Remembering Judy Garland
"Ditch the rainbow song!" - Anon., Hollywood, 1939
May 28, 2003
I'll never forget Judy Garland. Judy was unlike any other actor I've ever known. As I remember, she was particularly unlike Samuel L. Jackson - 'Klaxon' Jackson, as I called him. But that's another story.
Dear Samuel had his wilderness years, of course. When I first knew him he actually lived in the wilderness - one used to see him walking down roughly-beaten country tracks, wearing an ill-fitting hat and talking to himself. He never strayed off the beaten track, though, even then. Pulp Friction changed everything. And yes, that was the title; people say now it was that film Samuel did with the boy Tarantino that changed everything, but I know better. In my business, you see quite a few instructional films from industrial liquidiser and blender firms, but that one really stood out. "Gahooga!" When I heard that, I knew I had to work with this man. Ultimately it was the boy Tarantino who reaped the reward, but one doesn't like to bear grudges; I feel he's suffered enough.
Dear Quentin's a great personal friend and a longstanding client. I remember one Friday afternoon; he'd come round for his regular foot massage, and we started talking about film plots. What I'd like to see, I said, would be a film told mainly in flashback, framed with sequences in which an undercover cop is bleeding to death following a failed robbery. The role should be taken by a British actor, I said - Simon Russell Beale, say, or Simon Callow, or perhaps Simon Cadell; I felt that the part called for a Simon. Now, I'm not claiming any great originality for this suggestion; indeed, Reservoir Dogs was out at the time, so I dare say the idea had occurred to Quentin himself at some stage. But I like to think I played some small part in helping the boy towards a glittering career. We'll just have to wait and see.
Anyway, I signed Samuel on the strength of the blender film, and I started pitching a little idea of mine. 'Klaxon' Jackson was the name of the film and the name of the character; you'd see him trawling the streets of San Francisco in an ill-fitting wig, looking to settle some scores with a rogue trichologist. "Gahooga!" That was his catchphrase, you see. This was just after that Pacino film with all the hoo-hah, Whiff of a Lady or whatever it was, so I felt the public was ready. I even had a theme song:
"Who's the cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about?"
It could have turned Samuel's career around. The poster was going to say:
Starring Samuel "'Klaxon' Jackson" Jackson as "'Klaxon' '"Klaxon" Jackson' Jackson"
The movie spent three years in Punctuation Hell, and by the time it was greenlighted we'd all moved on. I've still got the blender film somewhere. I'll never forget it - after Samuel delivers his last line, he smiles, then turns and takes a sip of a freshly-made wheatgrass and aubergine smoothie. Then he says it: "Gahooga!"
Dear Samuel, I hope he's well; the last time I saw him he was walking down a country track in an ill-fitting hat, muttering something about a pig. The man's a true professional, though. That wig he wore in the boy Tarantino's film? He wore that thing from the beginning of the shoot to the end, in every single shot in which he appeared - even if he didn't have any lines. They don't teach you that in drama school.