Monday, November 28, 2005

England Swings

Hi new visitors. From time to time I will post past travelogues, originally just emailed to my friends. Here's one from June when my writing partner, David Isaacs, and I went over to London to work on a pilot. The fate of that pilot tomorrow. I wish I were you and didn't know how this ends.

David and I are very excited about the new pilot we’re writing for two reasons. 1) It will star the brilliant actor-comedian Omid Djalili, and 2) (even more important) we got a free trip to London to go over the script with him. Omid is British-Iranian (he was a regular on the “Whoopi” NBC sitcom last year which explains why you’ve never seen or heard of him). It’s a little early in the season to be writing a pilot but we wanted the script in before our country attacked Iran. You might be thinking: “is this guy a terrorist??” No, and believe me we know the difference. We’ve worked for Mary Tyler Moore.

Flew first class on United. You sit in these big Capt. Kirk chairs as if on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Conveniently, they transform into recliners, beds, and traction racks. I found it quite comfortable to sleep on once I took a horse tranquillizer.

Everything in London is so steeped with history. Our hotel, the Dorchester, for example. That’s where Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole had a sordid affair while she was still with Richard Burton. It might have even been my room although I couldn’t find any empty gin bottles behind the couch.

Do English subjects ever go to the dentist? I swear, most of these people could eat an apple through a tennis racket.

I spent my entire time in London apologizing for our idiot President.

Bush is only the third most hated American in England. Second is Malcolm Glazer, the guy who bought the Manchester United football team, and first (for the 40th year in a row) – Dick Van Dyke. Folks here just can’t get over that bogus cockney accent in “Mary Poppins”.

The BBC news department is on strike. But no one knows because no one’s there to do the news.

Besides, everyone’s watching “Celebrity Love Island” and “the Farm” instead. These reality shows feature marginal British celebrities --and by marginal I mean that Lulu is too big – embarrassing themselves in bikinis on Fiji or milking cows on a farm. In the latter show I thought the cast was dressing a wart hog before I discovered it was fellow cast member, former American-porn star-now-pathetic-figure, Ron Jeremy. Gone are the days of Shakespeare and Dickens.

The real breakout hit at the moment is “Hell’s Kitchen”, a reality show featuring an angry crazed chef named Gordon Ramsay. During the course of an episode he’ll say “fuck” so often you’ll think you’re watching “Deadwood”. The public and the censors have no problem with this. But he caused a huge flack recently when one of his rants included the word “Jesus”.

London weather: cold, windy, gray, raw, rainy. Summer has finally arrived.

On the first night we ventured to the Comedy Store to see Omid do his stand up act. Our cab driver begin reciting JFK’s inaugural address then followed that up with the script from “The Sting”. It turns out he’d been in a movie himself, actually several of them. He was one of the kids in the Michael Apted documentary that began with “7 UP.” He too was too big a celebrity to qualify for “Celebrity Love Island”.

Omid’s stand up was hilarious. He is indeed Iran’s funniest comedian.

Went to dinner in Chinatown. I asked for tap water and the waitress shot me a murderous look. They were probably cooking a dog in the back but my not ordering Perrier was a real affront.

Tracey Ullman is a looker in this country.

The U.S. dollar is worth I think less than a peso here. It’s like being trapped in Gelsons.

David and I headed for the Underground to do a little sightseeing. We were side by side on the down escalator unknowingly blocking the path. A gentleman tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, I don’t mean to be pedantic but can I pass?” Can you imagine the same scene in a New York subway? “Hey, shithead, move your fuckin’ ass!” New Yorkers hate it when you’re pedantic.

Went to Baker Street to see the Sherlock Holmes museum. A number of American tourists were upset because they couldn’t get into the house to see where he actually lived.

Next to the museum was an Elvis store and a Beatles store. Both were disappointing. No black velvet paintings in either. What’s the point?

There’s also a CHEERS restaurant in London. You can sit at the bar with Norm, Cliff, and Field Marshall Montgomery.

Back on the “tube” to see Big Ben and Parliament Square. We asked a policeman where Westminster Abbey was and he didn’t know. It was across the street. We stopped in to see some of our favorite tombs. I meant to check if there were any open slots. It might be kind of fun to be the only AfterMASH writer in Poets corner.

There’s actually a gift shop in Westminster Abbey. I was sort of hoping Woolworth’s tomb would be there.

There’s not a single person in this entire country that has a tan. The only people with color are drinkers.

The Queen Mother passed away in March of 2002. Out of the many thousands of messages left on the Queen Mum’s Board of Remembrance:

“She was a marvelous woman, and a wonderful lover”. – L.J. Worthington, Penrith.

“She was one of the old school, all the remaining royals are shit.” – J. Clement, Granthom.

“I was absolutely devastated, at least we could have got the day off”. – S.Wilson, Bristol.

“How refreshing to be able to mourn the death of a member of the Royal Family without being accused of being homosexual”. – J. Fletcher, High Wycombe.

“Her death should act as a warning to others who think it is cool to experiment with drugs”. – E. Franks, Cheshire.

“Perhaps if we automated her old golf buggy it could still drive around The Mall on its own and bring pleasure to the tourists”. – Y. Howell, Slough.

I can honestly say that I have met Prince Charles. True story. He came to visit the MASH set when I was working there. We writers stood in a receiving line and when it was my turn I couldn’t resist. I asked him “what advice would you give young people thinking of getting into your profession?” He laughed politely then I believe he said to his handlers “This isn’t ‘Charlie’s Angels’. What the hell are we doing here?”

You can get hot tea, high tea, a spot of tea but no iced tea.

Saw Goldie Hawn in the lobby. She looked quite amazing. Of course it could just be that I saw her in England. Ruth Buzzi would look good in England.

Actual log line to a BBC2 sitcom: “The Robinsons” 5-26-05 9:30 p.m. – The family are amazed at what Ed’s new girlfriend does to his nipples.

Restaurants proudly offer something called “salt meat”. And they say you can’t get a good meal in London.

Never has there been a more apt title for a tabloid newspaper than THE LITE STANDARD.

All you need to know about the London theatre scene is that “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a smash hit. (I have a friend in the Broadway version and he’s so mortified he can only refer to the show as C2B2.)

But thanks to Omid and the BBC pulling some strings David and I were able to see “Philadelphia Story” at the Old Vic starring Kevin Spacey. It was quite wonderful but I felt cheated that he never sang “Mack the Knife”, not even in the wedding scene.

From there we went to a pub to watch Liverpool defeat Milan to win the big European soccer cup. The town went nuts. “Good show! Good show!” There were celebrations in the street and unlike America, no cars were turned over or storefronts set on fire. These people are amateurs!

At Heathrow airport, the United ticket clerk, the First Class lounge receptionist, and a flight attendant all recognized David’s name as a writer from “Cheers”. None recognized me. Which was the point of the gag our friend Dan O’Day had set up. Dan is a neighbor who happened to be on that flight. He pre-arranged the whole thing. Here’s how unusual it is for one of us to be recognized. From the first time we were suspicious.

As I write this I don’t know if it’s 6:00 tomorrow or 4:00 yesterday. But it was a jolly good trip and hopefully we’re on our way to a hit TV series. I sure hope so because I would hate to come back to London in a year and see Omid on “Celebrity Love Island”.


Ken Levine


Anonymous said...

Hoffman sent me. It's not to late - get out while you still can.

Oh yeah, I saw Golda Meir once in London, and she was hot!

Anonymous said...

Hoffman forced me to come on over. Marvelous blog. I didn't see anyone in London as I was gagged and blindfolded at the time, but the tea was excellent.

Anonymous said...

I threatened to place cookies on all computers that didn't come here, Ken. Sorry, Jexter and Mary. I was overzealous.

And you all should be ashamed of the sites you've been visiting.

Anonymous said...

It's a little long. Save some for the next day.Pople want to get in and get out. Edite...less is better, remember ?


Anonymous said...

What do we want?


When do we want it?


-Al Franken

Anonymous said...

I'm in a quandry. I very much enjoy this blog and have loved your work for many years. I remember you fondly from your days announcing with my beloved O's (Joe Orsulak's golden tresses flying in the wind...."

However, my political beliefs are very different from yours which, ordinarily, would not be a problem. I couldn't care less about your thoughts on the President (I imagine that most folks with whom you interact in this line of work are of the same mind making it more likely to assume that the majority of people feel similarly), and can easily seperate your opinions from your work product. The problem occurs when you mix the two, making it impossible for this reader to keep that separation alive.

Please go easy on the political comments.

Thanks for the great writing and the unforgettable television memories.