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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving "Thenks".

I may have mentioned it before, but my sister Leslie has always been a prime mover when it comes to adding color to the language.
I'm not talking about the kind of accidental drivel that comes out of Sarah Palin's mouth when she invents words like "refudiate".
No, I mean deliberate, intelligent attempts to improve upon and colloquialize the language.
As Readers Digest described it, "Towards More Picturesque Speech".

She has not been without influence.
At some point, in the early 70's, she took it upon herself, at least in private, with me, to eliminate the word "thanks" from the English language.
And replace it with "thenks".
For purely comedic effect.
In public situations, she remains a civilian.
But we essentially have our own code language between us.
So since the 70's, "thanks" has never been uttered between us.
It's always, and often, been "thenks".

Yesterday was my sister's birthday, and I've mentioned before that every year I call her on her birthday as some celebrity imitating our Yiddish grandmother singing "Heppy Boiseday to You".
Continuing with that tradition, this year it was Bob Hope's turn.
In an unusual left turn for me, I decided to write a completely new set of lyrics to "Thanks For The Memories", interspersed with "Heppy Boiseday To You".
And every "thanks" was turned into "thenks".
It did not go unappreciated.

So I've now opened up "thenks" to the general public.
Maybe it's a propos, since today is Thenksgiving.
Feel free to adopt it for your own use if you care to.

It's also gotten me to think about how much thenks I feel I owe my readers.
You've all been very generous to me with your compliments, and your loyalty.
My Stat Counter gives me a pretty good idea of where my readers are, how many of you there are, how often the same ones keep coming back, and how much time they devote to reading me.
I'm flattered, and very pleased that I've apparently given so many of you so much pleasure.

So this is my Thenksgiving shoutout to my most regular readers.

I don't necessarily know whether continual hits from one location means that it is one person reading.
Maybe it's more than one member of the same family.

Anyway, I'd like to single out regular readers from Syracuse New York, Philadelphia Pennsylvania, Anniston Alabama, Hawthorne, Calabasas, Lake Elsinore, and Oxnard Calfornia, Roswell New Mexico, Midlothian Virginia, Ocoee Florida, Brevard North Carolina, Cleveland Ohio, North Las Vegas, Nevada, Saugus Massachusetts, and Herrin, Illinois.
You all know who you are, and I, for the most part, don't.
I'd like to.

Anyone of you who would like to make yourselves known to me can e-mail me at

There is also a large Los Angeles and New York contingent whom I would also like to hear from, particularly if you are in show business.
I seem to have a regular reader from the YES Network (The New York Yankees network).
As I am in New York quite frequently, maybe there are press passes or seats for Yankee games to be scored.
Just a thought.

I'd like to once again say thenks to Mark Evanier, Ken Levine, and Leonard Maltin for steering so many of you here in the first place.

And finally, I'd like to say thenks to my beloved Game Players.
The stalwarts who show up every weekend to play the Name Game that I've invented.
The fact that they keep coming back means that there must be something right with the game.
And that I can go four days a week without having to write essays.
I derive huge laughs from observing the game, as I imagine you have too.
And I take some pride at helping to develop their comedy writing skills.
Not that they need much help.

This blog has become quite meaningful to me.
I've already made some lasting friendships from it.
Not necessarily the kind you have on Facebook.
Real friends.
So please communicate with me if you feel the urge.

I know that there are many people who feel that they already have enough friends.
I'm not one of them.

Heppy Thenksgiving, all.


Monday, November 22, 2010

And Then I Wrote....(2)

Please open your hymnals to last Thursday's post, "And Then I Wrote" if you need a refresher course on the setup for "Welcome To Fleckmans", the title song I wrote for a TV pilot I wrote for a show that starred Rita Moreno.

Here are the lyrics, with commentary to follow, explaining the visuals that accompanied it:

Wel-come to Fleck-mans
We want you to have some fun
Wel-come to Fleck-mans
The checkout time is at one.

Stay here at Fleck-mans
If you left, you'd be a fool
Welcome to Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool

We've got a BAR,
We've got some volleyball courts
And we've got GOLF
For all you outdoor sports
Have we got FOOD (yum, yum)
It's tasty and it's fancy
And all of this for thirty dollars a night
Double occu-pancy!

Wel-come to Fleck-mans,
We're awfully glad you can stay
Have fun at Fleck-mans
But please remember to pay

Wel-come to Fleck-mans
Where "Whoopee" is the rule
Welcome to Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered POOL

I love America!
And Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool

Okay. There's the brilliance.
The titles consisted of fast cutting of sequences, mostly shot on location at a resort, actually much nicer
than Fleckmans was depicted as.
The intent was to portay chaos and cheesiness.

Whenever we got to the line "Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool", we cut to a sign that said just that.
The original line was "We've got some handball courts", but this resort didn't have any.
But they had volleyball courts, hence the change.

On "We've got a BAR, we used an overhead shot of a table with a mans legs sticking out from under it.
On "And we've got GOLF" we depicted an old duffer trying to hit out of a sand trap, missing the ball and trying to break his club.
On "Have we got FOOD", we cut to a sign that said in large letters "CHOPPED STEAK, and 'SALISBURY STEAK'
Then we cut to the worlds dirtiest, and hoariest kitchen commandeered by an unshaven Victor Buono as the chef.

"Thirty dollars a night" would certainly have to be adjusted for inflation, even for cheesiness.
Yes, I actually rhymed fancy with Double Occu-pancy.
To my knowledge, no one has ever done it before or since.
For good or ill.

On "but please remember to pay", we see guests checking out, a suitcase opening by accident, revealing stolen silverware and hotel towels.
"Where 'Whoopee' is the rule'"----a fistfight breaking out at the ping pong table.

"I love America"------originally, it was "God Bless America", sung with the same notes as Mr. Berlin intended just before "my home sweet home".
When the legal department at CBS spotted it, they nixed it, on the grounds of potential plagiarism, and/or treason.
I just thought it was homage. I altered the notes, just enough to stay out of trouble.
Anyway, on the line, we briefly cut to the American flag on a flagpole waving in the breeze.
The last visual that matched the lyric was Rita attempting to rescue someone drowning in the pool, only to be pulled into the water herself.
I thought it was all quite effective.


I know that as I write, it is still the anniversary of the JFK assassination, and I wanted to write about that today, but I did have unfinished business to take care of.
It's been 47 years.
I guess it can wait one more day.

Manana (It's good enough for me).


Thursday, November 18, 2010

And Then I Wrote......

For my next and last number, I'd like to introduce you to a little ditty entitled "Welcome To Fleckmans".

A little background: Shortly after "Laverne and Shirley hit the airwaves and became this humongous hit, CBS wanted to get, as they say, "into bed" with Lowell Ganz and myself.
See, we, or at least me, were so young, and so dumb, that we actually thought that the industry finally figured out how talented we were.
They didn't figure out anything.
We were in the aura of an humongous hit.
Somebody figured out that we might have had something to do with it, since we shared "Created by" credit, and produced it.
Little did they know how right they were.
So even when they knew something, they didn't know anything.

CBS treated us like royalty.
We did two unsuccessful series for them, and two other unsold pilots.
After that, they treated us like commoners.

But over lunch in the CBS Executive Dining Room during our Royalty Period, the attitude was essentially "Whatever you want to do, we want to do it with you".
And the question was put to us "What star in the wide world would you guys like to work with?

After only a few moments of hesitation, one of us, I forget who, piped up with "Rita Moreno".
And the other quickly agreed.
Rita Moreno had appeared in one of Garry Marshall's failed pilots, which we helped out on.
Onstage, she simply oozed talent and professionalism.
Offstage, she simply oozed humor and charm.

Then they asked us "What kind of show would you like to do with her?
We, of course, had nothing.
We were not prepared for this line of questioning.
We tapdanced a little until one of us, I forget who, recalled that we had wanted to do a series that took place at a Catskill-type Mountain Resort Hotel.
We ad libbed a pitch where Rita was the social director of the place, a rather run-down version of a Catskill resort hotel.
She inherits it when the owner dies, and is faced with being the boss after spending her whole life as an employee
Was she up to the challenge?

CBS lapped up everything we were saying, and gave the go ahead for a pilot.

We had done a series called "Busting Loose" for CBS, which lasted a year, and along the way, did an episode where the five young guys who comprised the "gang" in "Busting Loose" go on a Singles Weekend at the Hotel Fleckman.
This episode was mentioned in my post "The Kid In The Papoose"

So what we basically wanted to do was spin off the set.
We still had the set, so it was easy to do.
We surrounded Rita with very funny people like Louis Nye and Victor Buono.
And creatively, I thought it was quite successful.

We were going to base the stories on Lowell's actual experiences at his grandparents' Mountain Resort, which was called "Mountain View Hotel and Day Camp".
The sign at the entrance read "Mountain View.Hotel and Day Camp. Filtered Pool."
So of course, that's how everyone referred to the place:
"Mountain View Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool".

This gave me a natural hook to the title song.
We changed the name of the hotel to Fleckmans, were going to call the show "Welcome To Fleckmans", and in the song, I was going to repeatedly refer to it as
"Fleckmans Hotel and Day Camp Filtered Pool."
Because Rita was a Latin from Manhattan, and a Forty-Second Streeter, I decided to give the song a calypso beat.
With soft guitars in the background.
Because of time constraints, a calypso beat proved to be too slow.
We had to speed it up, to the point where it sounded like a TV or radio jingle.
It worked that way, too.
It wasn't until this point that Rita had actually glommed on to what I was trying to do with it.
But, trouper that she was, she put it over in grand style.

I said that today, I was going to introduce you to "Welcome To Fleckmans".
I believe I have fulfilled my duty in that regard.
But after what might seem to be a rather long-winded but necessary setup, I'm going to postpone putting up the actual lyrics until Tuesday, because I still have too much to say about how the song was put together, and how the visuals matched the lyrics.
So if you're still with me on Tuesday, you might want to harken back to today's article as a refresher course.

I hope to see you then.

Next Tuesday (It's Good Enough For Me).


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Let's Hear The Brilliance.

I've mentioned before that I have worked with the writer Sheldon Keller.
Sheldon was on Sid Caesars writing staff in the 50's.
The show aired live on Saturday night, and on Monday morning preparations began for next Saturday's show.
And on those Monday mornings, the writers were supposed to be prepared.
To at least have ideas to be tossed out.
And a lot of the times, that's what they were.
Tossed out. By Sid.

According to Sheldon, those meetings would always begin with the writers being assembled in the writers room, Sid then making his grand entrance, sitting down in his throne-like chair, and announcing to one and all:
"Okay, let's hear the brilliance." "Come on, let's shovel out some of that brilliance".
And he expected to be accomodated.
And he usually was.

Recently, I wrote a couple of posts about Stephen Sondheim's new book of his lyrics, in which I patted myself on the back because he agreed with me about several things.
I also mentioned that I myself had dabbled in songwriting for the title songs of some of my TV shows.
This elicited a couple of e-mails, both making the same request, although differing in tone.
One went "I'm very curious about your songwriting. I think it would be nice if you printed the lyrics to the songs you wrote for your TV shows".
The other essentially went "Okay, smarty-pants, if you're such a hotshot, let's see the lyrics that you turned out."
It was a version of "Okay, let's hear the brilliance".

These are two approaches to the same reasonable request.
Quite a while back, I printed the lyrics to a song I wrote that led to winning a college competition when I was 19.
It was called "Horseradish", and can probably be easily found with some Googling.
But by the time I was writing title songs for my TV shows, I had matured.
I'd already reached the ripe old age of 31.

I am going to honor these two requests today and tomorrow by presenting two of my TV title songs for your possible enjoyment.
Presenting lyrics without the music is certainly not the easiest way to accomplish this.
Sondheim had the same problem in his book.
But I will try to be as descriptive as I can to recreate the sense of these songs.

The first is the title song from a pilot I did called "Lovebirds", which was basically an attempt to do an updated version of "The Honeymooners". It involved a blue-collar couple who lived downstairs from a white-collar couple.
It had the tone and the rhythms of "The Honeymooners", and its world famous hostility.
If you do your job conscientiously, you try to match the song to the titles, or the titles to the song.
They are not separate entities.
Unlike "Taxi", for instance, where you saw a taxicab driving over a bridge and heard a piccolo.
That certainly portended what you were going to see.

In the case of "Lovebirds", the song was written first, and the titles were created to match it.

The song has a leisurely up-tempo pace, and was sung by Bobby Van, who is probably best remembered as the host of "Make Me Laugh".
More's the pity. Bobby Van was a great song-and dance man
I thought it was good casting.
I'll try to present the song to approximate its rhythm as accurately as possible, and capitalize words that required particular stress and high notes.
Here goes:

They call us the lovebirds.....
No one's
More in love than us lovebirds......

When you
See us billin' and cooin'
You won't say "What are they doin'?"
You'll know because
We're the never lonely, the two and only
We'll always be lovebirds.....
We're gonna be lovebirds,
Forever more........

Para-keet, Ca-nary, or Dove,
You won't find no bird that's in love
Like us lovebirds, lovebirds,
We adore.......
EACH other we're the lovebirds,
Lovebirds, how sublime......
IT is 'cause we are lovebirds, lovebirds all the time....."

The titles that we matched to the song began with the blue collar couple's wedding, where the bride tossed the bouquet to her friend, the female in the white-collar couple.
Cut to: the White collar couples wedding,
Cut to; much bickering among the four of them, which served as a nice counterpoint for the song.

It wasn't until weeks later that I realized that I had miscast Bobby Van.
He brought a natural sophistication to the lyric.
A lyric that was very colloquial.
It should have been performed by someone who had a sense of relaxed funkiness that would have matched the lyric better.
Someone like Jack Sheldon.
You know, Jack Sheldon. the trumpet player-vocalist who has turned out some wonderful vocal CD's and is probably best remembered vocally as the voice of the Bill on Capitol Hill on "Schoolhouse Rock"
He would have been spectacular.
I don't know if that would have made the difference in the pilot being sold, but it certainly would have improved the packaging.
When I demonstrated the song to the powers that be, I subconsciously was doing Jack Sheldon.
I wish it had reached the conscious level.

Tomorrow, I'll offer up another song and shovel out more of that brilliance.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Dick Cavett Should Speak Up Sooner, Then Shut Up Altogether.

I should warn you up front that in todays post, the rant level will be ramped up significantly.
I will be capitalizing words for loud emphasis.
That's the kind of mood I'm in.

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail from, inviting me to pre-order Dick Cavett's new book, "Talk Show".
Whenever you order a book from Amazon, they e-mail you to inform you that there are books that you might like based on previous books you've ordered from them.
I like when they do this.

I have read Dick Cavett's blog on the New York Times website since it began.
He writes very well, even though a lot of what he writes there are things he has written in his other books.

Amazon was offering a very good discount on "Talk Show".
So good that it required me to order something else to get the order over $25 to qualify for free shipping.
There was another book that also offered a good discount that sent the order over $25.
So I took a flyer and placed the order, hoping that Cavett wouldn't be repeating himself too often.

The blurb for Cavett's book was:
"Talk Show: Confrontations, Pointed Commentary, and Off-Screen Secrets."

Now I like confrontations as well as the next guy.
More, even.
And who doesn't like pointed commentary?
Off-Screen Secrets?
I live for them.

I received the e-mail informing me that the order was on its way.
In the interim, I read Cavett's current entry on his N.Y. Times blog.
It's an entire blog devoted to bellyaching about having to go out to the hinterlands to promote this book.
As someone working on turning my blog into a book, I would kill for the opportunity to go wherever necessary to hawk the shit out of my book.
If I wouldn't, I simply wouldn't make the effort to turn it into a book.
In this current entry, he mentions, virtually in passing, that this book is a compilation of his blog articles.
You know.
The ones that I have already read.
And that I'm now paying more than twenty bucks to have in my possession.
A word to Cavett: an off-screen secret can not still be a secret IF IT HAS ALREADY BEEN PUBLISHED!!

So he's complaining about having to promote a book he didn't even have to WRITE.
From the Motion Picture "Boy, He's Got It Tough".

There was no indication on the Amazon page about the book being a compilation of the blog articles.
Nor is there one now.
Now I must make it clear that I don't blame Amazon for any of this.
For two simple reasons: If I get my book published, I don't want to piss them off.
And I don't want any problems with my customer account.

No, I place the blame purely on the little shoulders of Dick Cavett.
I don't care if I piss him off like crazy.
It behooved him early in the process to place the information on the Amazon Page, and on the Borders Page, and on the Barnes and Noble Page that THIS IS A COMPILATION OF ARTICLES I HAVE READ ALREADY!
That MANY people have read already!

I can't believe that I am alone in this dilemma.
I imagine that many of his potential pre-order readers were culled from the people who read his blog regularly.
His blog appears on the N.Y. Times website, where there are many, many readers.

I have now had to deal with Amazon to try to get a refund. They don't provide a customer service number on the website, and you can't access it from Toll Free Information.
It'd been like trying to follow a buried treasure map to find them.
Finally after several jousts, where conflicting information was offered, I was able to return the package.
And of course, I couldn't open the package to retrieve the other book that was in the same box, so I had to return that too, and have to re-order it.
Somewhat of an inconvenience.

If and when I get my book published, I feel that it behooves me to relate to the potential readership that these articles were once published in my blog.
Right on the Amazon page.
Anything less than that smells of chicanery.

I undersand that my complaining about what Cavett did might seem as insignificant as Cavett complaining about having to hawk his book in the hinterlands.
The difference being that if I don't get my refund from Amazon, Dick Cavett owes me twenty four bucks.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sometimes I Don't Affect History.

It's the late 70's.
I'm sitting in my office at Paramount, during my tenure working on one of my one-season wonders, and I receive a letter.
It's from a woman I knew in college named Sue Hyatt.
We hung out in the theater department there.
We weren't close.
But we were close enough that she felt comfortable enough to write to me years later, and I was receptive enough to read her letter.
It contained a request not untypical of the kind of requests I was receiving in those days.
She had a younger brother who was trying to make it as an actor.
Would I be willing to meet with him, and offer him whatever advice I deemed appropriate?
Would I perhaps even give him an audition?
Is it okay if he called you?

I thought to myself that all of this was okay with me.
But for whatever reason that I can no longer recall, I didn't feel the need to respond to Sue.
I guess I thought that if her brother called me, I'd talk to him, advise him, and even audition him.
He never called me, and I guess I'd just completely forgotten about it.
Maybe Sue thought I was just blowing her off.
That wasn't my intention.
I guess I just thought that by my not saying "No", that it was all okay with me.
Maybe I just wasn't thinking.
In any case, I never heard from Sue's brother, so I never talked to him, advised him, or auditioned him.

Cut to: about ten years later.

I'm at the McCarran Airport in Las Vegas.
A place I'd been to a lot.
I'd just arrived from L.A.
I'm at baggage claim, waiting for my bags.
I see someone I know, waiting for his bags.
Airports are the easiest places in the world to run into someone you know.
It's a guy I knew in college.
Also from the theater department.
Turns out he does a lot of Audio Video work at concerts and shows in Vegas.
He lives there full time.
We cut up old touches, and chat for a while.
We share a cab to my hotel.
We agree to have dinner that night.
He continues on home in the cab.
Over dinner, he tells me that he currently has a houseguest.
Ron Jeremy.
The pornstar.
Now, everyone who does porn is considered or considers him or herself a pornstar.
Nobody considers him or herself a porn actor.
Certainly not a porn supporting actor, or a porn character actor.
But few of them are genuine pornstars in the traditional sense of the word "star".
Ron Jeremy was a genuine Pornstar.
He was and is legendary.
At least parts of him were and are.
I asked my college chum how he happened to know Ron Jeremy well enough that he was hosting him in his house.
He said "Remember Sue Hyatt?'
I said "Sure."
He said "Ron Jeremy is her younger brother."

Now here's an instance where if I had contacted Sue, and said I'd be delighted to meet with her brother, and advise him, and even audition him, it wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference to history.
Because Ron Jeremy was and is one of the worst actors who ever lived.
I would have discovered this if I had auditioned him, and probably would have advised him, as tactfully as I could muster up, to pursue other career paths.
He basically found that solution without my help.



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About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."