Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The REAL Tom Tuttle

Recently I received an email from Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. Fans of VOLUNTTERS recognize that as the name of the character John Candy played in the movie. My partner David Isaacs and I wrote the screenplay and are responsible for the name. Who knew there would be a real person, or that anyone would remember VOLUNTEERS? I feel like the father in the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue”.

So if you ever wondered how we came up with the name or what life has been like for someone saddled with the name, here is my correspondence with Tom (which he graciously allowed me to share).

As the real Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, WA….I have been asked all my life (well since 8th grade or 84’ish) why the name Tom Tuttle for the movie Volunteers? Was I consulted? Did I get royalties? To this day, 24 years later, people still laugh when I introduce myself …Tom Tuttle. They say, from Tacoma, WA? Yes. I was born and raised in Tacoma and still reside here. My question for you is…..how did you come up with Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, WA ?

Tom Tuttle (from Tacoma)


Great to hear from you.

Believe it or not, my partner David and I wrote the very first draft of VOLUNTEERS in 1980. It took five years to get made and released. We honestly pulled the name out of the air. We wanted the character to be real gung ho and for contrast, hail from as far away from the east coast as possible. First we came up with WSU as the college. We wanted the school to be well known (they're in the Pac 10) but still a little offbeat. We checked out a few fight songs, liked WSU's the best and settled on that. Then we figured the character should hail from the state of Washington. Tacoma was sort of a funny sounding name and again, a city that was recognizable. We always pictured that the character was a little wired and whenever he introduced himself would say his name and where he's from. So alliteration was employed to help the name roll off his tongue. Somehow we came up with Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. We just liked the rhythm of it. If we had gone with Spokane it might have been Stan Stodell from Spokane.

So have people been recognizing your name your whole life? I hope ultimately it's been a positive thing.

Again, thanks for writing. Say hi to Lawrence Bourne and Beth for me.


Ken Levine


First of all, I just want to thank you for taking the time out to write back; very interesting. Never imagined that I would get the real story from the writer himself. In fact, I (well my mother…because in 8th grade I wanted nothing to do with the attention) mailed off a letter to Hollywood. My Mother has been sticking up for me all along. Shortly after the movie came out, Tom Tuttle (from Sumner) wrote to the Tacoma News Tribune stating that he was the real Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. Well, my Mother would have none of that. So, she wrote back and the next week it was published….that I was the real Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. I will be sure to share this with her! She will get a kick out of it.

Anyway, after college (not WSU….though I visited…my father is an alumnus) I student taught in Puyallup. The day I arrived, I met Tom Tuttle (from Sumner). He was a Math teacher at the school. What are the odds. We had t-shirts made up….”Will the real Tom Tuttle please stand up”. After that, I was a teacher in the Tacoma School District for 10 years and now sell real estate with my brothers. You know, name recognition is everything in this business. I’ve been trying to find a way to use it to my advantage…I might as well. People still recognize the name. In fact, so many movies have character names, but few have had the impact that Tom Tuttle has had. Any ideas?

Thank you,
Tom Tuttle (from Tacoma)

I think we should start at Tom Tuttle from Tacoma International Fan Club. Interested in joining?


Anonymous said...

There is an actor in Hollywood, ex-Second City performer, named Tom Tuttle, who used to do a two-person comedy act in the shows I emceed at The Comedy Store. His performing partner was none other than Burnadette Burkette, aka, Mrs. George Wendt, aka "Vera," aka Cliff's "Tinker Bell". I ran into him at a party three years ago, so he's still rattling around town.

There was also a make-up artist in Hollywood named Tom Tuttle, who would in fact have turned 90 tomorrow had he not died 4 years ago. He was the brother of make up legend William Tuttle, and for a while the brother-in-law of Donna Reed.

Unless you name a character Floradora Windwillow (And please don't, as she's in a book I'm midway through writing), there are going to be real people with the name.

The villainess in my book MY LUSH LIFE is named Delores Delgado. Two years ago I was in my optometrist's waiting room when the doctor came out and called out the name Delores Delgado, and a plump Latino woman of around 30 got up and went over to him. I was jarred, to put it mildly.

And, to my own chagrin, there is a Douglas McEwan in Edinburgh who is a "Professional Sean Connery Impersonator." As if that's not embarrassing enough, my great-grandfather Thomas McEwan came from Edinburgh, so we may well be related. (And he doesn't look like classic, James Bond Connery. He looks like Connery NOW!)

Anonymous said...

I remember an interview where Paul Simon described meeting Mickey Mantle in a restaurant many years ago (obviously). Mickey was bummed that Paul had used Joe Dimaggio's name in "Mrs. Robinson" instead of his and asked why?

Paul said, "syllables, Mick."

Anonymous said...

Funny, I always that that name would have been a homage to Captain Tuttle (the Captain that never was) from that classic episode of M*A*S*H.

Anonymous said...

Correction: the first that in my sentence should be thought btw. It's what I get for typing while drowsy at 1:30 in the morning.

Fox Cutter said...

As I just saw VOLUNTEERS a couple weeks back and found it really good I think it's kind of cool that there's a real Tom Tuttle from Tacoma. I also thought it was nice that you used WSU as I grew up in Spokane it was almost the home town school.

Though Stan Stodell from Spokane dosn't quiet ring out the way Tom Tuttle from Tacoma does.

Anonymous said...


That was Tom Tulley, still a very, very funny man.

Anonymous said...

d. Mcewan:

Sorry to double up, but Tom Tulley (and Bernadette Birkett, for that matter) are still in Off the Wall with Ken's friend Andy Goldberg.

Anonymous said...

YOWIE, CB, you are so right! My egregious goof! Again with me being fallible! I HATE being fallible! And I don't even have middle-of-the-night drowsiness as an excuse! I've known him for 28 years and I got his name wrong. Gadzooks! Zounds!

If I find out my name is McKuen, I am going to be so pissed.

Thanks for the correction. I have a three-quarters-finished novel manuscript I could use your proof-reading on.

Seriously, thanks. (But the make up guy is still a Tom Tuttle.)

Anonymous said...

a real tom tuttle is a very good and funny man!

Cap'n Bob said...

Hey, I'm from Tacoma and I already have a fan base. My motto is "Cap'n Bob on the job." Feel free to use it in your next movie, Ken.

Word Verification: cupsy. What you have when you're not very thirsty.

Anonymous said...

I just bought this movie after reading about it on your blog earlier. My husband and I are proud WSU alums and have lots of family in Tacoma, but had never heard of the movie. Figured we had to watch it! Since it's one of yours it must be good!

Anonymous said...

Having never seen Volunteers in it's entirety, the only thing I think of when I hear Tuttle is M*A*SH. I love the Tuttle episode. It's a highlight of the early years for sure.

Anonymous said...

To those who haven't, really...see Volunteers. Chances are you know people like Lawrence, Beth, Tom, etc.

I especially enjoyed it as the Lawrence character was, almost magically, identical in personality to a friend of mine at the U. of Miami. (Except this guy looked like Glenn Frey, which is another story.)

I just wished the DVD had gotten a bit more respect with commentary tracks, deleted scenes, etc. (The subtitle scene kinda jarred me, funny as it was.)

Just my 2 cents.

Anonymous said...

I've always wondered, were Tom Tuttle of Volunteers fame and Capt Tuttle of MASH fame related?

Anonymous said...

d. mcewan:

even though I need the work, I'll hold off on the proof reading cuz, well..Tom Tully (no-e)

mea culpa, mea maxima and so forth

Cap'n Bob said...

Also, there an actor named Tom Tully who was in The Lineup, among other things.

Tom Tuttle from Tacoma,WA said...

My father was a huge fan of M*A*S*H. I remeber Tuttle as I sat through episode after episode inhaling cherry tobacco from my father's pipe...god rest his soul. Ken (my creator), nice piece. Thanks for the props and let me know if you gather enough interest for a fan club.
Signed...your # 1 fan...Tom Tuttle from Tacoma, Washington

Anonymous said...

now we need to figure what happened to Tom Buttle, nobody's heard from him for a while.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say -- the real Tom Tuttle from Tacoma seems like a very nice person with a charming smile. I would buy a house from him, even though I could never live in a place with so much rain.

Ken, isn't it somehow good karma to know that the name you plucked from the air belongs to an actual someone as likeable as your created character?

Anonymous said...

The Leingangs will join the Tom Tuttle from Tacoma club. He is our favorite Tom Tuttle and believe he is the real thing.
Michelle, Scott, Mo & Zach

Anonymous said...

Tom Buttle? I see what you did there.

Have you got a 27B-6?

Brian C. Setzler, CPA said...

I was a WSU student when the movie came out. A group of us went to the theater to see the latest John Candy film right when it came out and had no idea that Tom Tuttle would be the star. You can't imagine how big that movie was in Pullman or how much the character meant to the students.

I recall how hard we tried to get John Candy to come to Pullman for Homecoming, or some similar event.