Wednesday, February 6, 2013

How Diane met Hal

Diane Mahree was only 19 years old and just passing through Old El Paso when she met Hal in 1966.  She and her best friend were living in Aspen, Colorado, and, being adventurous young women living in adventurous times, they decided to take a road trip to Mexico.  So they loaded up Diane's VW van with clothes, camping gear, her dad's Phillips 66 fuel card, $12.00 dollars and set out.

Somewhere near  El Paso the engine just sort of blew up and they managed to limp into El Paso and to the shelter of Diane's parents home.  After taking the van to a garage, she learned the van needed a new engine, would cost a bundle and take a couple weeks for repair.  Stuck and broke, the girls set out to find jobs in the interim.  Diane's friend landed a job in a bank and Diane stopped in to talk to Fran Simon, the owner of Mannequin Manor Modeling School.  Diane had previously done modeling and hoped to find a couple paying gigs.  Fran had just been approached by Hal Warren who was looking for some girls to play extras in a new film he was doing in El Paso.  Although Diane had no acting experience she thought it sounded like an interesting prospect so made an appointment and went to see Hal.  She met him at his office where he asked her to do some script reading.  He kept her there for several hours reading and reading.  She began to wonder why things were taking so long and why he was spending so much time to decide whether to cast her for a simple part as an extra.  Then came the surprise.  "How would you like the lead?" Hal asked her.  To which she responded, "I've never acting in my life."  "That's OK.  If you do something wrong, I'll tell you."  She then agreed to the "job" which she learned would be shot at night and week ends to accommodate the other actors and crews daytime jobs. 

When Hal met Diane, he was scrambling to find a lead actress for the role of Margaret because he had just lost his first choice, a professional actress from Los Angeles.  This other actress had agreed to the part and traveled to El Paso to do the work.  Upon arrival, she quickly discovered she wasn't dealing with experienced movie makers, then had some disagreement and blow up with Hal before leaving in a huff.  She probably also discovered that the pay wasn't exactly guaranteed.  Diane then took the part of Margaret and soon discovered for herself that she would not be getting paid any time soon.  The filming of Manos: The Hands of Fate took about eight days to shoot and at the end, her van was repaired and the girls were ready to move on.  The good news for Diane was that her van ended up costing nothing and she got a new engine under warranty. 

Next Diane Mahree story.  How Hal signed her up for the Miss America Pageant in the hopes of promoting his film.