Interview with Paul Keyes - 1993 - Westlake Village, CA
June Parker Beck
(This interview is one that needs to be "heard" as well
as "read". Mr. Keyes ws a very funny guy with a ready smile, a kind
word and an affectionate glance. He was sharp, so sharp and witty; I'm
only sorry that the reader could not also be the "listener." Was saddened
when he passed away in 2004, but so thankful I had the privilege of this
interview. Please overlook any typos because I'm sure there is more
editing needed. Enjoy!)
Initially my contact with Paul Keyes was prompted when I learned that he
was the owner of the TV rights to "The Allstar Tribute to John Wayne."
It was our sincere hope see if the owner would consider marketing the program.
Two minutes into the television conversation with this delightful gentleman
I knew he was quite special.
Paul Keyes, a television writer/producer has such an impressive, vast list
of achievements in his field but here I will name only "The Steve Allen Show"..the
"Jack Paar Show"..."Laugh In". He wrote everything for John Wayne in
his television appearances and they were close friends. It was Paul
who Wayne requested accompany him on his Viet Nam tour to visit the troups.
His affection for John Wayne is great and gracing his livingroom is a bronze
statue of Duke from "Red River."
I was privileged to meet and interview Paul on October 29th in Westlake
Village, California. I can say without reservation that this was one
of the most pleasant, gratifying experiences I can long remember. The
warmth, humor, affection and talent of this man was phenomenal. His
friendship with John Wayne is one he cherishes.
June: In the information that I found out abouat you,
of course, we begin with Steve Allen, Jack Paar...and because you're a writer,
I'm really interested...in the "Who's Who" it didn't show that you went to
any journalism school or university.
Paul: No, I went to high school..I learned to write in
the Army. In the Army I was a radio announcer. I went over seas after
combat. I was transferred, because I'd been a radio announcer in the
special services. I handled Bob Hope, Jack Benny, a whole bunch of performers
and watched them to comedy; night after night, the same thing. Then
I went to AFN Munich, because I wanted to get a job as an announcer up htere.
A very dean man, God rest his sould, name of Paul Dudly said, "I will get
you to AFN, but only if you write, because anybody can announce, anybody
can be a parrot and accounce." And he said, "you just gotta write"
and pounded it into me. And I went up there and wound up writing my
foot off. I had an alternate weekly series of one hour, drama shows
which I wrote, produced, and directed, and did sound affects, and was a member
of the cast...all G.I.'s and athen I did a nightly program in which I would
get the names of three records...Let's say Maggie Whiting's "Moonlight in
Vermont," Frank's "I'll Never Smile Again" and Tony Bennett's "Because of
You" and athen I would write from the title and from the first line backwards
"a:" which would carry the same mood of the song and the last line of the
poem would be either the title or the first line of the song. And they
ran hot music...and I didn't want to be a poet (smiling wryly indicating he
was joking)..."poets aren't guys!"
After awhile I found I enjoyed writing it more than I would have announcing
it and I wrote three a night for one solid year, 15 original poems a night
and I did documentaries for them.
Miriam: (Mrs. Keyes' wife) Where were you when you did
the tribute to President Roosevelt?
June: How old were you then?
Paul: 22..and I just learned to write. I came back
as a writer, producer, director.
June: So you got this all in the service?...the beginning...all
Paul: Yah..I learned it...I chased it...you have to go
June: The reason I'm not picking up any college courses
is because I'm enjoying just being myself. I'm not going to be a writer.
I don't intend to be a writer. I just love to write.
Paul: Everyone of us is a writer! Everbody on the
face of the earth is a writer! Most people don't try it..most people
say like you do, "Oh, I have no training, I have no this, I have no that."
Neither did I, but everybody writes; you write a letter, you write anything
at all you like. It's just that most people don't probe deeply enough
to find something they really are hot about and want to write about.
But everybody's a writer, anybody who can talk, can write!
June: What I started to do as I got further into this
I began to watch the films that I liked. I collected 41 of O'Hara's
movies because I like her; I think she's a great acatress and an underrated
acaatress; but that's beside the point. She's doing just fine.
I started doing video montages of clips from her films; so then I decided
I was a frustrated film editor, but I could take these things...these clips
and rather crudely assemble them to songs and they were very coming together
rather well. I was great fun!
Paul: It's a grat feeling of accomplishment!
June: When I think about Steve Allen...he was one of the
funniest men on his feet...was all that natural..or did he have to use written
Paul: Oh, they have to use material. Steve's funny
- Steve does a lot of puns, he plays with words, he's very creative that way...and
he's a very funny man.
June: So you still did write the show?
Paul: No, you don't write the "Tonight Show"..you write
the monologue and you write ideas that will play on the "Tonight Show" not
even necessarily sketches - you create good subjects that you can book guests
to talk about You create forums for thought. Hopefully they're
funny, but basically we wrote the monologue.
Miriam: I can remember you standing off camera with Steve
Paul: When Steve was on his home base, his desk was on
stage and Bill Dana and I were the only two writers on that show..and we used
to stand on apple boxes and when Steve was talking in an adlib situation with
a guest we were off camera and we would think of adlibs or things for him
to say and we would whisper them loud enough for him to hear but not high
enough to get through the mic and once in awhile in our haste to give him
a line, you're thinking awful fast; once in awhile we talked too loud and
he's say, "Paul just said..", "Bill just said..." and when he knew they didn't
hear it, he grabbed it and ran with it.
June: I remember Jose Jiminez,..and the Man on the Street...Posten
and Louis Nye...what as his name?
But Jack Paar...he was so very different than Steve Alalen...he was more
intellectualy, more sensitive.
Paul: Steve did a knock-down comedy show..crazy...funny
sketches. Paar didn't do that. Paar didn't want to do that.
Paar was a convesationalist and he felt that good, intelligent, funny talk
was the missing ingredient of the midnight hours and so he just wouldn't do
any of that. He was just midwest Presbyterian Jack Paar and those guys
would go out..Paar would, - he said,, (I'm thinking off of top of my head
here)..I'm not gonna sit down and have a chat with a guy who's got a good
routine about airlines and have him do it to me as athough he's adlibbing
it and I'm sitting there naked. He never booked comics to do an act.
June: Compaired to these very successful shows, obviously
very long running ones, what do you think of today's battle of the talk shows?
Paul: It's been wasted; for the simple reason - when Jack
was on we did..this guy goes - Carson spoiled it be going to an hour.
Leno stuck with the hour. Now, Leno comes out and he does a 9 minute
monologue and as far as his interest is concerned, that show's over 9 minutes
in. Now Paar - we were on the air an hour and 45 minutes. We did
a monologue at 11:15 in New York local show sponsored by Knickerbocker Beer.
The the "Tonight Show" came on at 11:30 to 1:00, but the network stations
were only contract, they could carry the hour and a half if they wanted -
they were only contracated to take the hour, so some stations would join for
an hour from 11:30 to 12:30 so we had to have a Good Evening America monologue
at 11:30. Other stations, Washington DC included, would come on and
get their hour from midnight to 1:00. Well, we did a lot of political
jokes and Paar wanted those political jokes seen in Washington naturally;
so we saved all of our political stuff for midnight; so we had three totally
different monologues every night.
Now, today's show you have a rock singer, you've got a new comic, you have
a book author and you have Richard Dryfuss plugging a bad movie; by the time
the plugs are done, there's no show. The only comedy is a 9 minute monologue
We used to book Robert Morley, non-comics, Peter Sellers, Alex King, and
Paar would sit down and talk with them, just like this and they would all
get laughs. The rock act in his dirty clothes sings his song and he's
not invited over to the panel, so you're not gonna get anything out of him.
June: I think it was Johnny Carson - one night he had
Paul: ...and Dean was dropping his cigarette ashes into
Gobel's glass...but that wasn't the hour show. That was years ago..that
was 10-15 years ago when there was that half hour with which to play.
When he made it an hour, selfishly because he didn't want to do that, that
opportunity was lost. We had the only free-wheeling, off the top, comedy/wit/information
on the air.
June: I believe it because I remember these shows which
happened years ago, yet I can't tell you what happened on Johnny Carson show
- except his last show when Bette Middler was on...I can't tell you anything
that happened on Jay Leno Show..I can't remember anything outstanding and
I do watch them. David Lettermen, my children like him because he's
Paul: All children do. You see they're not building programs
for us, our age, all of us in the room. They're not doing that.
They're doing silly things that drive me crazy.
June: I think that's why I'm so thankful that we have
videos so we can go back in that time capsule and you don't have to watch
some of that garbage that they have; you can go for a movie that's good and
one that you like.
Paul: Thank God!
June: I do. Now I'd like to talk a little bit about
the "Allstar Tribute to John Wayne" you produced in 1976. How did you
first meet John Wayne?
Paul: When Paar went off the air I came out and I was
Associate Producer for the Dean Maratin Show and the second how of the year,
which would have been September 22 in about 1965, Duke was Dean's guest.
They were plugging a picture called "The Sons of Katie Elder." Dean
and Duke had just finished it. So, I was one of the two riters and Dean
asked me to go down and meet Duke and put together a spot.
So, I went down and I was petrified! It was a little rough at first
- it's too long a story to tell you, but then he saw where I was going and
I went in and I said, "Now Mr. Wayne, they call you 'Duke', why do they call
you Duke? Why do you live in Newport? Do you play an instrument?
You know - when Stewart came on he played an accordian and this and I kept
asking questions and he said, "Where the hell did you say you're from?"..and
I said, "The Dean Martin Show". Duke said, "Well you sound like your
from the Encyclopedia Britanica." He said, "I thought Dean's show was
a comedy show." I said, "It is, and if you want, I'll go back and write
a lot of crap..jokes..and if you're sick the day of the show we can get Gregory
Peck, Kirk Douglas, Jimmy Stewart or Fonda...and they can do the same jokes.
But I said,"I'm lookin for information about you that I can have to tell
Dean..normal questions that he would normally ask you that people want to
know about and I'm trying to get you answers, fun, based on truth. Now
if they don't get any of the jokes they go for, you don't come up with egg
on your face, because they are still getting information that interests them.
That's when he came aboard my ship and we became grat friends. Then,
right after that season ended he called me one day and he said, "I promised
Geroge Champion that when I licked canacer I'd go to Vietnam and shake hands
with those kids. I did it with their fathers and I'll do it for them;
my debt has come due. Can you help me with some jokes? I said
"sure" and I was still afraid of him. I'd only seen him a few times.
I said, "sure, I'll give you all the jokes you want. It's not what they
want..they want jokes about their company commander, their weather, thteir
combat, their food; they want jokes about their officers. He said,
"Well, hell, the only way you could do that is go with me. A week later
we took a 17 hour flight to Vietnam and that really solidified us.
We really went over there and worked 20 hours a day. Now he said,
"I don't want to do a show. I don't have an act. I don't dance,
I don't want to be stood in front of a crowd in front of a microphone.
I'll talk to them. I'll answer their questions." So, I predicted
questions and I wrote jokes,...hard, solid jokes that he could work into answers
to these kids questions. "Hey..Duke...you been on sick call yet?
How did you like the food? How are you taking the heat? When
did you get to Saigon? All that, and I gave him stuff that he could
talk into, give his regular...see the Hollywood stuff he could take care
of, "What's Jimmy Cagney like?"..but the jokes, it worked out great and we
really entertained a lot of guys in a couple of weeks.
June: What year was that?
Lee: What stops did you make?
Paul: Everywhere, all four corps. We were on two
ships - the Roberson, which is a destroyer, and the Hancock, which is an aircraft
carrier, and we were in (spelling of Vietnamese names are only approximated
JB) Whey, Placoup, Danang, Saigon, there were four corps in Vietnam then.
We were made honorary Montanyat soldiers, outsisde of Danang and they took
blood from his hand and blood from my hand, gave us some damn thing that tasted
like poy and then they took a piece of wire and they made us each a bracelet
- Duke' you can seee it on every picture he made from 1966 on and I've never
taken this off yet - we had a helluva time!
June: In between that time I noticed you even got him
on the "Laugh In"..I can't imagine him doing that for anybody but a person
he really cared for.
Paul: I remember his first line, he said, "A fella told
me to shoot first and ask questions afterwards...I wanted to ask him why...but
I had to shoot him!" "Hickory, Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock,
the clock struck...those damn unions are gettin in everywhere." He did
between 47 and 50 the the first time he did it, but we used them 4 or 5 a
show and we used them until they ran out and then he did more.
June: The success of "The Laugh In" kind of phemonenal
because I remember I had a 2 and a 3 year old and I remember...wasn't it Monday
night it was on?...I remember everybody had to go in and watch "Laugh-In"...stop
everything! What was the reason..
Paul: Pace, speed, energy, cartoon characters, wardrobe,
sound, we never told two jokes at the same time, we had something going across
the bottom of the screen...we had two people doin a joke audio and it was
the first program that took advantage of the medium - fast wipes, fast cuts.
June: It's indelible,.."Sock It To Me"...all these things
have stayed in your mind for years and years and that probably has made more
of an impression than any TV program ever.
Lee: Do you think today's audience would appreciate it?
Paul: If it hand't been done they would.
June: How about the 25th Anniversary thing...most everybody
said they watched that.
Did you enjoy it?....obviously you got an Emmy..
June: You had your heart into it..consistently.
How many years did it run?
Paul: Six and one-half.
June: It is a sad feeling to think that it's all gone.
The "All Star Tribute to John Wayne"...let's talk about that. I know
you've done a lot, and I know I would haven't time to hear it all. When
I spoke to you on the phone that time you were relating an incident that
happened during "Allstar" about Maureen coming down the stairs and John Wayne
didn't get up.
Paul: Well, first of all in all in all my parties for
Variety Clubs everything is a total surprise to the guest because if they
know everything is going to happen you fake surprise...lot of people try...Burt
Reynolds tries and fails. You can't fake surprise, and they trusted me....and
now by the time I did that I was close to a lot an awful lot of super stars
that I could book and they trusted me. Ronald Reagan was President of the
United States, let me surprise him with an hour.
So, one of the surprises on Duke's show was Maureen, whom he would never
expect to see. She lived down in Puerto Rico or someplace...
June: The Virgin Islands
Paul: Yah...so I flew her out and I had an arrangement
made of "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" and we arranged it so she would
sing the first chorus at the top of a flight of stairs and we would cut into
a few scenes of their's together..only two, one from, picking the flower from
"The Quiet Man" and there was another one and the second in the music she
would walk down the stairs and change temp and get louder and get moving and
I said, "I will have Duke stand when you get to the bottom of the stairs near
his table" and Duke was crying...he LOVED her!..and the fact that she was
so...see actors aren't used to personal moments on television. They're
used to being in front of the camera in a sound proof studio. This
is everybody's watching and here she is..."I've Grown Accustomed to Your
Face"....you know he was really touched...well, he forgot to stand!
Now most actresses just would have finished the song. She knew I wanted
him to stand...I asked him to stand, but he forgot it. So God love her, she
just said, "Oh...I'm sorry, I'm sorry...I'm sorry Paul, could we take that
from the top again, I'm not doing it right!" She came over to me and
she said, "Duke didn't stand!...and I know you wanted him to stand."
So she took the blame on herself as if she did it...and it's hard to do that
out here in that crowd of monkeys.
So, she went up and picked it up again, but that's a marvelous story of
her because no one else would ever do it.
June: You know, she did a Broadway musical in 1960 "Christine"
by Pearl Buck that didn't run very long, but I had never heard it until I
got an out-of-print tape I was able to find. She had an extraordinary
voice!....She was originally cast in "The King and I."
Paul: Sears Roebuck were livid when I booked her.
"That old woman!...she doesn't sing!...the thought she was an actress."
They had no idea!
June: That particular show to me is so special and I
was very lucky to get a copy of the tape and that's why I called you initially;
I was trying to find out who owned the rights and if you'd ever consider marketing
Paul: I've never tried to sell it, I don't have an agent...I
don't have anybody ask me. The only thing I think they should do and
they didn't with Cary, who died the day before Clint Eastwood Show aired...they
should have played it on anniversaries. All those tired old clips of
Lucy don't mean a thing..but to see them at a party being loved by their friends,
that's what they should have done. For Ingrid Bergman they didn't do
it, Duke they didn't do it...they should have done it.
The big thing on Duke was John Carradine who had been with Duke in "Stagecoach"...and
who also was the crooked funeral parlor guy in Duke's last picture, "The Shootist"..and
Duke went and made his deal to be laid out. So, when I shook hands
with Carradine, he was so crippled with arthritis, and he loved Duke.
I got a shot of him and it just haunts me...and I see it. It's at the
end when Duke gets the hospital presentation and Carradine's crying...and
it must have been torture...he's slamming his fists together..that touched
me so. You don't see those thing!
June: The tape I have is a copy and of course very grainy,
but to watch the audience watching John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara was very
moving to me.
Paul: Yes, Oh, God yes!
June: The audience was beaming...Betty White, Earl Holeman,
and Red Skelton...so moving.
Paul: I did a lot of parties.
June: I was so surprised when the AFI did Liz Taylor I
didn't realize that she did anything that...
Paul: She's popular in this town. She's a fund raiser.
Being a side-show is a fund raiser; it costs a thousand dollars a plate..
June: I thought it was for strictly the honor of contributing
to the industry.
June: I thought why on earth are they giving it to Elizabeth
To me that makes me feel that a lot of people who really deserve the credit,
aren't getting it. Or is it really necessary to receive credit?
Paul: Well, you have to get an audience. Now when
they put Willie Wyler on, which I did, he went in the toilet in the ratings.
Nobody knows Wilie Wyler and not body cares about directors except the Director's
Guild. If you're gonna do a show on network television and have a party
for someone you better get Clint Eastwood, or Duke, or Frank, or superstars...they
will fit. With Cagney I got a 52 rating..all entertainment for the AFI
and the next year they went to Orson Wells, - nobody cares about Orson Wells,
no body cares about Orson Wells. Willie Wyler...who cares about Willie
Wyler? They just don't care. By the time they got to Bette Davis
they had stopped entertaining completely. Who is gonna tune in to a
bunch of rich people telling other rich person how wonderful she is.
They're not gonna do it, it goes in the dumper every year!
June: I watch the Oscars to see who's gonna wear what..to
see what clothes...
Paul: Yah...there's a lot of fashion viewers.
June: But I don't watch it because..
Paul: Again, rich people giving rich people awards.
June: When you know it's voting, you know it's political..it
loses something. It's always been that way I guess. We all have
different tastes and there's something there for everybody. Now I would
love, being a fan of Maureen O'Hara's, I would love to see some of the television
shows she was on, and singing...Perry Como, Bell Telephone Hour, but of course
O'Hara doesn't sell either because she lives her own life, and doesn't do
the Hollywood thing, never has, I guess and that keeps her out of the society.
Paul: That's right, you're either here or your don't exist.
She's been not here too long. She's moved around the world like a gypsy.
June: As long as you care, I guess that's what's important.
June: You have got to feel absolutely fabulous!
Paul: I'm pleased with it.
June: Do you still write?
Paul: I just finished book, we'll see what happens.
There's no scandal in it so I don't
think it will sell.
June: That is too bad. I know Angela Fox Dunn, a
journalist, did a couple of feature articles on O'Hara in 1989 and I got the
back issues and wrote to her, telling her how much I liked them and she tried
to see about doing a biography on Maureen and the publishers said it wouldn't
sell...she's too clean...they have to have the scandal..the Marilyn Monroes.
Paul: Bob Hope has a book. It'll sell. Number
1 is that idiot, Howard Stern! That's my point....they are buying it!
They aren't making entertainment for us!
June: When you have to get videos of old films to get
decent entertainment it's...
Paul: No, you don't have to do that to the people who
are buying products today. They're buying what they're watching.
They don't saying we should have shows from the past to entertain us!
They like what they're getting...they like Seinfeld...they like these people.
June: It's scary. I don't even watch that much television.
"Home Improvement" I watch if I think about it.
Paul: We've all had our children, we've all been married,
had to buy a house, had to buy furniture, we've all worked, we've had to buy
cars. We have spent our money when we get to a certain age, you're not
there yet, but I am. We've spent the majority of the money of acquisitions.
It's the young people who are getting married and have to buy a house or a
car and have a baby and buy baby food. That's who the advertisers will
always favor. They want money! We don't buy those things!
Look at the girl with the red glasses.
June: Since I only work 10« months for the school
distrct so I'm home in the summer time and I watch these daytime talk shows
and I think, where do they get all these topics...(laughing) don't they run
out of them?
Paul: No they're not...because the they do the same topic
and re-title it 5 times a year. They'll never run out of subjects...no
June: It's pathetic, it really is. Sometimes I watch
it just to laugh at it. I'd like to see some old Perry Como shows and
instead they're brining back Ed Sullivan.
Paul: Last year they did a 25 year retrospect of Sullivan
because in it they could advertise 100 stars. That's why they did that; they
got a good rating, they did a second one, and they'll do one every year.
That's why...they're not brining Ed Sullivan back, they're brining back a
big billboard of guests stars once a year.
June: You were only in television, and radio..
June: But you still had work with all these movie stars
so you had to understand something about what makes them tick I would think.
Paul: Yah, you learn as you go. You fall on your
face and you learn.
June: (pointing to bronze statue on table) Is that who
I think it is over there?
Paul: Red River!
June: I'll have to get a picture of that. It's beautiful.
Paul: It's Red River...it's Monty Clift's first picture.
June: Isn't that the one where he didn't like John Wayne
at first when he worked with him and then after they finished the picture
and then he praised his acting.
We talked with Charles FitzSimons and he said too that even though Wayne
always downplayed his acting, that he was a great actor. Wayne always
said he didn't act, he "reacted" and Charles said that was a bunch of bull..he
was a great actor.
Paul: Yah, he was. He had a great flair for comedy.
June: He did that Brass Balls thing at Harvard...he answered
questions there. He was very funny. I have seen portions of it.
Paul: He went in on this tank! and the girl said, challenging
him. He was the Big Bad Bear..he said, "I'm the Big Bad Bear..they're
a bunch of far out liberals and they're gonna kill me." But the more
he thought about it, he looked forward to it so they had an open question
and answer period nad a very aggressive young girl got up and said, "Mr. Wayne,
I'd like to know how you feel about equal rights for women!" Duke just
looked at her and said, "I'm all for equal rights for women. They should
get the same pay, the same hours, the same promotions, the same respect as
any man on the job, just so long as they have supper on the table when I
get home." He loved this stuff...he did that!
June: He did that with Barbara Walters on his last interview
before he went into the hospital. She said something about opinion of
a wife's place in the home. He thought it was too bad that it takes
two incomes..that both man and woman have to work now; that the man alone
can't make enough money to support the family. He went on to express
the opinion that a woman should be home and she could have her bridge clubs,
church work...etc. He kept going on and Barbar Walters said, "Oh, please...why
did you say that?..I'm gonna get all this mail!"
Paul: Yah...and Barbara Walters didn't like that, of course.
Baloney! She wants all the mail she can get. (all laughing)
June: She said, "You know I'm gonna get a lot of letters
on this and why did you say that?" And he said, "Why can't I say that,
why can't I have an opinion...just because I'm a movie star?..I can't have
Paul: Duke didn't have many opinions he held back. (laughing)
Miriam always called him a big teddy bear.
June: That's what Maureen O'Hara called him, too.
Miriam: That's how he treats you - you meet him, that's
how he treats you.
June: Charles FitzSimons said he'd go over to the Virgin
Islands to visit Maureen and Charlie Blair, take off his toup‚, relax, and
he could be himself. That's where he'd hang out - he and Charlie Blair
were good friends.
June: I can't think of anything else right now.
Is there any possibility that someday you might release that "Allstar Tribute."
Paul: I don't know.
June: I hope you change your mind. He made a lot
of TV appearances.
Paul: Oh yah, I wrote them all. I wrote everything
he did on television; "Swing Out Sweet Land" - 100th Anniversary G.E., "Laugh
In"...Dean - two or three times and he guested for me with Elizabeth, he guested
on all the shows I did he guested.
He used to come over to Warner Bros. in the Rooster Cogburn outfit and he's
come through the door and he'd say, "A fella told me a man could get a drink
here!" (laughing) God he was funny!
June: You know you do feel after seeing him on the screen
that you almost know him because you feel that what's up on the screen is
probably pretty much the way he was.
I read once where Maureen said in an article that he was always playing
jokes on people on the set and he'd be talking to a group of fellas and then
as someone approached the group he'd turn and say, "Hey...here he comes now...tell
him to his face." and then Duke would turn and leave the group.
Paul: He was shooting "Cogburn" at Warner Brothers when
I was doing my Vareity Club parties and I used to take all my people to lunch
in the commissary and I saw Duke out of the corner of my eye and he took the
table next to us and he was with his co-stars with his picture (who's the
guy who spilled the bottle of wine on you?)
Miriam: Bruce Cabot.
Paul: And all those guys so I said at the top of my voice:
"God, just look at him...he's pathetic!... He's old, he's fat, he's tired...and
he's just a disgrace!" And Duke just turned around he said, (imitating Duke's
drawl)..."Yah forgot bloated."
Oh God he was funny,...gees he was
June: Stuntman Chuck Roberson, he's gone now, as a book,
"The Fall Guy"...and that's one of the funniest books I've ever read.
Paul: Well...what are you doinG with all this research.
June: You know I don't know what I'm doing. I have
some kind of a compulsion; once I started all this reading, and started doing
my video tapes and learning about this particular group of people...The Ford
Stock Company...stunt men, O'Hara, Wayne and people I think have more talent
then they'll ever have today...uh..I don't really know. All I know is
I want to learn more about it. I'm not a writer....so I can't sit down
and write a book...but to hear you tell these asides and these stories I
think is so great. I think we need to know about what these people did,
otherwise it's all going to be gone! All these wonderful experiences
they had...all of these...everyone knew John Wayne in a different way...and
obviously you're a very funny man...you have to be...and when I talked to
you on the phone I enjoyed talking to you; you were warm, open and unique.
Big Trail" and they'll enjoy to hear what you have shared about Duke Wayne.
you're obviously a very talented man.
Paul: So did he.
June: That's right....literally!
Paul: He was a prop man on a movie directed by....anyway,
big director and he was walking across the 20th Century Fox lot carrying a
table over his head and this director said, "I want to see you tomorrow morning
in my office at 10:00 and don't get a hair cut." And Duke showed up
and, cause see that was one of the questions I used on the "Dean Martin Show"
when Duke told me that story about walking across with the table. Dean
said, "Well, I know how you feel Duke, I've been under a table many nights
myself." And Duke said, "So have I and I wasn't carrying them."
I'll tell you an interesting story that Richard Widmark told me about the
first time he ever made a John Ford film and in the John Ford Film was John
Wayne. Before the picture began shooting Widmark told me that Ford came
to him and he said, "Look, I want to give you a little advice. Wayne's
a very ambitious guy - don't give him an inch, he'll do anything to take
this picture away from you." So Widmark he said he really fought all
through the picture to get his fair share of screen time. And he and
Duke didn't know each other when the picture began, but when it was over they
were friends and you know, chow down every day, and they were out having a
drink after the picture and Widmark told Duke what John Wayne had said about
him. Duke burst out laughing and said, "The son-of-a-bitch told me
the same thing about you!"
Paul: Isn't that marvelous (all laughing)! Isn't
that marvelous! That's a chapter called how to get a good performance!
June: I read also that Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne,
I think it was in "McLintock"...they were always challenging each other and
apparently he stopped a scene and said "You're acting is terrible..what are
you doing here!" ...he was criticizing her acting ability. And she said
"I thought we'd play it 50/50"...and he said, "No, this is your scene...take
it!" and as he walked away he looked over his shoulder and said to her, "...if
Paul: We were talking one night and we were talking and
Duke said, "The American people have been awfully good to me for along time."
And we got talking about his success and mine was nothing compared to his,
but he said, "You must be pleased." I said, "Duke...how do you think
a high school graduate from Portland, Maine feels, who watched every film
you made, and listen to every record Sinatra ever made; how do you think it
feels for me to have you two guys as my friend?...that's the entire world
to me!" He said (imitating drawl)..."Well, if you needed help, which
one of would you call?"..and I said to him, I knew I was trapped. I
said, "Well Duke, I'll tell you the truth, if I needed oats I'd call you,
if I needed money, I'd call Frank." He said, "you ducked that one!"
So when we got back from Vietnam, I checked in with Frank and I told him
about conversation. Frank said, "What did you tell Duke?" I said,
"I said to him, if it was oats I needed I'd come to you, and if it was money,
I'd go to Frank." Frank said, "Very funny...which one of us would you
come to?" They want star billing even in friendship!
June: I take it you wrote the little monologue in the
"All Star Tribute" where he says, "You've made an old man..."
Paul: Duke is in the middle, Frank is there....Wink was
over there...and he comes up and he says, "Thank you Fonz...I don't know why
I turned that part down." and then he said, "I want to thank you, you've made
an old man, and an actor very happy tonight...you are happy aren't you Frank?"
Miriam: Paul becomes the people he writes; he becomes
Judy: How much do you interject?
Miriam: Nothing...no talent (laughing)
Paul: She makes it all worthwhile.
Miriam: I went through Senator Claghorn...on the Fred
Allen Show, I lived with him for awhile and then Jack Paar, I lived with
him for a while...and to think for them...to write for them, he becomes them...
Paul: Any writer worth his salt. If you are writing
for performers and you give them a joke, you damn well better read it out
loud and makes sure it sounds like him, like his words. Now Frank
says, "marvelous" every other word...he has certain words and you write them
for him. Paar would never use "marvelous". I used to write a joke
and read it out loud as Paar, as Duke, and find out where it isn't like him
and change him. So you do that. You have to do that.
Miriam: There is one difference. I hate the word
joke. I don't think he does jokes. To me he's a witty man, he's
a Will Rogers. I just hate the word joke.
Paul: Anything that gets a laugh is known to us professionally
as a "joke."
If you tell Dean to trip on the way out and it gets a laugh you say, "that
was a good joke!" Anthing that gets a laugh. And then when Miriam hears
people refer to me as a "joke writer" that bothers her.
Miriam: I get upset. Paul was also a very serious
writer; he speaks from his heart, beautiful, beautiful writing...that way
June: It's interesting for me to hear this because...
Miriam: Oh yes, he's a beautiful documentary writer.
June: I see all these things and the beauty in them; I
see Maureen O'Hara looking at John Wayne...the romance...the sunset...I'm
a hopeless romantic.
I like to be amusing at times, but
I can't write funny. I can write a funny letter.
Paul: How can you write funny letters and not write funny?
You're copping out! You're afraid!
June: I am very afraid....
June: I have a very warped sense of humor. I always
liked the old Saturday Night Live stuff.
Now that I'm older I have different priorities. You're just glad to
be alive each day.
I really do have a better prospective, much better than when I was younger.
If I want to write something, I'll be able to do it much better now.
I was going to write a screenplay, that would be the logical thing to do and
that's when I decided Maureen O'Hara was going to be my heroine.
Paul: Don't write a screenplay! Write a synopsis...write
a story line... Don't write a screenplay, there are too many technical directions,
and what goes where on a page..and they have readers at the studios and they
read 10 pages...a screen play is only a page a minute...and they'll read 10
to 20 pages. But if you do the structure of it wrong, despite a good
story, they'll throw it out. Write your story line.
June: (laughing) I did already...30 some books of those
yellow lined pads...I started writing it...
Paul: You're writing dialogue?...I'm talkin a 3 page summation
of a story! That's the only way to break in! They're not gonna
read 110 pages of dialogue from someone they never heard of. No way
on the face of the earth!
June: I'll try it. I started writing my play with
a "how to" book...and it said write at least 30 pages on each of your characters...about
what kind of food they like..bla..bla..bla..and my 30 pages got into 30 books...
Paul: How much do you re-write?
June: A little bit..
Paul: Nobody ever sold anything without re-writing it.
It's constant, constant, constant.
June: I go back and I read it...I write it in short hand
and then nobody else can read it...a self-defense thing. I haven't even
transcribed any of it!
Paul: You can't if you don't...so that's academic.
What you have to do is put something down. I have just written a book
and there's no chapter in it that hasn't been re-written 5 to 7 times.
June: That's what I do with a very important letter; I
lay it down 2 days later and say, "Oh, this is no good" and I keep pairing
it down. In about 5 days I can have a perfect letter.
Paul: Then do it with a story line. It's not that
June: I can write some pretty darned decent letters and
if I have written a letter and I pick it up a month later (I keep a filing
cabinet full) and when I wrote that letter to Angela Fox-Dunn, she wrote a
real nice article about Maureen, I thanked her and also told her about my
research because she was doing it as a journalist..she was getting paid.
I was doing it out of admiration; so I told her about some of my philosophies
about her and she answered my letter because it as a very intelligent letter.
And I said, Oh well..let me see and I went back to read it...almost afraid
to read it...and isn't wasn't too bad. But I see what you mean.
I did re-write that, I put it totally out of my mind and then went back and
re-write it and make it shorter.
Paul: You have no idea how much shorter everything on
the face of the earth can be said in paragraph form.
June: I also like to put a little humor in even the most
serious letters; it help too.
Paul: But make be part of the story.
June: I don't know what to do; I don't even know if this
is what I'm supposed to do. I love to talk to people and learn..
Paul: No...I think you'd be very happy to go through your
life meeting people and talking to them about it...but not doing a damn thing
June: I know I can write a little bit.
Paul: Then write.
June: What do I do with it when I get it written?
Paul: Get 5 good story lines and send them to an agent.
You don't know what's going to happen. They'll buy that!
You can sell story lines. Now sit down some day and sum up in a maximum
of three pages the storyline of "Casa Blanca." See how easily that can
be done. Sum up the story of "Casa Blanca" in three pages. What
I'm saying learn to condense what has been done and then you'll know how
to condense what you write. Most people write too long. All people
looking for work write too long. And you're not going to know how to
do it until you've done it. And the way to do it is to look at any
motion picture you want, and sum it up in 2 pages. "Casa Blanca" is
an easy one.
You keep writing not to write. You keep writing from what I gather,
to get something down...oh boy, I'm writing but I don't have to worry about
it because I'm not mailing it Monday.
June: (laughing) Right. That's right!
Paul: You should take one thing and keep cutting it and
keep making it better and the easiest way to do it is to create a motion picture,
but you have to know sell that motion picture on paper and the way you figure
that out is how did Julius Epstein sell "Casa Blanca" to Warner Brothers.
That's how they sell them!
So look, we got this guy...he's an ex-patriot, he's got a little cafe in
"Casa Blanca" which is teaming with Germans and free French. He meets up with
an old girl friend....and then the big surprise is where she goes in the
end. That's not hard! Then you know how to write a story.
But you're just going to die and leave a great file of a while bunch of words...
June: My kids can have a real bonfire!
Paul: No, but she told me she started an idea for a picture
and she filled 10 legal yellow pads!
Paul: With dialogue!...You can't do that! It's just
June: (laughing) it sure is because I have a stack of
Paul: You're thinking her while we're talking about who
you can call next and meet to talk about it. That's just a delaying
June: That's right! I call it the "never ending
Judy: She has really put together so many things involving
Paul: Her work.
June: No...before I went back to work I was a PTA president
and I decided...they always have these stupid school carnivals to raise money
and I wanted to do something more exciting...so we had an aeronautics festival...the
history of flight. The children had to study a unit on the history of
flight. I had a hang glider, a hot air balloon, the Civil Air Patrol...choreographed
a dance with some 8th grade girls to "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying
Machines"...it was something else. They're still talking about it!
Paul: So you wrote a carnival.
June: You're damn right I did. With flight there
are just endless possibilities.
We brought our interview to a close with these two lovely people.
Mr. Keyes handed me a small box and told me to put it in my purse. As we
drove away I opened it to discover a commemorative John Wayne coin (the large
3' one). What a wonderful memoir of our visit! I feel very privileged
to have had the opportunity to meet Paul and Miriam Keyes.
When Paul reminisced and shared a few of his experiences with John Wayne,
his fondness for Duke was evident in his voice and expression. Paul's
kind and caring demeanor made the interview an absolute pleasure and one I
will long remember.