Story & Most Pictures by Ed Heffelfinger
It was an awesome party. Best party I've been to in many a moon. It was a nice restaurant in Hollywood and there must have been a hundred folks there. I only knew a couple of people at the party but it was like I already knew many of the others folks in attendance. What a surreal experience. Let me explain...
I got a phone call last month, right before Christmas from my buddy, Branscombe Richmond. “Hey Ed! Ya gotta come down to LA next week for my Holiday party.”, he tells me. Now, I have to tell you, Hollywood is a rather long drive from my place on Monterey Bay. It was Christmas. The day after Christmas was my birthday. I had a lot going on and my kids and the wife and...
Branscombe interrupted, “Listen, I know it's a long way to come, Bro. But Lorenzo and Kathleen are gonna be there. Lots of celebrities gonna be there. It's a Renegade reunion, Man! It's my Holiday blast, ya just gotta be there!”.
That was easy. He had me hooked. Renegade reunion? Oh, hell yeah! I decided right then and there to give myself a trip to Hollywood as a birthday present. My birthday's on Friday. The party's on Sunday. Brand new tires on the van. Gas is cheap. It's Hollywood. Yep, that totally works. Told Branscombe, Merry Christmas and I'd see him at his party. Said I'd be there with bells on my toes (Ancient Chinese saying meaning Frickin' A, where's the party? Or something like that.).
My house on Monterey Bay to the party place at the base of the Hollywood Hills is about a six hour drive. Eight, if there's traffic and it is LA. I had a gig on Saturday and one coming up on Tuesday. So, I was gonna have to do a quick drive down Sunday morning, party down in the afternoon, grab a hotel that night, get a good night's sleep and run right back Monday morning. That was the plan, anyway.
I got up at 4 am, Sunday morning and sat down for a quick breakfast before I took off. My wife got up and sat down at the table to tell me goodbye and wish me luck and a speedy journey.
“You're not getting any younger, you know!”, she says.
“You just had a birthday and you're getting older.”, she says.
“You shouldn't be running around the country like a twenty year old.”, she says.
“You could die!”, she says.
I know, I know! Right about now you're thinking I'm a real asshole for not taking my wife to Hollywood and making her worry about my trip. Listen, I'm not guilty. She's a photographer too and she had a gig happening, Sunday afternoon. And I may be an old fart, but I've got two little kidos, eight and four years old and they ain't exactly party animals. Nope, sorry folks, it had to be a solo voyage.
I reassured my loving wife that all would be well. I reminded her that she tells me the same thing when I leave to go to the grocery store. I told her to think of our beautiful children and then realize that if keeping up with two little ones hadn't killed me by now at my age, nothing would. I convinced her that I was still a man full of energy and stamina. She thought about it for a second, then smiled, gave me a big kiss and went back to bed.
I went back to my breakfast. I downed a pot of Fog Lifter coffee, drank a large glass of orange juice, slammed down a couple of Five Hour Energy shots, did a few Rolaids and hit the Renegade Road (sorry, couldn't help myself) by 5 am.
That drive down the coast to LA on Highways 1 and 101 is simply breathtaking. It's been years since I've done it, so I take my time and savor the sights. It's a Sunday, traffic is light and I pull into the place a couple of hours early. The huge parking lot is empty except for me and the folks who work there. This is good. I've got the chance to stretch out and chill a bit before the festivities begin.
Maybe an hour goes by and I'm stretched out in my adjustable power seats, half asleep and a car pulls in a couple of spaces down from me. I see a family getting out of the car. I adjust my power seat back to the upright position, rub the sleepies from my eyes and tell myself it's time to party and take a thousand pictures. I look over and see the driver getting out of the car and HOLY SHIT! THAT'S FLASH GORDON! It was Sam Jones, Flash Gordon from that great 1980 movie.
Sorry about that outburst, but that's exactly what I was thinking. HOLY SHIT! THATS FLASH GORDON! Hey, It was weird. I had just woke up from a little nap and looked over and there's FLASH GORDON from one of my favorite rock n roll movies of all time. Think about it. That great soundtrack by Queen? Anyway, I look over and there's FLASH GORDON getting out of the car and for a second I'm thinking that weird looking guy back there at the Dairy Queen in Pismo Beach maybe slipped a little something into the espresso I ordered. Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, but I dug it that Flash Gordon was coming to the party.
Branscombe was greeting everyone at the door and seemed surprised to see me walk in. “Wow, you made it! Brother, you're gonna have a great time. There's the food, there's the bar. Walk around, introduce yourself, shake hands and have fun.”, he ordered as he directed me towards party central. I walked into the big room, full of folks hugging and back slapping, joking and talking old times. Now, I only knew Branscombe and this other producer guy at the party, personally. I was in a room full of strangers. But, as I scoped the place out I got this tremendous feeling of deja vu and familiarity. Branscombe walked up and whispered in my ear, “Take lots of pictures, Ed. There's a lot of familiar faces in here.”.
It was a big place, two large rooms full of folks and an open patio in the front for the overflow. I walked around and got a feel for the place and started snapping some pictures. There were lots of faces I knew from somewhere but couldn't put names to them. I saw Sam Jones over in the corner talking to Sheree J. Wilson. Now, I know who she is! My Dad's favorite TV show of all time was WALKER, TEXAS RANGER. We watched it every week. Week in, week out. So of course, I knew that Sheree was Ranger Walker's main squeeze in the series. She added a certain hotness to all the Kung Fu madness in the show and I always appreciated that. When I watched the show, I always thought Sheree would be nice for Ranger Walker to come home to every night, following a day of kicking evil, bad guy butt. It was a real pleasure for me to meet her when Branscombe came up and introduced us. Branscombe took me away and said he had some people he wanted me to meet. He pointed at a guy and asked me if I knew who he was. Man oh man, that face sure looks familiar. He took me over and introduced me to Stan Livingston, a producer and a director and oh yeah, Stan was “Chip” on the long running TV series, MY THREE SONS. I shook his hand and picked my jaw up off the floor. He said something to me but I missed it as I was quickly trying to tally in my head how many damn years it's been since this middle aged man standing before me was in my living room every week as little Chip on My Three Sons. I know that's a mouth full, but it was a mind full. Wow, let's see. That was eleven seasons, fifty years ago! And that's not counting syndication! That's a lot of TV. This guy's been in my home more than MY Uncle Charley. Mind blowing. We had a nice chat. Stan Livingston is now a successful Producer and has many TV and motion picture credits, but he will always be known to folks as, Chip. Nice guy.
Then Branscombe does it again, “You know who that is? Recognize that guy over there?” and takes me over to meet some more familiar faces. He introduces me to Johnny Whitaker, “Jody” from the long running series, FAMILY AFFAIR. Another wow. I meet one of the greatest stuntmen in history, Bob Minor. You know Bob. You've seen him in a million TV shows and movies. No really, look it up on IMDB. I think Bob's been stuntman, stunt coordinator and actor on just under a million productions. I could be a bit off, but Bob's been in a ton of stuff.
I take a break. I've taken several hundred pictures and need to change batteries. I head out the front door and see the figure of a man standing there that sends chills down my spine. Standing before me is perhaps the greatest bad guy in motion picture history and he's looking at me with THAT look, with THOSE eyes. I walk up and introduce myself to Vernon Wells and tell him he gave me nightmares for a week after I saw him brutalize the screen in the movie, Mad Max 2: Road Warrior and that I hated his guts in COMMANDO and was happy to see Arnold kill him in the end (spoiler). He gives me that look again then smiles and shakes my hand. Lovely man but scary mo fo. If I ever have problems with the neighbors, I'm gonna call Vernon and invite him over. Problem solved. This guy's played a million evil, twisted dudes. He's the best.
I walked over to the bar and sat down and had a Coke. Branscombe came over and sat down. I told him again how much the invite meant to me and thanked him. I went to school in Hollywood for a couple of years, back in the late 80's and it had been years since I'd been back. I was having a blast living those Hollywood Nights again and I told him so. “I told you you'd have a great time, Bro! This is my party. You're going to have a good time!”, Branscombe declared.
He scooted a little bit closer and lowered his voice to almost a whisper, “All these people, everybody here, these are the people that I love. This is my family, my friends, the people I've worked with for so many years. There's fifty years of love here!”. Branscombe pointed out a woman and asked me, “See that lady over there? She was a writer for Magnum P.I. and Renegade” or “That guy over there was our stunt coordinator.” or “That woman helped me out when I was just starting in the business.”. There were a hundred stories of love in the building and Branscombe was the common thread, it was his love fest.
A young man walked over and joined us. Robbie Allen introduced himself and Branscombe told me Robbie's a fine young actor who has been working with him in a couple of projects. We have a nice chat and I find Robbie already has an impressive resume as an actor. He's starred in independent films and was working on a major TV pilot. Branscombe steps away for a moment and Robbie tells me he couldn't have done it without Branscombe. He's really taken Robbie under his wings and I expect big things out of this young actor. Robbie kinda reminds me of Woody Harrelson. He's got that look. The young, innocent Woody the bartender from Cheers, not the evil, possessed serial killer Woody. Anyway, lookout for this guy.
Just then, there was a commotion in the crowd and in thru the door walked Kathleen Kinmont. A few moments later, there was another buzz when Lorenzo Lamas arrived. Branscombe walked over and joined them and there it was, the first reunion of the stars of the iconic television series, Renegade in many years. A hundred cameras were snapping pictures but not mine. A producer I know, who is making a documentary about the Hollister Rally was there. He came up to me and we started talking about his project. We chatted for a couple of minutes and I excused myself and went to get the money shot of the Renegade reunion and...
I missed it. Lorenzo had to leave. He was in and out of the party that quick. Luckily, Kathleen was going to be there for awhile. Branscombe introduced us and we talked for awhile and played around with pictures. Robbie is a huge fan of Renegade. He grew up watching it every week. He was jazzed meeting Kathleen and you can see it in the picture. The guy taking the picture was pretty jazzed too. You don't really think I watched Renegade to see Lorenzo or Branscombe, do you? Kathleen's still a total knockout. Kathleen was kind enough to provide her selfie of the reunion so all was not lost.
Branscombe's musical career has been a huge part of his life and his long time band, The Renegade Posse was there. They put on a lot of miles together, for a lot of years on the road. So this was more than just a get together, it was the reunion of Branscombe Richmond and the Renegade Posse Band, as well. Sure wish there had been a stage there. This is a hot band.
The sun went down and it cooled off. Most of the bikes that had been parked out front were gone and folks were taking their last pictures and telling their final stories before heading home. I did get to meet the “Million Mile Girls”, Gevin Fax, Betsy Huelskamp and Colleen Duffner, an incredible group of ladies who have driven their bikes over a million miles and are working on their second. Then Branscombe introduced me to the actor who blew away Scarface (Al Pacino), at the end of that remarkable movie. He was on his way out and I took his picture. I can't mention his name because he thought I was paparazzi and threatened to kill me unless I agreed to never post that picture. I can't afford protection, so I will honor that agreement, here.
It was 10 o'clock and was time for me to wrap things up and head down the highway and find a motel. I'm loading my stuff and Branscombe comes up and says that he and his family are going to China Town for Chinese food and that I'm coming too. Chinese is his favorite food and mine too. Sounds like a great plan. I slam down my final Five Hour Energy shot for the night and follow them to the restaurant.
That was the best Chinese food I've had since China. I had an amazing visit with Branscombe's beautiful family and we laughed our butts off looking at all the pictures I'd taken. At close to Midnight, we literally closed the restaurant and then said our goodbyes. I waved goodbye as they drove off and stood there staring at all the lights of LA.
I was standing there staring at the lights of LA because I realized I didn't know where the hell I was. I followed them there. It crossed my mind that maybe I didn't want to be in China Town in LA at Midnight. I found a Shell station that was still open, filled up and got directions. Highway 101 was only three blocks away! An hour later, I finally found the onramp to Northbound Highway 101. I was still pretty ramped up from the day's activities, so I decided I was just going to drive until I got tired and pull over and sleep a bit. I wanted to get home and play with those pictures. There was no traffic and I made it to the rest stop just outside Paso Robles in record time. I was just a couple of hours from home but just couldn't do it. I slept for a couple of hours, headed out and made it home before the family was up. My wife was rather shocked to wake up and find me sitting at the computer working on the pics and the beginnings of this article. I told her about my amazing time at Branscombe's party. She knows how much I love this stuff. I've been a filmmaker and TV guy for over forty years. I've worked and played with a lot of famous folk and still, after all these years, a party like Branscombe's blows my mind. To be in a room with artists and creators, to interact with architects of the mind has always been and still is an amazing experience to me. I really do still get off on this stuff. And I've got a camera and can document all of it and...
I was starting to really ramble on and she cut me off, “I'm glad you had a good time, dear. You should get to bed now.”.
“See!”, I told her, “I drove over 700 miles, did a remarkable party, toured China Town, drove back and I've already got a dozen pictures posted on Facebook. All in under 27 hours!”. “How's that for energy and stamina?”, I asked.
My wife just smiled and said, “Oh, by the way, tomorrow's job is canceled. You should get some sleep.”.
I went to bed...and slept until Friday.
Disclaimer: I do not work for the Five Hour Energy Company, nor do I endorse the use of their products. I have slowed down my usage and I understand the kidney and bladder damage goes away with time (just kidding).
I also do not work for Renegade Productions or any of their agents. I don't endorse the Renegade Complete Series DVD set on sale for $24.99 at Amazon dot com, even though I just ordered the set myself and it will be here on Tuesday.
I also wanted to give you a taste of BR and the Renegade Posse Band. So, follow these links to YouTube for a rockin' good time.
See you next time...