It’s 1984. Dad says, “Let’s go to the movies.” So we head to the Lynbrook Theater and catch the original Karate Kid.
Not the first time I’d seen bonsai trees, but, the flick sold me on them. Soon as I could, I got my hands on a sorta-kinda bonsai from Home Depot, but it was little more than a twig in a shallow pot.
Flash forward to 1992. We’re shooting the Cry For Dawn TV commercial, and Robb Horan is unloading crap he’d bought for set dressing Dawn’s lair. One of those items? A bonsai tree. Day hasn’t even begun, and I point to it, tell him, “When the shoot’s over, that goes with me,” and when it’s all said and done about 90 hours later, he’s trying to explain to me how ‘prop selloff’ works.
Think about this. We’re shooting in a pro soundstage in Manhattan. We’re using a model we’ve never met, who Robb says is a little iffy. Me and Joe had gone to Jersey the night before to get some motorcycle forks and biker gear from our friend, J.C. So, I’m going on a 4-day non-stop stretch, where cash is king. I probably had $1,500 in my pocket in case of emergency.
“Robb, how much?”
“Well…we had to get this at such-and-such staging, and usually the rate for props after shoot is about 50%, and…”
“Dude, how much for the fv@king tree?!”
I think it was $22 bucks. I would’ve given him a hundred. It looked Miyagi-trimmed. I didn’t give a damn about how this-or-that worked, I had coin, I wanted the tree, it was not a tough sell.
“Trust,” Miyagi tells Daniel. “Concentrate. Think only tree. Close eye. Make a perfect picture, Down to last pine needle. Got it? Remember picture? Make like picture.”
“How do I know if my picture’s the right one?”
“If come from inside? Always the right one.”
At one point, I had about a dozen really sweet looking bonsai trees in my apartment in NY. Karate Kid quality. Once the lights went out, though? Time took ‘em.
3 years ago, I’m with Billy at Lowe’s, getting planter dirt. I mentioned the story of my first bonsai, and sure enough, there’s a couple there. Terrible specimens, the lot of them, but when I asked the salesperson about bluepoint junipers, she directed us to what they had, and I found Tree. In the BEFORE pics, he’s pretty bushy, hadn’t been trimmed in a while. And, even when I snagged him, I knew the trunk structure would be less treelike than I wanted, but…to possibly get back into it? Blind??? That was an easier sell than the Cry For Dawn shoot.
Spent about an hour and a half last night with him, trying to get him into shape. I don’t have my good bonsai snippers (and gonna have to get some light gauge wire to train some branches), but…not hideous. For Christmas, Mom got me a bluepoint, and while it’s not what you’d have seen in Miyagi’s workroom (imagine a 2 foot tall Evergreen with virtually no side branches to get creative with), it’s the kind you trim simply by pinching back—almost exactly like the ones Miyagi gives Daniel and his mom.
I have no clue how Tree is gonna turn out, but like Pat Morita teaches Daniel in the first couple of films, the key isn’t making mistakes or getting anything ‘wrong’. You can’t. Treat it right, and the tree will continue to grow. Leave it alone, it’ll thicken up, get bushy, and you can again, try to “Make like picture.” Me? I don’t have any pictures left. And I couldn’t match things up anyway. But, I can feel for the crossed branches. Tell where things should and shouldn’t be insofar as a real tree would’ve grown. Won’t deny, felt pretty successful when Pam came out to take the AFTER pics and told me how Tree had changed. 3 years now, and he’s still hangin’ in there. Could be I should name him, huh?