Sunday, September 11, 2011

Charles A. Thompson, Phil Lansdale, Cliff Robertson

Charles A. Thompson

Things didn’t go quite right somehow, during a routine childhood procedure I developed bleeding or something and almost didn’t make it.
  When I awoke, the first thing I saw was my father’s face.  He stayed with me, made sure I came through.  Then he taught me a great deal about how to get things done. 
  To this day, my guiding force is “What would Dad want me to do?”

Don Carr and Phil Lansdale

Phil Lansdale hired a ninteen year old living in Laguna Beach who decided to make something of himself.  Phil’s door was always open, and he tought me everything I needed to know about the advertising agency business.
  Once I made a mistake that cost 4day Tire Stores around $10,000.  He and partner Don Carr were as understanding and forgiving as anyone might be in those circumstances.  Phil said “Well don't worry Steve, there are things I did when I was sixty-nine that I wouldn’t do today at seventy.”

Academy Award Winner Cliff Robertson

On the day I met Cliff Robertson he asked me “Where were you born Steve?”  He put me at ease immediately.  I had to take him back to his hotel in Philadelphia, he and I got into a Cadillac STS rented by the producer.  I said “You’ll have to bear with me Cliff, I drive a Mustang.”  He said “So do I Steve.”
  Over the next nine years Cliff’s door was always open to me, and I learned everything I needed to know about the movie business from Cliff. 
  Cliff Robertson was a genuine gentleman.  He was the most grateful person I have ever known.
  There was nothing quite like checking my business voicemail and hearing “Hello Steve, this is Cliff . . . “
  I learned as much through observation of Cliff as I did through asking him questions.
  Three years ago we met up at East Hampton Airport for an interview with a Swiss journalist, where he proudly showed us his Beech Baron.  After the journalist took some photos, and I helped him return the plane to the hangar, he complimented my flight crew skills (which of course I had only learned that day!)
  We drove to the town of East Hampton for lunch, and we followed him in his ’68 Mustang with “Beverly Hills Ford” framing the license plate.
  I will miss Cliff, as will many, many others.

But Charles A. Thompson, Phil Lansdale, and Cliff Robertson haven’t gone completely.  They leave behind the gifts they graciously and generously gave.  Those parts of themselves that they gave freely, which have become a part of me and everyone else they touched.

The world is a better place because of these men.

Steve Thompson
September 11, 2011


  1. I am so very saddened to hear of Mr. Robertson's passing.

    As the author of the upcoming biography of "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery, I wanted so very much to interview Mr. Robertson, as he had worked with Ms. Montgommery early in their careers. He was also a personal friend of hers. Needless to say, his memories of Ms. Montgomery would make a great contribution to the book.

    As such, I contacted Mr. Thompson, and he relayed to Mr. Robertson of my interview request.

    A short time later, I received word that Mr. Robertson had agreed to the interview, and I was thrilled.

    When I did finally speak with him, it became an honor and a privlege. He was charming, down-to-earth, intelligent, self-effacing...all the traits that not only contributed to his "stardom"...but to his position in this world as a superior human being.

    "Superior" not because of his status, and not even because of his talent - which was tremendous. But because of his kind-heart...and his understanding of true priorities.

    Beyond Elizabeth Montgomery, we had the chance to talk about his own illustrious career and life...everything from his astounding versatality as an actor to his joyful pride of being a father.

    He was just plain fantastic...that's all I can say...even though there is so much more to be said.

    I do want to say, too, that had it not been for Mr. Thompson, my conversation with Mr. Robertson would not have ever taken place.

    That said, the world became a better place because of Mr. Robertson...and now because of his journey to the Land of Love Above, Heaven is a better place, too.

    With deep respect and appreciation,

    Herbie J Pilato

  2. I had the honour to receive a letter from Cliff. On behalf of some friends, and not really expecting a reply, I had sent him a questionnaire about probably my favourite film - 633 Squadron. Cliff's response in a letter to me was warm, honest and revealed a sensitive and extremely modest man. He even invited me to visit him and do an interview 'man a mano'- the prospect of which intrigued me but I wasn't able to go at the time. He will be sorely missed. Steve.

  3. Here's my tribute to Cliff Robertson...

  4. what a great loss to America and the movie industry. Cliff Robertson was a classic and he will be sorely missed. God bless him and his family.

  5. I barely knew Cliff. We interviewed him at the Legends of Surfing event in La Jolla circa 2002 for the documentary “Accidental Icon: The Real Gidget Story.” He impressed me with his sense of humor, ready smile and patience, as we dodged the crowd and the din from the event. Years later, when he learned the film was to be featured at the Hollywood “Feel Good Film Festival,” he called to say he was thrilled that a doc which involved him would be regarded as such a positive, uplifting experience. Although he may not have originally been stoked on portraying Kahuna in the 1959 “Gidget” movie, he later embraced it like the audience had. As the surf crowd would say, he ripped in life, now R.I.P.

  6. Cliff Robertson touched millions of lives indirectly through his performances on stage, screen and television, but throughout the years, had direct impact on the thousands who were fortunate enough to know and work with him.

    I was honored to work for Cliff as a part-time assistant in the early 1970s, a wide-eyed 20-year-old film buff given an opportunity to learn at the heels of one of the greats. Cliff was my teacher, father figure, and a wonderful friend who gave me a firm foundation of strong ethics and idealism on which to build my own modest career in motion pictures.

    I will never forget his kindness and generosity, and like so many others, will treasure the legacy he has left us.

  7. Wednesday September 14, 2011

    Update: Pal Lee Pfeiffer / Cinema Retro magazine honors Cliff, and describes our day out at Cliff's home.

  8. I first met Cliff when the National Transportation Safety Board Bar Association, of which I was president at the time, chose to honor Cliff with our first national award for his unwavering support of aviation safety. Cliff came to Washington, D.C. to accept the award in May 2009, and he honored all of us present by telling some wonderful stories about his life and career. What a gentleman! He made you feel like you had known him all of your life. We corresponded and talked on the telephone a few times thereafter. I left him a phone message on the day before he died, wishing him a "Happy Birthday". I shall miss him. Rest in peace, my friend.