Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11

9/11 affected us all, profoundly and in many cases personally. Two of my dear friends were on flight 11. David and Lynn Angell. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought of them, missed them, and not felt grateful that they were in my life.

David and I worked together on CHEERS, WINGS, and FRASIER (the latter two he co-created). We used to call him the “dean”. In his quiet way he was the one we always looked to for final approval of a line or a story direction. He brought a warmth and humanity to his writing that hopefully rubbed off on the rest of us “schickmeisters”. And he could be funny – sneaky funny. During long rewrite sessions he tended to be quiet. Maybe two or three times a night he’d pitch a joke – but they were always the funniest jokes of the script.

For those of you hoping to become comedy writers yourselves, let David Angell be your inspiration. Before breaking in he worked in the U.S. Army, the Pentagon, an insurance firm, an engineering company, and then when he finally moved out to L.A. he did “virtually every temp job known to man” for five years. Sometimes even the greatest talents take awhile to be recognized.

I first met David the first season of CHEERS. He came in to pitch some stories. He had been recommended after writing a good NEWHART episode. This shy quiet man who looked more like a quantum physics professor than a comedy writer, slinked into the room, mumbled through his story pitches, and we all thought, “is this the right guy? He sure doesn’t seem funny.” Still, he was given an assignment (“Pick a con…any con”) and when the script came back everyone was just blown away. He was quickly given a second assignment (“Someone single, someone blue”) and that draft came back even better. I think the first order of business for the next season was to hire David Angell on staff.

After 9/11, David’s partners Peter Casey & David Lee called me and my partner into their office. There was a FRASIER script David Angell was about to write. (It was the one where Lilith’s brother arrived in a wheelchair and became an evangelist. Michael Keaton played the part.) Peter & David asked if we would write it and for me that was a greater honor than even winning an Emmy.

David’s wife, Lynn, was also an inspiration. She devoted her life to helping others – tirelessly working on creating a children’s library and a center that serves abused children.

My heart goes out to their families. To all of the families.

I still can’t wrap my mind around it.

So tragic, so senseless, and even five years later, so inconceivable.

4 comments:

Richard Jensen said...

WHat can one say under these circumstances...except condolences.

Mark Schubb said...

Thanks for this Ken. Woke up this morning thinking about them.

For me, David was always the warm and reassuring spot in the room. An island of quiet good will. I knew him from auditions, on the set, and at the occasional party with Lynn. He was the one guy who seemed "there for you" when you auditioned, usually had a friendly word on set, and was open and approachable almost anytime.

So what the hell was someone like that doing in show business? Where sharks eat nice for sport?? Somehow, David was so solid they just swam right by...

Thanks for helping us remember two lovely people.

Todd VanDerWerff said...

Mr. Levine:

This is not to trivialize your loss or say that I can even begin to understand it, but when a news station reported that Mr. Angell had died in the attacks (among other notables, including, if I recall correctly, Barbara Olsen) and most of my friends had no idea who he was (I was in college at the time and watching with a large group), I was saddened to recognize the name.

Of course, I didn't KNOW Mr. Angell, but I spent a lot of a lonely young teenhood watching whatever sitcom reruns I could find. Instead of knowing the names of all of the actors, I learned the names of the writers and followed them from show to show, tracing how, say, people from Bob Newhart ended up on Taxi, then ended up on Cheers.

I first encountered Mr. Angell when I went through a long phase of watching Wings reruns (which he co-created). I then saw his name, again, on Cheers, as I stayed up way too late to watch reruns of that, hoping not to get caught doing so at 1 in the morning. And, finally, I knew him as the co-creator of Frasier.

I'm not going to pretend that he had any of the impact on my life that he did on yours, but I hope his friends and family know that the lives of people like myself were impacted, even if only through a few laughs.

I wish you all the best.

Colleen Rosati said...

Mr. Levine,

I am a senior theater major at Providence College, David Angell's Alma Mater. I of course never came into contact with him or his wife but I wanted you to know what an impact he has had, even after his death.

Here at our tiny Catholic college in Rhode Island, we have a very small program and were only given a formal center for the arts a few years ago. I have always been told that both David and Lynn kept very close ties with the department and watched it grow over the years. Their foundation gave us the final grant and made it possible for the building to be completed. Every day I go to work in the "David and Lynn Angell Blackfriar's Theater" and feel so blessed that we have been given such an incredible gift.

The Angells are always remembered in our thoughts-with every person that enters that building to work or observe - they can read the plaque outside that gives just a tiny glimpse into the lives of these two incredible people. I feel so greatful that their memory continues to touch so many.

Sincerely,
Colleen Rosati, Class of '07