Take-Off (1978): Memories of Peter Scolari

Take-Off (1978): Memories of Peter Scolari

The actor Peter Scolari passed away this week. He was 66.

He was a versatile comic performer who was best known for his television roles in Bosom Buddies with Tom Hanks, Newhart in the 1980s, and for winning an Emmy Award in 2016 as Lena Dunham’s father in the HBO comedy series Girls.

Tom HanksTom Hanks and Peter Scolari

Peter’s first film role was in the adult film Take Off (1978).

A few years ago, I contacted Peter to ask about his memories of his small part in the history of the golden age of adult film.

He was gracious and generous with his time, as well as being surprised and amused that, after a long and successful acting career, someone was contacting him about this particular film. (“That movie…?! I can honestly say that’s the first time that anyone’s ever asked me for an interview about that movie! Anyway, sure… why not?!”) These are Peter’s memories.

In addition, Peter shared his scene in Take Off with actor Peter Andrews. This week, Peter Andrews reached out to us to share his memories of working with Peter Scolari.

Peter ScolariPeter Scolari

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Peter Scolari remembers ‘Take Off’

I think that was the first film I ever made. Certainly the first time I’d ever been on a film set.

I’m a New Yorker, born in New Rochelle, N.Y. and I attended City College of New York, so I was an aspiring actor in the city in the mid 1970s.

On the one hand, it was a fun time. I was part of a theater company that included Jeff Goldblum, Danny DeVito, Rhea Pearlman, and others. I learned to act, and picked up some pointless skills like walking on a tightrope and juggling at the same time.

And yet, it wasn’t an easy life – if you didn’t work, you didn’t survive – and work wasn’t always forthcoming. Plus I struggled with alcohol and drugs for years. So it was a tough time too.

Peter Scolari

And then came ‘Take Off.’ I got the job through a crazy woman named Dorothy Palmer. She had a casting agency office in midtown that was full of wannabe actors at all times of the day and night. It was like a fish market in there, and she was at the center of all of the action, shouting at people like a cross between a stock exchange trader and a manic harpy.

Dorothy was always able to find you some work – but it was usually at the back of a crowd scene in a commercial, or dressed up in a bear suit for a public safety short. Basically something where your acting ability would have no chance of shining through.

And then there were the sex films: Dorothy was notorious for telling you that these were just regular films. You only found out about the nudity… or worse still, the sex!… when you turned up for the shoot. Big problem for someone like me who had no intention of exposing himself… literally or metaphorically!

It didn’t concern me that ‘Take Off’ was X-rated, I just didn’t want to do the deed on camera. Several other actors I knew appeared in adult movies. They mostly kept their clothes on. Some had sex. I’m always surprised that more people didn’t realize.

But it was a paycheck, and a chance to act in front of the camera – so I took the gig. I didn’t use my real name – in fact, I didn’t use any name! I can’t remember what name appeared in the credits…

The segment was shot in one afternoon in a parking lot at Rockaway Beach. I remember the director (Armand Weston) quite well. Serious guy. Definite about what he wanted. More attention to detail, and to his craft, than I expected.

There was a group of five male actors – and one female performer. Us guys were 50s greasers, and there was a hair and makeup person, and a costume person. Once again, the production levels exceeded my expectations.

Peter ScolariPeter Scolari in ‘Take Off’

 

Peter AndrewsPeter Andrews in ‘Take Off’

 

Suzaye LondonSuzaye London, with Peter Scolari (right) in ‘Take Off’

The scenes consisted of me and another actor looking at a porno magazine in the back of a car, and then a scene in which we were harassing a girl, and the guys started to have sex with her. The script said that all the guys started to have sex – but I made it clear that I wasn’t going to take part in that.

In the end they shot two versions: one in which sex took place, and one where it didn’t happen. Needless to say, I kept my clothes on…

Sometimes someone will spot this film on my IMBb page, and I’ll get asked about it. I answer that I know very little about it and that I never even saw the film. But that’s not strictly true: I saw it advertised in the New York Post one day, so I went down to Times Square and watched it. It wasn’t too bad. For a porno film, I was almost impressed. Don’t tell anyone though!

As a result, I’ve never criticized anyone for how they started their career, nor for making sex films. For a time, there were some earnest people, like me, just doing their thing. And it was fun. No regrets.

Take Off

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Peter Andrews remembers Peter Scolari

Peter Scolari was an extra (no nudity or sex, if I remember correctly) in the 1977 Wade Nichols vehicle ‘Take Off’. I also had a small part in it.

Peter AndrewsPeter Scolari and Peter Andrews in ‘Take Off’

The work consisted of a day of exterior location shooting (near Jones Beach or the Rockaways, I think), and I was on the set all day with Peter. As is so often the case for minor players, it was many hours of “hurry up and wait”. To pass the time, Peter taught me how to juggle, which if you know about his later career, he was exceptionally good at.

I have the distinct visual memory of his riding around the parking lot on an old bicycle (one of the props) with no hands while juggling several lacrosse balls. The cast and crew were greatly amused.

We connected again shortly thereafter – and he gave me a ‘starter set’ for practicing juggling, consisting of lacrosse balls, wooden dowels, plastic bowling pins, and so on.

I never did get very good at it, but did get the basics down and in a pinch can still keep 3 balls in the air for a bit – thanks to Peter.

Peter Scolari

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  • Posted On: 24th October 2021
  • By: Ashley West
  • Under: Articles

22 Comments

  1. Kyl Sabyr · October 24, 2021 Reply

    I did not realize Peter Scolari died, and I did not realize Peter Scolari was in an adult film, at the very least, didn’t get naked and perform on camera. I remember him from the TV show Bosom Buddies alongside Tom Hanks who went to stardom, while Peter sadly became a second-rate actor in the industry. And don’t get me started on that Mr. Bill TV special in the late 80s that was awful. He will be missed.

    • JH · October 24, 2021 Reply

      I’m not sure why you think he became a “second-rate actor in the industry.” He co-starred on a couple of hit TV shows (“Newhart” and “Girls”), and won an Emmy just 5 years ago. Sure, he didn’t have Tom Hanks’ career, but he worked consistently and to great acclaim on both stage and screen until the end of his life.

    • mb · November 21, 2021 Reply

      i wouldn’t call him second rate. comparing 99% of actors to tom hanks, they’d all be second rate. peter had a long and respected career.

  2. Steven Millan · October 24, 2021 Reply

    I saw TAKE OFF a few months ago,for it is quite an incredibly impressive and ambitious porn feature that I’m glad to hear that (the late)Peter Scolari was very open to discuss about and how it was like to be working with (the controversial[if anyone has ever had a chance to see THE TAKING OF CHRISTINA and DEFIANCE{a.k.a.:THE DEFIANCE OF GOOD}]) Armand Weston.

  3. Jim Stevens · October 24, 2021 Reply

    I have the Video X Pix DVD AND I really wish that Vinegar Syndrome would get this hands on it or Steven Morowitz, if he’s still restoring anything beyond Henry Paris and Cecil Howard movies, would show it some love. Some of the decade vignettes are better than others, but it’s exceptionally well made and Georgina and Wade were exemplary.

    I think Peter’s screen credit was something like Barney Trimble. It’s actually kind fun to see him there and the back story makes perfect sense. A job is a job and exposure, literally and figuratively.

    Thanks for remembering him and his small part in one of the better adult movies of its time…actually, all time

    • Karl · October 24, 2021 Reply

      Let’s be more blunt: the treatment of this film has been a disgrace. It has just existed as a shitty DVD for the last two decades.

      Great film. Crappy version.

  4. Paul Stormer · October 24, 2021 Reply

    Very sweet to have preserved this short but poignant memory.

    Only the Rialto Report could make an someone’s obituary be about an adult film……. and still make it touching.

  5. Jeff Robertson · October 24, 2021 Reply

    God Bless Peter We Will Miss You Buddy God Speed

  6. cary glover · October 24, 2021 Reply

    wow, never knew this, thank you. He and Hanks were great in Bosom Buddies. RIP Mr. Scolari.

  7. Mykola Mick Dementiuk · October 25, 2021 Reply

    I watch him most nights on Newhart, this will put a new perspective on him. Thanks alot.

  8. Robert · October 25, 2021 Reply

    Worked with him for several years in the Nineties on a television series. Nice man, always a professional. Sad to hear of his passing. I also just heard his wife Cathy also passed. I recall they had a child together, she was pregnant at that time in the nineties…

    • J. Walter Puppybreath · October 27, 2021 Reply

      “I recall they had a child together, she was pregnant at that time in the nineties…”

      Sorry, I don’t get what this has to do with his passing?

      • Colleen Brennan · October 28, 2021 Reply

        Robert adds a teensy memory to the story, as people here tend to do, no need to get snotty.

      • JCA · November 14, 2021 Reply

        I’m not sure why you’re being so rude, J. Walter. Enjoy the memories and if it’s not to your liking, do what many others do…scroll by.

        Robert — didn’t know his wife had passed as well. RIP to both of them.

  9. Art Williams · October 27, 2021 Reply

    Thank you Rialto Report. Without you, I would never had know about this little tidbit.

  10. J. Walter Puppybreath · October 27, 2021 Reply

    Most interesting, RR!
    So cool he was open about discussing ‘Take Off’. Maybe because he’s MORE embarrassed by ‘Bosom Buddies’ ( talent aside, it’s insanely bad)? 😉

    • WestgateGallery · November 2, 2021 Reply

      BOSOM BUDDIES was hardly a sitcom classic, but any show with an ensemble & guest stars including Scolari, Tom Hanks, Telma Hopkins, Lucille Benson (King Edward Hotel-owner & corpse-photographing funeral-fan Aunt Martha in Paul Bartel’s outrageously depraved 1972 debut PRIVATE PARTS), adorable blonde bombshell Donna Dixon, the hilarious Holland Taylor & Wendie Jo Sperber, Joe Regalbuto, Ernie Hudson, Wendy Goldman, Rita Wilson, Joe Mantegna, Adrian Zmed, GILLIGAN’S ISLAND Professor Russell Johnson, Bob Saget & YOR HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE Reb Brown is automatically better than “insanely bad”!

      Also — as a final note TRR fans should find fascinating — the show’s heterosexual young creator Chris Thompson (who passed away far too soon in 2015) went on to a 30+ year career as a twisted, volcanically witty TV comedy writer — and was shockingly, scabrously, riotously frank about his early days as a “straight-trade” male street hustler before hitting the big time!

      • J. Walter Puppybreath · November 7, 2021 Reply

        Did you have money in ‘Bosom Buddies’? Sounds like it.
        Btw, I own ‘Yor, Hunter From The Future’ (& have the soundtrack). Make of that what you will.

        • WestgateGallery · November 7, 2021 Reply

          Oh I only WISH I had a point or 2 in Bosom Buddies… or any syndicated sitcom! I entered the TV biz as a neophyte baby-writer mid-90s & did staff & freelance scripts for so many shows with (to be kind) “lesser” casts I have come to deeply appreciate the value professionals like Peter Scolari and all the other greats in BB bring to a series. As an example, despite the jaw-dropping assholism exhibited by Ed O’Neill on the set of Married w/Children when I was there in 1995-97, he could NAIL IT in front of an audience in 1-2 takes, even those episodes when he’d refused to show up until Day 4 of the 4-day 20-hour actors’ work week. (Thankfully Christina Applegate, Amanda Bearse, David Faustino & Ted McGinley were all stellar & wonderful to write for.)

          Ed’s attitude would have doubtlessly improved if an episode I’d gotten approved for Season 12 had been taped: MARILYN CHAMBERS was to have guest-starred as a new Bundy neighbor who seems to really adore & appreciate Al only to be revealed as a “black widow” serial killer who plans to make him her next victim. Marilyn, Fox Broadcasting & our exec producers were all on-board but unfortunately the entire next season got scrapped a couple of months later due to Ed’s behavior during the final episodes of Season 11. He was just too much of a pain in the ass VS his salary ($475K per episode for S11, the highest for any TV actor ANYWHERE that year) so Fox pulled the plug. One of my biggest career regrets!

          • J. Walter Puppybreath · November 10, 2021

            ‘Oh I only WISH I had a point or 2 in Bosom Buddies… or any syndicated sitcom! ‘

            Truly Interesting, but most shows (in syndication) run in the early AM, between ads for the ShamWow. Not a great legacy.
            Am I wrong in thinking many of these are produced solely with the intent of syndication? ‘Last Man Standing’ comes to mind…
            Hey, it keeps Tim Allen’s garage of classic cars running!

  11. Kevo · November 2, 2021 Reply

    I think it’s great that Peter defends actors doing adult work if they needed to. So sad when people like R Bolla get fired by an agent for doing porn between Hill Street Blues and Simon and Simon or whatever.

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