Memories of
Hal Guthu
Contributed by Producers, Directors & Photographers

 

HAL GUTHU: A FEW MEMORIES

Soon after I arrived in Los Angeles 15 years ago to work for Harmony Concepts, Robert Harmon sent me to the CHN Agency. When I entered that nondescript building on Santa Monica Boulevard, I was a very green newcomer who knew that Hal Guthu was something of a legend in our part of the world. Hal greeted me with brisk friendliness, introduced me to Max and pushed a pair of huge, photo-filled binders across the desk. As I turned the pages of his fabled model books, Hal could probably tell I was a bit dazzled! He was a kind and informative guide to the new world I was entering.

Throughout the '80s and into the '90s, I returned many times to look through Halís books. New faces appeared, others dropped out, but Hal never seemed to change. He enjoyed life, took pleasure in his work and cared about his girls. And, as I worked with so many ĎHal modelsí over the years, I learned that they cared about him too.

From time to time, I booked the CHN studio for video shoots.  Working there was like taking a trip into Halís past: he had
accumulated a wealth of props, lights and furniture over the decades.  He also constructed the sets preserved in so many videos and photographs.  It was Halís fantasyland, populated when the lights went on by the girls who were like family to him.

Time didnít seem to make much of a dent in Hal. I didnít visit CHN as often in the late '90s, but when I did see Hal or talk to him on the phone, he was always a hearty and vigorous presence. Yet time does have the last word, no matter how vital its human adversary. None of us can ever know what Hal was thinking on the day he made his final decisions, but thereís no doubt he was an unusually proud and independent human
being. If Hal made his choice to cut short the ravages of time, it was the final act that defined him as the man he was.

Eric Holman
FM Concepts

I was encouraged by Eric [Holman] to visit Hal in early 1988. The word was that Hal was the man to go to for models.

My handful of appointments with Hal over the course of the next two years were strictly business, and good business at that. He was always friendly, professional, and worked hard for his models.

He was a good agent. I always walked out with more good model leads than I could ever hope to work with.

I was afraid of his bird.

Michael Keye
BonVue Ent.

 

I met Hal Guthu in 1977. I needed an agent who could provide models and he was one of two who was highly recommended. I really don't remember who recommended him.

I liked him immediately, as anyone would. He was wonderfully old-fashioned and genuine, and very up-front about the way he wanted to conduct business, and helpful -- a throwback agent in every respect and it was hard not to wonder about his history... what he had seen and heard and done in his decades of agenting, what stars he had known and represented, what stories he could tell. As nice as he was, he was firm and inflexible about certain rules -- call him at very prescribed hours and not at any other time -- and I admired him for that. Above all, he was on your side and non-judgmental.

There was an elderly parrot in his office which occasionally distinguished itself by squawking out a line or two of agentese: "I'll get back to you Mort" or "Bob's greenlighted on his project" or "She was born for the part." I heard Hal eventually gave in and gave the parrot to one of his clients -- an insistent ingenue who had just nailed the lead role in a series thanks entirely to Hal.

I'd speak occasionally to him down thru the years, and he was always upbeat. Friends of mine tried to get him to sell them the agency and he would dance with the idea for awhile, then back off: "I sell this and I've got nowhere to go and nothing to do." The agency was very much his life.

I've heard that his death has caused understandable grief among just about everyone who knew him. Why not? He was a decent and dear man and worthy of inclusion in all of our prayers tonight. Say a prayer for him and, if he can, he'll probably say one for you.

Robert Harmon
HCI

I first met Hal back in 1985. Since then I have booked and shot hundreds of models through CHN. These models always spoke of Hal in glowing terms, and it was obvious that he was a father image to so many, including myself. Moreover he was my mentor... and was always a gentleman to everyone. Hal was more than just a grandfather to our industry... he was and will always be an icon to all those who knew and loved him. We all will miss him dearly!

Ken Kirk
Napali Video Productions

I only had the pleasure of meeting Hal once, when FM did a shoot at CHN. He was warm, friendly, engaging and entertaining. Even after all his years in the business, he seemed so pleased and excited to have us there. It was like being welcomed into the home of a favorite uncle that you hadn't seen in awhile. It's important for me to make clear to everyone that this man deserves "Legend" status, just for the number of all-time favorite models (far too many to list!) that he introduced to this industry. He will be deeply missed.

Chase Brocco
FM Concepts

I am deeply saddened by the news of Hal Guthu's death. There's hardly a month that goes by that I don't remember his professionalism, consideration, and even kindness -- three attributes that were hard to come by.

Bishop and I were able to complete, together and separately, hundreds of photo and video shoots over the years because of Hal's expertise and judgement. He knew all his actors -- male & female -- and knew which ones would be perfect for us, creating an atmosphere that was fun and productive for both model and photographer alike.

There was no ego, prima donna behavior, lateness, or substance abuse at our shoots. Hal could spot the troubled ones and steer us away from that scene. I can attest that Hal was the king, and how often I spoke of him with admiration and appreciation.

Geoffrey Merrick
HOM/The Tyler Files/Memoirs

Hal Guthu was a very enthusiastic and supportive kind of guy. We did a couple of shoots at CHN, I remember during our first tour of the studio, he was very proud of the backlighting on his sets, in addition to the large collection of props.

God help any model that failed to shut the back door before going outside to light up a cigarette! It's the only time I ever saw him in cranky-mode.

Tony Elka
Shadow Lane

 

I'm saddened by this news and feel the need to tell you a little bit about my memories of Hal.

Hal's studio was a warehouse-like building tucked snugly into the rows on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood.  The main door was somewhat incognito and led into a little front office.  There Hal would be sitting behind his little desk with his big bird -- a macaw -- hanging out on his desk.  The bird was big enough to be a bit scary, but Hal would welcome and greet you jovially, and you'd sit down to see the books.

Hal had a collection of 3-ring binders containing info on all the actors and models he represented.  A lot of the pages were pasted-up polaroids that Hal had shot himself, of people fresh into town who had no portfolios or print photos with which to advertise themselves yet.  As you looked at the pages, Hal would tell you a little bit about each person -- what they were like or what their talents were.

Hal was proud of his studio.  It mostly consisted of two long rooms with sets at both ends.  He was especially proud of the sets he'd put together.  He was also really proud of all the props he'd bought over the years.  It was almost a shame because he had more props than you could use in a lifetime, and a lot of them were simply piled sky-high, not getting used.

A few special details I remember about Hal:

Hal once told me that years ago he shot a bunch of 3-D color slides of a pretty little brunette, all cheesecake, but then the slides sat around for some years until he tired of holding onto them.  He sold them to some other guy, and later he really regretted that decision -- when the world re-discovered Betty Page and those 3-D color pictures wound up released as a comic book and used for other lucrative Betty products!

Hal ran the camera for Ed Wood Jr. during the making of Glen or Glenda.  You can see an actor portraying him in Tim Burton's Ed Wood movie.  The scene where they're shooting "Glen" looking in a storefront window, then the whole crew grabs the equipment and runs off so they won't get caught for shooting without a permit -- that event occurred on Santa Monica right near Hal's studio, all those years ago.

Even after Hal reached retirement age, he didn't stop running his modeling agency.  He kept plugging away and keeping his model books going.  I feel sad that he didn't get to enjoy some retirement years -- he certainly had earned it after all this time.

Lorelei Smith
Open Mind Media

 

Hal is listed in the Internet Movie Database as both a Casting Agent and a Cinematographer.

 

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First posted 2/28/2000

Most recent update 4/7/2000

Please email if you have any memories or statements to contribute about Hal.  Most of these memorial statements have been excerpted from email commentary that Hal's friends and affiliates have sent to me.  Some of these statements were read at Hal's memorial service.