For Streamline Pictures, it was all slowly going downhill from 1997 on. The contract with Orion kept us from acquiring any new anime product or renewing our expiring licenses. Without any new anime, Streamline was not making enough money to survive. The staff gradually was laid off as Streamline no longer needed people, and could not meet its payroll. When it became obvious that Streamline would not be able to continue to afford the rent on its two-story building in Santa Monica, Streamline Pictures Modelworks was closed and its workshop dismantled.
On May 5, 1997, Streamline moved from 2908 Nebraska Avenue, Santa Monica, to Suite 100 at 8620 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills – the “poor end” of Beverly Hills – across a courtyard from Carl’s friend Philippe Diaz’s Sceneries Entertainment. The new Streamline office was so small and unimpressive that we didn’t even use it for our mailing address. We used the Sceneries office next door, 8624 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90211-3006. By then, I was the only Streamline employee remaining.
Sceneries had another, much larger office at 1660 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401-3245; the last street before the Pacific Ocean beaches. It was empty for eleven months of the year. Sceneries used it only during the annual American Film Market in November, when Santa Monica was filled with representatives of international studios trying to sell their movies to American film and video companies. When Streamline closed its Nebraska Avenue building, Diaz let us use his Ocean Avenue building as a warehouse for our 35mm films and theatrical posters, and remaining stock of videos. (Even though most of Streamline’s theatrical licenses had expired or were expiring, none of the Japanese studios wanted to reclaim the 35mm copies. They had been shown so often that, if the Japanese studios had wanted to relicense them in America, they would need new prints and dubbings made; and a separate license to use Carl’s English dubbings.) The mostly not-to-be-shown 35mm prints took up a LOT of room.
Carl handled Streamline’s paperwork and business from the Beverly Hills office or from his home, and I was assigned to the 1660 Ocean Avenue office, mainly to keep a live presence in the building so it wasn’t burglarized. One of my early assignments there was to translate Sceneries’ French shooting script for La Voie Royale into English, also for Diaz to give to potential investors. Another assignment was to translate what was then the final volume of Edgar Pierre Jacobs’ “Blake et Mortimer” bande dessinée thrillers, Les 3 Formules du Prof. Satō, into English. The empty office was great to work in on the translations without interruptions. (Incidentally, I had been a big fan of Jacobs’ “Blake et Mortimer” series since the 1960s, and I highly recommend the books as excellent examples in comic-book form of Conan Doyle-type detective fiction combined with H. G. Wells-type science-fiction.)
For four years from 1997 to 2001, I was Streamline’s “Santa Monica manager”, all by myself. When we got a theatrical booking for one of Streamline’s remaining movies (the number slowly shrank as Streamline’s licenses expired), I would load the 35mm reels into one or two large octagonal Goldberg film cans, weighing 55 lbs. apiece fully loaded (I had to weigh them for the shipping companies) and set them out to be picked up. Orders for videos were usually small enough that they went to the Beverly Hills office to be picked up. There were also occasional orders from Amazon.com for a resupply of Streamline’s two books. Johnson’s Twilight Zone Stories far outsold Cabeen’s horror fiction & poetry.
During October and early November, just before and during the American Film Market, I would help the Sceneries staff get the Streamline material out of sight and decorate the office for the AFM. We usually hosted at least one champagne reception during each AFM. I doubled as a Sceneries employee during the AFM, which got me into the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and other central marketplaces of the AFM. I visited all the representatives of foreign theatrical animation to collect their colorful brochures and other free samples.
But most of the time during those four years, I was alone with nothing to do. I wasn’t bored, though. In many respects it was an ideal time for me. I was allowed to bring my Selectric typewriter to work (this was just before I got a computer). I sat around the office all day, relaxing and reading science fiction or writing my s-f & furry fan activity, on Streamline’s payroll. During my lunch hour, I would walk a couple of blocks to Santa Monica’s touristy 3rd Street Mall, to pick a restaurant or browse at both the Mall’s three-story Barnes & Noble and a Borders bookshop. Santa Monica has its own large public library, and I got a library card to use it. I found several s-f books there that the Los Angeles Public Library didn’t have.
I got to witness first-hand Santa Monica’s fox squirrel plague. They never came into the office, but I saw them running through or across Ocean Avenue almost every day; often squirrel mothers carrying pups in their mouths. Cars would panic-stop when squirrels darted right in front of them. Apparently rear-end accidents were regular occurrences, though I never saw any. The Santa Monica municipal government considered them a major nuisance, but due to outraged public opinion every time the city tried to exterminate them, the strongest that could be done was to make it illegal to feed the squirrels, and to put up at least one sign per block warning against encouraging the squirrels to become friendly – “they carry rabies”. (True, also bubonic plague. Fortunately, you have to practically force a squirrel to bite a human.) Santa Monica still has a squirrel plague as of 2015 that the municipal government doesn’t like to talk about.
One very unusual activity from October 1998 to October 1999 was some sort of involvement of Streamline Pictures with Margaret Kerry and her adult son, Eric Norquist. Kerry had been the Disney studio rotoscope model for Tinker Bell during its production of Peter Pan around 1951-1952. She was also the voice of one of the mermaids in Neverland. Later in the ‘50s she was on the staff of Cambria Productions, the animation studio that made the Clutch Cargo, Space Angel, and Captain Fathom TV cartoons. It was her mouth that was photographed speaking the dialogue in Cambria’s patented Synchro-Vox “living lips” system, superimposed over the cartoon characters’ faces. One of Kerry’s colorful stories was, “They strapped me into a chair like an electric chair, with a big head clamp so that my head wouldn’t move while they were filming my mouth reciting the dialogue. I was eight months pregnant at the time, and it wasn’t comfortable! I asked if I shouldn’t remove my lipstick when they were photographing my lips for the he-man male characters like Clutch or Swampy, and they said, ‘Naw! Nobody’ll notice!’”
In 1998, Kerry was very active on the Hollywood Collectibles Memorabilia circuit. She would appear at the weekend shows all around the country of 20 or 30 movie and TV ex-stars, attended by people who paid an admission fee to meet some real-live Hollywood stars in person, and to pay the stars extra for an autograph or an old publicity photograph. I am not sure how she and her son (who was her manager) got connected with Carl – maybe through Streamline’s licensing the home-video rights to Clutch Cargo and Space Angel — but I was assigned to accompany Kerry to these “conventions” as her gofer, to keep her itinerary, make sure that she was well-supplied with whatever memorabilia she was selling, and to collect the agreed-upon speakers’ fees for her showing up. Most of these “Hollywood memorabilia” shows were around Southern California, but at least once each our airfare and hotel accommodations were covered for shows in Boston and Chicago. I got to see many faded actors who had been prominent during the 1950s to 1970s, such as Robert Vaughn of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The only one still working regularly was Mickey Rooney, who regaled the public with the “old story” of how Walt Disney had been so impressed by him as a child actor that Disney had named Mickey Mouse after him. Streamline was paid for my services. At the beginning of our association, Kerry was going to write her autobiography that she would sell at these shows, and Streamline was going to publish it as Streamline’s third book. That never happened.
Sometime around 2000 or 2001, Carl said that Streamline was changing its insurer and that I had to fill out a new registration form. When I asked if the old insurance company had raised its premiums, Carl said no, but that since I was now 60 years old, the insurer had raised my coverage to an exorbitant rate, to encourage him to fire me and get a younger employee. Instead, Carl switched to another insurer that would allow me to stay on. I will always appreciate that.
Sceneries never had any success, and by late 2001 it notified us that it was about to close both its Beverly Hills and Santa Monica offices in January 2002. (As far as Streamline was concerned, it disappeared; although Diaz continued operations out of his home.) Streamline’s 35mm prints were hauled in their Goldberg film cans by me and Jeff Roady of the C/FO to Carl’s mother’s house in Anaheim for storage. The rest of Streamline Pictures got boxed up and moved into the Beverly Hills office, by December. This was still enough to make it very crowded. The Streamline address officially changed to 8620 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 100, Beverly Hills, CA 90211-3089 on January 17, 2002. Since Carl was doing business from his home in one of Beverly Hills’ more remote canyons, I was now given the Beverly Hills office all to myself.
One curious detail was that, by this time, all of Streamline licenses for our anime theatrical movies had expired; but none of the Japanese studios wanted to reclaim their 35mm copies. The exception was Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. The theatrical print in our possession never had the English dub; Streamline’s lone film print still had the original Japanese track with English subtitles. By 2002, Streamline’s license had long since expired; and anyhow, that 35mm print was literally falling apart despite its many splices. But theaters wanted The Castle of Cagliostro. They pleaded for it! We finally put them into direct contact with Tokyo Movie Shinsha’s Hollywood office. If TMS would give its permission for a one-time screening, with the understanding that the print was officially worn out and retired, we would put the reels into the armored Goldberg cans and send it out. There were still three or four bookings this way.
I have two other memories of this period. One is making several trips from the Streamline office at the “bottom” of Beverly Hills to Carl’s & Svea’s home at the “top” of Beverly Hills, in a very narrow, very rustic canyon with expensive homes visible around every twisty turn. It was beautiful, but there were FIRE HAZARD signs everywhere. I saw coyotes dashing from shrubbery to shrubbery, and apparently rattlesnakes were common during summer.
The other was that it was very hot in the Streamline office, and it was too expensive to have a fan running all day, so the front door was usually left open to keep things cool. Every day around 3:00 p.m. for weeks, a large bumblebee came into the office, flew slowly around for a couple of minutes to search for any flowers, then left again. I didn’t bother it; it didn’t bother me.
But this only lasted a couple of months more. In late February or early March 2002, Carl announced that he was going out of business. He had accepted an offer from A.D. Vision to take over directing voice dubbing for the English tracks of its DVDs, and he & Svea would be moving to Houston. On March 8, I rented a post office box about a mile from my home, so Streamline’s final address was P.O. Box 2984, Culver City, CA 90231-2984. During March Streamline’s remaining effects were put into storage. Streamline Pictures officially went out of business, and I got my final paycheck, on March 31, 2002.
It actually did some business from my home for some time after that, mainly getting orders from Amazon.com for the two Streamline books, around a half-dozen copies at a time; or for the Robotech Perfect Soundtrack Album CD. On August 10, the license to the Robotech music CD, Streamline’s last, expired. At the end of September 2002, the P.O. box was allowed to expire. I continued to sell the two books for awhile, but first Bob Cabeen and then George Clayton Johnson said that they wanted to take possession of their remaining copies and sell them themselves. Streamline’s final sale of Twilight Zone Scripts and Stories was to Amazon.com on December 26, 2004. And with that, Streamline Pictures was no more.
Next week: Some of Streamline’s reviews.