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Technical Advisor

Born:   May 5, 1943
Birthplace: Santa Monica, CA
Contact Info: 
vbfarm@gfherald.infi.net
Current Projects:  None known at this time
Other Webpages:  Virginia Belle Farm

 

Rozane's December 17, 1997 interview with Bob McCullough

Thank you for asking me to be part of your EMERGENCY site. I guess that I should start off by telling you that I graduated from the Los Angeles County Fire Training Academy on November 7, 1967. I have worked in several fire stations from Mailbu to Watts/Willowbrook in downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood. I was attracted to the fire service because of my dad. He was a fire Captain on Santa Monica City FD for 40 years. I, as a child, saw many of the fires he responded to and watched MY HERO in action, my father.  I became interested in becoming a Paramedic while working as Chief’s driver in the City of Carson at Fire Station 36.

superbob.jpg (26618 bytes)The Chief and I responded to a lot of the calls the Paramedic's responded on since the program was in the infant stages. There were only a handful of men trained to be Paramedic's at that time. One day I heard a rumor that there was going to be another Paramedic training class, I WANTED IN. These men had impressed me so much with what they could do on a rescue, and I wanted to be a part of it. In 1971, I was accepted to the Harbor General Hospital Paramedic Training class. It was comprised of 9 selected fire fighters that would soon open the first Paramedic rescue squad in the Watts/Willowbrook area. I received my certification as the 38th man in the state of California to become a Paramedic. During my training, I had the opportunity to be trained by a top notch Paramedic, Bob Belleveau. Bob, now a chief on the job, became my mentor and friend. I feel that I owe so much to him for my knowledge and abilities. During our training, Jack Web & Bob Cinader created EMERGENCY and had hired the original Paramedic's from fire station 59 & 36 to be technical advisors for the show. Jack Webb & Bob Cinader were BIG on authenticity! Randy & Kevin performed "ride alongs" on squad 36 and 59 in order to gain an insight and experience to make their character's believable. I was invited onto the show in the second season along with many other advisors. We were normally assigned one show per season to advise. I was fortunate in the fact that I was asked back season after season. When Randy or Kevin directed one of the shows, they could invite the advisor they wanted for the show. Again, I felt honored by the fact that they invited me to advise many of their shows. When word got out that the show was coming to an end and that two-two hour shows were going to be filmed, I couldn't believe it when I got the call to do the show, "Survival on Charter 220". In fact, if you watch the opening scenes, I am the Engineer (driver) of the engine company that responds in on the opening tower rescue (My big claim to fame). Okay, now on to the interview.

Rozane:  What did you do on the show?
Bob:  I represented the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. I received the script and made whatever if any corrections that had to be made so that the actors and Dept didn't look bad. You have to realize, there are a lot of "ARM-CHAIR critics" out there in TV-land. Then we would get together for a production meeting to discuss all aspects of the show and decide if any special equipment was needed. Then we would go out and "Scout" the locations where we would shoot each scene. When filming started, I would be assigned to the show from beginning to end. The Dept. would fill my position in the station with another Fire Fighter Paramedic until I returned. While on set, it was the job of the technical advisor to make sure that the actor's did everything to the correct protocol (Paramedically). All scene's involving the doctors were technically advised by doctors and all fire scenes were technically advised by L.A.Co.F.D. Chiefs.

Rozane:  What were you doing at that time with the fire dept?
Bob:  I was a fire fighter paramedic working out of fire station 7 in West Hollywood. Off duty, I was involved with Mickey Thompson off-road racing in Baja, Mexico.

Rozane:  How do you think the show was different from the way it was in real life?
Bob:  Actually, the show was very authentic. It was really like that on our dept. All of the actor's did a fabulous job of making it true to life and making all of us look like heroes.

Rozane:  What was it like working with the cast and crew? Did they listen to changes you thought should be made?
Bob:  Working with the cast and crew was a highlight in my life. I made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun doing it.   Yes, they were very receptive to anything that I said. They always listened to the technical advisor. They weren't always happy about it, but they did what we said. They had a lot of respect for us and our job. I remember when Kevin was directing a show. He and I disagreed about how a particular scene should be played. We resolved it and later at the wrap party, Kevin told me, "I don't always agree with you Bob, but I sure respect you and your job. That meant a lot to me.

Rozane:  Do you have any special memories while working with them?
Bob:  I have so many special memories, it would be hard to pin point even one or two. Let's just say that it is a time in my life that I will never forget. I think the funniest moments were scaring Bob Fuller.   Bob hated spiders and seemed to be very afraid of them. Someone would place a spider under a sheet on a gurney where Bob was supposed to lift the sheet and look or they would lower a spider on a string into the middle of one of his scenes. That would always cause Bob to yell and take off from the set. It was always good for a laugh. Another laugh was do to Mike Stoker. The crew would do everything they could to make Mike blow his lines. One scene, Mike had to re-shoot the scene 6 times and his line was, "and me too". Poor Mike, he was a great sport.   Scary scenes, well many of the fire scenes, Randy and Kevin manned hoses and actually fought the fire. That always scared me for their safety, but they loved it!

Rozane:  Did you stay in touch with anyone in the show?
Bob:  Yes, I stayed in touch with Randy. We lived very near each other. I attended his wedding at his ranch. I also went to his ranch off duty during one of the disastrous Malibu brush fire to try to save his ranch. Unfortunately, I was unable to save anything do to the shortage of water. So many engine companies were drafting water that the pressure had dropped to nothing. I will never forget the look on Randy's face when I had to tell him that everything was lost. Randy loved his ranch very much.   With the passing of years, Randy and I have lost contact with one another. I would really like to hear from Randy, Kevin, or any of the cast and crew again. They were a great bunch to work with.

While technically advising an episode of the show, I was in awe of the actors, but enjoyed Randy because of his warm personable nature. After we wrap for lunch, we all rush to the daily's. The daily's are all the shots filmed the day before. We watch and see if there were any mistakes that got by us. One day, Randy asked me to go to lunch with him at the studio commissary. Wow! Me??? Off we went. As we got to the area of the commissary, there were a lot of tourists and we were in uniform, so were mugged for autographs. I kept trying to tell the girls that I was nothing, just a real Los Angeles County Fire Paramedic, but they wouldn't believe me. They would answer me by saying, "no, I've seen you on Emergency a lot!". Randy finally said, Bob, enjoy it, just sign away and smile. So I did. I felt like a star for one hour that day :-) The funny thing about it was that I had on my real name tag that said pm.jpg (16127 bytes)PARAMEDIC BOB MCCULLOUGH and Bob Cinader always had us wear a name tag above our names that said "THE REAL THING". Randy was, and is, a really down-to-earth nice guy and it was my pleasure to work with an accomplished actor as well as becoming his friend. I had many dealings with Randy between shows as we lived very near each other. I helped Randy get his ranch ready (Fire Safe) for his wedding to Rose. I received an invitation for the big event and was dazzled by the fact that I was about the only person there that was not in the acting business. Another memory that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

In November 7, 1967 I was assigned to my first Station and it was fire station 69 in Topanga Canyon and my Captain was James O. Page. My Engineer was Bob Phillips, and the Fire Patrolman was William (The Silver Fox) McDonald. The first overwhelming assignment that I got was to cook Thanksgiving dinner for the crew (Ughhhh!) As it turned out, all went well and everyone said that they liked it. Wow! Over the first big hurdle, now for the next one.... I was asked to drive Engine 69 to Los Angeles to the fire shops to have new tires put on.... Well, here I go, new on the job, driving a vehicle that I had no idea how to drive, and to Los Angeles where I had no idea where I was going, but would I say anything??? No way!!!! Now remember, I was a young kid when I left for Vietnam and still a young kid when I got home and right on to the fire dept. So, I really didn't know Los Angeles as I had grown up in Santa Monica. Okay, off I went down the twisting turning steep canyon road, out onto the Pacific Coast Highway with heavy traffic, up on to the Santa Monica Freeway. As I approached L.A. I decided to get off the Freeway and start looking for something marked the "FIRE SHOPS". Well, it ain't marked Martha, so I finally found it after many embarrassing inquiries from a lost fireman.... I pulled in and they said, "Is your water tank empty"...Hmmmm, how was I supposed to know, I'm the new guy. Well, we determined that it was full, so they asked me to go out on the street and empty the tank. Oh man, I hated to look completely stupid, so out I drove. After getting to the street, I had no idea as to how to empty a tank. I finally took a cap off of the main pump and one hour later it was empty, now if I had known what I was doing, I could have pumped it dry in 5 minutes. Oh well, live and learn. The other thing I found out later was that you never drive with the tank empty, what if you come across a car fire or house fire... Hmmmm. Oh well, I survived.

Months later, I still had not had an alarm. I was becoming desperate!!!!! I needed to get my feet wet with a good fire or rescue. I had attended many followup classes at the training tower with my classmates and all of them were telling stories about all the huge fires and rescues they had been on... Now I was really feeling bad! Then one day we got a multiple rescue. It turned out to be a murder suicide. A mentally disturbed mother took her young daughter out to the garage and told her they were going to play cards, but she started the car to create an atmosphere of carbon monoxide with the intent to kill herself and the young girl. When we arrived, both were dead. All we carried were oxygen and a simple first aid kit. We had no training in CPR and none of us had ever seen it performed, let alone heard of it. Jim saw that we needed to do something more than pumping oxygen into these poor dead people. So, Jim started telling us that he had learned a new technique called CPR and he wanted us to watch and learn on the spot. We watched Jim as he taught us and we worked on the two victims at the same time. I worked on the young girl along with Bob Phillips and we were very lucky to revive her. Mom didn't make it though. I will never forget how Jim took charge and taught us this technique so skillfully on scene. I think that it was the beginning of my desire to learn as much as possible to aid the public when I am called upon to do so. Jim was definitely my hero. He stayed up most nights at the station typing away at his law work and was still an energetic Fire Captain. I admire that man and will ALWAYS look up to him. Much later in my life, my brother asked me if I would go with him to Topanga Canyon to help him find a house where they sold German Shephard puppies since I knew the area so well. He was out to buy his first puppy. As we approached the house, it looked so familiar to me. The door was answered by a lady in her 40's, but she did not look familiar to me, so I brushed off the feeling. As we talked and looked at puppies, she had mentioned that she had married the man of the house just a few years before that his last wife had had an accident. I had remembered that the man (father) had worked as a song writer for Disney. I asked her if that's what her husband did for a living and she said yes. I told her about my involvement with the "Accident" and the little girl. She hugged me and cried all the time thanking me for saving the little girl. She took me into the house and introduced me to her, thankfully, the girl had no memory of it, but was told by her father about it. The girl was a healthy happy little teenager and was as sweet as pie. I owe that memory to Jim Page.   Thanks Jim.

Later, I ran into Jim when he was a Battalion Chief and the technical advisor for Emergency. Again, the man impressed the heck out of me. Not only was he a lawyer, a battalion chief, a technical advisor, I found out that he was writing scripts for the show, WOW!!! What a guy. Now I know that there is no way that I could ever meet up to Jim's level of expertise. The man is a genius. Later I had heard a rumor that he had left the job and had gone to Maryland I believe to become the coordinator for the EMS program in the state. Of course, he went on to be JEM'S!! Is there no rest for this man :-) Now, thanks to Rozane, I write to Jim and he writes to me on the Internet. It is a good feeling to be in touch with him again..... Wow, many memories.

In September of 1992, I was injured while fighting an arson structure fire and subsequently retired on a medical disability retirement. My wife and family have relocated to North Dakota. This is largely do to Randy and everything he taught me about the American Indian. Randy is proud of his heritage and so I wanted to live in a rural state that has a lot of American Native History. You can visit our farm on the web at http://www.yourworld.com/farm   Be sure to sign our guestbook while you are there. I welcome any and all E-mail and will answer any questions you might have about the show, cast and crew, or myself, if I can.....

 LA Clear KMG365

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Corrections/addition for photo below:

For your records here is a class photo of the 3rd HGH class, all LA County FF.  Class number 119701/71, July/November 1971.  They are identified L to R as follows. 

Top row:  Two Dept. of Hosptials personnel (unidentified), Mike Lewis, Tom Douglas, Al Knight, Jim Easley, Bob Forsythe, Unidentified (suit), LACoFD Chief Deputy Stan Barlow (with papers in hand).

Bottom row (seated): Bob McCullough, Steve Jongsma, Ed Cooley, Ed McFall

 

Bob has very graciously allowed us to post some pictures from his personal collection.  They are not to be reproduced in any form without his consent!   

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