Sunday, September 05, 2010

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.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not that I mind but is this a repeat? I want to say I've read this before. If it is, what I'm curious about now is whether you have had to wade through eccentricity more often than not. In interacting with the actors and directors and producers - and hey maybe writers too - would you say that there are more eccentrics working in the biz or that they are the exception? I asked a similar question after your Cheers Myths debunked. I've always been curious about the industry's effect on people and whether it turns people into eccentrics or whether the eccentric gravitates to Hollywood and finds a home there because, like Allan Davis, once they have some power they get to bring out the caftan, as it were.

Anonymous said...

Allan Carr, not Davis.

Anonymous said...

I feel like I've also seen this story before??

chalmers said...

I'm sure both men would blanch (pun intended) at the comparison, but's it's the same thing as Lyndon Johnson giving his associates instructions from the men's room.

KEN LEVINE said...

On slow weekends I do from time to time reprise posts, but they're from several years ago and I've gained a lot of new readers since then. So as NBC used to say about reruns, "If you haven't seen it, it's new to you."

But I'm flattered that anything I write on this site is actually remembered.

Sunshine H. said...

Allan Carr.....Poopsie Soloman was quite the character from what I've heard. Great story and I would have never been able to hold it together...good for you.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

It's a holiday weekend AND he has to spend it watching the Dodgers. Give 'im a break!

escalante blogger said...

Love to watch the Dodgers too. :-)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I really don't mind a repeat, it means I've thought about the original posting and it led me to ask a question which hadn't occurred to me before.

Fred said...

"La Cage Aus Folles"? Sounds like the German version.

RCP said...

I laughed out loud at your description of AC in a caftan and cold cream. And the two of you kept it together even after a bottle of wine? Impressive!

Anonymous said...

I think Carr was also the fellow who produced that infamous edition of the Oscars that featured Rob Lowe singing a duet with Snow White -- something which probably did more damaged to Lowe's career than the sex tape with the under-aged girls . . .

toetag said...

New to me, hilarious. Although a little disturbing. Thanks.

Mac said...

Great post. The story of Allan Carrs' Oscar production is told here - http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2010/mar/04/oscars
Unfortunately the video has been pulled by the Academy, so we don't get to see Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White, which actually got them sued by Disney.

John said...

So, Ken, as you were making this pitch, did you picture yourself in the role of Max Bialystock or Leo Bloom at Roger Debris townhouse in "The Producers"?

Mac said...

That link should have /oscars at the end.

A. Buck Short said...

Because a day without forcing myself on this blog is like a day without Anita Bryant(wait, that's not really a favorable analogy is it), I would personally like to thank everyone for the "heads up). Knew I had enjoyed this story before and kept trying to remember who played Carr in the movie of the week, Paul Williams or Truman Capote.

Whenever we'd scream, "oh no, " and cover our ears, dad used to say that when you have a good story, you should trot it out every once in awhile. Ken, thanks for the discipline of having waited more than a week.

WV: submed: generic.

Anonymous said...

Anon -

Allan Carr is indeed the producer who had Rob Lowe singing Proud Mary to open the Oscars. I don't know which element thereof is the most frightening, that it was Rob Lowe or that it was a duet with a cartoon character or that it was Proud Mary - I mean, what the frak is going on with that choice of song?