Warren Skaaren, Movie Mogul

Here's the man who's selling Texas to Hollywood. If you think that's easy, then you don't know Hollywood or Texas.

HERE’S THIS GUY, AND HE’S been drafted and it’s what you might call a bad scene. He’s standing
at a boarding gate in the Dallas airport with his family, waiting to be shipped off to God knows
where—Germany or something—and his family is standing around him weeping.

He looks up and in one of these gee, small-world numbers, coming across the Dallas
airport—really zipping across it—is an old college buddy of this guy. Name of Warren
Skaaren. They went to school back at Rice, five or six years ago, and Warren was a sculpture major. He hadn’t laid eyes on Warren in three or four years.

One of the reasons Warren’s zipping right along, with this kind of concerned look on his face,
is because he’s being trailed by a couple of dozen women, all with that pinched, reckless look some women get when they’re after something.

So this guy, who was about to call out to his old buddy, Warren, starts staring. His brain is
not ready to start wondering why his old buddy Warren, who hasn’t seen him yet, is zipping along
across Dallas airport in the middle of these women. Then he sees that the women’s object is not
really Warren but a man walking beside him. This guy can’t quite see the fellow’s face, but…

No, wait, positions are changed, and our friend recognizes the fellow beside Warren. It’s…well, it’s Steve McQueen, and he, Warren, obviously is with Steve McQueen. I mean, it wasn’t Warren Skaaren and Steve McQueen walking across the Dallas airport and at this moment they happened to be walking beside each other, the women actually zipping along after McQueen, with Warren basically in their way. In fact it looked as though Warren were actually hustling McQueen along.

Explanations, as they say, were in order, but this guy continued to stand there, inoperative,
his mouth still open, as Warren and Steve McQueen zipped along toward the airport restaurant,
dozens of women in pursuit.

And just about then, Warren looked up and saw ol’ buddy over there, saw that he was dressed in
Army green and that there was a real kind of John Garfield scene going on there with the family and all. Saw that ol’ buddy has seen him. Saw that ol’ buddy had seen McQueen, and that ol’ buddy had realized that Warren seemed to be kind of in charge of McQueen. Realized that he really should
explain all this.

But these women…

So this guy, on his way to God-knows-where-in-Germany, gets this look and smile from his buddy
Warren that says: “Look, well, I’m sorry, but I’ve got Steve McQueen here and…” and
then Warren is gone into the restaurant with Steve McQueen, and the women right along behind. Then
this guy himself is gone, to God knows where in Germany.

Listen, we can straighten all this out. In that three-and-a-half years since you last saw Warren
the Sculpture Major at Rice, some amazing things have hapened. Warren, as you might guess, did not
go into sculpture. He is now executive director of the Texas Film Commission, and Steve McQueen is
not the only international celebrity he might be seen with in the Dallas or Houston or San Antonio
airports these days. Goldie Hawn he calls Goldie. Ryan O’Neal knows him when he sees him. He has
been eyeball-to-eyeball with Sam Peckinpah and lived to tell about it.

Warren Skaaren, you might say, is pimping for the State of Texas. He spends $100,000 in
taxpayers’ money a year trying to talk Hollywood types into shooting their movies in Texas. Come,
coos Warren in advertisements in film biz trade journals, come roll your Cinemobiles over our soft
curves in the Hill Country. Burrow your lenses in the sweet mosses of East Texas. Stay the night in
the sensuous beaches down at Padre. My state is a virgin, meester (comparatively).

Well, Warren must be doing something right. Right there at the end of this movie called The
(in pursuit of which Warren was schlepping McQueen across the Dallas airport), there’s this big, gaudy, effusive thanks from the bottom of the producers’ hearts to Warren Skaaren and the Texas Film Commission, in big letters spelled right across the screen.

Thanks is cheap, right? But Skaaren and the TFC do better than that, you better believe it.
The Getaway cost First Artists Co., the producers, about three million, and Skaaren
figures about half that got left right here in Texas, mostly in San Marcos and El Paso. The Thief Who Came To Dinner, the Ryan 0’Neal starrer, which the TFC helped Warner Bros. locate in Houston last year, was no El Cheapo production either. Ibid on The Sugarland Express, which Universal City Studios shot around Houston and San Antonio earlier this year. As a matter of
fact, Skaaren figures the TFC has reaped about $69 in location expenses dispersed in Texas for each $1 the TFC spent. This year he estimates that’ll be up to $100 per $1.

Hey, and they’re clean dollars, folks. Do you see Ali McGraw belching suspended
particulates into the air? Is Tony Perkins wrecking any ecological balance? Not at all.

And gee, moom pitcher stars right here in town, and those big hairy looking cameras and lights
and—don’t shove— a chance to be an extra and actually be in a movie. Glamour
Time! Glamour Time! Look in Molly, Gid and Johnny, if that’s indeed the title the film
shot in Bastrop based on Larry McMurty’s novel Leaving Cheyenne will have when it’s
released. Look for a familiar face. Unless something tragic happens on the ol’ cutting room floor,
you should see our dear departed gov, Unca Preston Smith. Evrabody wants to be a star!

Say what you want about Unca Preston, the TFC was his idea. Prez was in the theatre biz in
Lubbock before he took up politics. Popcorn and cherry sours in the blood. Warren Skaaren was an
assistant on Smith’s staff and thought this film commission thing would just fit his pistol. He
wrote a proposal and one thing led to another.

Skaaren is in his late 20’s. Low-keyed. A little pale. Has a fabulously distinctive, resonant,
movie-star voice. Could probably make a fortune doing commercials. Realize that he is dealing with
people who

More Texas Monthly

Loading, please wait...

Most Read

  • Viewed
  • Past:
  • 1 week