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.
Saturday, February 14, 2009
By Ken Levine at 8:53 PM