Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My favorite pitch meeting

In 1978 my partner, David Isaacs and I were head writers of MASH. That fall we also signed on to write a pilot for CBS. Our producer was Allan Carr. He was this rather flamboyant character famous for throwing lavish parties in the “King Tut Disco” in his home, producing such films as SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER and GREASE, and winning a Tony for producing LA CAGE AUS FOLLES on Broadway. He looked like composer Paul Williams -- short, cherubic, bespectacled.

We arranged a meeting to pitch our pilot story. Since we were dealing with MASH all day the meeting was set for 6 PM at his Benedict Canyon mansion (“Hillhaven Lodge”, complete with a giant eight foot Oscar statue in the driveway.)

We show up and are told by the butler he’s not ready. He ushered us onto the lovely outdoor patio where a bottle of wine was waiting for us as well as a Chasen’s ice mountain of fresh seafood. An hour later we’re still waiting although the bottle is now empty. And we start getting a little giddy. We were wondering how we could steal one of his ceramic flamingos. Would Allan notice the two long flamingo legs sticking out of my briefcase? We were really starting to get punchy.

Finally, we hear “Hello, hello” and quickly put on our serious game faces. A moment later Allan sweeps in wearing nothing but a flowing white caftan…and a layer of thick white cold cream all over his face. Holy shit! We almost lost it.

And now, not only must we somehow maintain decorum, we have to pitch a complete pilot story. Behind Allan sat the flamingos, making it even worse.

We somehow managed to get through it. Imagine this surreal scene – a normal pitch meeting, the producer and writers polishing a story, trading ideas, everyone acting as though there’s nothing unusual even though the producer is in a dress with Crisco dripping from his face.

We wrapped up the meeting, said goodbye, shook hands, he closed the front door, and we rolled around on his front lawn for 45 minutes laughing.

The pilot didn’t go thank God because shortly after that Allan had his stomach stapled. Lord knows what the story meetings were like following that.


Anonymous said...

Allan Carr, of the famous Rob Lowe-Snow White production numbers! Another great story for your memoirs.

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

I think this piece of truth beats the fantasy from The Producers where Gene Wilder said to Zero, in a sotto voce croak, "Max, he's wearing a dress!"

Anonymous said...

Yes, Zazu...but Christopher Hewitt DID look stunning.

Anonymous said...

Allan Carr -- didn't he also produce that blockbuster movie "Can't Stop the Music?"... Just think, Ken -- you may have ended up developing a project for Bruce Jenner and The Village People....

Tom said...

Thank you for giving me an alternate mental image of Allan Carr. For years I've only had that one goddamn photo the New York Post would run where he smiled by opening his mouth as wide as he could, like a rattlesnake unlocking its jaw to swallow its prey.