Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Picture Day: My trip to charming Cape May

Cape May Stage:  Home of my play, AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE.  When you look at the theatre in just the right light it almost resembles a church.  Or is it just me? 

I don't usually take pictures of food, but -- $35.  In LA the same dinner is $75. And you don't get applesauce.

I was kinda hoping they'd join the "Sea Level Club."

Line for Tommy's hot dog stand.  Where's Joey Chestnut?

Kind of unusual.  Not many places take cash these days.

Lovely Victorian homes grace Cape May.  Pretty classy for a beach resort.

Why do I kill myself writing original jokes?

Notice they advertise everything but pizza.

Police activity right under our window at 4 am one morning.

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting a miniature golf course.

Cast, director, and some guy.

Bill Tatum & Karen Ziemba starring in my play.  This is a scene from the play.  I didn't go into their home.

You see as many of these as Tesla's.  

Cape May is beautiful and charming with spectacular restaurants.  AMERICA'S SEXIEST COUPLE plays through this Sunday.  Come see it. 

Monday, August 08, 2022

Exceptional women

 Here’s a Friday Question that became an entire post.

Msdemos asks:

If Stan Freberg "had one of the most creative minds of anyone", who are some of the women you've met or worked with who are exceptionally talented or creative people?

It’s a fairly long list, and I apologize because I know I’m going to leave some deserving women off.

Treva Silverman (pictured)

Merril Markoe
Anne Flett-Giordano
Regina Hicks
Robin Schiff
Cheri Steinkellner
Jane Wagner

Susan Harris
Linda Teverbaugh
Jen Crittenton
Heidi Perlman
Eileen Heisler
DeAnn Heline
Alexa Junge
Nancy Steen
Doris Hess
Wendy Cutler
Lynne Stewart
Wendy Goldman
Jenny Bicks
Wanda Sykes
Korby Siamis
Rachel Sweet
Janis Hirsch
Lissa Kapstein
Ellen Byron
Joyce Gittlin
Pam Fryman
Katy Garretson
Tracy Newman
Kate Angelo
Charlotte Brown
Pat Nardo
Gloria Banta
Karen Hall

and… Annie Levine

Saturday, August 06, 2022

Weekend Post


This is not a baseball post (even though baseball is involved. It’s a real life version of that nightmare we all have. You know the one – it’s the day of your final and you were never in class and you woke up late and forgot your bluebook, etc. Or you’re on stage and know none of your lines and your costume is falling apart and your throat is parched so you can’t speak. For a baseball announcer, the equivalent would be you’re on the air, you’re totally unprepared, and you have no idea what’s going on in the game. I had that happen to me. In REAL LIFE.  And to make matters worse, it was my first game ever in the major leagues.   So this is not really a baseball story; it's a "why I'm still in therapy" story. 

Travel back to 1988. I was announcing minor league baseball for the Syracuse Chiefs. They were the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. I was invited to come to Toronto to announce a couple of innings on their radio network. I of course accepted. Forget that I had only a half year experience calling professional baseball at the time.

So I fly up there (in a four seat prop plane that reminded me very much of “the Spirit of St. Louis.”) to do play-by-play for a couple of innings. Their longtime announcers Tom Cheek and Jerry Howarth couldn’t have been nicer or more supportive. I had done tons of prep work and knew everything there was to know about everything. I was READY. It was a quiet 1-0 game until I took over. I had a triple and busted squeeze play in the first five minutes I was on the air. Amazingly, I called them both well.

Somehow I survived the two innings and tossed it back to Tom & Jerry (yes, Tom & Jerry). A local TV station wanted to do a feature piece on me. They asked if they could interview me. I said “sure” and we went to the roof of Exhibition Stadium (this was before the Jays moved to the Skydome, or whatever the hell they call it these days). Meanwhile, the game continued on. I wasn’t following it. What did I care? My night was done.

After the interview I was invited to sit in on the Blue Jays TV broadcast with Don Chevrier and Tony Kubek. Cool, I thought. They’ll ask me about their farm club, we’ll chat about CHEERS, etc.

Instead, I get there just as a commercial break is about to end. I put on the headset mic, we all shake hands, and they go on the air. Don says, “We have a treat this inning. This is Ken Levine, who announces for our AAA team. Ken, it’s all yours. Take it away.” HOLY SHIT! They wanted me to do play-by-play?

First off, I had never done TV play-by-play. Ever. Was I supposed to watch the monitor? The field? Both? Neither?

I also had no idea what the score was, what inning it was, or who was up. Usually, I have a scorebook where I chart what each player does. I had nothing. A player would come up. I’d see his name on the screen and say, “Okay… Chili Davis batting now. So far tonight Chili has… been up before. The score is…” I’d now look around the stadium for the scoreboard. “Wow. 3-0 Blue Jays. How’d that happen?”

My big problem was the pitcher. Nowhere on the scoreboard could I find who was pitching. And even if he turned his back to me and I saw his number, I didn’t have a roster so I couldn’t identify him.  I find it's hard to discuss strategy when you don't know who's on the field.   Finally, I just copped to it. I said, “Tony, you’re the analyst. Let me ask you a real technical question. Who’s pitching right now?”

So basically I just had to completely fake my way through the inning – knowing that the Blue Jays telecast was seen throughout the country of Canada. There were literally millions of people of watching this.

I have a tape of the radio innings but not the TV inning. My guess is it was somewhat of a complete fiasco. Hopefully it was somewhat amusing the for the viewers. But I was never more terrified in my life. Like I said, it was one of those work-related nightmares come true. At least it wasn’t combined with that other standard dream – the one where you’re naked in public.

Angel announcer Al Conin gave me a terrific gift. He took his scorecard, highlight my two radio and one TV innings, and got all the players involved to autograph it for me then added a couple of photos. Thanks Al.  Yes, that's me in a beard.

Friday, August 05, 2022

Friday Questions

As we enter the dog days of summer, here are this week’s Friday Questions.

VHS Village (Formerly The Beta Barn) starts us off.

What is the unwritten rule for how writers are expected to interact with the stars of a show or film? What I mean is, when you're meeting the actors for the first time, especially if they're big names, are writers supposed to act deferentially or can you be relaxed and direct? Did you have to say "Mr Danson" or could you call him Ted, for example. 

I can't speak for all writers certainly.  But...

I don’t consider them stars, I consider them colleagues.  As such, I refer to them by their first names.  I expect them to call me Mr. Levine though.  (Just kidding.  These days one has to make that disclaimer.)  

Seriously, though, my first staff job was on THE TONY RANDALL SHOW.  And when introduced to him I called him Mr. Randall.  He quickly said to call him Tony.  

DyHrdMET wonders:

Are there any sitcoms (probably the shortest-lived ones) that you thought would have the basic premise and story arc told better as a play or a movie (wrap it up in about 90 minutes, or about 4 episodes of TV, and move on with your life) than being used as a sitcom?

Okay, just my opinion…

Practically every streaming series (comedy or drama) starts off with a great first season and then flails around after that.   Off the top of my head: DEAD TO ME, KILLING EVE, RUSSIAN DOLL, HOMELAND, and you may disagree but BARRY.   Although I enjoyed the second season of HACKS, it too could have stood alone after season one.  

So to answer your question:  All of them.  

From Jonathan Weiss

Ken, ​​I did a little reading up on Lorenzo Music - in addition to voicing Carlton the Doorman and Garfield, he was quite the writer/producer/creator (especially at MTM). Did you work with/alongside him at any point?​

Sort of.  He had a pilot for MTM that he would have starred in along with his wife, Henrietta.  It was sort of a variety show with sketches of them at home with “their kids.”  I put that in quotes because they hired adults to play the kids.  I remember David L. Lander played one.  Yes, it was weird.

David Isaacs and I wrote back-up sketch material for the pilot.  Had the show gone we would have gone on staff.

This was at the height of MTM’s dominance.  They had THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, RHODA, PHYLLIS, DOC, PAUL SANDS: FRIENDS AND LOVERS.  And for the finale of the pilot all of the cast members from all of these shows came out.  Talk about an All-Star squad.  Wow.  

Meanwhile, the pilot did not get picked up.  So much for our first staff job.  

And finally, from 15-Seconds:

You being a radio guy (among other things) did you ever have any dealings with Stan Freberg?

Not professionally, but I met him several times.  I was a HUGE fan, dating back to when he did voices on a local TV daily puppet show in Los Angeles called BEANIE & CECIL.  So I was a fan since I was like four.  

Stan Freberg had one of the most creative minds of anyone in radio, television, advertising, comedy albums - you name it.  

One time when I was a sports intern at KMPC radio in Los Angeles, he came in to guest-host a show and I got to spend some time chatting with him.  And circling back to the first question, now that I think about it, I referred to him as Mr. Freberg.

What’s your Friday Question?


Wednesday, August 03, 2022

EP286: Remembering Neil Simon

One of the most successful playwrights and screenwriters in history and no one on Jeopardy even knew who he was. Time to spotlight the work and brilliance of my comedy idol, Neil Simon.

Get Honey for FREE at

More podcasts at WAVE:

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

RIP Vin Scully

Quite simply, no one besides my father has had as much impact on my life as Vin Scully.  My love of baseball, announcing storytelling, even writing stems the inspiration I received growing up listening to Vin Scully.   Imagine the thrill when I hosted Dodger Talk for eight years and got to work with Vin Scully every day.  Whenever he’d see me and say “Hi Kenny” it was like “Ohmygod, the prettiest girl in school knows my name.”  

I first heard him when the Dodgers arrived in Los Angeles in 1958.  I was a little kid. It absolutely changed my life.

This will not be a long tribute because there are tears in my eyes as I write it.  And there are hundreds, maybe thousands of other tributes to Vin Scully.  I don’t think anyone in the history of Los Angeles was as beloved as this man.  I also believe  no one will ever call a baseball game as well as Vin Scully.  There’s only one Shakespeare, one Mozart.  

His highlight reel is extraordinary — from Don Larsen’s perfect game, to Kirk Gibson’s home run, the Bill Buckner Mets World Series win, Hank Aaron's record-breaking home run, and of course Sandy Koufax’s perfect game.  But in my view the greatest game he ever called was not recorded.  It was a Dodger-Giant game in old Candlestick Park, a Friday night, probably in the early 1960’s.  Around the third inning fog rolled in — fog so thick it halted play.  For 45 minutes Vin Scully just told Dodger-Giant stories.  It was riveting.  And all that was on the screen was gray fog.  Totally off the top of his head, he told spellbinding tales.  No one else could ever do that.  And this was just one game in the middle of the season, one of a his 67 seasons.  

I am so grateful that on any number of occasions I took the opportunity to thank him for all he meant to me.  And Vin being Vin, he was very humble and always downplayed it.  But at least I got to say it.  And then the ultimate thrill: I got to fill-in and do play-by-play on several Dodger broadcasts.  One was with Vin.  In his 59 years calling Los Angeles Dodger baseball only five other announcers have called play-by-play on Dodger broadcasts with Vin — Jerry Doggett, Ross Porter, Don Drysdale, Charley Steiner, and me.  So you can imagine — from that kid listening to Vin Scully in 1958 to doing a game with him, how completely blown away I was. 

Vin Scully was a gift.  He of course was a national presence, but for those of us who grew up with him in Los Angeles, he became a part of our lives, a member of our family. I can’t conceive of a world where I can no longer just “pull up a chair.”    Thank you, Vin.  For EVERYTHING.

Monday, August 01, 2022

My Playbill

With a play currently running at the Cape May Stage (go see it), I was asked to write my bio for the Playbill.  This is standard practice.  If this or any of my plays ever goes to Broadway I will have a certain amount of difficulty writing my bio.  For you see I come from "television."  In Broadway circles that's akin to "axe murderer."  The quickest way for Broadway critics to hate me is see MASH, CHEERS, FRASIER in my bio.  AfterMASH will not redeem me.  So I decided to write my bio that would be more Broadway-acceptable.  Okay, I fudge just a tad with the facts, but I think it's worth it to be the Toast of New York.  Whattaya think?

Ken is the adopted son of Stephen Sondheim. His godfather was Bob Fosse whom he met while walking Gwen Verdon’s dog. He spent his formative years building the sets for LES MISERABLES. A Peace Corps stint followed where for two years he introduced the Broadway musical to poverty stricken villages throughout Cambodia.

Ken returned to New York where he walked Carol Channing’s husband. He became somewhat of a play doctor, coming in uncredited to save A CHORUS LINE, PROOF, SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE (originally titled: SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH SHLOMO). WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, AVENUE Q., AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ (additional dialogue), GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS (talking Mamet out of the dance numbers), and THE ODD COUPLE (originally titled: TWO AND A HALF MEN).

An experimental work of his own played two nights in San Francisco and two nights in Detroit. It was called the 2012 WORLD SERIES.

He has never seen a television show, watched a movie, or read any book not written by John Simon or Frank Rich.