Saturday, March 31, 2007
Baseball is back!
Thank God. There’s only so much Arena Football a man can stand. During this busy offseason owners spent ridiculous amounts of money on bums (it’s as if Paramount gave Brian Ben-ben a four picture deal for $178,000,000) and pissed off 200,000 viewers by taking away the In Demand TV package just because there was more profit in it. (If you’d like to run the Yankees, by the way, my son Matt reminds me that Steinbrenner’s daughter is again single.)
But now it’s time to focus on what’s between the white lines and all the other glorious baseball clichés. And so, as Barry Bonds strives to break Henry Aaron’s all-time home run record with fans everywhere hoping he breaks his leg instead falling out of his baralounger, here are my picks for the upcoming season.
I have two in each division – the one who should win and the dark horse. There is such parity these days (i.e. every team has gaping holes) that any team other than Kansas City could sneak in. Even Tampa Bay has improved pitching and should put up a lot of runs. But I’m not picking them. I’m not insane.
National League West:
DODGERS – Best pitching. Should hit six home runs the entire season but they made the playoffs last year with Odalis Perez so they can only be better.
Dark Horse: PADRES – Good young players and David Wells & Greg Maddux (who can also play in the team’s Old Timer’s Game).
National League Central:
CARDINALS – They could win 72 games and somehow they’d still win the division.
Dark Horse: BREWERS – come on, ONE of these years they’ve got to win again. They also now have Jeff Suppan but I’m still going with the law of averages thing.
National League East:
METS -- Stars at nearly every position and Pedro will be back for three starts in September.
Dark Horse FLORIDA – It’s sure not the Phillies who signed rag arm, Adam Eaton (54-45 and injured most of the time) to a three year $24,000,000 contract.
MVP: Albert Pujols (I know, I’m really going out on a limb.)
American League West:
ANGELS – If Colon and Vlad-daddy are healthy, see ya in October.
Dark Horse: SEATTLE – Okay, I just love my Mariners.
American League Central:
DETROIT – Even without Kenny Rogers, the best rotation in the division and Carlos Guillan. Tiger fans must hope that team-cancer, Gary Sheffield doesn’t cause club to implode.
Dark Horse: INDIANS – Very talented and much improved. Perhaps a return to the glory minutes of the 90’s.
American League East:
RED SOX – Great rotation and Papelbon returning to closer role. Their big problem: filling those 120 games J.D. Drew misses due to scraped knee.
Dark Horse: BLUE JAYS – Despite that stupid team name. Getting better every year. No one in America knows because no one in America cares.
MVP: David Ortiz (finally!)
And if you don’t think I’m a master at baseball predictions, just look at my dark horse picks last year. I’m dangerous!
NLW – Giants
NLC -- Astros
NLE -- Phillies
ALW – Rangers
ALC – Indians
ALE – Blue Jays.
Friday, March 30, 2007
A typical Ron Jacobs story. He was 21, working at a radio station in his native Hawaii in 1957. Elvis was coming to town for the first time. Jacobs learned that Presley’s entire entourage would be staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village one floor below his radio station. However, Colonel Tom Parker made it very clear that Elvis was not giving interviews or appearing in public before his shows.
So Ron decided to create a fake Elvis. He got an impersonator (the first), drove him around Honolulu while station personnel “reported” his whereabouts from mobile units (pay phones). There were practically riots. Ron even crashed into Honolulu Stadium with his “King” just before a football game and caused mass hysteria there.
They finally got back to the station, were practically doubled over with laughter when they got a call – from the Colonel. He wanted to see them immediately.
Jacobs and accomplices went downstairs as if going to the gallows. But Parker, the consummate showmen, appreciated a good stunt when he saw it, introduced Ron to Elvis, he got to emcee the concert, and a lifelong friendship with the Colonel and E. was formed.
When Ricky Nelson was the flavor of the month and wouldn’t go on the air for an interview, Jacobs had an imposter go on and staged a fist fight with him. Back in the states, Ozzie Nelson went bat shit.
In the mid 60’s Ron was the program director of KHJ, “Boss Radio” in Los Angeles. That station changed the entire course of Top 40 radio and was a major influence on the music of the decade. While there he created the 48 hour “History of Rock & Roll”. Today if a radio station gets a 3 share that’s huge. “The History of Rock & Roll” was getting 33 shares. That's "final MASH" type radio numbers.
He left KHJ to start a syndication company and created a little show called “American Top 40”. He went back into radio in the 70’s, this time taking the album rock format to new heights. Looking for a way to promote his new station he created “The San Diego Chicken”.
Oscar Levant once said, “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity and I have erased that line.” Ron has obliterated it. A typical conversation with RJ will go from astute observation, to mad rant, to expert analysis of the Los Angeles Rams (he refuses to accept that they’ve moved). to a lyrical discourse on the beauty of Hawaii. to Harrison Ford (who was once his carpenter in Laurel Canyon). to eastern religion. to the tits on a certain CNN anchor, and then in no particular order – a prediction on the future of technology so insightful you’d think he was Steve Jobs, a tirade on how he can’t get his George Foreman to work, an anecdote about Elvis, a take on the current pop culture, Don Ho, NFL collectibles, family values, recounting the morning of Pearl Harbor, Barack Obama, Robert W. Morgan, jail time in the Orient, and Carla Gugino. Usually all in a two minute span.
Hawaiian listeners (like Obama growing up) have had the pleasure of hearing all that over the years as Ron was a disc jockey on a number of stations (with the nickname Whodaguy).
Now he is about to launch a new venture – an internet radio station, WHODAGUY HAWAII. I’ll post the link when it’s up.
Starting 7-7-7 (according to Ron, a very lucky day, The number 7 has held special significance from the time of the ancient Babylonians, who revered the seven sacred planets – of course now we’re not sure how many damn planets there are…but I digress…), RJ will be broadcasting live for four hours and repeating the show throughout the day. He’ll be featuring an eclectic mix of Hawaiian, and every genre he’s ever programmed (meaning everything other than Gregorian Chants). But the real attraction will be hearing vintage/non diluted/100% proof/probably even wackier than ever Ron Jacobs on the air.
When I spotlight writers I always have the advantage of being able to post samples of their work. I’ll remind you when 7-7-7 comes along because this guy you’ve got to hear.
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Staging a musical.
Back in the 70’s I was in an Armed Forces Radio Reserve unit (my draft number was 4) and to get reservists to re-enlist some General had the brilliant idea that maybe a stage show of singing, dancing weekend warriors with no training or talent would entice them to sign up for another six years. This same General had devised battle strategy for Viet Nam.
Our unit was assigned this task. A group of us had three days to write an entire musical. I wrote several sketches with fellow reservist Joel Siegel (Yes, the same Joel Siegel who reviews movies on GOOD MORNING AMERICA.) We chose a take-off of WEST SIDE STORY. Our songs included “Re-Up” (“I just met a soldier who re-upped…”), “I Feel Pity” (for anyone not making that extra forty dollars a month), “Officer Candidate”, “When You’re a Troop” (you’re a troop all the way, from your first cigarette till your last grade in pay), and “Somewhere” (“Sign your name and you’re halfway there, a pension waits and is yours to snare”) I still can’t look Stephen Sondheim in the eye. When the army says it will teach you a skill I never thought it would be soft-shoe in combat boots.
For the next THREE years five of us fighting thesps went around to reserve battalions on the west coast and performed this extravaganza, usually to crowds of 200 utterly mystified soldiers who sat wide-eyed with their jaws scraping the ground.
Today shows are preceded by an announcement to turn off your cellphones and beepers. Before our shows the audience was warned that hecklers would be disciplined. And even with the threat of having to scrub toilets with a toothbrush many were compelled to lob verbal grenades our way.
Once, in the middle of the “I Want to Serve in America” dance number, I remember thinking if we did this in Alabama they would storm the stage and kill us.
I guess the USAR figured the mens (sic) would respond to an all-star Bob Hope type USO show. They didn’t realize however, that there is a big difference between Ann Jillian (pictured right) and Ken Levine in a wig.
I’d say roughly 4,000 bewildered grunts saw this show performed. The number of troops who re-upped as a result? Zero.
As a result, the project was scrapped before we could “bring it in” to New York, as they say. It's one thing for a show to close in New Haven. But the 23rd Armory in El Centro?
It was very disappointing. The least a young man can expect after eight weeks of rigorous basic training is a Broadway career.
Oh well… I pass the baton and Ann Jillian wig to Madison Avenue. But if you decide the problem was not the idea but the show we selected, I’m happy to consult when you stage WICKED.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The question everyone is asking again is how can Sanjaya not be the one going home?
Don't blame the tweeners for voting for him. I'm sure he's a big favorite among prison inmates too.
And I wonder if the numbers you call to vote are outsourced... to India perhaps????
Gwen Stefani rocks!!
How soon until someone sells those Sanjaya Road Warrior wigs and Britney Spears buys one?
I'm trying to think of which rock star wore his hair in a ridiculous mohawk... oh yeah, now I remember. Randy Jackson in Journey.
What was with Paula and the Hansel & Greta look? If the band started playing "Ooom-pah, ooom-pah, ooom-pah, ooom-pah" I bet she would have climbed on the desk and begun yodeling.
Next week is Tony Bennett and classic American standards. If Haley Scarnato is smart she'll wear that halter top even if her song is "Get Me to the Church On Time."
The best part of the results show by a thousand miles is the Ford commercials.
I'm going to miss Chris Sligh. Maybe he can show up next year on LOST as Hurley's brother.
I can't until next week when Sanjaya makes us all forget about Sinatra.
A reader on Monday mentioned the CHEERS where Sam becomes a local TV sportscaster. My partner David and I wrote that episode in knee jerk reaction to the idiotic schticks most sportscasters had. (Of course now it’s only gotten worse). So Sam felt he needed a gimmick and tried a few on the air. Here are his last two.
ANGLE – TV
I got a phone call today from a teenager saying I was taking advantage of my status as an ex-ballplayer and that “old squares” like me shouldn’t be doing the sports. Well, Corky, tonight’s commentary is directed right at you.
He picks up a ghetto blaster and pushes a button. Rap rhythm begins and San begins rapping to it.
(RAPPING) It’s time to rap
about a controversy
Gonna take a stand,
I won’t show no mercy.
A lot of folks say
Jocks shouldn’t be
A doin’ the sports news on TV.
But I don’t want
To hear the latest scores
From a bunch of old broad-
Casting school bores.
The guys on the diamonds
And the fields and courts
Know a heck of a lot more
About real sports.
So get your scores
From a guy like me
Who knows the meaning of words
Like “groin in-ju-ry.”
G-g-g-groin in-ju-ry. Joanne?
She stares at Sam for a beat, then opens her mouth as if to say something, changes her mind and turns to Dr. Buzz.
Dr. Buzz, is there any late word on that hurricane off Galveston?
BACK TO CHEERS
Norm, Cliff and Carla have their heads on their arms on the bar.
(TO HIMSELF) G-g-g-groin injury… catchy.
And then…in a later scene….
ANGLE ON TV SCREEN
Well, ready or not, here’s tonight’s “’I’ on Sports” commentary with Sam Malone.
Sam pulls up a little dummy who looks like him and is dressed exactly like him. He does ventriloquism in a high voice, pronouncing certain words differently so his lips won’t move.
And don’t forget Lil’ Sam.
That’s nee! (SIC)
BACK TO BAR
Oh my God.
If either of them mentions the bar I’m suing.
ANGLE ON TV
I think the Red Sox are making a big mistake dipping into their farm system, trading away young players for veterans who can only help them for a season or two. Don’t you agree Lil’ Sam?
No. You’re full of hooey. If I’m taying five ducks to get into the dalltark I want to see them win. NOW!
Oh, what do you know? Your head’s wooden.
Well, your lits are nooving.
At least I don’t have an arm up my back.
Or a drain in your head. (LAUGHING) Yak-yak-yak.
Well, that’s two guy’s opinions.
ANGLE ON JOANNE whose mouth is wide open. She’s staring, speechless.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Gwen Stefani looked so…wholesome. She could have won the Sandy part in GREASE. I worry about her singing on the results show however. The Gods of Appearance have not been kind to previous celebs this season. Fat-asia, Kellie Parton Pickler, Diana Ross (although she always looks ghastly), and last week Lulu’s attempt to have us believe she was still 17 was a shocking cry for help.
Why does Ryan Seacrest get a standing ovation? I mean, he’s very good but he’s no Howie Mandel.
I’m afraid Chris Sligh is going home. Sanjaya should be of course – in fact he should be voted off retroactively and Antonella reinstated – but of the humanoid contestants he was the weakest this week.
I am very worried. I actually agreed with Paula. Gina did give her best performance.
I would LOVE to see Bob Dylan as the guest star one week. He would coach the kids and they would all say, “What?” “Huh?” “Could you repeat that?” “What did he say?”
And since Paula can only parrot what the guest says, it would be fun to hear her say to a finalist, “Like Bob said I think, you were either great or terrible.”
When the judges were telling Haley they thought her song was safe what they were really saying was, “Go back to the halter top!!!”
Phil Stacey looked jaunty in that Myra Loy hat. The judges are always stunned when they find themselves paying him even the tiniest compliment. He’s the one who should be insecure, not Melinda.
And is it just me, or is Melinda’s “Golly, gee, shucks” act starting to look a little transparent? How can someone who has such total command and stage presence when singing turn into Peter MacNichol the minute the song is over?
No beatboxing from Blake. He’s saving it for standards week when he sings “The Shadow of Your Smile”.
How soon we forget. Quick! Can you name this voted-off contestant?
Jordin gets the entire Catholic School vote with that outfit. All that was missing was pigtails. She sang that Gwen Stefani song better than Gwen Stefani.
Have you noticed that the hoop earrings the girls are wearing get bigger and bigger? A tiger could have jumped through Jordin’s this week.
My biggest laugh of the week: When Ryan said, “Coming up, Chris Richardson with another No Doubt smash” they cut to the judges and Simon clearly mouthed, “Oh no!”
Every song Chris Richardson sings sounds the same. And for the record, Simon was right.
AMERICAN IDOL has announced that in April they are expanding the results show to an hour. So we’ll all be fast forwarding through 56 minutes instead of 26. I can just hear the conversation between the producers and the network:
“What could we possibly do to pad an entire hour?”
“Who cares? You’re replacing TIL’ DEATH.”
Dennis Miller is funny now. He never used to be but he is now.
We can work at my place. I live in Bakersfield.
Hey, hey, don’t touch my Naomi Watts photos! They’re not bothering you.
I can work anywhere any time. In fact, if you’ve got a couch I could crash on, that would be sweet.
If I could go back and work on any classic sitcom from the past, it would have to be MAMA’S FAMILY.
You would be…let’s see…my eighth partner.
I’m really good at editing. You pitch me ten ideas and I can tell you which is the good one.
It's nothing personal. I don't look anyone in the eye.
Do graphic comics count as books I’ve read?
Look, if you didn’t go to an Ivy school I don’t even know why we’re talking.
Everyone who’s read my script thought it wasn’t funny. That’s why I need a partner.
I do my best work between 2 and 4 A.M.
First things first -- who gets top billing?
Let’s work at my place. That way I can watch my twins. They just started walking!
You don’t remember? You slept with me at the Sundance retreat and never called me back, you shit!
I have a spec ELLEN I could show you.
This rubber band? Whenever I start feeling this building smoldering rage my shrink says play with this rubber band. Does it bother you?
There’s a British version of THE OFFICE?
You have beautiful hair. Can I touch it?
Do you have a cigarette?
How long have I fucking been writing? Fuck knows. But I guess it was, fuck, I dunno, some fucking time around the end of last fucking year or some shit.
The only thing is… I don’t drive.
I took Robert McKee’s class twice. So I kind of see myself as an expert on story.
Would you take my hands and join me in a prayer?
Okay, well…if you’re here and I’m here it’s pretty clear our partnership isn’t working.
Tomorrow: my weekly AMERICAN IDOL review/autopsy.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Thanks for all the nice comments on our spoof of depressing Irish folk songs for the St. Patrick’s Day episode of CHEERS. It’s a comedy well my partner, David and I have dipped into before. Here’s a scene of ours from a first season episode of CHEERS called "Any Friend of Diane's". Diane’s college chum Rebecca (played by Diane runner-up Julia Duffy -- pictured left) comes to visit the bar. Imagine a sitcom today being allowed to do this run.
INT. BAR – DAY
Diane and Rebecca are chattering away in French. They laugh together. Rebecca’s laugh turns into a sob, and she buries her face in her hands.
Rebecca, something’s wrong.
You always saw through my façade of gaiety… Elliot and I have parted.
No. You and Elliot? Rebecca, you two were together forever.
I know. I know. It all started when Elliot got his doctorate in ichthyology. His eye began to wander, and the next thing I knew he had taken up with a young student he met on a squid expedition.
A doctorate changes a man. Rebecca, there’ll be others. In the meantime you have your work.
You’d think so. I used to find enormous comfort translating Russian poetry. But no more. Even when I went back over my favorite, Karashnikov’s “Another Christmas of Agony”, it failed to soothe me. (RECITING) “Mischa the dog lies dead in the bog. The children cry over the carcass. The mist chokes my heart, covers the mourners. At least this year we eat.”
Well...If that didn’t pick you up, I’m at a virtual loss.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
GUIDING ALL MY BEAUTIFUL RESTLESS CHILDREN
The last time I spent an entire day watching soap operas was June 4, 1986.
Happily, when I resumed recently, I was able to pick things right up as if I never left. Same story lines: X having Y's baby, Y accused of murdering Z, Z's double mysteriously arrives, X and Z's double plotting against Y, Z's double having X's double's baby, etc.
Armed with my TiVo, remote, and a candy bowl filled with Lexapro and Xanax, I hunkered down for a daylong visit to Genoa City, Pine Valley, Oakdale, Port Charles and all the other generic towns where only Tommy Hilfiger models are allowed to live. (There are more beautiful people in Pine Valley than all of Eastern Europe.)
First up was "As the World Turns." A little girl is talking to a little boy. She says, "My dad left, my grandmother almost died, my dad came back, mom was in a coma, my brother told us he was gay." And she ends the speech with, "My parents worry about every little thing."
That was the only storyline I could follow. Even the characters themselves seemed confused. Especially the guy in a coffee shop clutching his teddy bear. Even at a Friendly's that's weird.
Then there's "The Young and the Restless." Eric Braeden (pictured above) has been on the show for 70 years and still looks fantastic. There must be a portrait of him in an attic where he looks like Nick Nolte's mug shot. My favorite character is Victoria because, well ... I have a crush on Amelia Heinle (pictured right) who plays her now.
Vicky's led a ho-hum life. Saved from drowning, had a stalker, married a guy who had been involved with her mother, saw her second husband shot at their wedding by his ex-wife (it's why you don't invite them), was a volunteer art teacher in Italy, became acting CEO, witnessed her third husband kill two people. Excuse me, but that's every girl on JDate.The rest of the article can be found here on Variety.com.
Friday, March 23, 2007
Many thanks to fellow writer Rob Long for his way-too-kind piece on this blog in his radio commentary, MARTINI SHOTS on NPR’s KCRW in Santa Monica. I’m still blushing. In addition to producing CHEERS when he was like nine, Rob has become one of the top sitcom writers in town (along with his partner, Dan Staley) and has also carved out a nice niche for himself as a pundit and author. His book on television, CONVERSATIONS WITH MY AGENT, is must reading.
In his feature on me he brought up an anecdote I had completely forgotten but was true and worth sharing here. So if I may paraphrase his story paraphrasing me:
Back in 1993 my partner and I had created a summer show for CBS called BIG WAVE DAVE’S. Rob and Dan were our producers. I think Rob was eleven then. We did the show for Paramount (and I can tell this story since no one involved is remotely still associated with the studio. In fact, this was probably four full regimes ago.)
Our line producer informed me that the studio refused to pay our secretary’s parking. The budget for each episode was over a million dollars. Weekly parking was $13. Above-the-line people (writers, directors, producers, actors) got to park on the lot for free. Below-the-line peons had to park in a structure across the street.
And don’t let the Hollywood address fool you. This was not a great neighborhood. I used to call the lot “Fort Paramount”. While working at WINGS on rewrite night we often watched drug deals go down across the street at the parking structure. An ice cream truck would arrive every night about 11 and we would say, “Cracky, the clown is here. Looks like he’s got some great shit tonight for the kiddies!”
So I was pissed. No one works harder and more hours than the writers’ secretary. It’s bad enough they had to park in a war zone. The least the studio could do was pay for their parking. (Note: we also made sure one of us walked them out to their cars, another little safety service the studio felt no obligation to perform).
I called the studio bean counter and raised hell. But it was studio policy. There was nothing he could do. I then asked what would constitute a legitimate production expense? He said research. “You mean like a book?” I said. He said, yes. “Fine,” I continued, “I just bought a book this week. It’s called HOW TO PARK YOUR SECRETARY and it cost thirteen bucks.”
That he approved.
So every week I would call with another essential research book I bought. Titles like THE IN’S AND OUT’S OF BUYING YOUR PA’S PIZZA and Rob’s favorite, A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR THE WEIRD GUY IN PROPS.
I should mention that none of the other major studios were any different. But that was then. Things have since changed.
Writers now have to park across the street.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
From this point on, (a) watching Sanjaya is painful, and (b) it's an insult to any finalist who gets voted off before him.
Ashley Ferl is the little girl who cried her way to fifteen minutes of stardom on AMERICAN IDOL. It must be very exciting today but I bet in ten years she's going to look back at a tape of the show and be so humiliated she'll cry for another six hours. And by then, Sanjaya, the love of her life, will be a hairdresser on Fire Island.
Lulu's lulus were practically falling out of that dress.
Not a good year for either Stephanie Edwards -- one's booted off AMERICAN IDOL, the other off the Rose Parade.
So Time-Warner Cable fires their top guy in LA because the service is so atrocious that an astounding 10,000 subscribers have fled to Direct TV in one month. How do they make amends to customers? I got a call from them Tuesday informing me that my monthly bill would be five dollars higher and several channels were being removed. And then, for fun, they “accidentally” unplugged my internet modem. It took nine hours to get back on line. What does it say when Adelphia did a better job and they were bankrupt?
Only in LA -- There was paparazzi hiding in the bushes outside my gym today. I screamed at them to leave me alone, allow me my privacy!! I would have smashed a camera but I couldn’t lift my arms after working out.
Only in LA part 2 -- In this week's LA WEEKLY there's an ad for Allison Margolin, billed as L.A.'s "Dopest Attorney". Harvard Law & affordable. She lists her phone number and says it's "ok to call from custody".
Top fashion designer Anand Jon was arrested on 15 felony counts and five misdemeanors for alleged sexual assaults of his models. He was supposed to star in a reality show for VH-1 about the fashion world. It’s up to you America. If you think he committed a felony, here’s the number to vote: 1-800-JAIL01, or you can text message the word “PERV”. If he's smart he'll call Allison.
On a related subject – the Phil Spector murder trial (Number One with a Bullet) is gearing up. They’re currently selecting jurors. One was excused for saying he should get the death penalty just for “To Know Him is to Love Him”.
CBS Sports replaced one of their best basketball announcers for clearly their worst. Gus Johnson was booted for studio host, James Brown who – judging by this past weekend – has never seen a college basketball game. He was always two plays behind and if all good sportscasters have a catchphrase his must be “What just happened? Did they give him a foul?” Meanwhile, Gus Johnson – who does this for a living – will be sitting with the rest of us fast forwarding through the annoying Sprint commercials.
That GREASE reality show on NBC is really cringeworthy. Not surprising when you consider host Billy Bush is related to “that” Bush family. Last week the four finalists got to make personal pleas to the country. The prom queens who wouldn’t piss on your head if your hair were on fire pleading to vote for them because it’s their dream and they’ve worked sooo hard for this. Same with the guys. If I were a finalist I’d let the other dork talk about how much playing Danny would complete him as a person, let him choke back tears, and I’d say, “If you vote for me I’ll give half my salary to Children’s Hospital”. Who do you think would win in a landslide (which, for this competition, is 200 votes)?
Where was Jean Smart on last Monday’s 24? Did the WHOLE episode have to be about starting a full global nuclear war? I mean, come on guys, give us something we care about.
And now a word from our sponsor: Me.
THE SITCOM ROOM (maybe)
After researching various writing classes and books it seems to me there’s one thing none of them teach – what it’s actually like being in a sitcom writing room. And the truth is, practically all sitcoms are room written these days (even single camera shows like ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT). So I’m exploring the idea of holding a weekend seminar that essentially gives you the hands-on experience you could only get in a professional writing room. Complete with bad Chinese food and a script in trouble. It’ll be a cross between a seminar and comedy writing fantasy camp.
I’m working with a professional who does these seminar things for a living. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it right.
One question as I prepare this grand experiment is: Will anybody even be remotely interested?
I’m thinking a weekend in July, here in Los Angeles. For the first session a maximum of twenty students/campers. I’m still researching the cost.
Want More Details?
I’ve created a special email address for anyone interested. firstname.lastname@example.org. Drop me a line.
You could tell me your name and background, if you like. But you don't have to.
I won't share your information with any third party, under any circumstances, ever, period.
The idea is to get some idea of interest and have a list of people to send the details to first once they’re finalized.
Sound like fun? You’ll learn a helluva lot, have some laughs, get great practical experience, and I promise we’ll never analyze Casablanca.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
I loved British Invasion week. Invariably, these kids give some of their best performances when singing songs from the 60’s. It was just a spectacular decade for music.
Interesting that not one contestant chose a Herman’s Hermits song. I just picture Hannibal Phil Stacey singing “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” and Mrs. Brown being so terrified she gets a restraining order.
Likewise, no one did a Lulu song. Not even that all-time classic, “Me, the Peaceful Heart”.
“Thinkin’ ‘bout love that keeps us together, Thinkin’ ‘bout love that keeps us apart, Wonderin’ why the stormy weather, Always finds me, the peaceful heart.”
At least it’s a song that Paula would understand.
Sanjaya is now just humiliating himself every week. This is like when people dress up their dogs. William Hung was cringing. Please vote him off before Tony Bennett week. I beg of you.
I must say I was impressed with Lulu. Good coaching and she looks great. I’m sure Diana Ross is saying (or slurring), “Yeah, she had work done.” True, but unlike you she went to an excellent plastic surgeon not Madame Tussaud.
Peter Noone was the sexiest man alive in 2002? Now I begin to understand Sanjaya.
Haley Scarnato could have sung the Iraqi national anthem she’ll still get 30,000,000 votes for wearing that braless top. Wow. That little girl and every 20-year old boy was crying when she jiggled through her number. Melinda Doolittle had far and away the best vocal of the night but Haley’s performance will be the most downloaded by 12,000%.
Chris Richardson has the same thrilling command in his voice as power balladeer, Herb Alpert.
Simon Cowell never heard of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” by Gerry & the Pacemakers? And he’s a Brit?? Did he spend 1964 in his room listening to his Matt Monroe album?
Was that a pattern on Uncle Fester, Phil Stacey’s shirt or sweat stains?
I love Jordin Sparks. Love her new silky straight hair. Love her personality. Love her smile. Love her voice.
I couldn’t believe Simon had a problem with her song, “I Who Have Nothing” because it was gloomy. As my daughter, Annie said, “from the ray of sunshine that is Simon Cowell.”
Another Lulu classic no one chose: “Oh Me Oh My, I’m a Fool For You”. Stephanie Edwards would be sitting pretty had she sung these poignant lyrics:
“I'll stage a ballet on a table top, Command performance finger size. Though I ain't got no tune my show won't flop, Cause I'll find the music in your eye.”
New Coke glasses this week. Cut to little girl crying.
When Blake Lewis was singing, I couldn’t tell, was Paula raising her arms or legs over her head?
If I were Stephanie, Gina, or Phil I’d be booking airline tickets right about now. If I were Sanjaya I’d be checking when the next flight to the moon is.
Lulu was right that LaKisha should have sung “You’re My World” instead of “Diamond’s Are Forever”. The sexy, sultry act was more “yikes” than “yo”.
Chris Sligh now has a hook -- “Fro Patrol”. So much better than “the Preferred Nerd”.
That little girl needs meds. Really.
Is Haley’s performance on line yet? God, I hate myself.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Usually I write with a partner and most of the time we dictate scripts to our assistant while I pace back and forth with a yoyo so a public coffee house is generally not the ideal workplace. It’s bad enough when the assistant says, “No, really? You really want me to put that in?” without total strangers chiming in the same thing. But when we’re just working through a story we’ll often meet at a Coffee Bean. Yes, there’s always that danger people will think we’re just posturing pretentious writers so we counter that by wearing priest collars.
But I’m less self-conscious than most writers. That stems from two years of going to Dodger Stadium and doing play-by-play into a tape recorder in the upper deck surrounded by drunk crazed mouth breathers. After you’ve heard “Hey, look at this idiot!”, “Keep your day job, moron.”, and “Whattaya think you are, fuckin’ Vin Scully?” seven thousand times you tend to develop thick skin.
I’ve seen partners huddled over a laptop at Starbucks and don’t really mind it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll have a big ugly fight. Those are always amusing. Plus, I always hope to one day eavesdrop on two porno writers. “So when the black guy takes her from behind I think we need a line…”
One time I saw two partners writing at Jerry’s Deli in Westwood. But they didn’t have a laptop. They had a big desktop iMac. And a printer! When they were finished they got out two huge boxes and spent ten minutes packing it all back up. I’m surprised they didn’t also have their own fax machine and microwave.
When I’m writing by myself I usually work at home but I don’t mind getting out in the world. As long it’s a fairly quiet environment. There’s a spot in Santa Monica called “The Office” that provides workstations and the internet and charges at least a hundred dollars a month. I go to the UCLA research library and get the same thing for free.
I also love writing on planes. It really makes those 13 hour Jet Blue tarmac delays really fly.
There’s a Coffee Bean near UCLA that’s always loaded with spectacular women. I will sometimes write there and bring my Emmy.
But you do find definite types writing in these java joints. There’s always Mr. Smug -- the guy who looks off into space, as if he’s contemplating deep concepts far to complex for you to understand. From time to time he will arch an eyebrow and type in four words. Then there’s Mr. P.O.C. (Piece Of Cake) – he can’t get down his brilliance fast enough. Furiously clacking away, he can bang out ten pages an hour. It’s a pretty safe bet his script will be a P.O.C. (piece of crap). And finally, Mr. Tortured. A good day is five pages or five people feeling sorry for him.
My guess is if you write in a Starbucks that is not in LA or near NYU you will be the only one working on a script. And if you write in a Winchell’s Donuts in LA you’ll be competition free too.
The only factor important in how and where you write is what makes YOU most comfortable and allows you to do your best work – whether it’s in a Starbucks, locked in your attic, in an intensive care ward, Bob’s Big Boy, the D train, or a diving bell. One of the beauties of being a writer is that you can do it anywhere. Take advantage of that.
But leave the pipe, sweater you wear around your neck, tweed jacket with patches, and iMac home. Thank you.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
I was an usher at the Valley Music Theater and could not wait for each new show to bring jaw dropping performances by miscast actors, and if I was really lucky, there would be one or two who couldn’t sing. Dance numbers tended not to be very elaborate since the stage was the size of a conference table. If it was today and they were doing THE LORD OF THE DANCE they would use three guys.
So join me as I stagger down memory lane. If some of these names are not familiar just substitute “Regis Philbin” or “Melissa Rivers” and you’ll have a pretty good picture of what I mean. Among the productions I can recall without sodium pentothal:
MR. ROBERTS – with Hugh O’Brien (TV’s Wyatt Earp) in the Henry Fonda role. Mr. O’Brien is maybe the most wooden actor of all time and it always amuses me that there is an acting award at UCLA in his honor.
BYE BYE BIRDIE – with Barbara Eden (TV’s Jeannie, as in “I dream of”). I don’t remember whether she could sing. All I do remember is that they were real and they were spectacular.
WHAT MAKES SAMMY RUN – starring Frank Gorshin. To prove he was a serious actor he did not wear his Riddler costume from Batman.
FLOWER DRUM SONG – starring original cast member, Pat Suzuki. Except Ms. Suzuki – granted, a spectacular singer – had put on a pound or twenty since her Great White Way days and was slightly less convincing as the red hot hooker. She was stuffed into her flimsy costume like a sausage.
IT’S NEVER TOO LATE – featuring Ozzie & Harriet. ‘Nuff said there.
BRIGADOON – with Dennis Day. In fairness, he might’ve been perfect. I just hate Brigadoon.
FUNNY GIRL – with Carol Lawrence in the Streisand role. There was a lot of rain on that parade.
SOUTH PACIFIC – with Betsy Palmer (pictured) as Mary Martin. You’re probably saying – Betsy Palmer? Who?? People were saying that then. Ms Palmer was best known as a game show panelist with short blond hair and knife wielding crazy in FRIDAY the 13th: PART TWO. (Watch: I get 5,000 comments from irate Betsy Palmer fans.)
And Jane Powell starred in everything else.
Thanks to Ms. Morehead, here are a couple of the shows that played in Anaheim’s Melodyland Theater-in-the-round. I didn’t see these but wish I did.
THE KING AND I with Darrin McGavin in the Yul Brynner part. I think just seeing that playbill is what killed Oscar Hammerstein.
And finally – this one will NEVER be topped…
DAMN YANKEES with Sandy Koufax. Yes, you read that right. Sandy Koufax. Singing and dancing in a musical. I guess Cy Young Awards weren’t enough. Sandy wanted a Tony. I wonder how many stage door theater uh…“enthusiasts” have his autograph and have no idea who he is.
HIM: If I can’t get an entry level job in the industry what are the best jobs to get?
ME: Assuming that while you work you’re going to continue writing specs you need a job that pays enough to live on (duh) and you don’t take home with you after your shift. If you’re writing with a partner you obviously have to coordinate your schedules. Work at Starbucks so you can walk around and see what everyone else is writing.Work at an LAX parking toll booth. That way you only have to use .000001% of your brain. I taught idiots how to be disc jockeys at a Broadcasting School. What a jerk-off job that was. But I was done everyday at 6. And no weekends. The students needed that time to memorize how to announce weather forecasts.
HIM: There are sometimes ads looking for screenwriters. Is that something worth pursuing?
ME: I say beware. Usually these are not WGA signatories which means you get screwed. The pay is crap, you have no rights or protection, you’ll work like a galley slave, and chances are the movie will never get made. I know it’s tempting and you’d rather get a job using your skills than putting on a straw hat and serving "cups of dirt" at TGI Fridays, but trust me, your writing time will be better spent crafting a spec, which, if it sells, will pay infinitely more than some laundry magnate’s pet project on the man who invented Sanforizing.
We all have to start somewhere. At times it’s confusing, exasperating, demeaning, and depressing. But when you make it you will look back nostalgically at that period as one of the best of your lives. And for me there’s the added glow that I contributed so much to radio.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
March Madness has arrived again -- the NCAA basketball tournament. Thus the annual pilgrimage to Las Vegas for me and three of my middle aged sports nerd television executive buddies. Slater, the Banger, and Mr. Syracuse. Slater brought his girlfriend (who goes by either Karen or Valerie -- long story) thus increasing his chances of "getting lucky" by maybe 1%. Mr. Syracuse brought his wife thus decreasing his chances. My son, Matt flew in from Boston. He's now 21 so what better way to see Las Vegas for the first time than with his dad and three guys who look like the Pep Boys?
We stayed this year at the Paris Hotel. The theme is French hospitality (an oxymoron). I'm sure I would have been given a nicer room if I registered as Himmler. The casino features a low ceiling that is painted to look like the sky, a la the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland. It's an odd shade of blue however, one that suggests nuclear winter. There are cobblestone streets and carpeting. A replica LePont Alendre III bridge overlooks the nickel slot machines, and there is an Eiffel Tower that is fifty stories high. Tours are offered. There is a sign at the entrance that reads "No food, beverages, smoking, weddings" (true story).
I don't know why these hotels opt for these elaborate themes. The truth is: NO ONE CARES. People schlepp around in t-shirts and shorts and flip flops. If I ever put up a hotel in Las Vegas I would use as my theme the HOME DEPOT.
Matt and I went to Le Cafe for breakfast. They said "inside or outside?" What??? Outside of course meant under the sky painted ceiling. We chanced that it wouldn't rain and took the outside.
The in-house cable had a channel that spelled out emergency exit procedures. Leave it to the French to provide a surrender strategy.
Remember when Frank Sinatra used to play Vegas? This weekend it was Carrot Top and (at the Riviera) "America's Tribute to Neil Diamond". Not even the real Neil Diamond, an impersonator. In two weeks the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (true) will be appearing. I'd love to see Shecky Green open for them.
Of course you could always pay a gazillion dollars to see Celine Dion screech out five songs a night. Or is that just a Barbra Streisand impersonator??
The Paris had "Arabian Nights Spectacular", something else to make the Jews feel comfortable.
This stunned me: The Mirage features "Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat". The ad says: "come face to face with Royal White Tigers". How drunk do you have to be or how much money do you have to lose to want to do THAT?? And we all know the end result.
One thing you can say about Vegas, it has the most amazingly beautiful women in the world. And so where did we spend 90% of our time? At the Sportsbook, the one place that none of them would ever be caught dead in. There were 48 games in four days. At times four were going on simultaneously. I'm betting on teams I've never heard of. The place was packed with rowdy men and good old boys chugging long neck beers. We ordered White Russians, Tequila Sunrises, and Rusty Nails. No one messed with US.
One hazzard: you see the same commercial seventeen thousand times. Especially the one for "Cialis", designed to keep a man ready for 36 hours. Too bad I'm not single. One of those magic pills would be perfect for me. 35 1/2 hours to find a woman then a half hour to perform.
The Banger bet on exhibition baseball. Even Pete Rose never did that.
Matt was carded at the Sportsbook for ordering a Sprite. If you bet $500 a day on horses by the way, you get a coupon for a free drink. Again, French hospitality.
In keeping with the French theme, accordion music came out of the urinals. Finally, the correct venue for that music.
Elegant dining = no Keno boards.
I rode down the elevator with a beautiful girl who was wearing a white top with two Chinese letters on it. I said, "Do you know what that means?" She said, "No, I bought this because it looks good with the pants." "So you have no idea what that says?" I repeated. "What does it say" she asked. "Kill me!" I said and stepped out of the elevator leaving her aghast.
Slater's girlfriend Valerie/Karen is vegan, which means there are only six things she can eat and she's allergic to four of them. She and Slater are the two nicest people on the planet but I have dubbed them "America's Waiter Killer Couple". Slater switches every table and sends back every order while Valerie/Karen has the kitchen prepare items not on the menu every meal. I would give anything to see these two on SURVIVOR.
Valerie/Karen's back was bothering her so she toted around a pillow to make sitting more comfortable. But a hot girl walking through the casino with a pillow -- she looked like a hooker who advertised.
On Saturday night Mr. Syracuse and his wife hosted a dinner for sixteen of us. They got a private room in the Paris restaurant. I was sure Slater was going to walk in and ask if there was ANOTHER private room for sixteen?
Spotted at the Paris pool -- a guy in a ball and chain. I'm guessing (hoping) it was a bachelor party but there he was with a bowling ball attached to a chain handcuffed to his arm. Either that or the hotel was presenting "Les Miserables" poolside.
What is Pai Gow poker???
My sincere thanks to the Banger for getting down to the Sportsbook every morning at 5 to reserve us some seats. Personally, I think he was "In-Seine".
Never, NEVER take America West (America WORST) airlines if you can avoid it. Truly the most inept "shitbirds" in the sky. ALWAYS late, sardine cans for planes. And when you finally do arrive to Totie Fields Field (or whatever the Las Vegas airport is called) it takes a good hour to get a cab.
What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas primarily because you can't count on an America Worst flight to ever get off the ground.
Featured at the Paris Hotel: drinks in plastic Eiffel Tower glasses. $12.50 (true). There was a line. I wonder how many of those people thought they were buying the "actual" Eiffel Tower?
At the end of the weekend all of us either made a little money or broke even, Stanford and Kentucky got eliminated, and the waiters at the Paris hotel got together and paid for Slater's cab to the airport. It was great great fun. Go Bruins!!!
Thursday, March 15, 2007
INT. BAR – MORNING
SAM TURNS ON THE LIGHT. HE ENTERS WITH CARLA AND NORM. WE SEE THE BAR IS ENCASED IN CINDER BLOCKS. SPRAY PAINTED ON THEM ARE “HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY.”
Oh my God. Gary.
He topped it.
Walled off from the keg. I want him dead. His family… dead. His friends… dead. His pets…DEAD.
That rat! I’ll kill him!
I thought you were going to have Woody stand guard so this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.
I’m sorry, Sam. I fell asleep.
They bricked Woody up inside the bar.
First he marries a rich girl and now this. I tell you, that guy was born lucky.
NORM EXITS TO THE POOL ROOM.
Boy, Sam. This thing is sealed up tight.
How you doing in there, Woody? You okay?
I’m feeling a little light headed.
Thank God, he’s okay.
NORM ENTERS FROM THE POOL ROOM OPENING A CAN OF BEER.
Hey, Norm, where’d you get that beer?
I’ve got a couple cans squirreled around the bar for emergencies. I always thought it would be a nuclear thing, but this qualifies.
AN IRISH BAND ENTERS. THEY’RE ALL WEARING CABLE-KNIT SWEATERS. ONE OF THEM IS NAMED SEAN.
Where do you want us to set up, Mr. Malone?
How about right there? (POINTS UPSTAGE; THEN, TO THE GANG) See, guys? We can still win this thing. The band’s here, we’ve got the green beer… all we need to do is take down this wall and hustle like there’s no tomorrow. Okay? Now I want to see a winning attitude here. A little positivity.
THE BAND BEGINS TO SING AND PLAY A SLOW IRISH BALLAD:
(singing) “They broke into our Dublin home, the dirty English dogs. They took away my sister and they beat my dad with logs.”
THEY BREAK INTO A QUICK UP BEAT IRISH JIG FOR A BEAT, THEN RESUME THE LYRICS:
(singing) “Along the ring of Kerry you can hear the bleat of gulls, I’ll sip the blood of the English from their bleached and hollowed skulls.” (TO THE BAR) Everybody!!
Boy, if they look as good as they sound, Gary’s doesn’t stand a chance.
INT. BAR – LATER
ENOUGH OF THE CINDER BLOCKS HAVE BEEN CHIPPED AWAY TO RENDER THE BAR FUNCTIONAL. WOODY IS BEHIND THE BAR. THE BAND IS STILL PLAYING.
(finishing a dirge) “…And everywhere I looked was death, death, death.”
A SMATTERING OF APPLAUSE.
And now for a sad song. (STRUMS A CHORD, SINGS) “Twas a baby’s crib…”
(interrupting) That’s it! You’re finished. Here’s your money. Get out.
Go to hell.
THE BAND EXITS.
Well, it’s over. I guess we should add up the receipts and see how we did.
What’s the total, Woody?
(figuring on a calculator) One million five hundred thousand dollars.
Decimal point, Woody.
Hold everything. A hundred and fifty even.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Simon Cowell has stated that if Sanjaya wins AMERICAN IDOL he's quitting. How many people voted for him just for that reason?
In the reality of 24, what a news day! Nuclear bomb kills 12,000, the President is injured in an assassination attempt, a former president is knifed, US soldiers storm the Russian embassy. But I still believe every local LA station would lead off their 11 pm newcast with “Britney Spears back in rehab!”
Can you understand four words that Morris on 24 is saying? Monday he said something about his shirt I think.
I don’t care how many angry comments I get. Diana Ross is the Medussa. And every one of the twelve contestants -- even Sanjaya could have sung "More Today Than Yesterday" better than she did. Okay, not Sanjaya.
Judging by the response, my AMERICAN IDOL recaps/autopsies may become a regular feature. But it’ll be hard to top commenter Mary Stella yesterday who referred to Phil Stacey as Uncle Fester.
Don’t let the government kill internet radio. They want to impose crushing royalty payments that will wipe out all the little guys. So who benefits? Clear Channel and all the other death stars that have ruined radio. Darth Karmazin. In a few years cities will be wired for WiFi and you’re going to want the variety and individuality that only internet radio will be able to deliver. How can you help you ask? Sign this petition. Write your congressmen. Internet broadcasters already pay royalties so it’s not like the artists are getting screwed. The choice…or lack of choice is yours.
You can relax, Brian Williams is back from Iraq safe and sound. And Katie survived a weekend in the Hamptons.
Quick! Click away from the NCAA tournament game you’re watching on your computer. Your boss is coming.
Networks claim they need to push the envelope, shake things up, offer new and different kinds of shows. Here are some of the fresh, new, exciting, different actors who have been cast in recent pilots: Dylan McDermott, Chris Titus, Kim Raver (pictured), Amy Brenneman, Tim Daly, Jeffrey Tambor, Dean Cain, Christina Applegate, Patricia Heaton, Kelsey Grammer. Oh…and Racquel Welch.
My favorite spring training story: In the mid 90’s when Lou Pinella was managing the Seattle Mariners they started a spring 0-10. They were driving through Arizona when Lou spotted a little league game. He stopped the bus, ordered the players out, and said, “See? THAT’S how it’s supposed to be done!”
Okay, I’m not the only perv. Blogger Karen Scott also thumbs through romance novels at the bookstore looking for the sex scenes. But I’m still waiting for that smoking passage where a hot woman finds that a guy has such a great sense of humor that she has to tear off his clothes and fuck him.
I hope you’re bewaring the Ides of March.
Is there one part of Diana Ross’ face and body that she has not had redone… at least twice? She is now officially the world’s weirdest Chia Pet. And when she was hugging Sanjaya I could swear she whispered, “I love you, Michael.” The ick meter was pegging the red.
The Diana Ross song Sanjaya should have sung was “I’m Coming Out”.
Randy chided Blake Lewis for taking liberties with “You Keep Me Hanging On”, a classic Motown tune. As opposed to telling every other contestant they have to do something different and make the song their own. Lil Jon has a larger vocabulary.
LaKisha vs. Melinda. The rest are just schmuck bait.
Could they pad the show any more? Christ! It was so long Paula’s drugs were wearing off.
If you’re like me, you’ve never seen more than four minutes of any results show. You tivo right till the end.
Brandon Rogers – see you in PIPPIN at the Jupiter Theatre in Florida.
Phil Stacey could easily win AMERICAN SERIAL KILLER.
Jordin Sparks looks like an Amazon standing next to Ryan Seacrest. And she’s probably 5’ 2”.
In fairness to the contestants, they sure had a dreary catalogue of songs to choose from. No one could make “Love Hangover” sound good.
How many weeks until Lulu???
Sure, the girls all try to sound like Whitney Houston. But at least Whitney Houston can sing. The guys strive to be Chris Montez.
I love that Haley forgot the words. What’s the point of a live show if there are not screw ups? I’d love the theme one week to be the songs of Danny Kaye.
For whatever reason, Simon doesn’t want Haley booted off the show just yet. As he was saying she wasn’t that bad 30,000,000 voices at the same time said, “He’s banging her!”
I loved how Mensa president, Paula Abdul said the audience was too stupid to notice when a contestant went up on the lyrics. I’m sure she hopes that’s true, considering how many times she probably screwed up her own lyrics. ‘Instant replay, instant replay, instant replay, instant uh…uh…uh…”
Chris Sligh and Drew Carey are not funny without their glasses.
Diana Ross seemed impressed with the girls but was she impressed enough to sleep with their boyfriends?
Please let it be Sanjaya that gets voted off tonight. Let him break down and cry and run into Elizabeth Taylor’s arms.
And now for you Non-Idol fans....
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
For baseball fans this is a great time of year – Spring Training. To give you a little flavor of what it’s like, here are some excerpts from my book IT’S GONE…NO, WAIT A MINUTE… (available on Amazon for $.19) which chronicled my year broadcasting for the Baltimore Orioles (1991). My partner was Jon Miller (pictured on the right, not the left), the current voice of the Giants and ESPN baseball. The setting was Florida.
Our second game was in Port Charlotte against a team I knew nothing about, the Texas Rangers.
A CURRENT AFFAIR did a story on me.
The camera crew was back at 9 a.m. Today’s the day they were going to show me at work as a broadcaster, so of course that meant filming me and Jon physically leaving the condo and getting into our car. When we reached the parking lot I pretended that the car had been stolen.
We sped down the coast to Port Charlotte to face the Rangers (ditching the mobile truck at the expressway entrance).
I talked about the crew on the air, saying that I was a CURRENT AFFAIR subject because (1) I’m a TV writer now broadcasting major league baseball, and (2) I have a different wife stashed away in every American League city.
Today Jon and I took a three-hour drive to the center of the state, to some godforsaken town called Baseball City. It’s near Haines City, if that helps. Baseball City is the spring home of the Kansas City Royals, and it’s adjacent to an amusement park named Baseball and Boardwalk. Not a bad idea to have a baseball theme for an amusement park and then complement it with actual games. I can see where tourists might go for that. The only trouble is, there’s another amusement park only thirty miles away – Disney World. Baseball and Boardwalk went belly-up last year. The Royals do okay for their one month in the spring, but their Florida State League team draws more mosquitoes than people. Jon opened the broadcast today by saying, “Live, from the middle of nowhere, this is Orioles baseball!”
Six cities are vying for the privilege of shelling out $95 million apiece for one of two National League franchises. Miami is making a big push this weekend by hosting the Orioles and the Yankees at Joe Robbie Stadium (home of the Dolphins). Calling a game with 60,000-plus in the house, that’s “the Show”. It was such a kick. I didn’t even mind the fact that we had to do the game from the football press box way up the first-base line and that all fly balls appeared headed for left once they left the bat. Somehow I managed to take my cue from the fielders and describe the game accurately. Not once did I say, “There’s a fly ball to center…foul!”
My CURRENT AFFAIR story aired tonight…fortunately at 12:15 a.m. What a riot. Mine was one segment of A CURRENT AFFAIR EXTRA, their hourlong waste of airtime. I was lumped in with some guy who kills little girls in church, people whose skin has fallen off while mowing the lawn, and the latest fashion in underpants. I followed the murderer.
In the piece, I was referred to as “Hollywood Glamour Boy” Ken Levine. I was one of the top writers in show business according to them (proving just how inaccurate their sources are). They said I could be dong “this”, and showed some wild pulsating disco scene, then they said I could be spending time with “this”, and featured two buxom beauties in string bikinis with the camera lingering on their bouncing breasts. But no, they continued, he’s doing “this,” and they featured me sitting in the cheesy broadcast booth in Port Charlotte calling a spring training game before a crowd of maybe two thousand uninterested senior citizens. Several MASH and CHEERS clips were then haphazardly interwoven into an inane interview segment. Jon answered a question about whether I discuss Hollywood parties with him, and as he spoke, his name was superimposed on the screen, spelled incorrectly (John Miller). The only play-by-play they captured was, “Here’s the pitch…low, ball two,” and “There’s a foul ball out of play.” The segment ended with me saying I can never get a good table at Spago.
Since the program aired in the middle of the night, I have to wonder how many groggy viewers got up the next morning and said to their wives, “Hey, did you hear about that Baltimore Orioles’ announcer who killed all those kids in church?”
Monday, March 12, 2007
Bill Towey, senior vice president of the 1,498 theater National Amusements says, “Do we have a moral obligation to make the community healthy? Yes, we feel we have some obligation.” I’m sure that is why his theater chain proudly features fruits and vegetables like Raisinets and NutRageous bars.
But the truth is your local 35 screen bunker at the end of the mall makes 45% of its profits on concessions. That $5 tub of popcorn costs them maybe ten cents. They don’t want to worry that if there’s a bad frost this winter that the carrot crop is going to be way more expensive… despite their “moral obligation”.
It’s JUNK FOOD, people! It’s crap. It’s sugars and salts and toxic saturated fats. Who are they kidding with canola oil? That’s tobacco companies saying their cigarettes are healthier because they use LESS tar. We KNOW what we’re getting. We may not know going in that MUSIC AND LYRICS is just another formulaic romantic comedy until the second ten minutes but we do know that Milk Duds is not a milk substitute and Jujubees have pulled out more teeth than dentists. But they taste yummy. And sitting through BEYOND THE SEA will take more years off your life that Goobers.
Better that ShoWest focus on other things – like eliminating commercials, charging reasonable prices, turning away babies, showing decent prints, and banning Oliver Stone movies.
Meanwhile, on the convention floor, Jose Mier is peddling Capital Churros to theater owners. Deep fried, covered in sugar, 16 inches and stuffed with Bavarian cream, caramel, and strawberries. But fear not, movie goers – Mr. Mier says of his Capital Churros, “We try to make them as healthy as possible.”
Sunday, March 11, 2007
In the early 60’s he learned that producer Hal B. Wallis was planning to make a movie of the play BECKET. That subject matter was Anhalt’s absolute passion. He considered himself an expert on the era. No one knew the period as well. He went to Wallis with an impassioned plea that he and he alone was right for this assignment. Wallis made him a deal. Anhalt could write BECKET but he had another project that also needed a writer. If Anhalt would do that first he could have his coveted assignment. Anhalt happily agreed.
So in the same year Mr. Edward Anhalt wrote BECKET and GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS starring Elvis Presley and Stella Stevens.
Moral of this story: If you’re lucky enough to get an assignment on some horrible cheesy Disney Channel show about kids in leprechaun jr. high take heart. Next year you could be on THE WIRE.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Since I'm still dealing with family affairs, here's a re-post from over a year ago. It's a topic that always generates strong opinions and bears repeating. The comments should be quite lively.
There is an meme going around asking us bloggermeisters to list our favorite TV theme songs. And that got me thinking – I MISS TV THEME SONGS.
Networks today, so deathly afraid of tune out, have all but eliminated theme songs and opening credits. They go by so fast you can’t tell the difference between opening titles and vanity production cards. And I think it does a disservice to the shows and the viewers. A good opening title sequence can really set the tone for the show. CHEERS wasn’t just a bar, it was the place where everyone knows your name. If it premiered today you’d see the logo, an animated glass of beer being filled, and ten seconds of “Sweet Caroline”.
It would be a little hard to sell that the Monkees were this goofy playful rock band if the extent of their theme was “Hey hey, we’re the Monkees!” America would be saying “Hey hey, so what?”
Networks complain that sitcoms are all the same then take away their signature feature.
And here’s what they don’t understand -- a good theme and opening title sequence ATTRACTS viewers. Some people tune in specifically because they LIKE the title sequence. That was me with the Drew Carey “Cleveland Rocks” opening. If only the show was that good.
An added benefit in this day of synergy and cross promotion is that they can become hit records on their own. (HAWAII 5-0, WELCOME BACK KOTTER, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE) Think of all the free three minute plugs your show will get when KIIS-FM is playing the shit out of your theme. (I’m not being local here. Every city in America, Canada, Australia, and Yemen has a KIIS-FM).
These themes can become part of pop culture. I bet more Americans know the words to GILLIGAN’S ISLAND than the Star Spangled Banner. Hell, more people can sing the lyrics to CHARLES IN CHARGE. These ditties are burned into our brains. When we’re 90 and can’t remember if we put our pants on we’ll still be able to sing the MASH theme and the JEFFERSONS. (A year ago I would have put BEWITCHED in that category but I think Nora Ephron has permanently killed it. When are they going to stop letting her make movies?)
And ultimately here’s what we’re talking about – twenty more seconds. That’s all. Twenty more seconds. Maybe thirty. God forbid thirty-five. The same amount of time it takes to run a promo for TIL DEATH. What would YOU rather watch?
Okay, so in no particular order – my ten favorite TV themes.
WELCOME BACK KOTTER
DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
DREW CAREY SHOW
MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
One final thought, if you have opening titles then maybe the credits won’t extend so far into the show. Considering how large some of these casts and staffs are it’s not inconceivable that someday on a comedy credits will roll all the way through the tag.
She was the perfect daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and unofficially – agent. My partner, David and I might not have a career were it not for my mom. It’s one of those true “Hollywood” stories. We were writing spec scripts, going nowhere, not even getting read at most shows. Then one day my mother found herself playing golf with Gordon Mitchell, one of the story editors of THE JEFFERSON. Like any good mom she said her son was a brilliant young writer and would he consider reading a script? Frankly, I’m a little surprised she didn’t have a copy in her bag but still. As a favor to her, Gordon did read our spec, liked it, and to our amazement, gave us our first assignment. In so many ways my mother has been a true angel in my life.
Her favorite song was “Stardust” as sung by Nat King Cole. The words, by Mitchell Parish, express better than I ever could the lasting love and devotion those who knew her will feel for my mother forever.
And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that were apart
You wander down the lane and far away
Leaving me a song that will not die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday
The music of the years gone by
Sometimes I wonder why I spend
The lonely night dreaming of a song
The melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new
And each kiss an inspiration
But that was long ago
Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall
When stars are bright
You are in my arms
The nightingale tells his fairy tale
A paradise where roses bloom
Though I dream in vain
In my heart it will remain
My stardust melody
The memory of loves refrain
You will remain in my heart always. I love you, mom.
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Remember when Linda shows up at Arthur’s engagement party and they go out to the stables? In this version after the party they go to the Plaza Hotel and end up here:
INT. HUGE ORNATE PLAZA HOTEL SUITE – NIGHT
Linda and Arthur enter the room.
(looking around) Look at this room! It’s not easy to feel cheap here.
Arthur sits on the bed.
You want something to drink? Or eat?
She walks to the window and looks out.
You were expecting Pittsburgh?
I feel like we’re a young couple from the Midwest on our first trip to New York.
(lying back on the bed) Come here.
Linda goes to the bed and lies next to him. He puts his arm around her. They lie like that for a beat.
What are we waiting for?
The other girl will be here in a minute. You didn’t think this was just going to be you and me, did you? You’ll like her.
Why do I feel so comfortable with you?
Because we are that couple from the Midwest. And we’re very nice people.
He kisses her. Light at first. Then it quickly turns to passion.
(breathing heavily) You’re a nice girl… but you don’t turn me on physically.
You’re not going to marry that girl. And you know it.
Arthur kisses her again.
Let’s not talk anymore. Okay?
Linda starts to unbutton Arthur’s shirt. She kisses his chest. They are both very excited.
(while kissing his chest) I know you’re not going to marry her.
She’s talking. Linda… let’s not talk.
He rolls over and kisses her again. After the kiss:
Let’s talk for a second…
I’m having sex here! Do you mind?
Why would you marry a woman you don’t love?
I have to. Can I help you with that zipper?
What do you mean… you have to?
Linda… there’s not a shower in the world cold enough to fix what’s going on here. Now… could we talk about this later?
Just tell me what you mean… you have to?
My family is forcing me to marry her.
You asshole! Nobody gets married like that! That hasn’t happened since 1850!
They’ll cut me off if I don’t! Without a cent!
So? You’ll get a job like everybody else. How much money is it?
250 million dollars.
Try it with her for a few years. Maybe it’ll work out.
Linda… you see this suite? I have to be in suites like this.
Because… that’s who I am. I’m Arthur Bach. I’ve got nothing but the money. I don’t know who I am without it.
You’re not Winston Churchill… I’ll tell you that.
(touching her face) It took me years… all my life… to find you. Just don’t compete with the money. The money is like my arm. It comes with me.
We’re not that nice young couple from the Midwest, are we? I’ll get a cab.
Linda crosses to the door. Arthur sits on the bed. She stops.
You can’t have everything, Arthur. If you get the potato you don’t get a vegetable.
Would you turn down this money?
Are you crazy? Of course not! I steal ties for Christ sakes! But when you look for a mistress… make it a mistress! She should speak French and give back rubs. Don’t come to me. I want to get married. What do I know about being a mistress? You’d get me an apartment and I’d want to know if it’s near a good school.
Don’t pout. You’re lovely. I’ll remember you the rest of my life.
Linda exits. Arthur goes to the bar and pours a drink.