Stars still glow in local memories
Whenever folks show up in the South Sound to make films, they make memories, too. Here's a sampling of recollections from area residents:
Kevin Kline, River Phoenix, William Hurt, Keanu Reeves, Tracey Ullman and the rest of the cast from "I Love You To Death" were spotted all over town in 1989, and Bob's Java Jive became a favorite hangout for Phoenix and Reeves. Director Lawrence Kasdan even filmed a scene in the coffeepot-shaped landmark.
Owner Danette Staatz remembers a night when Phoenix had had a bit too much to drink. Actually, a lot too much. "He got pretty lit and was coming across the parking lot when he stopped and relieved himself on the back quarter panel of my dad's old Ford." Not long afterward, her father, Jive owner Bob Radonich, sold the car for $200. When Danette found out, she gave him a piece of her mind: "My God, Dad, you could have gotten 10 times that much. All you had to do was write on that quarter panel, "River Phoenix peed here.'"
Reeves apparently liked the funky atmosphere of the Java Jive so much that he tried to buy the place, Staatz said. She turned him down flat.
Why? "He wanted to move it to Hawaii. And I said no way in the world would I let him take this place to Hawaii. It's a Tacoma landmark, and it's not leaving Tacoma."
But Reeves persisted. Years later, he returned to Tacoma to renew his offer. Staatz learned he was coming and instructed her staff to keep him away from her father, who, starstruck (Kasdan had had him play the bartender in the scene shot at the Jive), might have agreed to sell. Reeves knew Radonich's office was in the back of the Jive and tried to talk his way past a wary bartender by telling her he wanted to use the restroom, which was also in the back. But the bartender knew exactly what he was up to, Staatz said. "She told him, 'You're not going past this point. We've got a parking lot, and you can pee on my Porsche.'
"He was so humiliated he never came back."
Jill Johnson Setera
Jill Johnson Setera was a student at Pierce College when Kline & Co. came to town to shoot "I Love You To Death." She got hired as an extra and quickly learned that the job was anything but glamorous. "There were a lot of hours waiting and watching take after take," she said, via e-mail.
"The only time we were able to be around stars was at lunch. One day as I was eating my lunch, Kevin Kline and his visiting wife, Phoebe Cates, sat down across from me. Mr. Kline asked me where a good place in Washington would be for them to spend a romantic weekend. Being only 19 at the time, I hadn't had any romantic weekends myself, but I suggested a bed-and-breakfast in the San Juan Islands I had heard good things about. To my delight, they singled me out the following Monday morning to say 'thank you' and that they had a wonderful time. I may have only been seen for a half a second in that movie, but the memory of my encounter with the famous couple will be with me forever."
"I Love You To Death" wasn't the only movie shot in Tacoma in 1989. Another was "Nowhere Man," a thriller starring Watergate figure G. Gordon Liddy. Tacoma police detective Pat O'Malley worked security for the film. Now retired and living in Nevada, O'Malley remembers Liddy as being "very bright, very steely" with piercing eyes. "He was an imposing character." And one with a bawdy sense of humor.
On the day he finished work on the picture, cast and crew gathered to say goodbye. O'Malley remembers Liddy saying to the assembled throng, "Here's a parting thought for you guys." Whereupon, "he recited the dirtiest series of limericks I had ever heard ... beautiful, ridiculously filthy limericks. They all applauded, everybody laughed and laughed."
And then Liddy left, leaving them laughing.
As for "Nowhere Man," it went ... nowhere. Not to theaters. Not to video. Lost in cinematic limbo. So who's laughing now?