Tuesday, June 25, 2013
I first met Gary in 1976. My partner David and I were hired as baby writers on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW for MTM. The staff was showrunners Tom Patchett & Jay Tarses and writers Hugh Wilson and Gary Goldberg. Gary was the one who took us under his wing and taught us the ropes. He was supportive and calm at a time when we were the most insecure and mashugina. I think Gary Goldberg could have settled down Mel Brooks in 1955 when even a stun gun couldn’t do the trick.
But that was his temperament – relaxed, reassuring, and confident. Everything in perspective.
He used to say that he and longtime companion, Diana Meehan once lived in a cave. I believe that. Gary could adjust to anything; Gary could be happy anywhere. I’m sure he left the cave in better shape than when he found it.
We went on to MASH and hired Gary to do an episode. It’s difficult for freelance writers to really find the voice of a show, especially one as unique as MASH. Gary’s episode won the Writers Guild Award.
At the core of all of his work was heart and reality. Many of his projects stemmed from personal experience. We helped out on a pilot for a short-lived series called THE LAST RESORT, which was about kids working at a large Jewish resort in the Catskills. Gary had worked in one. FAMILY TIES was essentially his family – hippie liberal parents, conservative materialistic children. And then he did a jewel of a show called BROOKLYN BRIDGE, which was an homage to growing up Jewish in New York in the ‘50s. Good luck getting that series on the air today.
Side note: the other demand he made on Paramount was for an outdoor basketball court so he and his friends could shoot hoops. Half the time I’d see Gary he’d be on crutches because of one basketball injury or another.
Those who worked for him (including me) loved him and learned from him. The big lesson: You can be in this crazy business and still stay true to who you are, what you believe in, and preserve what’s important to you.
The passing of Gary Goldberg is a huge loss. He leaves behind a stunning body of quality work that will be enjoyed and appreciated for decades to come. But personally, I will remember him for his generosity, inspiration, and grace under pressure. I will honor him by trying to be more like him.
By Ken Levine at 6:00 AM