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?


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Roger Christian is well known to surf music fans (though I had no idea he was a DJ in LA).

Roger wrote the lyrics to several top flight Beach Boys tunes including "Don't Worry Baby", "Shut Down", and "Little Deuce Coupe".
He also co-wrote the lyrics for Jan and Dean's "Dean Man's Curve" and "The Little Old Lady from Pasadena".
And he wrote for Dick Dale and all of the Annette and Frankie movies.

Roger's frequent writing partner was Gary Usher. You'll see Usher's name on the Beach Boys' "In My Room" (one of my all time favorites), and "409".

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

RUMORS was one of my favorite Theater experiences. Laughed till it hurt.
The PLAY THAT GOES WRONG is another farce and it also is brilliant.

Wasn't every Three's Company some kind of low-level farce?

But Frasier did it the best.

Pat Reeder said...

When I was a radio DJ, I occasionally had to go to some new club to represent the station, but I never got paid extra for it. I guess they assumed that being able to go to the hot new club, get free drinks and play big shot was pay enough. Aside from the fact that I don't drink, am allergic to smoke, and hate crowds and loud, pounding club music, it was great. I liked being a radio DJ because it involved being in a soundproofed room by myself instead of in a loud, smoky, crowded club, as I had to do when I was working my way through college as a club DJ. I used my breaks to run cold water over my swollen eyes and go out into the parking lot to suck in oxygen.

The only job I could think of that was more solitary and anti-social than being a deep night radio DJ was writer, so that's what I became. It was either that or graveyard security guard.

PolyWogg said...

I have a question about off-set escapades. Does scandal / noise / etc. from the stars affect the writing or is that someone else's problem and you stick to the writing?

With today's "always visible" social media world, if a show star so much as burps in public, it shows up in an article somewhere; but sometimes there is real noise, with drug use, divorces, affairs, etc. Most of the actors say "Hey, we're professionals, it doesn't affect our work", but that is spin, not reality. But I'm curious how off-screen events, escapades, or even just "life" of the stars impacts the writing process, if at all. Is it just "mood" or do you actively consider, "Can so and so pull this line off when everyone thinks they're a d-bag this week?".

I confess I thought of it as a Q reading one of those stupid click-bait articles about "things shows had to deal with" like drug addictions, police arrests, etc. I'm separating out things like anti-Semitism or #MeToo offences, thinking more about personal life intruding into the show. I am not sure how you can answer, given that I'm not expecting you to reveal "secrets" or anything. Hmm...maybe a second / alternative question is about how you deal with life interfering for the writing team, a softer work/life balance question?


Unknown said...

Speaking of ways DJs can make money, Steve Dahl has a subscription podcast. Of course, that is recent, not long ago. He keeps popping up on the radio in Chicago for a year or two, then goes back to his basement. IMOHO, he hasn't changed in decades, same ol stik, nothing new. Tried to listen to him during his prime, but never got the groove. But his success speaks for itself.
Speaking of DJ pay, Steve Dahl during his prime, made millions a year. So he had that going for him. He is not a robot.

Unknown said...

In regards to film editing. What happens if they scratch the film? What if they cut the film in the middle of a frame? Are there multiple copies? What about some outdoor background scene, are there multiple of them to be used a different points in the show?
Being a photographer, always afraid of ruining A picture (while movies are many pictures), and there are only 1 negative for that photo.
Thank you,

Andy Rose said...

Having a piece of acts he promoted was also what got Alan Freed (and very nearly Dick Clark) into trouble. Federal law says an air personality can't promote something he has a personal financial interest in unless he discloses that on the air.

Frank Beans said...

Thanks for the answer, I appreciate it. I can only imagine how much of a miracle it was to edit all that film, week in, week out. And the results were feature-film quality.

Like a lot of people, I first watched MASH in syndication, where the edits were often so chopped up as to be incoherent (I remember MAD magazine doing a parody comparing the lost film to surgery in OR). Watching the intact show on DVD has been a revelation.

Todd Everett said...

Having a piece of acts he promoted was also what got Alan Freed (and very nearly Dick Clark) into trouble. Federal law says an air personality can't promote something he has a personal financial interest in unless he discloses that on the air.

Alan Freed was listed as co-composer on many songs that he probably had less to do with than Roger Christian did on "his" hits. Some of Clark's many extracurricular involvements were less subtle than others. He had a music publishing company called Sea-Lark, for instance.

Lemuel said...

I wasn't a fan of Dahl while I lived in the Chicago area. I do remember, though, seeing an article that he got fired from his station for playing BS&T's "Spinning Wheel" after reporting that someone had fallen to his death from a ferris wheel.

Dr Loser said...

I think that was very much Ken's point. And if it wasn't, it shoulda been.

workplace innovator said...

Speaking of farces, one of my all-time favorite episodes of Cheers was Woody and Kelly's wedding, where Sam and crew were hired to tend bar. Ken, did you work on that one? It was masterful: drinking, fighting, door slamming, physical jokes, running gags, a dead body that keeps popping up, etc. It played as well as "Noises Off" or "The Play That Goes Wrong" - both of which I saw on Broadway- and was edited as beautifully as "Bringing Up Baby."

Andy Rose said...

@Unknown: In the film cutting days, the editor would not handle the original reel. He or she would get a low-quality work copy that had serial numbers on the edge of the frames.

The work print could be sliced and diced indefinitely since it was not meant to be seen on-air. The final taped-together reels would go to a "negative cutter" who used the reference numbers to make identical splices in the camera negative using film cement (and unavoidably destroyed many frames in the process). The cemented reels would be color corrected, developed, and combined with the final soundtrack mix to make the master print.

I've never heard of an editor or negative cutter damaging a reel beyond repair, but I have heard of some scenes that have been ruined due to film mishandling by others. Sometimes the scene must be reshot entirely. If an irreparable error was made by the film lab, their insurance will cover the cost of the reshoot.

DrBOP said...

Simply to put the payola subject in a larger historical context, these links will help:

Freed didn't start the fire, but he did "perfect" it.

It was acknowledged in the radio industry from the invention of the occupation of DJ's (the late 1930's) that they would never be paid much in lieu of the perks that would be associated with the position. (I know Ken..."WHAT perks? ;>) The 1959-1960 Congressional hearings into payola were a convenient but ineffective way to stop the cross-over of black-inspired R&B music into the segregated white world.
They were about 10 years late to that party, and judging by the state of payola in the 1970s (and still happening in our digital universe), a complete failure.
Except for ruining Freed's life. Bastards!

James said...

I lived in Chicago in the late 70s and early 80s. He fronted a band that played bars and played songs that parodied rock songs. He did a version of pink Floyd's the wall, which has a line it: "another brick in the wall" and "teacher leave that kid alone". These became in the Steve Dahl version, "just another kid in the crawl" and "John Wayne gacey leave that kid alone". There was something also about the beached whales of brolingbrook

I'm scarred for life.

Pidge said...

Over 50 years ago, the British National Theatre did a tour which came through Toronto. We saw Sir Larry, Sir Edward Hardwick, Geraldine McKewan and possibly also newbies Anthony Hopkins and Albert Finney (they are listed in the London original cast) perform an impeccable ‘A Flea in Her Ear’ by Feydeau. I am not speaking metaphorically when I say the audience was rolling in the aisles. There were a few times when I thought I was going to pass out from laughter.
Nothing I’ve seen since...and I’ve seen em all, has come close.
However, there were a few Frasiers that came close to close and for that, I humbly thank you.

Breadbaker said...

A Friday question:

I was watching Cheers, Season 1, Episode 7, Friends, Romans, Accountants, an episode written by you and David, of course. In the episode, the bar was filled with accountants as extras, nearly all of whom never said a word. At the end of the episode, when they're hoisting Norm for having told off the boss, the band is playing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow", but no one is singing, which honestly feels unnatural. Was this because if the extras opened their mouths they'd be paid more and that would blow the budget? I imagine in Season One of Cheers, it was difficult enough to get that many extras into an episode, as the show was hardly a hit.

Chris Thomson said...

Hi Ken

Bit of a left field one. Partly just to show you a quirk from the BBC years ago, as thought you might find it interesting/humorous. Recently it came up that the makers of Dr Who were no longer allowed to use the 55 year old, most iconic enemy of the protagonist, the Daleks. Apparently 55 years ago the writers in effect got "ownership" of their creations, and the BBC couldn't agree to a new price to use it.

Just wondering if there had ever been anything like this in the US.

It would have been a writers dream as the Daleks are massively popular and the bloke must rake in the merchandising money.

Chris Thomson said...

By recently I mean new reboot btw

msdemos said...


Ahhhh.......WLUP back in the day (late 70's and early 80's), with Steve (Dahl) & Garry (Meier), Johnny B. (Brandmeier), and my personal favorite of all of them, Kevin Matthews (and his alter ego, Jim Shorts!).

I was their prime demographic (late teens through early 20's during their time on that station) , and The ONLY time in MY lifetime that radio was EVER "appointment listening" !!

Never before, and not since, was ANYTHING on radio EVER close to being as consistently entertaining as it was with this particular lineup of guys....