Filming Los Angeles Olympics 1984
There were two separate jobs to do. The first was to make a film for the Omani Television on their country’s surfboarding team and their target shooting team. Secondly, I was to be co-ordinator of all the coverage for the Middle East television stations.
First I stayed at a Hotel in Inglewood, to the south of Los Angeles, close to the old Laker Stadium and within a stone’s throw of Watts County, the centre of the notorious race riots of the 1960s. We were warned not to go walking about outside the hotel.
There I was joined by John Ward, one of the journalists from London and two film crews from Washington. The crews would be working with John while I would make use of freelance crews living in Los Angeles.
I stayed in the hotel for a week, occasionally moving around to check on locations. The food in the hotel was first class and they had a very nice bar which I would visit each evening.
Whilst in that hotel, I witnesses the first demonstrations of Teletext in the United States.
From the restaurant, one could see the Hollywood Park racecourse, often seen in the movies. At the end of the week, the hotel announced that they would be increasing their fees threefold for the Olympic period.
The hotel was a long way from the centre of Los Angeles and I asked Ellen Feldman if she could recommend a hotel that would be more suitable for the work that was coming up. She booked me into the Beverly Crest. This was a small hotel just of Sunset Strip and was central for almost everything.
During this week, I took the opportunity to visit Dick Clark, my ex boss at UPITN, now retired, who lived in Laguna Hills. He and his wife, Joy, lived in a nice bungalow in an enclosed estate which was fenced and guarded against intruders. Inside there were common facilities, like a clubhouse and a large shed where they played a game I had not seen before. It was like a giant shoveha’p’ny board. The discs were propelled, by a long broom-handle, along a flat long rectangle towards a target painted on the floor.
Dick had his own allotment, where he grew vegetables. He also played golf. Dick had been a “scratch” player in his day and here at the age of 73, he was still playing and holding his own.
On the second day there, Dick invited me to go out onto the balcony to see the mountains in the distance. They were shrouded in mist which Dick said was actual smog. Sometimes, the smog would come down to the coast, but I did not see this.
That day we went off into the hinterland for a picnic. There was a picnic area set aside in the trees. This site was in the foothills before the mountains. It was a delightful spot and I could imagine John Wayne riding past on his horse at any moment.
I spent an enjoyable few days with them before returning to the melee that was about to start.
The first item on the Olympic agenda for me was the shooting competition that was held in Orange County. There, marksmen and women came from all over the globe to compete. Traditionally, the winner of the men’s pistol shooting was the first winner announced in the whole of the Olympics. However, this was the U.S. of A. They had a female rider in the cycle road race who won. All of us waiting at the butts could not understand the delay in the announcement of the winner of the men’s pistol shooting. The announcement had to wait until after the American woman was revealed as winner of the road race. A Chinese man won the pistol shooting and the Omani team did quite well.
We were able to get good coverage of the event, sometimes being able to shoot from behind the shoulder of the marksman – at a distance.
We were in Orange county for several days. The ranges were regarded as the safest place in California, there being several hundred marksmen with guns ready. Any miscreant wishing to take them on would have been foolhardy.
Next, I had to shoot the windsurfing event. This was to prove difficult because the authorities would not allow us to go out to sea to cover the furthest part of the various sailing circuits. We had to shoot everything from the shoreline at Long Beach. While driving from L.A. to Long Beach, we would pass by the Queen Mary, permanently docked and used as a hotel.
The Omanis were staying at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown L.A. They had engaged as Honorary Consulate, a local firm of Public Relations. They were Irish Americans, I believe named O’Neill. They decided to throw a party and I was invited. It was held at Carlos and Charlie’s Restaurant which no longer seems to exist in LA.
I was told that I would be picked up from my hotel and taken directly to the restaurant. I was sitting on a stool at the bar when I got the message that my lift had arrived.
When I got outside, it was a stretch limousine. I sat in it all by myself. The driver told me that he would be waiting at the restaurant and that ”whatever time you wish to leave, I will be ready”. I left quite late and there he was ready to take me back to the hotel.
The Olympics were about to get under way big time. I had visited the Olympic Games Television Centre which had been set up in the Universal Studios. There, I could monitor the output of the day’s coverage. I do not mean that I had to sit and watch it, there was too much of it. I did have to know what each “package” contained.
The drill was that all material would be made available via satellite to Hong Kong where further selection of material would take place. It was my job to be in contact with Hong Kong, on a daily basis, in order to tell them of my selection of material to be on the satellite to the Middle East.
This job took up most of my evenings.
During the mornings, I was able to watch television and, sometimes, get lunch outside the hotel. At the bar, it was easy to make friends. One such was a retired lawyer named Davis. He talked to me about English Law and seemed to think I knew something about it. I did get around to talking to him about the Scottish concept of “Not Proven” which he found fascinating and had never heard of. He seemed to think that I must have had some connection with law in the U.K., but I pointed out to him that all I had done was to read the papers and watch television.
One of my bar friends was John Hawks, who was also working on the Olympic Television coverage. We talked about television and I mentioned that I was a follower of The Rockford Files, starring James Garner. He told me that Rockford’s famous mobile home was parked at a beach parking area at Malibu. I asked if we could go to see it. He drove me there and I invited him to have lunch at the nearby restaurant which was never shown in the series.
The mobile home was not there either, but then the series had been ended some time before.
The work did not allow me to explore Los Angeles and, in fact, I had seen more of the country at the shooting range and with Dick and Joy.
Watching the television during the day, one could be persuaded to believe that the only competing nation was the Americans. Come to think about it, there were no Russians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs or Bulgarians. They were boycotting the Games. If the Americans were not winning or had no chance of winning an event, it did not get shown until they had exhausted the showing of their successes. When they did win, the celebrations went on and on.
I flew home by British Airways by the same route that I had come, over the Pole.
The feed-back from the Middle East indicated that they were pleased with my selection of items for them.
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