Tuesday, April 28, 2009

C U at the C-BAG

Continuing yesterday’s post, since a lot of multi-camera shows all shot on Tuesday – both at Paramount and other studios like Gower-Sunset, Raleigh, and Ren-Mar – the writing staffs and casts from these shows began stopping off at the Columbia Bar & Grill for an after-filming drink. The C-BAG (as it was known) is now Pinoit on the corner of Gower and Sunset.

But there was a golden period in the late 80s through late 90s where this was the Algonquin Table west. It was not unusual to be sitting with the show runner of FRASIER, creator of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND, Ted Danson, Nathan Lane, the President of CBS, two producers from FRIENDS, director James Burrows, and Jennifer Aniston.

I’ve always believed that the best shows were the ones where the writers and actors worked together, not at odds. Being able to socialize with them once a week established a real trust. And their stories were always GREAT. Actor stories tend to be more colorful than writers’. Ours are usually horror stories, getting fucked over by networks or studios or spouses or doctors or American Express. Theirs are about hilarious anecdotes in the theater, filming mishaps, and who slept with who on what set. We would always try to steer the conversations in that direction.

The C-BAG was the place to go for juicy TV gossip and dish. If there was trouble on any set in town we learned about it. Anyone institutionalized, we knew it (usually because someone would ask, “Hey, where’s so-and-so tonight?”)

Interestingly, rarely were agents there. They were welcome. Anyone was welcome but Brett Butler. Agents were always present at the filmings. Why, I don’t know. They didn’t know either. There was nothing for them to do. They’d sit, bored to tears, and watch the monitors. I always found it ironic then when you needed agents you could never get them on the phone. And when you didn’t, there they all were at the ready in full-force. The only time I ever asked my agent for something he didn’t come through. Despite repeated pleas on my part he would not kill the network vice-president and his entire staff. So truly, what’s the point of even being there? But I’m guessing when the director yelled “That’s a wrap!” they bolted so fast they never knew everyone was invited to a post filming celebration.

Why did it end? The shows ended. And a new regime at Paramount placed far less value on writer/producers. The entire stable was either let go or encouraged to move on. But Tuesday nights for about a decade were magic. For any current showrunners, assuming there are enough actual shows in production, find a C-BAG of your own. And let me know if you need a designated driver.

25 comments:

growingupartists said...

Just commenting because no one else has.

John said...

So Brett Butler's running Paramount Television now...

Anonymous said...

Nowadays the place is called something like "Eat. on Sunset"
Columbia Bar and Grill is gone like Martoni's.

A. Buck Short said...

Damn! Now I'm nostalgic for somebody else's life.

Dave Williams said...

Wow, Ken. You got me with that one.

I've never known if the past was so much fun because it's past or because I'm getting old. I still don't know but this post reminded me of a million wonderful nights in my radio past.

How can the heart be beaten out of entertainment?

thevidiot said...

You forgot to mention that they had Paulaner Oktoberfest Märzen on tap! The finger food was good too and it was fun to see Bea Arthur after "Golden Girls" finished up.

Was right across from the Post House I worked at in my Music & Variety days.

Good memories!

Mike said...

There was a couple of years in the early '80's that the Frolic Room on Hollywood Blvd. next to the Pantages was a happening place, too. Before and after this period of time it was mostly a gay clientele, maybe it was then too, but for that couple of years there sure were all kinds of interesting showbiz folks of all persuasions hanging out there and, well, frolicing.

Confession: every time I left I would look at the Pantages and cross myself, in tribute and in hoping for all the Oscars that had been given out there.

When tiring of conversation and needing music, there was a classic old Hollywood bar/restaurant on Vine like around Selma that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of, that was the happening happy hour on Friday.

How did I drive home some of those nights? Times sure change.

Thanks, Ken, for the memories.

KellyfromCheers said...

Yep!!!! Some great times. Indeed.

D. McEwan said...

Now you tell me! From 1985 to 1989 I lived about three blocks from there, and shopped at the Thrifty Drugstore there. To think I was three blocks away watching late night TV or arguing with my roommate when I could have been eavesdropping from the next table.

"Everyone was welcome but Brett Butler." Made me laugh out loud hard enough to type it out, instead of just texting LOL.

To bad you passed on reviewing AI tonight. Rat PAck night. Five GREAT songs for once, especially after the crap of disco alst week.

Tom Reeder said...

It seems to me that there was also a restaurant on Melrose, practically on the Paramount lot, that was a popular lunch hangout for a while. Was it called Oblath's?

KEN LEVINE said...

If only my house wasn't under a tent filled with deadly gas I would have surely gone home after the Dodger game and reviewed it. I hope next week's theme isn't the music of Frankie Avalon.

Anonymous said...

Oblath's was defiantly just off the Paramount lot along with another small restaurant I can't remember the name of plus the commissary on the lot. Also Nichodell Melrose, next door to KHJ Radio and TV. Lots of Boss Jock incidents there. Never cared much for the Columbia Bar and Grill, but just had lunch there a few times when I worked at Columbia Square. Best place of all was (still is, even tho Mario just passed away, is Marino's, also on Melrose Ave. Mario was one of the "Martioni's" brothers.

cb said...

Lucy's..

jbryant said...

D. - I greatly enjoyed Rat Pack night, but would it have killed somebody to mention Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers, Hart et al by name? I know precious few of us would have cared, but it would've been nice, and only taken about two seconds per intro.

benson said...

jbryant: ...and the show still ran too long, even with only 5 contestants.

Dave Williams: Amen, brother!

Richter 6.0 said...

Whats the story on Brett Butler? I've seen her mentioned a couple of times in your blog. All I could find was this line in Wikipedia. I'm assuming its related to this?:

"During the run of Grace Under Fire Butler developed a reputation for allegedly difficult, unprofessional behavior on the set, and constantly clashed with producers and writers. The situation deteriorated so substantially that co-star Julie White did not appear in the last season of the show."

Joe said...

It says something about Brett Butler that even Cybill Shepherd wasn't singled out thus.

If Cybill is welcome somewhere and you're not...wow.

Missed That One said...

I think this comes down to a collective Friday Question from All of Us:

What is the story on Brett Butler?

LeeFranke said...

Everyone has their reasons for reading your blog.

Posts like this are my favorite.

Tom Quigley said...

In that area of Hollywood you had your choice of eating establishments: The Columbia Bar & Grill, Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles, or the Denny's which fronted the Gower Gulch Plaza on Sunset, where you could enjoy your meal while watching some homeless semi-conscious crackhead lying in the foyer in a puddle of his own pee... or vomit... or both...

D. McEwan said...

"jbryant said...
D. - I greatly enjoyed Rat Pack night, but would it have killed somebody to mention Gershwin, Kern, Rodgers, Hart et al by name?"

It's an annoying practise they have to refer to a song as being "by" the artist who recorded it, and sometimes "by" the 4th or 20th artist who recorded it. Quite insulting to the people who ACTUALLY wrote the songs. Rather like saying, "I'm performing HAMLET by Laurence Olivier." At least Simon resisted the temptation to say "I've never heard this obscure song before. Do something people know." after "Someone to Watch Over Me."

Nicodell's next door to KHJ: I had dinner there one evening in May, 1974 with Walker Edmonston and Doodles Weaver, while Doodles told stories about getting drunk with Bogart. Brett Butler wasn't around.

James said...

That corner joint is now called EAT. I spent last year working at Sunset Gower Studios, never saw anyone in there. Maybe it was the $26 salads?

But you're right, it sounds like a blast, but I suspect those gatherings are fewer and further between now, and not only because of a lack of suitable locales...we're living more and more in a world where social gathering and networking happens online, through cell phones, texts, and email. Face to face, sharing a round, doesn't happen as often. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

Anonymous said...

BTW, I was a PA on a Witt-Thomas show back then, and had to pick up lunch for the writers every single day from the CBG. The reason? Apparently, the C-Bag was owned partially by Paul Witt and Tony Thomas, so they gave the writing staff their choice of ordering in from CBG or a place called "you're on your own."

Alan Coil said...

Wicked-pedia shows its incompleteness and weakness by not having more about Brett Butler.

I remember reading about a substance abuse (alcohol as far as I know) problem during the 90s. I enjoyed both her show and her stand-up routines, and found her attractive in an earthy way.

Unless you meant the baseball player, the race car driver, or the voice actor. (By naming these 3, I show one of the few strengths of Wicked-pedia.)

Alan Tomlinson said...

I worked on that block at the end of the 80's and always wondered who ate there as it was absurdly overpriced for what I thought was decent food. Shanghai Noshery, across the street however, was quite good. Onion pancakes with peanut sauce.

Cheers,

Alan Tomlinson