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Cinema Audio Society (8 March 2003)

39th Annual Awards Banquet

When the Cinema Audio Society chose Charles M. Wilborn (boom operator and sound mixer during the 1968-69 season of Hawaii Five-O) as the recipient of their annual Career Achievement Award, his long-time friend and co-worker James MacArthur was asked to speak at the awards banquet. Presented below is the text of James MacArthur's remarks:

"Good evening. I’m very happy to be here tonight on behalf of my dear friend Charlie Wilborn.

"It was in the late sixties that I got a call from CBS to do a cop show pilot. This I agreed to do, and my first day on the set I met a young guy who was witty, intelligent, handsome, athletic, and charming. Everybody liked him -- especially the ladies!

"His name, of course, was -- Burt Reynolds! The name of the show was Lassiter and I got killed in the first half. I guess they thought I wasn’t a very good cop!

"Anyhow, I met another guy on that show who was named Charlie Wilborn. He wasn’t quite as impressed with himself as Burt, but he was a good guy and we had some good times together.

"The next time I saw Charlie was in a Honolulu bar in 1968. I was in Hawaii getting another chance to play a cop and Charlie was on the boom. But he was on a different mission the day we met.

"It seems a bunch of guys on the crew had selected Charlie to go scout out the best watering holes. I couldn’t imagine what made them think he was the right man for the job!

"It didn’t take long to figure it out though. We had only one day off a week -- Sunday. And Charlie knew exactly how we were going to spend that holy day.

"Around ten o’clock a bunch of us, crew guys and wives, girlfriends -- about 10 to 12 people -- we’d gather on the beach at Diamond Head where we were staying. The price of admission was you had to bring whatever opened bottles of booze you had at home. Charlie had a five-gallon plastic cooler full of ice and fruit juice, into which the leftover hooch would be thrown. The mix had vodka, gin, Scotch, bourbon, tequila, Scnapps, and who knows what else. Then a couple of slabs of pineapple to appease the local gods. This was Charlie’s Island Sangria. Needless to say, we were all soon filled with the aloha spirit. I wish I could remember all the fun we had!

"But on the set Charlie was always the consummate professional. It was rare when he wasn’t one step ahead.

"One day I thought I could get one step ahead of him. He showed up on the set with a brand new, shiny green Schwinn bicycle. The location was a mansion on the beach near where we all lived, so he was able to pedal to work. It was obvious that he was really proud of his new acquisition, and during the morning he was seen polishing the chrome and generally fussing over his new toy. I decided it would look good in the pool, so when he was busy, I got it in.

"I had it standing in the deep end with the kickstand working and everything.

"Charlie was frantic when he couldn’t find the bicycle, but eventually somebody took pity on him and pointed it out in the pool. Now he had to dive down and get it out and so on. As he surfaced with the bike, I said, “Charlie, that’s the first amphibious bike I’ve ever seen.” Chortle, chortle.

"Now, he thinks I did it, but he’s not sure.

"Anyway, he finds out it was me and waits until the last shot of the night. We’re shooting late, and everybody’s on golden time, but the last shot is on me. He goes to Bobby Morrison, the operator, and says, “Where are we cutting?” Bobby says, “It’s a choker.” That was all he needed.

"I stand on the marks, do the last rehearsal, and get hit with a bucket of water from the chest down!

"I couldn’t believe it. I’m heading for the dressing room and shouting “Make-up! Wardrobe!” Thinking this is going to take time and the producer is really going to be pissed. Which makes me think that Charlie’s got to be thinking how planes fly two ways.

"I stopped in my tracks and rushed back to the marks and said, “You can’t see the water from this angle. Let’s shoot.”

"One take. Cut. Print. We’re off gold.

"Charlie comes up and says, “That’s a nice amphibious suit you’re wearing.”

"Nobody got fired! But I did lose my buddy anyway.

"After the first season of Five-O, Charlie decided the island wasn’t big enough for him and Jack Lord. Anyway, he wanted to work with lesser luminaries like Stallone and Redford, directors like Frankenheimer, Jewison, Coppola, Hill, Ephron, Peckinpah, Pollock, Keaton, Crighton, and Scorsese.

"One could go on and on, but suffice it to say it is no surprise that a man with this impressive list of credits would be chosen by his peers in the sound industry as the recipient of this magnificent honor.

"Of course, it is also the time to look back and see what it is that caused Charlie to be the one getting this award tonight. Why was he picked? I think I have the answer, but first I want you to know that Charlie is more than just a husband, father, and brilliant sound guy. He’s a poet, a visionary, a philosopher, a man with a mission. He brought all this to the pictures he worked on. The evidence is overwhelming. The real Charlie is found in the body of his work.

"Let’s take a look at just a few of these projects and see what they say to us about Charlie Wilborn.

"A prime example is Godfather II -- a movie rife with immorality, anti-social behavior, duplicity, and corruption.

"Then there was John Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang.

"Carl Reiner’s The Jerk.

"Or how about the Rocky series -- the story of an ill-tempered, unmannered, down-on-his-luck nobody who uses his body to get what he wants out of life.

"And -- my personal favorite -- Over the Top. A movie which not only encapsulates our man’s personality in a nutshell, but which also gave us a rare chance to see Charlie on camera.

"I think that was his only performance -- on film!

"Guess once was enough, eh, Charlie?

"Finally, there’s Stuart Little II -- a film about a mouse, or a rat, or some sort of rodent. Its tag line was “A little goes a long way...”

"But to all your friends in this room, there is rarely enough of you, Charlie, and never too much!"

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