Advertisement
Share

WHERE THEY ARE NOW: RANDY SHIELDS : Former Pugilist Hopes to Score Knockout With Movie Script : Boxing: He punches a keyboard instead of opponents trying for his big break in Hollywood.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was a scene straight out of a movie, but much more violent than the ones Randy Shields likes to write.

There were no cameras rolling, no director giving instructions, no actors in a make-believe world. This was real-life drama, with loaded guns and two hardened criminals looking for an excuse to use them.

And Shields, 38, a screenwriter and former top-flight boxer who grew up and still lives in North Hollywood, could see the ending was not going to play well in Peoria. Or anywhere else.

Advertisement

It happened on a late summer night two years ago at a small restaurant on Laurel Canyon Boulevard called Four ‘N 20 Pie Shop. But for Shields, the images remain so vivid in his mind, it might as well have been yesterday.

“I was sitting right here,” Shields said the other day, as he recounted the terrifying event. “I was writing a scene for a screenplay when they came in and fired four shots into the ceiling.”

Two gunmen busted into the restaurant around midnight on Sept. 18, 1992, and demanded all the cash in the register. As they entered and blew out part of the ceiling with a shotgun blast, Shields dropped to the floor and crawled toward the back of the restaurant. One of the men saw Shields and fired a shot into the back of his left leg, but Shields escaped into a darkened back room.

When an employee, and then a customer, couldn’t open the register as ordered, one of the gunmen threatened to kill someone. That’s when Shields, who sometimes works as a bodyguard and has a license to carry a concealed weapon, realized he had to do something.

“I pulled my gun and went out,” Shields said. “I started shooting at them and they ran out, but I hit both of them. I hit one guy in the chest and the back, and I hit the other guy in the back. They made it home and called 911 and said they had been involved in a drive-by (shooting), but their stories didn’t fool the police. They also had pretty long rap sheets.”

Both men, and the driver of the getaway car, are doing 18 years in prison. Shields, who possibly saved some lives that night, is still hanging out at his favorite eatery and churning out the stories he hopes to see on the big screen, usually from the table where not long ago he saw a Hollywood plot unfold before his eyes.

*

Unleashing his imagination into story lines that would hold an audience captive is what makes Shields tick nowadays.

Although none of his scripts has gone beyond the word processor, Shields spends hours--often late into the night--either at home or at the Four ‘N 20 polishing his work. And he says he could be close to a breakthrough with one of his stories if the pieces fall into place in the next few weeks.

Shields says he has a financial backer who will put up around $13 million to produce his latest finished project, a movie titled “Bagdad” that deals with the plight of a homeless man who, by chance, encounters the two grown sons he abandoned years before.

The catch, however, is that Charlie Sheen must agree to play the role of one of the sons for the money to come through, Shields said. Martin Sheen, father of Charlie and actor Emilio Estevez, is interested in playing the role of the dad, Shields said.

“Charlie’s publicist has the script and (Charlie) is considering it,” Shields said. “The writers have a Catch-22. You need the actors to sell the work but the actors are afraid to put their names on something that won’t sell because they don’t want the stigma. Hopefully, this one will work out.”

Almost all the scripts he has written, Shields said, have nothing to do with boxing. He wants to be recognized as someone who has more to offer than his connection to the sport.

“I have several boxing stories but whether I do anything with them, I don’t know,” Shields said. “It has a lot to do with me wanting to establish myself as a writer first, rather than people thinking of me as a dumb ex-boxer who can only write about boxing.”

Still, Shields admits that boxing has helped him make contacts in the film industry.

“Luckily, I can break down a lot of doors because of boxing,” Shields said. “But for (producers) to take me seriously as a writer is a tough sale.”

*

Before trying his luck at writing films, Shields was a leading protagonist in a genre in which showmanship, sport and brutality blend to entertain the public.

As a youngster in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Shields established himself as a promising fighter, one who could throw damaging blows and also take a punch.

“If you have a world-class talent, it shows even at 14 or 15 years old,” said Joe Goossen, the veteran Valley-based trainer who has known Shields since each was a teen-ager. “Randy was definitely beating up pros in the gym when he was that age. He was one of the cleanest-living fighters I’ve ever been around. He didn’t smoke or drink, and he never missed a training session.”

With his father, Sonny, a former boxer and longtime stuntman as his manager and trainer, Shields cruised through a 92-bout amateur career with 67 knockouts among his 88 victories. He won the 1973 national Amateur Athletic Union junior welterweight title with a convincing decision over Sugar Ray Leonard and competed internationally with the U.S. team.

One year later, Shields turned professional and began a career that would pit him against some of the best fighters of his era--and in some cases, of all time. But Shields’ career also was marred by illness and injuries.

In his pro debut at the old Olympic Auditorium in 1974, for example, Shields jumped into the ring against journeyman Victor Abraham despite a 102-degree fever. He won a six-round decision but was knocked down for the only time in his pro career.

“I had this cold and I couldn’t breathe,” Shields recalled, “so I went back for a breather and put my guard down. He caught me with a right hand.”

At the time, Shields was trying to balance boxing with schoolwork at Valley College. But he had to give up the books because he was constantly training and fighting. In his first pro year, Shields fought 21 times. He devoted his spare time to writing poetry and short stories, and was already delving into screenwriting.

By 1978, Shields and Leonard were crossing paths again, this time with money at stake. Leonard, on his way to becoming a legend, beat Shields in 10 rounds in Baltimore in what Shields considers one of his most memorable and difficult fights.

“The fights with Leonard were the toughest, both as an amateur and a pro,” Shields said. “The hardest I’ve ever been hit was by Leonard. Didn’t do anything to me, but he had this sharp, stinging punch that really hurt.”

Despite the loss to Leonard, Shields ascended the rankings. In 1979 he got a shot at the World Boxing Assn. welterweight title against Jose (Pipino) Cuevas, the hard-hitting Mexican champion who was considered virtually unbeatable. Shields lost a narrow and controversial decision to Cuevas in Chicago, and was preparing for a rematch when he faced Mauricio Aldana in a tuneup bout at the Sports Arena. He nearly didn’t make it home in one piece.

After beating Aldana, fans chanting Cuevas’ name turned on Shields when he left the ring. “The crowd started pummeling me,” Shields said. “They threw a metal chair from the balcony and opened a gash on top of my head. Then someone slapped me on the right ear and perforated the ear drum.”

Shields recovered, but not in time to fight Cuevas, who lost the WBA title to Thomas Hearns in 1980. Shields challenged Hearns a year later and fought essentially one-handed after he suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder while training a few days before the bout. Shields worked through the agonizing pain and was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards until cuts over his eyes gave Hearns a TKO victory in the 12th round.

“I thought I could squeeze by, but I could hardly move my arm,” Shields said.

The shoulder, in fact, never quite healed and Shields, tired of living on painkillers, retired in 1983 with a 41-9-1 record. He attempted a comeback in September, 1990, and suffered a broken jaw in a 10-round junior middleweight victory over Stewart Baynes at the Country Club in Reseda.

That convinced him to quit for good.

Shields remains connected with the sport by training two amateur boxers he says will soon turn pro. He also does security work, but his real passion is the movies.

“I love writing,” Shields said. “I’ve had some job offers but this is what I want to do.”


Advertisement