FAMOUS FOLKS I’VE MET

One of the perks of writing for newspapers and magazines, which I did for many years, is the privilege of meeting all sorts of fascinating folks. Southern California is full of people of accomplishment, especially in the entertainment industry. I was browsing through my old photo albums recently and ran across some photos I took to accompany my interviews for publications in the Conejo Valley area (Los Angeles County north of the San Fernando Valley). I took photos and chatted at various times with Peter Strauss, Strother Martin, Will Sampson and Jerry Quarry.

PeterStrauss-actor

I took the photo of Peter Strauss with a dog at a fundraising event at the nearby LA County Dog Shelter. Since the famous MASH TV series was filmed in the Agoura area, Loretta Swit, who played Hot Lips Houlihan, was also at the fundraiser.

Actor Peter Strauss has had a varied acting career as well as a participating role in community welfare. He was living in the Santa Monica Mountains in the Agoura area, where I worked for the local newspaper, when he had one of the starring roles in the 1976 TV series “Rich Man, Poor Man,” which was filmed at Malibu Lake, a few miles away. Nick Nolte, the other star in that series had picked a home a few minutes from Strauss. I’ve written about their respective historic homes in this blog.

Strauss was enthusiastic about his new home and its scenic location, and got involved with a group called “People for the Preservation of Agoura.” I did a phone interview with him to ask about his role in local politics. A young mother at the time, I just getting back into the work force and was extremely nervous, probably because I had been watching the TV series and loved it. His conviviality put me at ease and the interview went well. In 1979 I’d admired his role as a runner in the TV movie the “Jericho Mile.” Shortly after I’d seen it, I bumped into Strauss and his girlfriend in the cereal aisle of the local Vons grocery. I was tongue-tied but had to share my admiration as well as reminding him I’d interviewed him not long before.

Strauss moved out of the mountains a few years later. His historic property, which he had improved and restored, was sold in 1983 and eventually became part of the National Park Service. I did a story on the sale and got a tour of the stone ranch house and its unique cactus garden. Nowadays, the lovely park is used for weddings, concerts and other events. Strauss stayed interested in the natural environment and is an advisory board member of the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

 

Actor Will Sampson

Actor Will Sampson and friend

Meeting actor Will Sampson was an accidental encounter at a chili cook-off in the Santa Monica Mountains. The almost 3,000 acre Paramount Ranch, once home to lots of Paramount movies, has hosted all sorts of events over the years, like the Renaissance Faire. I was walking through the ranch on my way to the chili booths, probably sponsored by one of the charitable groups in the Conejo Valley. There were hay bales along the rocky path for those who needed a brief rest.

When I spotted Sampson relaxing on one of the bales with a young woman companion, I knew right away he was the American Indian who had played Chief Bromden in the 1975 Academy Award winning film, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher won Academy Awards for their roles. With his necklace and cowboy hat, Sampson was appropriately Western, but I was surprised at how slender he was. In the movie he had been much stockier. He was immediately friendly and seemed pleased I had recognized him and then willingly posed for a photo. A few years later I read that he had died after a heart and lung transplant. He was only 53.

 

Part II on Wednesday – Actor Strother Martin and Boxer Jerry Quarry.

 

 

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