Postcards From Hollywood: Time-Traveling with Peter Bogdanovich 

Daniela De Carlo continues her column on her early days in L.A. with a remembrance of the late, great auteur, who passed away earlier this month.

“Oh. Wow. We’ve been rear-ended,” he says slowly, calmly and matter-of-factly, in his signature thick glasses and bandana around the neck. Rear-ended in Los Angeles? Very common. Rear-ended with Peter Bogdanovich in the passenger seat? Not so much. Perhaps that’s why it takes me a beat to realize what just happened. I am placidly stopped at a red light somewhere in residential Beverly Hills when I hear tires screeching. As I look up, a vehicle gets larger and larger in my rearview mirror until it hits us with a loud thump.

This was the first memory that flooded into my consciousness as I read the news of Peter Bogdanovich’s passing a few days ago, right after my dear friend Meghan McElheny texted me, “Thinking of you.” The headline of the obituary reads: “Peter Bogdanovich Dies: The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon & What’s Up, Doc? Director Was 82.”

Daniela De Carlo with Peter Bogdanovich’s assistant, Meghan McElheny, c. 2003. (Picture courtesy Daniela De Carlo.)

Meghan was Peter’s assistant for many years and we met back in 2003, when I was hired to be Peter’s local assistant for a few memorable months as he was in post on his movie The Mystery of Natalie Wood. Meghan didn’t drive, so I got to drive them both all over town in a luxury sedan the production company rented for me. This was pre-GPS and I was still new to the city, so thank God for the Thomas Guide and MapQuest (which paved the way for Waze). The car was huge and I’m short, so I had to use a pillow to prop myself up. Peter found that funny. He was tall and a living legend. This was before smartphones too, so we spent endless hours in the car talking about life and, of course, movies. I wish I had recorded all the stories he told us – there was one for every iconic building, every corner, every landmark in the city … And all of his impersonations were stellar: Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock and Jimmy Stewart, to name just a few. There was never a dull moment by his side.

Once he asked me to drive him to Hollywood, because he was going to record some voiceover for a movie by a friend of his. To my surprise, it was Quentin Tarantino and the movie was Kill Bill. When Peter briefly introduced us, Quentin kept staring at me. I knew he was trying to place me, so I told him we had met before. I’d been a guest on his Kill Bill set in Manhattan Beach the year prior and he’d even sung “Happy (fake) Birthday” to me. (You might’ve read about it here.) Quentin remembered and Peter couldn’t believe it! He called me “the little Argentine who got around.” He was adored by his industry friends, and he had many. I once picked up his phone and it was “Sandy,” as in Sandra Bullock. One night, as I dropped him and Meghan off at the hotel, he said, “It’s Friday night and you two are young – why don’t you go grab a nice meal?” and gave us a crisp $100 bill, just because he could.

When I think of Peter, I think of me and my mom entangled as one on the couch watching Paper Moon when I was a kid. I also think of his big belly laugh because of something I said, as I drove him up and down Sepulveda Boulevard, between the WeHo strip and the Valley, in order to avoid 405 traffic. (He hated wasting time in traffic.) I also remember the many meals we had at the iconic Chin Chin in Studio City, where he was treated like royalty.

A photo taken by Daniela De Carlo of Peter Bogdanovich on a billboard for the 2003 miniseries Out of Order. (Picture courtesy Daniela De Carlo.)

I first heard about organic food from him, and first tried delicious (organic) Medjool dates with him, as this was one of his favorite snacks, along with Fuji apples or celery with creamy almond butter. He taught me how to pick the ripest tomatoes and to never put a banana in the refrigerator. (He’d sing the Chiquita Banana jingle he remembered from his childhood, which, again, I wish I had recorded!) He was into tofu and baby carrots too at the time; he explained his very limited and mainly organic, vegan diet was him trying to make up for all the years of excess in his youth.

When we said goodbye, he hugged me tight and wished me good luck. He also thanked me for the fun times we’d had. When I got emotional, he sang “Don’t cry for me, Argentina!” and made me laugh, the way only he knew how to. I had a feeling I’d never see him again, and I was right.

Rest in peace, dear old friend. I hope Heaven is in sleek black-and-white, just the way you like it.

Daniela De Carlo’s latest feature, The Blackout, was released by Gravitas Ventures and is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Originally from Argentina, she worked her way up from P.A. to writer-director-producer, collaborating along the way with a myriad of industry heavyweights such as Alexander Payne, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, David E. Kelley, and Tony Scott. In 2010, she helmed the romcom Qualquer Gato Vira-Lata for Buena Vista International, which opened wide in Brazil to unprecedented box office success, and was one of six Hispanic directors on the 2014 feature drama Blue Lips. She was awarded the NBC/Universal Directing Fellowship and appointed to the USA Network show Royal Pains, and as a recipient of the inaugural NBC Female Forward program, recently helmed an episode of the primetime show Chicago Med. She is currently developing a biopic series about Xuxa, the most famous Brazilian pop star of all time. Daniela will exec produce, write and direct, in partnership with Xuxa and Gullane Filmes. She lives in Los Angeles. (Photo by Sari Thayer.)