Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, July 14, 2014

Death Stalk - Chuck Montgomery, Editor

     This is a follow-up on my previous post that compared starting and running a business today to a restaurant I built roughly forty years ago called the Relay Station.  I mentioned that movie crews would eat at my steak house when they happened to be filming in the Sonora area.  I received an interesting phone call from a good friend immediately after the blog was published.

            Chuck Montgomery has been a buddy of mine since kindergarten.  That may be hard to believe, but many of my friends today go back to the elementary school years.  My friendship with Chuck actually started at about 5 years of age.  Our mothers were best friends.
Life-long buddies.  Chuck Montgomery,
the ape man (me), John Chaffin and 

Jeff  Rochin, behind the camera.

            I want to feature Chuck in this article.  Chuck and I have had some good times through the years. There is a large group of us who have been friends since childhood.

Chuck receiving Eddie Award with wife Linda
            Chuck retired as a film editor in Hollywood and received the prestigious Eddie Award for his film editing.  Recently he was the editor for the COPS TV series, along with other movie and TV credits.  Chuck doesn’t talk about his achievements, but I watched him make his acceptance speech on TV (see photo).  He told me his tux didn’t fit right and I think he said he was concerned about his pants falling down, or that they were too long or something like that.  Fortunately there were no  "wardrobe malfunctions" and he made a good speech.

            Anyway, he called me after reading my post to tell me that one of the movie crews that ate at my restaurant was the crew from a 1975 film called, “Death Stalk.”  You may remember the movie.  Much of the action took place on the Tuolumne River, which was close to my restaurant. 

            He mentioned that he was the film editor on that movie, which surprised me.  He mentioned a number of the stars in the film, but I was only familiar with a few.  I had no idea that he was editing the film.  And that’s not the only major film he has edited.  As I said, he doesn’t talk about his accomplishments.

            Two of the main stars in that movie were Vince Edwards, who also played Dr. Ben Casey on TV, and Neville Brand, who has made over 40 movies and numerous TV shows, including the Laredo series in the ‘60s. 

Neville Brand
Neville Brand
            Brand is particularly interesting to me, because he was said to be the fourth most decorated WWII soldier, close behind Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated.  You would recognize Brand’s gravely voice as the tough guy he normally played in movies.  

Vince Edwards 
as Dr. Ben Casey
            Both men were among the movie crew from “Death Stalk,” who ate at our place.  I remember my partner in the restaurant business telling me that Vince Edwards was an arrogant jerk, who wanted to buck the line and be seated ahead others.  Our hostess angered him by refusing him special privileges.  He would always order a baked potato with the skin hollowed out and filled with butter.  Very weird.  That could be why he died in his sixties.

            Brand, on the other hand, was a very nice guy, who was always pleasant, very down-to-earth and modest, yet he had reason to be proud as the war hero he actually was.  It’s interesting to see how differently people react to fame. 

            I only visited my Sonora restaurant once a month or so, due to teaching and writing projects back in San Jose, so I missed most of the action at the restaurant.  It was interesting to me that Chuck confirmed my restaurant staff’s description of the difference between Edwards and Brand.

           Interestingly, I didn’t know that Chuck was the editor on the film even though he and I sat together at the Relay Station bar roughly 40 years ago, around the time the filming took place.  He didn't mention it then and only told me this week.  I'm proud of the little kid who sat in the circle with me as our kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Smith, read us stories.  I think that's what they did in kindergarten back then.  Now that kid is involved in the telling of stories.

            Chuck has always been very modest, a great guy, and a good friend.  He’s more like Neville Brand than Vince Edwards.


  1. I remember your bar& grill well. Though I never was inside we passed it often on our way to Pinecrest.

    The old stories are great! They are the easiest for most of us to remember! Can't even remember what I had for dinner last night!

    1. Don't feel bad, Ed. The old stories seem to come back easily, but I have to make Gayle wear a name tag. Seriously, Ed, if I had known I would have told Bill (my partner & manager) to give you and Darlene the best steaks you ever tasted.

  2. Ralph, I too remember to Pinecrest. We went by first when camping with my parents. Then later when Ray Giancola, Dick Roush and I went skiing above Pinecrest. I think it was called Dodge Ridge. Of course we either stayed in one of those dorms or slept in the car. Boy long time since I remembered that. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. You drove right past my restaurant. I also had a house I'd stay in when in Sonora, which was just up the road on top of a hill. I used to shoot trap off my back deck with a 12 gauge shotgun, but the valley below is now covered in houses.
      I used to go to Dodge Ridge to ski too. A friend of mine broke his ankle on the slope and kept skiing in circles not being able to put weight on one leg. I remember aiming him 90 degrees from the lodge, figuring that by the time he got down the hill, he'd end up at the target. It worked. Must have hurt, but I didn't want to carry him.

  3. I've really enjoyed your past two stories Ralph. Especially seeing the picture of your Mom. As you know, my Dad also owned a store in Pinecrest. We lived at Pinecrest Lake, and then moved to Long Barn. We were only little children, but what a wonderful place for kids to enjoy the great outdoors. Of course, moving to San Jose when I was ten, was a completely different life. I remember Chuck from church, and am so glad he has been successful in his life.

    1. "Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end..." Those song lyrics make me wonder how much more we may have appreciated those days of our youth if we knew that they would, in fact, end and that later in life we'd look back on them with much more appreciation.