Ray Ramos is a man of many talents. Over the years he has worked as an actor, director, photographer, playwright, and producer. His most recent work appears in the play To Love Somebody and the music video Call Out to Me by Rosendo. He is currently working on a novella titled Tom Sugarland’s Memorable Christmas, which is slated for release on Amazon soon. His 20 plus years in the entertainment industry have led him to cross paths with many fascinating, well known individuals. He also currently maintains the site: http://www.thatmanray.blogspot.com/
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I was born in Santa Monica. I grew up in Venice, California, a child of the 60’s and 70’s. Geographically speaking, I’ve always somehow been in or around the entrainment industry. I’ve worked many jobs supporting the industry somehow in some fashion: ABC TV, The Directors Guild of America, The Ambassador Hotel, which was the number one film location in Los Angeles, before it was torn down by the city, a few years back. Those jobs were great, but they didn’t fulfill me creatively. I was in denial for many years, and it took me a long time to get back on track to doing what I really loved doing… so here we are.
What were you like as a child? What are some of your fondest memories from that time?
Looking back, I think I was a kid full of imagination, like most kids, I was enamored by the pop culture of the day; Batman, James Bond, the Dean Martin Show, the Beverly Hillbillies. The soundtrack to those days came courtesy of an AM radio station in L.A. called KHJ. The Doors song Light My Fire seemed to be on every car radio in my memory. When it comes on the radio, I always get a flashback to those times, and it makes me feel good. Even though we had the Vietnam War raging, for me as a kid back then it was a time of innocence.
What first sparked your interest in the entertainment industry?
I got sucked into movies, TV whatever? I remember one Thanksgiving at my grandparents house, NBC showed the movie, The Vikings with Kirk Douglas. It was exciting first off because my grandparents had a color TV! It was the first movie that I remember watching the whole way through. That’s entertainment! It was so damn exciting for me, as a little kid, kinda like Star Wars would be? Pretending to be a Viking, swinging a sword around, and walking across boat ores on the fjords… what I aspired for as a kid playing along on the canals of Venice. I like the idea of entertaining, by telling a story. All those old TV shows when I was a kid; Mannix, The Fugitive, Lost in Space, The Night Stalker with Darren McGavin, Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone… they just helped fuel my imagination… they still do.
How did you first come to be involved in it?
I did the high school drama bit… I was actually voted best actor at Mark Twain, Jr. High… let that read in my obituary. I first thought I was gonna be the next James Dean, then when the original Saturday Night Live came out; that influenced the kind of road I wanted to take at the time. The whole James Dean thing went out the window! I was always better at being funny than serious, just like in real life. It didn’t win me any popularity contests in drama class. But those early SNL guys, John Belushi, Bill Murray… they were doing crazy funny shit. So that’s what me and my comedy partner, Bill Rapada would try and do. After I got out of school, we started hitting the Comedy Store in Westwood (no longer there) and other places like that. I studied at performed with an Improv company, The L.A. Connection… and did a little radio too; which I loved and was very comfortable doing. I had a friend who was an agent for a while, and and I went out a lot of auditions. After a while, I drifted out of that whole scene, with the exception of writing scripts. I would occasionally do stand up, here and there, but there were certain aspects of it that I didn’t love… I haven’t done it in years, but sometimes I miss it. Most recently, I’ve been writing and producing plays, I’ve started up doing some acting again. It’s been fun.
How has entertainment changed in the last decade?
It’s a lot more complicated. And it’s changed it so many ways: more outlets with cable TV and now the internet stuff… its busted wide open. The old Hollywood ways are over… too many things to get into. Except I will say on a positive note, now anyone can play. Technology has let everyone in the sand box. If Orson Welles were alive today he’d be doing projects left and right. You can look at it was a new golden age in a way.
As someone who has worked as an actor, director, photographer, producer, and playwright do you prefer one over the others?
I love doing whatever I’m doing at the moment. But writing is my first love, because I have all of these characters, stories, and ideas in my head. I’ve had a fertile imagination since I was a kid. These days I think I’ve been harnessing that talent more… things seem to be flowing. I’m starting to say, “Fuck it”; I’ll just do my own projects. When you can make something out of nothing, and have it materialize into something that you’re proud for people to see… that’s living! I was lucky to come in contact with so many amazing people in my many lives, it’s been inspiring. To work on a film with someone like David Mamet (Ramos worked on Mamet’s 2004 film, Spartan), if you’re any kind of creative person, you have to take something from that, right?
What are some of your favorite subjects when it comes to photography?
That’s hard for me to say. I love photographing people, and trying to capture that magic thing about them in a split second. But I also love shooting street life as it happens…. To get that decisive moment, like Henry Catier Bresson. One of the best times I’ve ever had was going to Cuba with my camera. Trying to capture that world with street photography was amazing.
I understand you were rather close to Brittany Murphy. What was she like as a person? Are there any stories of her you’d like to share with our readers? How do you think she’d most like to be remembered?
I just adored her. Her death still is unbelievable to me. I met her when she came to do a still shoot at the Ambassador Hotel. I was working there at the in the filming department. We just hit it off. After that, she loved coming to the hotel for her shoots and would actually request to be shot there. Brittany was a fan of the old Hollywood stuff. I must say that she was the single most talented person that I had ever met. She literally could do everything. She could act, sing, make you laugh, make you cry. She was a throw back to someone like Judy Garland. She was a hugger; she would hug you with all of the strength in her little body. I truly can still feel her hugging me. The last time I spoke to her, I called her office number to invite her to a screening of my girlfriend’s (at the time) short film. And a most polite English girl answered the phone, who I assumed was her new assistant. Every time I’d say something she’d say thank you to the point it was comical, like a comedy skit on SNL. Finally on the other end of the phone, I hear a giggle, and I hear, “It’s me Brittany! She was full of mischief. Unfortunately, that was the last time I ever spoke to her. For all of the success and fame she had; she just wanted someone to love her. I think she got the wrong guy. She shouldn’t have gone out the way she did… I still haven’t had the heart to take her flowers.
What are your feelings on death and such? How do you hope to be remembered when your own time comes?
I’ve been fortunate enough to come from a large family. But on the flip side that means eventually a lot of funerals. My family has had their share of tragedy too. I had an uncle, named Anthony who was two years older than I. We grew up together, and I looked up to him as an older brother. He was murdered when he was twenty-two. That was rough; I ended up getting anxiety attacks until I figured out how to deal with it. Some folks think I’m crazy because I believe in ghosts and such. I’ve used ghosts in my writing…. So I guess I have a fascination with the hereafter. My one act play, The Girl in the Attic, (from the show To Love Somebody) dealt with that with Anne Frank. Does anyone know? When my grandfather was ill I flew out to see him for the weekend. He was living with my uncle in Tucson at the time. And we were sitting in his room watching an old Roy Rogers movie on TV. And he asks me who that lady is standing at the door… I look over and there’s no lady. The hair’s on the back of my neck stood up… my grandfather died two days later. He insisted someone was standing there, that I did not see. I think someone came to get him. Death is the last great adventure or mystery. If I think of it that way, I’m not as afraid of it, as I used to be. Not that I’m in any hurry to leave yet. But, I’ve had people that I loved like, Brittany Murphy come to me in my sleep and visit me, and when I woke I felt a sense of calmness.
You have met many interesting people in your line of work. Which of them have made the most lasting impression on you?
In my life in one way or another, I’ve encountered most of the most famous people in show business. Growing up in L.A. helped out a lot. My mom loved John Wayne, so when I was a kid, I won tickets to take her to see him in person at a screening of the movie, The Cowboys. I’ll always remember that. I always loved the old stars from when I was a kid. Robert Mitchum made a huge impression on me when I met him as a kid. The guy you saw on the screen that was him. Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn I loved. I was lucky to spend time with them when I used to work on the Academy Awards. I used to work with the talent who were presenters. Clint Eastwood and James Coburn; they just don’t make guys like that anymore… they just don’t. So all those guys still loom large with me… The first feature script that I wrote was a project that I wanted to do with Coburn. Unfortunately I never got it going and he passed on. Although it was nice that when I was working at the Oscars, that I was the person who took him up to meet the press that night he won his award for Best Supporting actor (for Affection.) I was lucky to spend a little time with some classic people. The director Tony Scott, who tragically just passed away this year was another person that I loved, and will miss. I first heard him speak after a screening when I worked at the Directors Guild of America back in the 90’s (meeting, all kinds of amazing directors.) And I really just dug his whole out outlook on the craft of filmmaking. Later when I moved over to the Ambassador, trying to sell the site as a location for film shoots. I was fortunate to spend some time with Tony Scott. He was very forthcoming as a person. He brought you into his vision, but he would also ask your opinion, “What do you think?” He was another person who was a throwback to another time. Tony could have been just as successful working in silent films, working on stuff like Ben Hur with a cast of thousands. He had a dream project; Tom mix and Pancho Villa. It was gonna be his Lawrence of Arabia. That was exactly the kind of project that I like writing. So I wrote a spec version of it to give him.
I worked on it for years, I would ask him questions about it when I’d see him, ask him about casting; he had wanted Leonardo Di Caprio for Tom Mix and Javier Bardem for Pancho Villa. I was dropping hints for Tony to cast actor Jim Caviezel (now on the CBS Television show, Person of Interest.) Sadly, Tony never knew that I had been writing my own epic version for him. I think he would have dug it, it had a mystical quality about it… and in fact again, it had a scene that was reminiscent to the story that I mentioned with my grandfather… But I never could get the beginning of the script the way I wanted; so I never gave it to him… so that will always be a heartbreak.
What is the best advice anyone ever gave you? Who was it?
I heard it in a movie; “If you can’t get out of it; get into it.” But they also said in that same movie; “If you can’t fix it, fuck it!” Both great words of advice.
Any little known things about yourself you’d like to share with us?
On the trivia end of the spectrum; I once auditioned to be on the cast of the TV show, In Living Color. My agent said hey, go down to 20th Century Fox, they want you to audition. I thought he was joking. It was after The Wayans Brothers and Jim Carrey had left the show, and they needed new people. But Jamie Foxx was still on the show. That would have been cool working with him. Also when I was a kid my dream job was to be the guy with the pith helmet at the front of the boat on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland… I still dream of having that gig. I’m kidding… but kinda not.
What do you think is the most challenging thing in dealing with the world of today?
We all know the world is in trying times. It’s never been as crazy as it’s been these days. It scares the shit out of me! We’re getting hit from all sides. But I think our biggest challenge is finding the truth and who to trust. We have a hundred different people telling us a hundred different things.
Can you tell us a little about Tom Sugarland’s Memorable Christmas? Who is Tom Sugarland exactly?
Well yes, that’s my newest project. It started out as a short story but, I liked the characters so much it’s now a novella, which will be out as an ebook on Amazon, most likely in the fall. Like most people who go the creative route, I took a job that was a little out of the ordinary. I managed a Santa photo both at a local mall. After the first day, I said to myself there has to be a story in this situation. The Santa, I was working with was great, but he was very tall and wasn’t really fat, but he had his own whiskers. That got me thinking what if some macho guy like, Sam Elliott was a Santa Claus? And that’s how I usually start every story, with a character that I like. I’m a sentimental guy, I love Christmas. It should be a magic time where people have a little extra magic; where there’ a little more hope to be had. Like a little Frank Capra movie. I’ve always wanted to write something like that. I also wanted to write something that took place in my hometown of Venice. So Tom Sugarland is an old surfer, and a classic old school Venice guy. He’s finds himself a little down on his luck, and out of sorts. He’s without a job and hasn’t even surfed in over a year. He’s offered a temporary job right before Thanksgiving as Santa Claus at the mall and without too many more options decides to take it. It’s also the story of a young Jewish girl named, Yasmine, who gets a job working as one of Santa’s little helpers. She’s also has found herself alone and little lost in her life during the holidays. After several turn of events, the two form a quirky bond that might take their lives on totally different directions by the end of the year. I guess it’s also an homage to all of the wonderful Jewish women that have been in my life over the years. I think it’s a very funny fable with heart.
What other projects are you currently working on?
I’ve got a few things that I’m kinda working on. I’m in the beginning stages of writing on a one man show. I also have plans on expanding my show The Big Woogie, Room 509… all about one crazy night in Los Angeles’s The Ambassador Hotel in the 1920’s. And it looks like I’ll be back producing a play (with my partner Stan Matasavage) this summer at The Raven Playhouse in North Hollywood. Alara Ceri, who was one of the great talents in my last show, To Love Somebody, has written a terrific play about all the pitfalls of coming out to Hollywood to pursue acting. It’s called Hollywood Positive, so look out for it. That’ll be a kick to work on. It makes me feel so great, when people get inspired to do their own projects…try and take control of their own careers. And I’m crazy enough to try make some kind of film project this year… though I really need to get on the ball with that soon! When I worked at the Directors Guild, I used to go to the Sundance and Slamdance Film Festivals every year. I always wanted to take something there to show. So I just gotta make it happen. I know enough talented people, who I would think would lend a hand. At this point, I’m all about making things happen. I try and keep the Orson Welles dream alive… to just create. Thank you, Tina.