Sharing the wonderfulness of Robert Culp

Why Did They Have to Split Us Up?

From Motion Picture Magazine, January 1967

Why Did They Have to Split Us Up? - Motion Picture Magazine, January 1967

By: Bill Cosby (as told to James Gregory)

On I Spy Bob Culp and I are a team. And that’s why I don’t feel anyone should split us up and give an award to just one guy – the way they gave an Emmy just to me a while back. With other comedy teams there is always only one guy who is funny – Jerry Lewis, Lou Costello – but Bob can be as funny as he wants. The two of us make it together. One plays off the other. We do comedy, but there’s no straight man.

On the Emmy Awards show I thanked Bob for helping me learn to act – thereby losing his own chance to win an Emmy for best actor in a dramatic series, for which we had both been nominated. What he had done for me was the finest thing one friend could do for another. He had taken a comedian who knew nothing about acting, and without being selfish he helped me along – eased my tension, gave me pointers, made sure certain things were right. He told me what acting really meant – “This all has to do with what’s inside of you. If you believe what you’re saying your face will show it.”

He taught me about lighting, where to stand, how to move, how to speak up. He wouldn’t let a director make me do something I couldn’t handle yet. He protected me that first year. And he still does at times, if I don’t know what’s going on. I think that’s why he lost the Emmy. He always helped me, and he might just not have had enough time to do certain things for himself.

Of course, he did it to help the whole show too – because Bob knows as well as I do that the strength of the series happens to be the relationship between the two men. If one man goes bad, it all starts to fail. As Bob said a few months ago in an article in MOTION PICTURE,” “The gold in the show is the relationship between Bill and me; and that’s what makes the show.”

Our relationship is important in our personal lives, too. We are very, very close.

Bob came up to me on the set of I Spy and gave me some old Captain Marvel comic books, which he knows I dig, and old Captain America second issue and a Captain Marvel poster. And he wrote me a little note that said, “Thanks a lot for everything.” He thanked me. We sat down and we kind of discussed the awards. And that’s when I told me him that they shouldn’t try to split up a team like us. He saw what I meant, and agreed with me, I told him it really got to me that there was a trophy for only one guy, when that’s not really the way it is – at least not with us.

We're so close that we instinctively understand each other.But I really didn’t have to explain to Bob how I felt. We’re so close that we instinctively understand each other. We even have a certain way that we speak to each other. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a friend who was so close to you that maybe just one word could key you off into – not necessarily fits of laughter, but enjoyable moments, when you’ve both been depressed or tired. For me that particular pick-me-up happens to be Bob Culp.

I don’t think we like the same things as much as we can sit down and really communicate with each other. I can talk with him for a long time and never get bored. We’ve discussed many things, from acting to pro football to lizards – to the beauty of putting an A-bomb together for fun. Or we may talk about some choice, beautiful thing we saw on TV: good acting, good actors, good actresses, good movies. Nothing really deep. We talk occasionally about politics, but neither of us is very active in that field. I wouldn’t back any politician, because I don’t believe in them. I have very little faith in politicians. They will make noises at election time, putting down their opponents, saying, “Hey, you stink … you’re bad!” So forth and so on. Then you put the guy in office, and soon the other guy says, “Look at him! He’s messing up, too.”

I don’t think it’s surprising that Bob and I can discuss so many things so easily, or that we’ve developed our own way of communicating. When you live with somebody 12 hours a day for 5 days out of the week, you get to know him awfully well. And then, in our case, we also go to places around the world together for our show … Hong Kong, Mexico, Japan, Italy. You pick up on the lingo and start to have your own little dialogue. And pretty soon you can revert back to something that you said maybe a month ago, just by using a punch line or a little joke that you’ve got going. And believe me, we’ve shared some good jokes on trips to other countries. To an outsider, a key word or line might mean little or nothing. But to us they contain a whole adventure.

For instance, I could say El burro es grande and Bob might double up laughing. Why? Well, it dates back to our trip to Mexico. I enjoyed the Mexican people very much – beautiful, beautiful people. And they have a great sense of humor, which of course is terribly important to me. And that’s where El burro es grande comes in.

I studied Spanish in high school and came out of the class with just one sentence – the one quoted above which means, “The burro is big.”

So while we were on location in Mexico, I would sit down on the grass with the Mexican crew – about 20 guys who took care of the lights and stuff – and I’d say, El burro es grande. And they would give me other lines: El burro es muy (very) grande. Si! (Yes!) And so on.

Well, finally it was time for Bob and me to return to California, and the majority of the crew came to see us off at the airport. And most of the son-of-the-guns had tears in their eyes. Then suddenly one of them says: “One, two, three …” and they all chimed out in unison: “El burro es good-bye!” So neither Bob nor I will ever forget that sentence. It turned out you could say quite a lot with it after all.

Let us venture forth and get some of these wonderful things that they have on the menu here. Then there was something that happened to Bob and me in Hong Kong while we were filming the 1st show in the series. Now, when I get to a foreign land I like to eat the food of the country. I don’t care how sick it makes me feel. Well, we were sitting in this restaurant. (A Chinese restaurant, of course!) Both of us had just learned how to work out with chopsticks, and were starting to learn a little about Chinese food, I mean real Chinese food. So we sat down and looked at the menu and said, “What is this?” and so forth and so on, and “Let’s have some of this. Have you ever tried this? No, man, let’s try some. Let us venture forth and get some of these wonderful things that they have on the menu here. We don’t care what it is. Give us some of this and some of that, with flangs and floosh and zoobie … and oh, yes, we must have some duck. Give us some duck. This barbecued duck here.”

“It’s $36,” the waiter said, (That was Hong Kong dollars, but it still added up to $9 in American money.)

“Oh, so what!” we said, “We don’t care – $36 – man, give us the duck.”

So the guy’s bringing the food to us, and it’s all great – just great. Even the bean curds, which I’d never had before. Pretty soon we’re acting like high school kids – you know like fooling around with a chocolate sundae or something like that. And every time we’d taste something new, if it’s kind of weird, you look at your partner and your partner looks at you, and you break up laughing.

So we’re munching and crunching, till we’d finished a good part of the meal. (As a matter of fact all of it.) And I said to Bob, “Did we get everything – except the duck?” Bob said, “Yeah – we forgot the duck.” But we were both so full we couldn’t have cared less.

Then suddenly this guy comes up the stairs and over to our table – and he’s got a whole duck. What Bob had ordered was a whole barbecued duck! I was so startled I thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t. Now, we’re full of food – it’s up to the Adam’s apple, man. Well, we don’t want to make the guy feel bad, so we said, “Oh, this is wonderful …” Here are two guys so full of food, and now we’ve got to eat a whole duck. We’ve got to force it down.

The guy brought out the plum dressing and everything for it, and it was really delicious. I ate about two slices and Bob ate about two slices, and then I told the waiter, “Okay – put it in a bowser bag and we’ll take it home!”

And that’s what we did. We took it back to the hotel and gave it to one of the kids who worked in the lobby – they make like a penny a day. I’m sure that when he went home with a whole 36-Hong-Kong-dollars barbecued duck they all flipped.

Memories like that tie Bob and me together in a genuine friendship. It’s as genuine a friendship as any can be. There’s no pretending about anything. Although we have different tastes, we always respect that. He never demands anything of me – if I don’t want to do it, I don’t have to do it. There’s no argument, no walking off or anything like that. We don’t even have to pressure each other into saying, “Now, listen, man, if you don’t want to do it, you don’t have to do it.” That’s simply understood.

And if I ever take Bob some place that I think is special, and it fails, we both laugh – and vice versa. I went to the ballet with him one night. Went right to sleep. And we laughed and I thanked him. I said, “Listen, I probably would have stayed up til 12:30 – if I hadn’t gone to the ballet!”

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He Bears Witness to His Beliefs

From TV Guide, January 15, 1966



No…Not MORE eBay BCTA Photos?!

Why yes! More! Another set of negatives from the SFX Archive and this time we had some international drama!

Well, maybe not exactly drama but I did suffer a bit of an upset when I was outbid on this set of negatives of Culp with Natalie Wood.

Oh yeah, I was bummed to miss on those, definitely. At the time I didn’t know who outbid me but in doing some detective work later, near as I can tell, the winner is a Natalie Wood fan in France (based on their other auction wins), to which I extend my heartfelt congratulations and hope the negatives are well cared for. (But winning bidder, if you ever decide you want to sell them just give me a shout!)

I did win this lot of negatives, however…

When I logged into eBay to check on the outcome of the auctions, I noticed there were more negatives available – but these didn’t come up when I did a search for “robert culp” in the SFX Archive’s eBay store. I then searched “bob carol ted alice” and got a boatload of results. Among them, were these…

I didn’t have to bid. I love the “Buy it Now” option!

This makes the third batch of negatives I’ve acquired (check out the ones that got away, the first set and the second set that I purchased.) There are additional negatives still available but I have to concede that the prices each time have gone up significantly. Those Holy Grail 33 negatives I blew off? They went for less than $20 if I recall right. This latest set I obtained, the auction win was around $29. The buy it now set I paid over $50 for.

And here they are as developed into photographs. And I got the photos on CD again too (told you, I got this down to a science now!)

 ”Photobucket” ”Photobucket”
”Photobucket” ”Photobucket”
”Photobucket” ”Photobucket” ”Photobucket”
”Photobucket” ”Photobucket” ”Photobucket”

I have added all the photos (so far) in the BCTA Photo Negatives Collection to the Photo Gallery and Culp Clips page.

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More Familiar Fashion with Robert Culp

Previously I posted about an ad for Ralph Lauren Purple Label suits reminding me of Culp’s pinstripe suit in the 1973 Columbo episode “Double Exposure.” (Have I mentioned I looooove a man in a three piece suit?)

Well, I found some more Culp-esque fashion.  Sasha Charnin Morrison, Fashion Director for Us Weekly, tweeted several photos of Natalie Wood last week and, in relation to that, also tweeted that “the Gucci Spring 2013 collection looks a lot like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” I admit it does remind me of B&C&T&A with a lot of the bright colors and all (the women’s Gucci fashions more so), but I wasn’t expecting this:

Okay, the leather one is a stretch, since the Gucci model isn’t wearing matching leather pants (and why not?) and the color is different, yes. BUT! The Gucci color reminds me of this Culp suit! (Again from a Columbo episode, “The Most Crucial Game” 1972….)

And upon further investigating in the Gucci Spring 2013 collection we have this red hued suit and…well now lookit that, a polka dotted tie…

This light blue suit (middle) harkened back to I Spy (left) and even the beige/off white tie reminded me of Frank Bogg’s similar look in Hickey & Boggs (right). Apologies to Gucci though, yes, I know Boggs’ suit looks like it was run over by a car – with him in it.

The best though? This yellow jacket and white pants combination!

So what does all this Culp inspired fashion mean? Two things. One, Robert Culp was simply fashionable and two…I pay way too much attention to his clothes apparently…

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What? More eBay BCTA photos?

Yes indeedy! No, not the now Holy Grail 33 negatives that I bungled on getting previously, but another set of 27 rare negatives from the SFX Archive. This is now the third such auction on Culp photo negatives from the movie “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” that I’ve seen on eBay and is the second one that I had the smarts enough to bid or buy now on. (You can read about the first set I purchased and see the photos here.)

I’m indebted Tatia on the I Spy Forum for spotting this auction and posting about it. (You know…information… heh!)

Here’s the scan that the SFX Archive had with their auction…

Enticing right? You bet! Especially the ones of Culp in the full leather get up.  And the ones in the white shirt and brown cords with the movie camera. And…oh yeah the white swim trunks and red jacket… (SOLD).

Just as before, I had the photos done in 8 x 10 prints and this time also had them put on a CD. Yeah, I’m finally getting the hang of this I think…

Here’s the rundown…

A couple of these are not clear focus which is unfortunate. #3 and #4 are my favorites. That last one…somebody’s getting an opinion or something!

Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

I love these with the movie camera. My personal favorite is #2 and #5.

Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

Heh heh, yeeeah….and gee, they all were clear focus. What luck!

Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”


Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

From the dinner scene. Wonder what somebody said in the second photo to get THAT look?

Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

I dunno about y’all but the first pic does not match any scene in the movie that I can recall. The second one is at the “retreat,” third is from the bathroom scene and the fourth is from the Vegas scene.

Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” Robert Culp in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice”

All in all, another fine addition to the Culp Collection. I’m still keeping my eye out for those 33, but I’m very glad to have these gems in the collection!

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You Picked a Hell of a Time to Hitchhike Mister…

…but picked a pretty damn good movie to make a debut in! Robert Culp made his feature film debut in the Warner Brothers epic “PT-109” which was released this date (June 19) 1963. Personally overseen by Jack Warner himself (after the first director was fired and things were looking dicey), the film took more than a year to complete and runs for over 2 hours in length.

The film depicts the story of John F. Kennedy’s WWII experiences as the skipper of the Patrol Torpedo boat number 109, which was sliced in half by a Japanese destroyer in August of 1943. Kennedy (portrayed by Cliff Robertson in the film) lost two of his 13 crew members and managed to lead the others to safety on one of the islands. Culp plays Ensign George Ross, who ended up on the 109 more or less as a hitchhiker, joining Kennedy’s crew after his own boat got shot up.

PT 109 is a very good film and worth the two plus hour running time, and waiting for Culp to show up (about an hour into it).

The fact that Culp is shirtless for portions of this movie is simply a bonus.


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It’s All Fine, Just Fine…

The final first season episode of I Spy, “One Thousand Fine” aired this date (April 27) in 1966. Still in Acapulco, Kelly and Scotty are given an assignment to locate a missing US Air force plane that was carrying nearly $6 million in gold when it crashed 8 years earlier. The only surviving crew member, Jack Gannon, is an old acquaintance of Kelly’s and together the men, along with Jack’s fiancé go looking for the plane. To complicate things a bit Jack’s fiancé is someone from Kelly’s past…


The past between Kelly and Jean (Jack’s finance) creates some tension in this episode. This first clip shows the tension with Jack and the brewing jealously. The second half of the clip has a great bit of comic relief from Scotty.


Another great scene with some more tension between the three characters. Jean figures out what Kelly’s secret was that he couldn’t tell her years before and Jack’s jealously is still brewing. It’s also becoming apparent that relationship between Jean and Jack is changing as Jack knows they’re getting closer to finding the gold.


And finally a clip from the beginning of the episode (it wasn’t all tense!) with some great back n’ forth between Kelly and Scotty about, what else, a girl. “All other bikinis would be stuffed with plaster of paris” next to Kelly’s latest find.





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But When She was Bad…

…she was a pain in the butt for Kelly and Scotty! The I Spy episode “There Was a Little Girl” aired this date, April 6, 1966. Kelly and Scotty are assigned to “babysit” the teenage daughter of a US cabinet member on her vacation to Mexico. Buying a souvenir at a shop gets her and the boys mixed up with drug smugglers.

In the clip below, the young Kathy Sherman is easily dazzled, but not dazzled enough with Kelly’s history lesson on the Church of San Sebastian and Santa Prisca in Taxco, Mexico.

Kathy’s mask was originally sold to her in error and the shop owner tries everything to get it back. In the clip below, another attempt is made…

Lastly, this clip is for no other reason than Culp wearing cowboy boots and Cosby’s line of “You’re the one that wanted to look like a cowboy.” He shoulda called him Hoby!

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Crusade to a Punch in the Mouth

Kelly gets decked at the beginning and the end of the I Spy episode “Crusade to Limbo” which aired this date, March 23, 1966. An acquaintance of Kelly’s, Sean Christie (a well known – if fictitious – American Hollywood actor) is seen in Mexico and has apparently joined up with other notable people and celebrities to take part in an invasion and revolution of “a neighboring country.” Kelly and Scotty pretend to have anti-American views in order to get inside the elite group and get to the bottom of their plans.

I dunno about you but the guy on the left (character actor Wesley Addy) reminds me of Anderson Cooper…

Although the premise borders on the absurd (celebrities being part of an invasion? With guns? Seriously?) the episode does have its moments. In the clip below, Kelly and Scotty must prove their allegiance by killing Sean who has been marked a traitor by the group. An interesting show of the trust between Kelly and Scotty.

As I noted above, Kelly gets decked twice in this episode. The first time is at the beginning when he sees Sean at an outdoor art fair (Sean punches him). The second time is at the end of the episode. Kelly and Scotty are back at the art fair again and Kelly spots another celebrity. A real one this time and it’s none other than creator and producer of I Spy Sheldon Leonard himself.

When Kelly can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth, Sheldon belts him. (And yes, Sheldon Leonard really talked out of the side of his mouth.)


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