On the night of the 2010 midterm election results I decided to see what else there was on TV that night. The cable company I have gives you a title of the show or movie you are watching on that particular channel. You can imagine my surprise when I saw the title of a film I worked on briefly back in the mid 1980s. To my knowledge it has never been shown before on television, except maybe in the ’80s or early ’90s. The film I am referring to is “52 Pick-Up.”
You’re probably saying to yourself “never heard of it” and that is certainly true. When it was released in the fall of 1986 it was in and out of the theaters in a flash. Ironically, the film has an excellent cast and the director has worked on other well known films. Even if something sounds good on paper doesn’t mean it will be successful at the box office. Also, this film got good reviews too.
However, I am ecstatic “52 Pick-Up” is currently shown on the Flix channel for the month of November. I think one of the reasons they had this film on election night was for one of the main characters is running for a local office. The director of “52 Pick-Up” had directed a political thriller that was made into a remake back in 2004.
Century City Plaza location shooting with Ann-Margaret
Thanks to some of my actor friends I got word to call into Central Casting for work as a background actor or movie extra when I lived in Los Angeles. It was for a film with an awkward title called “52 Pick-Up.” I had no clue what the film was about or who starred in it. When you find out there is work on a film these are the last things you worry about as an actor. You’re just grateful for the opportunity.
All the extras or “atmosphere” as we were known on the set back then reported to this plaza area of a huge office complex near Beverly Hills in Century City. We were told to park in a specific parking garage and to get our tickets validated for payment. Otherwise, the parking for all day was extremely expensive. Most of the day was spent waiting around. The filming was actually going on in the restaurant in one of the high-rise office buildings.
While most of the extras waited around in this shaded area outside the plaza out comes Ann-Margret. From the onset we were told not to interact or mingle with the principal actors. She was walking around very pensively like she was going over her lines in her head. All of us were quite excited to see her. She is very beautiful and tiny.
Ann-Margret looks radiant in person versus what you see of her on TV or in films. The strangest thing of all she had the whole area to walk around in, yet she seemed to stay where all of us extras were at. I was standing the closest to her. Not once did Ann-Margret acknowledge us or look our way, but she was definitely concentrating on something else.
I was only inside the restaurant for a brief moment when they were filming. This went on for roughly two days. Out of curiosity I asked who the director of this film was. The assistant director said “John Frankenheimer” and don’t you forget it.” He also added “Someone was fired yesterday for not knowing that.” Believe me I never forgot.
Filming at Joe Allen Restaurant with Roy Scheider
Our “go to” person we went to on the Century City set asked me personally if I wanted to go for more filming the next day at the Joe Allen Restaurant next to the Cedars-Sinai Hospital. I was thrilled and said “yes.” There weren’t as many extras this time. Believe it or not they actually filmed inside the restaurant while people were coming in for lunch. All we did was eat buffalo wings with blue cheese dressing throughout the day. We sat outside in the patio area. It was exciting when they were filming us. I was hoping this would make it on the film.
During a break I stepped outside to get some exercise and fresh air. Also, it was a lot quieter outside too. When I decided to go back inside the restaurant there was the actor, Roy Scheider standing at the front door. This is the actor who played the Chief of Police in “Jaws” and Bob Fosse in “All That Jazz.” For a brief moment I looked at him with recognition. His eyes met mine as he looked at me with real intensity. He actually looked the same in person as he did on film. Roy Scheider was small in stature.
When the extras were finished with filming I was walking to my car, which was parked by that enclosed catwalk above the busy street that goes from one end of the hospital to the other side. One of the film crew told me to get out of the way. They were doing long shots while another principal actor, Clarence Williams III, was filming his scene. His character was truly scary looking with those dreadlocks. The restaurant changed names in the late ’80s and became Orso Restaurant until 2009.
Premiere of “52 Pick-Up” at my local theater
One day shortly after the film premiere at my local movie theater I went to a matinee show to see “52 Pick-Up.” I had no idea what the film was about nor did I know what the scenes I was in were about. This was all a surprise to me. When my brief scenes came up they were obviously cut. To make matters worse, the one at Century City’s political fundraising for Ann-Margret’s character did not last long.
Only the long distant shot the film crew told me to get out of the way for made it onto the film with Clarence Williams III at the Joe Allen Restaurant. The film is about a wealthy businessman, played by Roy Scheider, who is blackmailed. He was videotaped making love to his mistress played by Kelly Preston (Mrs. John Travolta in real life). They want a $100,000, but can only come up with $52,000. That is where the film gets its title.
When I was on the set of the film we often joked around it was an actual 1952 Chevy Pick-up truck. Ann-Margret’s character is running for political office and this scandal could ruin her chances to win the election. Scheider decides to turn the tables and go along with the blackmail, but also intends to stiff them in the end.
John Frankenheimer directed this film along with “The Manchurian Candidate” from 1962. A remake of it was released in 2004 starring Demzel Washington and Meryl Streep. I’m glad to see many favorable reviews from current film critics and customers who have since bought the DVD. This was a very unique experience working on a major film that should have been more popular. Maybe it’s now making a comeback.
Movies on Showtime – 52 Pick-Up, Showtime
52 Pick-Up (1986), Yahoo! Movies
Deidre Woollard, “Orso Restaurant Closing in Los Angeles”, Luxist
52 Pick-Up (1986) DVD, Amazon