FVI 2 - The Revenge!

FVI: What You Didn't Know Part II


Since my initial interview with former FVI worker Jim Bertges, I have been contacted by a number of people about it. Most of these people have been ordinary moviegoers who happen to have the same curiosity about FVI that I originally had. But I have also been contacted by a few people who were former employees of FVI. Recently, I was contacted by another such person. George Haider, a former film booker/salesman for FVI, contacted me and agreed to be interviewed for the site.

GREYWIZARD:  Can you tell me a little of your background before being hired by FVI?

GEORGE HAIDER: Two days after graduating high school, I went to work full time to help my parents. We had lived on public assistance, and I wanted to help them out financially. After a couple of years, I enrolled in a junior college, and then transferred to Long Beach State, where I earned a B.A. in media communications.

G: How did you get to be hired by FVI?

GH: During college I worked for a theater in Redondo Beach, and I kept in touch with one of the managers. He had gone on to work for AIP, so I called him when I graduated Long Beach State, and he gave me Fred Kunkel’s name. At that time, Fred was working for FVI. I went into the office on a ‘cold call,’ and spoke to Fred. At that time, there were no openings, but, approximately two months later, they called me to come in and interview for a position as a Film Booker in the Sales Department in the L.A. office. At that time, FVI was located in the Sumitomo Bank building, on the corner of Beverly Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd. A couple of days after the interview, they called and said that I had the job. I went out and celebrated by seeing California Dreaming and the original Dawn Of The Dead at the UA Del Amo Theater in Torrance, CA.

G: You were a film booker/salesman for FVI. Can you tell us more about what exactly you did in your job?

GH: I ‘booked’ the films for the Western territory. I kept track of the prints, and the theaters that were playing the films, in large ‘booking books.’ Today, it could be done using Excel. I also created weekly reports for the Sales Department’s billing and income; I accounted for the money we billed and received each week. I was bonded and would make weekly bank deposits. Sometimes, I would drive down Beverly Boulevard to a bank with a deposit of $500,000+ in checks and cash.

G: What was the work environment like at FVI?

GH: I started with FVI on July 5, 1979, and the environment was fantastic. I loved every minute of it. My immediate supervisor was Larry Cooper, who came to FVI from Sunn Classics, and my other supervisor was Fred Kunkel, who had worked many years for UA and Fox, among others. Fred and Larry had a terrific sense of humor, and they were always telling jokes. We would go to lunch at Joe Allen, over on Third Street and discuss the new movies that were coming out; it was great!

G: What can you tell me of your boss Fred Kunkel?

GH: Fred was very well known and very well respected in the industry. At one point, an executive from Pacific Theaters said that the main reason they played FVI product was due to Fred. When I was laid off from FVI, the only thing I regretted was not being able to work with him anymore. We stayed in touch for many years. He passed away a few years ago.

G: What can you tell me of your coworker Jim Bertges?

GH: Jim was very well liked at FVI, and he really knew his job. Jim and Richard Blacklock, who worked with me, and I would go out to lunch every once in a while. I remember that Jim was married, and he had a son while he was at FVI. He lived in Simi Valley and would go to the Simi Drive In Theater. He worked for Sam Helfman, who was in upper management. The interview in your article gives a very accurate picture of Jim. He's articulate and professional. I always liked working with him.

G: What can you tell me of FVI film boss Ed Montoro and his wife Joanne?

GH: I didn’t know Ed very well. He was very low key. I really liked Joanne, his wife.

G: What did you think about the kind of product FVI made/distributed?

GH: I saw quite a few of the films. Some of them were OK; they were typical, low-budget features. Others, like Don’t Go In The House contained scenes of explicit violence, always against women. I remember watching those films and thinking that the women’s groups who were protesting violence against women had a point.

G: What can you tell us about the time that Montoro disappeared?

GH: I was laid off from FVI in December, 1981, and he disappeared after I left. He took $1 million from the company account and fled to Mexico, and then started a business that rented boats.

G: Do you know about any of the immediate going-ons at FVI right after Montoro took the money and ran?

GH: No, I don't know what happened at all, and, when I would meet with Fred Kunkel, we wouldn't discuss it. If I'm not mistaken, Fred was working at Regal Theaters, and I was in graduate school, so we discussed what was going on in our lives at that time.

G: What have you done since your time at FVI?

GH: After I got laid off from FVI, I worked very briefly in the industry, and then I found a part-time job with a school district. I worked part time and took business classes at a local college. I studied computer programming and software documentation. The school had a job-recruitment fair, and I got hired by Hughes Aircraft as a technical writer. I worked there from July, 1985 to September 1988. At one point, a co-worker told me he was contemplating suicide. I told his supervisor, who said that it wasn’t anything to worry about. One hour later, the co-worker came into the building and killed himself with a gun that he had snuck in past the security guards. They had counselors come in, and, because I took some psychology classes in college, I asked them about counseling. I quit Hughes to go to graduate school full time, and I got a master’s degree in psychology in June, 1991. I was a counselor for about seven years; since then I’ve been working in various positions in the Inland Empire area of southern California.

G: Any other recollections you'd like to tell us about?

GH: Here are a few recollections:

I remember reading an article, published by the L.A. Times, called “Millions From Junk Film.” It tells the history of FVI and has quotes from Ed Montoro.

Our prints were located at the Ray Hackie Film Exchange. There was an employee there named Helen, and we would talk on the phone several times a week. She was really easy to work with and helped me keep track of the various prints that were playing in the theaters throughout Southern California.

On October 31, 1979, I went to the annual film exhibitor convention at the Bonaventure Hotel in L.A. There was a banquet with Johnny Carson as the emcee. Some of the people there were Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Neil Diamond, Bruce Jenner, Valerie Perrine, the Village People (they sang about 5 songs to promote "Can’t Stop The Music"), Allen Carr, Nancy Walker, Elliot Gould, and Farrah Fawcett. Earlier in the day, I was walking down a spiral staircase in the hotel and almost got knocked over by a large group of paparazzi. They ran down the hall because they were trying to get pictures of Farrah Fawcett.

My thanks to George for his participation!