An Interview with Scott Schwartz from The Toy and A Christmas Story


By: Scott Muller

Recently, at Supercon in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I had the pleasure of interviewing actor and all-around interesting fellow Scott Schwartz. Scott took the time to talk about his career in acting and his time as “free help” for the WWF/E and to give some advice to young people who are looking to get into the world of acting.

Scott (NHQ): Hello, everyone. I have Scott Schwartz here. You folks might know him from 1982’s The Toy and maybe one of the finest Christmas movies of all time, 1983’s A Christmas Story. Scott Schwartz, thanks for joining me.

Scott Schwartz (SS): Thank you, Scott. Glad to be here.

NHQ: So everyone knows you from 1982’s The Toy, the first movie you were in with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason, two titans of comedy. What led up to that role? Was that just a, “Hey, let’s go try out for this,” or how did it work?

SS: It’s just sort of the path that you take. I had done a lot of commercials. I had done off-Broadway, I’d done Broadway, and I started trying out for more films. And over the course of six months or so I guess, I went up and auditioned nine times for a little boy.

NHQ: Nine! Holy cow! Do you know about how many kids were there at the very beginning?

SS: It was a cattle call, so basically everybody was there. In New York, they had somewhere around 3,000 kids just from New York come in. Then they did Boston, Chicago, LA…

NHQ: Dear lord.

SS: …And Toys ‘R’ Us did a Jackie Gleason lookalike thing for the kids. So I mean, there was something over 10,000 kids that actually tried out for the film. And the final two, we don’t really count the Toys ‘R’ Us kid. That was sort of who won the contest, the Jackie Gleason look-alike contest. But he had no acting experience. They brought him out to California as the contest winner, but he wasn’t really an actor.

NHQ: Gotcha.

SS: But the last two kids for the film was myself and Henry Thomas, who had done ET. [We were] two completely different personalities. I called him the Al Pacino of the kids because he was very withdrawn and very serious, whereas I was a loose cannon.

NHQ: You’re not serious? I look in your face and I see serious written all over it.

SS: I was wild and crazy. I loved Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and all the different old films and comedies. And I did Gleason from Smokey and the Bandit and I did Pryor. So, I was more the fun, happy guy. The final screen test was at Warner Brothers in L.A. And I was excited I was going to meet Richard Pryor. This is great. So I get over and they bring me over and I’m in my little honey wagon, the little dressing room waiting to go on the set. And the guy comes in and says, “Well unfortunately, Mr. Pryor couldn’t be here. He’s stuck in Atlanta,” [with] divorce number five or whatever [laughter]. So we have another black actor that’s going to be with you playing Richard’s role. Okay. And he closed the door. And I was like, “Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding.” And I was very disappointed because I wanted to meet Richard. So about five minutes goes by and guy knocks on the door. And this is integral to the story. That’s why I’m telling it.

NHQ: No problem.

SS: So the guy comes, knocks on the door, “How you doing? My name is Norman. Nice to meet you. Let’s take a little walk so we get a little thing going between us.”

NHQ: Yeah, a little rapport. Sure.

SS: Little rapport. And we’re walking for a few minutes. And I’m looking and I’m like, “I know you from somewhere. Your face is – ” “Oh, I’ve done this TV thing.” And “No, that’s not it.” “Well, I did this thing.” “That’s not it.” He said, “Well, I did this comedy movie called Airplane.”

NHQ: Oh, yeah. That was only in a theater or two, right?

SS: Well, that was it. When you bike to school, I’m sure you had music on your Sony Walkman or whatever.

NHQ: Yeah, absolutely.

SS: Well I didn’t. I had put movies on cassette, so I listened to Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, History of the World-Part I, and Airplane. So I knew every line of Airplane. The minute he said it, I went, “Oh my god, it’s the Jive Guy.” So I did all of it for him, and he’s like, “That’s the most hilarious thing I’ve – nobody ever knows all of it.” And I did it just like they did it. So we get done and I go back in the dressing room or whatever, and, apparently, he went over to Richard Donner, the director, and Ray Stark, the producer, and he goes, “Listen, I don’t know who you have in mind, but if you want a kid that’s funny, you don’t understand what you have. This kid is amazing,” and whatever. So they get me on the set, and my agent is there, my dad is there, and they’ve got a hundred people doing all this stuff. And so the first time, they had set up a staircase, a spiral staircase like in the movie, and we had a scene. They go over all the dialogue and we did that twice. I go back up to the top and Richard Donner says, “Scotty, don’t do that again. Tell jokes this time.” So, I’m 13-years-old; I only know dirty jokes. So I start telling these dirty jokes coming down the steps. My agent is looking at my dad, “I’m going to kill him. I’m going to kill him. How can he do dirty jokes? These are professionals. You can’t do this!” Well, I get down to the bottom of the steps, and dead silence. And then Richard Donner yells, “Cut!” Everybody loses it. They’re cracking up, they’re just going nuts. I’m starting to go back up the stairs and Richard says, “Listen. Okay, forget the jokes. Do it in jive talk.”

NHQ: Nice.

SS: So that’s when I knew that Norman had said something. So, I go off and I just start coming up with just all this wacky, crazy…now you have to realize, it was all nonsense. We just made it up on the fly.

NHQ: Sure, yeah, ad-libbing.

SS: So I start doing it with him and he’s coming back at me with jive talk. And we’re just making each other laugh and we’re doing this whole thing. We get down to the bottom of the stairs and Donner, literally, he couldn’t even yell, “Cut” because he was laughing so hard. I mean, they knew it right there. So it was right before Christmas that I had the screen test, and it took them about ten days. It was just after the first of the year and I had gotten myself sick at home because I really wanted this. You know, this was passion…I’m laying in bed, sick as a dog, it’s a Friday about 11 o’clock in the morning, and the phone rings. I’m laying in my parent’s bed, they’re at work. And the phone, “Scotty?” “Yeah?” “Richard Donner.” “Yeah, right.” Now, I had told my friends, you know, Richard Donner…Superman, The Omen. I said, “Okay, so what did we call you on the set?” I’m, like, testing him because I want to know if it’s really [him] – you know?

NHQ: Sure, yeah.

SS: He goes, “Dick. Dick Donner.” Well, that was it, because I had told nobody that stuff. I said, “Hold on one second.” This is no lie. I’m in New Jersey. I’m in my underwear. I ran outside, it was snowing. I put my head in the snow. I come back inside, I get back to my parent’s bedroom, I grab the phone. I ask, “Are you still there?” He’s like, “Yeah.” He’s like, “Listen, I just want to tell you congratulations, you got the movie.”

NHQ: Nice.

SS: Well, there was no more being sick. I mean instantly I was perfect. So I call my dad, and he was on the phone with the casting director. So he’s on the phone crying. His partner thought somebody died because my dad’s just tearing up. So then he got off the phone with him and says, “No, Scott, you got the movie. Oh my God, this is great.” Then we ended up going out to dinner with my mom that night and we told her I got the film.

But it was just a progression, really, of experience. I don’t ever say talent. I think you’re either born with some of it or you’re not. Mine was more just harnessing all the things that I had done as a kid doing History of the World and doing Blazing Saddles, and this and that. And doing all these other films and TV shows, and The Honeymooners and Smokey and the Bandit and whatever, that this was the time and this was the project that I was supposed to do. I was ready to do this. And when I met Mr. Gleason, I had already gotten the film, I’m in Louisiana, and again, Dick, he was the instigator. And he says to me, “Can you go over to Mr. Gleason and do the sheriff thing you do?” So I walk over to Gleason. I’m 4′ 5″. I weighed 50 pounds. And I was standing next to him, and I’m still shorter than he is and he’s sitting down, okay? And I looked at him. Now, remember, I haven’t said, “Hello. My name is Scott.” Nothing. I walk over to him and it just, bang, it hits, and I go, “There’s no way, no way, that you could come from my loins. Soon as we get home, first thing I’m going to do is punch your momma in the mouth.” Well, imitation is the highest form of flattery. I’m 13-years-old doing him. And he knew right then and there, “Okay.”

NHQ: That is pretty awesome.

SS: So he knew I was a fan. He knew I wanted to learn from him. He knew I loved the ground he walked on. So, he was willing to give me his time, his – I don’t want to say inspiration, nothing like that. But he gave me advice and taught me stuff. He’d bring me into his dressing room, and we would go over different things. But we would talk about things. We talked about The Hustler, and we talked about The Jackie Gleason Show. And we’d talk about all kinds of stuff.

We were on the set one day and right before he had done the project, he had the full physical. And he had his liver pumped for the booze and all that stuff. He wasn’t drinking, okay? And he says to me, “Listen, kid, I got to tell you. Don’t start drinking. It’s just a terrible thing to do. Just don’t drink.” He said, “I’m going to tell you what happened to me.” He tells me this story when he was doing The Jackie Gleason Show in New York. He lived in Miami. He lived down here in Inverrary. He didn’t like to fly, so they would car service him the 20 hours from here up to New York. And he tells me about this one trip that he was so drunk, he’s vomiting in the car, out the window. He’s yelling at the driver and this whole thing. The driver got him all the way to Washington, and finally, the driver had enough. He pulled over on the side of I-95 and said, “You know what, Mr. Gleason? I’m tired of taking your BS. Drive yourself the rest of the way.” And the guy quit! The guy left him on the side of the road on I-95. But now, again, I’m 14 at this point, and I’m figuring he’s got to be BS’ing me. Just make up a story so that the kid don’t drink, right?

NHQ: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

SS: Five years goes by. I’m just south of DC, and I’m doing a signing at a video store. And a guy comes in. And he’s got to be late 50s, early 60s, or whatever. And he comes in and he says, “I heard you were going to be here. I saw the ad.” And I say, “That’s nice. How are you? Nice to meet you.” “Yeah, we had a mutual friend.” “Oh, who’s that?” “Jackie Gleason.” I said, “Really?” He’s like, “Yeah. I used to drive that blah blah blah from Miami up to here.” He goes, “I quit.” He goes, “He was so drunk one time, he was puking in the car. He was screaming at me, cursing at me. I pulled over on 95 and I told him goodbye and I walked away from him.” It was a true story because I had never told him, and this was the guy that drove him. So I mean, there’s funny stuff like that that you come into contact with, but I had a great time. Richard Donner was terrific. He was just a fun director. Ray Stark, I mean, how many films did he produce? I mean, whatever. There was 250 years of experience on that set and I don’t have day one.

I mean, I’ve never been on a movie set. And my dad said to me, “Listen, you’re very bright, you’re very smart, but you’ve never been on a set. Keep your mouth shut. Keep your eyes and your ears open, and you’ll learn something.” He goes, “You can talk to anybody on this set and they’ll tell you all the things that you need to know about acting, lighting, camera. Whatever you want to know, you’re getting a free education. You can ask, but don’t be stupid and just run your mouth, because you don’t know nothing.” And that’s what I did, and had the time of my life.

NHQ: That sounds like solid advice. So, what was the turnaround time between that and Christmas Story? I mean, that was the next year, right?

SS: Well, no. Officially, for release date, yes. I finished The Toy at the end of July of ’82. It opened in the theaters on December 10 of ’82, and I saw Bob Clarke December 22. I saw him 12 days after The Toy opened in the theaters. He had already seen it. He just wanted to meet me; he knew I could do anything as far as A Christmas Story went. He just wanted to talk to me, see if I was a regular kid, hang out, come have fun. Okay, great. Whatever. My Christmas Story interview was about as fun as you could possibly imagine. He said, “Hey, I’m a little hungry. You want to come get a hot dog?” We were in Manhattan. We were in New York. “Sure.” A kid isn’t going to turn down a hot dog on the corner, so I told my dad, “We’re going to go have a hotdog.” So, dad comes along and the three of us went downstairs; we go over to Broadway, we’re having a hotdog, we’re BS’ing. We go back upstairs afterwards. He says, “I’ve got to tell you, Scotty, it’s really a pleasure to meet you. Thanks.” Okay. And I left. My agent’s office was on 57th and the audition was on 52nd. We walked the five blocks going to my agent’s office. We walked in and said, “Hi,” and she says, “You did good. You booked the movie. He called already.”

NHQ: Whoa.

SS: That was my whole audition for Christmas Story.

NHQ: That was pretty much one extreme to the other!

SS: It was easy, and we started shooting A Christmas Story two months later.

NHQ: And so any particular stories from that movie? I mean, everyone wonders about the tongue on the pole, and that was…spoiler alert, folks. If you don’t want to get any further. There was a suction tube in the pole.

SS: Yeah. It was a piece of plastic over a real flagpole, and in between they had this little suction tube with a motor in the snow. And they just turned it on. And just think of putting your hand on top of a vacuum cleaner tube, and you’re stuck, and that’s it.

NHQ: Now, Christmas Story didn’t have – at the time, those folks weren’t as famous as Gleason and Pryor. That was a little more low-key cast for the most part. What was it like working with that cast?

SS: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you had Darren McGavin and you had Melinda Dillon from Close Encounters, and Bob had done other things, and Porky’s. Peter had done, I want to say, That’s Incredible and the other stuff. I, by far, I mean, I had the most experience. I had already done the two films and Broadway and everything else. So I had more experience than any of them other than really Darren and Melinda. It wasn’t a matter of a different kind of set, it was a matter of we were shooting in Cleveland, St. Catherine’s, Ontario, and Toronto in the dead of winter, so it made shooting – especially all the exterior stuff, the outside stuff, it was just treacherous. It was torturous. I mean the shooting of the flagpole scene, people go, “Oh my God.” And I’m going, “Yeah. I remember the days.” We actually shot it twice. And the high was like 22 [degrees] below zero.

NHQ: Oh my Lord.

SS: So I mean, I got done – the first time we shot it – and we go back inside to the school and the gloves that we had were the 1940s-style gloves, whatever. It’s a piece of leather. But it has no insulation. It’s just a piece of leather. And we had these hand warmers, but they’d only last for so long. My hands were blue, literally blue. I mean, I was hypothermic in my hands. So I go in the bathroom, and I got my hands under the hot water. And the vice principal of the school comes in. They had a thing from The Toy. They wanted me to sign a couple of things. And my dad’s like, “Can you just let him defrost?” [Laughter] And the guy’s like, “Oh you’re going to run out on us.” And my dad’s like, “No. Can you just let him defrost?”
NHQ: It would help if your hands actually worked…

SS: I’m basically in tears. I mean, really. They hurt. My hands were killing me. Well my dad – the guy had a marker and literally, my dad held the marker between my fingers so I could sign these two things for this putz [laughter]. And I signed them. And then I put my hands back under the water and finally got to where I could feel them again. We had to shoot that scene twice. The first time they underdeveloped the film.

NHQ: Oh, nice.

SS: So we had to go back and do it again.

NHQ: Well, at least you survived that, and then your third movie was Kidco?

SS: That’s in the middle. I did The Toy. And then in October, I shot Kidco, October, November, and until the 10th of December. We finished Kidco on the day The Toy opened in the theatres. And then I went home and within a week later, 10 days, whatever it was, I saw Bob for Christmas Story. We shot right afterwards.

NHQ: Holy mackerel. You’re the hardest working kid in show business.

SS: Three movies in a year.

NHQ: So then move up a little, and I know that since then, you’ve done some work – you work with your father doing memorabilia sales.

SS: Well, back then it wasn’t memorabilia sales. My dad was a window cleaner/floor waxer in a janitorial business. So I went out with him 5 o’clock in the morning, washing windows, Walgreens and R&S and Sears and Woolworth’s and Dominick’s Pizzeria, the Somerville Circle in New Jersey. I mean, these were places that were local to us that were his customers. It wasn’t until years later, until ’87 when I moved out to California, that he bought a memorabilia, a baseball card store and turned it into the movie collectibles.

NHQ: Okay, gotcha. And the coolest piece of merch that’s come through?

SS: We had a 16×20 – it was a piece of paper out of a – not really an autograph book, like an art book, signed by all the stars of The Wizard of Oz. It came from somebody who worked at Warner Brothers. Their grandfather worked there. And he had a – like an art book, but just had blank pages where people would draw whatever. But he would get cast members to sign them. And he had seven or eight different films that he had worked on, and Wizard of Oz was one of them that had everyone. It had Garland and Bert Lahr and Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton and – yeah. So. And that’s probably one of the coolest things. I mean, we have a shirt that John Wayne wore in Searchers. He’s had some cool stuff.

NHQ: That is cool. So is the store still open?

SS: Yeah. Sports and Movie Stuff. It’s in Simi Valley, California.

NHQ: Okay. And again, since you’ve taken the time here, got to give the plug. Is there a website?

SS: No. If you’re in LA, it’s about 40 minutes north and west of Los Angeles. If you’re going to go visit the Ronald Reagan Library, it’s 10 minutes away.

NHQ: You hear that, folks…go visit…

SS: Sports and Movie Stuff, and there’s more movie stuff than sports.

NHQ: Gotcha. All right. Excellent. So, for those out there reading, you and I talked at another convention, and, in addition to your movies, one of the more amazing things you’ve done is that you’ve worked the WWF [now called the WWE]…

SS: Well, I refuse to call it work. [Laughter] I was free help. Free help, okay? Rene Goulet, who was an old schooler, he nicknamed me Mr. Free because I would go to the arenas. I did, over the course of 18 months, or 16 months, I did like 180 shows. And I would drive myself, fly myself, whatever, and do different conventions or different wrestling shows. I’d pick up guys at the airport, take them to the arenas, go to the hotel, make sure nobody messes with them. They would send me for beer and hot dogs at arenas. One of the coolest things that happened to me at that time was I had met Vince McMahon at Madison Square Garden at an event. I’d done something that helped him out, and he was very thankful and had no idea who I was, and then we talked, and I told him who I was, and I’m in the movies, and he was a big fan. Okay, great. His kids had watched The Toy, and okay, fine. And it was April 5, 1986, the day before WrestleMania 2. It’s the only WrestleMania that was done on a Monday. And it was 2:00 in the afternoon on Sunday, and the phone in the house rings. And my dad picks up the phone, and he’s like, “Uh-huh.” I can hear him in the kitchen. He goes, “Uh-huh. Yes, Scotty’s home. Who’s calling? Okay. I’ll be right back.” And he comes into my bedroom. He says, “You got a phone call.” And who’s on the phone? He goes, “Vince McMahon.” [Laughter] So I go and pick up the phone, right? “Vince, how are you?” “I need your help.” And so, “What’s up?” “Tomorrow’s WrestleMania.” I said, “Uh-huh.” He goes, “We have three cities: New York, Chicago, and LA.”

NHQ: Right. Yeah. They did the three.

SS: He goes, “I’m understaffed in New York.” He goes, “You’re a celebrity. You were in the movies, The Toy, blah, blah.” Okay. Great. “Can you arrange and take care of all the celebrities’ dressing rooms? Mr. T, Joan Rivers, G. Gordon Liddy, Cab Calloway,” and on and on. So I went out and did the event for them. I mean, I hung out for the better part of 16, 17 months. I was never an employee. No, I have to be specific because other people have said to me, “Well, you say you worked for the WWF.” And I’m like, “Well, no. I was free help.” I showed up. I mean, I got passes and I got pictures of me standing in some steel cages. So I’m not making this stuff up. It is what it is. But since, I have reconnected and seen Stephanie [McMahon] and met Paul, met Hunter, Triple H. And they’ve always said I’m like family. I’m welcome. I’ve been to a couple of WrestleManias. And they’ve been nothing but first class people. I mean, Stephanie has been great. Paul’s been great. I saw Linda [McMahon] before she got put on the presidential commission. And she came over and said hi and gave me a hug and Vince says hello to me. So I mean, they’ve been really I don’t want to say loyal, but they’ve friendly and wonderful people to me. So my repayment to them is I’ve been a fan for 30-something years. And I will always promote the WWE. It’s tough to say E. I’m so used to the F. But they’ve been E for a long time. I was at a show a couple of years ago, and Jerry Lawler, who’s sitting next to me here at the show here, he’s a Christmas Story fanatic, so of course, what do you think the first thing that – he had no idea of my background, that I had done wrestling stuff. He says, “Well, you’re in LA. You got to come to SummerSlam. It’s at the Staples Center.” And I’m like, “Jerry.” And then I had to fill him in. I’m like, “I’ve been to 160 shows. Really? You want me to come to a wrestling show?” [Laughter] And he’s like, “Oh, come anyway. The guys will need to see you again.” “Okay, fine.” So I go to Staples, and it was 2014 it was the John Cena/Brock Lesnar Summer Slam. Okay. So I’m in the catering – I’m in the green room, the catering room, whatever.

NHQ: Sure. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

SS: And I mean, Hulk Hogan sits at the table with me and I’m having lunch with Hogan because I knew him from back in the day. I knew all the old boys. A lot of the old guys I knew: Randy Savage and Piper and Brock Lesnar walks in and he’s standing in front of me. He says, “Somebody said you’re in Christmas Story.” He said, “Oh, awesome. Man, I love the movie.”

NHQ: Anyone who doesn’t love that movie, there’s something slightly wrong with them. I mean, come on.

SS: So I mean, it was great to be welcomed back with open arms after years of not doing shows – and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to. I just moved to California. There weren’t nearly as many shows. So, Jerry got me back into it again. It’s like okay, and now I see him and Mick Foley. I see Mick all the time. Bill Goldberg, I love Bill. Bill’s a great guy. We ended up at a show together. Bill was to my left, I’m in the middle, and Ric Flair is to my right for three days. [Laughter]

NHQ: Holy mackerel.

SS: And I’m like, “This is hysterical.” And Bill and I still speak. And I’ll send him a text about something. He texts me back. So there’s been some really, really good souls. Brutus Beefcake I’ve known forever. Most of them are really, really good people.

NHQ: Right. No, yeah, there’s some of them that seem like they can’t turn it off, but then some of them – I mean, we’re getting to see it now with The Rock. He can be a normal, genuine, down-to-Earth guy. He’s not always the yelling alpha male he was in the WWE. He jokes that he’s going to run for president in 2020, and I got to say, some people would vote for him. [Laughter]

SS: A lot of people would vote for him.

NHQ: And that’s what I think, yeah. But, who was the craziest person you met through your WWE contacts? Anybody that stands out, in particular? Not necessarily crazy bad, just a crazy – ?

SS: Wow, no, I wouldn’t say crazy. I mean, there were guys that were quiet. Just something about their own personalities. Paul Orndorff, Mr. Wonderful. I cannot tell you how many Piper’s Pits I set up and how many times he was involved with Roddy and doing whatever. The man didn’t say two words to me, okay? Fifteen years later, I’m in LA, and they’re doing a wrestling reunion thing and I help the guy set up the pit. It was really funny. [Laughter] Orndorff walks in in the hotel and he looks at me and he goes, “So, how are you doing?” I said, “I’m doing good, Paul. How are you?” So, he sits down and we started chit-chatting. He’s telling me about his grandkids and about – and I said, “Paul, you never said two words to me.” He said, “You know what? I was just really quiet. I really didn’t talk to anybody.” He said, “But I know who you are. I saw you around. You’re doing this for Brutus and you did this for Roddy.” Oh, no, no, something like that. And then, Mike Sharpe –

NHQ: Wow, “Iron” Mike Sharpe, man…I remember that guy!

SS: He’s not an overly friendly guy. That was his persona. Donny Muraco. He was hysterical.

NHQ: Absolutely. Him and Mr. Fuji in Fuji Vice. Those skits – they were classic.

SS: Yeah. I’d be in the back. I’d be in the green room and nowadays there’s a 40-foot table full of food, and they’ve got everything you could imagine. The old days? It was a 10×10 room. Food was, “Yeah, Domino’s? Yeah, can you get me six pies?” [Laughter] I mean, that’s what it was it. Muraco used to give me $30 and send me upstairs, and I would get four large beers and four hot dogs [laughter]. Donny would come down and say, “Thank you. You’re a good man.”

NHQ: Any other stories?

SS: We did a Piper’s Pit, and it was supposed to be with [Jimmy] Snuka. He missed his plane. We ended up doing it with Mike Sharpe. Roddy sent me out into the crowd to find a kid my size. And I was small anyway. And so I bring the kid in the back. I told the mom I’m with WWF, and I’ve got my pass. Whatever. And the kid comes in, and I’m standing there, and he’s with Mike Sharpe. And Roddy says to the kid, “Listen, I want to do this thing. Would you mind taking your shirt off for the skit? I want you to be Mike’s son.” He said sure. The kid’s like 13-years-old. He takes his shirt, and he puts some black tape on his forearm.

NHQ: To look like Iron Mike Sharpe [laughter]. Absolutely.

SS: Then he says “Scotty” here. He throws a Hot Rod shirt at me. Says, “Put this on.” This is what we’re going to do. He says, “I’m going to come out. I’m going to do a little spiel. Mike’s going to come out do a spiel.” He goes, “Kid, I want you then to come out and say, ‘Hey, don’t mess with my daddy.’” He goes then, “Scotty, then you come out in the hot rod,” and he goes, “No no, you don’t mess with my daddy,” because I want you guys to grab each other and throw it to the ground. Mike and I are going to destroy the set. We’ll take care of it.

NHQ: That’s awesome. [Laughter]

SS: So I was Piper’s son for one night at the Philadelphia Spectrum in a Piper’s Pit. Now, it goes off without a hitch. Everything is fine. Two days later I’m home. The phone rings about 7:00 at night. I picked up the phone. It’s Vince. He says, “Would you like to tell me what happened in Philly? I said, “Oh, the show was great. No problem.” “No. No. No. What happened in the pit?” And I said, “Oh, well, Snuka didn’t show up, so we had to do this.” He goes, “You can’t do that.” [Laughter] He goes, “We didn’t have any paperwork on this kid if he sprained an ankle. If he hurt himself. Blah blah blah.” I said, “Vince, if you saw it, it was how short? There’s no video; there’s nothing. It was really, really simple.” He says, “Listen, these guys will sell ice to an Eskimo. Don’t do this. Take down this phone number. It’s a 24-hour emergency number. Something goes on like this so they want to do something crazy, you call this number and tell me when something’s going on.” [Laughter]

NHQ: That is awesome. [Laughter]

SS: So, I mean, that was probably crazy. And years later, one of the companies made a toy of Piper’s Pit, a big box, and I got one. And Roddy was out the same time as my mom’s 70th birthday, and he ended up singing Happy Birthday to my mom and he signed the box, “To my son Scotty. Love you. Pops. Roddy Piper.” So, it’s made this crazy life of mine a hell of a lot more fun to live, man.

NHQ: Yeah, I imagine it has. So now, speaking of crazy life, you’re on the convention circuit…

SS: I’ve been on the con circuit for years. I just don’t do that many because as great a film as The Toy was and as much fun as it was, it was completely, non-politically correct. Listen, if I stood up right now and I grabbed the mic, and I said, “Excuse me, has anybody else in here bought a black man?” I mean, that’s completely non-PC, but I can say that so people get the joke. It’s a holiday movie but it’s really not, so A Christmas Story is the thing. So my main thrust in October, November, December is Christmas Story, but this show, since it’s July, is wrestling. [WWE Hall of Famer] Jerry’s [Lawler] here and I sell a bunch of his stuff on eBay. Some of the other wrestling online things or whatever, I have his shirts from RAW and stuff that he wore in the ring and ring-worn tights. I mean, I have all kinds of stuff; I have a Rock shirt. I have all kinds of fun stuff.

So, being a wrestling fan, it’s always been something I’ve been cool with. I can say this, I have been in the ring before, not anything that anybody’s seen, but I was back body-dropped off the top rope one time.

NHQ: Um…okay, that’s insane.

SS: That was insane, but it was great. I was a kid; it was great. But I’m doing a thing in September in Mississippi with Hollywood Jimmy and it’s going end up being into a haircut match at the beginning of December.

NHQ: Your hair?

SS: Well, I’m going to be in Jerry’s corner and Jimmy is going to be in his guy’s corner and whoever loses, if Jerry loses, I have to cut my hair and if his guy loses, he’s going to have to cut his hair. I’m going to take the shirt off and have my Randy “Macho Man” Savage shirt along with The King’s [Jerry Lawler] pants on and I will be doing the Randy leap from the top rope.

NHQ: That also sounds insane.

SS: At my age, should I do it? No. I’m completely crazy and out of my mind. You know what? I mean, I’m training a little bit to learn how to land. I know in my head what to do, it’s another thing of knowing it and learning a little bit. So I’m not going crazy, but even if I screw up a little bit and I got a little bit of a backache for a little while –

NHQ: Right. Come on, that’s a one of in a lifetime thing.

SS: Because it’s a once in a lifetime thing. The video alone – priceless. I have a friend of mine who I told and he lives in LA and he’s flying to Mississippi to take two cameras with him and shoot it for me. He’s like, “Oh, no. I’ve got to shoot this. I got to see it. I got to shoot it.” So, I say no matter what you’re doing in life have fun every day. Life is not a given.

NHQ: That is correct.

SS: Today you’re here; tomorrow you could be gone. I’ve had a lot of people I’ve been friends with, family, different friends, close friends that are gone and from 20 to 40 whatever, or 60, 80, it wouldn’t make a difference. Pyor was gone at whatever, I think he was gone late 50s, early 60s. Jackie Gleason is gone. Wilfred Hyde-White is gone, the butler. The dad from Kidco, Charlie Hallahan, he’s gone already. Darren McGavin is gone.

Jean Shepherd is gone. Bob Clark, the director of Christmas Story, is gone. So I’m one of those people that – I don’t take life nearly as seriously as most people – because I’ve lost so many. And I realize that the game is not to fight your whole life because if you don’t enjoy then what the hell are you doing? What are you here for?

NHQ: You are right.

SS: I mean, I can go from being hysterical to deadly serious at the drop of a dime because I can make jokes and then say, “Listen. This is life.” People want a motivational speaker, call me up. I can do anything. I mean, I can entertain people and tell them stories about Gleason, Pryor, and everything else but then say, “Listen. This is what it is. This is the game. You want to build a life. You want to build your name recognition in whatever industry you’re in.” It doesn’t make any difference if you’re in the garbage business and you become the district manager, but you’ve done something.

Maybe you work for AT&T, or Walmart, or whatever, and you’re there for 25 years. You got a pension. You’ve built something. You have a family. You grow. You’re going to get older unless you don’t make it, in which case then every single day could be the last. Have a smile. Make a joke.

With the world today, between all the nonsense and insanity, with what’s going on politically, and people have lost their minds. And I’m on Facebook, and I make jokes about things. Some are PC, and some are not PC. “Oh my God, how could you say that?” I say, “Because I wanted to. I wanted to make people laugh.”

NHQ: Oscar Wilde said life’s too important to be taken seriously.

SS: Exactly.

NHQ: I agree 110%. So last question – and you’ve given some advice in general – if there is someone out there that wants to get into acting at a young age, any advice for them?

SS: Well, when you say, “get into acting at a young age,” if you’re a kid and you’re under the age of 13 or whatever, it’s tough because it’s mom or dad that has to take you. So mom and dad can’t have full-time jobs for a company. My dad owned his own business, so he could pick me up anytime he wanted. He’s the boss, whatever. But if there’s an open audition somewhere, that’s good if you live near a major city. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s really, really hard. You got to look out for some of the scammers out there. There’s people that say, “Oh, we’ll introduce you to casting directors. Come and take our classes, and it’s $500.” And then they want you to take the advanced class for $2,000, and there’s one that’s like $7,000.

NHQ: Wow.

SS: You’ve got to stay away from those people because they’re just scammers. That’s what they do. If you’re going to go to a big city or whatever, you’ve got to email a New York City talent agent, or California, or Boston, or Orlando, or Chicago, whatever it is. And go in for a reading and see what they say. They may say, “Listen. Good luck.” Whatever. “Do plays in school.”

NHQ: There you go. That’s a pretty simple, free way to learn.

SS: Get an education. No, I mean, it sounds crazy, but I mean, that’s really what it is. Acting is not a real job unless you really get lucky. [Laughter] You can go from being an actor on a series to, “Say, you want fries with that?” really fast. There are people that have made millions of dollars on shows, don’t have any other education and don’t know what to do with themselves; they’re bankrupted because they didn’t learn anything else. They learned to be an actor and reality is that’s not a talent that you can just go and do it. You become an architect, you’re an architect. Somebody can go and look at your work and say, “Oh, my God. We’re building this building; we want this architect.” Okay. Even if you’re a professional wrestler, I mean God, you’re on camera, you’re on screen, you got to learn your craft. Being an actor, there’s none of that. You have to be lucky enough that they guy on the other side of the table goes, “You’re the one.” Because I’ve not always been the one. It’s, “You’re two inches too short; you’re seven inches too short; we really wanted a brunette; we really wanted somebody with spiked hair; we really wanted somebody who wears glasses; we really want,” I mean, literally they break it down to the minute things that you go, “Are you kidding?”

You could be the most talented human being in the world, you could be the De Niro, Pacino, Joe Pesci as a kid, but if the guy on the other side of the table doesn’t see it at that second, you’re done.

Last thing, I was up for a show, TV show, TV series, years ago, and the writer was a guy named Mort Lachman, who in the 70s, [worked on] All in the Family and he worked with Norman Lear and he did all these great shows. Right? He wants me for one of the four leads in a series. It was going to be Jane Meadows and Don Ameche and then a grandson and a granddaughter called Not in Front of the Kids. Basically, the mom drops these two kids off at the grandparents and he wanted me. I was 15 at the time and got to the screen testing part. They fly me out to LA, I’m in NBC, the whole thing. There are eight people in the room and it’s everybody, network, producers, whatever. Seven people loved me, one guy didn’t like me. The guy that didn’t like me was the head of programming so he said, “Oh yeah, you want to book Scott, there’s no problem. I mean, I have a time slot Saturday afternoon at three o’clock.” Well no, it’s going to be an NBC prime time show. “Well, I’m just not sold on him.” So, this was three trips from New York, to L.A., well, God bless them, back then it was first class at least, so we got United first class, me and my dad [and] we had a blast, but you’re flying back and forth and you want to get this thing. And the last time I went, two nights before, we weren’t going the third time and the phone rang and it was about 9:30 at night, which in LA is only 6:30 and it was Mort Lachman calling the house and he’s like, “Scotty, do you have a second phone in the house? And I said, “Well, yeah I’ve got one in the bedroom and one in the kitchen.” He’s like, “Good. You get on one, I want your father on the other one.” So dad and I are both on the phone and he’s like, “Good, you’re both on the phone. Okay, hang on one second.” And another guy grabs the phone and he says, “Dan?” “Yes?” “Scott, are you there?” “Yes.” “How are you? Brandon Tartikoff.” He’s the head of NBC. He gets on the phone with me and he’s saying, “Listen, Mort wants you on this show, I have to meet you. I’ve seen The Toy, I love you. I want you.” Okay, we ended up the night that I flew out, his mother went into the hospital, she had had a massive heart attack, God rest her soul and he’s gone now too but I mean, I walk in the room the next morning and they say Brandon couldn’t be here, he’s with his mother, whatever. So I meet the same eight people, and the same seven people loved me and the same one guy wouldn’t book me. So here we go, you’ll love this.

NHQ: Seriously?

SS: This is what happens in Hollywood and people don’t see this. This was on Thursday morning. They start shooting [the show] on Monday. They still don’t have it cast – this is the Thursday before. Friday morning – or that night, I left. Thursday I’m out of there, I come back. Friday morning, they hired the first kid; he lasted to lunch. They hired Keith Coogan. He made it to about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and they fired him. So, Saturday, they’re still going, they’ve hired another kid and we get a phone call Saturday night about 9 o’clock, from Mort. He’s like, “Listen, we’ve gone through three kids already, in 36 hours. Can you come back tomorrow night on the red-eye?” My father says, “Listen, you fax a contract to his agent, she will come in the office Sunday morning, she’ll see it, we’re on the plane Sunday night.” He’s like, “Listen, I don’t think I can get you a deal because [of] NBC.” And my Dad’s like, “Listen, it’s not fair to Scotty, it’s not fair to me that we’re doing this.” Okay, they hired another kid. He was horrible. Mort Lachman literally, they shot a pilot and one more episode. Mort Lachman calls my father two weeks later and said the guy from NBC is a schmuck. This kid is horrible, your kid is great, this show is going to flop, all of this work is going to go to waste.

NHQ: Wow.

SS: They shot, actually I think they shot the pilot and four episodes and the pilot was the only thing to air and they never even showed the other four episodes. Yeah. But that’s Hollywood. Something like that, then there was a show in the early 90s called TV 101. Teri Polo, Matt LeBlanc from Friends. I’m in the pilot; I’m in the very, very first show. They had a lot of kids on the set, though. I’m the only one getting paid any money because I’m the only one who had done any work.
NHQ: Right.

SS: They loved the show, okay, fine, I’m getting excited. The show gets picked up; this is great. They call me up, “Can you come down?” Okay, cool I’m figuring, “Oh, they want to set up some promo or wardrobe,” or whatever the hell it was. No, they said, “Scotty listen, we got all these guys, we got nine kids on the set, and unfortunately, we just don’t know what to do with you because you’re making three times what everybody else is making, so, unfortunately, we’re not going to pick up your contract.” The show gets on the air and I get canned and I don’t get paid for any of it. I got paid for the pilot; that was it. That was $80,000 in the toilet.

NHQ: Unbelievable.

SS: What are you going to do? That’s Hollywood. It’s highs, it’s lows, but you have to try and stay even keel. That’s something I would always tell actors. The one thing, especially youngsters, hate is the word, “No.” Kids don’t want to hear the word, “No.” Now rejection is a part of show business, and life as a kid, that’s not the case. Your mom says, “No,” what do you do? You cry, you get something. That’s just the way it goes in life. That’s not showbiz. You go an audition, they say, “Thank you, but no thank you.” Your agent calls you up, “No, you didn’t get it.” You can’t cry because it doesn’t make any sense; you control nothing. The people on the other side control everything. All you can do is do the best you can do, or as I say, you roll the dice. You blow in your hand, you roll the dice, you do your audition, you see what happens. If you go, you go. You don’t, you go back to the bench and you start all over again. But stick with it; get an education. College is important, high school’s important. I didn’t do college, but I had so much work. I was a different animal, so to speak. I’d been working since I was 8, so by the time I got to college, I was done with that. I was like, “No, I can’t do this, I can’t sit here anymore.”

NHQ: Yeah, I get that. Absolutely.

SS: But get an education. No matter what, if you want to be an actor, just get an education of something besides acting.
NHQ: Gotcha, that’s sound advice. All right, well, thank you for your time.

SS: Scott, it was a pleasure.

NHQ: It was good. Scott, it was also a pleasure, thank you very much and have a good rest of the weekend here in Florida.

SS: Thank you.

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