Production Diary: Doing a Rolf: Nice Work If You Can Get It

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Yes friends, that’s me. I’m asleep and getting paid for it. I’m outside on our deck doing a Rolf.

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That’s me, doing a Rolf

My client knows Final Cut Pro and I’ve left him to it. He works, I sleep. Clients love it when they are allowed to operate the camera or do some simple in-out editing.

From time to time he phones. “Hi Rolf, sorry to wake you but I need ...”

Groan, what a pest he is. I pull myself together and go down into the editing room.

Who’s Rolf?

Rolf Harris
Rolf Harris is a TV presenter, painter, singer and dancer. On camera a highly charged live wire, but turn the camera off and Rolf finds a chair, sofa, park bench, covers his face with a hat or newspaper and dozes off. Instantly. Zzzzzzz.

“Rolf, ready for the next shot.”

“And look at this little beauty, add a little bit of light, a little bit of shade.”

“Terrific, Rolf. Give us a minute to reposition the camera.”

Zzzzzz Zzzzz Zzzzzz.

“Rolf, next shot...”

“A little blue here, a dash of red—can you tell what it is yet?”

Zzzzz Zzzzz Zzzzzz.

Rolf on Location
I’m filming Rolf in Hill End, a now deserted gold mining town a few hundred miles northwest of Sydney. I never have to worry about where the star is. He’s in the back of the car, asleep. Zzzzzzz.

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Shoot over, I drive him to a small country railway station. He needs to be in Sydney tonight for his show at the Sheraton.

I buy his train ticket. Where’s Rolf? Could he be that tramp flat out on the bench covered in newspapers? Yep, that’s him. Zzzzzzz.

Neil Sedaka
On the deck, dozing off, I remember Neil Sedaka—the very opposite of Rolf.

Way back in ’73, I have an office in Stratford Place, just off Oxford Street, London. Polygram is directly opposite and one day they wander into my office and say that Sedaka is in town. They’d like me to film him playing a new song.

We cross the road and there he is. For the younger readers, Neil Sedaka was huge in the ’70s with eight U.S. Top Ten hits. Heck, even my spellcheck knows Sedaka.

I set up my lights and camera and off we go—or don’t go. The piano is out of tune. Neil is apologetic, says it’s just not good enough. Mr. Polygram thinks he can find a piano tuner. It’s Sunday, it’s raining...  He disappears and Tricia and I are left with the great man who proceeds to do a Sedaka.

Doing A Sedaka
“Give me a song—but not ‘Oh Carol.’”

“I really like ‘Laughter in the Rain.’”

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“Good choice—you’ll just have to live with an out-of-tune piano.”

He plays and sings.

We are getting a one-on-one concert.

“Another.”

“’Breaking Up Is Hard To Do.’”

He plays and sings.

“You know you don’t have to entertain us.”

“It’s what I do best. Here’s a piano piece I wrote—no name, not sure what to do with it.”

He plays—no singing.

“Name a song—not one of mine.”

Tricia comes up with “La Mer.”

“Charles Trenet—in French. I know the melody but not the lyrics.”

“La mer—Qu’on voit danser le long des golfes clairs,” says Tricia.

“French—gee, that’s tough. We’re having fun...”

Just then, Mr. Polygram arrives with the piano tuner. The fun stops—back to work.

Still, it’s nice work if you can get it.

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