Mother and Daughter
It’s all made up. It’s all a dog and pony show. Round them all up and try them for treason in a REAL court.
This is how they leverage celebrity from one actor and use it to create celebrity for their children and siblings.
Even Ron says it himself.
A FEW MOMENTS WITH…Not The Star Not The Celebrity – Just The Actor A Regular Guy
Ron Masak is a big man, wide across the shoulders but trim of waist, who has a vaguely handsome and vaguely familiar face and the resume of a man who plies the acting trade steadily without either fuss or fanfare.
Frankly, I’d never heard of him.
I half-hope, half-expect that when I meet him there will be a flash of recognition: ”Oh, this guy.”
No such luck. Ushered into a VIP lounge at Universal Studios, I know which person is the celebrity partly because he has the standing tall bearing of a personality, partly because two female Universal employees are beaming at him, and mostly because he’s the only person in range likely to be named Ron.
”The star himself!” I enthuse, with only the barest suggestion of facetiousness, and offer my hand. Masak’s shake is firm, his grin wide, his manner expansive. He looks like a retired professional athlete.
”Well, I beat the hell out of King Kong” -he’s fresh from a trip through Kongfrontation -but I’m the actor. John Wayne is the star, Donald Trump is the celebrity, I’m the actor.”
A little pat, but charmingly modest.
The hoped-for moment of recognition does come eventually, about half an hour later. Masak is talking about his work in commercials. ”I’ve done 32 Budweiser commercials.” Uh-huh. Well, it’s a little hard to keep those big, athletic-looking, beer-commercial guys straight.
”I’m the voice of the Vlasic pickle stork.” Now we’re on to something.
” ”Look for Vlasic pickles in the deli case,’ ” he says, imitating himself doing the stork. The memory chimes go off.
”There’s a really funny story about how I got that job,” he says. ”Pat Harrington Jr. -Schneider on ”One Day at a Time’ -he used to do it. He couldn’t once, and they asked me to fill in. They told me the voice Pat used was his impression of Groucho Marx. So that first time, I was doing my impression of Pat Harrington’s impression of Groucho Marx.” He does a little Groucho Marx, convincingly.
”Eventually, Harrington wasn’t doing it anymore, and they asked me to take his place. So look for Vlasic pickles in the deli case.” It’s the stork, no question.
THERE IS A TV UNIVERSE IN which Masak doesn’t need to do his stork voice to be recognized. It’s the universe of people who watch ”Murder, She Wrote,” the Sunday night show in which a 60-something mystery writer (Angela Lansbury) in a small town stumbles on a real murder each week and promptly solves it. Masak plays the town sheriff, Mort Metzger.
The following of ”Murder, She Wrote” is almost cult-like and is big enough so the show has landed in the Top 10 consistently for years.
”They’ve thrown a lot of things against Angela,” says Masak. ”Spielberg’s ”Amazing Stories.’ ”Family Ties,’ with Michael J. Fox, at its peak. This year, Jim Garner in his new show -he’s a wonderful, comfortable, old-shoe type. He bombed there. The love affair just goes on with this lady.” The Bush White House, Masak says, is devoted to ”Murder, She Wrote,” as was the Reagan White House.
And Masak is devoted to Lansbury. Indeed, he talks for nearly 10 minutes, without further prompting, about what a remarkable woman she is.
Which is part of the charm of Masak. He is so busy telling admiring stories about the people he’s met in Hollywood, it’s hard to get him to talk about himself. In the course of an hour, he talks about Boris Karloff, Steven Spielberg, Jimmy Cagney, Gary Cooper, Sandra Dee, Carl Malden, Ernest Borgnine. Steve Garvey is godfather to one of his daughters.
He’s known Marlon Brando (”I once thought I could be as good as he is, but I realized he wasn’t a happy man.”); Harry Morgan (”If I could have Harry Morgan’s career, I’d be thrilled.”); and Rock Hudson, with whom he worked on Ice Station Zebra (”He was as nice a human being as anyone -he was an international superstar who was the guy next door.”).
Masak isn’t by any means a groupie in these stories -he’s a colleague. But neither does he ever overstate his own role. He tells a story about how after Ice Station Zebra he always introduced himself, and his wife, to Rock Hudson each time they met at work or a social event, and how Hudson would say, ”I know who you are, Ron.” Once, Hudson spotted Masak from across a studio and called out at the top of his lungs: ”Ron Masak, you SOB! Do you believe I know who you are now?”
”I used to sit in the theater when I was growing up in Chicago,” says Masak, ”watching those people up on the screen, I was in awe. I’m still in awe. I’m a big fan.” One 30-year-marriage, six kids, and a relatively regular-guy acting career later, Masak seems genuinely tickled, actually grateful, to be acting for a living.
”I’d have been happy on a dock,” he says. ”I might have been a professional athlete” -he was offered a contract by the Chicago White Sox.
”I’ve never really wanted to be a big star, and so far I’ve succeeded,” he says with a big grin. It’s a line he’s used before, but he clearly enjoys it.
Masak is here to play in a charity golf tournament. ”I’m the world’s greatest all-around adequate athlete,” he says. ”When we left for California, golf was the big thing. Then celebrity tennis. Then celebrity skiing.” Masak changes sports with the seasons of the charity events.
At the benefit for Florida Hospital, Masak played golf with Neil Armstrong, among others. Masak figured the man had heard nearly every possible line of gratitude and admiration about Armstrong’s first step onto the moon.
”I said to him, ”Are you aware that ever since the night you brought that moon rock back to Earth, our weather’s been sQ-?’ He laughed.”