Gregory Peck, how two time Academy Awards winner made me double fault – Tennis in 90210

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In my  room at the very first Virgin Hotel in Chicago late at night I went between the film on Turner Classic Movie channel  ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ( my first high school play I was cast in) and the Australian Open.  Here was Gregory Peck, tennis and television, oh what a story I could tell Richard Branson.  While testing out the in room system at Virgin hotel a filmmaker friend posted this on my Facebook related to another post, “…There are no accidents!”.  No kidding I thought, and began writing this post, about the convergence of Gregory Peck, tennis and television into my life.

One of my ‘BFF’s’ is Danny Sarnoff, he is as Hollywood as you get.  Danny and his grandfather David Sarnoff share something in common with Richard Branson the gift of vision to bring innovation into our lives.  It was Danny’s grandfather that brought us sound into our homes with the RCA radio, and later had the vision to bring moving images into everyone’s living room and he spent a lot of money to make it happen and the RCA television was born, to broadcast the voice and moving images Danny’s grandfather created, NBC ( National Broadcasting Corporation ). To learn more about this just go to this link (David Sarnoff) .

Naturally having grown up in Hollywood with a family fully entrenched in the business of entertainment my friend Danny knew a lot of people, most of them I had met  including Anthony Peck  who I really liked the son of two-time Academy Award winner actor Gregory Peck.  Anthony who would occasionally drive me to the airport in his red Porsche a gift from his supermodel wife Cheryl Tiegs. Everything to Anthony was a contest, women, tennis, anything you wanted to do it was always game on.

One  day I get a call that I have to come along to play a game of doubles tennis, it was imperative that we win and defeat Tony, I was told.  I asked Danny who was playing with Tony? and he told me it would be Cheryl.  Well that should be easy I am pretty sure we could outplay Cheryl and Tony.  I put on my tennis whites got my tennis racquets and soon Danny was at my door and off we went.  The black Mercedes-Benz with blacked out windows with the interior blaring ‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles and the smoke of weed made its way to the home of Gregory Peck.  As we started to go up the road to Gregory Peck’s home the road narrowed a stretch limousine approached, Danny slowed the car, and pulled off the road a little to allow some room for the stretch.  As both cars where side by side the window of the limousine came down and Danny lowered his window.  The girl looking at us was one who could hold your gaze for a long time in a mini skirt, “Hi boy’s” , she said “Babe” was the response. We both smiled and kept driving , ” man she was hot,” I said, “LA” Danny said without missing a beat.  Hey, we where in the land of milk and honey.

The Mercedes Benz still blaring ‘Eagles’ came to a stop outside the gate of Gregory Peck’s home and Danny announced himself to the security, and the gate opened.  Cheryl Tiegs and Tony where already there, Cheryl’s Mercedes-Benz 280SL was parked in the driveway.  Game on, let’s get straight to the tennis court through the meandering rose garden. Gregory Peck’s garden was not just a garden it was a park.

As we got to the tennis court, Tony reminded Danny where they stood in the betting and this was for double or nothing.  Soon we were into the game, it was no Australian Open, but the intensity was the same. The battle was on. The games were close and let me tell you Cheryl is no pushover and it was my serve.  I got a few good serves in and the score was 30-30 first set when Danny said;

Don’t look now Khan-man, Tony’s dad is coming down to watch.

Naturally I looked up, and my stomach went in a knot, there was Gregory Peck in a white robe making his way to the pool and tennis court.  Now I could not give a crap about who anyone is, but this was not just anyone, it was fucking Gregory Peck. This to me was The Guns of Navarone, To Kill A Mockingbird, A Roman Holiday, this was Ahab of Moby Dick. Everything would have been cool, if Mr. Peck had just gone to the pool, but no that was not happening, he had to come sit down to watch the game. The pressure was on, all of a sudden the tennis match felt like a five set match of Nadal. I was serving to Cheryl, my first serve caught the tape and landed on our side of the court, (please Mr. Peck go away to the pool please I prayed).  I trew the ball up, arched my back keeping my grip loose throwing my arm towards the ball at its peak, it all felt good and then that sound, ball hitting the tape. I had just double faulted, suicide in tennis, and in front of Gregory Peck.

Danny and I won the match we would later learn that Tony arranged for his dad to come down and watch in order to play mind games with us. The good old friendly, tennis matches.

Enjoy this clip of a tour of the house where this tennis match a Grand Slam if you will was played below.

Best Actor

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The day our film got Nine Oscars Nominations ‘Howards End’

Oscars 2015

Oscar nominations will be announced tomorrow morning there are people out there who will not be sleeping tonight.  Some of those involved may not even be the actors, producers, directors, they may be just those who had a small role in the making of the film, it will not matter, anyone who has made something worthy, written words of magic, brought something to the screen that actually matters does not sleep tonight.  They will get calls tonight, text messages, Tweets, from friends and fans wishing them good luck tomorrow the day of the Oscars nominations.  How do I know all this, because I’ve been there.

Below you will be able to ready about my film deal as reported on July 14, 1987 in the Hollywood Reporter in an article by Samir Hachem.

I did not get into the film business to make money, I went in the business to redeem myself, a cleansing if you will.  If you have seen the movie Wall Street, that was pretty much my life in the early 80’s.  One day I decided to walk away from it all and use what I had to make a positive creative difference.  I had read an article about Merchant Ivory in Forbes magazine liked what I had read, called a few friends and asked them, “guys you want to go into the film business with me?”  They said “sure”.  The next day I picked up the phone talked to Ismail Merchant and told him point-blank, I like your films, I belive you are on the right path, and I am gonna back you.  One of the films in my deal was ‘Howards End’ (below).

The night before 1993 Oscars nominations, I went for drinks at Chateau Marmont with a few friends, one of my friends told someone about ‘Howards End’ and before I had settled into my chair drinks had started to arrive.  Soon afterwards a lady walked up to me and informed me she owned an exclusive club and said “I am so glad you don’t make this Hollywood crap, you are always welcome at my club”.  I told my buddy ” dude why did you tell her anything, we had one Golden Globe nomination and won nothing”, and quickly my friend reminded me,” The Academy Awards are in a world of their own Timothy.” I stayed up all night, calls coming expressing good luck tomorrow from those who knew I had something to do with the film.  The night passed into day and it was the big day.  It was early in the morning I need a caffeine fix so I drove to St. James’s Club on Sunset now known as the Sunset Tower hotel to watch the Oscars nominations.  Everyone at the hotel knew me, I usually was camped out there by the pool daily.  They announcements started and my heart beat faster.

“Nominated for 65th Academy Awards Best Original Music Score  is ‘Howard’s End’ oh my god , we got an Oscars nomination, everyone patted me on the back, my waiters was thrilled.  Then came Howards End’s  nominations for,’ Best Costume, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress,  Best Directing, Best Art Direction, Best Actress,  Best Adapted Screenplay, and the one you want to hear over and over because you can’t belive it, Best Picture “.

The breakfast room at the St. James’s Club exploded with cheers, and applause, and soon everyone was standing up applauding, and coming over to pat me on the back.   The room knew nothing happens without money, anyone in the film business will tell you that.

My phone was going off, people had been calling all day, I went down to The Ivy on Robertson for lunch and people were calling the restaurant looking for me, it was the most unreal, feeling, like going to the moon, this was no small matter it was “Nine Nominations including Best Picture”.

The day of the Oscars, I sat and kept the seat warm for Anthony Hopkins when he arrived to take his seat I went backstage and started to drink, it was an unreal feeling that I was there and then we won “Best Actress, Emma Thompson”, “Best Adapted Screenplay, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala” and “Best Art Direction, Luciana Arrighi and Ian Wittaker”.

When I was a kid in Toronto, on Oscars night my family would all sit around the television and I would grab one of those brass tall candle holder that every Indian house has, pretend it’s  The Academy Award and give a speech.  My mother would tell me to shut-up sit down stop dreaming ( she did not really mean stop dreaming she just wanted to see the show).  So keep dreaming people and dream big, I am telling you anything can happen in this world.

Nothing like this may every happen again for me, this was that one moment in time that stays with you forever.  The road to the Oscars begins with the most important element of them all, a really good script.  I had backed a great creative team and I was proud of them, they had made a dream possible.

 I wish all those who have worked so hard to make a film, my very best tonight and which them luck tomorrow.  What a feeling it truly is and it makes no difference if one wins or not just to get nominated is such a big thrill, like riding a rocket into the stars, feeling so light that you could hurdle the moon, words cannot express the feeling.

Hollywood Reporter Mercahnt Ivory deal

Merchant Ivory 2

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