While appearing on ‘Beverly Hills Pawn Shop” with actor Scott Schwartz, Sara Barrett was fortunate to get an exclusive interview with Scott Schwartz. They talk about his experience on the set of “The Toy” with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason. They also talk about Scott’s new show “Beverly Hills Pawn Shop”
SB: How did you first get into acting?
SS: The first job I did was a Yoo-Hoo Chocolate drink commercial. I was going to a movie house with my dad as a kid. One of the other members was a producer of commercials. He was producing this one thing he could use me for. They flew me to Miami for three days and shot two commercials with Yogi Berra from The Yankees.
SB: Do you still have those anywhere?
SS: Oh, yeah. Actually, you can find them on youtube.
SB: So your first big movie was ‘The Toy’?
SB: What are some of the best times you remember during filming?
SS: There was an arcade land that was close by. And they had bumper cars and all that kind of stuff. We went there a couple of times. And we went to the movies. We saw ‘Poltergeist’.
SB: What was it like working with Richard Pryor?
SS: He was just mellow, cool, fun, very nice to his fans and co-workers. He liked video games. He would call me to come over to his room and we would play until about three o’clock in the morning and then I would go back to my room, sleep for two hours, then get up to go to work. We shot 120 days. I’d say I was probably in his room playing video games 50 nights. We would just laugh and joke and talk. He was great.
SB: Was there a bond between you and your on-screen father, Jackie Gleason?
SS: There was a bond there. I was different than the typical kid he was used to being around. I was told when I started, ‘Mr. Gleason does not like kids and animals.’ This is before I met him. Then I met him and I did some impressions of him and he sort of got a kick out of it. He knew that I watched ‘The Honeymooners’ and he would ask me at some point during the day which episode had been on the previous night. I would always know exactly which one was on and he knew I was watching them. So we got along very well. I was allowed anywhere on the set I wanted to go, except one place and that was Jackie’s trailer. I was not allowed to go inside Mr. Gleason’s trailer. That was off-limits. One day while we were shooting, his assistant came up to me and said, ‘Me. Gleason would like to speak with you.’
I didn’t know where he was because I was I my trailer. So the assistant ended up leading me to his trailer and he invited me in and said, ‘Out there, you have to call me Mr. Gleason. But in here, it’s okay, you can call me Jackie.’ So we got along very well, considering the circumstances of him not wanting to work with kids or animals. He realized that I appreciated what he was about and that I wanted to learn from him. He taught me how to shoot pool. I don’t know how much you know about Mr. Gleason, but he was a pool master.
SB: Did you stay in touch with your co-stars after shooting wrapped on ‘The Toy’?
SS: This was pre-internet, pre-cell phone, but I always had Richard’s number. When he would move from one house to another, he would call me to make sure I always had his current number. Mr. Gleason, I lost touch with until a year before he passed away, I went down to Florida and visited with him. I was down there to see some friends and ended up going to Gleason’s place. I went to the front gate of the gated community and I told the guy whom I was and he called the house and they let me in and I had a very nice conversation with him, which was terrific. I didn’t have a camera with me or anything. I just went.
SB: Were Pryor and Gleason father figures to you?
SS: Gleason I never thought of as a father figure. He was a guy that I worked with that I was very good friends with. Richard was like a second father to me. He was my buddy. He was my muse. When I lost my virginity, I had to tell my dad and I had to tell Richard Pryor. He was hysterical. He was like, ‘You have to tell me how it happened and where it happened.’ We were on the phone for like an hour and a half. Great man. I miss him every day. He was definitely an important person in my life outside just those twelve weeks that we shot the movie. He would give you the shirt off his back. He was as classy as you could possibly imagine. As kind. There aren’t enough words that I can say about how great that man was.
SB: Tell me about the last months of his life.
SS: As his MS progressed, which was what he passed away from, he couldn’t speak. The last couple years of his life, it was really hard. He was in a wheel chair and he couldn’t speak, but I would go over to his house and I would see him and I would talk to him and, even though there was nothing coming back, because MS doesn’t affect the brain, you just can’t communicate, we still had fun. I would tell him what was going on and I could tell he was still there. He just couldn’t respond. There are 365 days in the calendar year. Richard passed away on December 10th, which was the same day ‘The Toy’ opened in the theaters.
SS: Well, it started to change after I got home from shooting, because I was home for less than three months, which was mostly summertime, and I started freshman year of high school and got a movie. So I went to Arizona for ten weeks to shoot a movie called ‘Kidco’. We finished ‘Kidco’ the day ‘The Toy’ opened in the movie theaters. We had the wrap party at the hotel in Tucson, then they had rented six mini vans and took everybody over to the local movie theater and they had bought three or four rows for all of us to see the movie opening night. It just changed because you go from being just a regular person to going to the mall and being recognized. That’s really the extent of the change for that time frame because I was still in New Jersey. I wasn’t out here. I wasn’t a Hollywood kid.
SB: What is the worst experience you’ve ever had on a set?
SS: I couldn’t remember my lines for a commercial. History. The brain was locked and fired and dead and I couldn’t remember my four lines if you paid me. They WERE paying me and I couldn’t remember my lines. And I got replaced. It was the only time it ever happened. I don’t remember what the commercial was for. I was about 12 years old. They flew me down to Atlanta to do this thing. Not a chance. Wasn’t happening. I was fired. I was scratching my head. My dad was scratching his head. We got back to the hotel. We checked out. We got on a plane and he and I both looked at each other, both scratching our heads. That’s the one and only time that ever happened to me.
The first day of shooting for ‘The Toy’ ended up being a disaster. I knew everybody’s lines. But that was the problem. I knew everybody’s lines. Nobody had told me about ad-libbing. And who am I in the scene with? I’m with Gleason. It was the scene in the car, going back to the airport in the Rolls Royce limo at the end of the film. That was the first scene we shot.
He keeps blabbering and he’s not saying anything that’s in my head. I had all the dialogue memorized. And we kept going back and forth, over the bridge and over the bridge. So we got back to the hotel at the end of the day and the producer grabbed me and took me in his office and he called my dad and told him, ‘would you like to explain to us what just happened? Your kid doesn’t know his lines. We just wasted a whole day of shooting.’ He said, ‘Put Scotty on the phone.’ He put me on the phone and my father says, ‘Would you mind telling me what the hell is going on,’ and so I told him.
My dad was the one who told me about ad-libbing. He said, ‘Okay, tomorrow, when you go to the set, I don’t care what they say, when they shut up, say your line.’ So this went on for about two weeks. Basically, in my head, when the other actors were talking, I heard the Charlie Brown wa-wa-wha-wha, and as soon as it stopped, I said my line. Within a couple of weeks, Richard and I were in his room and I said to him, ‘You guys are having fun with this stuff and I’m sticking to the script,’ and he says, ‘Why?’ So, after the second week of shooting, I was ad-libbing right along with them. I just jumped in the pool. It was great. As long as I was close, it was fine. There was no trying to remember dialogue with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason. Whereas, ‘A Christmas Story’ is pretty much written the way it is.
It is very much to the script. My scene in that, which was the tongue on the pole scene, they had to do it twice. The first time they under-developed the film, so it came out dark and they had to shoot it again. I had to stay an extra four days so that they could re-shoot it.
SB: How did you get the part of ‘Flick’ in ‘A Christmas Story’?
SS: The director, Bob Clark had seen ‘The Toy’ opening weekend and immediately called my agent. I had just gotten home from shooting Kidco and I met with him. There was really no audition. He just wanted to meet me. After that, he called my agent and told him that I had gotten the film. They sent over the script and I didn’t know I had the role of Flick. I thought I was Ralphie. I had just done the lead in two films. They sent me a script with no notes. So I memorized all of Ralphie’s lines and didn’t find out until the table reading that I had actually been cast as Flick, which was a much smaller part, but one of the most memorable scenes in the film.
SB: What are you currently involved in these days?
SS: My dad and I own a shop called ‘Baseball Cards and Movie Collectibles’ in Woodland Hills.
SB: What inspired you to go into the business of collectibles?
SS: I got into the collectibles business sort of by accident. There was an old friend in Simi Valley, CA with 2 baseball card stores, 1 was in Westlake Village which his kids were running… they were tired of it and he decided to sell it, I told my dad about the place, he then flew from NJ to look at it and see what it was all about. With a basement of “goodies” he’d been collecting for years, he decided that he’d sell his business back in NJ and we’d go into the card store… within 6 months it went from all sports stuff to Baseball cards & Movie Collectibles. I’d always been into the sports cards and my dad was more into the movie memorabilia and non-sports (movie/tv show cards), so it worked.
SB: Did you and your dad collect baseball cards and comic books when you were growing up?
SS: I collected cards since I was a kid and dad had some vintage golden/silver aged comics. OF course he also had a huge collection of movie memorabilia/photo’s/lobby cards (11×14′s), toys, dolls, games etc..
SB: What are some of the most valuable baseball cards you have at the shop?
SS: To be honest, we don’t have “huge” cards at the shop, we’ve bought and sold Babe Ruth’s, Mickey Mantle’s etc.. we have some Mantle’s, May’s, stuff like that, the really “high dollar” cards I have customers for so why keep them in the shop when we can turn them over for profit. MORE we have amazing movie memorabilia like a shirt John Wayne wore in “The Searchers”, a signed John Wayne cowboy hat, a full signed movie poster from “the Godfather” 25th aniv, original comic book artwork and a million other items.
SB: What is the oddest item someone has brought into the shop?
SS: Can’t really name anything “odd” that’s come in, most of it is pretty straight forward “memorabilia”, bought a signed “Dark Knight” & “Independence Day” poster from a woman who worked at Warner Brother’s and 20th century fox for years, Most of the stuff we have come in is pretty good. One former VP at Paramount retired and he brought us in 2 amazing items, a used sword from “Braveheart” and a “knife” from “Crocodile Dundee” which were both used in the films, really NEAT stuff that people truly collect and appreciate. There is 1 guy who brings us in used jersey’s and jackets, not game worn, just “used” clothes basically, he’s a nice guy but his stuff is normally too used for us to buy. We get toy guns, old GI joe dolls… anything you can think of from the past 50 years that was made originally for a kid as a toy, we’ve probably seen it.
SB: What are some of your favorite items?
SS: My personal fav’s are some of our posters, Original Munsters Go Home, a “GoodFellas” poster signed by everyone in the film, a signed album of “Saturday Night Fever” by all 3 Bee Gee’s, the Roy Rogers, Hoppalong Cassidy showcases we have, lots of Elvis Memorabilia, and a photo that’s never sold, been with us since we opened the shop, a signed Ruben Sierra photo when he was a rookie with the Texas Rangers, it’s more sentimental than valuable at this point… that’s the stuff I love.
SB: Where can people catch Beverley Hills Pawn?
SS: I’m not sure when Beverly Hills Pawn is scheduled to be on the air or what station it’s on, so just watch for it towards the end of the year I suppose.