INTERVIEW WITH HAWLEY SMOOT, TEN PERCENTER MAGAZINE, JULY, 1997
The following is an interview with Frank’s second agent, Hawley Smoot, unedited. Excerpts of this interview appeared in Ten Percenter magazine (“The Magazine for Agents by Agents”) as part of a feature entitled “Resuscitating the Dead – When You Have a Star that’s lost Its Luster”. Thanks to the tape recordings of the interviewer, Stan Shebak, we are able to show you the interview in its entirety.
At the time of the interview, Hawley did not know the topic of the article and has since sued the magazine for libel, claiming that Frank Belmondo is not dead. The magazine claims that the title of the article is merely referring to Belmondo’s career and has nothing to do with his state of being. The case has not yet gone to trial, but according to Smoot, he feels “oddly confident” that things will go in his favor.
10%: Hawley Smoot, that’s an interesting name. Were you named after the 1930 tariff act that was passed during the Hoover administration?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yes, as a matter of fact, I was. My mother named me. She was a big fan of tariffs, actually, although I have no idea why. She was originally going to name me Payne Aldrich, after a 1909 tariff during the Taft administration. She went with Hawley Smoot, instead. Smoot’s actually my middle name.
10%: I did not know that. What’s your last name?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I’d rather not say.
10%: Alright then…since your mother is so interested in tariffs, did she know that the passing of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act was one of the measures that helped put us deeper into the Great Depression? It was quite detrimental to the United States economy, I do believe.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Well, she was a big fan of tariffs, but I think that she wasn’t very knowledgeable about them. She was like – you know the people in the first ten rows of a Lakers game? They’re constantly there, they know an event is occurring in front of them, yet they can’t tell you anything relevant about it. My mom was that way with tariffs. If she had realized the effects of Hawley-Smoot, maybe she would have named me differently. But my mom was a good woman. Very strong, like an ox. Broad back for a woman, God love her. I think that is one of the things that Frank and I have in common – we both have physically strong mothers.
10%: So, you’re fairly new in the agent business…what was your previous occupation?
HAWLEY SMOOT: It’s not my previous occupation; I still do it, on the side. I’m in the import-export business, but I’m much stronger in regard to the export side.
10%: That’s funny.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Why?
10%: Well, you’re named after a tariff act, and you’re in the import-export business.
HAWLEY SMOOT: I had never thought of that. Huh. Somebody should write that down.
10%: I just did.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Good, that’s good.
10%: What do you export?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Things that need to be sent out of the country.
10%: Such as…?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Things that are sold elsewhere.
10%: You’re not going to tell me exactly what you export, are you?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I don’t see that happening at any time during this interview. Nothing illegal, mind you, but I refuse to discuss it. There are many eyes and ears out there.
10%: Fair enough.
HAWLEY SMOOT: I’ll just say this – it has absolutely nothing to do with monkeys.
10%: I don’t even know how to respond to that. Let’s change the subject. How do you go from the import-export business to talent management?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I had been helping out one of my neighbors, Wink Martindale (former host of the game show Tic-Tac-Dough), with some business advice, and I had realized that I was pretty good at it. It had gotten to the point that Wink made me his unofficial business manager. While that was quite lucrative, I wanted to do more in the entertainment industry. I wanted to be making deals. That’s when Frank Belmondo came into my life.
10%: What was your first meeting with Frank like?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Well, he was going through a spiritual low point in his life. Professionally, he wasn’t too hot, either. I saw him at the Circle Bar, this joint that I used to frequent. He was trying to master the art of Hi-Ball consumption, if you know what I mean. He wasn’t very good at it, either. Some drunks have style – Peter O’Toole was a great drinker, and Bukowski…even Foster Brooks, he had his own thing. Dean Martin, William Faulkner…anyway, I’m rambling. With Frank, the only personality traits that he had as a drunk were mumbling and sweating profusely. You can’t even pick up bar floozies looking for a free drink with that going for you. Luckily for him, I recognized Frank from the tabloids, and I offered to help.
10%: What was your plan of action in regard to rejuvenating Frank’s career?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Fortunately for me, Frank’s career arc couldn’t get any lower. My first step was to give Frank a sense of stability. I had to get Frank off of the idea of being a drunk. Not to quit drinking, exactly, just to not do it in excess. I’d be a hypocrite if I told anybody to quit drinking. I like a nice shot of Johnny Walker Black just as much as the next person. Besides, Frank had only been a drunk for about two weeks, so he wasn’t in too deep. After getting that working, I had to get Frank to trust me.
10%: How did you do that?
HAWLEY SMOOT: I knew that Frank was an outdoorsman of sorts, so I took him puma hunting.
10%: Puma hunting?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yeah.
10%: Aren’t puma an endangered species? You can’t hunt puma.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Not if it is done in defense.
10%: How is it done in defense?
HAWLEY SMOOT: We’d use one of the members of the tour group as a lure, more or less.
10%: What do you mean by “a lure, more or less”?
HAWLEY SMOOT: The person who pulled the short straw would have to wear a meat necklace.
10%: A meat necklace?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Yeah.
10%: What’s a—
HAWLEY SMOOT: It’s a necklace made of meat…marinated tri-tip, to be exact. When the puma would come out and try to get the meat necklace, we would have to defend the guy with the lure…I’m saying too much.
10%: This all sounds morally reprehensible.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, we’re not here to talk about ethics or morals. We’re here to talk about talent management and representation. Anyway, we learned a lot about each other on that trip. We’re both alpha males. We both wanted to lead the hunt. Also, Frank is an excellent marksman. Those two weeks that Frank tried to be a drunk didn’t seem to affect him at all. In fact, he seemed invigorated. I knew that we had him on the right track.
10%: What kind of work were you looking for Frank? What was your battle plan?
HAWLEY SMOOT: We couldn’t just make Frank into a superstar. We had two choices: work the grass roots movement, or go the kitschy route. Since Quentin Tarantino wasn’t calling to give Frank a part in his next movie, we went the grass roots route. Meet the people. Maybe from that we’d get a call from Quentin. We had him appear on a bunch of local morning radio shows. I told Frank to just be honest. Spill the beans. People want to hear all of the sordid stuff, sex, drugs and the like. Give the people what they want.
10%: Isn’t that a little humiliating?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, it worked so well that it got him a regular gig on a morning show in Los Angeles, Marky Stark and his Funny Bunch. He appeared as one of their Band of Loonies, along with Francisco the Midget Accordion Player, Ben with the Lazy Eye, and Clara the Dyslexic Transsexual Court Stenographer.
10%: A guy with a lazy eye on the radio? I don’t get it.
HAWLEY SMOOT: Between the two of us, he didn’t really have a lazy eye, but I didn’t get the whole joke, either. But, hey, morning radio is a tough business, and you’d be surprised how much mileage they got out of that. The kids just ate it up.
10%: I believe it was that time on the radio show that Frank got a small part in a film, correct?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Hey, you did your homework! Yeah, this music video director, his name was Skye Comanche, he had directed a bunch of videos for Ludacris or Ja Rule or somebody like that, and he had his first feature. It was one of those urban street dramas that are supposed to be cautionary tales but end up glamorizing the whole gangsta scene, with the Cristal and bling-bling and all that. Frank played White Devil #3. It gave Frank some much-needed street cred.
10%: Where, in the grand scheme of things, do you see Frank in the near future?
HAWLEY SMOOT: Frank Belmondo is a special talent. Truly underrated. Someday there’s going to be a visionary who is going to be able to harness his talent and bring him back to the stratosphere where he belongs. So I say to the casting directors, film producers and student filmmakers of the world, take a chance on Frank. You may be pleasantly surprised.
(To see Chapter 13, click here)
(To see Chapter 13, click here)