With David Carradine’s untimely passing (really, at 72, too young and he was too busy hell-raising to kill himself and well, guess we’ll just wait for the final results, but the common thought of how he died (not ninjas, etc.) is probably right – he did what he wanted.)
Wrote this back a couple months ago but kept not getting around to posting it….
Back before Stargate SG-1 or Stargate Atlantis, I was a big fan of the series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (aka KFTLC), the sequel to old ABC series Kung Fu, which oddly enough, I never watched. Best of all, I found out a friend was working on the series, so I was able to visit the set a few times in Toronto (if I’d lived locally, I would have fetched ‘em coffee for free!). This was pre-internet, basically, when lists to discuss TV shows were on listervs (usually at a college) and Yahoo and OneList and eGroups, etc. etc. did not exist. Oh yeah, and cable TV was sorta new, too. ;)
Anyway, I visited the set a few times over the years, amassing oddball souvenirs, but better memories, really, of meeting folk. I have a few Xerox boxes full of original colored scripts. The best ones are the ones that I got signed at the Fu Fest conventions, which were limited to about 125 attendees, so they were small and intimate and just loads of fun. David Carradine attended the last one, I believe. As I recall, there were two Fu Fests at the Valhalla hotel out near Toronto’s airport. Third con almost happened but got axed with the SARS scare. KFTLC meanwhile, filmed in Mississauga, just outside of Toronto, in a huge warehouse owned or rented by Warner Brothers. Once KFTLC got the axe, La Femme Nikita moved in. Sigh. Darn.
Because I was a friend of crew, nobody seemed to mind if me (or friends when they came with me) roamed the set unattended. We even got to eat in the commissary! One of my favorite memories is from what I think was my first visit. Anyway, we were instructed not to approach/talk to David Carradine unless he talked to you first. However, since I was more interested in other cast, and just seeing my friend, it was no problem. Anyway, me and my friends were sitting in the empty commissary (which had this fantastic dragon painted on the wall behind where the food was served) and there was one piece of chocolate cake left. We weren’t fools, so we didn’t touch it. But, the director (Zale Daden, I think) on the current episode came in and took it, then left. (I’d bumped into him earlier during my wanderings and he didn’t look like a director – shorts, bandana – I thought he was crew. Anyway, we talked briefly about something, then I asked what he did and he said who he was and then he asked who I was, so putting foot I mouth, I said “I’m part of the viewing public that keeps you employed.” Silence for a second, then he laughed. So, wasn’t tossed out!). But back to the commissary. All the food is gone, and then about ten minutes later, in strides Carradine. Not walks, strides, big steps. The extra we’d been chatting to goes “Look, it’s Mr. David ‘Kung Fu’ Carradine’! really loud. We cringe as Carradine’s eyes swivel and stare at us like we’re bugs, but then goes and find the cake empty and I think (I gotta find my travel log) he asks rather loudly where the food is and I think I said the director took the last piece of cake. Anyway, he left and we got to stay. It was sorta surreal. Apparently he was often late for food.
Apparently several of my visits tended to coincide with his drinking days but I never saw anything on set. I do remember watching them film a scene, which was going along swimmingly until someone elsewhere in the warehouse dropped something, making a loud noise, and the scene got ruined. Carradine got out a big portable phone (cellphones weren’t really in creation then) and called up Warner Brothers, and got a bit peeved when he got a busy signal. I did my best not to laugh myself silly as I thought it was ridiculous for them to know HE was calling. A crew person muttered “oh, he’s in a good mood today.”
I never did talk with Carradine, or Chris Potter (whom I really wanted to see, but got to talk with him at length years later at a celebrity hockey game in Philadelphia). However, did see Robert Lansing. Alas, it was probably a couple months before he passed away from cancer, and it showed on him. I used to watch him all the time on Twelve O’Clock High. Chatted with guest stars. Had really fun time talking with James Purcell, whom nobody may know, who’d been in shows like War of the Worlds, etc. and we chatted about that and (and * gasp *) bootlegged videotapes. But I think I talked more with crew, and crew ARE fun to talk to. They know a lot, and they’re all down to earth folk.
Oh, at one point in the hallway, they had all the show’s wardrobe on a rack. On it was Caine’s fantastically gorgeous green silk kung fu type outfit. Ohmygod, it was Beautiful, yes, with a capital “B”. The wardrobe lady came by and I asked where I could get one but it was hand-made for Carradine. She let me touch it (and no, I’m won’t waffle about DNA or anything but it was so silky, cuz, well, it was silk). One of my best memories. I’d have killed to have taken that home, hung it on the door and just stared at it…
Other stuff I remember. Visited one time, and well, darn, the crew was off on location filming, but this meant I could roam the entire warehouse, make noise, etc. Out of curiosity, I opened doors and drawers (most doors lead to brick walls, I swear). I was in Peter Caine’s (Chris Potter’s character) apartment, checking out the bathroom. The bathtub was chockfull of dirty bootprints. Apparently actors wore boots in those scenes so they don’t slip. Anyway, I hear my friend yell out ‘where are you?’ and I yell back “in Peter’s bathroom.” A beat, then “it doesn’t work, you know.” Bwahahaha! Yes, fortunately I’m smart enough to know that.
Also, in one part of the warehouse the assistant director or someone like that was tied to a chair, in the Ancient’s (played by the now late Kim Chan) black outfit and there were cobwebs and spiders all over him. They needed to do a new shot, didn’t need a face, so grabbed whoever could fit the outfit! I was watching it, and when they finished filming, they had to collect all the spiders. So, nothing else to do, I started to help. Five minutes later, someone turns to me and goes “who are you?” and I told them and they went ‘okay’ and we ‘wrangled’ spiders for another ten or so minutes (which meant steering spiders into little glass vials). Out of 50, only a dozen or so were unaccounted for, having scurried off into the depths of the warehouse or, alas, gotten underfoot. The rest were released outside unharmed.
Oh, you know the line-up thing in the police station? 5’ 6’ etc.? It is not accurate, so everybody looks like they’re six feet tall or more! I also got to see Nicky Elder’s (the coroner’s office). Alas, never saw David Hewlett on the set (darn darn DARN) but did find out what was in all the jars in the morgue. Food stuff from Chinatown! Guess it can look pretty gruesome if left to simmer in a jar for months…
What else? Let’s see, well, when the show closed down, I was allowed to collect this and that. I have Chris Potter’s name plate off his door. Chris pried it off for me with a screwdriver. Not Chris Potter, but a nice crew guy named Chris. I have it here somewhere, along with a whole bunch of photos I took over the visits. Otherwise, I never really gathered much more than scripts, which I assembled and read, and some burned up candles. Ah, they bring back memories. When a friend and I visited the set, there wasn’t much to do, and we volunteered (“look, free labor!”) to help scrape wax. So we scraped was. Alas, we weren’t allowed to light the candles as for that, they used a torch for mass lighting. I did manage to wrangle the gorgeous oil painting of Caine, which my friend held in his house for a year until the next Fu Fest (last one, I think) and it sold at the charity auction for about $2,000. Otherwise, a lot of stuff like that just got trashed. I also managed to buy a Kung Fu season 4 suede jacket. Still have it. Definitely a winter jacket due to weight and warmth.
One time I was watching them film on location in Chinatown (Toronto) and they were filming inside a travel agency. I went inside during a break, where I ran into Nigel Bennett (from Forever Knight) who was very friendly and fun to talk to. I noticed Cuba travel posters on the wall and went ‘hey, we US folk can’t travel there” to which one crew guy said “see, told you so” to another who said “it won’t be in focus”. It was rather amusing.
What else? Was sitting around watching a scene being filmed in the studio. They went on break. Someone came around with a tray of like slurpees and gave me one, then a few minutes later, I found out, oops, that was meant for someone else. Too late. I already drank it. Luckily, no one was the wiser!
I have lots of fun memories from those days. The Fu set was, from what I recall, a laid-back, fun place to work. I’d also visited the Due South set twice, and on the first visit, it was pretty good, but on the second visit, well, I have no idea what happened (nothing to do with me) but people seemed very antsy. And yes, on my first visit I met a lot of cast, including Paul Gross, who walked right up to me (like six inches), reached behind me and grabbed a cellphone on the file cabinet I was leaning on. Of course, I just stared at him like a guppy out of water. Didn’t get to meet David Marciano (not til a convention later) but did see the dog, whom I pointed out to someone was running around a scene with a label accidentally stuck on his butt. They had to reshoot. The director there was nice, took pity on me and my friend and let us be in a scene as extras. I didn’t make it, but my friend is a red blur in the background in one scene.
Anyway, back to the David Carradine stuff. I had a fun time going through my old KFTLC tapes, realizing how much fun TV was before everybody had a cellphone. No one could call for help. Great for drama! Am missing one episode “Ancient Love” but hope to find it one day.
And as for Chris Potter, like I said, I met him years later at a celebrity hockey game in Philadelphia. Richard Dean Anderson was also there, but didn’t play as he’d done something to his knee (skiing?) and basically did not mingle with fans, although I did manage to get an autograph afterwards. And Lochlyn Munro, who does a lot of TV these days. But back to Chris. He got run over on the ice by the pro hockey players and dragged off, but stayed up late that night with others partying in the atrium (they had a piano, alas). The next morning we’re leaving and the elevator opens and there is Chris, looking like he’d well, he’d been run over on the ice and stayed up too late ;) We got in the elevator, said hi, I think he said hi but when we got to the bottom, my friend decided to help him with his luggage (he had a lot). I remember he roled his eyes like ‘oh god, fans!’ but all she did was take it to the checkout and we left him alone. When he got up there, the desk clerk brought out this HUGE basket with stuffed bunnies in it. We laughed, he looked over at us and we said “we just want to see how you’re going to pack all that!” He smiled, said he had to bring the toys home as his daughters expected it ;) and left the basket behind. Later, we ran into him and he offered to buy us coffee (nice guy!) and then we chatted for like half an hour about KFTLC and other stuff.
Back to Carradine…
Some obituaries (most come with photo galleries and/or videos). I’m not listing any of the trash like NY Post (a newspaper which isn’t even fit for bird cage liner).
The Yin-Yang of David Carradine
Back to the Aero
(report on a contentious viewing of BOUND FOR GLORY)
David Carradine: still punchy after all these years
Carradine’s death follows Zen-like turnabout
'Kung Fu' Star Later Became Tarantino's Villainous 'Bill'
Victoria cast and crew of G.O.D. recall 'Mr. Carradine' as shy, kind professional
And that’s it.
Oh wait, a photo I took. Never could figure out what the stuff on Carradine’s door meant.