Gary Springer

July 24, 2006
Posted in interviews
July 24, 2006 Terkel

Gary grew up in show business. His father was a press agent for big names like Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Joan Crawford, Cary Grant, and many others. His father was one of the best in the business. He must had some clout to have his young son Gary be babysat by Marilyn Monroe herself!

Growing up in New York City and Being around it all his life, Gary figured he’d somehow stay in the industry. The problem was that he really had no idea what he wanted to do. In his fourth boarding school in four years he started to act in the school plays, mainly because he could stay out later than the other kids.

At one of his father’s Christmas parties, he met a guy that asked him about his acting career. He really wasn’t an actor yet, but received a phone call from the guy a few weeks later asking him if he wanted to be in a movie he was shooting. Gary agreed, but the movie fell through and Gary continued his senior year of high school.

Six months later he receives a phone call from the same guy asking him if he’d like to be in the same movie that had been cancelled. Again, Gary agreed. He received a different part and made his movie debut in Law and Disorder. He played a punk kid who had no respect for the police. In a scene in the movie, he is at a party and smoking a joint in the back when the cops bust in. When the cops walk to over to him he puts it in his mouth, and the cop sniffs the air in front of him and walks away. Gary takes it out of his mouth, puffs again and the cop runs over and demands that he opens his mouth. After glaring the cop down and sizing him up, he responds with a high pitched, disrespectful “Fuck You!” From that point on, Gary became the “Fuck You” kid. This consequently set the theme for his future movie roles.

So all of a sudden, the 17-year old Gary was an actor in movie business right out of high school. He carried on his career on Broadway in which he played one of the “idiots” in a war-themed play. One night Gary was covered in fake blood in his role when he thrust at another actor in an action scene. Problem was that his “wound” ending up flying off his stark naked body and into the lap of a lady in the second row, who started screaming. Needless to say, the play was not a success and opened and closed in the same night.

From there, he enrolled at El Mira in upstate New York, which had about 5,000 girls and 700 guys at the time, a good ratio for any young man seeking ‘higher education’. However, the college proved to be very “cliquish” and when he walked into his drama class he was ridiculed for being in a movie. A few weeks later, Gary dropped out and enrolled at Hunter College.

He went to another party and ran into the directors of Law and Disorder. They suggested that he try out for another role in one of their movies entitled, Dog Day Afternoon. The movie was inspired by a true story and starred Al Pacino. In the film, in three guys rob a New York bank. One of these guys was Gary. He had landed the part!

I decided that I had to rent the movie to see Gary for myself. I have to say that the movie is very good for being filmed back in 1975. Gary played “Stevie,” the guy that didn’t want to rob the bank and within the first five minutes in the movie chickened out on the scheme and ran from the bank. It was pretty funny to see a young Gary, with his curly hair and high pitched voice right alongside the great Al Pacino.

After ‘Dog Days Afternoon’, Gary worked at his dad’s PR business. He also worked in a high end restaurant as a host, while taking classes at Hunter College. He now had two movies under his belt. But he didn’t want to be an actor anymore. He became fascinated with the assistant director role in movie making. He desired to go through the directors guild program and work in the New York film business.

His father gave Gary Martin Scorsese’s phone number which he used to inquire about the possibility of being the assistant director for his next film. Martin informed him that he needed a production assistant and Gary agreed to take the position. He hope that this opportunity would one day lead him to be an assistant director. So in 1975 Gary joined the production team for Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro. He would work on the film for the next seven months.

Shooting ended in September and the director’s guild program started in March, so Gary had some time to kill. Again, he went to a party and met Bill Barnes, the head of ICM talent agency. Barnes had just seen ‘Dog Day Afternoon’. This conversation led Gary to another movie role, putting his dream of going through the director’s guild program on hold.

He started to act in Bernice Bob’s, ‘Her Hair’, a short film. While on set he met a lady named Shelley Duvall. They started to attend parties together and became very close. On New Year’s Eve they attended Woody Allen’s party with her boyfriend Patrick Reynolds, the heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortunate. They started talking about what he was doing and Gary was soon invited to visit the couple in Los Angeles, until the time came for his director’s guild program.

He arrived in California and arrived at Patrick’s estate. He found California to be very entertaining at first. Shelly’s best friend was Jack Nicholson and Patrick lent Gary a Mercedes to use at his disposal. Gary’s plan of returning back to New York soon faded as he received another movie offer and appeared on an episode of ‘Happy Days’.

He called up the director’s guild program and delayed it a year, promising to return. Do you see a pattern here? Anyway, he wound up spending the next ten years in Los Angeles.

He did a couple episodes of Happy Days, three movies of the week, an episode of M.A.S.H., and appeared on Between the Lines. He was on the T.V. Series Hardy Boys, playing Chet Morton and started out 1977 with his own series! He was still acting! And why not? His cottage was fixed up nicely and he had his own parking spot at Universal Studios.

Again, he ran into a director that was working on a movie, and after leaving the Hardy Boys series, Gary became the lead in Jaws 2. When he was shooting he met a waitress in Martha’s Vineyard, stayed in touch with her and eventually asked her to marry him.

Home Town U.S.A. was his next movie after Jaws 2. He had worked for a full year and a half with little time off, which is unheard of in the movie business. He then had a full year off from acting, and started “looping.” Looping refers to the act of doing voiceovers for movies. So Gary started his looping career, most notably working on Caddyshack, and the Rocky movies.

The problem with Gary’s looping career was that his daily schedule did not intermingle with his girlfriend’s. At this point, she had moved out from the east coast after receiving her masters in education. While she was rising early morning to teach, Gary would grab some beer and go to the beach on day’s that he did’nt have an audition. As a result, the relationship struggled.

It is funny how many people we have come across on this trip that have experienced adversity and as a result have to confront a situation they otherwise would not have confronted. In Gary’s case, his failing relationship forced him to take a look at his career. He had to make a career move that would give him have more of a regimented schedule so that his relationship could work.

And that is what he did. He gave his dad a call and started to work as a part-time employee in the John Springer office in Los Angeles. He continued to do looping in movies, just so he could get up in the morning with his girlfriend. Two things happened as a result. One, his relationship improved dramatically, which lead to their. The second thing being that Gary found that he liked to work. The working life suited him better than the acting life.

When Gary’s father’s secretary left the office in New York, Gary jumped at the opportunity. He no longer wanted to be an actor, his wife hated L.A. and liked the business side of Public Relations. So he volunteered to be his dad’s secretary while he continued to act and loop in New York on movies such as Cotton Club, Basket Case, Frankenhooker. Finally, he told his agents to stop sending him out so he could work full-time in the office.

He became a press agent and learned from the best in the business, his own dad. Finally with some responsibility, he was in charge of all of the press for the Broadway play Madame Butterfly. On opening night, his dad John came over to Gary and put his arm around him, telling him he did a great job and congratulated him on his hard work. He also told him that the name of the firm is now SpringerAssociatesPR, instead of John Springer PR. This was truly a defining moment in Gary’s career. He had confronted his demons and applied himself to be in the position he was in at that moment.

Gary now runs SpringerAssociatesPR and continues his father’s legacy as one of the best in the business. And you never know. He might just pursue that AD program sometime in the future.