Tuesday, April 30, 2013



Little Rock, AR to Fayetteville, AR to Springdale, AR via Google Maps

Dear Reader,

We get up early, gas up the Tour Truckster, refill the $1 reusable Starbucks Grande cups we’d bought many thousands of miles ago (still working perfectly BTW)  and head out of Little Rock, AR for Fayetteville, AR about 200 miles away.  Our ultimate destination is Arvest Park in Springdale, just a few miles out of Fayetteville, but Mission Control in Los Angeles has booked us into a nice Marriott Courtyard in Fayetteville.

The drive is ridiculously easy and mercifully short.  Lots of beautiful Arkansas landscape passing mile after mile.  Someone yesterday told me that people in Texas call Arkansas North Texas.  If I was an Arkansas person I wouldn’t like that, because I’ve been to North Texas.  Nothing wrong with it, but Arkansas is prettier.

Arkansas is pretty.

Told you so.

Razorback Hog country.  Gotta be millions of them in there.

We hit just a single rest stop to stretch our legs, and let The Captain “get his marking on” (he’s absolutely owns all the territory from Florida to Memphis to Philly to North Carolina to Nashville to Little Rock, and I am not about to let him break that streak of territorial marks-a-lot now) and eventually exit the interstate into...

The Captain and his favorite possession.

The Navigator and The Captain with his goofy puppy face.

... the single worst freaking traffic light system I have ever encountered.  The cars are backed up almost a mile in every direction from every intersection (of which there must be 100 in this downtown section).  It takes, and I am not exaggerating here, seven red lights to eventually turn left into the megalopolis of an outdoor shopping development where the Marriott Courtyard stands.  I timed it.  It took 40 minutes.  40 MINUTES!  And all the while we could actually see the hotel right over there!  Right beside us, mocking us, “HA HA!  Welcome to Fayetteville, Arkansas!  We don’t know how to sync our traffic lights!  Actually we do, but we like to make your after-interstate drive a living hell!”

Seriously, it was worse than the intersection of Sepulveda Blvd. & Ventura Blvd. at either morning or after work rush hour.

After an epoch, we get to the hotel, and things do not improve.  The place is absolutely filled to capacity.  There is, literally, a single employee (not just at the front desk - I mean in the entire hotel!) and not a luggage cart in a thousand miles.


We learn that the reason for the busy-ness is a big time college baseball game - something called  the Red n’ Blue game; the red being the Arkansas Razorbacks.  I don’t know who the “blue” were, but it doesn’t matter - the Razorbacks have, I decide, both the coolest name in college sports, The Razorbacks, and without question the coolest logo: a bitchin’ Razorback Hog caught in time at full stride and full speed.  

Also, that they have a particular motto/war cry that goes like this:

Woo!  Pig!  Sooie!  This from Wikipedia:

In 1909 the football team finished a 7–0 season allowing only 18 points on defense and scoring 186 points on offense. College Football Hall of Fame coach Hugo Bezdek proclaimed his team played "like a wild band of razorback hogs". The name proved so popular that it was changed for the 1910 season. The tradition of calling the hogs, “Woo, Pig! Sooie” was added in the 1920s.

Old "Tusk" The actual Arkansas Razorback mascot of the Arkansas razorbacks!

So we make do and download just a few things from the Truckster and then take The Captain on a walk.  Things improve instantly.  There is a big section of the parking lot in the back that’s almost empty, perfect for a parking lot bbq, and an adjacent huge grassy area on which to run The Captain.

The Navigator consults the iPad and finds that in the massive shopping complex there is one of everything, every retailer on earth including Starbucks for morning buckage, and a Wally World.  We hit Wally World and I look for the same sort of $7 cheapy grill we’ve become accustomed to, and I find something even better.  A $10 cheapy grill that folds flat!  I buy that and a $2.44 bag of insta-light coals.  The Navigator gets some chicken and a pack of four tidy steaks for The Captain.  We find a liquor store nearby and, thankfully, they have Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA for our end of day beer.  We’re in and out in no time and nobody stared at me.  

This is not Little Rock.

Back at the hotel the single employee (a nice young lady) has found us a big rolling laundry cart to use in lieu of the AWOL luggage carts, so we throw all the t-shirt vac-packs in it and wheel them up to the room. We do a little repacking of the t-shirt situation, making smaller packages of about 40 shirts each - much easier to load in and out of the Truckster at the baseball stadiums.

After the t-shirts are loaded in and sorted out, we let The Captain do a little thing we like to call his “HHR” Hotel Hallway Rip:

After that we both catch up on emails and work.

I notice I have a email from a dear, long time friend who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  I’ve known Tommy D. (Tom Dellaira) since college in the mid 80’s.  He knows I’m on The Sandlot Tour and tells me in the email that he has recently moved his home office from one room to another, and in the process this is what he came across:

Original draft of The Boys of Summer.  That was the original title of The Sandlot.  In the library of Thomas Dellaira, Albuquerque, New Mexico

It’s an original, one of the first copies I printed out when I finished the original script for, what was then known as, THE BOYS OF SUMMER.  It brings back a flood of memories, and since the red-neck cooler has been chilling the Ruthless Rye for sometime by then, I grab one and head outside to indulge in a little reminiscing.

I remember movies being my escape as a kid.  I remember every single movie I have ever seen in a theater, and when I was a kid saying to myself while watching movies “I don’t know how they do that, but I want to do that.”

There were originally supposed to be on screen "Titles" before the film started.

I remember the incident from my childhood that would one day provide the spark for the idea for the story.  I can literally remember writing almost every single line of the screenplay.  I remember the exact moment I got the idea for the story.  I even remember the Toshiba 321 dot-matrix printer I upgraded from, to an HP LaserJet II, on which I printed the script.  I remember the Northgate Tower PC and the WordPerfect Program with the SideKick add-on and formatting it through what was then the epitome of A.I. “Scriptor.”  I remember being fired as Director off my first studio picture, Radio Flyer.  I remember all of Columbia Studios (Just then becoming Sony Pictures Studios), from Jon Peters on down, bad mouthing me all over Hollywood and telling EVERYONE not to hire me as a director because I could not direct my way out of zip-loc baggie.

Original title page of the screenplay.

I remember typing FADE OUT on TBOS.  

I remember my agent at the time getting offers for the script much more lucrative than my deal for Radio Flyer, all of them contingent on me stepping aside and agreeing to let someone else direct it The Sandlot.  I remember turning every single one of those offers down.  I remember that being very difficult, because of what John Gregory Dunne termed “The Monster” (in Hollywood parlance, The Monster, is money, or more to the point the “pull” of more and more money).  

Sidebar: this, from a review by Larry Gelbart of Monster: Living Off the Big Screen:

The monster in Mr. Dunne's title refers not to studio bigwigs, however, but to that which stokes them and the industry over which they rule: money. Money is the monster that must be fed in order to generate ever and ever more money. It is the monster that makes studios play it safe, play it again via remakes and sequels, and finally play dead when questioned about why no one else gets a fair share of the take.

I remember Paul Kelmenson, my agent then,  giving the script to Mark Burg and Chris Zarpas at Island World, which company at the time was fat with cash from an infusion from Chris Blackwell and John Heyman.  I remember Mark Burg at a lunch in Burbank saying to me, “I’m going to buy this and you’re going to direct it.  I talked to every single person in town and every single one of them told me, loudly, that you could not direct a motion picture.”

I remember asking him, “Then why are you giving me the opportunity?”

I remember him answering, “Because they can’t all be right.”

Smart guy, Mark Burg.

I remember scouting Utah.  Pre-production and the first day of production and being on The Sandlot set we built from the dirt up with Production Designer Chester Kaczinski and Director of Photography Tony Richmond.  I had tried to hire Tony on Radio Flyer and the Columbia/Sony brass would not approve him at the time.  I remember being pleased we were working together (I love working with Brits - they never panic) and that I was able to make good on my wish and promise to hire him.  I remember the first few nerve-wracking camera set-ups and being unsure of a lot of things.  I remember AD Bill Elvin and DP Tony helping me sort out the day’s material.  I remember fast becoming at ease with everything as the boys were just perfect, just like I’d imagined on the page, all of it coming to life right in front of my eyes as we shot it.  I remember thinking, “I think this is gonna come out really good.”

Flashing forward I remember editing the picture with Mike Stevenson.  I remember recording the Narration.  I remember David Newman recording the music and it being just perfect, elevating the whole movie to another level.  I remember screening it for FOX.  I remember the marketing guys at the time thanking me for a film they genuinely loved putting together a marketing plan for.  

I remember going to as many theaters as I could the day/night of The Sandlot’s initial domestic theatrical release.  I remember audiences loving it.  I remember doing a benefit screening for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and signing 100’s of autographs on posters for kids and families.  I remember during its first week of release getting several cards and letters from people congratulating me on proving the naysayers wrong.  I remember being quite pleased with that.

Original first page of the script for The Sandlot (at the time, titled The Boys of Summer).

There is nothing quite so satisfying as proving the naysayers wrong.  It is, to be sure, hard to resist wallowing in that revenge and perhaps a little sinful, like gnawing on your vanquished enemy’s flesh after battle and spitting his meat into the fire you’ve built on his conquered territory, and I surely did some of that back then.  But to be sure, now with the benefit of time, I look up at the sky and it’s magic hour (of course), and I thank the Big Man for delivering me from what could have been.  I make no mistake about it, I most certainly have been delivered.   I am a grateful man.

I remember my life changing in many ways, and then...

... I’m back in the present and wondering what my life would have been like had I never made The Sandlot.  And I do not know the answer to that, but I do know what it would not have been like.  And I reflect that I would not be standing right here, right now, preparing for a screening of the film at a beautiful baseball stadium tomorrow in Springdale, Arkansas.  And another 18 stadiums after that.  And that I would not, because of The Sandlot, have friends I have never yet met, everywhere I go.

I am normally a very grateful man, but at this moment, even more so.   Life is good.   So is the Ruthless Rye.   So I crack another one and start the coals.

The Navigator, The Captain and I sit quietly while the grill gets its glow on.  It is a wonderfully contented many moments.

The Tour Truckster, our red-neck cooler of Ruthless Rye IPA and the $10 Wally World foldable grill in the parking lot of the Fayetteville, Arkansas Marriott Courtyard Inn

What more do you need?  Nothing.

The Navigator on the iPhone

The Captain "On Watch," waiting on his steaks.

Foldable Wally World grill - $10.  Grilling in the parking lot the night before the second screening of The 20th Anniversary Sandlot Tour at Arvest Park?  Priceless.


We cook The Captain’s steaks medium well, as he has requested, and while he eats them my inner-wolf lives vicariously through his obviously primal eating pleasure.

The Captain.  Sacked out after a long day and his fourth run.  The Captain goes NOWHERE without his tennis ball.  Even to sleep.

End of day beer, chillin' in the red-neck cooler
After that, it’s back to the room and lights out.

Big day tomorrow at Arvest Park, home of The Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

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