First of all let me thank George Flores for reaching out and informing me about the passing of brother Albert Aquino. We used to call him "Al Bee", or sometimes "Pavarotti" but never called him "missing in action."
I brought Al into the business back in 1986 under the the suggestion of a camera assistant and mutual friend Gerold Chan. I think we did a few music videos as "tryouts" and then he came on board as my cable]man/PB op on the forgettable Cannon Films feature "Number One With a Bullet". You probably never heard of that lamentable production as it was the same basic concept as "Lethal Weapon" and had the added misfortune of being released on the same weekend! I don;t think it stayed in the theater until that Monday, but it was a great indication that Albert was going to be part of the team for a good long stretch. He took to the work like a fish to water and remained a loyal and dependable presence on the set, I take it until the end.
I trained him to be on set. Period. I think we had done three shows before he found out there was a honey wagon (only half joking), but he loved it and once I knew that he knew his job in and out, he ran the set and I ran the console. We all watched the rehearsals and he would come up with the plan of attack which I rarely had to modify. He knew how to work with the other departments and I can only remember a couple times where I had to come in and swing the "department head stick". Another thing that made him such a team player and asset is that he loved the boom. I tried to give him jobs later on that would have moved him up to mixer but he was not having any of that. The way he saw it he, the dolly grip, cam op and the actors were making the movie and we (meaning everyone else) were just watching and taking notes. Fine with me. You all know that if the mic is not in the right place there is no magic button on the console that corrects that, so Al Bee knew how the get and keep the mic where it needed to be.
Some of you have spoken about his sense of humor and I will be no different. In addition to being a consummate pro, he was always a gas to work with. There are so many stories that come to mind but here are a couple that always make me smile. We were working with Victoria Principal on her star vehicle called "Mistress". The exec was a gentleman named Richard Fischoff who was always running around attending to the minutiae, but was nice about it. We were shooting a scene at one of the gates at LAX and Richard became the target of one of Al's best gags. Since I rarely ever used headphones on set (preferring to monitor from speakers) Al noticed Richard bouncing back and forth, forth and back and since the mic was open he affected his best FAA-style delivery and said "paging Richard Fischoff..please pick up the nearest white courtesy phone, Richard Fischoff..." The second AD heard this as well and showed Richard the phone on the pillar right in the middle of where all departments were staging. Of course you know the rest, Richard gets there picks up and ...nothing. He takes about five steps and Al Bee hits him again, and he goes for it again...Flabergasted! He heads to the camera, has a little chat with the DP and Al hits him again and he goes for it...again this time he getting a little burned. When he picks up the phone this time I turn one of my speakers around so it is hitting him direct and he then looks at Al speaking into the mic (like in photo# 4) and he and the whole crew break into applause and laughter. Luckily for us Richard Fischoff had a sense of humor!
Nobody but Albert. My favorite though was when I was the defenseless target and I must say I never got him quite as good. We were working on the "Brady Bunch" movie of all things and there were some kids in the scene and some parents around here and there. Al is, as always standing near camera and observing everything in the 360 degree plane when he spies something behind me. Now I am completely unaware of what is going on, but one of the parents is on approach, ostensibly to look at the video monitor at my cart. Just think a super-sized Roseanne in a skin tight body suit...with a loud leopard print no less. With impeccable timing Albert (that bastard) gets on the mic and asks, "hey Russ have you and the kids gone to see the "Lion King" yet?" The words Lion King come out of the speaker just as this bloated body suit comes into my peripheral vision and I make the connection. I almost bit through my bottom lip as I realized the trap he had set and I managed to utter some feeble response while he was (now with his back facing me) broken down with shameless laughter and I had to act like nothing untoward was going on while this parent lingered near my monitor. He was laughing so hard he started coughing and almost dropped the fishpole! In the subsequent years we worked together...I never got him quite so good, though I tried, trust me on that.
Albert and I trudged through the non-union days on various projects but our fortunes changed for the better in Iowa on "Field of Dreams" the first "A" list project we did. We never looked back. Right on the heels of Field came "Glory" and "Dances With Wolves". As luck would have it I also had my first child on the way (daughter Myles) who came along right at the end of 1990 and I took off from work for about five months in 1991 and taught over at UCLA. During this break Al Bee worked with more mixers and widened his circle of guys who would put him on their first-call list. We got back in sync in 1994 on "Drop Zone" and I think our last project together was "Waiting To Exhale" (BTW he bought the BMW that Angela Bassett set on fire in the film and towed it back to L.A. and completely restored it) in 1995.
I will never forget the NYC born and raised Alberto Aquino. I had not been in close touch with him over these 10 years that I have been teaching in DC but would hear from other 695 members that he was still finding the "sweet spot" until the very end.
I dug up some photos going way back to the beginning of his sound career. I hope that you enjoy them and appreciate what a warm and steadfast individual that was one Alberto Aquino. Literally a "stand up guy."
Russell Williams, II