Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The great Mel Brooks
Happy to say I've met him several times. The first was when I was working at the KIIS Broadcasting Workshop. He was at the radio station promoting his new movie, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. Even then he was an idol of mine. Between THE PRODUCERS, BLAZING SADDLES, and the 2000 YEAR OLD MAN he was already a comedy God. I tentatively approached him the hallway, introduced myself and when I said my last name (pronounced La-Vine) he got me in a headlock and said, “From now on it's pronounced La-VEEN!”
A few years later when my partner David Isaacs and I were on MASH, one of our staff members was Ronny Graham (a funnyman worthy of his own post). Ronny was good friends with Mel. They had worked together in sketch reviews and wrote together on numerous projects (including SPACE BALLS). MASH was filmed at 20th and Mel was based there as well.
Sometimes at the end of the day Mel would wander into the writers room and hang with Ronny... and us. And always he was entertaining. So quick! So funny! Imagine getting a private show from Mel Brooks!
In most interviews Mel will tell a story about once being at a studio and meeting Cary Grant. He was completely in awe of him. Eventually he mustered the courage to introduce himself and they wound up going to lunch. Cary had such a good time he invited Mel to lunch the next day too. This continued day after day until finally Cary called his office and Mel said to his secretary, “Tell him I'm not here.” I bring up this story for a reason.
So one night after work we're in the MASH writing room watching a dramatic Dodgers-Phillies NLCS playoff game when Mel pops in. He sits down and is hilarious as usual, except this time we really want to watch the game. It was the Cary Grant story. Three years before I was so in awe I almost couldn't approach him and now I was thinking, “Jesus! When is he gonna leave?”
But that was one isolated incident. Otherwise, I cherished the times I was privileged to be in his presence.
I still see him from time to time in our neighborhood sushi joint. God bless him, he's still holding court and delighting audiences, be they two or two million.
Most nights he has dinner with his dear friend, Carl Reiner. What I wouldn't give to be at one of those. And the Dodgers suck this year so there'd never be a reason to want to watch the game instead.
Thanks for the laughs and inspiration, Mel. Keep going for another 80+ years.