Overhype

Freelancers in 1984 movie

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Because of the PBS broadcasts, drum corps in the mid-80s was enjoying some pretty significant exposure throughout the professional media world. The film producers had decided to shoot this lightweight comedy partially at the Sacramento Railroad Terminal museum in Old Town and envisioned a "marching band" component for this scene. The Freelancers were a perfect fit, and the lead cast members, George Kennedy and Barbara Eden, were definitely not lightweights; neither was the music director, the legendary Nelson Riddle.

I was on the Freelancers brass staff that season. John Zimny had modified the "Choo-Choo" chart Ken Norman had originally done for the Kilts. Perhaps the best moment came when Mr. Riddle arrived at corps rehearsal with his recording crew. I had prepped the corps members as to his prominence and the protocol of applauding when he entered the room.

As he and his entourage walked through the door I said, "Maestro, these are the Sacramento Freelancers" and, on cue, the kids stood and began to applaud. Without missing a beat, Mr. Riddle took off his hat and did a little Gene Kelly "Singin' in the Rain" pirouette, dancing across the room. Clearly, formality was not his thing.

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Frank i wonder how much they where paid for that,l know Sunrisers where paid 3,000.00 for Sweet Back in 68 .Money went for the Nationals in New Or.at the time.

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I don't know what the financial arrangements were, but the experience for the corps members was priceless. Just being around Nelson Riddle, A-list actors and a professional film crew was a real treat. It definitely encouraged the performers to raise their game in every respect for the rest of the season.

I remember that shoot at Lincoln Center in '68 for Sweet Charity. Shirley MacLaine was a hoot. We used the cash to charter the plane to New Orleans, where we won Legion Nationals. The Skyliners used their share to buy a set of the new G/F horns. Both corps benefited greatly.

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Man... I would have torn off my arm to get a chance to work with Nelson Riddle!!!  On the short list of all-time greats.

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I hear that. It was Nelson's lush and swinging arrangements that showcased all those legendary Sinatra hits. Later that year ('84) I was in Japan to work with the Yokohama Inspires, and my hosts took the staff to see the touring show wherein he and Linda Ronstadt were appearing.

When I mentioned we had met at that Freelancers shoot, the concert promoter ushered us backstage to say hello. Nelson was very gracious and made a point to compliment the Freelancers and drum corps in general, much to the delight of the Yokohama crew. I asked him how he found working with Linda.

It's fortunate that not everyone in the room spoke English, as his reply would not be printable here. Suffice it to say it resembled a controversial comment at a recent White House meeting.

 

 

 

 

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