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Borgnine next to the modified N3176S at the Airwolf press conferance.

September 1983, Donald Bellisario hosted an exhibition/party, at Jetcopters, Inc, Van Nuys Airport, to roll out N3176S with the modified parts designed by Andrew Probert, joined by the cast, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ernest Borgnine and Alex Cord to promote the upcoming show 'Airwolf'. Press and local dignitaries were also present to get publicity. Patterson Enterprises was proud to show what they had worked on diligently for the entire summer, working closely with the FAA. For the final days, before it was presented, the Patterson crew had worked 36 hours straight!

About 95% finished, and the paint barely dry on the modifications, Airwolf was towed directly to its public debut. Bellisario was on a very tight schedule to begin filming the pilot episode, which was scheduled to be finished, for final editing, before the end of December, so that it would be ready to air on CBS, January 22, 1984! The pressure was immense and growing for Donald Bellisario and his production team, as they met at Van Nuys Airport, in California. Executives from Universal Studios, reporters and members of the film crew excitedly gathered around the Jetcopters Inc. flight-line, to see the newly modified Bell 222 helicopter for the first time, and to meet the actors of the new TV series.

During the press conferance the star of the show, Vincent hadn't shown up. Borgnine and Cord were already there, greeting everyone and taking publicity photos. Everyone was asking, “Where is Jan?” But no one had any clue. Bellisario started to feel the pressure and was agitated, going around asking, where he was. Being an hour and a half late Vincent finally showed up in his flat bed pick up truck  with his dog, He apologized “Yeah... well, you know... I was surfing. Let’s go!" He then told Tom Patterson, “Hold this!” expecting him to watch his dog, which was full of fleas! Vincent changed into wardrobe for the show, and causally walked onto the flight-line like nothing was wrong, to finally have the publicity photos taken with Cord and Borgnine. Vincent’s extreme tardiness and nonchalant attitude did sit well and set a very bad precedent with Bellisario! Don never forgot about that, nor got over that.

 

Bellisario wanted someone else to play the role as Stringfellow Hawke but was forced to cast Jan, because Universal wanted a big name actor like Vincent, to compliment Borgnine and cord. Universal scooped up Vincent right after his success, with the mini series ‘The Winds of War’, that had just finished filming, earlier that year. Bellisario had serious and justifiable concerns about casting Vincent, in the role, because of his troubled past, and reputation. Sure, Vincent was a good looking guy, and a good actor, but Bellisario could not afford to have Vincent's personal issues causing any problems or delays with the production of the most expensive television show, filmed in the ‘80’s . Bellisario did eventually sit down with him to discuss to his concerns, but Vincent assured Bellisario that his problems were in the past and that he had straightened up his act! Vincent promised that he’d be completely professional working on AIRWOLF.

 

But Bellisario hesitated just because when Jan was so brazenly late for such a crucially important event, Bellisario was probably already regretting having hired Vincent for the role! They said Bellisario did not talk at all after Jan finally showed up. Bellisario was probably, silently musing, to himself, ‘VINCENT CAN’T EVEN SHOW UP ON TIME FOR THE PRE-PUBLICITY PHOTO SHOOT! What’s going to happen once production starts?!!’ I knew I couldn't count on this *#%#@*# guy! Later, as the photo of Bellisario, Vincent, Ernest Borgnine and Alex Cord, was snapped, of them toasting the new T.V. Series. Bellisario seemed to have a forced smile on his face. Was he silently thinking to himself? I knew I should have gotten Kent McCord, instead of Jan-Michael Vincent for this role! Or. I should have called more agents to see if Robert Urich or that new, up and coming kid, Mark Harmon was available! Those guys would have at least been here on time!

 

Source: Charles Verax.

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