MARRY, KISS, KILL there’s a character named Ken Levine. He’s a total asshole. Anne is also a brilliant TV comedy writer, having won a gazillion Emmys for shows like FRASIER. So we know each other. Unlike random people who just assume I’m an asshole, Anne asked if she could use my name. I, of course, was delighted and touched. Yes, the character is a prick but he also gets laid a lot and is young. Her book (which you really should read) is sprinkled with names of people she knows.
This is not uncommon.
It’s always tough coming up with names and always fun to send little shout-outs to friends. Or work in inside jokes that only eight people will get.
In one of the Castle novels there’s the PR firm of Levine & Isaacs. I don’t believe I screw anyone over in that one.
Isaacs and I have worked in a lot of friends, acquaintances, and pets into our scripts. In the DANCIN’ HOMER episode of THE SIMPSONS, the minor league announcer (voiced by me) was Dan Hoard who was my broadcast partner in Syracuse in 1988 and is now the voice of the Cincinnati Bengals and U. of Cincinnati Bearcats. The major league announcer was Dave Glass, my partner in Tidewater the following season. Dave Glass also shows up in an episode of AfterMASH.
One of the happiest married couples I know is Bill & Sherry Grand so we used them in a CHEERS episode as a married couple trying to kill each other. Norm’s original boss was Darrell Stabell. Darrell Stabell gave me my first job.
Our tributes are not confined to people. In the movie VOLUNTEERS we needed a name for a Chinese warlord. So we chose Chung Mee, which was a Chinese restaurant in downtown LA that we frequented until health inspectors shut it down.
I’ve mentioned this before but on MASH we were always looking for names since so many patients and military personnel passed in and out of the 4077th. One year we needed four Marines for an episode so named them after the-then California Angels’ infield (Remy, Solita, Chalk, Grich). The following year (season seven) we just went down the Los Angeles Dodgers’ roster. You’ll notice Garvey, Rhoden, Lopes, Cey, etc. By the end of the year we were down to announcers (Scully) and owners (O’Malley).
And then there was the time when we were producing a series. We went down to the stage for a runthrough. One of the regular cast members took exception to a name we had given a guest cast member. “Lana Lewis is a joke name,” he said. “It’s not real. You’re just going for a cheap laugh by using a goofy name.” We nodded then introduced him to our writers’ assistant, Lana Lewis.
Now who’s the asshole?