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60 Minutes

"Matinee Idol" (Aug. 30, 1998)

Rod Taylor appears as one happy fella in this 15-minute segment of the Australian edition of "60 Minutes." Throughout the "scenes" of this segment -- conversing in his sun room, dining at Le Dome and toodling along in his shiny convertible -- this man exudes a zest for life and a love of his craft.

Reporter Jeff McMullen interviewed Taylor for the TV newsmagazine, which coincided with Taylor's appearance in "Welcome to Woop Woop," an outrageous Australian-made satire in which Taylor plays the "noble dinosaur," Daddy-O.

Because "Woop Woop" marked only the third time Taylor played an Australian in a Hollywood movie ("The VIPs" and "The High Commissioner" were the other two), the interview focused quite a bit on Aussie Taylor playing the "phony."

However, the prevailing chord the interview strikes is that this a genuine soul, full of exuberance, honesty and good stories.

In the course of discussing his career, Taylor does hilarious, dead-on imitations of Robert Newton's pirate, Long John Silver (right) and of "The Birds" director Alfred Hitchcock. Taylor "does" Hitch in a lively description of the scene in which he has to close a shutter against the birds:

They had all these seagulls -- by now very angry -- in a kind of box. And at the end of the box was a replica of the window of the house, and I was supposed to reach in and close the shutters of the window.

Well ... as I reach in ... these birds are eating my arm, and Hitchcock would say, "Lovely. More. Wait there Rod. No, wait there Rod." They're eating my arm! "No, wait a minute. All right. Cut."

I'm bleeding and shredded....

As the setting changes from a conversation in Taylor's Beverly Hills home to a Sunset Boulevard restaurant called Le Dome, the interviewer and his subject are joined by Rod's wife, Carol Kikumura. McMullen's voice-over tells us that Carol was a young actress and dancer when Rod was one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors, but after a brief friendship, they went their separate ways for 20 years. Taylor picks up the story...

We had drifted apart and lived different lives, and I had a marriage and everything. ... She called me up and she said, "I just saw you on television, and you're fat." And I said, "Get your ass over here and say that!"

And Carol came over, and we met and we giggled. And we had a bottle of wine. And we played a game of snooker. And ... after all that time, we decided, "This is nice ..."

In an insightful moment, McMullen asked Taylor about being the first swashbuckling Australian since Errol Flynn and living up to Flynn's legacy. Taylor replied:

That disappointed me ... because I was not a huge admirer of Flynn. I loved what he presented on screen. But his private life wasn't all that could be desired, really, and people kind of took it for granted that I was just as much a reprobate as he was. And that disappointed me a little.

And they also expected me to be as tall and good-looking and dashing, which I wasn't. So that pissed me off -- to have to live up to that, too!"

Rod doesn't seem to have the same appreciation for his looks that others do, saying at another point that...

I was one of the first of the uglies.... Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter ... were very pretty fellows, and that was the trend. I was one of the first of the uglies to get lucky.

McMullen follows up that comment by observing, astutely, "It was not looks but sheer talent that landed Rod the starring role in the cinema classic 'The Birds.'" And the interviewer was equally on-target at the end of the segment, when he summed up: "Daddy-O is larger than life, but then, so is Rod Taylor."



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