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!”

1 comment

NBC are you there? It’s me, Lisa…

Dear NBC,

Hi. It’s me again. I wrote to you previously about two years ago when I had been teased and deceived about a couple of clips of Robert Culp on Saturday Night Live from 1982, when he hosted. You had his opening monologue posted to your website but for some technical reason at the time the clip wouldn’t play and I cried. Then I wrote you an open letter.

Ok, maybe I didn’t exactly cry, but I did write you an open letter. As Culpkarma would have it, after posting said letter I was alerted to another Culp clip from the same SNL episode, this time of him and Eddie Murphy with the “cold opening” sketch that spoofed a little I Spy and a little on Bill Cosby and his many product endorsements. I was so happy to see this clip, and that it played, I wrote you another lovely note.

Still, the monologue wasn’t working. However, not long after these two gracious letters appeared on this blog the monologue clip was restored and viewable. Not only could the clips be viewed at your own site, NBC, but also on Ok, probably nobody at NBC ever saw my lamenting pleas, but I liked the idea of thinking it had some kind of effect.

Which is why I’m writing again. I was very sad this past weekend (on Saturday, no less) to take a look at the “cold opening” sketch again only to find that the clip on both your site and at Hulu have been removed. The monologue is gone as well.

This makes me very unhappy, NBC. I know, life’s full of disappointments, but it is not full of multiple hosting gigs by Robert Culp of Saturday Night Live. He only did the show once and although it could be argued that the episode is not one of SNLs more stellar offerings, it is nonetheless, ROBERT CULP.  Both the “cold opening” sketch and the opening monologue, for what it’s worth, are entertaining and, well, I would love it if they could be restored so that others can view them. Culp’s “Kelly Robinson” open warm-up jacket look is worth the price of admission for Culp fans!

Robert Culp on Saturday Night Live

Heck, Joe Piscopo wrecking a tennis racket in front of Culp in the opening sketch is worth the price of admission too. And the opening monologue? Culp worked with a guy who’s a comedian, you think he didn’t pick up something from Cosby over the years?!

Anyway, I sincerely hope you can find it within your heart to bring these clips back either on your site or via Hulu (no, not HuluPlus) or wherever so they can be viewed again and enjoyed by all. That is the only motive for my note this time. Well, ok I do have a somewhat selfish motive with this too. I now have postings in this blog that reference video clips that are no longer there.

Really, NBC, help me out!



1 comment

He Bears Witness to His Beliefs

From TV Guide, January 15, 1966



Hickey & Boggs: Alas, Aero Theatre Q&A, We Hardly Knew Ye

During my Hickey & Boggs retrospective a couple of weeks ago I included a post  that featured a three part video, originally done by the folks at Criminally Unknown, from a Q&A session with Culp after a screening of the film at the Aero Theatre in LA in 2007. It appears the video is no longer available and the Criminally Unknown FB page is gone. Their Twitter account has been dormant for more than a year and their website is gone too. I know the internet is a fickle place and nothing last forever but…dammit all, did it have to go away not two weeks after I added it here?!

Their YouTube account appears to still remain, but also with no updates for more than a year, and the only piece of the nearly 40 minute Q&A session that was posted was a segment regarding Bill Hickman and the connection the Rolls Royce used in Hickey & Boggs had with The French Connection. I’m going to include the clip here but… don’t dilly dally watching it for it may be gone tomorrow.

If, by any remote, insane, million-to-one shot chance that somebody out there, either from Criminally Unknown or who knows them or something, sees this, could you contact me? I would be more than happy to give that 40 minute Q&A video a home with all proper credit and attribution and whathaveya to Criminally Unknown. The video is a rare, fantastic gem full of stories and tidbits on Culp’s only directorial feature. Oh please, don’t let it be lost forever…

Add a comment

Hickey & Boggs: Commentary, Tidbits and Extras

For the longest time it seems this movie languished in obscurity. I had heard of it almost as soon as I started delving into All Things Culp, but finding the thing proved a task. Up until 2011, there had not been an official DVD release and apparently whatever copy was out there floating around, was not of the greatest quality. One grainy clip of Culp and Cosby going into the hotel to try to find Mary Jane was about all I’d ever seen of the film. And that wasn’t even posted on YouTube.

Then sometime in 2009, I found the movie available through iTunes (and still is). Naturally I purchased and downloaded it, although I lamented going this route. I pined for a DVD, something tangible that ensured, for the most part, that I would always have the movie, even if I burned through the computer that I downloaded it to (which, eventually, I did.)

Thankfully, 20th Century Fox on behalf of MGM released the film in a manufacture on demand format – along with several other MGM titles that Fox now has the rights to – in 2011.

What saddens me is that Culp did not live to see the film finally get a proper DVD release. The demise of MGM in the 70’s, the breakup of the studio’s film catalogue between other studios (Fox, Warner and Sony/Paramount) pretty much shoved everything into a vault for years while legal issues were hammered out before any of these titles could see the light of day again. Also, before the advent of the manufacture on demand, studios were hesitant to make the investment into a DVD release for a movie that they felt probably wouldn’t get much of a return.

Very unfortunate, as it would have been fitting to have Culp put together a “director’s cut” or at least a good amount of extras and commentary on the movie.

What we do have though, is various tidbits and commentary about the movie via other sources that I wish to bring together here. Bonus material, if you will, that didn’t make the DVD…

Continue reading more of Hickey & Boggs: Commentary, Tidbits and Extras…


Hickey & Boggs

Originally released, September 20 (limited)/October 4 (nationwide), 1972

Robert Culp plays Frank Boggs who, along with Bill Cosby’s Al Hickey, is a down trodden gotta-reach-up-just-to-touch-the bottom of the barrel private investigator. Hickey and Boggs work out of an old office building somewhere in downtown Los Angeles, where the bright California sun does little to make their world any more cheerful. They’re old school PIs who are trying to hang on in a business that’s been pretty much legislated out of existence by the State of California.

These guys have hardly anything. They don’t have enough money to pay all their bills (but do manage to scrounge enough for drinks at the local bar), they drive junk cars, wear old suits and both have marriages/relationships that have busted apart.

Yet, they keep moving, not exactly forward but moving. And this is where the movie opens. They’re at the bar, having a few drinks, watching the boxing match on the tv. During the commercial break they talk finances. They don’t have enough money to pay both their phone service and the answering service, so Hickey only paid for the answering service. Boggs offers to borrower against his house, which I take based on Hickey’s reaction there’s not a lot of equity left in the place.

In order to check their messages and return phone calls, they’re reduced to using the payphones outside of the bar. One of the messages is for an appointment the next morning which Hickey has to make because Boggs decides he’s going into the tank. (Can you get any lower than this?)

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket PhotobucketPhotobucket

Continue reading more of Hickey & Boggs…


This is Hickey and This is Boggs

Magazine clipping that, unfortunately, I don’t know what magazine it comes from. However, I do know it’s from England. This was part of a small collection of foreign clippings related to Robert Culp I found on eBay a couple of years back.

Add a comment

Hickey & Boggs: The Trailer

Part of my 40th Anniversary look at Hickey & Boggs, here’s an original trailer, this being a 55 second television spot that ran back in 1972 that I found on YouTube sometime back in 2011.

I’ll be honest in that I wasn’t really bowled over by this trailer – and I had already seen the movie multiple times. The disadvantage, of course, is I’m looking at this from a perspective forty years after the fact and I’ve been spoiled over the years by the likes of voice over folks like Don LaFontaine. (Can you imagine if Don LaFontaine had done the trailer for this one?). The voice over here sounds like Jack Webb and it has almost a Dragnet feel to it. The music –although definitely early 70’s flavor – is totally wrong for the film (infact, it’s not even music used in the film). The clips used are great and certainly show the down and out feel of the characters and the good action scenes in the film, but the music and voiceover just don’t cut it.  And the line about “they’ll knock you out of your seat” …um, eeeyeah.

Having been kind of disappointed in the original trailer (I think the movie deserved better), I was inspired to try to edit together one of my own. Now, mine’s probably no better than the original and I’ll admit my editing skills are pedestrian. Plus, I don’t have Don LaFontaine to do the voice over (in fact, I have no voice over with this). But, ever have an idea grab at you and not let you go until you do whatever it is it asks?

1 comment

Hickey & Boggs: 40th Anniversary

It was 40 years ago this September/October of 1972 that Robert Culp’s only feature length directing effort, Hickey & Boggs was released. The film starred Bill Cosby along with Culp and although it was not a big commercial success at the time of its release, the film has obtained something of a cult status and is now considered a lost gem of early 70’s noir.

I’m biased, of course, but this movie really is a lost gem. As such, and since Hickey & Boggs truly was a significant milestone in Robert Culp’s career, it seemed natural that my next “capapalooza” post would be for the film and I would have it ready by the time of the 40th anniversary. I actually started working on the post way back in January since I knew it would probably run a little long between the number of screens caps I had and doing the overview of the film.

A little long? The whole thing literally got away from me. I have hundreds of screen caps, the overview ran waaay too long plus I had tons of commentary. The whole thing ended up a monster.

So instead of one great big LONG overkill of a post, I decided to break things up into smaller parts. There will still be the usual big capapalooza post (with some restraint on the overview) but I will separate out most of my commentary and other tidbits and gems about the film into other posts. So stay tuned over the next few weeks for more on Hickey & Boggs.


Add a comment