Downtown Platte City. Also known as East Hollywood.
Forty-five years ago this month, in October of 1974, a movie was being made in the streets of historic downtown Platte City. The movie, known as “Bucktown,” starred Fred Williamson, a former player for the Kansas City Chiefs. Some of you will remember Williamson had a brief stint–in fact, a very brief stint–as the third man in the booth on Monday Night Football telecasts.
But in 1974 Williamson was starring in a movie with scenes filmed in Platte City. Bucktown is essentially a police story, a small town drama focusing on one man’s fight against crime and corruption. It was directed by Arthur Marks, who was the producer of the Perry Mason television series for 10 years.
The female star in Bucktown was Pamela Grier (more on her later, she has a bit of a fascinating background).
Scenes for Bucktown were filmed in and around the Platte County Courthouse, the Platte County Jail (the county jail back then looked nothing like the one today, keep in mind), and on Main Street.
Heck, even the back door of The Landmark building was worked into the movie. That’s right. On Monday night, Oct. 14, 1974, a scene was filmed in back of The Landmark office. In the movie, the back door of the newspaper office was portrayed to be the door of a saloon. I feel like our back door kind of got typecast in that role, as it hasn’t been asked to appear in any movies since then. Hollywood producers, please hit me up.
This is cool stuff: For a scene in Bucktown, a wall was built just east of the Platte County Jail for an armored car to drive through in an escape scene. According to the Oct. 18, 1974 edition of The Landmark, other scenes for the movie were filmed along the Platte River, in Leavenworth and in Kansas City.
Here’s the best part: Thanks to the internet, you can watch Bucktown anytime at your leisure. Just go to YouTube and enter Bucktown in the search box. You’ll see a choice pop up labeled “Bucktown 1975 Full Movie.” Click on it. The movie runs one hour, 16 minutes.
You’re welcome, America.
Pam Grier, the actress who starred in Bucktown alongside Fred Williamson, has a fascinating story. Grier moved to Los Angeles in 1967, where she was initially hired to work the switchboard at American International Pictures (AIP). She is believed to have been discovered by director Jack Hill, who cast her in his women-in-prison films The Big Doll House (1971) and The Big Bird Cage (1972). While under contract at AIP, she became a staple of early 1970s “blaxploitation” movies, playing bold, assertive women, beginning with Jack Hill’s Coffy (1973), in which she plays a nurse who seeks revenge on drug dealers. By appearing in the movie Coffy, Grier is considered to be the first African-American female to headline an action film. In his review of the movie Coffy, noted critic Roger Ebert praised the film for its believable female lead. He noted that Grier was an actress of “beautiful face and astonishing form” and that she possessed a kind of “physical life” missing from many other attractive actresses. Grier subsequently played similar characters in the films Foxy Brown (1974), Sheba, Baby, and Friday Foster (both 1975).
In later years, Grier turned to television. She had a recurring role on Miami Vice (I loved that show) from 1985 to 1989 and made guest appearances on Martin, Night Court, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
In her personal life, Grier was linked with basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabaar from 1969-71 in a relationship that began when the player was still known by his original name of Lew Alcindor. Soon after they began dating, Alcindor converted to Islam and changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He proposed to Grier, but gave her an ultimatum to convert to Islam. He reportedly told her “If you don’t commit to me today, I’m getting married at 2 this afternoon. She’s a converted Muslim, and she’s been prepared for me.” Grier said, “I think I’ll pass,” and Jabaar got married later that day.
By the way, I’m paraphrasing those conversations. Full disclosure: I wasn’t actually there, just so you know.
Grier later was linked romantically with comic Freddie Prinze (Chico and the Man) from 1973-75, but that ended due to her concerns about Prinze’s depression and drug addiction. She is reportedly one of the last people the troubled Prinze spoke with before he fatally shot himself in 1977. Grier was in a relationship with star comedian Richard Pryor from 76-77, according to her memoirs.
Grier is still alive and apparently well at age 70. In recent years she started the Pam Grier Community Garden and Education Center with the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum. The purpose is to teach people about organic gardening, health and nutrition.
Bucktown producer Arthur Marks is still alive. He is 92 years old and living in LA.
Finally, our movie’s star Fred Williamson is also still kicking at age 81. I’m old enough to remember his short stint in the booth on Monday Night Football when in 1974 he was initially chosen to replace Don Meredith. It was immediately clear this deal wasn’t going to work. Williamson was used on a few pre-season broadcasts but was quickly declared awful in the booth by ABC and he was replaced at the start of the regular season by Alex Karras. Williamson had played four season for the Raiders and three for the Chiefs, including on their Super Bowl I team.
Never shy, Williamson posed nude for Playgirl magazine in 1973. Williamson became an actor much in the mold of star running back Jim Brown. He acted alongside Brown in films such as Three the Hard Way (1974), Take a Hard Ride (1975), One Down, Two to Go (1982), Original Gangstas (1996) and On the Edge (2002). He later became a director and is still working today. During the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s, Williamson frequently appeared on television as a spokesman for King Cobra malt liquor (“Don’t let the smooth taste fool you.”)
(Don’t let the smooth taste of this Between the Lines fool you. Things can get salty on Twitter @ivanfoley and on Landmark Live. Email email@example.com)