Sunday, September 18, 2011

Schmidt on JDM and Dorothy

The only time I ever saw John lose his temper was in defense of [his wife] Dorothy. We were covering the Coppolino trial in Naples [Florida], and at the trial was an actor by the name of Brad Dexter. His claim to fame was that he had appeared in a movie with Frank Sinatra called Never So Few [sic]. In the process of this movie, when they were filming -- it was a World War II movie -- they were storming the beaches. Sinatra and Brad Dexter and all the actors were disembarking from the LST, and Sinatra happened to fall into a sink hole and was about to drown. Dexter was a much larger man, and he reached over and pulled him out by the collar, saved his life. It was a matter of weeks that Dexter was a producer in Hollywood.

He happened to show up at the Coppolino trial in Naples because he was producing a movie called The Lawyer, based loosely on the Sam Shepherd case. That eventually evolved into a TV series called Petrocelli.

Anyway, during one of the breaks in the trial, John and Dorothy and myself, along with other reporters, were gathered around the coffee bar. Dexter and F. Lee Bailey had come back from a three or four martini lunch. Dexter was using some really foul language, and John cautioned him not to do that. Not only was Dorothy there, but Theo Wilson, a [female] reporter for the New York Daily News among other women [were] standing around. He persisted, and you could just see John starting to turn red. Finally he challenged the guy. Doc Quade, a reporter for the United Press International and myself had to physically restrain John from going after Brad Dexter because he could not tolerate that kind of language or that disrespect. Dexter backed down; he left and he never came back -- he didn't appear in the courtroom after that. In fact, I never saw him again after that.

Dorothy was a very important, a very important part of his life. After every session of the trial, we would go back to the apartment. We stayed at the Edgewater Beach Hotel. Dorothy was always there with cherry tomatoes and cashew nuts, and all these cheeses and snacks; and we would sit and rehash the whole day's trial. She would give her input and she was part of the whole creative process. She was a wonderful, wonderful person...

John was very high on Jack Lord [portraying Travis McGee in the movies]. Jack Lord in his early career played in a very short-lived TV show called Stoney Burke. John and Dorothy were both fans of the show, and we thought that Jack Lord had expressed an interest in playing Travis McGee. I remember John telling me he had all the moves. He had the look of a sailor. He would probably be good for the part, and then Lord... started appearing in Hawaii Five-O. He was still interested in Travis McGee, but Dorothy watched his performance and she finally said, "John, all he does is act with his teeth!" And that was the end of Travis. Jack Lord, he lost his chance to play Travis McGee. She was a wonderful person; John was a wonderful man. I was fortunate in knowing them when I was in my early twenties, and... he was a very fatherly figure.

-- Journalist John Pete Schmidt, JDM friend and collaborator, reminiscing at the Sixth JDM Conference (November 1996) in Sarasota, Florida. A transcription of the panel discussion appeared in the 59th issue of the JDM Bibliophile. Schmidt worked with MacDonald on his 1968 Coppolino book No Deadly Drug.


  1. I've always liked Brad Dexter as an actor. He was good at playing villains and one of his best was the sleazy private eye in ASPHALT JUNGLE. He ends up getting shot because of his big mouth. Sorry he pissed off JDM.

  2. Dexter was great in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, a much better movie than the book it was based on. And he wouldn't be the first guy to be undone by one drink too many.