Jon Bon Jovi. Andy Griffith. John Wayne. All these notable men have ties to Boulder City, and so does a man named Paco.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting local resident Mr. Frank “Paco” Munoz. Munoz once held a license/permit in high explosives while working in the special effects department for different movie studios and production companies. He also has ties to Hollywood.
I met Munoz through a mutual friend, Barbara Link, and we had lunch together to talk about — what else? — explosives and “the Fonz.” During our lunch, I learned Munoz left the Army to start a career with Paramount Studios. His career took him through decades working as a set designer to a career in special effects.
I learned Munoz worked on everything from the Academy Awards, where he shared a smoke with Judy Garland, to being commissioned to work alongside Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz for their company, Desilu Productions. Desilu Productions (before being sold to Paramount Studios) was responsible for the television shows “I Love Lucy,” “Star Trek” and “The Untouchables.”
Munoz and I discussed working alongside Michael Landon on “Little House on the Prairie” and with Wayne (who he said was not a people person) on the film “El Dorado.” In fact, Munoz created the bat wing doors seen in the movie. While we went on to share a laugh over stories about his work on the set for a Jon Bon Jovi 1980s video shoot (he had no idea who “that Bon Jovi guy” was), or how people touring the lot where “Murder She Wrote” was filmed were astonished by the kindness of actress Angela Lansbury, Munoz also reminisced about the close friendship he had developed with Griffith while working on “Matlock” under Andy Griffith Enterprises for NBC and ABC.
One of the coolest jobs, I think, Munoz had was his special effects work on a variety of ’80s horror movies. According to IMDB.com, Frank Munoz worked on “Halloween II” with Jamie Lee Curtis. While Munoz told me his main job was to splash blood on the floor and create all the chill factors for a few basement scenes for “Halloween II,” he also said he had a “hands-on experience” with Curtis, which involved him pushing her butt through a window as her character tried to escape the killer.
Munoz also worked on 1985’s “Friday the 13th: A New Beginning” staring Melanie Kinnaman, Anthony Barrile and Corey Feldman and 1987’s “The Outing” starring Deborah Winters and James Huston.
Munoz said he never was star-struck by anyone he worked for, with the exception of “the Fonz,” played by Henry Winkler on the 1974 show “Happy Days.” Neither Munoz nor his two daughters, Martee and Lisa, were brave enough to ask Winkler for an autograph while eating at Paramount’s mess hall.
A now-retired Munoz — his license/permit in high explosives expired in 1999 — enjoys living in Boulder City because it’s a small community, comparable to the close bonds he created with his peers on the lot at Paramount Studios. He also enjoys the many other local connections to the entertainment industry that exist here, including studio directors, producers and writers who have also retired to our quaint, talented town.
In fact, one of the annual events that many of the retired entertainment professionals seem to enjoy is the Dam Short Film Festival, not only because of its connection to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz through Desi Arnaz Jr. and the late Miss Amy, but because it gives independent filmmakers and artists a platform to showcase their work within a landscape that truly honors thought-provoking entertainment.
I ended a great lunch with Munoz looking through photos he brought of his work on “Matlock,” including a staff photo with Griffith. Munoz is one of the many people I have met through my TBT column who has worked in Hollywood only to find themselves loving life while living right here in Boulder City. And while the city’s slogan may be “a world away for a day,” the more I dig, the more I find that our city’s connection to Hollywood does run deep.
Tanya Vece is an entertainment and music writer who resides and volunteers in Boulder City. You can follow her adventures on Instagram @hollywoodwriter.