Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Streets of San Francisco

With the recent death of Karl Malden I'm reminded of an event of years past.

In 1977 or so while serving onboard USS ASPRO (SSN-648) a nuclear fast attack submarine homported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii our ship had the good fortune of being selected to make what was then called an EASTPAC (Eastern Pacific Cruise). This was about a six-week trip to the operating areas off the East Coast of the United States for the purpose of training. Mostly we would run in front of United States Navy surface craft, made a lot of noise in the water then they would try and find us.

During this trip we were scheduled for several ports of call the first being Alameda, California which is across the bay from San Francisco. The other ports, which we were to visit, were San Diego, California and Bremerton, Washington.

While in transit and during our off time we would often ask others their plans for San Francisco. As the television show The Streets of San Francisco was very popular at the time my standard reply when asked this question was to say I was going to drop by and visit with my good friend Karl Malden. Soon everyone on the boat as a joke was asking me to give Karl their regards when we met up. Sea stories then came forth about just how tight Karl and I were.

So upon arrive in Alameda we suited up in our civvies (civilian clothing) and hit the streets. After a stop of necessity at some local watering hole we boarded the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to explore the streets of San Francisco. Only knowing that we wanted to go to the North Beach area of San Francisco we exited the train at the Embarcadero stop and made our way on foot north to Broadway.

If I remember correctly the trio in this excursion were myself, Senior Chief Torpedoman Jim Smith of Singer, Louisiana and Chief Firecontrolman Carroll Dubois of Pollock, Louisiana. Yeah, I hear you, having three Louisianans loose on the streets of San Francisco is a bit insane isn’t it. Especially after we had been consuming amber colored liquids. A good time was to be had by all by the end of the day.

Anyway, as we are headed up Broadway towards Columbus Avenue I noticed a single car in the road with one of those portable police red lights on top of the car. Just goofing off I started walking towards that car knowing my companions would ask where was I headed. When they did so, my reply was going to be "just going over to say hi to Karl".

Well, it went just as I had planned except when I bent down to look into the car who should be sitting there but Karl Malden himself.

About this time the car took off at high speed up the street, went about two blocks and turned right stopping outside some public tennis courts.

We had by accident just walked into where they were filming an episode of The Streets of San Francisco. When we got up to the tennis courts the area was blocked off, but we were still very near where they were filming, you could hear all the dialog and directing as clear as day. We were the only gawkers other than a few people associated with the filming.

By the time we completed the trek up the hill, they had already filmed Mike Stones arrival at the crime scene and Tom Bosley of Happy Days fame (the weekly guest star) was joining him on the case. All Tom had to do in his scene was get out of a car, open the gates to the tennis courts and walk over to greet Karl who was kneeling down looking at the body. They must have done this scene at least ten times before they got it the way they wanted it and we became very bored so continued on our quest of conquering San Francisco.

Michael Douglas wasn’t on the set that day that we could see, which is the first thing my wife asked when I related this story to her. Did note however, that Tom Bosley had on so much makeup that he looked like a corpse ready for burial.

OK, so its not that great of a story and I guess it’s really one of those you had to be there deals, but we did get a lot of mileage out of the story back on the boat.

I always liked most of the movies that Karl Malden performed in and I appreciated his work. Rest in Peace.