Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11 and David & Lynn Angell

This is a re-post but I will probably be re-posting it every year on this date.

9/11 affected us all, profoundly and in many cases personally. Two of my dear friends were on flight 11. David and Lynn Angell. There hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought of them, missed them, and not felt grateful that they were in my life.

David and I worked together on CHEERS, WINGS, and FRASIER (the latter two he co-created). We used to call him the “dean”. In his quiet way he was the one we always looked to for final approval of a line or a story direction. He brought a warmth and humanity to his writing that hopefully rubbed off on the rest of us “schickmeisters”. And he could be funny – sneaky funny. During long rewrite sessions he tended to be quiet. Maybe two or three times a night he’d pitch a joke – but they were always the funniest jokes of the script.

For those of you hoping to become comedy writers yourselves, let David Angell be your inspiration. Before breaking in he worked in the U.S. Army, the Pentagon, an insurance firm, an engineering company, and then when he finally moved out to L.A. he did “virtually every temp job known to man” for five years. Sometimes even the greatest talents take awhile to be recognized.

I first met David the first season of CHEERS. He came in to pitch some stories. He had been recommended after writing a good NEWHART episode. This shy quiet man who looked more like a quantum physics professor than a comedy writer, slinked into the room, mumbled through his story pitches, and we all thought, “is this the right guy? He sure doesn’t seem funny.” Still, he was given an assignment (“Pick a con…any con”) and when the script came back everyone was just blown away. He was quickly given a second assignment (“Someone single, someone blue”) and that draft came back even better. I think the first order of business for the next season was to hire David Angell on staff.

After 9/11, David’s partners Peter Casey & David Lee called me and my partner into their office. There was a FRASIER script David Angell was about to write. (It was the one where Lilith’s brother arrived in a wheelchair and became an evangelist. Michael Keaton played the part.) Peter & David asked if we would write it and for me that was a greater honor than even winning an Emmy.

David’s wife, Lynn, was also an inspiration. She devoted her life to helping others – tirelessly working on creating a children’s library and a center that serves abused children.

My heart goes out to their families. To all of the families.

I still can’t wrap my mind around it.

So tragic, so senseless, and even eight years later, so inconceivable.

5 comments:

amyp3 said...

Ken,
Even though I was hundreds of miles from NYC (and DC) on 9/11/01, it affected me profoundly. And it was so strange when I later learned that a writer whom I admired and his wife were on one of the planes.

So sorry that with the passing of Larry Gelbart this day now has another sad memory for you.

Dhppy said...

As a huge fan of Cheers and Frasier, (and an aspiring writer) I knew David Angell's name and admired his work. And my mouth dropped open when I heard about his death in the days after 9/11.

Even now, it's hard for me to think about him, so I can only imagine (and badly at that) how devastating it must be for you as his friend.


The loss of Larry Gelbart today must compound the sadness for you, and I am truly sorry.

Focus on the luck you've had in knowing such funny and talented people and eventually, the good memories will dilute the sad.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute to your friends, David and Lynn. Thank you for sharing it with us.

I remember discovering that David had lost his life on 9.11.01 and taking several minutes to reflect on all of the shows he contributed to. He brought so much laughter and lightness of spirit to the world.

We will always need people like him, and like you.

TCinLA said...

I had met David Angell during the strike in 1988, and ran across him a few other times over the years through the WGA. He was certainly the human being you describe, Ken. I always loved seeing his name on the credits for one of his shows, knowing that episode was going to be good.

As to Larry Gelbart, I also met him in 1988. He definitely lived up to my expectations. I will never forget him telling off the Academy when he won for TOOTSIE about the treatment of writers, how he never knew his "co-writers" who shared the award. He was always a forceful advocate for the calling of writing. I've known other people like you who were lucky enough to work with him, and they all say how much he gave them, how working with him made them the writers they became. I don't think there's a better compliment one can have than that. He's been quoted as saying that Hawkeye Pierce was his "idealized self," but I think Hawkeye was Larry Gelbart: involved in life, committed to doing the right then especially when it was hard. And damn funny.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for continuing to remember Dave & Lynn in this way. They truly never forgot where they came from and never let the glitz & glamour of Hollywood change who they were. They will be forever missed. They are our Angells in heaven.