Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Trails...

It's funny where a Wikipedia trail can take you.

I've just been watching a film called Coogan's Bluff released in 1968. Not a very good film but it has late sixties New York as its backdrop and although I don't know New York particularly well, I know it looks sort of different today.

The closing scene of the film involves a large twin-rotor passenger helicopter taking off from the roof of the Pan Am building. The shot pans away dramatically as the helicopter takes off to show the New York cityscape. I was interested to see if this passenger service still operated.

First I googled the Pan Am building which took me to the Wikipedia page for the building. From there I discovered the helicopter passenger service only ran for a little over two years ending in early 1968 so the film was probably made in 1967. The service briefly resumed in 1977 but was ended after a particularly gruesome accident where the helicopter landing gear collapsed during landing and a helicopter rotor broke away and flew into a group of waiting passengers killing four people. Debris falling from the roof killed a pedestrian in the street fifty nine storeys below.

One of the people killed was a film director called Michael Findlay who along with his wife Roberta Findlay, directed and produced numerous sexploitation movies. They have been described as "the most notorious filmmakers in the annals of sexploitation".

Coogan's Bluff is mentioned on the Pan Am Building Wikipedia page as one of several film to feature the skyscraper. One of the actresses in the film is called Susan Clark. She was born in Sarnia in Canada - a place I've only ever heard of once before as the hometown of a girl called Kelly who I met on a group holiday in South America that I took in 1998. She was lovely. Her catchphrase was "better living through chemistry".

Kelly seemed to have arrrived in South America with most of the contents of her local pharmacy in her luggage. We laughed at her and her apparent dependence on all this medication but after a month of fairly vigourous travelling through Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia we had all taken advantage of something from her medicine chest. "Better living through chemistry" became a catchphrase of that holiday as also did the habit of inventing different names for each other which was started by two New Zealand vets who were also on the holiday who always called each other Ken. Their real names were Sarah and Michelle. They were very funny girls and I think of them whenever I hear the name Ken. I always hear it in my mind in a broad New Zealand accent - "Kin".

Coogan's Bluff also stars Lee J. Cobb. An actor I remember for two particular roles. He was the racist bigot in 12 Angry Men and he was also in The Virginian - a western TV series that was shown on British televison in the sixties and seventies. Good wholesome family viewing.

The Virginian was played by an actor called James Drury - a name that has always stuck in my mind because I think I watched a lot of episodes of The Virginian as a small child and his name was very prominently featured in the opening titles as if he was BIG STAR. At the time I thought he must be the most famous man in America. I don't recall seeing him in anything else but he appears to have had a reasonable acting career and also worked in the oil and gas business. He has a son who is a keyboard player who worked with The Eagles and is currently with Whitesnake - a band that has had many, many, many lineup changes over the years.

Whitesnake was one of my favourite bands as a teenager. It was founded by David Coverdale who became something of a poodle rocker in the 80s - I went off them then. I always like the more rock/blues-influenced early albums. David Coverdale was born in Saltburn which is a small Victorian seaside resort in the north of England a few miles from where I grew up.


nursemyra said...

Ah Wikipedia, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

Terra Shield said...

You can get 'lost' in the world of Wikipedia for hours... sigh.