Saturday, July 12, 2014

How my partner and I met

Thanks again to David Isaacs for posting earlier this week.  A dear reader asked how we met.  It's not exactly a meet-cute and it involves the army. 

Anyway, here’s how we met. Summer 1973. Jack in the Box rolled out their first Breakfast Jacks. DEEP THROAT was charming theatergoers. SIGMUND AND THE SEA MONSTERS debuted on NBC. It was a great time to be alive.

David had recently moved to Los Angeles from South Florida where he had dreams of being in the industry. Doing what he didn’t know but he felt there were more entertainment opportunities in Hollywood than Ft. Lauderdale.

After the usual litany of odd jobs (security guard, etc.) he finally landed at ABC – in the film shipping department. He would send out film cans of shows to Hawaii and other network outposts. This is a department that no longer exists in any form. But that’s due to technology, not David.

I was a Top 40 disc jockey doing the all-night show at KMEN in San Bernardino. I was on from midnight to six every goddamn night trying to be funny after every record even though my only listeners were ten 7-11 clerks and half of them were tied up in the back after being robbed.

And for good measure, every other day I would get a memo from the program director saying, “JUST SHUT UP AND PLAY THE RECORDS. YOU’RE NOT FUNNY. JUST PLAY THE GODDAMN HITS!”

Neither of us had a bright future.

I was in an Armed Forces Radio Reserve unit back then. My draft number was 4, which meant if eligible I’d be drafted in one nanosecond. So I managed to get into this unit, although it meant a commitment of six full years.

After completing regular Basic Training and Advanced Training my obligation was 16 hours a month and two weeks every summer. It was during one of those summer camps that I first met Pvt. Isaacs.

Through a friend of his he was able to transfer into the unit upon his arrival to California. He had no broadcast training nor any desire to become a broadcaster but this was the army, so he was approved immediately by the unit. It’s amazing they didn’t try to recruit him.

So now I’m in Ft. Carson, Colorado, in the barracks, enjoying my first Breakfast Jack and hoping to see DEEP THROAT for a third time when I notice a guy reading the biography of George S. Kaufman (famous comedy playwright from the 20s-50s). Kaufman was an idol of mine (read MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER and YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU) and I was surprised to see someone reading it on an army base. Actually, I was surprised to see anybody on an army base reading any book.

So I introduced myself, we seemed to hit it off, and we discovered we both had this love for comedy.

Tomorrow: How we decided to team up and become a writing team.

17 comments:

John Beresford Tipton said...

Ken,

When the Army sent you to "advanced" training -- did you go to the Defense Information School? If so you join fellow distinguished alumni Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Dan Quayle (Motto: "We're Number Two!")

The school's own unofficial motto in the late 60' early 70's was "We won't fight and you can't make us."

John Lytle said...

That's odd, I met a lot of really intelligent guys in the Army when I was in back in the early 80s, and a lot of the guys (even the dumb ones) read books.

There's just a tiny hint of smugness in your joke, Ken. It sounds like maybe you're channeling Eugene Jerome.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

I have read that book in public myself. Didn't have the same effect, unfortunately. :)

wg

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

In '70, I spent 8 weeks at DINFOS in Indy and on weekends, I spun the hits at WGEE Radio which was owned by a pesticide company. Never had groupies but on the positive side, I never had fleas, either.

Mark said...

That Kaufman bio is great and hilarious, btw. Worth seeking out.

ally said...

I have been waiting to hear this love story ever since I found your blog!

Bill Jones said...

John Lytle--you misread the story. Ken said he "was surprised to see someone reading it" on an army base--"it" being the Kaufman biography. He was not surprised to "see someone reading" on an army base, as if to imply nobody in the army reads books. And I think it's fair to be surprised to see someone on an army base reading a George S. Kaufman biography.

John Lytle said...

Bill:

My reading comprehension is just fine. The line from Ken's blog is: "Actually, I was surprised to see anybody on an army base reading any book."

Greg Ehrbar said...

Having grown up in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, David was correct that there were little opprtunities in television down there in the '70s.

Unless you were Chuck Zink.

D. McEwan said...

I read that terrific Teichmann biography of Kaufmann back around the same time you spotted David reading it. Awfully good book, but reading it attracted me no partners. Damn! It never occured to me to try reading it on an army base. (What I'd want to see would be someone reading Catch-22 on an army base.)

John Lytle said...

@D. McEwan:

The first time I read Catch-22 was while I was with the 82nd Airborne Division, living in the barracks at Fort Bragg. Also, All Quiet on the Western Front, one of the best anti-war books ever written.

D. McEwan said...

If you notice, Catch-22 isn't really an anti-war novel. It's not FOR war, but it's really an anti-military novel. It's target isn't the horror of war; it's the stupidity and cupidity of the brass, to whom the lives of the men under them are just fodder to advance their careers.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Catch 22 is anti-copororate, like Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. Sadly amazing how prophetic that book is. Catch 22 is also a terrific movie, thanks to Mike Nichols. Also where a lot of MASH's absurdism comes from.

John Lytle said...

@D. McEwan: If you were responding to my comment, I know that it's not an anti-war novel, and that it was more about pointing out the absurdities of the military. My reference to an anti-war novel was related to All Quiet on the Western Front.

Since I was actually in the military at the time I read it, I was pretty clear on who and what Catch-22 was making fun of.

Barry Traylor said...

Amazing how life works isn't it. If you had not been in the Army Reserve and that Army base at that time you two guys would never have become writing partners and given we who love a good laugh much less to laugh about.

Paul Duca said...

Doug and Scooter...when Mike Nichols, who was directing the screen version of CATCH-22, saw a rough cut of MASH, he knew Robert Altman had blown him out of the water, so to speak.

Cricket Box said...

How exciting! I bought one of the very first Breakfast Jacks! Last week.