Voice-over

A slice of Keach: Stage, Screen & Sparring

From the Huffington Post

In 1972, Stacy Keach received acclaim with his breakthrough role as a boxer in John Huston’s Fat City. Some four decades later, the actor’s career seems to have come full circle. The actor stars as “Pops” Leary, a far-from-retired boxing trainer and father of two boxers, on the new acclaimed F/X show Lights Out.

 Ring return aside, Keach’s career always seems to be in déjà vu mode. The roles are always different, but the actor has enjoyed six decades of doing what he does best: performing no matter what medium it is. In 1964, he began his stage career with the New York Shakespeare Festival and he’s been a staple in the theatre world ever since. He’s currently starring alongside Stockard Channing, Linda Lavin and Elizabeth Marvel in Other Desert Cities at Lincoln Center. Similarly, “Lights Out” marks a return to the small screen for Keach, who has made guest appearances on Two And A Half Men, Prison Break, and is arguably best known as 1980s private dick Mike Hammer.

When not in front of the screen or stage, Keach’s voice can be heard on countless documentaries and television shows. The Pixar Story and CNBC’s American Greed are just two projects you can hear Keach’s voice resonate. I spoke with the versatile actor last week, and went down memory road with him. I also asked him if Lights Out, a knockout of a show, can survive somewhat low ratings. Let’s hope so. (more…)

The Word of Promise Audio Bible Named An Audiobook of the Year Finalist

(Nashville, Tenn.) Thomas Nelson’s celebrity-voiced The Word of Promise® Audio Bible has been selected as a finalist for the Audio Publishers Association’s (APA) prestigious Audiobook of the Year Award. This top honor is distinguished by excellence in production as well as by the title’s ability to create new interest in the audiobook format through creative and innovative marketing. The winners will be announced at the Audies Gala awards ceremony on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, at The Museum of the City of New York in New York City.

In addition to the Audiobook of the Year Award nomination, The Word of Promise® Audio Bible is also a finalist in four overall categories of The Audio Publishers Association’s (APA) 2010 Audies competition, which include “Audio Drama,” “Multi-Voiced Performance,” “Inspirational/Faith-Based Non-Fiction,” and “Package Design.” The Audie Awards is the only awards program in the United States devoted entirely to honoring spoken word entertainment. (more…)

The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, Volume 2: The Little Death by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins (starring Stacy Keach and a full cast)

Stacy Keach reprises his most famous role as Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane’s most famous creation, in this second volume of The New Adventures of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer. At the beginning of The Little Death — a “novel for radio” written by Max Allan Collins from the short story “The Night I Died” by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins — Hammer is nearing the end of his search for a reporter friend’s killer. Hammer’s getting older, but he’s still more than capable of chasing a suspect across the rooftops of New York.

 

After that case is closed in Hammer’s signature style, six months go by. Waiting for a client in Carmen Rich’s casino, Hammer is interrupted by Helen Venn, mistress and silent partner of the late Marty Wellmann. Venn was there to meet Rich, who didn’t show. Hammer escorts her out of the bar, between flying bullets, and she tells him her story: she’s thought by Rich to have $10 million that Wellmann supposedly skimmed from Rich, and so she has a price on her head.

 

Later, Hammer gets a message from “the Captain,” a legless, homeless war vet who’s seen something important, but when Hammer arrives at the meeting place, the Captain has gone down with his ship. Now  Mike’s got two murders to solve (including Wellmann’s), a gorgeous blonde to protect from syndicate scum, and a couple more murders to commit before he gets to the bottom of things.

 

The cast of The Little Death (whose title — la petite mort in French — refers to the belief that orgasm causes a loss of vital “life energy”) includes Collins regular Michael Cornelison (Eliot Ness: An Untouchable Life), and Collins himself is credited with two roles. Cornelison as Pat Chambers more than holds his own with Keach’s Hammer, matching his verbal thrusts with equally skilled parries. Also strong is Vernette Lebo’s three-dimensional turn as Velda. Collins uses his skill with tough-guy patter to pepper the story with a selection of fun wisecracks and puns.

 

There are enough familiar tough-guy private-eye tropes floating around in The Little Death to fill a P.I.-fiction instruction manual, but since a lot of what may now be seen as cliches originated with Mike Hammer, they become part of the appeal. The ending will hardly be a surprise to anyone familiar with the genre (though Spillane and Collins jump us through a number of plausible hoops in the meantime), but that doesn’t take away from the wonderful use of the audio format.

 

In addition to the high-quality writing and acting, the events are underscored by noirish jazz compositions written and performed by Stacy Keach himself. The realistic sound effects — you can even hear Hammer swallow his beer (and his bouncing bedsprings!), including a gunshot that fills the room with its explosion — round out this “movie for the mind” and put Mike Hammer in a fully realized world that will be revisited over and over again. The Little Death is a terrific addition to the Mike Hammer canon

 

Mickey Spillane: March 9, 1918 – July 17, 2006

 

I first discovered Mickey when I was a budding teenager growing up in southern California.  I The Jury was required reading among the cool cats in my coterie of friends, and I have to confess that I read it more than once.  Kiss Me Deadly and Vengeance Is Mine followed, and I began to totally identify with the character of Mike Hammer.  Little did I know at the time that some 30 years down the line I would be playing him.  For me, being cast to play one of my childhood heroes was like entering a dream.

 

Executive Producer Jay Bernstein, God Bless him, was responsible for that and shortly before the cameras began to roll (in Hollywood back in 1983) I had the great privilege of meeting Mickey for the first time on the phone.  I was thrilled to hear his voice.  Mickey said, “Wear the hat, kid”.   So Mickey, this is for you.  I realize I don’t look much like Mike Hammer at the moment…I’m in King Lear mode, and that’s not why I’m not able to be with you all today.

 

But I want you to know how deeply proud and blessed I feel to have had the great privilege of knowing Mickey, of spending time with him, of laughing and celebrating with him.  Because of Mickey and Mike Hammer I had one of the most enviable jobs in Hollywood…always being surrounded by beautiful women and I met my beautiful wife Malgosia on the show and we’ve been together for more than twenty years and have two wonderful children.  So thank you Mickey for helping me in both my career and my personal life.  I shall always cherish our time together.  And for Jayne and all of Mickey’s family and friends, on behalf of the entire Keach family, our thoughts and prayers are with you.  You and Mike Hammer will always be alive in my heart.

 

SK

 

Stacy on Mike Hammer/Mickey Spillane

 

It was 1954 and I was a junior high student. The word on campus was that some guy named Mickey Spillane was writing stuff that nobody else dared go near. Stuff like hot sex scenes and violent encounters between a private eye named Mike Hammer and the Baddies. The word on the street was “Don’t let your folks know you’re reading it or they’ll confiscate the book.” Naturally, I was one of the first to trade my paperback version of I, THE JURY for a friends beat-up copy of KISS ME DEADLY. The pages were all wet and sticky. One night as I was reading, I must’ve fallen asleep with the book in hand, because the next morning my Mom awakened me with a “Stacy, where did you get this filth?” I told her that a friend had given it to me, and she told me that I was hanging out with a bad crew.

 

Then, it was 1983 and I had recently done a couple of good movies, Roadgames, with Jamie Lee Curtis, and Cheech and Chong’s Nice Dreams. More importantly, I had starred in a major mini-series for CBS about the Civil War, The Blue and The Gray, and my stock at the Network was fairly high. I was called into the legendary promoter-turned-producer office of Jay Bernstein, at Columbia (then located at the Burbank Studios, now, once again, Warner Bros.), where I was informed that I was in close contention for the role of the legendary detective Mike Hammer in a two-hour Movie of the Week, Murder Me, Murder You.Jay had already produced a Mike Hammer movie with Kevin Dobson in the title role the previous year and the ratings had been good, so the network wanted a sequel, but Kevin Dobson was unavailable due to another commitment. Lucky for me. The meeting with Bernstein went well. He told me sometime later that, based on my image in the press, he was expecting some left winged, long-haired liberal, this, largely due to my liason with Judy Collins in the early 70’s and having played Buffalo Bill in Indians on Broadway in 1969. In those days, I was a “long-haired liberal”, but times had changed.

 

Anyway, I got the part, and I remember Jay putting me together with Mickey Spillane on the telephone. What a thrill! One of my early heroes at the other of the phone, talking to me! Wow! I asked him what advice he might offer in playing the character, and the only thing he said was “Wear the hat, kid!”I went home and got all of the Mike Hammer books I could find and began to devour them word by word. As an actor, one of the most gratifying aspects of the profession for me is researching a character in preparation for the role. Perhaps this one of the reasons I have been drawn to so many historical roles in my career. In the case of Mike Hammer, however, I was stepping into shoes that had been filled by no less than eight other Mike Hammer’s before me. Needless to say, I was a little apprehensive about inevitable comparisons, but I reminded myself about having played Hamlet three different times, and comparisons became less intimidating.And I had loved the half-hour, black and white TV series of the 50’s starring Darren McGavin, a wonderful actor who really captured the essence of Hammer’s humour.

My favourite Mike Hammer of the early incarnations was Ralph Meeker in Kiss Me Deadly. Meeker was tough, explosive, very little sense of humour. But he managed to capture an understated reality of a passionate indignation against injustice. And he could be brutal on occasion.

 

Jay Bernstein and the Question of Wardrobe

 

Once Mickey had solved the question of the Hat for me, I discussed Hammer’s image with Jay. Initially, I had seen Hammer wearing a tweed sports coat and slacks, sort of like Steve McQueen looked in Bullit. Jay felt that rumpled suit and tie, trench coat-traditional look was closer to the essence of Hammer as Mickey had written him, and Jay was right. I knew that Hammer was someone who didn’t really care what he looked like. No vanity with style of dress. It turned out to be a good look for me, in fact, too good as far as some the stuio execs were concerned. We kept getting notes to rumple the suit more. I kept saying that I didn’t want to look like Peter Falk in Columbo, even though the Hat would never permit that, and it became a real issue with the Wardrobe Dept. One morning I arrived at my trailer to begin a day’s work and I asked “Where’s the suit?” Dyke Davis, the Head of Men’s Wardrobe handed me a round ball of cloth, which turned out to be my suit all wadded up. When I put it on and looked in the mirror both Dyke and I broke into gales of laughter. I looked like a withered prune. No suit could ever get into that condition without someone wadding it into a ball. We steamed it out a little, I put it on, and it worked fine. I was never crazy about the light-colored trench coat in the first Mike Hammer movie, Murder Me, Murder You , so when the show got picked up as a series I opted for green. Resonance of the military.

 

Hammer’s War

 

Mickey had written Hammer’s War as Korea. We upgraded that to Vietnam. Established Pat Chambers (played by Don Stroud), Mike’s long-time buddy and liaison to the NYPD, as having served in Nam together. This made for a strong symbiotic relationship and was a true reflection of the Pat-Mike bond in Mickey’s books, even though it was born in a more recent war. Even so, the Hammer of the books ranted against the Commies (they provided Mickey with a lot of great bad guys), the Hammer I created went to Vietnam and fought because he had to. The most significant thing he learned from that experience was how to survive. However, my Hammer embraced all of the ideals of Mickey’s creation, which included: never working for money, standing up for the rights of the innocent and the oppressed, champion of the victimized and the helpless, passionate about a brand of justice which had little to do with political laws and everything to do with a kind of moral law which begins with “an eye for an eye”. Vengeance Is Mine, one of Mickey best Hammer books, and one of my favorites, tells the story of “how sweet revenge can be”.

 

Hammer’s Law

 

No question about it, Mike Hammer is an Old Testament kind of guy. He has little or no tolerance for bureaucracy and poltical expediency. The invention of the character District Attorney Barrington (played by Kent Williams) was the perfect foil for my Hammer in a number of respects. One, he provided a morass of opposition which made for many spark-flying verbal exchanges ( a nice balance against the Action Hero aspect), and Two, it allowed Hammer to spar with Mr. Know-It-All-Big-Poltico-

Bureaucrat in either a devilishly funny way or with passionate conviction. True, Hammer has little faith in the Justice system that protects criminals more than the victims, and as such, is a self-appointed moral vigilante. And nothing irks Hammer more than the notion that a person who has brutally murdered innocent children be found “not guilty by reason of insanity”. Hammer’s law is that crazy people who kill normal people should be put out of their misery and save the taxpayers a lot of money.

 

Mike Hammer was one of the best things that ever happened to my career from a couple of standpoints. First of all, he’s a great character. Mickey Spillane captured the essence of the tough, no-bullshit, vigilante who loves women, and women love Mike, who was the champion of the common man, and who views the world of good guys and bad guys with a droll, and oftentimes, an acerbic wit. I think of Hammer as a cross between Dirty Harry and James Bond, with one foot in the back alleys of Manhattan, but the other firmly planted in supercoolness. But Hammer bleeds.

 

Hammer is a style-over-story thriller Detective story expressed in the film-noir genre. Voice-over-narrative propels the story along, and gives us a subjective glimpse into Mike’s interior feelings and observations. Street poetry tone of bluesy jazz (Harlem Nocturne). We mourn for the injustice in our lives.

 

Story line must be triggered by Mike’s making an emotional investment with the victim. Each episode had to balance action with drama, humor with suspense. Pathos with Justice. Mike cares. He takes it personally when innocent people are done over by the bad guys. He doesn’t work for money. He takes a case because he cares. “I’ll make a note” became a trademark Hammer response, actually created by Jay Bernstein, who was also responsible for the inception of the Mystery Lady…who was she? Was she simply a vision, or was she real? We never wanted to resolve these questions, but we knew that she was Mike’s ideal of the perfect woman, everything that Mike wasn’t, she was sophisticated, elegant, high-class. Do I know you…where do I know you from…where have I seen you before….yes, I do know you…where did you go? Where are you?????

These were the unspoken feelings which our mystery lady triggered, and it served to humanize Hammer and it also provided a balance with the weekly array of Hammerettes.

 

The Hammerettes:

 

The constant question was always “What’s it like working with all those beautiful women?” And the constant response became “it’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it”. No question about it, I’m one of the luckiest actors in town, and I say that not simply because, yes, it was a delight to be in the presence of such gorgeous dolls, but mainly because I met my wife, Malgosia on the set of Mike Hammer back in 1983. We were shooting in downtown L.A. Malgosia was playing the part of a nurse. I remember looking up from script, sitting in my chair waiting for the next shot, and seeing this exotic creature staring in my direction. I walked over to her and began a conversation. I asked her name…and when she said “Malgosia” I noticed her accent and asked her where she was from. “Poland”, she replied. I asked her how long she had been in Hollywood. “Ä couple of years”, she said. By now I was in love.

Listen to Stacy Narrate Every Episode of American Greed

A NEW SEASON OF AMERICAN GREED
A major league fraud that shocks the sports world, celebrity rip-offs with multi-million dollar price tags and a steamy scam filled with sex and betrayal. Season six of American Greed unveils incredible true cases of crime and the lust for power…stories of people who do anything for money.

Warship

“Tesla, Master of Lightning”

“Tesla, Master of Lightning,” is a multimedia project that provides the first comprehensive look at the life, work and legacy of this eccentric inventor. Featuring Stacy Keach as Nikola Tesla, the documentary special premieres on PBS on Tuesday, December 12, 2000, at 12:00 pm (check local listings). The companion book of the same title is now available at Barnes & Noble. In December, a new website will be found at www.pbs.org.

The Devil’s Disciple

Stacy Keach will star in a radio presentation of The Devil’s Disciple by GB Shaw, for England’s BBC Radio 3. Keach joins Gregory Peck, Shirley Knight, Martin Jarvis and Norman Lloyd in this 50th Anniversary production. It will air in the UK later this year, schedule to be announced.