Eddie: Yeah, the screening was
"Born to Kill" (1947). Robert Wise directed it and
he was the guest.
Five-O: Anyone else?
Eddie: No, it was just Wise,
and the uninvited Lawrence Tierney. What transpired was
Dennis and I are in the lobby. I look out the windows, and
I see this old guy being helped down the promenade with a
person on either side, coming toward the theater. And the
guy, you know, had the old, crushed fishing hat on and the
whole bit. And I looked and said, Oh, man! Thats
Tierney! Thats Lawrence Tierney!'
Frankly Dennis was concerned (laughs). Apparently, you know,
theyd had previous experience with Tierney when the
Cinematheque was over at the Raleigh Studios. And Tierney
showed up and was trying to tear the posters off the walls
and take them home or something. I think they had a "Born
to Kill" one sheet on display, and Tierney just said,
THATS MY FUCKIN MOVIE!,
and he tore it off the wall, a poster that can go for $500.
So there was a prior incident, you know?
Anyway, Tierney probably said, IM
GOING TO THE THEATER, FER CHRISSAKES. HELP ME GET DOWN THERE,
you know. Whoever these guys were that helped him get there,
they looked like they knew him, but they left him there and
there he's sitting. So Dennis and I went out, and started
talking to him, and introduced ourselves. And the very first
thing Tierney said was, PULL MY
That was the first thing he said, because he wanted to get
up. I mean, this was Tierney. This is the paradox: he wanted
to be a gentleman because he wanted to stand up, because he
was meeting people, right? But he couldnt stand up without
help, so the first words out of his mouth were, PULL
MY FUCKING ARM!
So hes on his feet, and then we do the introduction
and all that shit. And eventually we just went inside
and we got him a folding chair, and I sat with him. Hed
always talk about how, you know, AH,
IM OLD NOW, you know. And I
AINT LIKE I USED TO BE.' I was aware of the fact that
he had had a stroke at some point, and now he was like recovering.
He couldnt walk well, but he still had huge upper body
strength. I mean, when we shook hands it was like, fuck, this
guys trying to break my hand.
And then we sat inside talking and I gotta tell you, it was
a wide-ranging conversation. He tried to get Gwen [from the
Cinematheque staff] to sit in his lap, and he spoke fluent
French to Gwen, which was quite impressive. And we talked
about philosophers and poets. He was big on John Donne. We
talked about his family, and his brother Ed he was quite fond
of. He didnt seem to be too thrilled with, you know,
Eddie: Well, he just didnt
talk about him much. I think, I think he I cant
speak for the guy, but it struck me that he may have been
a little jealous of the fact that Scott Brady went on to have
such a long career, and then Tierney self-destructed in a
sense. Before the Renaissance.
Eddie: And at a certain point
in this wide-ranging chat, he took a swing at me while we
were sitting there. That was just out of the blue. And apparently
I merited this because I was gesturing too close to his face.
We were sitting on these folding chairs
in the lobby, and you know, a lot of people were kind of
you know, Tierney had this whole thing where people would
gawk. It was like they were looking at a wild animal at the
zoo or something. And it was a little uncomfortable, because
no one had the nerve to come up and go, Mr. Tierney
But they would kind of lurk around and it was uncomfortable
for him. So I had said to Dennis that I would stay with Tierney.
Because clearly, you know, the guy was a loose cannon. And
Dennis would take care of the guest of honor, right?
We briefly discussed the wisdom of having Tierney being part
of the show. Actually Tierney sort of answered the question
himself. Because he didnt even want to go down and sit
down in the front of the theater where they have the VIP section:
AH, FUCK IT, ITS TOO FAR
TO WALK. He wanted to sit at the back of the
theater for reasons that would become obvious in short order.
So he took a swing at me. It didnt connect (laughs).
But then immediately after that he was like slapping me on
the leg and, you know, HELP ME
TO THE HEAD. I GOTTA TAKE A LEAK BEFORE THE SHOW.'
And so this other guy, he was there in a three piece suit,
he was like a black John Steed of The Avengers TV show. I
mean, he was wearing a three-piece suit and had a bumbershoot,
you know? He was very dignified and very effeminate. And so,
when Tierney said HELP ME UP,
GOTTA GET TO THE HEAD, and then this guy takes
his arm, Tierney looks at him and goes, THE
FUCK IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU GONNA HOLD MY ARM OR ARENT
YA, YA FUCKIN FAGGOT?
And, you know, most people wouldve fled in terror,
you know? But this guy just like hung in there and held Tierneys
arm. You know, you really had to hold this guy. I mean,
he was a big man and, you know, and it was like he had this
immense upper body strength but just tottering on these weak
legs, you know? So we ushered him into the bathroom. And clearly
I didnt want any kind of accident or anything or anything,
and he really wasnt that steady, so we had to take him
over and prop him up at the urinal, you know? Its an
embarrassing thing and I was trying to make light of it, so
I made a crack and I said, uh, You know
Larry, Ill help you into the bathroom but Ill
be damned if I hold it for you.
And he thought that was really funny. So he lets out
this big Tierney laugh HAAAAH!,
and then he grabs me around the neck and head-butts me! BONK!
Oh, Jesus! I was seeing stars! I couldnt believe it.
I was like, What was that?' I guess that was a show
of affection or something, I dont know.
Tierneys standing there pissing, and the bathroom starts
to fill up with gawkers. And theres this semi-circle
forming around him at this urinal, you know? I have my back
to the wall, and Im looking at these people gesturing
like get away, the guys trying to take a leak!
Like Tierney needed my help right? Because he turns around,
zipping up his fly, and he sees all these people and just
goes, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU ALL,
A BUNCH OF COCKSUCKERS?
I mean, he's just not having it from anybody.
So then we were leaving the bathroom and this, this
is just outrageous as were leaving the bathroom,
we push the door open and whos coming in but Bob Wise?
Hes walking into the bathroom
Five-O: The consummate gentleman
Eddie: Exactly. He sees Tierney
and Tierney just looks like a nightmare, you know? Hes
got the crushed fishing hat and he just looks grizzled beyond
belief. And hes huge. And so Wise looks up and goes,
Oh Larry! Larry! So good to see you!
And I kid you not, Tierney reaches out and grabs Wise
hes wearing a little cravat, you know, like a little
ascot? Tierney reaches at it and he grabs him by the throat,
and swings him over against the wall and says, FUCK
YOU, BOB! IM DIRECTING YOU NOW! That was
his opening line to Wise. It was amazing! So, you know, we
managed to extricate Robert Wise from this choke hold. Bob's
like, Oh, Larry! Oh Larry! Oh my gosh, oh ho ho ho!
Gotta go to the bathroom, well see you later!
And so we go into the auditorium and thats where I
ask Tierney if he wants to go sit down in the VIP seats. And
Im kind of holding my breath thinking that over and
he says, NO, I WANNA SIT IN THE
BACK. So we sat in the last row, right when you
come in the main door and immediately to your right.
Dennis introduced the evening, "Born To Kill" and
Special Guest Bob Wise. And then he did make mention of the
fact that Tierney was in the house, which got a big ovation
and people were chanting for Tierney, you know, to appear.
So were sitting in the back in the dark, and the movie
fires up and its great. I mean, we go along for twenty,
twenty-five minutes and it was it truly was one of
the great nights of the film noir festival.
Now Tierney wasnt hesitant. He was communicating and
he was so sharp about the movie and about his career and everything
else he wasnt loud, but he would just lean over
and say stuff to me you know, like LOOK
AT THIS. ESTHER HOWARD, SHES GREAT IN THIS SCENE. SHE
STEALS THIS WHOLE MOVIE. And hes talking
about, you know, making pictures with Val Lewton when he made
Ghost Ship 'AHH,
LEWTON WAS A GENIUS.'
I was loving it. It was the greatest, you know? Because he
was so knowledgeable and so eager to talk about this stuff.
And he knew the dialogue. He goes, 'NOW
HERE COMES A GREAT LINE.' He knew his business.
He was a little disingenuous about certain things regarding
his career. WHYD THEY ALWAYS
MAKE ME PLAY THE MEAN ASSHOLE? That was
one thing he said [laughs]. Okay, go figure that, Larry, I
dont know! The guy had a police record and more drunk
and disorderlies than anyone in Hollywood plus he just assaulted
the director of "The Sound of Music" at the bathroom
About twenty-five minutes into the picture he turns to me
and he says, DO ME A FAVOR, WILL
YA? GO GET ME A CUP. And I say, A cup?
A cup of what? And he said, JUST
A CUP! JUST AN EMPTY CUP! So on the way to the
snack bar, Im thinking the worst, right? And he did
not disappoint, because I came back with the big Prince of
Egypt plastic cup, a big soda cup. They were souvenirs because
the Prince of Egypt, of course, had premiered
at the Egyptian.
So I walk back to the seat, I handed this cup to Tierney,
I do not even get back in my seat when Tierney stands up,
undoes his trousers, drops them to the floor and takes a monstrous
piss in this cup.
I mean it was just unbelievable. Literally he just dropped
trou and just let loose. And of course, it had to be a real
quiet spot in the movie. So you could hear this, you
know, torrent out loud. I cant say the whole theater
heard it, but Im gonna tell you the back half of the
theater heard it. And Im just sitting there like, Oh,
Jesus, this is unreal! And all I could think of was
there was a woman sitting in front of him, and I just remembered
thinking, Come on, you know what that sound is. Please.
Dont turn around. You dont need visual confirmation,
right? I mean, it was it was a manly piss. This woman
turns around. And like, shes staring right at the danger
zone, you know? And shes just got these huge saucer
eyes. And out loud, in full voice, full projection, Tierney
says, WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU LOOKING
AT? YA NEVER SEEN A COCK BEFORE?
Ive never witnessed anything like this. I thought it
was it was unbelievable! You know, I have to say I
kind of agreed with him. He's an eighty-something year-old
guy, he doesnt want to walk all the way back to the
bathroom, hes taking a piss, hes trying to be
somewhat delicate about it as much as you can be. Just
let it go, you know? But she HAD to turn around! Or, you know,
he wouldnt have said anything!
And then, uh, he did it again. In fact, he did it twice more.
And every time people would point and stare and everything,
he would look around with the most intimidating look. Hed
like, scan the audience while hes pissing to see whos
looking at him. And when he sees somebody looking at him,
hed point at the screen and go, THE
MOVIES UP THERE, YOU MORONIC COCKSUCKER!
(laughs). I remember that line clearly because Id never
heard anybody put moronic and cocksucker
together before, and it stuck with me. What can I say? That
would seem to be his favorite term of endearment. Moronic
Anyway he was embarrassed. But that was his way when
people looked at him, he just gave it back. Both barrels.
But when people werent looking at him, he would like
lean over to me and say, IM
SORRY. IM SO FUCKING SORRY. IM SO BUT WHAT
CAN I DO? You know, IM
OLD, I CANT - WHAT THE FUCK AM I GONNA DO? I APOLOGIZE,
And he was very sincere, you know? And obsessed with where
the cup was because he didnt want it to spill. It was
like, 'OH, YOU GOT IT? THE CUPS
OVER HERE, RIGHT? WE GOT THE CUP OVER HERE? IS THE CUP ALL
RIGHT? WHERES THAT FUCKING CUP? I GOT THE CUP HERE,
That's how he made it through the film. When the lights came
on and they introduced Wise, he
wasnt done. Dennis started interviewing Wise, the most
self-effacing, gentlest, nicest man in Hollywood probably.
And Wise was giving an answer about his approach to the material.
And you know, it made perfect sense. So Tierney hears this,
and he turns to me and he goes, WHAT
THE FUCK IS HE TALKING ABOUT? IT WAS ALL IN THE SCRIPT. ITS
ALL IN THE FUCKING SCRIPT. THEY NEVER GIVE THE WRITERS ANY
CREDIT! And then he just bellows out, again,
I mean he just hollers, HEY BOB!
WHO WROTE THE FUCKING SCRIPT? All the way from
the back of the theater.
And thats when the audience really started getting
into it, ya know? Let Larry talk! Let Larry talk!
It was wild. I said, Man, they want you. He goes,
AW, FUCK EM!
Once people knew that he was there, as soon as the interview
with Wise was over, a whole bunch of people came flying up
the aisle at him.
So one of them [a Cinematheque nuisance blackballed in 2002
for stampeding Jack Palance] comes over and goes, [hammy English
accent] Larry! Larry! So good to see you! Youll
recall we worked together! And Larry looks and him and
goes, GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY WAY,
It was really kind of unpleasant in the end because people
were really kind of swarming. And, and he seemed like this
rhinocerous that was just being consumed with these gnats.
Eventually there were people there who did know him. Half
a dozen guys who were regulars in Hollywood who saw to it
that he got home. I do not have any idea what happened to
Five-O: A night at the theatre.
Eddie: I get a lot of mileage
out of telling this story, and people think Im having
fun at Lawrence Tierneys expense. But, if you read the
story on my website (www.noircity.com),
you know, at the end I make it abundantly clear that I am
you know? That I am on his side in this. I do not think hes
just an animal or something, I just think that hes a
guy who had a very special place in movie history. And hes
very aware of it. Hes also very aware of the fact that
he lost it. And it meant a lot for him to go to that theater
and see I mean there was a big crowd and to
see that, you know, is vindication for him.
Ill be goddamned, if I was eighty years old and couldnt
control my bladder, Id say go get me a cup too! Im
not missing a second of this! Go get me a cup! Im just
gonna piss right here in my seat! You know, its egregious
and its outrageous behavior, but so what, you know?
Whats the alternative? Stay home? I cant go out,
I might pee. You know, whats he gonna do, wear a diaper?
No, he says 'fuck it, Ill piss when I have to piss,'
you know? If Im stuck in the theater, get me a cup!
Thats what he did! So, you know, we should all be so