[On this, the last day of the A to Z Challenge, I’d like to thank everyone who visited Movieland. A special tip of the hat to birthday boy Craig Edwards, blogger extraordinaire, who started me on this alphabetical journey. If you’re craving more insider Roger Corman stories, I’m announcing that today’s the start of a five-day sale of my thoroughly updated and unexpurgated “Roger Corman: Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, and Driller Killers” Kindle ebook. And if you’d like to be notified when the new paperback is available, do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cormanically yours, Beverly]
Years ago, someone was telling me she’d seen Roger Corman in person at a film festival. What surprised her the most is that, on stage in a crowded auditorium, Roger kept nonchalantly puffing away on a big cigar. To me, this made no sense. I’ve never seen Roger smoke, and public rudeness of this sort is not his style. It suddenly dawned on me that she had the wrong man. She’d been in the presence of Sam Arkoff, co-founder of American International Pictures.
Like Roger Corman, Sam Arkoff inspired stories, and I’ve heard many. One of the nicest: he was a total family man, who bragged about shutting the door to the business world when he went home to his family each evening. The house he went home to, though, created a few hard feelings. It was an up-to-the-minute ranch house, built by Arkoff and his wife Slim on a Studio City hillside. One evening when the house was new the Arkoffs invited a longtime employee, Charles Clement, and his wife Shirley to come visit. They gave the Clements a full tour, showing off closets full of clothes and many state-of-the-art design features. Then Arkoff let Charles know that his salary was being trimmed. After all, new houses are expensive.
Another great story involving Arkoff was told to me by Barbara Boyle, who became Roger’s attorney and then his CFO before entering the ranks of Hollywood producers. When she graduated from UCLA Law School, the dean in charge of placement was hard-pressed to find a suitable spot for someone who was female and extremely feisty. One day he informed her of a last-minute interview with a motion picture company looking for a labor negotiator. She was in jeans and sandals with long loose hair, and there was no time to change clothes. At the old Chaplin studio, big gates swung open to admit her. In the waiting room sat three beautiful young women, dressed to the nines, whom she assumed were from east coast law schools. She was very impressed that this company was seeking out a female attorney: “I thought, this is real affirmative action!”
Then she was summoned into the presence of a man with a big cigar, an open shirt, and his feet up on his desk. First thing he said: “Take off your jeans.” Barbara recalls, “I completely flipped out. I’m talkative now. You can imagine how I was when I was twenty-four.” When Arkoff got a word in edgewise, he asked, “Do you ever think you’re wrong about anything? I’m actually auditioning for a beach party picture, and you’re supposed to have a bathing suit on. Who are you supposed to see?”
Somehow she ended up with Arkoff’s respect—and a job that introduced her to the motion picture business and Roger Corman. Roger had Sam Arkoff’s respect too, though not always his friendship. No room here to detail their testy relationship over the years, but at a tribute event, Arkoff praised Roger as “a cautious man with a buck—which made him very good for us because we didn’t have many bucks in those days.” Arkoff then added, “But sometimes he was too cheap, even for AIP.”