Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Traci Lords Family Show

Several years ago my partner and I had a pilot deal with a studio. At the time we were told that the networks were looking for “out of the box” ideas and one popular trend was to take real life personalities and create fictional shows around them. (I guess this approach worked sooo well for Bette Midler’s BETTE.) But the more outrageous the personality the better. We said to the studio executives, yeah, but can any of these people act? Guess the network geniuses (now no longer in those jobs, by the way) didn’t think of that. But we said we were willing to at least explore this area.

A few days later they called and said, “Would we be interested in developing a show around Traci Lords?” We thought, really, she wants to do a sitcom? Isn’t that a big come down from porn? But we were told she was serious so we said, sure, we’ll take a meeting. Why not? How often do we get to meet porn stars without paying?

We cooked up a series idea that would show Traci trying to make it as a legit actress having to deal with the added baggage of her questionable past. We would see her home life, work struggles, “colorful” former co-workers – your typical sitcom world. We would call the series THE TRACI LORDS FAMILY SHOW.

So off we went to meet her, knowing full well no network in their right mind would EVER put on a Traci Lords show. Try selling that to the red states affiliates.

We met her at her manager’s office and to answer the obvious first question – she still looked pretty great. Not smoking but she made the transition into legal age very nicely. However, one thing was painfully apparent after two minutes – she was seriously unfunny. And yet, that didn’t stop her from LECTURING us on comedy. As we sat there dumbfounded listening to her drone on and on about what’s funny and what’s not I thought to myself, this is truly the nadir of my career.

I will say, to our credit, that we were quiet, respectful, and at no time did either of us stop her and say, “Excuse me, dear, do we tell YOU how to give a golden shower?”

Alas, we didn’t do the project. I hear she found some other writers. I guess the show didn’t sell.

Oh well. I’m sure she’s now on to procedural drama, explaining forensics to the CSI gang.

40 comments:

Richard Jensen said...

I'm kid of sorry that it didn't work out. Ron Jeremy would have killed as the wacky neighbor!

wcdixon said...

That's priceless, but kinda of sorry to hear also. I always had high hopes for Ms. Lords to bust out in a big way on tv...network tv, people, network tv.

Herb Popsfarter said...

Ah she's crap anyway - she was even bad in the porns - sounded like a donkey with its leg caught.

Um...or so I've heard.

(Ron Jeremy, the wacky neighbor - Good one, RJ!)

Will Teullive said...

If "The Traci Lords Family Show" ever made it on network TV, here are the most likely sponsors in no particular order:

Massengill, Vasoline, Cialis, Preparation H, Nair, Johnsonville brats, The Clapper, Jiffy Pop, Energizer batteries, and Microsoft.

amitbe said...

I bet that post is gonna attract a whole new crowd to this site. This is the first time in history where googling for "tracy lords golden shower" and ending up with a career change sounds sober and legit.

dhppy said...

Apropos of absolutely nothing, I just read your blog about the "lost cheers" episode. I never would have believed there was an episode I hadn't seen.

I loved the Superbowl Mass line.

Ah Cheers. As long as people are looking to cast a Lords types over a Long, sitcoms will be in bad shape.

At least we have The Office.

Anonymous said...

to bad pbs didn't pick that up as that show sounds hilarious

Anonymous said...

Your story makes sense in relation to where Lords ends up with small parts in John Waters films in that grey area of notoriety/celebrity/actor, not unlike Patty Hearst.

She was just too soon, all that with the industry cross-over and such, its common now, but no one knew how to deal with her except of course Waters, who can put everything in "camp".

As I look at Jenna Jameson and the like, I also wonder sometimes: yeah but is she FUNNY.

LA Guy said...

Great story... the funny thing is if it had been made back then it would be regarded as quaint and tame compared to what we're subjected to today on the Internets.

How about a new show called Meet The Beavers starring Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and whatever other pantie less tart of the moment has bared their soul for all humanity? (Pamela Anderson would of course the maternal but still smoking hot mother)

gary said...

All these Traci Lords comments could also be filed under "Open All Night."

Lizbeth said...

This idea probably would fly today. It could be a companion piece for the increasingly salacious "Two and a Half Men." I'm actually surprised Traci Lords doesn't have a reality show somewhere on cable.

Tom Quigley said...

Ken,

Nice picture of TL... And all this time I thought I was looking at your site only to read the blogs....

Anonymous said...

"Still Open" the sequel series to "Open all Night", is a comedy starring Traci Lords as the single working mother trying to raise two twin teenage daughters, one very naughty, one very nice (think Olsen twins but interesting, or Patty Duke show but - well, the star is Mom Traci Lords).

Apparently Lords stoneface expressions turned her into the best comic "straight man" foil for her different guests each week.

This week, the twins Christmas wish is some rec-room exercise equipement, but Traci gets more than she bargained for when Santa obliges with a stripper pole!! Anna-Nicole, Snoop Dog, guest star.

Diane said...

According to whatever VH1 bio episode I saw on Ms. Lords, that winning personality didn't leave her with a lot of admirers in the porn industry either

Ger Apeldoorn said...

Thanks, Ken. Another great story. I guess shows like this are a networks wet dream (if you'll pardon the expression). It's like, a reality show... but scripted, so you can control it! But then again... that would mean giving the power back to the writers. How about a reality show that is scripted by the audience?

See it next year.

EditThis said...

Yeah, this is just another example of why network executives should NOT have control of a network. Then again, Ken DID mention that these net execs no longer had their jobs. Unfortunately, they gave their positions to people who think "How I Slept With My Sister" would be a really good reality show.

Mr. X said...

It would be worth seeing one episode of a sitcom starring current and former porn stars, just to see them trying to do straight acting.

ahomer said...

As I was reading your post it just occurred to me, forget Traci Lords, how does one screw up a sitcom when your main talent is Bette Midler and the project is shaped around her? Does one blame it on the talent's lack of talent?

Same with Whoopi Goldberg, although THERE I am holding off on judgement as per talent.

If sitcoms can't manage with bonafide stars, and can't manage with (ex)porn stars, then...? Does that mean we viewers are bound to get the same recycled round of tv-faces?

I think Traci could have held her own for a few seasons with the public if she had a good premise.

I mean, if you go by industry-gossip, the cast of "Friends" didn't exactly have winning personalities.

And for the comment of lack of admirers from the porn-industry, I think that is still considered a plus.

sparkylulu said...

As I have come to understand it, after years in the business as an actor, and also as a fan of television there are two important elements in a successfull show and one IS more important than the other. The first and primary being writing. History has shown that, more often than not, a well written show is more beloved, successful and has ancillary value than a poorly written show. So, Mary Tyler Moore should always do better and, eventually, make more money than Homeboys from Outer Space. Now, this is not always true, but, I think, for the most part, the writin in television should be respected and sought out.
The second and almost as important as the writing is the casting. Now, this does not mean *stars*. By no means, actually. The cast of Friends were hardly stars, though many of them had been on our radar for a few years at the time they were cast in the show. But, again, using MTM as an example, Ed Anser? In a comedy? Gavin Macleod?? Or how about Taxi? Judd Hirsch was hardly a household name. And Danny DeVito? His biggest claim to fame at that point was playing an inmate in Cuckoo's Nest. But they were well cast for the well written parts they would be playing.
That is the SECRET INGREDIENT. Not so secret. Grant Tinker knew it, he got it. Some others as well. Mostly, tv execs are hacks who treat the medium with the same disrespect they would an adopted crack baby brother.
But, doesn't Traci's atitude toward comedy prove this point?
Acting is something everybody thinks they know everything about. I mean, it's the ONLY business you can be in wherein you can be at a party (I was) and meet someone (I did) who asks what you do for a living (I like to flirt) and be told upon answering "I'm an actor", "Oh, my 3 year old is an actor". So, there is an inherent disrespect going on. As for writer's being disrespect, well, don't we all hate the very thing we need but can't do ourselves?
Oh, shit, I've overwritten the thing again.....fuck me.

Ben said...

I'm dying to know a few of Traci's comedy tips. Come on, Ken, spill.

Diane said...

"I think Traci could have held her own for a few seasons with the public if she had a good premise."

ahomer - I'm dying to know what you base this statement on - Her personality? Charm? Ridden hard and put away wet good looks?

"And for the comment of lack of admirers from the porn-industry, I think that is still considered a plus."

For most of us, yes. And I would agree with you if the lack of admiration for Lords was because of her high standards and ethics. But since it's because she was considered to be unethical by even porn industry standards, I'd have to disagree.

Anonymous said...

I love your stories.

May I share? Some friends and I threw this up on youtube this morning. We call it LAW & ORDER: CHRISTMAS INTENT.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A...h? v=AQPPyVx21Bc

Oa Rove said...

Wow, what an ego. Where does she get off? Oh right: in front of the cameras. She's a porn star. Got it.

ahomer said...

Sparkylulu - thanks for the great response - I am still curious as to failing with Bette Midler in a sitcom, but I know what you mean, the recipe might be even tastier without having to mix in a "star". That makes it more of a writers craft as well.

diane
You have a good argument with which side to take regards to Traci vs Porn Industry, I just think we have to cut her some slack if just because at that age, it must have been a psychological mess for her to begin with, and she managed to crawl out of it. So she's "infamous" - it has that element of attraction.

As for why I think a sitcom would probably survive 3 seasons. Well sure, her chances were much better if she just shut up a bit and listened in that meeting with Ken and his partner!

But I base my opinion first of all in comparison to the stuff that is on Fox and so on. You don't need her to be a great comediene, but just respond in an ensemble. Obviously, from her previous career, she knows how to be a "respond" person. And then, she had been in John Waters films, she did an album (yes that too) that was niche dance floor "succesful" so she was a pop culture figure, and somehow people could work something, if just the fact she obviously has the drive to sell herself before her 15 minutes are up. Again, it could be alot better than sitcoms from ex-rappers, football players, alot of blondes.

I think its possible to write her in that character and people would have liked it because it was the first porn star to leave the industry and a "bad girl" etc.. all very hip at that time.

I didn't think she would be good as a comediene, I just believed it would be possible, based on the fact she is already in some way marketing herself, so half the p.r. work is done, and if you get the right ensemble cast around her, she accepts the writers, she could almost be a piece of wood.

Then I just think, especially with female, ex-porn stars, a certain demographic of the American public is more willing to keep it on a bit longer, let it go one season, if just to oogle, or watch a trainwreck. Like Pam Anderson is a great comedy star? It's more an "event".

I mean, sure, she's no Jim Belushi or Charlie Sheen.

John said...

Obviously the studio exeucitve who was told the networks were looking for something "out of the box" and thought of Traci Lords was under some kind of misconception on what kind of box the networks were talking about.

Mike Hunt said...

The only reason Traci had the success she did in the mainstream entertainment business is because she trashed the porn industry and said she was victimised (which is bull, her story has changed many times over the years). She's a medicore actress at best. There are lots of past porn actress who had much better acting chops, and is more interesting such as Georgina Spelvin, Marilyn Chambers, Sharon Kane, Veronica Hart, Kelly Nichols, Colleen Brennan, Ginger Lynn, Ashlyn Gere, Chloe Nicole, Janine Lidemulder and even Jenna Jameson.
Traci's personality leaves a lot to be desired.

Anonymous said...

But as ahomer mentions, Traci is the first one to make the crossover, not only that, to go the whole celeb run, the Waters movies, books, the album, the tv name recognition, for at least a decade.

The others, while "fine actresses" whatever that means in porn, did not even leave the starting gate. End of that comparison really.

And since when did a sitcom rely on the best acting? The 60s and 70s have included b-string comedians, non-actors, more like second bananas, who stood in a room and essentially did their shtick.

I just think she gets judged too harsh for odd reasons, while supposedly most other actors (far too many of whom we all know are egos, obnoxious, went through their coke-addled, or other drugs stages, arrogant and maybe still are - or worse, scientologists) are ok because they can "act".

The standard porn and sitcom have alot in common: You don't need to act, but mug, gesture, do reactions, probably even spittakes...and look like you really are enjoying it.

That's why the writers are so important to make something out of the limitations. The title was showing that: The Traci Lords Family show could have been a contender.

Anonymous said...

Hey, in an age where Paris Hilton and Jessica Simpson have "acting careers", why not Traci Lords?

I can even suggest an idea for development: CELEBRITY CATFIGHT!

You just put your two divas together and arrange for them to get mad at each other and have them call each other sluts and start ripping each others' clothes off.

It would sell big time!

Anonymous said...

CATFIGHT - with MUD!!

Michael Zand said...

Ken, I can’t tell you how THRILLED I was to hear your Traci Lords story. I too have a similar experience. My wife and I were writing partners on hour dramatics. The last serious opportunity we had to sell a show was with Traci Lords on a project based on a comic book (excuse me, Graphic Novel )that went out of print after four issues. The name of this opus was…. wait for it… “Bad Kitty.” We weren’t even the first choice. The original writer had been fired for arguing with La Lords. You got the lecture on comedy. We got the lecture on drama. I learned so much that day. Nothing to do with drama, of course, but after the meeting,on the way out of the Warners lot, Traci went ahead of us and we were walking behind with her manager-- a very nice lady with absolutely no sense of irony. There’s a fire station on the lot and all the fireman came out to ogle. Her manager, turned to us with a straight face and said: “I don’t know what it is, but fireman seem to love Traci.” Call me arrogant, but I knew EXACTLY what “it” was. My wife looked at me and bit her lip so hard to this day she has to shoot it with collagen.

We actually went out on pitch meetings with her and the Warner exec but no sale. We left the business right after.

Just think, we both missed out on getting script notes from Traci Lords. Does that make us brothers?

Herb Popsfarter said...

I agree with Ben, What were her comedic insights? You gotta tell us!

Ken: "So what we're thinking is..."

Traci: (interrupts) (chomping gum) "You know what's funny? Fat people! Fat people with funny hats and tiny shlongs! Heehawheehaw!"

Ken: "You read my mind."

Kyle said...

"And yet, that didn’t stop her from LECTURING us on comedy. As we sat there dumbfounded listening to her drone on and on about what’s funny and what’s not ..."

All right, but what did she say? The thought of Traci Lords lecturing on comedy is bizarre. Finding out WHAT she had to say -- that's where the story really begins.

TCinLA said...

Traci Lords' "crossover" happened back when I was first "making my bones" by writing for Roger Corman. The one funny thing about "Not of This Earth" was that Roger didn't know who she was when he approved the casting (true story - when he said that afterwards no one ever believed him, but trust me, none of the staff back then wanted to be the ones to tell him, because while Roger has a reputation for being "out there" he's never personally been "out there" that far). The movie's success spurred a mini-"trend" there of seeing if they could find other "crossover" porn stars. Which they couldn't but you really could have written a sitcom around the meetings of the production executive, the writer chosen to make the attempt, and the ever-so-earnest "I really have always wanted to be a serious actress" porn actresses. Two of the production exec were young horn dogs, and they pushed the idea as far as they could to maximize opportunity to meet and hit on pornstars. Ginger Lynne actually came pretty close to "going the distance" on one of those.

Among males of a "certain age" you can still get dreamy looks from them if you mention her name, but I gotta say you nailed it about a personality that could turn a room to stone.

elephty said...

Porn star? Porn actress? Porn its a way to make money if you don't know much else. I can't really blame the girls for arrogance since everyone around them pumps them full of how beautiful, sexy and desirable they are. The desirable thing is difficult for many people to handle, and it goes to their heads.

Seduced by beauty. Seduced by sexy. And it really doesn't matter what anyone says about them in public; in private many men and women would like to possess a beauty for a period of time.

Thus the arrogance which kills the beauty, kills the sexy, and may or may not kill the desirable, makes them ugly in a manner that is difficult to get past, but it happens when everyone tells you that you are beautiful or handsome even though you live alone - always.

Of course, the best compliment for someone who is always told that they are beautiful is that they are smart, interesting or unique.

The smart ones eventually shed the compliments and become human beings, the slow ones take a little longer. It is sad, really, but difficult to beat when everyday is your birthday and everyone "loves" you.

Then there comes the snide asides about anyone who was in "that" business, to what end but a shared sense of superiority that would be unnecessary if it was true, which leads us to the arrogance of the talented, who work as hard to sell their wares as the prostitute in the alley or the porn performer in a whirlwind of deceit.

It would be nice if we were just grateful for the differences, and leave it at that, because without them what would there be to laugh about?

My arthritis is acting up, and it caused the above reaction, yet I can't help but feel that it would be better to be a porn person in a situation comedy, because in some sense it is all porn anyway. Somebody is giving it, and someone else is taking it, like yin and yang but earthy.

No, I'm not taking this seriously. Who would?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be folks who are jaded by her past, incapable or unwilling to see the end results as legit. While I am far from a fan of any more reailty shows I am dissappointed that traci has not appeared more in other roles and programs. You go girl you climbed out of a gutter industry into legit work show us what you are capable of.

Anonymous said...

She has won acting awards for best comedy actress for the movie 'Chump Change'. So she does know something about comedy.

Anonymous said...

Guessing that this is the "we lost the deal" group therapy page?

I wonder if any of you can come anywhere close to the success Tracy has had or pull through the kind of issues she has and still succeed.

Yeah I thought not.

There will always be haters.

You go Tracy!

TONY said...

WHY DO MOST READERS PUT TRACI DOWN SHE HAD A GREAT BODY AND KNEW HOW TO USE IT I WISH I WAS ONE OF THE LUCKY GUYS TO HAVE GOT INTO HER OR GOT A BJ SHE IS GREAT

Corruption Radio said...

She just attacked you on her twitter ken, no joke.

Anonymous said...

You might be interested to know that Traci is the lead in a gay-friendly, family holiday dramedy, AU PAIR, KS, currently making the film festival rounds.