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Production Diary: Philippa Wets Her Pants and Other Scary Stories

I Turn Down A Job
“Sorry, John, no can do—I’m too scared.”

Sutro Tower

The job? Filming the San Francisco Sutro Tower. It’s about the same height as the Eiffel Tower, but while the Eiffel is on ground level, the Sutro is perched on top of the city’s highest peak.

Acrophobics Anonymous
I want to join. But it doesn’t exist. Instead, I turn to my cameraman/producer son-in-law.

“George, have you been up?” George is so macho. “Sutro Tower? Many times.”

“Were you scared?” “Me, never but one time I went up with cub reporter, Philippa. You’ve seen the tiny elevator—it fits two people squashed together.”

No Room at the Top
“Going up, you’re leaning to the left—then at about three quarters up the legs flare out and the elevator tilts the other way. Philippa freaks out.” “And?” “She wets herself. The good thing is, she forgets her fear of heights. We arrive at level six and get out. She looks for the restroom.”

“Which isn’t there.” “Right—no room at the top.”

George Is Scared
“George, you’re such an alpha male—aren’t you ever scared?”

“In Rwanda we had a guy following us with an AK-47.”

“Good guy or bad guy?” “Impossible to tell. He had one shoe on and the other off. Looked crazed out. Just kept following us. Hour after hour...”

“I was s**t scared he’d start shooting. Followed us wherever we went. The sun set and he just vanished.”

Stefan Is Scared
I had the same thing in L.A. I’d bought my Avid, $75,000, then the sales guy says, “Plus 8.5 percent California sales tax, but since you’re not a resident, I’ll ship it tax-free to Nevada.”

At Las Vegas FedEx, I collect my Avid. Drive out and there’s an LAPD cop car right behind me. They sit there in my rear vision mirror. I stop at Barstow for a bite. They park next to me. Eat at the next table.

I leave. They leave. Hours pass. Driving through L.A. at night and all the time they’re one car behind.”

“Not the same thing at all. Why be scared of two harmless cops?”

George Wets His Pants
“George, what about the time you were shooting over the Bay and the helicopter’s motor stopped. Weren’t you scared?”

Very scared—I’m falling off a speedboat—save the camera.

“No, it all happened too fast. We went into free fall. Hit the water. Splash. Went under and then bounced up—and yes, my pants got wet.”

Stefan Gets Wet Too
“I’m in New Zealand shooting from the side of a speedboat. I’m balancing my Éclair camera on my shoulder. I’m scared. We hit a wave. As I go over, I throw the camera to Rosemary.”

“Sorry, Stefan, my scary stories are way better than yours.”

He’s right—I need bigger and better scares. Maybe I’ll go up the tower.

SUTRO TOWER IS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC, ACROPHOBICS AND CUB REPORTERS.