Thanks so much to everyone who commented for the 200th post (and those who haven’t are still welcome to). I’m frankly blown away. Besides having a forum to rant (like my post today) it’s a terrific bonus knowing I’m encouraging people who love writing as much as I do. You’ve also raised some great topics that I will address in the weeks to come. On to the next 200!
Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run on Sunday in “Corporate Sponsor’s Name Here” Park in San Francisco, passing Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time list. Hank Aaron with 755 lifetime “big flies” holds the record. How fitting that when Bonds socked his “historic” homer his mother wasn’t there, his wife and kids weren’t there, nor were the Giants’ team owner, the so-called “commissioner of baseball” (he was probably trying on new suits deciding which one would be the most comfortable to sleep in), or Willie Mays (although in fairness, Willie did send his statue). Curiously, the mike went out on the Giants’ radio broadcast just before Dave Fleming’s call thus denying fans the chance to even hear it. (Curse of the Bambino?? Hmmmm?)
Bonds wasn’t mobbed by teammates at home plate. Only a handful of national reporters were there. Most editors realized it wasn’t worth the $12 per diem per day to justify their presence. Better to do features on fly fishing. ESPN had cancelled Bonds reality show sending the camera crew instead to cover tractor races.
In short, this was a big NON EVENT. The 100th GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW of baseball.
All because Barry Bonds is exactly as he is perceived by the public – a (San Francisco) Giant schmuck. This is a guy who, during the last baseball strike, despite making millions, asked a judge if he could reduce child support payments. It’s also a pretty good bet he took steroids. There’s a reason his head is now the size of Underdog’s in the Macy’s Day Parade.
No wonder nobody gives a shit. No one wanted him to break the record (in the same way no one wants to see Dick Cheney win a Nobel Peace Prize or P. Diddy sell more records than Elvis.) My son was only sorry Bonds didn’t hit #715 this upcoming weekend because the Giants will be playing in New York. Can you imagine? He’d be mercilessly booed, spit on, and drenched with beer – and that would just be from the security guards assigned to protect him.
And for all that, I have to say, I think Barry Bonds is the greatest hitter the game has ever seen. Better than the Babe, better than the Yankee Clipper, Stan the Man, Teddy Ballgame, or even the Rabbi of Swat.
Still, I hate him. If I was forced to say one nice thing about his personality it’s that he was always a pantload, even before he became famous. The money and fame didn’t go to his head.
Hank Aaron was hated too. But the difference is Aaron was hated for all the wrong reasons. It was his courage and character as well as his skill that allowed him to set a record I hope will forever stand. Not because of what he did but because of who he is.
And for Barry Bonds, when he inevitably is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I hope the only star athlete willing to introduce him is OJ Simpson.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Thanks so much to everyone who commented for the 200th post (and those who haven’t are still welcome to). I’m frankly blown away. Besides having a forum to rant (like my post today) it’s a terrific bonus knowing I’m encouraging people who love writing as much as I do. You’ve also raised some great topics that I will address in the weeks to come. On to the next 200!
Monday, May 29, 2006
It's hard to believe I have 200 opinions about anything but I see that I've reached that number. I figure every hundred posts or so I should take a moment to thank everyone for logging on. You're all enablers but I appreciate it. And the number of readers continues to grow which also is very gratifying (as well as mystifying).
Like I did with my 100th post, I invite you to do the writing today. Let me know where you're from, how you came upon this site, what you'd like to see in the blog, give me shit for doing AfterMASH, whatever.
It’ll be a busy summer. I’ll be in New York and Connecticut working on a musical I co-wrote that goes into production at the Goodspeed Theatre. (THE 60’s PROJECT – get your tickets now. You’ll pay for the whole seat but will only use the edge.) Still, I will try to maintain a new entry a day. Hopefully by 300 I won’t be so bereft of ideas I’ll be posting the many rejection letters I’ve received over the years.
Thanks again. Now it’s your turn.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
For everyone but staff writers the Memorial Day weekend is the beginning of summer. For staff writers, particularly those on comedies (there are still a few, right?), it heralds the end of summer. Usually, writing staffs go back to work right after the holiday.
If you’re on a long running show you can’t believe it’s the end of May already. Seems like only a minute ago you wrapped in March and had two and a half whole months ahead of you. Trust me, you’ll blink and be right back into production in August.
Pre production is very much like Spring Training. For the veterans it’s a leisurely time. Flexing muscles, mostly schoozing, slowly getting back into the groove. But for the new members of the staff (the rookies) it can be a maddening time as you try to fit in. And also a little intimidating. You so want to make a good impression, so want to contribute. Here are a few tips from a grizzled veteran:
Just relax. The only pressure on you is that which you put upon yourself. You’re not expected to carry the show. And most producers would prefer if you just hung back a little at first and observed. You wouldn’t have been hired if they didn’t think you had the chops. Start getting to know the rhythm of the room, the thought process, the way the staff attacks a story. I’m not saying if you have a great idea to not pitch it, but don’t feel obligated to knock everyone off their feet with your brilliance.
It’s a long season. You’ll have plenty of time to shine. For now, listen, learn, and laugh. There are worse ways of spending the summer.
Memorial Day weekend recommendations:
On Monday 77 WABC in New York remembers its Top 40 heritage with a day long salute complete with the music, jingles, and tapes of classic old broadcasts from the 60’s & 70’s. Remember the days of Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (although I never got Cousin Brucie). I’d hyperlink it for you if I wasn’t such a spaz and didn’t know how to do it. But this is the website: http://www.wabcradio.com/
And while we’re on the subject of retro radio, WNEW-FM 102.7 in New York is remembering the great dance stations and jocks of the 80’s. Notable is the return of Howard Hoffman, noon-3 EDT. This guy is GOOD!!
A fun book: MANHATTAN PROJECT by Peter Lefcourt. Lefcourt is a former TV writer turned legitimate writer. This novel is a hilarious look at where reality shows might go. Considering television has gone so far past the absurdity of NETWORK, this plot about ABC televising an Osbourne type series about an Asian warlord is not as far fetched as you’d think, or as it should be.
MY FAIR BRADY – 9 pm EDT on VH-1. The long national wait is over – there’s another Brady Bunch movie. I don’t know what it’s about but who cares? It has to be deliciously appalling. Preferably viewed while stoned.
On Monday FX has a 70’s SHOW marathon. Judging from comments on my last post about the 70’s SHOW a lot of you couldn’t give a shit, but for those like me who found that show fun and quirky here’s a heads up.
THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW is out on DVD. After the HONEYMOONERS it’s my favorite sitcom of all-time.
Stay at home.
Put out your flag.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Memorial Day weekend is always one of the big air travel cluster fucks of the year. But the good news is it has inspired a great idea for a romantic comedy screenplay.
You know the old third act convention -- GIRL goes off to the airport to fly away for good, to marry Ralph Bellamy and ruin her life. GUY realizes he loves GIRL and rushes to the airport. Start the clock! He’s driving like a madman. She’s leisurely strolling to her gate. In the time it takes her to walk twenty yards he drives twenty miles but that’s okay, he’s on “Jack Bauer” time. He parks right in front of the terminal. Races in. She’s at the ticket counter with two people in front of her. He’s leaping over people like OJ. Just as she’s about to enter the jetway he arrives. They embrace, declare their undying love. The end.
My movie would start with GUY realizing he loves GIRL and heading off to the airport. She’s looking at the TV monitors trying to figure out which of the many concourses her gate is at.
He is stuck in terrible traffic.
She is wondering where the fuck is K-26 and how come the direction arrows say concourses A,C,G are one way, B,K, H, D another, E still a third and why there’s no F?
He’s now approaching the airport. There’s construction blocking two lanes. This is the weekend they’ve decided to repave the main thoroughfare. And just for fun, they’re backing in a cement mixer so all traffic is held.
GIRL’S flight has been delayed. It says only 15 minutes but how can that be when the plane isn’t even there yet? Could the major airline be lying???
GUY’S car is inspected after waiting at a checkpoint. The Hummer before him with a gun rack got waved right through. He’s asked to open his Kia trunk.
GIRL realizes if she wants to eat anything on the long fight she needs to buy it. So she gets in long line at the CHILI’S TOO take out stand.
He can’t leave his car unoccupied at the terminal. Only people allowed to get really close to the terminal in these terrorist prevention times are cab drivers, none of whom have first names shorter than 38 letters. GUY has to find a space in one of the parking structures. There are none.
The woman in line ahead of GIRL is asking questions about the chicken pesto wrap? Is it white meat? When was it made? The girl at the counter doesn’t speak English.
GUY parks in a handi-cap zone. Fuck it. He races for the terminal. The parking structure elevator is out of order.
GIRL begins her two mile trek to her gate.
GUY can’t get past security unless he has a ticket. He races to the ticket counter.
Oops. Gates K20-26 are in a different concourse than gates K1-25.
To avoid the long line, GUY goes to First Class desk. There are still three people ahead of him. No biggie except there is only one agent serving First Class passengers. The other line moves faster.
GIRL wanders through the maze of concourses.
GUY reaches the ticket agent. Is given flack for being in the first class line. He’ll buy a first class ticket for GIRL’S flight. Sorry. Sold out. There are no more seats on any flight to her destination. He’ll buy a ticket for ANY flight going anywhere. There’s room on the Tokyo red eye. He’ll take it. First Class only. Shit! He waits as she gets approval for his card. It’s denied. He gives her another card.
GIRL reaches her gate. Flight still delayed. Why? One rep says bad weather. Another says equipment problems. Could the major airline be lying???
Now that GUY has spent his grandmother’s inheritance on a flight he doesn’t intend to take he races to security. Another long line. People are practically stripping down to their underwear.
GIRL’S flight finally arrives. They have trouble getting the jetway to the plane. It’ll only be another few minutes. Scheduled time for her flight was ten minutes ago although the airline maintains that time still stands.
Because he’s flying one-way he’s singled out for extensive examination. He has no luggage, which is mighty suspicious. He could be hiding something. What, he wonders, if he has nothing to hide it in?
GIRL stands in long line at ticket counter.
GUY’S car is towed.
GUY is asked a series of questions. The thought here is that terrorists who would think nothing of blowing up a jumbo jet with 200 people aboard would not tell a fib to a TSA agent.
GIRL reaches the ticket agent and learns her seat is double-booked. This is the new airline policy. They fear that businessmen who book reservations cancel thereby leaving empty seats. So the policy is to double book. The solution is not just put people on stand-by for the few vacant seats. No, it’s to inconvenience those people who did dutifully make their reservations and give the airline their money way ahead of time.
Now GUY is trying to figure out where Gate K-26 is.
GIRL and the other passenger assigned to her seat play game of chicken over who will agree to take a later flight. They’re offered a voucher for a free trip anywhere in the US. GIRL knows that there are only a certain number of seats allotted for these vouchers and they’re always full. So the voucher is essentially worthless.
GUY races to her gate.
GIRL is about to step into the jetway.
GUY reaches her gate. He calls to her. She spots him. Tears in her eyes, she almost swoons when she sees him. An alert siren sounds. The terminal is being evacuated. Bomb scare. Mass confusion as everyone tries to leave. Closing music swells as they embrace and are trampled. The end.
Hopefully it’s not too sentimental. But I’m sure Nora Ephron will find just the right balance. Watch for my movie coming to a theatre near you…or maybe as part of some major airline’s in flight entertainment.
ANTICIPATED LOGIC PROBLEMS: Why don't they have cellphones and just call each other or why doesn't GUY follow her later? GUY ran out of the house so fast he forgot his cellphone. Ralph Bellamy had justice of the peace waiting with him at GIRL'S destination to perform the ceremony at the baggage carousel. All these and any logic problems will be deftly explained in the script by one of the many writers the studio gets to rewrite me...and then each other.
Happy Memorial Day weekend. Fly carefully.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
As May sweeps and the current television season ends, here are some unsolicited and highly opinionated thoughts on some finales:
24 – One of the better seasons. Great villains. Chloe didn’t die. (Neither did Kim but there’s always next year) Jack Bauer firmly established himself as this generation’s James Bond. But considering how many people perished along the way this season, if a nuclear warhead had hit San Francisco the death toll would still be less.
WILL & GRACE – the NBC promo department really cranked up the maudlin meter. Oh, the sadness. Like saying goodbye to a cherished member of the family. Come on! It’s WILL & GRACE. Every year we see the same promos for that year’s exiting cash cow. And the same schmaltzy shots of the cast crying and hugging. But it’s not MASH and it’s not CHEERS and it’s not SEINFELD. The country didn’t stop because the WILL & GRACE finale was on. And they won’t when ACCORDING TO JIM goes off either.
AMERICAN IDOL – Poor Kathryn. Not that she lost to America’s new puppy, that was a given. But her hometown reception the week before was pathetic. Sure Taylor and Elliott come from small towns where to draw a huge crowd one need only wave a Confederate flag while Kathryn hails from Southern California where you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a cast member of ER, but still, she deserved better than fifty kids showing up for what was probably a mandatory assembly in the gym. They gave a fucking star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to Winnie the Pooh. Kathryn received the turnout for a supermarket opening.
PRISON BREAK – finally! They broke! Hopefully, Michael will drop his pants and we see he has a tattoo of the New York City subway map on his legs. (If any network would like to do the reality show version of this show just put cameras in Richard Hatch and Michelle Rodriguez’s cells).
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES – Disappointing second season. But help may be on the way. A noted FRASIER writer is joining the writing staff. Expect the show to be wittier, pithier, and with far more dinner parties.
SURVIVOR – yawn.
THE APPRENTICE -- I always Tivo and fast forward through commercials. And since this show is now just an hour long excuse for product placement I find myself fast forwarding through the whole show. So yawn.
WEST WING – If everyone talked just a little slower they could still get two more years out of the same number of scripts. I loved the idea of building a show around a smart compassionate U.S. president. Aaron Sorkin created a wonderful fairy tale.
ALIAS – Everyone on that show has gone on to better things. Jennifer Garner now has to play her most dangerous alias ever – Ben Affleck’s wife.
THE 70’s SHOW – Deserved more fanfare than it received. Fox’s best live action sitcom ever. Destined to be a mainstay paired with HAPPY DAYS on TV LAND.
LOST – Best show on network TV. A master class in storytelling. But now that the season is over what will ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY do if it can’t devote at least one issue a month to ridiculous predictions and dissection of the clues? And their Oscar speculation issue doesn’t hit the stands till mid June.
CSI – They’ll never top last year’s finale written and directed by Quentin Tarentino. Next year maybe get Spielberg to do it. He can have Grissom and the gang to prove there was a holocaust.
TODAY SHOW – Katie leaving IS a big deal. It IS like saying goodbye to a member of the family. End of an era and all that. I’m sure her farewell show will end with a touching bittersweet montage – Katie clowning, Katie on assignment in a war zone, Katie interviewing Cruise. Wouldn’t it be great if it ended with her colonoscopy?
The summer is here. Oh God. That means BIG BROTHER.
I can’t imagine watching the AMERICAN IDOL finale without Tivo. That would be like having cavities filled without Novocain. 1:58:30 of fill and then the big announcement that everyone in the world expected.
Of course Taylor Hicks won. He’s goofy, slightly addled, has grey hair, and can be a complete embarrassment. It worked for our President.
“Soul Patrol! Whooo!” “Iraq Attack! Whoooo!”
If Clay isn’t gay why is he looking more and more like Peggy Fleming? What’s with the bob?
I hate Paris Bennett. Like I once said, her future will be playing Gary Coleman in the road company of AVENUE Q.
Kathryn looked petrified singing with Meatloaf. It’s hard to do a duet with a man you think is Hannibal Lector.
PUCK & PICKLER – The genius of Kellie Pickler is that she IS that stupid. Why isn’t she co-hosting THE VIEW?
And Kellie is a Mensa member compared to Paula.
The “I am Woman” medley was missing something. I know. Clay.
I loved that they did a tribute to Burt Bacharach. But they never once mentioned his lyricists, notably Hal David. I mean, the man did write “What’s new pussycat? Whoa-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh”.
Dionne Warwicke has had a LOT of work done. At one time she used to sing from her diaphragm. Now she sings from her throat…because that’s where her diaphragm is.
Wouldn’t you love it if the song Chris sang in the Bacharach medley was “the Blob”?
Elliott did a great job with “House is not a home”. Not easy because it’s an idiotic song. “A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there”. Hard to sing that with sincerity if you have an IQ higher than Kellie’s. (Again, a tip of the hat to lyricist Had David.)
Prince now looks like a Dionne Warwicke impersonator. (I bet Ryan Seacrest asked him backstage for the name of his plastic surgeon.) Face work and hair dye won’t fool anybody. He partied like he was 99.
Tamayra Gray was really put out to pasture. Reporting only once from the Kathryn McPhee rally of seventeen people with four homemade posters.
Where was Rubin Studdard and Fantasia? They couldn’t take one night off from singing the National Anthem at the Toledo Mud Hen game to come on the show?
Mandissa should have stayed in the competition longer. Or even won.
64.4 million votes they said. More than has ever voted for an President. But in AMERICAN IDOL’S case (and George Bush’s) people were allowed to vote more than once.
Whenever they cut away to a Fox star I automatically said “who??”
Thank you, Ace for not going into your icky falsetto. He wanted to. While singing “If you get caught between the moon and New York City” he almost involuntarily blurted out “Sherry, Sherry baby!”
At least Paul Anka wasn’t on the show. Although for a moment I thought he was. Turned out it was just that girl with the ungodly tan.
Highlight of the show was Kathryn singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. If Clay wasn’t gay before that performance put him over the top. It was so moving Ace has come out of the closet.
Highlight #2: Crazy Dave falling off the stage. Only thing that spoiled it was that he wasn’t knocked unconscious.
What was that Carrie Underwood song? “Jesus has car jacked my Jeep?”
Start filling those stadiums, kids. Open auditions for AMERICAN IDOL 6 begin in just a couple of months. Start dying your hair grey and choking on escargot.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Next port was Taormina in Sicily. Sicily, of course, is the home of the Mafia and pine nuts. They’re obviously not very sensitive about the Godfather label. Saw a store called “Don Corleone Objects”. T-shirts were sold featuring horse heads.
The picturesque city of Taormina is Pinocchio’s village cut into a mountain. By this time my tolerance for “charming and shopping” was about eleven minutes. It used to be you would go through these little towns to find items you could not find elsewhere. Now everything you could buy in Taormina you can get off the internet. Cheaper. So after zipping through the main drag, snapping pictures we’ll probably toss, we went back down to the beach which was lovely but disappointingly not topless…although I tried to convince my wife it was.
Yes, had pizza. No, it’s not as good as Chicago’s.
Back on the ship for “50’s night”. All the waiters named Zoltan were dressed as car hops. The Vegas type show that night had a 50’s/60’s theme. Eight of the whitest performers in the world belting out Little Richard hits. A gay tenor in a letterman’s sweater saluting “the King”. And if English is your THIRD language you shouldn’t be singing Paul Anka solos. Picture Arnold Schwarzenegger: “Oh vhy of vhy can’t vee tell dem, dis iz not a poopie luvvv?!”. Highlight was the Connie Francis medley. Nuff said.
Everywhere you go on the ship someone is taking your picture. There’s us getting on the boat, us getting off the boat, us hiding from Vera.
Other stewardesses fold guest towels into cute animals. Vera folded ours into swastikas.
Next destination: Santorini. The Greek islands have been the inspiration for many classic works of theatre and MAMA MIA.
Santorini is built on volcanic rock. According to legend (and Donovan), underneath is the lost continent of Atlantis. That’s a stop on the Titanic Mediterranean cruise.
The capitol city, Fira Town, rings the high cliff like a gleaming row of bottom teeth. To get up there you can either take a cable car for 3 euros or ride a stinking donkey for 8. A Jewish couple we met chose the donkeys. It was the first time a Jew EVER selected that option.
Don’t shortchange Santorini by thinking it’s just a party island. They manufacture great natural sponges.
More charm, more stores, more views, more churches, more steps, more ruins, more crowds. “God, this is spectacular. Let’s go.”
All kidding aside, I can’t say enough about Crystal cruise lines. The service was phenomenal and even though I’m sure the help resented and hated us privileged passengers, they never showed it. If you’re going to take a cruise, do it on Crystal…unless it’s to Africa, where pirates attack ships. The only guns on board are the props for the LES MIS medley. Special thanks to our waiter Marinko and Vera for not killing us in our sleep.
Reluctantly, we debarked in Athens and immediately immersed ourselves in the local culture by checking into the Hilton. (Hey, we had Hilton miles. It was free.)
Athens must be Greek for air pollution. But the citizens don’t notice because they’re all smoking.
Couldn’t have picked a better week to be in Athens. They were hosting the gala Eurovision competition. 38 countries were competing in an international singing contest. Imagine the worst of AMERICAN IDOL, UP WITH PEOPLE, and THE GONG SHOW. Abba won this years ago and we’re all still paying for it. Finland won this year. First prize was being able to occupy Norway.
Can’t say much for the local hospitality. Two taxi drivers wouldn’t pick us up and we went into a café and were refused service because we weren’t Greek. I hope one of the many Starbucks in Athens only serves Americans.
We could see the Acropolis from our hotel window. But decided to visit it anyway. Turns out it’s more than just the site of the big Yanni concert, it’s the Birth of Western Civilization.
Warning: It’s a schlep. And most of the good statues have been moved to the British Museum. But it is a truly awesome sight. I mean, to see where Yanni actually performed for a TV audience of over a billion people – wow!
Warning #2: Between the number of tourists and the current restoration project, it’s better to buy postcards of the Parthenon than take your own pictures. There’s no way to take a photo and not have scaffolding and a crane in the shot…which detracts somewhat from the whole “antiquity” thing.
In the underground museum in the Parthenon is a sign that says: “No flash photography. No posing”. To accentuate that point they show a drawing of a smiling girl with a big X across her face.
I was hoping to stumble upon a gyro stand that had a sign “Established 430 BC”.
Flew to London Friday morning. Stayed at the Washington Mayfair. The lobby gives the impression it’s a swanky hotel. Our room, however, was the flat Oliver Twist stepped up to when he left Fagin.
Be prepared for sticker shock. The US dollar is worth 40 pence. Best value: souvenirs at the London Bridge in Lake Havasu.
Tried to go to the Ritz Hotel for high tea, don’tcha know. Unfortunately there’s a six to eight week waiting list. Pity. And we sooo wanted to pay $140 for two pots of tea and a finger cucumber sandwich.
For you ghoulish attraction fans: the basement of Harrods has a memorial to Princess Di and Dodi. It’s next to housewares. Don’t miss it.
Oops! Last November the BBC forgot to renew their license allowing them to tape programs in front of live public audiences. Seems no one in the entire mammoth organization knew it had to be renewed. Last week they got busted. So now while they try to rectify that, all of their sitcoms and other audience shows are done before live audiences of BBC staff members. This includes a teen targeted music program. Today’s hot breakout British bands are performing for a bunch of 55 year old news writers.
Meanwhile, on Channel 4 there’s a series called “99 Ways to Lose Your Virginity”.
Beauty is not wasted on the youth. Every other teenage coed has a face that looks like a knee. And now they all dress like the Spice Girls. That must be “Way #1” of the 99.
Finally a good restaurant in London! There’s now a TGI Friday’s in Leicester Square.
Went to the National Gallery…gift shop. According to the books on display there was an exhibition of American Painters in Paris 1860-1900. I wonder how it was.
Saw the new London revival of Sondheim’s SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE. Good but no Crystal Symphony production. And no Mr. Clean coming on stage during curtain calls to remind us of the big art auction on the Lido Deck.
Caught up with Omid Djalili, one of England’s better Iranian comics. Also had dinner with Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, the creators of my favorite sitcom since the last one I created -- COUPLING. Went to the exclusive Groucho Club. Seems odd that the man who said he’d never belong to any club that would have him as a member has a club.
And now we’re back home with cherished memories, photos, new plates, and a Mastercard bill the size of Portugal’s national budget. But it was worth it. Except for maybe 50’s night. See you at Weight Watchers.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Okay, here's what my wife and I were doing for two weeks while Howard graciously looked after my blog. Thanks too to all of you who suggested restaurants and points-of-interest. Some we did. Others we would have had we had more time. Why a Mediterranean cruise? Because I'm lazy! Being the reluctant traveler I liked the idea that I could unpack once, just look out my window and the destinations would come to me.
The plan was to pick up the ship, Crystal Symphony (rumored to be the finest, confirmed by their brochure) in Lisbon, sail to Gibraltar, Barcelona, Sorrento, Taormina, Santorini, and ending in Athens. From there we’d spend a day in Athens (soaking up the ruins), two in London (getting soaked), and fly back home to LA. Happy to report all went as planned. Except as I write this I don’t know if it’s 5:00 tomorrow or 9:00 yesterday.
Twenty hours traveling door-to-door from our house to the hotel in Lisbon. The most beautiful sight on the whole trip was our luggage coming down the carousel in the Lisbon airport.
Lisbon was fabulous. Someone told me the big attraction was butter. He’s right. I wouldn’t fly twenty hours for it but as butter goes, yeah, pretty great.
Lots of statues but none of Portuguese’s most famous son -- Davey Lopes. Despite winning a Golden Glove in 1978 and hitting 17 home runs twice.
Stayed at the Pestana Palace. It calls itself a hotel & national monument. Vasco da Gama had a weekly poker game in our room before setting out to discover the new world.
The “Mediterranean look” is very popular in Lisbon.
They also have a scaled down Golden Gate bridge and soon a “Disney’s Adventures”. Can Starbucks and Shoney’s be far behind?
No SUV’s, which was very refreshing. Most of the cars looked like little shoes.
Saw an ad for the Champagne Club – “Lisbon’s premiere gentleman club. Continuous table dance and striptease from 10 pm – 4 am. Beautiful girls from all over the world. The ideal CORPORATE environment.”
Boarded the Crystal Symphony for our luxury cruise the same day the last Titanic survivor died. It’s a gorgeous ship. Much nicer than the Love Boat and there were no sad washed-up sitcom stars wandering about (although at the start of the cruise half the women did look like Florence Henderson and by the end they looked like Roseanne).
Which brings me to the food. It was very good. Of course the British thought it was spectacular.
They use 60 tons of foodstuffs for the ten day cruise (59 for the Americans). The galley staff is 90. There is a guy who cleans fish for ten hours a day. The year I worked for Mary Tyler Moore I envied that man.
Our stewardess, Vera, was very efficient. As a girl she was der Fuhrer’s chambermaid.
The hardest working man in show business was our cruise director, Mr. Clean. Picture Dwight D. Eisenhower in an admiral’s uniform, complete with Ike’s tremendous flair for comedy. He comes from your typical entertainment background -- Anti Sub detection unit in Viet Nam and defensive linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. Not only did Mr. Clean host all of the evening entertainment, (“how many of you folks are from out of town?”) he was also the co-anchor of the ship’s “Good Morning” show on channel 27 (“in the top of the news today, the scarf tying class has been moved to the Harmony Deck”), and the (dear God) “5:00 Funnies”.
There are 9 bars, the first one opens at 9 AM. And once a day a “Friends of Bill W.” meeting (AA). By the end of the cruise half the passengers should have attended.
They offer a Beginning Sushi class, whatever that is. Would have signed up but it conflicted with my “Folding Napkins” class.
First port was Gibraltar. Instead of paying a fortune for a ship-arranged tour we hooked up with Arthur, a guy on the pier with a van. Other than the fact that Arthur should have been in a Friends of Bill W. meeting himself, he gave us a great tour. The rock of the Gibraltar consists of limestone formed hundreds of millions of years ago, or, for the “Intelligent Design” people – last June.
From the top you can see Spain and Africa. Arthur thought he could also see Japan. Friends of Bill W, Arthur.
There are 300 apes that reside on Gibraltar. None any cuter than the one on my wife’s head. They are amazingly smart creatures. One won 10 euros off of Arthur playing three card monty.
As for the city of Gibraltar – it’s Catalina with a synagogue.
I always had this fear that when we left for the day sightseeing, Vera was in our stateroom trying on my underwear.
Entertainment Tuesday night: A Judy Garland impersonator. I don’t know, there’s something really creepy about a Judy Garland impersonator who isn’t a man.
Karaoke night – I sang a duet with noted FBI profiler, Clint Van Zandt. There was chemistry. I could feel it.
On formal night the Captain and his officers were introduced. I felt much more secure knowing my future was in the hands of the crew from DAS BOOT.
Met some lovely people from Toronto, Croatia, and ten houses down from us.
Port two was the amazing city of Barcelona (Starbucks on every other corner). Crystal offered a variety of guided tours. Those who signed up received a tag – BAR-A, BAR-B, etc. to differentiate their tours. As a result, all these people were walking around with tags that said BAR-F. Not really what you want to see on a cruise liner.
My wife continued her quest to visit the great museum gift shops of the world. One of these days we’re actually going to go into a museum.
Favorite store name in Barcelona: Very Cheap.
Favorite crew member name: Chief Electrical Engineer – Odd Magne Olsen.
Unlike half the ship’s guests we did not buy a bottle of Absinthe. That’s a liqueur made from wildwood that is banned in the US because apparently it is, well, an opiate. So now we had passengers thinking they’re seeing giant lizards and gryffins. Or, in the case of crew members, an iceberg.
Stopped by a couple of the Gaudi designed homes (not to be confused with gaudy). He was a 19th century architect who was probably the first to work on Absinthe. All of his creations looked like a cross between Sleeping Beauty’s castle, a Fun House, and Jimi Hendrix’s final acid trip. Playful and spectacular, they are not to be missed.
Jesus Christ was taking pictures with tourists in front of the main Gothic cathedral. The fact that he’s doing that these days, collecting street change, suggests that the bumper sticker isn’t true -- Jesus doesn’t save.
Strolled down the famous Las Ramblas shopping street with its colorful stores, flower vendors, and cafés. Lame street performers though. A guy who swallowed balloons. Name me a girl on Santa Monica Blvd. who couldn’t do that.
We had a medical debarkation while sailing by Corsica. Amazingly, there was no mention of it the next day on the “Good Morning Show”. But Mr. Clean did say that Clint Van Zandt’s lecture on “Famous Unsolved Cases of the FBI” was an enjoyable hour not to be missed.
The problem with cruising is that when you reached your destination you had only a few hours to see everything, which of course is impossible. So instead of a leisurely day of sightseeing, it was the AMAZING RACE. Case in point: Sorrento, Italy, the Jewel of the Amalfi Coast. In one nine hour period we saw Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, had lunch, bought ceramics, visited the Hotel San Pietro, took pictures of the picture of Hillary Clinton, covered most of the countryside, stopped for fifteen breathtaking photo ops, shopped for Italian schmatahs, bought gelato, searched for more Absinthe, and toured Pompeii. The AMAZING RACE is easier.
We accomplished all this by hooking up with two other couples and hiring a local taxi driver to be our guide and drive us for the day. Rafaele. We zipped around the Amalfi coast, taking treacherous hairpin turns and naming Grace Kelly movies. Blaring out of his speakers was the Three Tenors singing “My Way” and “Blue Moon”.
Meanwhile, Rafaele pointed out all the landmarks of this history rich area. “Over dere is where dey do the movie, TUSCAN SKY with Diane Lane.” The castles and 500 year old buildings probably were significant too be we didn’t hear about them. “Over dere is where dey do the movie, ONLY YOU with Robert Downey Jr. and Billy Zane.”
Since there were not enough fossils on the ship we had to see the ruins of Pompeii. 2,000 years ago this town was buried and hermetically sealed when Mt. Vesuvius erupted and rained volcanic ash on it. At some point there may be another eruption and 2,000 years from now archeologists will uncover all these people frozen with hand held audio tours pressed against their ears.
Didn’t see the whorehouse paintings, which apparently is the highlight of the site. The perfect Ancient Roman corporate environment.
I asked a guide where Jor-el’s house was. He didn’t get it. Maybe after the Superman movie comes out.
Truth in advertising: A chain of gas stations named AGIP. Considering the prices, “a gyp” is exactly what they are.
Stores in Italy close between 1-4. Finally, a country that is husband-friendly.
For Mother’s Day I asked Vera to have a half dozen roses delivered with a card. What a nice surprise when Debby entered the room and there were the flowers and the receipt. No note, but the receipt was very heartfelt.
THE REST TOMORROW (yes, this is my longest travelogue ever)
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Back home with much to catch up on, including sleep and 24 but not in that order. A travelogue on my trip will follow later this week.
Now that the networks have announced their fall schedules and have done their dog and pony shows for disinterested advertisers who are only at the upfronts announcements for the booze and to ogle the girls from the O.C. …
IT’S STAFFING SEASON!!!!
When a showrunner hears from the network that his pilot is not being picked up, his typical reaction is “Oh shit!” If he hears that it is getting a pick up, his reaction is also “Oh shit!” Because now he has to make the show. First order of business is putting together a staff and crew. Showrunners will get calls from agents they’ve never met, climbing on the phone and saying “Hey, guy, how was your weekend?” Like they give a shit how your weekend was. Submissions will be arriving by the truckload.
MAKE SURE YOUR SPEC IS ONE OF THEM.
You’ve slaved away for months. You’ve given it to people you trust and have revised and polished it. You’ve wisely taken out that dream sequence. Now you’re ready.
A couple of things to remember: Readers WANT to like your script. You may only get five or six pages to grab them but they’re desperately looking for the next great writer. Even if there are 500 scripts in the pile, if yours is good it’s going to be recognized. So make sure it’s in that pile.
If you have ANY connections, now is the time to use them. Call in favors. Reconnect with your estranged father. Email your former fiancée who you caught sleeping with your estranged father if her new boyfriend is in the biz. Drop the lawsuit against her even if she’ll make a call on your behalf. So what if it’s humiliating? You’re a writer. Get used to humiliation.
If you can get an agent, even a shitty agent, get him. As long as the agent is a WGA signatory you’re in business. It doesn’t matter that he’s currently renting Philip Marlowe’s old office and his last successful client wrote for MR. PEEPERS. You can do the legwork yourself. Print a bunch of copies of your spec, get his office to stamp them, then send them out yourself.
In some cases being with a small agency can be a plus because if you’re with WMA you know your agent has bigger clients he’s going to push first. That said, if WMA will take you on, thank the Gods and take it.
Check to see which, if any, studio will accept unsolicited scripts.
And finally, send your script to EVERY show you can. Don’t be picky. Send it to network shows, C/W, cable shows, Disney Channel shows, the Cartoon Network – anybody.
The goal is to get noticed. The goal is to impress. The goal is to get hired.
New writers will get their first break this staffing season. New writers will get discovered. Why not you??
Now get on that pile!!!
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Traveling home this weekend. Will probably be jet lagged till August. Thanks again to HH for being my blogmaster.
With the big AMERICAN IDOL finale upon us, the question is posed: at what point does fanatic interest become pathetic obsession? I contend it’s when you pick up that phone and actually vote. That’s when you’ve crossed over to the dark side. But for those like me, who love the show but just can’t bring themselves to take that dangerous step, here’s a little AMERICAN IDOL nostalgia to get you through the weekend – healthily. My observations of the first IDOL finale.
What was with Kelly Clarkson wearing a black schmatah dress OVER jeans?? It's bad enough her music video looked like a Summer's Eve commercial.
Somebody reeeeeally gay dressed the boys.
Who had less to do, the twenty non finalists who basically stood around and were window dressing...or Brian Dunkleman?
I love when Dunkleman said "see you early next year" when all reports say he's gone.
Did any of the girls eat for the last three weeks?
Did all of the girls get their navels pierced over the last three weeks?
Justin wore more make up than Mary Tyler Moore does these days.
In the 60's medley (which they've now done a gazillion times) did you notice that everyone but that horrible Jim got a solo?
Best body: Ryan Starr. She looked hot even when behind the stairs (what a great bit of choreography THAT was).
Ryan Seacrest is gay. I don't care that he slept with Paula Abdul. That just makes him more gay.
Did Kelly go to Debra Messing's hair stylist? Or a Vidal Sassoon trainee?
The country medley was riotous. Thirty Osmonds "gettin' down y'all"!
Who will be the first American Idol finalist to take a gig at a bar mitzvah?
Who will be the first American Idol finalist to wind up the subject of a tragic "E! True
Story"? Dunkleman doesn't count. He's a given. Today's Lauren Chapin. . Hollywood
Tamyra Grey has the longest arms in
. I mean, like Inspector Gadget. America
The fifteen minutes are ticking.....
Friday, May 19, 2006
While away in
FRASIER OPENS THE DOOR.
IS LYING SPRAWLED ON THE TOPPLED BREAKFAST CART. NILES
(sitting up) Yes?
Oh my God!
I’m so sorry. We didn’t mean for this to happen.
Oh my God!
She’s telling the truth. It was a mistake. A stupid mistake.
. I don’t want to hear how or why or – I just want to get out of here. Niles
FRASIER EXITS THE HOTEL ROOM.
BUT HE’S OUT THE DOOR.
This is my worst nightmare.
You have egg on your face.
That’s an understatement. I’m mortified. I –
No. Actual egg. It’s in your hair, too.
THERE’S A KNOCK AT THE DOOR. LILITH OPENS IT AND FRASIER COMES BACK INTO THE HOTEL ROOM.
I knew you couldn’t stay mad at us.
I’m in a bathrobe, you jackass.
FRASIER BEGINS COLLECTING HIS CLOTHES AS SOMETHING DAWNS ON LILITH.
I can understand your shock and – believe me, if I could erase everything that happened last night I would. But if you look at this rationally for a moment, we didn’t technically do anything wrong.
What?! You didn’t do anything wrong?
I’m a little unclear on that myself but I’m willing to go along with it.
You and I are no longer married. Neither is
. I won’t say this is my shining hour but we’re not responsible to you or anyone else for our actions. Niles
(jumping on the bandwagon) Right! And I’m frankly insulted by your outburst.
I can’t believe this! You’re actually defending what you did?
Just listen. The past few days have been the worst of my life. I’ve never felt less self-assured, more in need of validation, both as a person and as a woman. And
was feeling the same thing. Niles
Exactly. (realizing) Wait a minute.
(to Frasier) Our physical reaction to each other was nothing more than a desperate attempt to reaffirm our own worth.
Very impressive, Lilith. But I happen to be a psychiatrist too. Let me tell you what really transpired. This is a passive-aggressive manifestation of the deep resentments that you both have toward me. You were punishing me for my notoriety. My successful adjustment after our marriage. It is this shared bond that brought you two to your palace of sweet revenge.
Allow me to rebut: What a crock.
It is not!
This is yet another example of your complete self-absorption and the reason we could not stay together in the first place.
I think I have a right to -- why am I defending myself?
If you ask me, you’re both off the mark. Last night was all about two people ruled by very strong superegos, tortured by them, who had a chance, however misguided, to break through and rediscover their ids together. Call me an old softy, but that’s how I see it.
(a beat, then) Okay, then… the three of us have certainly analyzed the crap out of this.
Where does that leave us?
Yes. Where do we all go from here?
(after a beat) I don’t know.
THERE’S AN AWKWARD SILENCE. A CELL PHONE RINGS IN THE CLOSET.
Oh, that’s mine.
GOES TO THE CLOSET TO SEARCH FOR HIS CELL PHONE. NILES
You realize if you had simply given in to me last night instead of this morning, the three of us wouldn’t be in this hell?
No, it would be the two of us in a whole different hell.
Crane… Absolutely not. We agreed on a figure… Well that’s too damned bad. I’ve been manipulated enough by you jackals. I’ll see you in court. (hangs up) The very idea that Maris would still think… (realizes) Hey, wait a minute… I’m not sleeping. By all rights the strain of that conversation should have caused me to go out like a light. And instead I feel alert. Almost invigorated. Niles
It’s not surprising. Your experience with Maris over the past few months has been emasculating. Last night may have gone a long way toward restoring your self-confidence.
Yes. And by the same token, you can give up the neurotic assumption that Brian left you because you’re not attractive. You’ve had ample evidence to the contrary.
Yes, I have. To hell with Brian. If he wants a doting little wife he can keep Stan.
Well, this just worked out great for everyone, didn’t it? You two solved your problems. The waiter got a handsome tip. Come on, everyone, on my cue… a rousing chorus of “Oh Happy Day.”
Please try to understand.
Yes, what happened was nothing more than –
Oh, stop it, both of you. Enough. It happened, and I’m going to have to deal with it. (then) I suppose in a twisted way there is one positive in this for me. You see, Lilith, I have never stopped desiring you, even though we are completely wrong for each other. But now, from this day forward, whenever I look at your face, I’ll see the back of my brother’s head, and that’s better than a dead horse any day.
Well, I’m glad to hear that… I suppose. You know, Frasier –
All right. Maybe I’ll just go have some breakfast.
LILITH GOES INTO THE BATHROOM. THERE’S AN AWKWARD SILENCE. FRASIER AND
DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY TO EACH OTHER. FINALLY: NILES
Are we okay?
No, we’re not. (beat) But we will be.
Well that’s enough for now. (then) We’re an odd little family, aren’t we?
Yeah, like the one in Deliverance.
THERE’S A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
FRASIER OPENS THE DOOR. THE WAITER ENTERS WITH ANOTHER BREAKFAST CART.
Here’s the eggs Benedict, and --
THE WAITER LOOKS AROUND AND NOTICES THERE’S NO LILITH, JUST TWO MEN IN BATHROBES.
AND HE TURNS AND EXITS, AS WE:
FADE OUT. THE END.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
The plot thickens. Here’s more of the scene from the “Room Service” episode of FRASIER that David Isaacs and I wrote. The entire second act was one scene, more like a play.
INT. LILITH’S HOTEL ROOM/BATHROOM -- CONTINUOUS
IS HIDING IN THE BATHROOM. LILITH ANSWERS THE DOOR FOR FRASIER. NILES
Hello, Frasier. What are you doing here?
FRASIER ENTERS. HE HEADS TOWARDS LILITH AND TRIES TO KISS HER.
But Frasier –
Oh, don’t punish me because I played hard to get last night. It took everything I had to resist you.
But Frasier, this is wrong.
Who cares? Can you honestly say when you were lying in bed last night you weren’t thinking about me?
LILITH CONSIDERS A MOMENT.
Oh, drop the mask, Lilith. We both know why you came to
. We both know why you dressed so enticingly last night. Seattle
FRASIER HEARS THE TOILET FLUSH.
Is someone in your bathroom?
No, it’s a …defective toilet. Did that all last night. I’d better check it.
LILITH DASHES INTO THE BATHROOM.
IS SITTING ON THE TOILET, ASLEEP. THEY TALK IN WHISPERS. NILES
You fell asleep and flushed the toilet.
Damn. Is he still here?
What does he want?
He wants to make love to me.
Does the man have no scruples? He specifically asked me last night to keep him away from you and then the minute my back is turned he sneaks over here and yes, I’m aware of the irony.
I’ll just ask him to leave.
INT. HOTEL ROOM
LILITH RETURNS. FRASIER HAS REMOVED HIS CLOTHES AND IS NOW IN A BATHROBE.
Oh dear God.
Oh, drop this charade, Lilith – you’re not even convincing.
I think I’m going to be sick.
Well, that had a ring of truth to it…
THERE’S A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
I have your ketchup, Ma’am.
Okay, but I need the bill.
Let’s just take care of this.
FRASIER OPENS THE DOOR. THE WAITER ENTERS WITH A BOTTLE OF KETCHUP. DURING THE FOLLOWING THE WAITER NOTICES THERE’S A DIFFERENT MAN IN A BATHROBE.
Sorry to disturb you. Here’s your ketchup… Sorry it took so long.
LILITH, WHO’S STANDING BEHIND FRASIER, SIGNALS THE WAITER NOT TO SAY ANYTHING.
I’ll still need the bill. Where’s the cart?
In the bathroom.
Why is the breakfast cart in the bathroom?
Uh…I was going to take a hot bath while I ate.
Still, Lilith…food in the bathroom?
Be back in a second.
LILITH GOES INTO THE BATHROOM.
This is a little embarrassing. My ex-wife. We’re sort of reconnecting.
Yes, Sir. That’s wonderful.
And who knows? It might work out this time.
LILITH COMES BACK WITH THE BILL.
There you go. There’s a generous, generous tip there for you.
Thank you, Ma’am.
Listen, while you’re here, would you please bring me up some eggs Benedict? Silly for her to eat alone.
THE WAITER EXITS.
Now where were we?
Look, I don’t think it’s a good time for this.
FRASIER TAKES LILITH’S HANDS.
Why not, my darling? We’re here. We’re finally alone. You need your Frasier.
FROM THE BATHROOM WE HEAR A LOUD CRASH AS THE BREAKFAST CART GOES OVER.
(crossing to the bathroom) What the hell was that?
Frasier, stop. Don’t go in –
THE CONCLUSION TOMORROW.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Here’s more from the FRASIER episode, “Room Service”. Based on the current trend of sitcoms, this kind of comedy is no longer in vogue. It’s too bad. There should always be a place for it.
INT. LILITH’S HOTEL ROOM – CONTINUOUS
IN BED, LILITH AT THE DOOR, HAVING JUST ASKED “WHO IS IT?” NILES
Room service, Ma’am.
) Oh, that’s right. We ordered breakfast last night. Niles
LILITH OPENS THE DOOR AND LETS IN THE ROOM SERVICE WAITER. HE ENTERS, ROLLING A BREAKFAST CART INTO THE ROOM. HE’S A CHIPPER FELLOW.
Good morning, Ma’am, Sir.
THE WAITER STARTS TO SET UP BREAKFAST AT THE TABLE.
I have eggs Benedict and eggs Florentine.
Did you bring ketchup?
Oh, No, I’m sorry. Let me go get that for you right now.
Ketchup on eggs Florentine?
(Joking) Oh, your first breakfast together?
Just get it!
THE WAITER EXITS.
GETS OUT OF BED AND SLIPS ON A BATHROBE. NILES
Now I remember ordering this. It’s the breakfast I always order after a night of passion.
Eggs Benedict…very rich.
Well, I only have it once a year. (then) Let’s dig in.
THEY SIT AT THE TABLE. THERE’S A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.
That was quick.
LILITH CROSSES TO THE DOOR AND IS JUST ABOUT TO OPEN IT WHEN THEY HEAR:
Lilith, are you awake?
AND LILITH SPEAK IN HUSHED TONES. NILES
What do we do?
NEARLY KNOCKS THE TRAY OVER GETTING UP. NILES
Just a second.
Why did you answer?
I don’t know. I’m not very good at this. Hide in the bathroom.
THEY BOTH DART FOR THE BATHROOM.
No, not you!
Here, take the cart with you.
STARTS TO PUSH THE CART INTO THE BATHROOM. THEN: NILES
Food in the bathroom?
NILESAND THE CART INTO THE BATHROOM, KNOCKING DOWN. NILES
LILITH RUNS TO THE DOOR, FEIGNS COMPLETE INSOUCIANCE AND OPENS THE DOOR.