Donna M. Patterson-Goad
The morning was cool and crisp with a touch of fall in he air. Allan Hunt, one of the stars ofVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, prepared for yet another interview. A time and place had been set for a late breakfast and conversation. The place was a charming coffee shop in Sherman Oaks, CA called the Lamplighter. A bright green awing hung over the patio area as the smell of home-style cooking filled the air. It was easy to see why the location had been selected; it suited Allan perfectly.
He arrived wearing a beige shirt and olive green shorts. He greeted the hostess and was escorted to the table where the interview would take place. A waitress arrived and took the breakfast orders. Soon pancakes, omelets, and orange juice were placed on the table. Allan doesn't drink coffee; wonder how he handles mornings without it.
Shortly, the dishes were cleared away, and one coffee cup refilled (there are some of us who need caffeine in some form.) After a few technical problems with equipment were worked out, the conversation turned to Allan Hunt as a person. Behind his warm eyes and handsome face dwells the soul of an artist and creator.
Many fans would like to know : who is Allan Hunt? Sure, he is more than just the character of Stu Riley that we've watched and enjoyed for so long. His answer was pure Allan.
"Oh that's the question for me. You know that's something I'd like to know myself. When you find out, Donna, will you please tell me because I really can't make heads or tails myself."
His smile warmed deeply as he thought more intensely about the question.
"Oh I see, hobbies, political interests. I'm a native Californian. Born here, lived here all my life. Because of work I travel a lot. I'm in New York. I may be on a film or I may be directing something, but basically LA has been home. It always has been. I went to UCLA and the Pasadena Playhouse. I 've loved drama from the very beginning. It was an easy decision for me growing up. I knew what I wanted to do. Never went through those vocational struggles growing up. I knew what I wanted to be, and everything I've ever done has been in and around theater including my time in the service."(Allan trained as a Marine at El Toro Marine Air Station then was transferred to Special Services with the Army.) "I could direct shows for the overseas entertainment division. They figured I was better doing that then whatever else I was trained for and they were right."
"I am the father of two. The boys are doing very well. One is at the Chicago Art Institute getting a Masters degree but neither are interested in the business. They were in plays all their lives with me and even did a couple of commercials over the years, but I knew they didn't have the bug, that bite you have when youré working.
So, they were encouraged but never pushed in any direction."
"I was married for seventeen years, and we were separated in 1986 and divorced in 1992. We were friendly, very easy about doing it. We moved in separate directions. We're still good friends. She helped me with my pictures yesterday. We still advise each other and help each other."
Allan took an active role as a parent with his two boys Ashley and Christian. Ashley is the eldest and studying in Chicago. Christian attends school in Santa Barbara.
"One of the unusual features of being in action films and on stage is that it allows for considerable 'down time.' I coached both my sons in Little League & studied piano and violin with them. As kids Idirected them in several productions, Fiddler on the Roof for one."
Allan is never short on answering questions, but so little was been written about his parents and his life as a child. His father was from Atlanta (no wonder Allan is so much a gentleman) and his mother is from LA. The Hunts divorced when Allan was only five.
"I really didn't know my father. My brothers, two sisters and I were raised by the family. We were living with my grandparents a bit, lived with my aunt and uncle for awhile."
Allan grew up loving the theater. He and his siblings had time on their hands and often made up plays in their backyard.
"My grandparents were very musical. Both of them played and studied even playing in concert. My grandmother was a vocal coach for years. My mother's sister is Marsha Hunt. She's an actress of some note more or less; our parents knew who she is. We don't. (There are those of us who do remember.) Marsha is my neighbor and she is a dear friend as well as my relative."
Allan gets a chance to work with his aunt occasionally. Recently, they collaborated on a production of On Golden Pond with William Windom. Ms. Hunt received a best actress award from the Valley Theater League for her performance. Allan got to see and chat with Bill Windom this last summer at StarCon '97. "It was so funny, we were across the table from each other waving."
Did you ever wonder why people select their careers? Many times they are selected for them by the family. Some people work for years and never accomplish their dream. Allan was lucky, his dreams of acting and directing became a reality.
"The directing is really an off-shoot from the acting. They're very closely related in my mind. I don't know anyone who just sets off to be a director. Although it seems to me every successful writer, producer, director, or screen writer were always actors first. That's the dream I guess; sooner or later you branch off into something more sensible. In my case, when I was in school I use to direct workshop scenes as an assignment in acting class. I always loved directing. I loved the angle that directing comes from. It was so closely related to the acting that I found myself very much in tune with what was needed. I thought I liked working with actors because I was one myself. I think that's why I've had some success with it. I understand and come from an actor's standpoint. So, I hope to be directing more films. I 've been doing mostly directing in stage productions.
In the film, you have to learn a certain side of the technical aspect, but once you know that part, it's still the directing the acting. That's why it's so natural for me."
Over the years the stories of Irwin Allen have abounded. Many involve outrageous actions on his part. Some involve Mr. Allen trying to over-power the actors and be a general pain in the lower forty. But the truth is he was a true genius. Allan did have a few "clean " Irwin Allen stories, or as he put it, after laughing, then smiling, as he remembered the man who gave him a great role when he was only twenty.
"Yes, let's see, no swearing. He was a pretty good profanity expert. I can tell you, Irwin, Mr. Allen, was a tempestuous highly energetic potentially explosive man. When he would come on the set, everyone would just tense up because he was always very nervous, high strung about things . I always felt he was like a race horse you had to stroke and calm down about things. But of course as a producer you live up there in those high winds with the budget. I remember one morning a director was late, very late; and that was unusual for a director to be late. It held up shooting for about a 1/2 hour. Irwin was beside himself. He'd come down on the set. He was going to direct the production himself. Sutton Roley was the name of the director who was late. I think it was The Phantom. I think he did that one. He was so apologetic and Irwin Allen was ***&&%$#^%*&^$###, etc. "
"The story I thought may be funny is that when I was first approached for the part of Stu Riley, I never met Irwin Allen. He had all these assistants, casting directors, who would sort of filter the people along if you kept making the cut, you would work your way up to Mr. Allen."
"The day I was called in after this screen test it was to meet Mr. Allen and I know now, later that was just for a hand shake. I pretty much already had the part. It was just a formality. I didn't know that at the time, so my heart was really pounding when I went in there. I thought a great deal was at stake there. Irwin Allen's nature was such where he would just address you and get on to the next thing. Maybe you heard Paul Carr's very funny story about the airport when he had not seen Paul for three years and he says, 'What are you doing here.' Not 'hi, how are ya, remember me. I remember you '. Just, 'what are you doing here'. Cuts right to the chase."
"Well, when I was brought into Mr. Allen's office the first thing that hit me was the hugeness of the room. He had scale models of submarines, flying saucers and things suspended from the ceiling like a great toy store. He loved gadgets. Joe D'Augusta, the casting director who accompanied me down across the lot to meet Irwin Allen, went to a door to announce that we were waiting. Joe motioned for me to get up. We were about to walk into Irwin Allen's office when the door was opened to the office and Irwin Allen himself is meeting us in the doorway. We're all just log jammed there in the doorway. Joe says, 'Irwin Allen I'd like you to meet Allan Hunt and Irwin just looks at me for the moment turns back and says "he's too tall". No 'hi, hello, how are you'. No shake the hands. He just suddenly went 'he's too tall'. "
"Apparently Richard was sensitive about his 5 ft. 8 inches or 5 ft 9 inches yardage. Although, David is 6 ft 2 inches and it didn't hurt his chances any. It seemed to greatly effect mine so I don't know why, but I said something really stupid like-'No, no, I slouch beautifully. I 'm a good sloucher'. It did not go over. But anyway he asked a couple of questions and just shook his head about how tall I was and went back into his office. So, I had no idea if I had blown it but I fully expected to get another phone call with maybe a screen test or something. "
"The next day my agents called to say they wanted to make a deal. I said 'you're kidding'. They said 'no, they love you. You start in July.' This was like in May or June. So, a lot happen with out me knowing about it."
" Normally as an actor, you are very much in on things until the door shuts and they discuss you. That was my first meeting with Mr. Allen. I must include this, Donna, and this I say endearingly about Irwin Allen. I think everyone has funny stories. This was really a dear man who was sincere, an innovator, a man of vision. At one time, he had three one hour color shows on television which was is unheard of. In those days, not all shows were in color. In fact, Voyage was renewed in the second season in color. That's the year I was added to the show. It had been in black & white the other year. To have Voyage, Lost in Space, & Time Tunnel all going at the same time was a remarkable achievement. I do tell funny stories at his expense. I must add that."
For Allan to say who he learned the most from wasn't easy but his answer brought back memories of a man whose voice can still be heard in all our minds playing the role of Admiral Nelson. "Richard. Richard, was the consummate actor and had the kind of experience that made him so overly qualified for the role of Admiral Nelson. He could have phoned that part in. Of course he didn't, that's not the way he worked. I always felt that Richard was slightly uncomfortable at being on the show. He'd done La Strada. He had done everything. I think he was happy for the career it was and of course the money couldn't hurt. I know he probably wished he was doing A Mid Summers Nights Dream somewhere. Watching Richard work was really great. For some reason he was especially nice to me. Being the kid, I was the butt of a lot of jokes. The crew would give me a rassing once and awhile. It's OK, it goes with the territory when you're the youngest. Felt like a freshman in college. Not Richard, he always took a moment to call me over ask how I was doing. He and Diana gave me a really sweet Christmas present. A personal gift that was not a basket of fruit that everybody gave everybody. He thought something out, something about us that we had talked about. A very nice man. "
There are people who have influenced Allan's life from all aspects. Professionally he admires the greats - Olivier, Burton, O'Toole. Some of the wonderful British actors who have graced the stage. "Personally, in my life is my aunt Marsha's husband Robert. Robert Presnal, Jr. He was a screen writer. I had no father, so Robert sort of filled in that gap whether he wanted to or not. He was sort of pushed into it. He greatly influenced my way of thinking. Some of my views of the world around me and my views on politics and personal relationships were influenced by him."
So far, you know Allan as an actor, director and father. Did you know he writes music?
In an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea entitled "Escape from Venice", Stu has to copy the notes of a song. Yes, this is just another part of acting to pretend to write something on paper. Allan can write and play music.
"I still remember that melody. I don't know why. I can remember dialogue from the Donna Reed Show and forget my neighbor's name. I do remember the theme from "Escape from Venice". I compose as well. I play piano. I'm an accomplished ragtime piano player. I'm a member of the Scott Joplin Ragtime Maple Leaf Society. It's just a hobby, but I love it."
Allan is always busy. Everybody has to take a break some time in their lives. When he does take five minutes he likes to play racquetball.
"I've played over the years to where I play in tournaments. I play in the celebrity tournaments. There is one in Albuquerque, NM. I was invited to play in this one because of being an anchor for CBS news at one point in my career. It's great not only for being in shape but for the heart as well. It also just kinda clears the head. I love sports."
Careers? Some people have a choice in what they do for a living. Some do not. If you had to change careers, what would it be? Allan had recently had the chance to give that question some thought.
"Friends of mine that are connected to the BelAir church here asked if I'd ever considered becoming a mediator. I said no. They were telling me it is a separate vocation you have to train for. You become sort of a go-between in disputes. Not just martial stuff, you know small claims court things like that. Apparently they seemed to think I have the temperament to handle this sort of thing. It seems I'd be suited for this and the more I thought about it the more I really liked the idea. So I suppose it could be something like that. Ambassador, mentor or some kind of liaison."
Recently the subject of fan clubs have come to the forefront with all the info out there in cyberspace on the stars. What do the stars think of fan clubs? What about over the years have fan clubs had any effect on Allan?
"I haven't had direct contact with any of the fan clubs. I 've seen only the good side of fan clubs. Basically everyone that I have seen have great hearts. They all seem to have a love for this genre. The British fan club is so charming, so nice. They've called a couple of times. They've sent me memorabilia and sent me articles that I never knew were written about me. I was very grateful to receive them. My experiences has been very good with them."
The production of fanzines can be a creative outlet for the active mind of a fan. They take their favorite character one step more than what was on the screen, 'to boldly go where no fan or character has gone before.' Allan thinks it could be fun.
"I remember the plot of a play where Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer meet again after forty years. This is not Mark Twain's intention. He stopped them at thirteen with these two boys. You don't know what happens in their adult years. That wasn't the point of the story. He kept them as boys at thirteen. Thirteen is the edge of becoming different people. So in regard whoever created the characters they might have something to say about the world they created and how it's used. I think the idea is wonderful. I think it is very funny and it would be fun to read some of them."
With tape winding down and the sun climbing higher on the bright California sky, some final comments from Allan.
" I am so grateful whatever fates that have allowed Voyage to resurface at this time. You got the pun, resurface. Did you get that, Donna? God save us. I really am overwhelmed at the last couple of conventions. There is so much love. This is Stu Riley down in squad bay and going back to sick bay. I'm very happy that this has all come about."
A personal note from Donna:
I've interviewed many wonderful stars in the last few years but I must say how much I loved spending the morning with Allan. He is so real, so much like rich French Vanilla ice cream. The purity is there with all the flavor and texture of a real person.
** To me French Vanilla ice cream is the best there is. **
To Allan, you are best there is, thanks.