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The Disney deal left the hope that I could
bootstrap the whole
operation into a real full-sized operation with a big shop and lots of
TV work to keep a crew busy.
But these were very hard times, we got built up and seemed to be making it. I was working with a small crew of three and four guys, when we did the 1984 Worldcon in LA. Well that was just too much, when we got home I found that we were more or less broke, there was little money left over, and this caused a major breakup. I had to move out of Culver City to Tujunga and then Jackie and I fought, and I was just about fed up with the whole thing and called a friend back in Phoenix and got a job offer running his automotive junk yard, so I moved back to Phoenix once again, alone, Jackie and I separated.
But once I was rested I ended up still making props, as I was really not in love with the wrecking yard...so I got some urging from a few friends and especially Mr. Scott Brodeen, who promised use of his garage, and that I could park my little travel trailer I had bought to live in the junk yard in his yard for a couple of weeks if I came back and got a film job, and as there was another Star Trek job upcoming, that with with his support I should go for it.
So I returned yet again to California with a nearly grown 16 year old son Robert, to Scott's then home in Riverside, where we (Robert and I) designed a new style Phaser for the upcoming new Star Trek film:
Once it was made I called
Paramount, reaching the prop
master on the film, Mr. Ron Greenwood, and then I
pitched it to Mr. Ron Greenwood for the new "Star Trek IV."
Timing is everything, as
the saying goes, for he had just learned that he needed a special prop
days for the shoot that was going to take place in the San Diego Navy
shipyards next week.
"Could I do a special rush order of two of these props by
question was posed to me on Thursday. I said "Yes" and proceeded to
work franticly through the weekend. Scott, Robert and I worked
The following Monday morning I delivered two "Power Leaches" that were shipped to the paint shop on the lot then rushed down to the film production company the next day. The prop worked fine when Lt. Uhura and Mr. Chekov stole protons from the nuclear reactor within the USS Enterprise in the film. (For more see the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home article)
Mr. Greenwood was so pleased
with our timely delivery; he
gave us lots of other jobs for this film. I was able to make deliveries
studio lot and often on the sets and on locations such as the hospital
park where they filmed the locations with the helicopter. (I was of
Treky…eer Trekker HEAVEN)
With the income and the help of Scott Brodeen I was back on my feet, and my return to L.A. and Hollywood also helped me to return to Jackie, we found that we really did not want to live without each another so we got together again and rented a small house (behind a house, another L.A. converted garage) in Hawthorne and have been together ever since. (cue sappy music ...and they lived happily ever after...)
But even with this success on my résumé, I still could only find work in show biz for a few months out of the year. So I was back making props for the fans and working the science fiction and Star Trek conventions again.
And when the Trek people
announced the start up of a new Star Trek TV series, I was fast to
attempt to get work on it.
I designed a new Tricorder, combining the features of the classic and the movie types. I added special features such as a backlight screen that would allow fast changing of a transparency for live, in the camera, shots of the readouts, motor powered pop-up head, and adjustable blinking LEDs.
I called the Star Trek office again who sent me to the art department and I was first interviewed by Mr. Herman Zimmerman who thought I and my version of a Tricorder were good enough to set up a second interview with Mr. Robert Justman, the legendary Robert Justman who had been Gene Roddenberry’s right hand man on the Classic Trek series in the ‘60s.
It turned out they all ready had designs for all the new props, the art department was staffed by: Herman Zimmerman, Andy Probert, Rick Sternbach, Mike Okuda and many others, who had already designed a whole new look for the upcoming show.
And here I was, an upstart with a Tricorder design, and a working model in my hand, but I had only worked the films and there they needed input and I often was a part of the design teamwork, so what did I know? But I made a fair impression any way.
See the Next Generation prototype gallery for more.
I was given a shot at the prop work for the new show and was then given the designer packet and order list for the new show and asked to submit a bid on any and all I thought I wanted to do. In the next couple of weeks, Mr. Mike Okuda helped me whenever I had questions as did Mr. Andy Probert (who also happened to be a fan of Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Mr. Rick Sternbach. But eventually this coveted job on Trek went to a friend of Mr. Probert’s who had worked with him on the TV show Air Wolf. This friend was also a member of the Prop Union, of which I was not.
We did do a couple of spec models:
Again finding myself on a road to a dead end, I thought the only way to make it was to go for a license for the props. I started looking for a way into this particular Holy Grail. I contacted Mr. Andy Probert again who was glad to try to get the licensing people to talk with me; he pushed hard for that to happen.
I submitted my Classic Phaser
to the merchandising
department at Paramount, and waited and waited...
And when Andy left after the
first year, I got my first
reject letter from them. At the time I had expected and hoped that
call me and help me with the submission process. I tried again and this
was told to submit the proposal in writing and also include a sample,
the time consisted of one of the communicators I was then
They were again unable or
unwilling to provide any help to
expedite this process, there was no instruction manual, and the only
learning what was needed was through trial and error and guessing.
A second reject letter arrived.
I also worked on a convention display for MBB Helicopters with David Heilman:
We built our first and only mock Bridge set and helped outfit them with costumes and props. It was a hit. Look pretty good, don't they?
While I worked a film called Nightmare at Noon for Ron Greenwood, I was able to give a guest lecture at UCLA in his class on film prop mastering,
I put together another complete
package of a product proposal and how I would make them and sell them
and gave it to the
Paramount merchandising department asking for a return call to talk about obtaining a license.
And then a call came from
requesting an interview.
At last, it was going to
happen. But wait, it was not the licensing deparment, it was a division doing sales by Paramount
themselves, and the catalog was called "The Paramount Special Effects
They were very interested in
carrying my Classic Phaser, and
I left samples of all my current classic models.
A week later I got the call,
they wanted to start with the
Classic Phaser and add the other props as sales provided. I started
production systems, mass production to handle the expected
A second meeting was set up a
few weeks later where I was to receive the
order: I was running late that day and broke almost every speed and
law getting to that so important meeting, and I made
it on time, but the
person I was to meet with was now 45 minutes late, but at last I was
interview, the unthinkable happened: the catalog that was going to
product was canceled. The people who were going to "hire" me were let
They were all fired!! AND SO WAS I!! Heck I never even got
And once again, after thinking
I was going somewhere, I was
on a road to nowhere.
Well, I pulled out all the
stops, I asked, begged and traded
for information, I feelt like I was trapped up in the old TV show The
Prisoner..."We want Information, INFORMATION!"
will not get it!"
I grilled Richard Arnold, I
pestered those whom had got a
deal. One even gave me a look at a copy of his contract.
I gathered all the help and power I could. We prepared. I wrote up every conceivable document they could ask for, the proposal, sales plan, production systems, sales projection, and advertising plan, each in a few different ways and figures to suit whatever we might run into.
I even bought a new suit and
tie (worn only once for THAT
I called again and asked for a
meeting. I got a Mr. Michael
Tabakin. A good and smart old friend was playing business associate, we
to five names on our letter head to look big enough to pay them to sell
All dressed up in suits we went
First thing Mike did was
showing us a cease and desist (C&D) letter to
StarLand a company out of Denver along with one of StarLand’s flyer
We said, so what? That isn't
us, and we were here to get a
He said okay, so what do you have? So we did the horse and pony show, pulled display bases and put out a classic Phaser, a classic Communicator, a classic Tricorder, a classic Phaser one, then, on an another display base, an ST3 (Star Trek III) Phaser, an ST3 Communicator, and an ST3 Tricorder. Then, on a third dsiplay, we put out a Klingon Disruptor, Communicator and Tricorder also from Star Trek III.
I pitched a reproduction of the U.S.S. Enterprise commission plaque, and suggested that we would do one from every
version of the
were first with the idea).
As part of the pitch we also
pulled out a Nautilus model
and pointed out that my company had been making these for the Disney
over five years.
I also laid out my resumé of
film and TV work.
Throughout all of this, he
seemed politely bored.
Then I pulled out the Trek-A-Head sun visors. NOW that was something he could understand. A cheap novelty hat. He got real interested in it.
Could we manufacture it fast, large and cheap enough?
No, we said. "Then can I pitch
it around for you, to
manufacturing companies that might be interested," he asked, which we
At this point he was a lot more willing to go forward on
everything. He said he would be getting in touch with us. For once
I was dealing with licensing department of
Mike called and first he said
the best deal he could get
was for $10,000 for a two year domestic contract, sorry best he could
I read the "sorry" as he felt we could not handle
that. I said no problem,
let's go. He said then, great, bring in the
Classic samples, and he would get working on it.
I dropped off the
I then called Mr. Mike Okuda and asked if he had seen them yet, and he said yes and that he and Greg Jein were writing papers on them.
I then invited Mike to lunch so
we might talk about the
models. I felt (correctly) that he had taken it easy on me and asked
this at lunch. He said yes that he had, so I asked him to tell me what
had left out. He said that he would like to see something covering the
9Volt battery and both a wall and desk stand. I asked if he thought I
would get away with putting the
copyright on the plate under the Phaser one where it would be "out of
sight", he said he would support this idea.
I thanked him and went to retool the props and redo the Plaques, etc.
We worked night and day and
spent a ton of money and time
trying to get all redone as per the requests.
Like a display box (see the picture above).
Like a display box (see the picture above).
Then began the questions and
requests: Who was our
distributor going to be? How were we going to ship? Could we include a
box for retail sales? The distributor question came up several
We exchanged the samples for
the new ones with the display
packaging and the Plexiglas display stand and waited. And we
I called Mike Okuda, asking,
"Have you seen the new
models?" I told him that I had done all he had officially asked for and
suggestions too, but he said he had not seen the models yet, and this
three weeks, and the first time he had them in days, what was
Another month went by. In
December I got a call from Mr.
Tabakin. Sorry there was no deal, he had tried but it was not going to
and that he was fed up also and leaving Paramount, and good luck in the
A few months later Playmates
came out with their line of
Star Trek toys.
I packed and pulled out of Los
Angeles for Phoenix, to rest and
rebuild and to become the best damn prop maker making unlicensed props
When I heard there had been a
change in vice-presidents of
licensing I sent in another pitch with pictures and proposal again,
receive the final reject letter and a request to fill out a form asking
kind of questions like who was my vice-president in charge of
was vice-president in advertising, who was the CEO, who were the board
and so on.
A couple a years passed. There
were rumors of some people
getting C&D (cease and desist) letters, and I called each and everyone I heard of.
paper tigers, if you stood up to them you only had to give up one or
one had to stop using local access TV ads, another changed
from Klingon this to
something without the name Klingon, stop using the word Phaser and call
it a 23rd
Century Weapon, stop carrying the Star Fleet patch and a hat.
Everyone was slapped on the
hand and let go, so when I got
a C&D I too hired a lawyer and stood up to them. We kept trying
to work a
deal, we ask again and again to get a license.
The lawyers exchanged letters back and forth a few times no stop doing doing anything, no name change, nothing, and then Paramount’s lawyers faded away.
No one bothered me, no letters,
no calls nothing.
Then something like two years
later they sued.
Viacom/Paramount sued me for copyright infringement
for a few MILLIONS!
Story continued on the new (as of Feb. 2009) Page 4!