Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Truth or lies?

Okay, yesterday we played Two Truths and One Lie.   Nobody got them all right, but some came close.  I love how most of you figured I couldn't possibly get kissed by a Bond Girl.  Anyway, thanks for playing, and let’s see how you did.

I was on ABC-TV covering the National Elections when I was eighteen. – This is true with an explanation. I was covering the election for my campus radio station at UCLA. But at one point I cornered a potential future candidate and grilled him to admit he was going to run. I didn’t care if I was annoying. I wanted an answer. Little did I know that the entire interview was carried live on ABC TV. Their reporter saw what was happening, let the director know, and they cut to me for probably five minutes.

I once asked Prince Charles “What advice would you give young people thinking of getting into your profession?” This is true. He was visiting the MASH set in 1978 and I was part of the receiving line. When he got to me I don’t know what compelled me to do that but he laughed. His handlers were horrified however.

I got a tour of the Oval Office from the President. This is a lie.


For a pilot I was casting I once passed on an Oscar winner for an actress with zero experience. This is true. On the series we created for Mary Tyler Moore in 1985 we could have hired Kathy Bates but opted instead for unknown Katey Sagal. And as great as Kathy is, I think we made the right choice.

Jennifer Aniston was in a failed pilot of ours. I wish. No, this is a lie.

O.J. Simpson was at my wedding. This is true. But he wasn’t invited. We got married in the outdoor patio of the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills hotel on a Sunday afternoon. O.J. was walking by, having just played tennis. He stood in the back and watched the ceremony. No wedding gifts though.


I kissed a Bond Girl (when she was still young and hot). This is TRUE people! When I was directing DHARMA & GREG, Jane Seymour was a guest star one week. She had played Solitaire in LIVE AND LET DIE. I told her it was always one of my dreams to get a kiss from a Bond Girl, and God Bless Jane, she really planted one on me. Too bad I didn’t say my dream was to sleep with a Bond Girl.

I once announced a Dodger baseball game with Vin Scully. This is true (and everyone got this right). A Spring Training game in 2009. Scully did a simulcast on radio and TV for the first three innings and did the rest of the game on TV. Meanwhile, I finished the game on the radio. As a kid who wanted to be a baseball announcer after hearing Vin Scully, it was the highlight of my broadcasting career to actually call a Dodger game with him. I still have a tape of him tossing it to me for the play-by-play.

I had a cartoon in the New Yorker while in college. This is a lie. I did submit some cartoons a few years after college, but they were rejected.


Former madam, Heidi Fleiss’ father was my kids’ pediatrician. This is a lie. He was a pediatrician but not ours.

Diana Ross sang at my grandparents’ anniversary party. True. For my grandparents’ 50th, we had a big party at the Coconut Grove nightclub in Los Angeles. Diana Ross was the headliner and we all attended her show. I was hoping Diana would dedicate a song to them and then sing, “I’m Living In Shame,” but it was not to be.

I wrote comedy for Dr. Timothy Leary. Yep. True. He was a celebrity caller on a FRASIER episode we wrote.


I once picked up Stephen Stills who was hitchhiking in Laurel Canyon. This is a lie. But I did have a run-in with Neil Young. You’ll have to buy my book for the full story.

I announced a Golden States Warriors game on KNBR, San Francisco. Unbelievably, this is true. I was learning how to announce basketball by going to Laker and Clipper games and calling the play-by-play into a tape recorder in the stands. I also made friends with a number of team announcers including Greg Papa, then the voice of the Warriors. For one Laker game I just sat next to him and observed how he called the action. This was during the Lakers “showtime” period. Kareem, Magic, and Worthy were absolutely blowing out Golden State. After three periods it was already a drubbing. Both sides had already begun to put in their towel wavers and save the regulars. Greg comes back from a commercial and says on the air, “Now, for the play-by-play of the fourth quarter, here’s my friend, Ken Levine.” He gave me no advance warning.  What the fuck?!  So I called the last period. I probably sucked but was competent enough to call the action accurately. I’m still grateful to Greg for the opportunity. I also still want to kill him.

My first girlfriend starred in a movie with Natalie Wood. True. My first girlfriend (although we were thirteen so it was hardly steamy) was Ann Jillian who co-starred in GYPSY with Ms. Wood.


Larry King said I sounded like Dick Cavett. True.  King still lived in D.C. when I announced for the Baltimore Orioles. He was a fan of my work and even took me to lunch one day.  I forget how many wives ago that was. 

Al Hirschfeld made a caricature of himself just for me. This is true. I used to do caricatures and Al Hirschfeld was like a God to me. I was in New York in October 1973 and for the hell of it, looked to see if he was in the phone book. He was, I called, got him on the line, explained who I was, and he invited me to come by. I spent an amazing afternoon watching him work and discussing drawing. Before I left he made me this.

I got to fly once with the Blue Angels. Nope. Some producers from CHEERS did get this experience. They said they were so sick they practically crawled out of the plane.


Tracey Ullman hit me. This is true. I knew her from writing for THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW. Her daughter was in the same class as my daughter. On parents night Tracey sat behind me and during the teacher’s presentation Tracey kept playfully whacking me in the back of the head.

I once won the Washington Sportscaster of the Year Award. Nope, unfortunately.

I once won the Virginia Sportscaster of the Year Award. This is true for one of the years I called Tidewater Tides baseball.  This was another one most people couldn't believe was true. 


I turned down writing the Cosby pilot. This is true. He forgot to drug me. We were offered this but were contractually obligated to AfterMASH so had to pass.

I turned down writing for LAUGH IN when I was in college. This is also true. They wanted me to work full-time and I would have had to leave UCLA, which meant I would have lost my student deferment. So I’d be writing on LAUGH IN for the first few months and then you can bet your bippy I’d wind up in Vietnam.

Tony Gwynn attended my son’s Bar Mitzvah. Not true, although he did send an autographed bat. I was broadcasting for the Padres at the time. And although Tony couldn’t attend, fellow announcers Bob Chandler and Hall-of-Famer Jerry Coleman did attend.


I wrote a musical-comedy stage show for the United States Army. True. I wrote about it here.

My daughter’s first word was “Norm.” That’s a lie. But we wrote a CHEERS episode where that was Frasier’s son’s first word. I'll be blogging about that episode soon.

I’m in Who’s Who in America. This is true. Don’t ask me why.


opimus said...

Very entertainng.

Mike Barer said...

That reminded me of the early days of facebook, when a lot of us wrote quizzes about ourselves. I, did have some takers, and I remember the results being interesting.

Steve Bailey said...

I never kissed Jane Seymour, but I met her a couple of years ago when she was in town for a book signing. That Bond girl gets around!

Anonymous said...

Tracey Ullman hits everybody.

VP81955 said...

Impressive, Ken. Wish you'd been part of the Hollywood Stars game at the Ravine the other day.

TyBeck said...

You're awesome, Ken!

Michael said...

I wish Vin could introduce me to start my classes ....

Igor said...

Ken, I LOVE the Laugh-In story. And it could be a set-up scene in "Ken Levine's - Almost Famous"...

You're in the Laugh-In offices, they make the offer, you say "yes", the guy says, "Welcome aboard", CUT TO: Sailor Ken Levine boarding a US Navy ship in San Diego.

V.O. - "I hadn't realized saying 'yes' would cost me my deferment."

Hamid said...

Hey, I didn't put the Bond girl as the lie in my guesses. Anyway, now I'm very jealous, as Jane Seymour was a goddess in Live and Let Die and is still stunning.

scottmc said...

I envy you for having the Hirschfeld drawing. Did he work in a Nina or two? Currently,The NY Historical Society is having a retrospective of his work.

Mike Doran said...

I had an opportunity to speak to Prince Charles, when he visited Chicago, sometime in the early eighties.
I blew it.
The prince and then-Mayor Bilandic were walking down LaSalle Street, shaking hands and chatting with a sizable crowd on the sidewalk.
I asked the Prince if he was enjoying tying up traffic in the Loop in the middle of a work day.
As I recall, Charles smiled sheepishly and said "Sorry ...", Ealing-style, and everybody laughed - weakly.
In retrospect, I now realize that I should have said "Ying-tong-iddle-I-po!", which was a catch phrase from the BBC's legendary Goon Show, of which Charles was a huge fan (his arm-twisting got Spike Milligan an honorary knighthood just before that gentleman's passing).
Long ago, and oh so far away ...

Anonymous said...

"Tracey Ullman hit me."

Anonymous said she hits everybody.

She hit my girlfriend at the time, when Ullman was doing her Fox show. My girlfriend was driving my Sentra and stopped at a light. Ullman plowed into her from behind. Later read an interview with her. She was asked what she enjoyed. She said she enjoyed driving around LA and flipping off other drivers. We could have sued her but then she didn't get Simpsons money, so why bother?

Steve Pepoon said...

I didn't mean for that to be anonymous.

Anonymous said...

"On the series we created for Mary Tyler Moore in 1985 we could have hired Kathy Bates but opted instead for unknown Katey Sagal. And as great as Kathy is, I think we made the right choice."

Uh... Kathy Bates was essentially an unkown in 1985, so the crux of your story as the insightful one who followed his intuition against conventional wisdom is not viable.

Johnny Walker said...

Ha! Interesting stuff!

Looking at my answers, I can't believe I apparently thought Annie's first word was "Norm". Apparently I suffered from some sort of aneurism yesterday -- not only is that insanely impossible, but it's also the punchline to an episode of CHEERS.

Anyway, who knew: You DID kiss a Bond girl!

Johnny Walker said...

Amazing experience with Al Hirschfield btw. Just who were you in 1973 anyway?

Ane said...

Fun :) But I don't think Jane Seymour was exactly "young" when she was on Dharma and Greg. Hot, I guess, but not young. But hey, it beats Britt Ekland...

D. McEwan said...

That Hirschfeld is a true treasure.

I've kissed Martine Beswick from From Russia With Love and Thunderball. Not a romantic or a sexy kiss, just friends kissing cheeks, but Martine and I have been friends for over 30 years.

Hamid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hamid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Louie said...

Annie's first words were Cliff Claven?

If you'd lost your deferment and wound up in Vietnam, you could've humped your bippy into the bush with those of us who had also lost our deferments. And maybe you could've met Chris Noel.

Hamid said...

Thank you for removing the posts by the lunatic posting under my name, Ken. I'm sorry to have somehow provoked someone who's clearly psychotic and needs help. I'm gonna take a break from posting for a while, or at least until the moron disappears.

Artie in Sin City said...

How many wives ago...
This is just one of the zillion reasons I read your blog...

You are ONE funny cat...not necessarily a stellar DJ, but good enough Beaver Cleaver...

Keep 'em coming big guy!

D. McEwan said...

Hamid, don't let the asshole win. Stand your ground.

Hamid said...

Thanks, Doug.