Going Green! Tom Lisanti On His New Book, Ryan’s Hope: An Oral History of Daytime’s Groundbreaking Soap

New Interview on Out NW, read more here.

With this being St Patrick’s Day, I wanted to remind people that there once was a soap that would be celebrating the holiday in the most festive way possible. Even when the show, Ryan’s Hope (1975-1989), after 13 years, went off the air. Who could forget the show’s matriarch, Maeve Ryan (Played by Broadway legend, Helen Gallagher) singing the song, “Danny Boy” as the last frame faded to black.

When Tom Lisanti’s book, Ryan’s Hope: An Oral History of Daytime’s Groundbreaking Soap, came out last fall, I requested a copy, as someone with Irish roots, I started watching the show with my mom in 1976, and became an avid fan in 1980. I chatted with Lisanti’s through email this past week.

53 Years Ago…

[amazon_textlink asin=’B00005AUK5′ text=’Village of the Giants ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’43aa1e10-d606-11e8-a210-c71af4365299′] opened in 1965 starring [amazon_textlink asin=’B0000DZ3G3′ text=’Tommy Kirk’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5ab3074f-d606-11e8-b482-d1b70128975c’], Johnny Crawford, Beau Bridges, Ronny Howard, Tim Rooney, Bob Random and 60s starlets Tisha Sterling and Joy Harmon (Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Hollywood), Gail Gilmore aka Gail Gerber ([amazon_textlink asin=’0786441143′ text=’Trippin’ with Terry Southern’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’63e42a63-d608-11e8-8ed7-d9700c5f726c’]), Vicki London ([amazon_textlink asin=’1476672334′ text=’Glamour Girls of Sixties Hollywood’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9eaf3e5b-d607-11e8-aeba-aba0203ff6ca’]) plus Charla Doherty and Toni Basil

Village of the Giants was loosely based on [amazon_textlink asin=’1607104962′ text=’H.G. Wells’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ebe23b57-d606-11e8-a41a-f12bc68238cd’]’ story Food of the Gods and was produced and directed by [amazon_textlink asin=’B001NRTG7W’ text=’Bert I. Gordon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’013b798e-d607-11e8-b856-419f03251312′]. Here science fiction meets teen exploitation head on with an excellent array of scantily-clad starlets, exciting musical performers, and a classic background score by composer Jack Nitzshe. As for the story, boy genius Ronny Howard develops a magic goop, which is eaten by a cat and two ducks that grow giant-size.  When a group of troublemaking teenagers (including Beau Bridges, busty Joy Harmon, beautiful Tisha Sterling, Tim Rooney, perky Gail Gilmore, sultry Vicki London, and Bob Random), who look as tough as Archie, Betty and Jughead, hear of this at the local discotheque, they steal the goop and sprout to mammoth proportions. They pop out of their now too small clothes and begin terrorizing the small town in the process while draped in togas made from old theatre curtains.  The local teens (led by Tommy Kirk, Johnny Crawford. Charla Doherty, red-haired Toni Basil years before Mickey was oh so fine) join forces with the police to thwart the marauding giant teens who have an axe to grind with the adult establishment. When the good teens fail in stopping the overgrown delinquents, Howard develops a smoke gas that counteracts the growth formula.  The “giant” teens shrink to normal size and are then chastised and run out of town.

The opening scene of Village of the Giants features the group of delinquents piling out of their wrecked auto after crashing on a mountain road during a rainstorm. They then begin dancing in the mud to the film’s rockin’ music score, which is heard throughout the movie. “This scene was awful,” exclaimed Joy Harmon. “I had mud in my eyes and face—I was covered in mud all over my body! That scene was so true and authentic. They really made us got down in the mud. We just went for it and did the scene. The mud wasn’t thick but slimy—very slippery. We couldn’t stand up and were falling all the time. It was cold and I only had a little crop top on. The guys had a ball with it but the girls were freezing and dirty.  I felt so ugly—there was nothing glamorous about it!”

Vicki London recalled that muddy scene as well and remarked, “[It] didn’t bother me as much as it did the other girls. It was messy and hard to move around. I found it to be kind of stupid but the movie was stupid—yet it is so popular.” Tisha Sterling too felt the same way and remarked, “I felt exploited throughout the whole movie. It was all tits and ass. But that’s part of Bert Gordon’s thing when making a movie. I thought Bert was very good at making these kinds of films.”

Producer Bert I.Gordon was known for his previous gimmick films involving giants or huge animals including King Dinosaur (1955), The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), Attack of the Puppet People (1958), and The Spider (1958). He not only produced and directed Village of the Giants but was responsible for the special effects as well. Though the effects are cheesy and amateurish, they do have an endearing quality about them—none more so when giant-size ducks are seen doing the Jerk and the Watusi at the Whiskey a-Go-Go.

Another interesting effects scene is when the giant teenagers are sitting on the stage of the town’s movie theater and Tommy Kirk brings them food, which is supposed to be chicken. Gordon filmed the teens separately from Kirk and used rear projection to edit the scene together. According to Joy Harmon, “The prop guys gave us some really small bird that they fried to make it look like a tiny chicken. It came from a famous chicken place and it was horrible. I hated eating whatever it was and had to keep eating it over and over. They even duplicated the chicken box and the coke bottles as small props. I thought Bert did a good job and was a super nice man. I could talk to him very easily. He wasn’t a typical director who told you to stand here or there but more of a creative person.  And I think the cast responded to that.”

Though Joy respected Gordon, she did have a bit of a problem with Bert regarding one of her scenes and that was because of her amble bosom keeping with the giant theme.  Harmon opined, “The only thing that irritated me while doing this film was the scene when my sweater pops open as I grow to a giant—you didn’t see anything—but I hated that scene. I objected to wearing that sweater and asked Bert Gordon if I could wear something else to pop out of.  Nobody else had that problem. They wore clothes that got smaller but mine had to open. I also felt very uncomfortable because I couldn’t wear a bra and I don’t like going without one.”

Vicki London felt the same way as well and let her discomfort be known to her detriment. She recalled, “During the wardrobe fittings, they wanted us [Joy Harmon, Tisha Sterling, Gail Gerber] to remove our blouses because they wanted the girl with the biggest breasts to play the part Joy Harmon wound up with. I refused and Tisha did too.  They still gave Tisha a very nice part. It was down hill after this for me though. Now that I am older and think back on it, I understand that Bert just wanted to see who would fit that part since her chest was used in the ad posters with Johnny Crawford hanging off her bra straps. But at the time it just didn’t feel right to me. They made an issue out of me not willing to show my breasts, so they threatened that if I didn’t do it they were going to cut me out of everything and they did.”

Gail Gerber (aka Gilmore) remembered this incident and said, “They wanted us to show us popping out of our clothes and asked if we minded being nude for it though we would cover our breasts with our arms. I never had any qualms with nudity so I readily said yes. Joy did too, but Vicki refused. She was a sweet girl and this was 1964 so her reluctance was understandable to me but unfortunately for her not the producer. I guess to punish Vicki they didn’t use her at all in those scenes and at one point shot her in silhouette from behind a screen.”

The cast seemed to gel on-and-off-screen and nobody had a bad word about anyone with Beau Bridges being all the gals favorite.  “Everybody was just so nice to work with—we were just a bunch of kids having a really good time,” Joy Harmon says.  “Tisha is so beautiful in this film.  I remember that she has such a gorgeous face.  And Beau Bridges is a nice very guy and liked to joke around.  He got married just before filming began.”

Tisha Sterling said, “I really did have a good time making this film. Beau Bridges is great!  He is a friend and I like him a lot.  He is a very bright, funny, and talented man.  I became friendly with his first wife Julie and I think they were adopting children at the time. Joy Harmon is a very sweet girl. We really didn’t do too much together after the film was over but we always kept in touch via other people. I would really love to find out what happened to Bob Random. His wife Ida became a costume or set designer.  They were both fascinating people.”

Vicki London concurs about Beau Bridges, “Beau Bridges was wonderful. I also met his brother Jeff and his father Lloyd and they were all so down-to-Earth. That is a really nice family and really great people. Beau I think was the nicest of them all. Tisha Sterling was fabulous. She should have become a major star because she was absolutely gorgeous. Joy Harmon had a bubbly personality and was very sweet, but she didn’t have that movie star look.  Gail Gerber was nice also.”

Gail Gerber remembered,Terry Southern came to the set of Village of the Giants one day and hit it off with big-eyed blonde Joy Harmon. He had met her previously on The Loved One where she had a tiny role as an aspiring starlet. Joy was a sweet girl but she was so formidable and so big in so many ways I was a bit put off by her. But Terry was just drawn to larger-than-life people and thought she was wonderful. Joy was so full of energy. Tisha Sterling was the prettiest thing I ever saw. Beau Bridges was just a kid then but so charming. If I ever meet him again, I would hate to say—because he has done some wonderful, fine work—that not only did we work together on Village of the Giants but I was the blonde who licked his face during the dance scene in the mud.  He’d probably take out a gun and shoot me!”

For everything you ever wanted to know about Village of the Giants, but were afraid to ask, visit Michael Howe’s fantastic tribute web site accessible from the link below:




Reviewing my Blog stats below is an encore presentation of my most popular Blog post to date.

Below is a great clip from the great movie [amazon_textlink asin=’B00UGPWQS8′ text=’Cool Hand Luke’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’0ec273b8-c127-11e8-b3f4-094c3dbd7245′] (1967) starring [amazon_textlink asin=’B001EBV0MG’ text=’Paul Newman’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’4434b479-c127-11e8-8480-e75ad49a6b68′] and [amazon_textlink asin=’1557837821′ text=’George Kennedy’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’5875a448-c127-11e8-858b-fba931c15bbe’] highlighting [amazon_textlink asin=’B00F109T10′ text=’Lalo Schifrin’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’679e8fa4-c127-11e8-8480-e75ad49a6b68′]’s classic musical score.

The girl who washes the car and gets the chain gang all hot and bothered is Fantasy Femme [amazon_textlink asin=’B0007R4T08′ text=’Joy Harmon ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’88f4f471-c127-11e8-8fcf-21cfe1b53c80′]in her most memorable role though she doesn’t utter a word.

jul 224Joy Harmon began her show business career as a teenage extra in The Man Who Came to Dinner (1956).  Her curvaceous figure, measuring 41-22-36, was her ticket to Broadway in the comedy Make Me Laugh starring Sam Levene in 1958 as the comic foil to the comedian.  On television the popular pin-up (who also posed for numerous men’s magazines except Playboy because she wouldn’t go topless) became a favorite of such talk show hosts as Steve Allen and Gary Moore who spun as many double-entendres as possible at Joy’s expense and, of course, comparisons to Jayne Mansfield were inevitable.  In between variety show appearances, she found time to make her film debut as a tough chain-smoking broad in the juvenile rock-and-roll flick, Let’s Rock (1958) starring, of all people, Julius LaRosa.

Hollywood soon beckoned and Harmon became a regular on the short-lived Tell It to Groucho in 1962.  On the big and small screens, Harmon was so adept at playing the dizzy bugged-eyed blonde with the giggly laugh that she became typecast.  Minor movie roles in [amazon_textlink asin=’B005IX3C4A’ text=’Mad Dog Coll’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’b491f647-c127-11e8-ab27-a5f0d6c4c244′] (1962), [amazon_textlink asin=’B0024396DI’ text=’Under the Yum Yum Tree’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’cf4dae2b-c127-11e8-a8df-4b0c208f1c3b’] (1963), [amazon_textlink asin=’B07DXSK4ZG’ text=’Young Dillinger’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’dfa5cb62-c127-11e8-aee9-8152a25ab8e2′] (1965), and [amazon_textlink asin=’B06ZZFRD3M’ text=’The Loved One’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’f08fa0c5-c127-11e8-be47-b7cb16c256d5′] (1965) led to lead roles as a teenage delinquent in [amazon_textlink asin=’B00005AUK5′ text=’Village of the Giants ‘ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ffd67527-c127-11e8-8549-474d32d53c22′](1965) opposite Beau Bridges and a beach denizen in Hawaii mixed up in robbery in One Way Wahine (1965).  Even when playing bad girls, audiences could not help but love Joy due to her effervescent personality and the innocence she brought to all her characters.  This quality is undoubtedly why she was hired for her most infamous role in Cool Hand Luke (1967).

Cool Hand Luke examines life for men on a chain gang in a Southern prison camp.  The immensely entertaining social drama stars Paul Newman as a loner who refuses to conform to society’s rules and George Kennedy, who won an Oscar for his performance as one of Newman’s fellow prisoners.  On paper, Joy’s part seemed innocuous enough—a pretty girl washes her car while shackled prisoners of a chain gang peer on.  Recalling the audition Joy says, “I had this agent named Leon Lance who was around forever in Hollywood.  He got me the interview for Cool Hand Luke and told me that I had to wear a bikini for it.  Paul Newman, Stuart Rosenberg [the director], and somebody else were there.  I remember Paul Newman said to me, ‘Gosh, you have the bluest eyes!’  They just talked to me and that was it.  It was a small part with no lines but I wanted to work with Newman so when they offered it to me I accepted.”

Joy1Cool Hand Luke was filmed in Stockton, California.  None of the actors were allowed to bring their wives or girlfriends to the set because Stuart Rosenberg wanted his actors to have the feel for what it would be like to work on a chain gang without female contact.  When they finally saw a woman their reactions would be believable and not “acting.”  After arriving on location, Joy was sequestered at the hotel for two days and never saw anyone.  They kept her away from all the actors until filming began.  With Newman, Kennedy, and the rest of the chain gang entranced, Harmon washes her car like she’s making love to a man.  While Kennedy dubs her his innocent “Lucille,” Newman realizes she is just a tease and knows exactly what she is doing by getting the prisoners excited.  “Stuart Rosenberg was so sensitive and took time to work with me,” recalls Joy fondly.  “I didn’t even have a line but he just wanted everything motivated with a thought behind it.  He was an actor’s director—more concerned with the actors than the lighting or anything else.  He kept talking with me and it was like a bonding kind of thing, which is why I was able to release all that energy in that scene.

“Stuart was very specific and knew exactly what he wanted,” continues Joy.  “I guess you can tell that by the way the scene comes off—but I didn’t realize it.  And I don’t think I even realized it right after I did it.  There were a lot of things he made me do a certain way—soaping the windows, holding the hose— that had a two-way meaning.  He would tell me to look different ways and we kept shooting it over and over again.  I just figured I was washing the car.  I’ve always been naïve and innocent.  I was acting and not trying to be sexy.”

JoyAll of Rosenberg’s work paid off as the scene is unforgettable and is truly one of the sixties’ most provocative moments.  Joy, clad in a tatty housedress with her cleavage clearly on display, holds the nozzle of the hose suggestively, squeezes the soap from the sponge and drenches her dress, and presses her bounteous bosom on the passenger-side window as she washes the roof putting on quite a tantalizing show for the frustrated prisoners.  “I never had any inclination that this would be such a memorable role,” says Joy.  “Except for being in a movie with Paul Newman, I never expected this part to be so notable and get the reaction it did.  After seeing it at the premiere I was a bit embarrassed.  Of all the things I’ve done people know me most from this film.”

Unfortunately for movie audiences Joy never capitalized on the notoriety that the film brought her.  After the movie was released she met film editor Jeff Gourson and they wed.  American International Pictures wanted to sign Joy to a contract beginning with the lead role in The Young Animals (1968) but she declined as she was happy juggling bit roles ([amazon_textlink asin=’B0006SSPZS’ text=’A Guide for the Married Man’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’sixtiescinema-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’3a593ebc-c128-11e8-bf84-5714c022ba5e’], Angel in My Pocket, Norwood) with her new marriage.

Harmon continued acting mostly on television in such series as Love, American Style and The Odd Couple until 1973 when she retired to raise her children.  Her only foray back into show business was doing voiceover work in her husband’s hit TV series Quantum Leap.  Today that girl from Cool Hand Luke has her own business called Aunt Joy’s Cakes.  While she was acting Joy’s bosoms weren’t the only treats she brought to the set as she also shared her delicious homemade cakes and cookies with cast and crew.  In the nineties, she began supplying her niece’s coffee shop with her desserts and then saw her business quickly expand to include all the major movie studios.  She now has a web site and you can order Joy’s baked goods online at Aunt Joy’s Cakes.