Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hey, who stole my flamingo?!

Or...my favorite pitch meeting ever.
In 1978 my partner, David Isaacs and I were head writers of MASH. That fall we also signed on to write a pilot for CBS. Our producer was Allan Carr (pictured above). He was this rather flamboyant character famous for throwing lavish parties in the “King Tut Disco” in his home, producing such films as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and GREASE, and winning a Tony for producing LA CAGE AUS FOLLES on Broadway. He looked like composer Paul Williams -- short, cherubic, bespectacled.

We arranged a meeting to pitch our pilot story. Since we were dealing with MASH all day the meeting was set for 6 PM at his Benedict Canyon mansion (“Hillhaven Lodge”, complete with a giant eight foot Oscar statue in the driveway.)

We show up and are told by the butler he’s not ready. The butler ushered us onto the lovely outdoor patio where a bottle of wine was waiting for us as well as a Chasen’s ice mountain of fresh seafood. An hour later we’re still waiting although the bottle is now empty. And we start getting a little giddy. We were wondering how we could steal one of his ceramic flamingos. Would Allan notice the two long flamingo legs sticking out of my briefcase? We were really starting to get punchy.

Finally, we hear “Hello, hello” and quickly put on our serious game faces. A moment later Allan sweeps in wearing nothing but a flowing white caftan…and a layer of thick white cold cream all over his face. Holy shit! We almost lost it.

And now, not only must we somehow maintain decorum, we have to pitch a complete pilot story. Behind Allan sat the flamingos, making it even worse.

We somehow managed to get through it. Imagine this surreal scene – a normal pitch meeting, the producer and writers polishing a story, trading ideas, everyone acting as though there’s nothing unusual even though the producer is in a dress with Crisco dripping from his face.

We wrapped up the meeting, said goodbye, shook hands, he closed the front door, and we rolled around on his front lawn for 45 minutes laughing.

The pilot didn’t go thank God because shortly after that Allan had his stomach stapled. Lord knows what the story meetings were like following that.

14 comments:

Kate Coe said...

When I worked on the Wilton North Report ("the worst show in the history of TV"), he was a fall-back guest. After Jodie Foster cancelled, he showed up in a caftan, but gamely went on, smiling at Nancy Collin's insane questions. A Trouper. A weirdo, but a trouper.

James said...

Hi Ken,

This isn't on topic but I just got so excited that I had to let you (and anyone else interested) know that Volunteers is finally being released on DVD in Australia by Madman.

You can now look forward to a very small portion of my money coming to you soon.

Rory L. Aronsky said...

Ken, this has always been one of my dearly favorite stories of your career. Thank you for reposting it.

This explains a little bit of Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White during the Academy Awards ceremony Carr produced.

WV: cybacrop - Yo, you got some of that good shit? No, no, no, not that shit; the other REAL good shit. Oh, you do? Good. Gimme summa that crop and I'll send you da money online. No, don't worry, it's secure. I swear. I play online poker on this thing.

Anonymous said...

And where is he now????

ohnooooo! said...

and dang I wanted to know if you stole the flamingo!!

Cap'n Bob Napier said...

Friday question. The recent show starring Kelsey Grammer tanked. Since you served him so well with Fraser, did he ever approach you about writing for the new show? Would you have done if he had? Thanks for running a great blog.

YEKIMI said...

And where is he now????

Providing he wan't cremated, I believe he is 6 feet under seeing as how he died in 1999 of liver cancer.

Lane said...

he sounds like the Nathan Lane character from the Birdcage

rob! said...

So Allan Carr made money on the side as a Truman Capote impersonator?

Griff said...

The rather unique Allan Carr was certainly one of the producers of the film version of GREASE, but he had nothing to do with SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER.

Anonymous said...

Carr's body was cremated and scattered at sea. Here is the infamous Rob Lowe - Snow White opening to the Academy Awards Carr produced:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qeygd0qPDM

Rodney Peterson said...

I love this story-I have yet to have a pitch meeting as I only just started writing and the story is a tough one for a lot of people to take seriously (see link)

but this is one great story. The guy does sound like he has good taste in seafood, if nothing else.

Jub Jub the Frumious Bandersnatch said...

I wold have demanded an affidavit asserting that was Crisco on his face.

And, to underscore, well, something, my word evrification word is "holer."

Really.

Debby G said...

I just read about Carr in playwright/screenplay writer Paul Rudnick's funny book I SHUDDER. Rudnick shows Carr in his wacky splendor just like you do. What a character!