We're Ready for Bomb When You Are, Barbra


By Wayne Warga

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Ah, sweet irony.

There he was, the director who has wrecked probably more cars — not to mention airplanes and submarines — than anyone else in his profession, looking about and commenting, “I think it's all come back to haunt me.”

And there she was, the singer getting fitted out in a tacky blonde wig and having mud smeared on her. “I can’t stand loud noises,” she worries aloud.

PETER YATES, who gave us car chases in “Robbery” and “Bullitt,” and some nifty air-to-ocean explosives in “Murphy’s War,” is standing by to help Barbra Streisand toss a bomb and blow up an old school bus converted into a gangster’s office. The picture, a wacky (or so it’s intended to be) comedy called “For Pete’s Sake,” is, according to its director “dedicated, in the title, to one of -the younger, more derivative directors.”

Then, grinning broadly and hitching his purple Levi’s up to the bottom of his tan Battaglia shirt, he says, “As you can see, this is another subtle, serious movie.”

“Yeah, but can I throw well enough?" Streisand asks.

These people, considered glamorous by most of the cleverly deluded Western world, are at this moment in the muddy, greasy back end of Giant Auto Wreckers on Sherman Way somewhere in the nether reaches of North Hollywood or, as someone standing by put it, “the really swell part of the Valley." It is muddy, dusty work and it is being approached with high good spirits, although they have only one chance to blow up the bus and they can’t afford to, well, blow it.

The afternoon's filming begins with Molly Picon as a friendly neighborhood madam, delivering Streisand, who has failed totally as a prostitute, to the school bus gangster haven where she is ordered to place a package in the shopping bag of their latest contract victim. Streisand, quite naturally, fails and returns to the bus intending to return the package. The gangsters flee, followed by Streisand, dutifully waving the bomb-package. They stutter out its contents and she throws hard, hitting the bus and blowing it to pieces.

Miss Picon is supposed to deliver her charge to the gangsters in a flower delivery truck, but it turns out that Miss Picon cannot drive. She instead fakes it, while grips push the truck.

“I don't like the way things are going,” Yates comments to cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs and the veteran first-assistant Harry Caplan.

However, they go well and within an hour four cameras are being set into position for the great explosion, prepared by Ira Anderson, senior and junior.

There are several rehearsals. with Miss Streisand and the two gangsters, played by Ed Bakey and Peter Mamakos, avoiding staying too long in the bus whenever possible. During one rehearsal one of the explosives experts starts an electrical saw (“I was just fixing the outhouse so it would collapse," he explains later) and in less than a split second Streisand and her cohorts are racing out of the bus. "What the hell is that?" she asks.

“I made a mistake," Yates laughs back.

"He's one of the few directors with no great ego,” she says of Yates. “Ideas should be free. They usually aren’t, but here they are. If I make a decision intellectually, I’m usually wrong. If I decide by instinct, I’m right. Peter uses instinct, too,”

“We did all of our location work in New York and ended up a week ahead of schedule,” Yates complains. “Then we came to sunny California where it rains and we get behind schedule.”

And there she waits, the reigning box office and nightclub star, possessor of Oscar, Emmy, Tony and loads of Grammies, slouched in a chair wearing a blond wig which must have cost $2.95 under the counter Woolworth’s, a floppy red hat, tacky plaid jacket and black dress and smeared with mud.

Finally, the clouds clear, the bomb-package is thrown and the bus blows up spectacularly and exactly on cue.

“Everybody get it?” Yates asks the four cameramen.

They all did.