's wife and Jessica. Oh, oh, oh, okay. Uh, <laugh>. Yeah. Yeah. But he, he used to tell that story on himself, but, uh,
Louise Palanker (01:07:01):
But that's the Dan Aykroyd version of, of that exchange. Yeah.
Bruce Belland (01:07:05):
What did he say? I can't remember his expression. Jane
Louise Palanker (01:07:06):
Fritz Coleman (01:07:07):
Watch. It was Jane Cur. They they were doing the news on Saturday Night Live. Yes,
Bruce Belland (01:07:11):
Yes, yes, yes. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So he tried to use the line and <laugh> some people shouldn't deliver a comedy life didn't quite come out the
Fritz Coleman (01:07:19):
Way, but it's funny that you invoke the name of the man who gave me my career. John Eck, back in those days, general managers were the titans. They were running their own stations individually. It wasn't as corporate. And he was just a brilliant forward thinking guy.
Bruce Belland (01:07:33):
Did he end up getting a call back east to the to 30 rocker? Do you know?
Fritz Coleman (01:07:37):
Uh, I don't know. I, you know, he got very ill and, uh, uh, I don't know. Did he become like the station's division chief? The, the guy that was the station, you probably knew him. Al Jerome was Oh sure. Was the head of the sta meaning he was in charge of all the N B C owned and operated stations. And he was another guy that was very, very kind to me and kicked my career along
Bruce Belland (01:08:00):
38 years. That ain't bad guy.
Fritz Coleman (01:08:02):
42 weeks shy of 40.
Bruce Belland (01:08:04):
Oh, come on. Seriously. Yeah. Your vital.
Fritz Coleman (01:08:06):
I'm 92 years old and I've, I've really taken care of myself. Well,
Bruce Belland (01:08:10):
Yeah. I have my birthday wrong. So what are you gonna do?
Fritz Coleman (01:08:12):
Louise Palanker (01:08:13):
All right, well, we're gonna wrap it, it up. How can people find your book and when is it coming out?
Bruce Belland (01:08:19):
If you go to my, uh, website, Bruce Belland, and by the way, it's B r u c e b e l l a n d bell and.com, uh, they'll be a, a page on there entitled book, click on book. It'll tell you how to pre-order the book or read more about the book or check out the preview. I sent you guys with the, uh, highlights of the book on it. Uh, it's gonna come out right after the holidays, the first of next year. And, uh, we'll show you on the website if you go there, how to get it on the list and we'll let you know when it's available.
Louise Palanker (01:08:48):
Oh, if, uh, and Bruce, if I bring, uh, Donald Mills' son, John, who you met, who sang with him for the last 15 years in the Mills Brothers, if I bring him here, will you come in person? So the two weeks, huh? Yeah.
Bruce Belland (01:09:00):
Give me a date. Gimme the time. I'm there. I'm, I can't believe this is possible. Never. That would be great. That would be great.
Louise Palanker (01:09:06):
Uh, he's such a, you
Bruce Belland (01:09:07):
Know, I'm gonna be 86 in three weeks, so I've gotta get all these fun things then while I
Louise Palanker (01:09:11):
Can't. And you have a lot of work to do. Norman Leer just turned a hundred and he's still very busy. So
Bruce Belland (01:09:15):
Well, as George Bruns used to say, I can't die. I'm booked.
Louise Palanker (01:09:18):
<laugh>. Exactly. All right, Fritz and I, uh, would like to thank you so much for joining us. We would love to continue this conversation with you on Instagram and Twitter, where we are at Media Path Pod and on Facebook where our show page is, media Path Podcast. And our Facebook group is Media Path with Fritz and Weezy podcast community. You can find full podcast episodes loaded with bonus visual content on our YouTube channel Media Path podcast. You can write to us at media path podcast gmail.com. If you enjoy the show, please give us a nice rating in Apple Podcast and talk about us on your social media. You can sign up for our fun and Dishy email@example.com. We wanna thank our guest, Bruce Belland. Our team includes Dean of Friedman, John Maddox, Sharon Beo, bill Fiac, Thomas Hubble, Mason Brown, and you. Our theme music is by me and John Maddox. I am Louise Planker here with Fritz Coleman and Bruce Belland, and we'll see you along the media path.
Speaker 6 (01:10:14):
Bruce Belland (01:10:16):
Thank you. I feel the same. You guys are terrific. I could do this all day. This is, let's try and do it again when the book comes out.
Fritz Coleman (01:10:23):
That would be awesome. I mean, your book is gonna be like an encyclopedia.