Tuesday, April 30, 2019

And the popcorn was good too!

Remember Revival Theatres? These were movie houses that ran eclectic double bills of vintage films, usually for one or two night runs. On Tuesday they might feature THE BIG SLEEP and MALTESE FALCON, Wednesday could have two Bergman films, and Thursday maybe BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and VOLUNTEERS (okay, that last one is my fantasy). Weekends offered midnight shows as well. ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW was a staple at many of these old movie palaces.

Revival Theatres saw their heydays in the ‘70s and ‘80s, usually in college towns. We were introduced to a whole new world of cinema. I can’t count the number of classic films I was exposed to for the first time by going to the Fox Venice, the Nuart, and the Beverly Cinema. And in the early ‘70s the Fox Venice also had a music group playing on the weekends – Oingo Boingo. Admission was something like $2.00. So for two movies and Danny Elfman’s group playing live it was a pretty good deal.

Then video tapes arrived, and laser discs, and video stores, and eventually HBO, TCM, NETFLIX, DVD’s, ON DEMAND, etc. You didn’t need a Revival Theatre to see BLAZING SADDLES and THE BICYCLE THIEF; there were seventeen other ways to obtain copies to watch in the comfort of your own home. Revival Theatres began to disappear.

In LA the Nuart is still there but their programs now change only a few times a week and a lot of their double bills are so obscure I wonder if anyone has ever heard of them. The Beverly Cinema recently got a face lift when Quentin Tarantino bought and renovated it. For that I am very grateful (although not grateful enough to ever watch HATEFUL 8 again).

Last Sunday night I went to the New Beverly Cinema to see two Neil Simon films, AFTER THE FOX and THE HEARTBREAK KID. I had forgotten how much fun it was to watch comedies on the big screen and hear actual laughter. Especially for THE HEARTBREAK KID. This is one of my favorite movies, it was directed by Elaine May, and as comedies go it’s rather dark. It’s also very Jewish.

I saw this movie when it first came out in 1973. I was an all-night DJ on KMEN San Bernardino back then so went to the big City Center theatre in San Berdoo to see it opening night. It was a Friday date night and since the film was billed as a romantic comedy the theatre was packed with young people. Imagine this cavernous theatre and only one voice laughing at this picture – mine. I’ve seen it many times subsequently but at home. I think this was the first time I saw it on the big screen where it got explosive laughs from the audience.

SIDEBAR: When I hosted the Neil Simon Film Festival for TCM I asked that they include THE HEARTBREAK KID, which they did. They also said it was the first time that film had ever aired on TCM. I hope they’re still playing it (although it’s not nearly as good without my intro and outro).

I really miss the shared experience of enjoying a comedy with actual people. That’s a big reason why I write plays. Actors are not going to come to your home – you have to go to them. If there’s a Revival Theatre in your town go to it, support it, and tell your friends. You won’t just be seeing movies; you’ll be having an experience. That’s the one thing Netflix can’t give you (despite their raising prices). And if you do have a Revival Theatre in your neighborhood, suggest a double-bill of BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and VOLUNTEERS. I think it would be really cool.

Monday, April 29, 2019

How to get your own Netflix Special

If you’re like me you log onto Netflix and have no idea what to watch. The Home Page is filled with a dizzying assortment of thumbnails for shows and documentaries and specials – most of which I’ve never heard of. Okay, I clicked on the BONDING trailer to see what that was all about. Zoe Levin as a dominatrix piqued my interest. Not a lot of hot Jewish girls in leather. But otherwise, I’m seeing all those series from other countries, or fourth seasons from shows I never watched and it’s somewhat overwhelming.

If I don’t plan to watch long I tend to sample comedy specials. If they’re funny I stay with them, if they’re Amy Schumer I write blog posts. But I’ve discovered some terrific new comics I was unfamiliar with.

So I come upon a special by someone named Brene Brown. Who? Well, she must be famous if she has a Netflix Special. So I click on and it starts like every other stand up special – the performer backstage (basically a waste of the first three minutes), and then this attractive middle-aged woman steps out onto the stage. It’s a big theatre with balconies. You can’t do a Netflix special without balconies. And she immediately gets a standing ovation. Have I been marooned on a desert island for five years? Who is this person getting a standing O? She starts off with a few mild jokes that are getting screams. And then I start to realize she’s not actually a comedienne, she’s a self-help guru. But she’s one for Millennials because every sentence was peppered with “So I’m like… and then he’s like… and I’m like… and like they’re like…”

She’s going on for five minutes trashing the suggested covers for her book and of course the crowd is roaring. What the fuck is this? I’m wondering.

Finally, she makes reference to a TED talk she once did. So I decided to turn off the special and seek the TED talk.

And what I saw was almost a completely different person. Brene Brown was a social worker/researcher at the University of Houston. She’s also a mom and has a PHD. Nothing fancy, nothing glitzy. She gave a very earnest straightforward speech on the value of vulnerability in self improvement. She was very genuine. Not a single “I was like” in the entire presentation. This was 2010.

I guess Oprah or somebody discovered it and the TED talk went viral. And suddenly Brene Brown is a social media star. She now has a bunch of books (I assume with covers that she is allowed to approve), a top draw lecturer, and Netflix Special-er.

Her message sounds sound and every few years another self-help guru comes along (where is Susan Powter when we need her?), but to me the most interesting thing about Brene Brown is her transformation from academic lecturer to zeitgeist celebrity. She’s now got the new hair, new wardrobe, new zippy patter, new Millennial-speak. Someone should really study that phenomenon. Hey, maybe there’s a Hulu Special in your future.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Weekend Post

Someone asked me recently what my favorite music video was? It took me a nano second to answer. The Bruno Mars "Uptown Funk" mash-up of Hollywood movies.  There are 100 dance films, 280 edits, and none of cuts were sped up or slowed down.  The author on YouTube is listed as Nerd Fest UK.   You may have seen it.  It's been around.  But I could watch it a hundred times.

Don't be surprised if you don't replay it at least twice.


Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday Questions

Closing out April with more Friday Questions.

Poochie has one about the WGA-ATA dispute.

So what does this mean for those of us in the crowd aspiring to make it in the biz? Is the barrier for entry now easier or harder than it's been? And how would you recommending submitting/breaking in under these new conditions?

If you don’t already have an agent (even it’s one you fired due to the dispute) I would say it’s harder. I seriously doubt whether agents are taking on newbie clients at this time. And managers have enough work on their hands acting as agents for their clients to take on new people.

I would say just keep writing. This too will pass, and most important is you having a script that is a home run. There’s so much that’s beyond your control but writing a great script is not one of them. So use this uncertain time to just concentrate on your craft.  Best of luck.

From WLUP (a Chicago station I already miss):

I heard a Steve Dahl interview recently where he was saying that back in the old days, radio DJ's could make more money doing appearances at bars and such than they would make in the radio salary. Did Beaver Cleaver ever get to do in person appearances?

I did a few high school record hops and made a few hundred dollars, which was big money considering how little I was paid to be a disc jockey, but nothing significant. And I was usually fired before I could get a real foothold in any one market.

By the way, Steve Dahl answered the request line for me on TenQ.  I love that guy and have always taken great satisfaction in his success.

Now back to the answer...

The DJ’s who really made big money on the side were also concert promoters and in some cases managers of various rock groups.  The "first" rock n' roll disc jockey, Alan Freed, figured that out early.

Roger Christian, a longtime LA jock in the ‘60s moonlighted by writing lyrics to Beach Boys songs. On many early Beach Boys records you’ll see the writing credit as “Wilson-Christian.”

Dr Loser wonders:

Several of the more satisfying episodes of Frasier were basically Feydeau farce. (I count the aforementioned restaurant episode as one -- it merely substituted eels for frustrated desire.)

Feydeau farces only really work on multi-cam. Do you see a future for them?

The problem is they’re very difficult to do. You need terrific writers, actors with exceptional timing, and a skilled director.

They require precision at every turn. On one show I co-created we did an Feydeau Farce. It came out great. But the cast came to us after and said it was just too hard to do and requested we refrain from further farces.

Happily, the FRASIER cast embraced farces. And the show had writers like Joe Keenan and David Lloyd who could write the hell out of them.

I enjoy writing them… on occasion.

But John Cleese told me he only made a very few FAWLTY TOWERS because farces were so difficult to write and pull off. And Neil Simon maintains that his farce, RUMORS, was the hardest play he ever wrote and he vowed never to write another farce.

But boy, aren't they magic when they work?   I hope they're around forever. 

And finally, Frank Beans wants to know:

On MASH, what was the role of Stanford Tischler? I see his name in the show credits all the time. I know that he was a veteran sound editor, but what did he do on a working basis? Was it all post-production, or did he contribute to the music in other ways?

Actually Stan was our editor, not sound editor, and he was fantastic. Back in those days you still edited on film. You had to be lighting fast and crazy good to churn out 25 half hours a year under constant deadlines. He was often editing three episodes at once. How he kept them straight I will never know.  Also kudos to his assistant, Larry Mills. 

What’s your Friday Question?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

EP120: NBC’s Al Michaels, Part 2

In the second of two parts, NBC sportscaster Al Michaels, who has called 10 Super Bowls, numerous World Series, and will be forever known for his “Miracle on Ice” call, joins Ken for an in depth discussion on NFL football, working with partners, his process, preparation, and how much sleep he gets the night before he calls a Super Bowl. 

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Why do we laugh?

Thanks to loyal reader, Wendy Grossman for alerting me to this article in the Guardian about a study on laughter.
Scientific studies on why we laugh are always dicey, but some nuggets in the article did seem to ring true (even if I don’t know how they arrived at them). The author, Sophie Scott (who describes herself as a brain scientist) claims we are thirty times more likely to laugh if someone else is with us instead of being alone. I truly believe that. Laughter is contagious and that’s why seeing a play or movie with a big crowd is a much more fun experience.

It’s also why there are laugh tracks on network sitcoms. The idea is to simulate the experience of being in a laughing crowd. 

Two other points worth noting:

We laugh more than we think, especially if we’re engaged in conversation. Some of that is social laughter certainly, but still – seven laughs in ten minutes. (Although I can’t imagine laughing once in an hour with Mike Pence.)

The second point is that humans are supposedly not the only species that laugh. Apes, parrots, and even rats laugh. (Maybe that’s why our “Rat Girl” episode of CHEERS got such a great response the night it was filmed on an old soundstage at Paramount.)

But here’s where the article hits a speed bump.

To study laughter and the interaction of conversation, Ms. Scott plans to study the reaction to three stand up comics at a performance on May 2nd. The problem is simply this: If she did the same study every night for two weeks, with the same comics delivering the exact same material – she would get back fourteen very different results. There are so many factors involved in why and how energetic people laugh. The room temperature, the day of the week, the news that day, the demographics, different backgrounds of the audience, varying sensibilities, the weather, various biases – and that’s just for starters.

Without wiring people, I’ve seen this first hand with a number of my plays. Same actors, same performances, same jokes – wildly different results. Jokes that kill one night get nothing the next and straight lines get huge laughs the next evening.

To me the big question is how could 200 strangers independently laugh at something and the next night 200 other strangers independently not laugh at the same thing? Looking at averages you’d think between say 50-75% of any given audience would laugh at that joke; not 0-90%.

I wish her luck on her study. I’ll be interested to learn what she concludes. If nothing else, it might be good for a laugh.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

A book recommendation

Breaking in is hard to do. Especially if you want to be a screenwriter. You can’t go into any Starbucks in LA without seeing at least three intense sleep-deprived people hunched over their laptops. Not that it’s ever been easy to hoist yourself over those palace walls but now it seems harder. More people are trying and agents are taking on fewer new clients.

So how do you break through?

The best way is to distinguish yourself somehow. (“Oh, that’s easy. Why didn’t I think of that?”)

One way is to enter screenplay competitions and hopefully win or place high enough that you’re recognized. (“Sure. Win screenwriting competitions. Piece of cake.”)

Yes, it’s a tall order. And with as many as several thousand entering certain competitions the odds are staggering.

But now at least there’s help.

A new book called “Screenplay Competitions” by Ann Marie Williams has just been released and finally there is a lifeline for the wannabe screenwriters out there. There are tips on how to submit, who to submit to, what judges are looking for, how you can improve your chances, etc. Look, there are many hidden traps and the competition is fierce. This book offers an invaluable guide into the world of screenplay competitions. And more than that – it shows you ways how these competitions, even if you don’t win, can help you improve your writing.

How do I know it’s good advice? For the last few years I’ve been entering play in stage play competitions. The process (and competition) is almost the same. Things I learned myself all appear to be covered in this book.

Case in point: rejections. First, prepare yourself: you’re going to get rejections. The book points out, and it’s true, that the judging process is soooo subjective and each competition has a specific agenda so a script that wins one major competition will likely be rejected by fifty others. Same script. How do you deal with that? This book helps.

I should point out that I don’t know this author, publisher, nor am I getting any remuneration for recommending this book. I just think it will be a useful tool and maybe give you a little leg up. And in today’s world, any advantage, even a small one, is HUGE.

Best of luck. Like I always say – someone has to break in. Why not YOU?

Monday, April 22, 2019

The most fun show on TV

Forget the NBA Playoffs, the Stanley Cup, or the start of the baseball season. Who cares about the Emmy race or Democratic hopefuls for president? Yawn on the next American Idol and VOICE winner. There’s a new competition in town that’s sweeping the nation.

James Holzhauer on JEOPARDY!

Have you seen this guy? In only twelve days he’s racked up over $850,000. (That's almost as much as Mike Trout makes.)  James has shattered the all-time one-day total three or four times already. It’s like if this new prospect joined the Yankees named Clark Kent.

Not only does he have an otherworldly knowledge of everything, he has super quick recall. And he’s a professional sports gambler by trade so it’s common when he lands on DAILY DOUBLES to push all his chips into the center and go for it. I mean, sure, I could do that, but only if the topic was “Natalie Wood” but he does it on “Pleistocene Era Children's Literature,” “Fifteen-letter words with u in them twice,”and "Lana Wood."

He’s extraordinary to watch. If I went on that show and they told me the answers an hour beforehand I still couldn’t retain all that information by the time the cameras were rolling.

JEOPARDY has always been a great game show. It moves fast, it’s smart, and has the perfect host in Alex Trebek. (He can pronounce difficult words and names – although who knows if he’s right?) Certainly, it’s bittersweet now watching JEOPARDY because we know of Alex’s medical condition and our hearts go out to him. (By the way, Alex was so good on the CHEERS episode he appeared on that we wrote him into another scene – the final scene in the bar. He can deliver clues and jokes.)

But now with Holzhauer it’s off the charts fun to watch the show. And unlike a TV series you get a new episode five times a week instead of once a week. And you get open-ended new episodes, not just thirteen in a row.

It’s also easy to root for Holzhauer because he seems like a good guy. He’s very low-key. Ken Jennings is still my favorite due to his sense of humor ("What be Ebonics?"), but James H. has an easy-going charm that (like everything else about him) is “winning.”

Like I said he’s a professional sports gambler from Las Vegas so most of his winnings will eventually go to the government and Caesar’s Palace.

Now the big question is can he top Ken Jennings’ record of winning 74 consecutive times? I think the old record was 20. And unlike “cash amounts” James can’t accomplish that in five days. So we may be in for an exciting ride for the next few months.

Holzhauer is rarely wrong. If he doesn’t know an answer he doesn’t ring in. And one day last week the answer (or question, excuse me) was “What is Final Draft?” (the screenplay writing program). And he didn’t ring in. I knew something James Holzhauer didn’t. HA! BAM! Mic drop!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Weekend Post

It's been over five years since I posted this.  It's one of my all-time favorites.  Written by my partner, David Isaacs.  Definitely worth a rerun. 
Once again it's time for a memo from Mr. Special Effects.

Now more than ever, showrunners are implored to KEEP THE BUDGET DOWN! Like that's
ever been easy in Hollywood. This town is notorious for huge mark ups, studios charging their own shows outrageous rent for their stages and facilities, etc. And if God forbid you need a special effect look out. In writing rooms whenever we propose even the smallest stunt we turn to my partner, David Isaacs, who has created a great character – Mr. Special Effects. He will then describe what is required to pull the stunt off and how much it will cost. Here is an example, in the form of a memo.

And believe me when I say this is TYPICAL.


Report from TV Special Effects Department:

RE: Frasier

Situation: In a dream sequence, Frasier is on the air and his board explodes.

Proposal---If I'm to understand correctly from our conversation you all want the entire radio board to explode in Frasier's (Mr. Gramner's) face. filling the studio room with smoke. It's quite a coincidence since my dad created the same effect for Mr. Al Ruddy for an episode of 'The Monkee's. (For your reference it's the one where the Monkees try to outfox a Russian agent played by Mr. Lloyd Bochner). The good news is that with all the advancements in explosive delivery it's a much easier effect. (The real reason you never saw Mr. Mike Nesmith at any Monkees reunion is that he had four fingers of his left hand blown off. It's certainly not true that he was sick of being a part of a third rate Beatles knockoff. That and feeling responsible for Yakima Canutt losing a testicle on "How the West was Won" haunted my father till he fell to his death rigging Mr. Demetrious 'George' Savalas for a jump off the Brooklyn Bridge in 'Kojack.)

Anyway, the effect is fairly simple, but of course we want it foolproof and safe. (within reason) First of all we will rig a series of explosive charges across the board. That will control the blast as oppossed to one big blast which is harder to control. I will set off the charges in sequence from a specially designed phaser. That should supply our explosion and still create the effect. We also set a charge inside the board so that in the case of a fire breaking out from the initial explosion (small possibility) I'll blow that charge which in turn would smother the flames. That, of course, would also preclude a second take.

Now I'm to understand that Mr. Gramner would like to do the stunt himself (concurrent with an 'Entertainment Tonight' segment profiling sitcom actors who do their own stunts.) That's fine but we will take the precaution of covering his body in an inch to an inch and a half of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly under a flame retardant herringbone suit. (It's uncomfortable but the guy works, what, twelve hours a week?) That will protect him vis a vis a mistake in explosion deployment. (Just to warn you in spite of caution it can happen---Sometimes to a serendipitous result. My dad worked for Mr. George Roy Hill on 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance KId." Liitle known fact, the boxcar being blown to smithereens was not in the script. It was what we call in the S.E. business a happy accident. Thankfully the only injury was a prosthetic arm that was mangaled up pretty good. It belonged to my dad's assistant 'Spider' who had lost his real arm and half a foot working with my dad on 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'. Long story)

So we will protect Mr. Gramner. Safety for the cameramen and crew are at your discretion. Should be a do it every day, piece of cake effect. Still it's S.O.P. for me to ask you one question that's in the order of a final safeguard. Was there originally an actor you really felt could have played Frasier in the event that Mr. Gramner was unavailable or... "a handful"? Have to ask. It many times makes a tougher call but I will remind you of 'happy accidents'.

I'm going to ball park a cost for you then come up with a final tally later. I know you have budget concerns but it's a heck of a stunt. Figuring explosives , equipment rented from the studio electrical dept., special costuming from the studio costume dept., crew, overtime, dummy board and console from studio props, studio fire chief standing by, and I figure you'll want to throw in pizza for a hard working S.E. bunch, I think I can bring the whole thing off for you, on the cheap, for about 110 thousand dollars. Again that's if we're not figuring on another take.

Loved the script by the way.

Mr. S.E.

Friday, April 19, 2019

(Good) Friday Questions

Happy Easter and Passover and whatever else you’re celebrating. Here are this week’s FQ’s.

blinky is up first.

I just saw a post on Reddit that the medical adviser and Alan Alda co-wrote an episode of M*A*S*H. Tell me more!

Well, first off, it was after we had left the show. But yes, the episode called “Life Time” was written by Dr. Walter Dishell and Alan Alda. Dr. Dishell was our medical advisor (and a great guy).

It’s the episode all done in real time. The idea was really Gene Reynolds'. But it was one that required a lot of medical knowledge. Dr. Dishell asked if he could write it since he would be contributing so much, and Gene agreed as long as he wrote it with a real MASH writer (I think Alan qualified).

The episode is also noteworthy for the clock in the corner of the screen. That idea, apparently, was Dr. Dishell’s.

MASH was always experimenting and trying different ways to break the format. “Life Time” was one of the best.

From Jen from Jersey:

In terms of continuity, do writers forget details about the characters and events from earlier seasons. I notice this all the time when I binge watch. One recent example is that the first episode of Wings, Joe introduces Brian to Lowell but in later episodes we find out that they all went to high school together.

Sometimes you have different writers who weren’t on the show when the first factoid was aired. Other times writers forget, especially if it seemed like a small detail buried within an episode. There are times I’ve been on MASH and CHEERS trivia sites and there will be questions from episodes I wrote that I still don’t know the answer.

Some shows used to keep a detailed bible, but that’s pretty time consuming, and now you have the internet to post episode guides.

And seriously, this was much less of a problem before series were all available for binging or cable networks ran eight episodes a day. Now these continuity problems are glaring.

All I can say is that for a long running series writers do the best they can to maintain continuity. Unfortunately there are getting to be fewer and fewer long running series.

Sean queries:

While binging Game of Thrones recently, I noticed something new. The opening credits only feature the actors in that particular episode. I've been an avid TV nut for decades and have never noticed that before. Is that common? It seems to me that even if Jamie Farr or William Christopher didn't appear in a particular episode, they were still credited in the opening.

Have I missed out on something?

It depends on the actor’s contract. Some stipulate their credit must be in every episode whether they appear or not, and others only get a credit on the shows where they actually do appear.

Where the credit appears and how the credit appears also are up for negotiation. Along with size and screen placement.

And finally, from Madame Smock:

Aloha Ken,

I listened to the "How did I get talked into this ?" podcast Ep. 116.I thought the Rocky Mountain Writers Guild story could have been a story premise on Frasier. Do writers use their personal experiences to come up with a storyline?

ALL the time. Our most humiliating life experiences are all golden fodder for sitcom stories.

The best stories are the ones that are the most relatable and those come from real life. I think it was Carl Reiner, when he was running THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, who said to his writers: “Go home this weekend, have a fight with your wife, then come back and tell me about it.”

What’s your Friday Question? Please leave it in the comments section. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

EP119: NBC’s Al Michaels Part 1

In the first of two parts, NBC sportscaster Al Michaels, who has called 10 Super Bowls, numerous World Series, and will be forever known for his “Miracle on Ice” call, joins Ken for an in depth discussion.  In Part 1 Al talks about his baseball career, covering an earthquake, working for the Dating Game, MNF, and moving from ABC to NBC.  You don’t have to love sports to love Al Michaels.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

What were they thinking, Part 2?

We've come a lonnnnnng way since 1962.  Smack dab in the middle of the MAD MEN era comes this actual commercial.  Where was #MeToo when that generation needed it? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

What were they thinkin'?

You know how you watch something on YouTube and that leads you to another video and pretty soon you go down a rabbit hole and hours go by as you discover different nutty things? That was me last night.

And I came upon this. It’s so absurd I had to share it.

There was an afternoon show on ABC in the mid ‘60s called WHERE THE ACTION IS. Dick Clark hosted and basically it was a music show consisting of rock groups of the day lip syncing their songs at the beach. The idea was to capture that whole California Myth (which did exist if you had a car and could get to the beach). I recall seeing Paul Revere & the Raiders wearing their heavy felt Revolutionary War uniforms rocking out at the beach.

To my knowledge, WHERE THE ACTION IS was gone long before 1973. But then I found this music video, which is very reminiscent of WTAI. I don’t know the story behind it. But it’s Vicki Lawrence singing her only big hit, THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA at the beach. And it sounds like Dick Clark introducing her.

But here’s what’s so bizarre and made me laugh out loud. Hardly anybody at the beach is paying any attention to her. They’re all running around, throwing the football, tackling each other, kicking sand. She’s just standing in the middle of this scene for no reason whatsoever. And the content of the song is about a murder in the south and an innocent man being hung. So the few people who are in the background dancing to this look like complete idiots.

I love Vicki Lawrence and would someday like to ask her about this. But in the meantime, enjoy today's surreal music video.

Monday, April 15, 2019

The WGA-ATA dispute -- Where do we stand?

Too early to tell.

The WGA and agents (ATA) could not reach a deal by zero hour this past weekend so we all are obligated to fire our TV and movie writing agents.

Where does that leave everybody? 

Well, we’re now in the first stage – name calling, posturing, threatening, animosity. Lawsuits and counter-suits.

I think it will be interesting so see if writers can in fact get staffed using only managers, lawyers, a submission website, recommendations, etc. and skirt the agency process. If so, writers will have a lot more leverage.

If not, if it’s very chaotic and just a mad scramble, agencies will gain more leverage.

But for either of those scenarios to play out a few months must go by. Just sitting on the sidelines, that’s where I see things going at this moment.  (But I hope I'm wrong.)

Look, producers, networks, studios, agents, whoever – only make concessions when they have to. And unfortunately, that usually requires a work stoppage or mass exodus or some other major protest that hopefully will have enough of an impact to force compromise and concessions. Deals that could have been made amicably eventually do get done but at a big cost with lots of collateral damage. Welcome to Tinsel Town.

Here’s how I imagine it will end, and this is based on nothing more than my observations from the bleachers (so take them with a grain of salt). Package deals will remain, but writers will share in the profits – significantly enough that they’re willing to agree to a deal. What that percentage is, when that will be, what other compromises will be made – that I don’t have a clue.

Now I’m getting on my soapbox. None of this would be an issue if anti-trust laws were still upheld and conflict-of-interest practices were shut down. Agencies need other ways to supplement their income in this era of mass consolidation and will find them (opening sports divisions, representing products like Coca-Cola, etc.) and writers would still have enough on their hands fighting injustices that were shady but still legal.

There was a time in Hollywood when major players like Lew Wasserman of Universal controlled the town. There could be a writers’ strike for three months and when Wasserman decided enough was enough the strike was settled in two days.

There’s no Lew Wasserman.

So for now we just play it out. For the vast majority of you, this battle will have no impact whatsoever. This is not a work stoppage. Your shows will still be produced on schedule. No DEXTER reruns on CBS to fill some gaps. And considering how many other global and national crises we all face daily, it’s probably a relief to know there’s one you don’t have a stake in.

But for those of us in the industry, these WGA-ATA issues are important and will affect the way business is done for years to come. So however it falls, let’s get it right.

UPDATE:  I thought it was clear from the post but apparently not since a number of you keep asking whether I went along with the WGA and fired my agent?  And the answer is yes.  

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Weekend Post

I thought if might be fun for some of these weekend posts to recommend vintage movies I love that are probably available on streaming services so if you're home alone on Saturday night or looking to kill a couple of hours this might just fill the time nicely.  (But if you're in Minneapolis come see my play, OUR TIME and me tonight.  Here's where you go for tickets.)

Today's recommendation: BODY HEAT.

 I’m going to start talking film noir in a few minutes but let’s cut to the chase – I love BODY HEAT for the sex. That’s why I went to see it, that’s why I went back to see it, that’s why I’m recommending it. There’s noir and great breakout performances but all that is a bonus.  And you don't have to worry about getting caught surfing Pornhub. 

BODY HEAT, released in 1981, marked the directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan, who also wrote the film. Today he’s known as Jake Kasdan’s dad but back then he was writing STAR WARS sequels and INDIANA JONES movies – enough Hollywood currency to warrant a directing nod.

The movie is very noir. I don’t actually know the definition of that word but it seems to be the genre that encompasses night, mood, lust, guilt, illicit passion, double-crosses, triple-crosses, seduction, and if really done right – a hopelessly confusing plot. BODY HEAT satisfies all of that plus a lot of nudity!

The film stars William Hurt as Ned Racine, a two-bit lawyer in a small Florida town who meets Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), an unhappy rich married woman. There’s an instant smoldering connection. They’re both horny, wildly attracted to each other, and share the same penchant for talking like a Raymond Chandler novel.

It’s hot (100 degrees at night), they’re hot (one reviewer actually used the word “slender” to describe her back then), and the heat is never turned down.

In short order Ned and Matty are in her mansion getting it on as often and graphic as possible. You are so wrapped up in the steamy sweaty animal sex that you don’t ask the question, “Hey, if she’s so rich and lives in a mansion, how come she can’t afford air conditioning?”

Matty eventually talks Ned into killing her husband (that’s how good the sex was) and the plot takes off. If this sounds a little like DOUBLE INDEMNITY that’s because it’s almost a direct lift. But you never saw Fred MacMurray giving it to Barbra Stanwyck from behind.

Some notable other performances: Ted Danson as the tap dancing D.A. (this was well before CHEERS) is a riot and Mickey Rourke as an explosives expert (well before he went nuts) is riveting.

The ending gets very confusing and Byzantine so you might want to rewind and replay it a time or two. Just like guys will be rewinding and replaying the first part of the movie twenty times.

BODY HEAT – see it with someone you hope to get lucky with.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Friday Questions

Hello from Indianapolis where I am attending the opening of my play, GOING GOING GONE and conducting a Q&A afterwards. It’s at the Westfield Playhouse. Come join us. Tomorrow I’m in Minneapolis for OUR TIME and a Q&A. Stop by there if you’re anywhere in the Midwest.

In the meantime…

Janet Ybarra has a Friday Question.

Whether it's one of your contemporary stageplays, a teleplay you wrote with David or what-have-you: how do you come up with good, satisfying names for your characters so that everyone isn't a Jones or a Smith?

I’ve written posts on this before. I try to find names that might fit the ethnicity, personality, and age of the character. If I’m writing a period piece there weren’t too many Beyonces in the 1920’s.

I prefer not having two characters with names that start with the same letter (e.g. Janet & Jennifer). It’s easier writing in Final Draft when I only need one key stroke instead of two when typing the character name.

Many times I’ll use names of people I know. Friends and ex-girlfriends show up all the time in MASH and CHEERS.

I also consult my high school yearbook.  Lots of great names in there. 

On MASH we always needed patients and visiting military personnel so my partner David and I in season 7 just went down the Los Angeles Dodgers roster. You’ll find Cey, Garvey, Rhoden, Rau, Hooten, Russell, Lopes, etc.

To be honest, I try not to spend too much time on this because you could devote three days coming up with just the perfect name when all you’re really doing is procrastinating.

Brian Phillips asks:

What are your thoughts on physical humor in a script that you write/co-write?

I love physical comedy and even in shows with sophisticated humor like FRASIER I will try to fit in some physical comedy. The key is having the actors who can pull it off. FRASIER had that in spades.

But even in my plays, which rely on dialogue to get the lion’s share of laughs, I will find spots for physical comedy.

If there’s any form of comedy that is universal and guaranteed to stand the test of time, it’s physical comedy. Laurel & Hardy make me laugh hysterically to this day.

From MikeN:

Would you write episodes differently for Netflix because there are no commercials?

Not really. My act break might not come directly in the middle, but good dramatic structure is good dramatic structure.  I still want a strong act break even if its purpose isn’t to retain an audience through a commercial break.

What excites me more about writing a show for Netflix is not having to squeeze a half hour episode into 18 minutes. I can better tell stories when I have a little more time.

And finally, Frank Beans has a FQ in a similar vein.

Curious, Ken--are there any episodes that you have worked on from any show that you wish could have been longer, or even multi-part so that they could tell a story arc better and in more depth?

Yes, primarily on MASH because we would always weave at least two storylines into every episode (sometimes three). There were instances when we had to cut the show for time and lost good stuff.

I always loved when script assignments that started out as a single episode expanded into a two-parter. Easier to tell the story and twice the money (the latter being the BIG incentive).

But here’s the dirty little secret: Most two-parters you see are really part-and-a-halfs. There is generally padding to fill out the whole hour. I’ve written any number of two parters and could take fifteen minutes out of any of them.

But did I mention I get paid twice for two-parters? I can’t love ‘em enough.

What’s your Friday Question? Leave it in the comments section. And hope to see you this weekend on the theatre circuit. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

EP118: More Celebrity Dish w/ Arlen Peters

Entertainment reporter Arlen Peters is back with more tasty inside stories and profiles of celebrities, famous writers, and iconic movies.  You know you love this stuff!

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

I'm going to miss Ralph Lawler

Tonight is the final regular season broadcast of longtime LA Clippers announcer, Ralph Lawler. For 40 years he has called Clippers games. And during that time no team in the NBA has lost more of them. Other than maybe being the announcer for the Washington Generals (the team that loses every game to the Harlem Globetrotters), I can’t think of a tougher assignment.

And yet, every broadcast, every year (even the year they only won 13 games all season) is a gem. Not only does he know the game inside and out, his play calling is superb, his voice is rich, enthusiasm infectious, and he has a great dry sense of humor. Ralph is retiring at 80. He sounds as good as he did at 40. Maybe better.

I have always been a Clippers fan. I loved the Lakers when Chick Hearn was their voice and Magic was their star, but there’s the draw of the underdog, and tickets were so much cheaper for Clipper games. I was an original Clippers season ticket holder. So I’ve seen my share of horrific basketball myself. Benoit Benjamin?  Give me a break!

I only gave up my season seats when I started to learn how to do basketball play-by-play and the Clippers graciously gave me a press pass. Back then they played in the old LA Sports Arena (now demolished) and I would have entire sections to myself.

That’s when I met Ralph. Not only was he gracious and supportive, he was also a mentor. He would sit with me and listen to my tapes offering great critiques. Some teachers point out what you did wrong. He always pointed out what I could do better. He showed me tricks, things to look for, ways of approaching game situations, and how to use my voice to tell the story. Even though I never called games professionally, I owe him a great debt. He had his work cut out for him because I was never that good. 

Ralph Lawler also had the misfortune not only of bad teams but being in the shadow of some iconic broadcasters. Here in Los Angeles we had Vin Scully, Chick Hearn, Dick Enberg, Bob Miller, Tom Kelly, and for a few years when the Raiders were here, Bill King. So Ralph never received the appreciation he deserved. He was inducted this year into the NBA Hall of Fame, which was maybe the best decision the NBA has made in five years.

I only wish he got to call a Clippers championship. Who knows? He’s got one last shot. It’s ironic that in the future the Clippers will be better, but with the loss of Lawler, not as good.

Have a great retirement, Ralph. And thanks for 40 years of championship broadcasts.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The world's worst jingle

Years ago I did a post about the worst, most annoying songs of all-time. (I stand by "Honey" by Bobby Goldsboro.)   I still get readers offering their suggestions.  During a recent Lyft ride to the airport I was forced to, heaven help me, listen to terrestrial radio.   The ride took twenty minutes; at least ten of them were filled with commercials.

Side note:  Why does anybody listen to terrestrial radio?  With all the other options available now, why subject yourself to ten straight minutes of commercials?    End of side note.

Anyway, one of those commercials (I think the 15th one) inspired today's post.  It's the follow-up to worst song.  It's "the worst jingle."

And in this case, the winner was clear by a mile.  No lengthy debates here.

The KARS 4 KIDS jingle.

You know it.  You hate it.

This little ditty is like an airhorn pressed right against your ear.  It's so insipid and so annoying that I will immediately click off any station that is playing it.  I don't understand why any product would want to be associated with such a turn-off.    If I had a car to donate I would set it on fire before giving it to them.  And yes, it's a worthy organization, but I don't care.  If I gave them a car they might think the jingle is working and keep it another ten years.   No one can afford to take that chance.

Now normally in a rant like this I would just post the jingle so you could hear for yourself.  But I care about you way too much to do that.

I'll be interested to see in the comments section whether anybody actually likes that jingle and defends it.  I'm also curious as to what other advertising jingles annoy the crap out of you.

Who knows?  This may be the first and only topic everyone in America can agree on.  But probably not. 

Monday, April 08, 2019

WGA vs ATA update

Here’s where we stand:


The good news is at the eleventh hour both the WGA and ATA agreed to extend the deadline from last Saturday night to this Friday.

No talks were scheduled before the Saturday deadline so it seemed pretty bleak that there would be any movement.

At least this is a sign that both sides would like to work something out and avoid the uncertainty that would arise should WGA members all fire their agents at the same time.

The issue – well, there are two really – are packaging deals that the agencies make which skims money off the license fee and goes directly into the agency’s pocket, and agencies becoming studios themselves, which would appear to be a conflict-of-interest if you’re negotiating on behalf of your client against your studio.

WGA members overwhelmingly, (over 95%) voted to support the Guild’s efforts in trying to work out an agreement. Such a show of strength sends a powerful message to the agencies that the WGA members sense the importance of these issues and are willing to sacrifice on their behalf.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe agencies will give up two major sources of their income, especially in this age of consolidation and corporate greed.

So far negotiations have been little more than posturing and grandstanding. And that is typical of Hollywood labor disputes. There are formal talks and then there are back room talks with the major players and those are usually where things get resolved.  

How will it ultimately come out? I truly have no idea. I imagine both sides will have to make some concessions, but what they are and will they be enough for the 95% of pro-action WGA members is yet to be seen.

I have friends and people I respect on both sides of this issue. But I will say this, the president of the WGA, David Goodman, is really a mensch. I truly believe we are in great hands. As an introduction to David Goodman, if you don’t know him, he was a guest on my podcast. I invite you to listen to this episode.

And hold your breath. All of this in uncharted territory. How it will play out is anybody’s guess. And we don’t have the benefit of tuning to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, hearing analysts and experts give their predictions and know they’re wrong and the exact opposite will occur.

Anyway, this extension is the first positive sign. Let’s see if we can have a happy ending – Hollywood is known for those too.

Thanks to Deadline Hollywood for the image. 

Saturday, April 06, 2019

Weekend Post

I have a number of theatre events coming up in the next month or so and want to let you know about them should you be in Indianapolis or Sydney looking for something to do.

Next weekend I will be making my “apolis” trip.

On Friday night I will be in Indianapolis for the opening of my play, GOING GOING GONE that will be playing at the Westfield Playhouse from April 12-27th. I’ll be there opening night (the 12th) at 7:30 and will do a Q&A after. You can get tickets here.

The next night, April 13th I will be in Minneapolis for the staged reading of my play, OUR TIME at 7:30 at the SPNN Production Soundstage in St. Paul. I’ll be doing a Q&A after that one too. Here’s where you can go for info and tickets.

My ten-minute play, AVOCADO TOAST is in the Gala Finals of the Sydney Short + Sweet Festival and will run April 27th & 28th. Info and tickets can be found here.

AVOCADO TOAST will also be performed in May on Long Island and Michigan. For info and tickets for Long Island here is where you click. 

But wait, there's more.  My short play THE FUGITIVE will be part of the CBE "Unleavened Play Festival" on Sunday, April 14 at 6:00 pm in Brooklyn.  Info and unleavened tickets here

And finally, I have a twenty-minute one act comedy/drama called SIGNING OFF that will be part of EST Los Angeles’ One Act Festival at the Atwater Village Theatre with previews April 27, and 28th, opening the following weekend for four weekends. I’ll be there a lot. Here’s the Facebook page.
My thanks to all the theatre companies, actors, directors, and crew members for making me look better than I am.

Hope to see you sometime this month.

And remember, you can purchase or license any of my plays. Just go to KenLevinePlays.com and browse. And as you can see, if at all possible if you produce one of my plays I will make every effort to attend. I’m even going to Atwater.

So that’s what I’m up to. How ‘bout you?

Friday, April 05, 2019

Friday Questions

If the best part of your weekend is Friday Questions you need more fun in your life. But here they are:

Peter leads off.

You've previously written about working on Mannequin 2 and how awful it was. I particularly cracked up at your anecdote about the producers wanting to pay you and David in big screen TVs. My question: do you ever get residuals from Mannequin 2? I know the movie tanked but surely every movie must provide some residuals, however small.

No. And the movie has aired on TV and cable channels. I'm actually owed a good piece of change.

The problem is the company was run by a guy who later went to prison and another guy who once swindled Columbia Pictures (when he was their president) by writing bogus checks and forging Cliff Robertson’s signature. So the company and its principles are long gone.

Ryn's Sistehr asks:

It seems like sitcoms and reality shows are so much less expensive to produce, get the highest ratings, and give the most bang for the buck in syndication, versus hour-long dramas. How and why do cash-strapped networks still mount something like 911 or The Orville, or all these cable networks I've never heard of mount period pieces, or Siren on Freeform? (Not that I think it's a bad thing that they do - it just seems so unlike money-grubbing networks to do it.)

Networks felt there was a glut of multi-camera sitcoms and that viewers were turned off by their formula rhythms. So to re-energize the genre they felt there was more nteresting things in single-camera and major audiences would return.  They haven't.  

Networks were right that there was a sameness to multi-camera shows – but just the bad ones.

Meanwhile, the most successful sitcoms in syndication (save for MASH) are multi-camera. THE BIG BANG THEORY, LAST MAN STANDING, and FRIENDS are juggernauts. Single-camera sitcoms (save for MASH) don’t do nearly as well. And they cost quite a bit more.

So why don't networks commission more multi-camera shows?  Why do networks do anything

Chris Thomson has a MASH question.

When you were making MASH, was it easier with operating theater scenes to film, as I would imagine you could almost film it once and then re-write at will, as they were wearing masks and no one could see their lips. Basically just reusing the same take?

Following on from that. If this was true, was it tempting to put extra scenes in there if time was tight (sunlight at the park running out etc)?

Only one time did an actor ad lib during an OR scene and we just removed his dialogue. As you said, it’s easy because they're all wearing surgical masks.

But no, we didn’t favor OR scenes. We just tried to tell the best possible stories in the most original way. There were weeks when we had multiple scenes in OR, and other weeks where we had no OR scenes at all.

What I liked best about the OR scenes is they really were the best depiction of the reality of the war and its price. Yes, we were a comedy, but we always felt our primary responsibility was to convey the horror and senselessness of war.

And finally, from PolyWogg:

Any "I remember seeing..." tributes to share about great plays that you've seen where they came out of nowhere for you, totally unexpected diamonds in the rough?

I saw CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD at a small theatre in LA and thought it was brilliant. I saw an early production of SPRING AWAKENING in some church in lower Manhattan and knew that was extraordinary.

Another musical that I loved early on was FOREVER PLAID.

In a small theatre in Soho I saw KILLER JOE  in 1999 and was knocked out by the writing. That was my first introduction to Tracy Letts. It was also my first introduction to Sarah Paulson. I happened to see her after the performance standing on the street and said, “You’re not only terrific; you’re also one of the bravest actresses I’ve ever seen.” Getting completely naked for fifty audience members eight times a week took a real commitment to her art. 

A play that’s kind of faded into the mist but was remarkable was ZOOT SUIT and I saw an early production of that in Los Angeles.

Sadly, I can’t think of any comedies. I saw early productions of Neil Simon and Herb Gardner plays, but they were already major names.

We need more comedies!

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

EP117: My Mount Rushmore of Radio: Four greats radio stars

Ken introduces you to four of his all-time favorite radio performers.  These are the voices that inspired him and made him laugh.   Vin Scully, Dan Ingram, The Real Don Steele, and Gary Burbank.

Listen to the Hollywood & Levine podcast!

Why are network sitcoms different from streaming sitcoms?

Writing a sitcom for broadcast television is very different from writing one for a streaming service. And not for the reason you might think.

No, it’s not because you have more freedom. You can’t say fuck on CBS (yet) but you can on Netflix. It’s not because you don’t have to worry about lead-ins and time slots on Amazon. Or even that all episodes drop at once vs. being doled out one a week.

The big difference is storytelling.

In broadcast TV your series needs to be fairly open-ended. You create characters and a world and hopefully things for them to do for 200 episodes. The audience develops an attachment to the characters and just likes spending time with them. One of the reasons multi-camera shows do so well in syndication is that the viewer is so familiar with the show he doesn’t have to pay full attention. You can have FRIENDS on and go into the laundry room to throw the clothes in the dryer while still following the show. You know what the apartment looks like. We always used to say that CHEERS was really a radio play. There’s a comfort food element to most successful traditional sitcoms.

For short-order sitcoms for streaming services you need an overall arc. Broadcast TV wants stand-alone episodes but streaming platforms prefer serialized storytelling. You’re asking the audience to go on a four or five hour journey (depending on how many half-hours you make). And to me, that’s very liberating. You really have the time to develop stories and relationships. And you don’t have to happily resolve every episode.

The trick though is to have an overall story arc that really drives the series from beginning to end. I go back to the difference between THE KOMINSKY METHOD and BARRY. There are some wonderful scenes in KOMINSKY and some laugh-out-loud moments. And even though Arkin & Douglas each have their problems, there’s still no real engine propelling the series forward, as opposed to BARRY (a hit man wanting to become an actor and how that desire jeopardizes him and everyone around him).

The perfect example is THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. It’s so clear what Midge’s quest is. As opposed to “comfort food,” the goal is to get viewers to binge. You want them to want to watch “one more” before they call it a night. If KOMINSKY had that big hurdle to conquer in addition to all the wonderful character touches I think it could be a home run.

That said, if the show were for ABC I would plot it exactly as it is now.

Streaming platforms are still the Wild West. Writers are still experimenting and trying to find what really works. To me that’s the exciting part. Hopefully in the near future there will be a new “Golden Age of Comedy.” Even if we have to pay monthly to get it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019


First of all, a disclaimer: I really want this show to succeed. I’m a big fan of Mike Schur. I think the world is ready for the next CHEERS. And I believe strongly in multi-camera shows. For all the knocks on multi-camera series, what’s the most successful sitcom in syndication worldwide – and it isn’t even close? FRIENDS. A whole new generation has connected to FRIENDS; a generation that wasn’t even born when it first aired. Like I said, no other show comes close. And FRIENDS is as standard a multi-camera show as there has ever been.

In an attempt to preserve the form and give it some spin, ABBY’S is filmed outside. Still not sure whether that’s a big plus (audience laughter disappears when not contained, and there are the weather problems to contend with) but points for trying something new.

I don’t know how many episodes they’ve filmed, how much they can correct midstream at this point. My guess is most or all of the episodes are now in the can.

As for the execution, it feels like the writers are not really experienced yet in the form. But they’ll learn. The audience will tell them what works and what doesn’t and they’ll adjust accordingly. There are not many opportunities for grooming young writers since there are not many multi-camera shows on the air. Still, that’s just growing pains. All shows need time to find their way.

But in the pilot of ABBY’S they did something that might prove to be their fatal flaw. And for all their reverence of CHEERS they seemed to miss the single most important aspect of it. CHEERS was where “everybody knows your name.” More than anything else it made the customers (and VIEWERS) welcome.

Diane Chambers enters the bar for the first time. She is clearly not the sort of person who frequents that bar. And yet, everyone made her feel at home.   Diane essentially was us viewers. 

In the pilot of ABBY’S we learn that new customers are not allowed to sit at the bar. They’re not even allowed to sit in chairs just off the bar. New customers are banished to hard benches along the fence and only after a certain amount of time and approval can they earn their way up the ladder. So new customers are essentially dismissed. They don’t want to know your name. It’s not CHEERS, it’s the high school lunch room where only the cool kids sat at the good table.

So let’s say Diane Chambers entered ABBY’S for the first time. Dressed way too formal, clearly a square peg. How would she be treated? My guess: “Excuse me, you can’t sit there. You have to go over to one of those benches.”  Not very welcoming. 

They also made a point of saying there were 164 rules you had to adhere to. That’s a pretty exclusive club.

ABBY’S ratings were not great for its premier. Chalk that up to all kinds of things (they were up against March Madness, etc) but I think subconsciously that exclusivity might have turned off a lot of viewers.

Hopefully, in the coming weeks the creative team moves away from that and people find and like the show. Or, it’s just me and no one else was bothered by that.

In any event, I wish them well and hope they’ll save a spot at the bar for me.

Monday, April 01, 2019

The Real Don Steele

The Real Don Steele would have been 83 today. You've probably heard me talk of him before. He's one of my idols.

He passed away on August 5, 1997. For thirty years The Real Don Steele ruled the Los Angeles airwaves, most notably on 93/KHJ “Boss Radio” in the 60’s and 70’s. Outrageous, electrifying, thrilling – that was Real on…and OFF the air. If you want to hear the greatest cookin’ jock to ever crack a mike in the heyday of top 40. You can check him out here.

Real also appeared in some highly prestigious films such as EATING RAOUL, DEATH RACE 2000 (starring Sylvester Stallone), ROCK N’ ROLL HIGH SCHOOL, and Ron Howard’s first directing effort, GRAND THEFT AUTO. Television credits are equally as impressive: TALES FROM THE CRYPT and HERE COMES THE BRIDES.

I had the pleasure of working with him at two radio stations, K100 and TenQ in LA in the 70’s. He also fell off my couch stinking drunk one night and my wife still invited him to dinner again.

His catch phrase was “Tina Delgado is alive, ALIVE!” shouted by some unknown frenzied girl. No one ever knew the story behind it. Who Tina Degado was. How he came to use it. Even what the hell it meant. But it didn’t matter. It was all part of the excitement this larger-than-life personality created for “the magnificent megalopolis of Boss Angeles” three hours every day…and especially on “Fractious Fridays”.

Every year on his birthday, April 1st, I wish that maybe his passing is just an April’s Fool joke. That would be so like him. And at 3:00 I could turn on the radio, “Devil with a Blue Dress” by Mitch Ryder would come blazing out of my speaker and I would hear “The Real Don Steele is alive, ALIVE!”

He is in my heart. And always will be.