Let me set up the scene for you. The year was 1982 and I was cruising around in my 1969 Dodge Charger wearing nothing but a tube shirt and daisy duke cut off short shorts. The windows are rolled all the way down and the song, “Key Largo,” is blaring from my 8 track AM/FM Pioneer Stereo that was not factory stock but was installed by my then Rebel against Society husband. Oh yeah, that was me and that was how it was.
Now fast forward 31 years and here I was interviewing the man that wrote, recorded and made that song a hit. Life is good and I have got to tell you that Bertie is fun loving, sweet, and sexy with a sparking personality.
He has been working on several projects and that is what we got together to talk about. This is how that went:
Q So how you been?
A I’m good.
Q I hear you have been very very busy?
A Crazy busy.
Q I was sent an email with the award that you received for a movie that you are working on.
A Yeah, that’s pretty cool hah?
Q Yeah, to receive an award for a movie that is yet to be made.
A That’s pretty crazy. That’s freaky crazy.
Q Yes. Tell me about that; tell me about that whole process. Now I understand it was from the script?
A Yeah, there’s a large festival out here in LA called the Action on Film Festival and we enter our films in it every year to get a read on the audience is what we do it for. It’s quite a large festival and they also have a screen writing competition within the festival and this year probably around 2,000 screen plays were entered and we won 1st Place for Best Dialog out of 2,000 which is pretty crazy.
A There are some great writers out here. I feel very blessed and humbled that this happened for us.
Q That’s crazy, great, and insane. It’s a Christmas time movie right?
A Yeah, it’s called Christmas in Hollywood.
Q Awe, are you allowed to say anything else more about it? I understand now you are getting ready to film it?
A I’m the producer yeah and I will probably also end up co-editing the movie. No, no not editing, directing so we are quite busy with this thing. We are looking to put it in China for Christmas this year so we have a lot of work and not much time to do it in.
Q Why China? I heard you were doing things there but I thought they were musical.
A Well for some crazy ass reason that I can’t figure out I am extremely, well I hate to use the world popular but popular in main land China right now.
Q You’re hot in China?
A Really hot. I don’t know why but I am. I have a huge song over there called Casablanca that I co-wrote and it came out years ago in Japan and went Quadruple Platinum and when China finally opened its doors it filtered into China. Now it’s one of the top Karaoke songs in China.
A I can’t believe it.
Q Was that like the continuation of Key Largo?
Q But Key Largo didn’t do the same thing in China and Japan?
A No, it was never released over there. Casablanca was never released in this country. But now you can take the other part of the Pacific Rim which is Australia, New Zealand, and Malaysia and Key Largo was #1 there and somehow this happened with Casablanca. It was written in the same time frame, it’s off the same album and it just exploded. So I am sure it is quadruple platinum now.
Q Isn’t that weird? So you are talking about something that basically went viral way back in the day hah?
A It took off. I have been in China probably six or seven times in the last year. I am over there a lot. I can walk down the streets of Beijing and I can hear it trickling out the doorway of stores, the song Casablanca. People just play it and play it. We even did a partial Mandarin version of it but it hasn’t been released yet. It is an interesting turn of events. It’s going well and I’ll take it. It’s great.
Q You’re hot in China. That cool and isn’t China the most populated place in the world?
A A billion and a half people.
Q Yeah so I mean that’s a good thing to have that many people love you. But you can walk the streets and nobody knows that it’s you?
A Occasionally yeah of course but I’ve done a lot of television over there. Michael Bolton and I are over there a lot. We did the Chinese New Year last year which goes on for 2 weeks. These people party, I’ve never seen anything like it. We did CCTV New Years Eve Gala Show. CCTV is the largest network in China and we performed to thirty thousand in the audience and another billion watched it in China on TV. A billion so you talk about something that will tighten your butt up walking out on stage knowing there are a billion people watching you.
Q Wow. Is that why you’ve chosen to release this movie in China as opposed to releasing it in the US?
A It will come out in China first. In China we have the opportunity to get it on 900 screens right out of the box.
Q You mean to actually have it in the theatres?
A Yes ma’am.
A We have another movie planned in this time frame which we are going to start probably two or three weeks after we finish this one which is the story of Bill Haley and the Comets and how the rock and roll sound was created back in the early 50’s.
Q Have you always been involved in producing movies even before you were out there singing?
A No. My son dragged me into this. I was screaming and scratching and clawing and trying to hang onto the door frame and he pulled me in. [Laughter]I came to California 10 years ago from Tampa Bay, a little town called Tarpon Springs and I came out here and I brought my two boys. I put Julian in film school, he had always wanted to direct so he went to film school for a couple of years, got out and he said well here we are and I said what do you want to do? He said I guess I’ll do a few music videos and some shorts and I said no, if you are going to be in the film business, let’s do a movie. So I went out and raised the money and we shot our first movie. This is our fourth and fifth now that we are doing so we are moving along.
Q Okay, so you are doing this as a father son project?
A Well he was involved in the writing of Christmas in Hollywood. It’s got a Chinese American cast. We do one scene in Mandarin with sub titling and the rest is in English. So it ought to be an interesting project. I am just totally toasted every day. We work twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week getting ready to do this.
Q Do you have any help?
A I’ve got a team that work with me. Larry Madill is one of our co-writers and now co-producing this with me. Thank God because there is so much paperwork that goes into this it’s amazing. Maybe I should have stayed in music where I belong. [Laughter]
I am still doing a lot of music. I am working on my 18th CD so.
A Eighteen of them.
Q Okay and do you write all of your songs?
A Yes ma’am.
Q So you are songwriter as well?
A Key Largo and all that but lately on this last CD I am doing some other material mixed in with my originals. Songs I’ve always liked and wanted to do. But I am still writing. Just wrote a new one called Belly Button Boulevard.
Q Do you miss Florida?
A Oh you have no idea. I really do.
A But we really miss the rain is what we miss.
Q You miss the rain?
A What they say in the song, it never rains in southern California, and it’s the damn truth I tell you. It never rains.
Q Is that really the truth?
Q I figured it had to rain everywhere.
A Well in the fall in the winter it rains a little and everyone gets drunk and celebrates. It’s like a hurricane party or something.
Q Okay, that’s funny.
A Well you know what though, my first few years out here I played in Vegas a lot to keep the lights on and the jar of mustard in the refrigerator I might add. Right now most of my performing is overseas and the Pacific Rim. I know we are working on a tour now; we did a big one about a year ago and spotty shows here and there. I go to China like I am walking down the street. It’s a twelve hour flight out of LA and I go do my business and come home.
Q How is that, I mean twelve hour flight, do you find you are able to sleep on the plane?
A Yeah. I always take the 1:00 a.m. out of LA. I am worn out anyway and I’ll have a little food and maybe a glass of wine and I sleep at least 6 hours. It cuts the flight really down and the next thing I know I am in Beijing at the largest airport in the world I might add.
Q I was wondering that about people and especially entertainers and performers that go to the different countries and have these long flights and how tough it must be with jet lag.
A Well the jet lag getting to China is only a couple of days. Coming back is where it’s tough. It takes me two weeks to get over it sometimes. In fact, I still think I have it from the last trip. [Laughter] But China is a wonderful country. The people are just marvelous. They are just great people.
Q When is this film going to be released?
A Overseas for this Christmas. It won’t make the US for this Christmas. That is awful quick.
Q How are you going to get this done so quickly even for overseas?
A We film for 21 days. We wrap at the end of September. We have October and half of November to do switches, editing but my editor is going to edit as we shoot so that will take a lot of time away from the post production. We have to sync sound, music and color correct and we’re done. I have to have it in China by November 25th.
Q So you are just not sleeping until this is over?
A That’s about right.
Q I know.
A So there you go baby.
Q Wow, that’s incredible. All right, so is there anything that you want to say that you want to tell the people?
A I don’t know what to say outside of never quit. Don’t say never. Keep rolling. I mean what the hell else are you going to do, play golf, sit on the porch, drink whiskey and watch the cars go by?
Q How boring is that? When people retire they die.
A I’m telling you. There are some days I am going, damn I need to get some sleep and I wish I could lay up for a little while but I can’t. I have a lot of people committed to this project so we have got to see it through. I have people who flew in from China that moved into the hotel down the street from me here in Burbank. They are all holed up over there geared to work on the film so we have a lot going on with the project.
Q I am sure it is going to be wonderful. So are you doing a cameo or anything?
A I am doing a major role.
Q Ah. You didn’t tell me that? [Laughter]
A I play major roles in all films that we do.
Q You are a tired man. So you are playing a major role? You’re not Santa Claus?
A No. I mean I am gaining weight but no.
Q [Laughter] You would have to dye your beard too.
A Yeah. No, I am playing a role of the weird Uncle to a half Chinese half American boy.
Q Is he actually Chinese American?
A Yes, he was raised in Beijing and he is a singer. He is a very good singer by the way and he has performed a lot of stage things in China.
Q I have had so much fun talking with you. I know you are exhausted so I am going to let you go. You should go take a nap.
A I was going to but I had an interview set up with a lovely woman.
Q Well interview is over. [Laughter] Go take a nap.
With that, I turned the recorder off. We should have said goodbye but we didn’t. We talked about him being in the Military, we talked about how he lost his brother in Vietnam, and we talked about his single, The Flags on Fire. We talked about so much that I could write a whole additional article because there is no room left here.
He was just so much fun to talk to. Everybody needs to keep their eyes out for “Christmas in Hollywood.” Check out the Slideshow in this article and the music video of Key Largo embedded in this article. It will bring back some great memories.
For more info on Bertie, check out his adorable website at: http://www.bertiehiggins.com/home.html or his booking agency website at: www.615entertainmentagency.com