Monday, March 30, 2009
"Confessions of a Hollywood Movie Medic", by Tony Whitmore, LACo Recurrent O.L.
(Pirahna Medic™ is a trademark and Copyright 2009 Tony Whitmore. Used here with permission. Please do not reproduce)
(Photo above shows Tony with Actress, Rachel Nichols, on the set of the movie, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra", which will be released this summer in August.)
"County Recurrent" is pleased to present a new interview with Veteran LACo Recurrent O.L., Tony Whitmore, who for many years has been a Feature Film and Television Set Medic.
(Photo above shows Tony on duty at the beach, circa 2009)
County Recurrent (CR): So Tony, how long have you been a movie set medic ? Tell us a bit about this job and so forth.
Tony: I've been a Set Medic for 12 years. Sometimes I tell people that the job is a lot like being a Lifeguard except that I can read the newspaper. Actually the job does involve being prepared for any sort of emergency. Most of the time I hand out aspirin and band aids.
(Photo above shows Tony (aka, the Pirahna Medic™ First Aid Station on wheels; comment: the only thing missing from this Kit is an XL sized Jar of "Greg Bonann Approved For Swim Fin Usage" VASELINE® ! Hoh !)
note: those are cough drops in the large plastic jar at right and not "candy" which is apparently the domain of "Craft Services". The jury is still out on who can carry "Altoids"...
CR: What is the hairiest medical situation you've had to contend with on the set... that you can tell us ?
Tony: During reshoots for "Jurassic Park 3" at Flatrock Point in Palos Verdes, an abandoned boat was to be pulled onto the rocks by another boat. The Special Effects crew was using Spectra® line, which they said was stronger than steel cable and lighter weight. The line was connected to a false bow eye mounted below the waterline. The Stunt Coordinator and I were watching from behind the shiv through which the line ran. On the first take the rocks cut the line and it flew back in our direction. If it had been cable it would have taken our head off. Although it was a great vantage point I decided to move off to the side.
note: for more information about Spectra® line, check out this link at:
I need to mention that all the equipment had to be dropped at the site by helicopter. The FX guys wanted the boat to come in faster on the second take. The first take weakened the bow and on the second take the false bow eye broke loose, flew through the air and struck the Stunt Coordinator in the middle of the forehead and cut him about a third of the way up his head. Everyone wanted to know if I wanted the helicopter to airlift the Coordinator to the hospital. I said yeah but the Coordinator said he'd be okay, just help him up the shale path to a waiting van. The wound required 63 stitches but he came back later in the day for a scene in King Harbor.
CR: Follow-up question: Do you think that using cable instead of the Spectra line would have been better because of the rocks you mentioned ?
Tony: I think that cable would stand up to rocks and barnacles better than the Spectra but the caveat is that now the braiding of a eye is usually more layered. Cable recoils in such a way that it's very dangerous.
CR: What is the most comical medical situation that you've had to contend with on the set.... that you can tell us ?
Tony: During filming of the movie "Human Nature" many in the crew and cast got poison oak. The lead actress was into natural remedies and made up a concoction of various herbs that she stuffed into cheesecloth and asked me to administer the remedy to those afflicted by the poison oak. The stuff had such a foul smell that no one wanted it on their skin. I told her everyone was very grateful for the cure.
(Photo above shows LACo Recurrents, Tony Whitmore and Tom Katsouleas . Photo courtesy of Tony Whitmore. Used here with permission. Please do not reproduce without consent).
CR: How about a bit of background about your LACo Recurrent lifeguard career. And please include your memories of this photo above with you and Tom Katsouleas, the year, the events, etc.
Tony: Wow ! July is going to be 32 years. I worked three years as a JG Instructor and eight years as a W.A.T.E.R. Program Instructor. I believe the photo with Tom was taken at the Regional Championships at Laguna Niguel in 1982. This was following the race, which we won by the way.
CR: How about a memorable rescue ?
Tony: In the early days I worked SMS and late one day I saw a couple way out off Tower 17. As I reached the "victims" I realized that they weren't in distress, they were copulating. So it turned out to be a wet prevent.
CR: Who was in your rookie school class and who was a mentor for you in your early years of guarding.... and please don't say Arthur Verge. :-)
Tony: My rookie school included: Ron Pearlman, Mike Newman, Brad Schwitchenberg, Mike Moses, and those are just the names that stand out. Our instructors were Irwin Okamura, Bob Buchanan and Steve Saylors. It was Steve who convinced and taught Tom and I how to row. Racing dory's was great fun and I think Tom and I learned a lot working on the old SM boat.
Well, Art did encourage me to take the Lifeguard test, so I owe him something. As I mentioned, I was on schedule at SMS and doubled at Tower 18 with Abby Schneider. He had very good advice that he passed on to me. I can't forget Eddy Love who called me one day and said, "Do you wanna be our Sailing Instructor?" We were living in the San Joaquin Valley and I was coaching and substitute teaching at the time. "I don't know how to sail." "I'll teach you." I came down and he put me in a Sabot and let me go, but I learned.
CR: Any advice for the rookie lifeguard or first or second year guard?
Tony: There's always "Watch the Water" but I learned something else from Eddy Love; my first summer I was all over Venice. One day I'm at Ave. 21 sitting in the chair on the deck with my feet on the rail. Eddy came by, pointed up at the windows of Division and told me who sat in that office. He said, "It's not what you do, it's how you look." My feet came off the rail in a flash as I realized how important it was to behave in a professional manner. I've always kept that in mind and practice it on set and pass the sentiment on to new guards.
CR: How do you stay or keep in shape ?
Tony: Well, I've re-established a joy for swimming. I don't like someone giving me a workout but I can't make up workouts. Fortunately, a Google® search found a site that I love: www.swimplan.com It creates the sets and all I have to do is print them out.
CR: Tell us about this final photo below you recently shot of one of the new dept. hybrid rescue vehicles ?
Tony: Taken at Venice North this Spring. Enjoyable to drive but I don't have much experience with the vehicles.
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Thank you, Tony, for sharing with us your work on the set, and more importantly, some highlights of your 32 year LACo Recurrent Ocean Lifeguard career.
Until next time.....
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