Sinister Cinema: Jackie Cooper

I noticed that on May 3 Jackie Cooper passed on — thanks to the Hammett tour and dumb luck, I got to meet him one time.

The year was 1982. I was back on the Jim Eason program on KGO radio — think I appeared on Jim’s show three or four times in those years. If memory serves, my first radio interview ever was with Jim in the old KGO studios on Golden Gate Avenue, right off the thick of the Tenderloin. Good years.

So, we were chatting merrily along when Jackie Cooper came into the waiting area. He was on a book tour for his autobiography Please Don’t Shoot My Dog.  

Apparently Cooper was set for an interview with Jim the next day or the day after that, not today. Jim hadn’t had a chance to read the book. But he couldn’t refuse to do the interview — if I got it right, at the time Cooper was also a fairly prominent executive with ABC, owners of KGO. You know, if they had had some muscle come in on air and drag me off, and said, “Hey, listeners, have we got a surprise for you! — JACKIE COOPER!” — well, I would have figured that was pretty normal. Show business, you know.

As it was, I got to watch Cooper through the window in the Green Room as he waited patiently, watch as Jim across the table sweated out the rest of my segment, riffling through a copy of the autobio every chance he got. Jim has been my favorite Radio Guy all these years, and that moment is one of my two favorites.

When I exited the studio I got to meet Cooper, who was extremely cordial — aside from doing the book promo, he was in town to visit his son, who was connected with one of the big stores off Union Square. We chatted for a few minutes, he wished me luck with the tour. And that may have been the moment when I got fully behind the idea of Degrees of Separation.

Hey, I met and shook hands with Jackie Cooper. One degree of separation from Wallace Beery. One degree of separation from Superman. Cool.

And of course, I simply got to meet Jackie Cooper. Nominated for an Oscar at age nine. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember distinctly a single thing I was doing when I was nine.

And as I was poking around the Internet as background for this post, what ho! I came across the idea that it was Wallace Beery with the gangster Pat DiCicco and DiCicco’s cousin Cubby Broccoli — yes, the same Cubby who later would produce the James Bond movies — who in 1937 in the parking lot of the Trocadero may have beaten to death Ted Healy — yes, the guy who who used the Three Stooges as his stooges.

You’ve got to love Hollywood, right?

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