Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No one dresses better than comedy writers

I once related the story of my partner and I attending an awards ceremony looking like idiots in matching brown tuxedos and peach ruffled shirts. But that is not to suggest that I don't normally dress extremely well. In fact, I was in GQ.

No. Really.

Honest.

I’m serious.

Somehow GQ magazine got wind of my going off to Syracuse in 1988 to announce minor league baseball. They decided to do an article about me. My wife is still laughing. “You in GQ?”

I did the phone interview with Ron Powers who wrote the piece. Then I got a call from their photographer. They wanted to take pictures of me that Friday at a local baseball stadium. I said fine. The photographer then wanted to know what I’d be wearing. I said I didn’t know. This was only Monday and my mom usually doesn’t pick out my clothes until the night before. He asked my measurements and said he would bring something. Now I was a little pissed off. Just because I was a writer did he automatically assume I was a schlump? I can't believe he saw me on DON KIRSCHNER'S ROCK AWARDS. I told him I would bring my own wardrobe. Obviously his concern was not assuaged. He asked if I’d bring a selection.

I’m the same height and size as Ted Danson. The next day I went to the CHEERS wardrobe guy and asked if I could borrow some Sam Malone shirts and slacks.

Friday afternoon I hooked up with the photographer. I think I was wearing a torn t-shirt. There was already a lump in his throat. I opened my trunk and let him examine my selection. The accompanying picture is a well...an approximation. His eyes almost popped out. “Jesus, this is great stuff!” he said, astonished. “Any one of these would be perfect.” “Well YEAH,” I said as if it couldn't be more obvious. “It might surprise you to learn that most television writers are total fashion hounds. Much of the time in writers rooms is spent discussing men’s haberdashery.”

I accepted his apology and hoped that he had a new respect for how writers really felt about wardrobe.

He went off to set up his camera while I put one of the shirts on, glad that he didn’t see the “Property of Paramount Pictures” tag that was still on the sleeve.

The article came out August 1988. I see my shirt all the time in reruns.

18 comments:

edwamil83 said...

Why the re-run?

D. McEwan said...

Now I reversed this process. When I used to write the local FRIGHT NIGHT WITH SEYMOUR hosted horror movie show, 100,000 years ago, since Larry Vincent who played Seymour was about the same size as me, I kept writing my own wardrobe into the show.

In my first episode, I had Seymour in a segment wearing a furry shirt I had left over from a play I'd been in, that I sometimes wore to family gatherings, like Chirstmas Eve, since it annoyed the hell out of my evil Mormon aunt, and I had him wear my Mickey Mouse ears. (Had he turned around, the audience could have wondered who "Douglas" was.)

In another episode I had him wear my deerstalker cap. In another I put him in my old choir robe and graduation morter board. He even wore my shoes in one sketch.

It gave me a weird satisfaction, something related to marking my territory, to see Seymour on TV wearing my clothes.

Only later did I have to confront the fact that I had hats with better resumes than mine.

Elana said...

“Well YEAH,” I said as if it couldn't be more obvious. “It might surprise you to learn that most television writers are total fashion hounds. Much of the time in writers rooms is spent discussing men’s haberdashery.”

That is my favorite thing you've ever said (on this blog.) This whole post had me doing that low-grade chuckle I apparently inherited from my dad (sigh).

rita said...

'oh, ken! you look terrific in those photos. your shirts look like ted danson's! where did you find them!?!' i bet you heard that all the time after the article was released. great story!

btw. just a quick question completely off topic: are there any news from the re-build of the MASH set on the FOX ranch?

A.BurkeShort(member, Members Only) said...

A word to you youngsters out there. Never grow up exactly one size smaller than your cousin Jeff. If you can’t do that, find a cousin Jeff who never went to summer camp. I got all of my cousin’s hand-me-downs from elementary school all the way to the beginning of high school. On one occasion I went to school unknowingly with the shirttail hanging out and the name Jeffrey Stoltz written on it in indelible marker. When someone noticed, I tried to pretend the shirt had been personally signed by the designer. This was years before Tommy Hilfiger.

Tom Quigley said...

I was at Paramount one day with Rudy Hornish who was working with Kelsey Grammer's Grammnet Productions at the time, and on the way back from the commissary we passed two gentlemen smartly dressed in jackets and ties. I assumed they were studio accountants or something of a similar nature. Rudy said "Hi" to them and they acknowledged his greeting. After they got around the corner he asked me if I knew who they were. When I told him I didn't have a clue, he said "That was Glen and Les Charles. They never come to work dressed in anything other than jackets and ties."...

So I guess there's a lesson to be learned for all of us schlubs who'd prefer to write in our underwear, whether it be in our home office or on a studio lot: The formula for success is (1) dress nice, (2) create a hit sitcom, (3) make a bazillion dollars...

BTW, speaking of "Members Only" -- Ken, did you ever get to wear Sam's "MEMBERS ONLY" jacket from his Babe Kit?....

Mary Stella said...

Things I never have to think about, except when making sure trainers are dressed appropriately for television interviews. (In addition to writing, I work as the media coordinator for a dolphin facility.) Appropriately, as far as I'm concerned is any T-shirt shirt that isn't white and has our facility name and logo printed LARGE on the front.

Marcus Bachan said...

I always dress in suits.

. . . Adidas and Nike count, right?

KEN LEVINE said...

Tom,

What the hell was Rudy Hornish talking about??? Glen & Les only wore suits to show filmings, as did we all.

Seriously, was Rudy out of his mind?

jbryant said...

I, too, have a hard time believing the Charles brothers never came to work in "anything other than jackets and ties." Surely they would have been arrested.

Tom Quigley said...

It appears that I may have been having my chain yanked a bit by Mr. Hornish. Ken, he told me one other thing that I mentioned on your blog one time that you corrected me on. I'll email you.

John said...

On the other hand, the people all along Wolf Street near MacArthur Stadium in Syracuse tended to dress in slightly less natty attire than on the Paramount lot, so the torn T-shirt would have fit in well with the neighborhood.

Tom Quigley said...

I've re-assessed my formula for success: (1) dress like you always do, (2) create a sitcom, (3) if that doesn't work, create a reality show...

D. McEwan said...

So I should disergard Rudy Hornish's warnings about Paramount having WMDs?

Damn, I just committed America to bringing Demoracy to Paramount!

VP81955 said...

John said...
On the other hand, the people all along Wolf Street near MacArthur Stadium in Syracuse tended to dress in slightly less natty attire than on the Paramount lot, so the torn T-shirt would have fit in well with the neighborhood.


Yeah. If you wanted to see fashionable attire in Syracuse, you went over to Euclid Street near the university.

John said...

vp81955 said
Yeah. If you wanted to see fashionable attire in Syracuse, you went over to Euclid Street near the university.


On the other hand, if you wanted to see the off-campus stoners, you went to the intersection of Euclid and Westcott and turned north.

TCinLA said...

I used to have fun, on a show that will remain unnamed, where I would show up in a really ratty R-shirt from the 1978 Reno Air Races (this was 1990, so it was ooooold), paint and oil-smeared jans and oil-smeared tennies (at the time I used to have a lot of fun crewing on an air racer in Reno before it became a show for over-the-hill white guys with too much money). I had a jar on my desk filled with green jell-o and the resin "baby monster" from a movie i wrote that the sciffy channel now says is a "cult classic," and I would have fun sitting out in the lobby watching the new writers show up, and listening to them. (The things you heard!) And then I'd leave, them thinkiing I must be the day janitor, and then they'd get called into my office...

Oops!! It was always fun to see the responses, and I could tell who was going to get hired from them - that and the inevitable question about "what's that?" on the desk. "The last writer who didn't listen to my instructions," I would reply. I could always tell who was going to be hired at that moment.

But I do know that Billy Wilder frequently showed up in a suit and a tie - but then, that was another time... (he used to tell me I dressed like bum, which I did and do).

Anonymous said...

What no scans of the article? /disappointed ;)