In The Pipeline: Dreams made from Hollywood

Amusement and Theme ParksUCLAUSCJohn WayneAnthony EdwardsCalista FlockhartAlfred Hitchcock

"The day Anthony Edwards came out to greet these Japanese women I was showing around and they acted like they were seeing the Beatles, that was a fun day."

Stephen Schochet, a 1980 Ocean View High School graduate, loves to tell stories about Hollywood. So much so that's he's written a book, "Hollywood Stories — Short, Entertaining Anecdotes about the Stars and Legends of the Movies!"

Here's a sample: "In 1999, an Australian gentleman told me about an interesting experience he and his family had at Universal Studios. They were on the backlot tour passing one of the theme park's main attractions, the Bates Motel used in the 1960 horror classic 'Psycho,' about a murderous young man named Norman Bates who loved his mother a little too much. As the guide gave out information about how director Alfred Hitchcock shot the picture, a tall man, dressed in drag and carrying a large knife, emerged from behind the old set and charged toward the tram. The narrator seemed to know nothing about the Norman Bates look-alike and clammed up completely.

"The make-believe killer wore such a convincing maniacal expression that some of the paying customers were frightened and screamed when he raised his weapon. Then the 'fiend' pulled off his wig and he turned out to be comic Jim Carrey; the 37-year-old star was clowning around during a work break. After his laughing 'victims' calmed down, Jim was happy to pose for pictures and sign autographs."

The UCLA graduate started driving a limo after school and discovered that many clients simply wanted tours of Los Angeles, which suited Schochet's lively personality and interest in Hollywood history.

"Soon I became like a full-time tour guide, not with any scripts or anything like the people who give studio tours, but rather just my own off-the-cuff style of taking people inside Hollywood, with lots of trivia and back stories," he said.

After going to work for a tour company, he found himself doing massive amounts of research and then picking up stories and tales from people in the business and on his tours.

"People love to share little tidbits about things they've seen, and that helps me bring many of the stories to life," he said.

Schochet released a series of audio books and started up a radio program, and then the book just seemed like a natural extension of what he does for a living every day.

Another story from the book: "At high noon on a cold November day in 1974, 67-year-old John Wayne faced off with the staff of the Harvard Lampoon on the famous campus in Cambridge, Mass. The students had issued their challenge by calling the beloved American icon a fraud. Wayne, who had his new movie 'McQ' to promote, responded by saying he would be happy to show his film in the pseudo-intellectual swamps of Harvard Square. After the screening, without writers, the former USC footballer delivered a classic performance.

"When one smart young man asked where he got his phony toupee, Wayne insisted the hair was real. It wasn't his, but it was real. The appreciative underclassmen loved him, and after the Q-and-A session, they all sat down to dinner. Later, Wayne, who was suffering greatly from both gout and the aftereffects of lung cancer (sadly, the Duke only had five years to live), said that day at Harvard was the best time he ever had."

Schochet still makes it down to Huntington Beach frequently, but told me he hasn't seen too many big stars in the area.

"Calista Flockhart was in Fountain Valley at a school where my niece was in a play, and she complimented her performance," Schochet said. "Which I thought was nice."

For more information on Schochet and his book, and also to see about taking a tour with him to hear some of the stories firsthand, visit http://www.hollywoodstories.com.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at chris@chrisepting.com.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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