Nudging the characters from the Doc Savage canon toward the “real world” can be great fun, offering the opportunity to create historical moments that really ought to be true.
For instance…before the 70’s film version of Doc Savage tanked at the box office, there was quite a bit of expectation that a second film would follow — Doc Savage: Archenemy of Evil, with a less campy screenplay by Phil Farmer — and in addition to Doc and his aides, this one would also feature Pat Savage. No actress had been announced for the role before the project was abandoned, but what could be more natural than for producer/director George Pal to screen test the actual woman the pulp Pat was based on for the role?
That was the plot of “Rickie Goes To Hollywood”, a short tale with no villains, no plot to speak of…just a slice of life in Tinseltown, where Rickie meets Pal and none other than Ron Ely.
Back in 2013 the small independent studio PT Films, in conjunction with Mad Eyes Productions, did an explicit film of Rickie’s erotic revenge fantasy against Maria the Saint, and it featured adult film star Sienna Day as Rickie (hundreds of screen captures from the film are in the second hardcover collection, Doc). Sienna also did a pictorial, in the style of Playboy, which will appear in the third collection, Apocalyptic. Rickie Goes To Hollywood is a gentler tale, and here is how it begins…
Rickie Goes To Hollywood
Rickie wondered why she’d never been to Hollywood. Surprisingly, Hughes had never taken her here when they’d dated, and subsequently she’d discovered that both Doc and John held this patch of garish geography in quiet contempt. She remembered a quote she’d heard somewhere about LA and environs being like a baby with a shotgun: gleeful about what appeared to be a toy, with no clue about how dangerous it was
Really, that was her kind of place.
She and Ron were similar in height, so as they walked to the spot where he had parked his car, the occasional glances they swapped were pretty much eye to eye.
“So when does the star chauffeur a nobody to a screen test in this town?:”
He raised an eyebrow. “You’re hardly a nobody.”
“Screen credits, zero.”
“You’re the real thing, Cousin Pat.”
She smiled. Disarmingly handsome bastard…no, not bastard. Of all things, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
“I’m sorry Dr. Talos decided not to come,” he continued. “Of course he might have ended up stealing my job.”
“A seventy-four year old man taking your place?” Her smile grew broader. “Not a chance, even if he does look good. Besides, Doc would no sooner appear in a movie than cuss out a nun. The writer ought to be happy he agreed to the interview.”
“I like Paul,” Ron said. “His script’s a lot better than the first one.”
“No offense, but that really wouldn’t take much. I mean, the whole camp thing…”
“I would have much preferred to play it straight myself. George just couldn’t get his head around today’s audiences buying all the pulp malarkey without a wink. Between you and me Patricia, everything we do today might end up being moot. The critics have been pretty rough on the first one, and if it tanks…”
“Call me Rickie. And I’m going to bet that people are getting tired of all the antiheroes good old Hollyweird keeps pumping out these days.”
“Well, that’s the hope. I hope you didn’t mind me teasing you with the ‘cousin Pat’ thing.”
“That’s okay. I’m not quite as deadly serious as cousin-once-removed James is. Mom used to tweak his poker face too.”
“I’ve read about your mother. An aviator…she set some records, didn’t she?”
“I guess they don’t say aviatrix any more. Here’s to equality coming to the world. Yeah, she was a pistol.”
“Here we go,” he gestured toward a car parked at the curb.
“Chevy Caprice,” she nodded. “Fun car. What, no Mercedes?”
He shrugged in a very charming way. “I’m not a Mercedes kind of guy.”
“Well, that’s very becoming modesty. Appropriate for the man who plays Doc Savage, if I may say so.”
He smiled and held open the passenger door for her.
She settled in, adjusting her sunglasses to block the pervasive glare while he got behind the wheel and started up the car.
“Of course,” she said, “you’ve played Tarzan too. Did you channel anything from one role to the other?”
“A little, I guess. Tarzan’s a wild thing balancing the jungle and civilization, Doc is a scientist with a wild side.”
“Pretty good encapsulation,” she nodded.
As they rolled out into traffic, Rickie leaned her head back against the seat. “So tell me about Pal,” she said.
“One of the good guys,” he said. “I guess it’s safe to say both he and I have made decent livings doing kid stuff…but he doesn’t really see it as kid stuff. He actually loves adventure. I think he wishes he could run off and have some himself.”
“Well, I can relate.”
“A lot of producers, well…when you come down to it, they’re pretty soulless. George is more of a middle aged man with a young heart and an old soul.”
Rickie tipped down her glasses to look at him. “Takes one to know one, I’m guessing?”
He smiled slightly. Damn, it really resembled a Doc smile, only Ron displayed it more than once every couple of years. “Maybe,” he said. “So tell me about Rickie. You live in New York…do you like it there?”
“Sure. It’s a great town. No end of mayhem.”
“I take it you don’t long for a calm and quiet existence?”
“Deliver me. I…inherited Mom’s business, and it does pretty well, but mostly I delegate. More to life than running a salon and gymnasium.”
“Like that Africa trip you mentioned?”
“Oh shit, well, that whole thing was pretty much off the rails. You ever been? I mean for real, Mr. Tarzan?”
He shook his head. “Back lots and filming in the Laguna Hills.”
“Maybe someday, huh? It’s a pretty breathtaking place, actually. Of course a lot of messed-up stuff…politically, you know. But I guess that’s true everywhere.”
“That it is.”
They continued to chat comfortably and amiably for the half hour or so that it took to reach the studio lot. The gate-guard waved them through after one glance at Ron. The studio buildings themselves all had a warehouse-ish look. Big plain shells on the outside, with visions of every shape crafted and dismantled constantly inside.
Ron parked outside of a building that was indistinguishable from the others around it except for a big number on a placard. Inside, they checked in at a little reception kiosk.
“Mr. Pal upstairs?” Ron asked.
“Yessir Mr. Ely.”
He offered Rickie his arm. They went up one floor in a very nuts-and-bolts practical elevator with an open cage front. A small suite of offices was upstairs. Ron knocked lightly on the first door.
“Come in, come in!” called a cheerful voice from inside.
Pal rose from behind his desk as they entered. A relatively little guy with white hair…far from a rakish master of adventure, he looked more like a taxi driver, or a grocer.
“Wow,” he said, extending his hand to Rickie. “Miss Talos, welcome to Hollywood.”
“The pleasure’s all mine,” she beamed.
He flat-out stared, then realized it and turned, a little sheepish, toward Ron. “Good God R., she might have stepped right out of a pulp magazine.”
“George Pal,” Ron courteously recalled there had been no introduction. “May I introduce Patricia Talos.”
“Rickie,” she said.
“Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything?”
“I’m fine,” she said, dropping into a comfortable chair by the desk.
Pal leaned back against the desk-edge. “I’m glad you didn’t think I was a nut case, writing to you and sending that copy of the script. When I saw that spread in the New Yorker about your salon, and they wrote about your family history…well, lights went off.”
“I was flattered.”
“Well, with most of Archenemy already cast, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Pat.”
“Ron tells me there’s some doubt now about the status of the picture?”
“There’s always doubt in this town. But yes, to be perfectly honest, the studio is doing what they do…assessing. Man of Bronze had, well, some issues. Mostly my fault. Certainly not Ron’s…he played Doc with incredible dignity.”
“I agree,” Rickie sent a warm glance Ron’s way.
“You’ve read the script. Still fun, still with infectious spirit the magazine had, but with more of a straight face.”
“That’s a good direction,” she nodded.
“You like Pat’s part?”
“Yeah, I do. Though the writer put me in a nightgown that I wear from my first lines to my last, getting more tattered as it goes.”
“I know, I know…but aside from that, we really want to show how smart you are, how feisty and brave. Listen to me, I’m saying ‘you’ instead of ‘her’.”
“I think I just did the same thing,” she smiled.
“Well, let’s not mess around,” he straightened and held out his hand to her again, this time to help her up from the chair she had just sat down in. “Shall we go play with cameras and mikes a while?”
Ron was right, he really was like a big kid. She liked him immediately. As they left the office, she leaned down a little and whispered in his ear, “Don’t worry about the nightgown. I’m a born exhibitionist.”
“Whispering together already?” Ron, just ahead of them, looked back over his shoulder.
“I told him that he needs to stick to the script. When I get put into shoes, they better be killer heels.”
They went down to one of the smaller soundstages, The simplest of sets, with a small fake room, flanked with white walls. Just outside of the set a gigantic motherfucker of a camera pointed at it. From beside the camera, Pal pulled out a bound manuscript with – cute touch – a bronze cover.
“Need to read it a bit before we go?”
Rickie shook her head. “Memorized it on the plane. Want to do the last bit, where I make the crack about hoping I get kidnapped again?”
“Well I’ll be,” Pal smiled broadly. “Sure, let’s do that first, then go back to the beginning, where you give some choice sass to Monk Mayfair. How about you do all the other parts, R.?”
Ron came over and took the script. “I’m not as well prepared as our Rickie here,” he said.
He joined her on the stage, while Pal looked through the camera viewfinder and made some adjustments.
“Mr. Anderson going to direct again?” Rickie asked while he worked.
“That would be great, but he’s tied up on another thing right now. A sci-fi flick where society kills everyone who gets to the age of thirty.”
“Hmm,” Rickie raised an eyebrow. “Tough on those of us who plan on living forever.”
Pal chuckled, then raised his thumb in a high sign and then bent over the camera. “I’m toying with the notion of directing it myself. You see, I love Doc. I really do. I’ve been wanting to do these films for a long, long time. Good Lord, you two look amazing together. Kind of makes me wish we were doing a love story instead.”
Ron actually blushed…just as Rickie was sure Doc would have done had he been standing there. This was getting freaking surreal.
“Okay,” Pal said. “Action.”