By 1974 I found myself with more free time than Id had in years.
The house was running well, I entertained as before, went out as often as I chose to
accept invitations, but money was running low. I changed agents, but it didnt help.
A few spurts of activity at the beginning and then the slow down. I thought perhaps I was
going out of vogue. Fortunately, I had a lot of hobbies which helped keep my mind
A year later I found money getting tight, so I decided to sell the
house. I figured the change of location might shake things up. Hiro had found a lovely
girl whom he wanted to marry. Instead of moving all the furniture, I gave it to him and
his bride as a wedding gift, plus a few thousand dollars to get started on.
The day after I entered escrow on the sale of my house I started
looking for an apartment and my spirits flagged. Everything I saw felt cramped. I was used
to spending a lot of time at the pool or in the garden and Id taken that open
feeling for granted. I didnt want to buy anything at that moment, figuring in
several years when I was back up to action and the bank account was healthier Id get
I found a spanking new condominium penthouse on the edge of Beverly
Hills that I could rent. The living room ceiling was two stories high, it had a fireplace,
and there was a loft up a circular staircase that opened onto a rooftop patio. Two
bedrooms and two baths. One bedroom became my study and library and one of the bathrooms
became the powder room. I put my woodworking machinery in storage, along with a few other
personal items that didnt fit the new place, and sold the wine cellar contents at a
very good profit to a restauranteur friend.
A few months before the house sold, Id committed to buying
eighteen cases of 1975 Bordeaux wines on futures (that is, pre-arrival prices). The
vintage was considered outstanding and the wines wouldnt be bottled and in the
country until 1978. By then, Id be in another house and would have another wine
cellar, but, as John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while youre planning
The only upsetting factor about the move was not being able to keep my
bird dog, Cappi, with me. She was used to going in and out of the house through her pet
door for years and a German Shorthair needs plenty of room to exercise. I had a friend who
owned a kennel in the San Fernando Valley where he boarded and trained water retrieving
hunting dogs. I boarded her with him, knowing shed get a good outing two or three
times a week. He was extremely fond of Cappi (as was everyone). She was a very mannerly
dog who Id taken through obedience school, and was always a joy to have around.
During hunting season, Id pick her up on Saturdays and take her
back to Bills place Sunday evenings. Wed hunt quail on a ranch that was owned
by some friends, north of Santa Barbara, or go to a pheasant club. Bill told me she always
sensed when I was going to show up. Shed lie down in her kennel and quietly wait for
me. When I dropped her off on Sunday evenings, it always tugged at my heart, but she
seemed to have a better understanding of the situation than I did. Shed give my hand
a quick lick, then turn and walk to her kennel with Bill, never on a leash.
About a year after I moved into the condo, real estate prices started
zooming and any idea of getting another house had become moot. The place on Benedict
Canyon that Id sold for $180,000 sold the following year for more than $220,000.
Its changed hands several times since then and I heard the last price was $800,000;
by now its probably over a mil.
My personal manager, Gene Yusem, had long since faded away. He just
stopped calling until I got the idea that he wasnt representing me anymore. I
didnt think it was the nicest way to end the relationship, but after years in this
business, one learns not to expect too much from people.
A new commercials agent Id signed with called me a few months
after Id settled into my new digs. A Japanese man had inquired as to my availability
to do some on-screen commercials for Toyota. They wanted to make three commercials, all to
be shot in the U.S. but only shown in Japan. They were willing to pay $100,000 for two
weeks work and the commercials would be shown for only one year. Combat! was being
replayed every three or four years there, still one of the most popular series. The
commercials were a breeze to do. Toyota and I did them for four years.
The dry spell was over.
During that time, they threw in a car and some trips to Japan. The gentleman who had
located me in Los Angeles, Yuzo Takagi, who resides in the States now, always accompanied
me. Weve become great friends. Each time I went back with him, I spent time at
Yoshikawa Inn, to which I introduced him. It always felt like returning home. As we were
flying over on our first trip together to Japan, he told me that hed take me to a
very famous international restaurant called Makidonorodo. It turned out to be the
Japanese pronunciation for MacDonalds.