Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hey, who stole my flamingo?!

Or...my favorite pitch meeting ever.
In 1978 my partner, David Isaacs and I were head writers of MASH. That fall we also signed on to write a pilot for CBS. Our producer was Allan Carr (pictured above). He was this rather flamboyant character famous for throwing lavish parties in the “King Tut Disco” in his home, producing such films as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and GREASE, and winning a Tony for producing LA CAGE AUS FOLLES on Broadway. He looked like composer Paul Williams -- short, cherubic, bespectacled.

We arranged a meeting to pitch our pilot story. Since we were dealing with MASH all day the meeting was set for 6 PM at his Benedict Canyon mansion (“Hillhaven Lodge”, complete with a giant eight foot Oscar statue in the driveway.)

We show up and are told by the butler he’s not ready. The butler ushered us onto the lovely outdoor patio where a bottle of wine was waiting for us as well as a Chasen’s ice mountain of fresh seafood. An hour later we’re still waiting although the bottle is now empty. And we start getting a little giddy. We were wondering how we could steal one of his ceramic flamingos. Would Allan notice the two long flamingo legs sticking out of my briefcase? We were really starting to get punchy.

Finally, we hear “Hello, hello” and quickly put on our serious game faces. A moment later Allan sweeps in wearing nothing but a flowing white caftan…and a layer of thick white cold cream all over his face. Holy shit! We almost lost it.

And now, not only must we somehow maintain decorum, we have to pitch a complete pilot story. Behind Allan sat the flamingos, making it even worse.

We somehow managed to get through it. Imagine this surreal scene – a normal pitch meeting, the producer and writers polishing a story, trading ideas, everyone acting as though there’s nothing unusual even though the producer is in a dress with Crisco dripping from his face.

We wrapped up the meeting, said goodbye, shook hands, he closed the front door, and we rolled around on his front lawn for 45 minutes laughing.

The pilot didn’t go thank God because shortly after that Allan had his stomach stapled. Lord knows what the story meetings were like following that.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Now, Phil Spector's making visitors wait for an hour before he makes his entrance doesn't sound all that strange.

Well, OK -- still strange, but maybe not all that unique.

It's all intimidation; same as having your desk raised so you're higher than visitors or -- in the case of one art director I "auditioned" for -- sitting behind a desk with the only illumination in the room being a pin spot focused on you.

Miles said...

I guess grease really was the word for Alan.

RAC said...

Ah, you laugh, but moisturizing daily will "preserve your sexy," as P. Diddy has been quoted recently.

blogward said...

IMBD says he came to a sad(dish) end after the 61st Academy Awards debacle. Where's that flamingo now?

blogward said...

IMDB, I mean

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0CtquVqFTs

Anonymous said...

Ken, you have to tell the rest of the story! Poor old Carr was disgraced after producing the infamously terrible Oscarcast featuring Rob Lowe singing to Snow White (which Disney sued Carr for...something about appropriating the character w/o permish). Carr never worked in H'wood again. He died of liver cancer at age 62 in 1999.

VP81955 said...

And let's not forget Carr's ludicrous Village People vehicle called "Can't Stop The Music," which crashed (and took poor Valerie Perrine's career down with it).

Mr. Hollywood said...

I remember one pitch meeting my partner and I had with a producer ... we had about 10 dynamite comedy ideas (aren't they all dynamite?) ... we sit down, he says "let's hear what you've got..." and I begin ... and get 3 words into it when he gets buzzed ... a phone call he has to take ... and it turns out to be his soon-to-be-wife on the phone. What came next was 5 solid minutes of screaming obscenities ... the veins bulging on his neck and forehead, his face turning an incredible shade of red ... then he slams down the phone, turns to us and says ... "ok, go on." Since he was in such agreat mood afte the call, our 10 pitches took all of about thirty seconds. He then thanked us, told us he'd be in touch, and as we were leaving I heard him scream to his assistant to "get my lawyer ont he hone...NOW!"
We're still waiting for that return phone call!
Gee, I love show biz!

emily latella said...

From People: "Known as "Caftan's Courageous" for sometimes wearing a caftan to hide a plump figure, Carr also won wide publicity for having his jaws wired shut to keep himself from overeating and for wearing floor-length furs. He was famous for throwing some of Hollywood's most lavish parties, including ones for Truman Capote (in a Los Angeles jail), Elton John and Rudolf Nureyev..."

Hmmmm. No wonder he produced "Where the Boys Are."

Subservient No More said...

It is for stories exactly like that that I simply must learn to write screenplays, so I can come to California and have pitch meetings too. I'm talking about the free wine and seafood mountain part of course.

Anonymous said...

"Can't Stop The Music," which crashed ....



It was a major hit in Australia.

John said...

We somehow managed to get through it. Imagine this surreal scene – a normal pitch meeting, the producer and writers polishing a story, trading ideas, everyone acting as though there’s nothing unusual even though the producer is in a dress with Crisco dripping from his face.

Didn't Mel Brooks do the East Coast version of this, with Christopher Hewitt as Roger DeBris in "The Producers"?

The Crutnacker said...

HOLY CRAP! He also managed to kill Merv Griffin as well. Granted, it took 20 years, but still.

This may have ruined his career, but it certainly is more memorable than Billy Crystal's 400th Catskills rendition of OSCAR! OSCAR!

Anonymous said...

I understand and appreciate Ken's talent at making fun of the Hollywood ridiculous, and I enjoyed the blog entry. But I'm concerned that some of the comments seem to be veering off into homophobic, "what a flaming fruit" kind of territory. I don't think that was Ken's intention, and I hope no one took his piece as permission to begin fag-bashing.

Ken Levine said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I was going to post a similar comment to yours. The fact that Allan Carr was gay is irrelevant to the anecdote. That he chose to wear cold cream and a caftan to a meeting was a comment on his craziness not his sexual preference.

tb said...

Will Nathan Lane be portraying him in the movie?
And HEY - "Can't Stop the Music" was a big hit in Australia? Say it ain't so!!

mike bell said...

Isn't that place Brett Ratner's house now?

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Did he used to cornhole Travolta?

Anonymous said...

Did having his mouth wired shut crimp his love life?

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I must be a redneck since I took the robe and face cream as a sign of the general Hollywood foppishness rather than his being gay.