The curse of being in this business this long is that you keep tripping over the same territory. Take Canwest’s announcement Wednesday that they are digging up the Kennedys for yet another made-in-Canada miniseries.
This new, eight-hour American Camelot rehash will get plenty of tabloid press with Tom Cruise's captive wife Katie Holmes cast as Jackie Kennedy. Greg Kinnear stars as JFK, with Barry Pepper playing brother Bobby Kennedy and Tom Wilkinson as diabolical Kennedy matriarch Joe. “The Kennedys” will shoot from June to September in Toronto and air on History channels in the U.S. and Canada early next year—just in time to mark the 50th anniversary of JFK banging Marilyn under Jackie’s nose at his inauguration.
My Kennedy flashback has to do with an afternoon I spent 23 or 24 years ago in Oshawa, Ont., at the old Col. Sam McLaughlin estate. The place was being turned into a studio for location work on a silly thing called “Hoover vs. The Kennedys: The Second Civil War.” This effort was not a hit with critics. “It’s not the bad taste, it’s the frivolity,” scolded the New York Times. “Makes Camelot look a lot worse than Knots Landing,” dismissed the Washington Post.
It didn’t help that this 1987 miniseries was just as badly miscast as this new one. The difference back in the old Cancon gold rush days was that there were plenty of Canadians in the cast, including a young Nicholas Campbell as Bobby Kennedy, Jennifer Dale as Jackie and Barry Morse as old Joe Kennedy. Cross-dressing FBI boss Hoover was half-heartedly impersonated by the great character actor Jack Warden. Busy journeyman Robert Pine was unremarkable as JFK. I remember him walking the McLaughlin estate, testing out the Kennedy cadence and trying not to heap on the Boston accent.
The person I was most taken with that day, however, was smoking hot Heather Thomas. The former Fall Guy pin-up had come north to play Marilyn Monroe in this epic. A few years earlier, Thomas’ ubiquitous bikini shot (right) was almost as popular as Farrah Fawcett’s best seller. A stint in rehab to try and kick a coke habit only made Thomas seem that much more, uh, interesting at the time.
I recall being led into her dimly-lit trailer. Thomas had the bluest peepers and I have to say I was pretty smitten. In a tossled, platinum blond wig, she was still in wardrobe as Monroe which made her extra hypnotic. It was like a double decker sex symbol encounter.
The publicist closed the door and left us to it. These days, you’re rarely left alone in a trailer with an ugly celebrity. Things were a little more casual back then. Sigh.
Thomas probably sized me up pretty quickly as Opie of the North. I’m sure I stammered and fumbled with what back then was probably a 14-pound tape recorder.
About a year before this, the Connecticut-born actress made headlines after she was smacked by a car and suffered fractures to both her legs. Going that extra mile to help me with the story, she stretched out her long, fabulous pins and suggested I give them a good look. Yes, I agreed, they seemed to be completely healed. Then, still working on her breathy Marilyn voice, she mentioned something about constantly needing to have her legs and thighs massaged. I really don’t remember anything after that; I think I might have passed out.
I never encountered Thomas on a TV set again. After a few roles here and there, she seemed to drop out of the biz. Now 52, she’s become a screenwriter and author. Her novel, Trophies—about trophy wives—was released in 2008.
Judging by recent shots posted on the Internet (including the one above right), she’s still pretty damn hot. If Global doesn’t hire her to play Marilyn in this new miniseries, maybe she could come north to punch up the script.