Jennifer Grey

Dan Gordon: Yeah, so that was how we kept the thing going. Anyway, so Phil and Muff hit upon a scheme with a doctor (whose name I won’t mention because he might still be alive) who was a very homely man. And a very horny man. And Phil kept saying that “if you invest fifty grand in the movie…I’ll hook you up with Jennifer Grey.” And of course he didn’t know Jennifer Grey and the doctor wasn’t about to invest fifty grand. But the doctor said, “I do however have a jar of pharmaceutical cocaine because I’m a doctor. It’s pure pharmaceutical cocaine. Now, if you guys know some girls and you want to come up here and party, you know, I’ll put that up.”

Blake J. Harris: Ha!

Dan Gordon: So Phil was Sammy Davis Jr.’s cocaine connection. And he said [to Muff and I], “I can sell Sammy that fucking jar for fifty grand. We’re gonna rob the doctor.” I said no, man, I can’t do that. He said, “No, no, it’s gonna be simple. By law, he needs to have that in a safe in his office. He’s broken the law by having at in his apartment. So he’ll never go to the cops because if he goes to the cops he’d be admitting that he stole the coke himself. From his own office. It’s the perfect fucking crime!”

Blake J. Harris: [laughing]

Dan Gordon: I said, “Phil, no. NO. FUCKING. WAY.” And he said, “Fine, fuck you, you chickenshit. Muff and I will do it on our own and finish the movie.”

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Dan Gordon: So he says to the doctor that there’s gorgeous Puerto Rican hooker named Camille. She’s gonna come up here [to the doctor’s apartment] and we’re gonna gang bang her. But you gotta have the hors devours out…And the doctor says, “Yeah, I got pills, I got dope, I got coke, it’s gonna be great.”

Blake J. Harris: Alright, so they’ve set up the scam…

Dan Gordon: Yeah and [before they go up] Phil said to Muff, “When I say the word ‘Camille’ you pull out your fucking gun on the doctor. And we’ll tie him up and we’ll take the cocaine.  Then we’ll ship it to California. I’ll get on a plane for LA, you get on a plane for Florida and then everything will blow over and we’ll come back to finish the fucking movie.”

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Dan Gordon: So Phil had everything figured out but…Muff was not the brightest bulb in the land. Not by a long stretch. And so they show up at the doctor’s apartment. It’s a rather lavish apartment and the doctor was dressed in a red dressing gown. Like fucking Hugh Hefner. And he’s naked underneath.

Blake J. Harris: Nice.

Dan Gordon: And he’s got a fucking Polaroid camera because he’s so excited. He wants to take Polaroids of the whole thing. Phil says, “I think it’s time to get the hors devours out on the table.” The doctor says, “Absolutely!” The doc is just all atwitter with excitement. He opens his wall case and he brings out a whole jar of fucking pharmaceutical cocaine, pills up the ass, everything you can think of. And he brings it out on a silver platter, like it’s fucking Thanksgiving dinner, you know? He’s so ready for this party.

Blake J. Harris: Yup.

Dan Gordon: So Phil turns to Muff and he says, “I think Camille ought to be here any second.” And Muff says, “Yeah, I can’t wait!” [laughs] But there is no Camille! Phil made her up. Muff knows that! So Phil says, “Muff, Camille is gonna be here any second. Camille!” And Muff goes, “Yeah! I can’t fucking wait, man! We’re gonna fuck her in every fucking hole she’s got.”

Blake J. Harris: [laughing]

Dan Gordon: So then Phi says, “Muff, I’ll put it to you a different way: will you please pull your gun out and rob the doctor?” And Muff goes, “Ah fuck, Philly. I’m so fucking sorry I forgot.” Muff pulls out his gun and the doctor screams. They tie him up—I swear to god, everything I’m telling you is true—they tied the doctor up in the bed. And the doctor’s saying, “Come on guys, we’re all friends. This is bullshit.” And Phil says, “Doc, we’re stealing your fucking coke. And don’t go to the cops because you’ll get arrested. Don’t be an asshole.”

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Dan Gordon: So they’re getting ready to leave and all of the sudden Muff starts laughing. Phil says, “What are you laughing about?” Muff says, “Look at the doc, he’s a fucking freak.” Well, the doc getting off on being tied up. And he had—as they say in the parlance of our times—“sprouted wood.” And it was poking out of his red silk dressing grown. The doctor was a little embarrassed and laughing and Muff says [to Phil], “Get on the bed and put your arm around the doctor. Nobody would believe this shit. I want to take a picture.” So Phil does and Muff takes a picture with the Polaroid camera. Then Phil tells Muff to do the same thing and he takes a picture of Muff with the doctor…eventually, they leave the doc all tied up. Phil goes to ship the drugs and then him and Muff agree to meet up at JFK to catch their flights. That turned out to be a big mistake because it gave Muff time to kill in between. And Muff really liked the doctor a lot. He felt bad that they had tied him up. He thought: what if he can’t get out of his bonds and he dies of starvation?

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Dan Gordon: So he called the doc’s apartment to make sure he was okay. Well, unbeknownst to him the doc was an asshole and had called the cops. The cops were listening in on the extension as Muff calls up apologizing for having stolen the drugs. Anyway, they call up the airport police and have Muff arrested while he’s still on the phone. And Phil…Phil is arrested as he gets off the plane in LA.

Blake J. Harris: And what about you?

Dan Gordon: I, by this time, had gone…well, I knew a lot of shit that these guys did. I knew way too much. I knew things about the Kennedy assassination, I just knew a lot of shit.

Blake J. Harris: Okay…

Dan Gordon: I thought: I gotta get the fuck out of this country. I can’t be here. I’m gonna get killed. So I took what money I had left and went back to Israel and I joined the Israeli army. If they’re gonna send guys after me, I want guys with guns on my side. And I stayed in Israel for the next ten years.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Dan Gordon: At any rate, I later found out what happened. They get arrested, Phil gets extradited to New York. Their lawyer says, “if you guys cop a plea, I can get you off in two years.” Phil says, “I’m not copping a plea. Get me a meeting with the judge.” A meeting with the judge? You’re really barking up the wrong tree. I’m offering you a good deal here…Now, they never busted Phil with the coke, because he had shipped it, but they did have him on kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon and all that kind of shit. But Phil says, “Just get me a meeting in the chambers with the judge and I’ll have this thing taken care of in three minutes.” And the lawyer thinks alright, it’s your funeral.

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Dan Gordon: They go in there to meet the judge…and the judge isn’t happy about this, he says “This better be good.” So Phil says, “Judge, first I want to thank you for meeting because this is really embarrassing. I didn’t want to have to go into court and say what I’m about to say here. And I know you’re a judge; it’s like talking to a priest or a fucking doctor, it’s confidential, right?

Blake J. Harris: Ha.

Dan Gordon: The judge says, “Just say what you gotta say.” So Phil says, “Well, I’m embarrassed but…I’m a homosexual. And…Muff’s a homosexual. And, uh, the doc’s a homosexual. We’re three homosexuals. And we were having a menage a trois. And that doc got a little bent out of shape. I wasn’t paying enough attention to him. But, you know, this was a lover’s spat. And we tied him because, you know, that’s how we get off. It was a lover’s spat. That’s all it was. There was no drugs.”

Blake J. Harris: [laughing] And he’s got the Polaroids to prove it!

Dan Gordon: Yeah, the judge says, “You expect me to believe this shit?” And then Phil pulls out the Polaroids. And the judge went, “case dismissed!” [laughs] Yeah, so they walked. And Phil sold the jar, sold it for fifty grand and went to finish the film himself. He finished the last scenes that we had and then was in LA to edit the film. And in walks Johnny Spic and he says, “What the fuck are you doing?” And Phil says, “Johnny, I’m completing the film. But I’m not gonna screw you guys. You guys are vested and I’m gonna—“ “No, what the fuck are you are you talking about you fucking nut? Don’t understand what this was about?” And then that’s when Johnny said, “This was never about making a movie. This was about laundering money. Give us the fucking negative. This movie can never be completed. It can never be released. And if you breathe a word of this you’re fucking dead. And by the way, where’s your fucking little friend, the Orange?”

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Dan Gordon: Anyway, I’m happy to report—well, not happy—that none of the people I have now described are still living. They have long since departed. Some in violent fashions, others due to natural causes. But yeah, I stayed away for ten years and then came back in the early 80s.

Blake J. Harris: What brought you back? And how scared, if at all, were you upon returning?

Dan Gordon: By that time I had been in the Yom Kippur War, which was in 1973. I had known a morning where I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be killed. Without going into any details, our unit…there was no question that we were cannon fodder and our job, we were literally told “take as long dying as possible.” Because we needed to hold the position until reserves could reach us. But happily, Anwar Sadat at 4:30 AM had agreed to a ceasefire…otherwise this conversation wouldn’t be taking place.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Dan Gordon: I lost a lot of friends in that war. Everybody did. I mean, we lost 3,000 guys in 3 weeks in a country of 3 million people. We lost 1% of our population. It was literally a generation that was wiped out…every family was affected. Everyone knew someone. It got the point where we didn’t want to go home on leave because we knew we’d be going to funerals…it just was too depressing.

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Dan Gordon: It was, I remember, it was 500 guys that they hadn’t yet informed their families and they released all 500 names at once. And they couldn’t put them in the newspaper because there were too many names to print. The country was so fucking depressed. And everybody of my generation, it was like a biological response of the species. If you weren’t married, you were gonna get married and have kids. And that’s what I was gonna do. Didn’t know who I was gonna marry, didn’t care.

Blake J. Harris: So what happened?

Dan Gordon: I made a list of every woman I’d ever known. And I began writing to this girl who was in the United and convinced her to come to Israel. I was still in the army, but I got a leave and we see each other. Blah blah blah we got married and my three boys were born when we were in Israel…and the whole time I had friends in LA who were still making films. They were successful young, producers. They said, “Dan, Jesus Christ. Come back. We love your writing and can help you find work.”

Blake J. Harris: And so why didn’t you take them up on that offer?

Dan Gordon: I did. I came back in the early 80s because, you know, I had kids now to support. And there was no film industry in Israel to speak of, at the time, and I was working three full-time jobs to make ends meet…so we came back and I got work immediately. And my career took off and it just never stopped…and I was one of the few guys willing to work in television as well as features at that time.

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Highway to Heaven

Dan Gordon: I had met Michael Landon, I liked him a lot. We wanted to do a miniseries together, which we had sold to NBC. And then he got the idea to do Highway to Heaven and asked if I’d come to work for him. I said, “Well, what will you pay?” He said, “I’ll pay you six times more than any television writer makes in this town.” And I said, “Really?” And he said, “Do you wanna know why? Because I’m gonna work you ten times as hard as any television writer in this town. So I’ll make out okay.”

Blake J. Harris: Ha.

Dan Gordon: He didn’t want to hire a staff, he just wanted to hire one guy. And that worked for me because I can write very quickly, I had a reputation for being a fast writer…

Blake J. Harris: Was it hard to continue your film career while doing that?

Dan Gordon: Well my agent said not to do it. That once you go into TV, your features career is over. I said, “I think that’s bullshit. And he’s offering me way too much money.” And I wanted to have a leg in both parts of the industry because I knew there would come a time when my feature career would cool off and I’d want to work in TV; and a time when my TV career would cool off and I’d want to work in features…you put money in front of my face, I’m not passing that up. I’ve got three kids growing up that I’ll need to put through college. Fuck yes! So I worked with Mike and did Highway to Heaven for three years. Wrote, I think, 47 of the first 100 episodes…

Blake J. Harris: Wow.


Dan Gordon: Had a great time. I loved working with Michael, he was like a brother to me. He also insisted that I direct, which I wanted to do. But I remember asking, “Why do you want me to direct?” And he said, “Because I want you to see how much the stupid shit you write costs me on the set.”

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Dan Gordon: He wanted to teach me how not to do it that way. And he taught me how to do television. He was the smartest guy in TV…he was a neat guy. And it was fun, working with him and for him. And I learned a huge amount from him. And somewhere along that time, as the kids got older…you know, [my son] Yoni used to read the trades. Starting when he was six or seven. And my oldest boy Zaki, who’s now deceased, he was a genius. I mean, he sold his first script when he was 12.

Blake J. Harris: Really? How?

Dan Gordon: Well, it helped that his father was the head writer. But he sold an episode. And Mike wasn’t running a charity, so that meant it was good.

Blake J. Harris: Sure.

Dan Gordon: Anyway, I wanted to do a picture for the boys. And Yoni, who was I think 14 at that time, wanted to act. And Zaki, who would have been 17 at the time, he would have loved to do, like, a “making of” or worked as a PA. And my youngest son, Adam, just thought a movie for them would be cool. So what interested them? Well, their favorite movie was Indiana Jones, so I thought: okay, this is really simple. Let’s just do Indiana Jones, Except with Kids. And so it was supposed to be a straight movie and it was going to be called Surf Ninjas of the South China Seas. Sort of like Goonies, but we’re gonna play the drama straight. I thought it would be a great action franchise.

Blake J. Harris: I can see that.

Brandon Tartikoff

Dan Gordon: Brandon Tartikoff, who was the head of NBC, once said a really smart thing to me. He said a lot of really smart things to me. He said, “if you are doing anything for which there is a market and there’s no one else doing that thing, you will get 100% of that market.” Now, that seems axiomatic and very simple, [laughs] but that was profound for Hollywood. And since no one else was doing, you know, action-adventure movies for kids, I thought: this is really easy. This is fun. We’ll just do a action thing and call it Surf Ninjas of the South China Seas and play it straight. And I thought to maintain control I need to direct this.

Blake J. Harris: Makes sense.

Dan Gordon: I’d never directed a feature before because I never wanted to go off and leave my family, but I thought we could film it over a summer. That way my kids could be there and it would all work. Anyway, I had written a screenplay and it was green lit and the contract said I had to direct and we did a screen test of the kid who was supposed to play Yoni’s part. Originally I had thought of it for Yoni, but I got carried away in the writing and they said no, we need a real professional actor. So Yoni became the “Laughing Boy” and he had some dialogue that later got cut out.

Blake J. Harris: Gotcha.

Dan Gordon: So I don’t remember the name of the actor that I brought in for the screen test, but he was really good. The character was based on Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High; you know, he was a dumb surfer. Anyway, we show this scene to the head of the studio and he says, “That’s the dumbest fucking kid I ever saw in my life. How could you cast him?” And I looked at him and I said, “Bob, have you read the script?” And he obviously hadn’t read the script, but he turned to me and said, “You know what? Fuck you. You’re fired.” [laughing] And that was it, I was fired.

Blake J. Harris: Wow.

Rob Schneider surf ninjas

Dan Gordon: And they brought on Neal Israel, who had done some comedies. And Neal was close to Rob Schneider, so they brought on Rob Schneider. And I think even Rob probably chipped in, did a re-write, and turned it into this very schlocky, bizarre thing. [laughing] And when they got Leslie Nielsen cast as Colonel Chi; and he always had one of those fart bags, you know, that you put under your arm and make it sound like somebody had just…

Blake J. Harris: Yeah.

Dan Gordon: And he would do that constantly. I had worked with Leslie on Highway to Heaven and he was a good dramatic actor. I mean, he started out as a dramatic actor. Until he did airplane. And, you know, he was always pulling this dumbass joke of the fart bag. And that was Leslie; I mean, he thought that was the “A” material. And so when he was cast as Colonel Chi I thought: okay, [laughing] that movies in the toilet!

Blake J. Harris: [laughs]

Dan Gordon: And they wound up making this odd movie that for some reason is like a seminal point in the lives of boys who were 14 at the time. I can’t tell you how many times I had had people come up…I was just in LA and I had a pitch meeting at HBO, on what I believe is a really cool series.

Blake J. Harris: Okay.

Dan Gordon: So I’m sitting there with the Head of Dramatic Programming at HBO, and he says, “Dan, I can’t tell you how happy I am to meet you.” And he is just all atwitter, I mean he is just glowing. And I said, “This isn’t about Hurricane, is it? You’re not like a big Denzel fan, are you?” He said, “No.” I said, “It’s not Murder in the First, is it? It’s not Kevin Bacon’s best work that you’re excited about, that I later turned into a play in New York?” He said, “No, no.” And I said, “It’s Surf Ninjas, right?” And he went, “Yes! KWANTSU DUDE!!” [cracking up]

Blake J. Harris: That’s amazing.

Dan Gordon: It just became this bizarre thing that had a life of its own…

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