Robert Contrad stars in film
If you were going to make a film titled “Help Is On Its Way!”
to educate police officers on how to deal with elder abuse, who
would be your star?
Angela Lansbury? Will Smith? Kevin Kline? Charro?
How about someone who has acted in countless law enforcement-related
movies and television shows, who has been a reserve deputy in
Alpine County, Calif. and is an ex-Marine?
How about Robert Conrad, star of “The Wild, Wild West,” “Black
Sheep Squadron” and “Search and Rescue.”
“We wanted someone who had some credibility with law enforcement,”
said director Michael Billings of Billings Productions in Las
Vegas. “Mr. Conrad is respected in the police community and has
a forceful presence, which is what we thought was appropriate
for this film.”
Convincing Conrad, 63, to leave his Bear Valley, Calif., home
of three decades, his wife of 20 years and his three school-age
daughters who just happened to be competing in swim meets the
same day of filming was surprisingly easy. He just needed to leave
town by 1 p.m. to get back to his daughters’ swim meets.
“One of the reasons I’m willing to do this as a public service
for Nevada is because I was a sheriff in Alpine County and I understand
law enforcement,” he said. “Also, I really appreciate the treatment
I got in Nevada when we were here filming ‘Sworn to Vengeance.’
(Governor) Miller was great, we had a good experience. I do have
to leave at 1 p.m., though, because my daughters are in a swim
meet at 4:30.”
Making the film. Thursday, Conrad drove his wife Lavelda’s sleek
black Jaguar coupe to the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement
Center to spend several hours on camera, reading “cold copy” (new
to the actor) about how first-responder police officers should
handle suspected cases of elder abuse.
“This isn’t exactly Michener,” he joked to the writers as he began
the fourth take on particularly dry passage.
“Older persons rarely report crimes,” he read, citing reasons
such as “fear of retaliation, fear of being sent to a home, dependence
on the offender,” etc.
“This has taken forever to write,” said Betsy Kolkoski, an elder
rights attorney, working for the Nevada Division for Aging Services.
She, along with Pam Roberts, deputy attorney general for Nevada
and Dennis Kollar of Police Officers Standards and Training, have
worked together to make these educational films a reality.
“(Attorney General) Frankie Sue Del Papa has brought a lot of
light to the issue of elder abuse,” she said. “She has a great
interest in public service.”
n Trilogy on elder abuse. The film – “Help Is On Its Way!” – is
part two of a trilogy on elder abuse, to be distributed to people
who work with elderly individuals in Nevada, primarily law enforcement
personnel and the medical professionals.
The first film, “RX For Abuse,” filmed with Shirley Jones and
Marty Engels, was directed toward medical providers and distributed
statewide, Kolkoski said.
This second movie is being filmed in the attorney general’s Carson
City office, in Clark County, Sparks and Minden, which is the
only rural site for filming, chosen for several reasons.
“Of course we loved the setting, and the sheriff’s department
here in Douglas County was very cooperative,” Kolkoski said. “That
was an important factor. Carson City is all torn up, so they weren’t
good candidates. This has turned out very well, filming in Minden.”
Lt. Al Baumruck, with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, acted
as liaison between the production company and the sheriff’s department.
Conrad jokingly referred to him as “the man in the khakis,” as
Baumruck directed traffic around the outdoor film set.
The third film, “It Takes a Little Time, Sometimes,” is being
shot simultaneously with “Help Is On Its Way” and is also aimed
at law enforcement, concentrating more on exploitation and criminal
neglect, rather than the aspect of front line response.
Bonnie Brand, deputy attorney general, human resources division,
and on site for Thursday’s filming, said legislation has helped
push the educational film process forward to fruition.
n Family man. At 63, Conrad is technically a senior citizen, though
he looks many years younger than his actual age. Throughout the
day, he jokes that in one year and eight months he’ll be eligible
for social security and Medicare benefits.
The lean 5-foot, 8-inch Conrad is no stranger to the Carson Valley
and says he drives through frequently on his way to Mammoth Mountain
to ski with his family.
Conrad is irrepressible when it comes to talking about his children.
The three youngest – girls aged 11, 12 and 15 – are all athletes,
competing in swimming, skiing and soccer (coached by their dad).
He is also a competitive downhill skier, winning this year’s Senior
Bud Ice racing event for his age group, 60 – 69.
He recites the current doings of several of his other six children,
never stumbling over their respective ages or job titles.
n Lawyer jokes. During Thursday’s filming, Conrad’s levity is
a welcome respite between takes of the technical material.
Aware of the presence of several attorneys on the set, Conrad,
who may be remembered for his Energizer battery commercials where
he dares the viewer to knock the chip (in this case, an Energizer
battery) off his shoulder, is replete with lawyer jokes.
“Now I’m going to quote John Adams,” he said with a smile. “One
useless man is a tragedy, two useless men is a law firm and three
useless men is a Congress, and by God, I’ve had this Congress.”
Now semi-retired, Conrad seems happy to pick and choose his projects
as long as they don’t interfere with his family schedule. He just
completed filming “New Jersey Turnpikes,” a comedy about a basketball
team, which will come out in January, 1999.
A big screen version of TV’s “The Wild, Wild West” began production
in April, directed by Barry Sonnenfield.
The popular television show aired from 1965 to 1970, and launched
Conrad into the spotlight after acting in Hollywood since 1957.
Will Smith will play Conrad’s character, James T. West and Kevin
Kline will be playing his partner, Artemus Gordon, played by the
late Ross Martin in the television show.
He will have a part in the movie, but, as always, he doesn’t take
himself too seriously.
“Can you jiggy with the seniors?” he joked between takes, referring
to Will Smith’s hit song, “Gettin’ Jiggy With it.”.
n What a kidder. Conrad told of acting as a motorcycle policemen
on the recent film, “Jingle All the Way, with actors Arnold Schwarzenegger
Off the set, but still in costume, he was approached by a woman
wondering if she could go on the set and see the stars.
“Sure, go on in. Say, there are three guys over there, Schwarzenegger,
Sinbad and Bob Conrad. Be sure to see Conrad, because he’s the
nicest guy there,” he told her as he took his motorcycle helmet
off. When she turned back to thank him, she recognized him and
“It’s all make believe, darling,” he told her with a laugh.