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Monday, April 29, 2013

The OTN. 2.

Not only are we generating an enthusiastic response to the OTN, but some controversy as well.

I received an e-mail from the great writer and blogster Mark Evanier:

"Okay, Rothman. Explain to me how "Harrigan and Son" could have been a
comedy knockoff of "The Defenders" when it debuted a year earlier."

I responded thusly:

Some weasel at ABC saw the original two-part "The Defender", which aired on "CBS's "Studio One In Hollywood" in
Two hours worth. Same premise. Same characters.
Three years before "Harrigan and Son"
Written by Reginald Rose, who was the creative muscle on what then became "The Defenders"
Starring, as the Prestons, Ralph "FDR" Bellamy, and Billy "Priceline" Shatner.
The weasel at ABC was impressed, and thought it could be knocked off comedically.
Okay, it's not likely, but it is plausible.


I do not go down without a fight. We needed Ruby Goldstein to separate us.

Your comments and suggestions have been most welcome.
And quite accurate.
But I still have plenty of nominees left to offer up.

I've got two today:

Around 1963, James T. Aubrey was named head of programming at CBS.
James T. Aubrey was known as the biggest prick in Hollywood at the time.
He was also known as "The Smiling Cobra"
He fired people with a big smile on his face.

One of his first acts as head of programming was to get into bed with, figuratively and probably literally, with the actor Keefe Brasselle.
Anyone remember Keefe Brasselle?
His big credit was that he starred as Eddie Cantor in the biopic "The Eddie Cantor Story".
It had come out in subsequent years that he had come out as gay.
So he probably had first hand knowledge of just how big a prick Aubrey had, er, was.
He wrote a thinly veiled, malicious, pure fiction of life at CBS, called "The CanniBalS"
His caps, not mine.
Subtle, hah?
Aubrey rewarded Brasselle with his own variety hour, "The Keefe Brasselle Show"
I remember seeing it.
It was an ego excursion.
I know a couple of writers with extensive variety show credits who worked on that show.
They described it as the low point of their careers.
They described it that way over and over again.
At the drop of anything.
Aubrey also offered Brasselle the opportunity to produce, or at least have his name listed in the credits as producer, on three other series that same year: "The Baileys of Balboa", "The Cara Williams Show, and "The Reporter".
Maybe it had to do with Brasselle flaunting his alleged Mafia connections.
The first two are certainly obscure, but do not deserve any consideration
"The Reporter" was set in New York, and I think was shot in New York, and had quality talent associated with it.
Jerome Weidman was the writing muscle on "The Reporter", and it starred Harry Guardino, always an interesting actor.
Another show that came out of Aubrey's stable that same year was "Mr. Broadway"
"Talent Associates, David Susskind's production company produced "Mr. Broadway"
Susskind always produced quality goods.

Craig Stevens. as we have well established, was a boring actor. And he played Mr. Broadway, in which he played a press agent.
I don't know if he was as boring as he was on "Peter Gunn".
I think I only saw "The Reporter" and "Mr. Broadway" once.
And my memories of them are very vague.
The only other press agent I recall being portrayed was Sidney Falco, at his greaseballiest, by Tony Curtis, in "Sweet Smell of Success", one of the great movies.
And he was brilliant.
I'm sure Stevens was far more upscale, thus far more boring.
Both shows went thirteen weeks and out.
"The Keefe Brasselle Show" lasted for less than that.
And it inflicted so much pain on those writers.
Imagine if it had gone a full thirteen.
Brasselle quickly faded from the scene after that, which perhaps casts doubt on his alleged Mafia connections.
Both of these dramatic series provide a major curiosity factor for me.

Those are todays entries.
I'm looking forward to more of yours.

Mark Rothman


My books ,"Show Runner" and it's sequel,"Show Runner Two", can be found at the Amazon Kindle Store.
Along with the newer ones, "The Man Is Dead", and "Report Cards".
You can search by typing in my name, Cindy Williams, Laverne & Shirley, The Odd Couple, or Happy Days.
Check them out.
You don't need a Kindle machine to download them.
Just get the free app from Kindle, and they can be downloaded to an IPhone, IPad, or Blackberry.
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I have many readings and signings lined up for those, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one. If you'd like one of the paperbacks, personally autographed, contact me at
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  1. I know this would be second or third hand but I'd be curious if you had any stories from those writers about working with Keefe Brasselle. I recently learned about his existence from Kliph Nesteroff's Classicshowbizblogspot and am fascinated to hear anything I can about him.

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  3. I don't know if you're familiar with a book titled "The Box" by Jeff Kisseloff.
    It's an oral history of American TV, a bunch of interview excerpts strung together into a loose narrative.
    In a section about TV variety, "The Keefe Brasselle Show" is covered in some detail, much of it from its producer, Greg Garrison.
    One story has to do with Garrison trying to get Brasselle to stop delaying his appearance onstage (" don't make your audience wait ...").
    Brasselle finally went on - but not before putting out a hit on Garrison.
    Garrison got this news from Rocky Graziano, who was a regular on the show, and who expressed displeasure at Brasselle's action ( "... crazy fuckin' wop ..." was his exact characterization).
    Garrison spent that night at Graziano's apartment, while Rocky spent several hours on the phone, "squaring" the matter with various people who were in the position to do so.

    That is a representative story, not only about Brasselle, but also of Garrison's many experiences over years of TV. It made me regret that Greg Garrison never got around to doing his own book.

    "The Box", the Kisseloff book I stole this story from, is worth tracking down.

    I can also send you to a blog called "Mystery*File", where I often contribute comments about ancient and semi-modern TV, mainly in the mystery/crime/detective genres; I expect that there will be a certain amount of crossover between here and there in coming days.

  4. Mike, I have read "The Box" It is a very good book.
    I have often referred to my late friend and colleague, the legendary Harry Crane, who was the head writer on the Dean Martin Show, which Greg Garrison produced. He told me that Greg and Dean were very much alike.
    Both of them were lazy and didn't want to work too hard.
    I think it showed.
    One of my eccentricities was that I was able to rattle off all of the first names of all the original Gold-diggers.
    I had the opportunity to perform this parlor trick in a social situation to one of the actual Gold-diggers.
    She, of course, then spent the rest of the night on the other side of the room, as far away from me as she could get.
    Speaking of hit-men, I am reminded of a great monologue joke that Letterman did when Sinatra was still alive.
    Sinatra was going into the mens neckwear business. This was true. According to Letterman, "They're planning to call it
    "Alleged Mob Ties"

  5. Ah, Keefe Brasselle. I remember when he wrote "The CanniBalS." A while back I found a clip on YouTube of him on the Colgate Comedy Hour. It's still there. And still jaw-droppingly awful, I'm sure. (I can't work up the nerve to watch it again.)

    I never saw "The Reporter" -- I was too young to be allowed to stay up for it. But it looked interesting and now, having spent 30 years in the newspaper business before bailing, I'd be interested in seeing it.

    I do remember "The Baileys of Balboa" and Cara Williams' show.

    My family kind of liked "Baileys" -- it featured Paul Ford, Sterling Holloway and, as their nemesis, the great John Dehner (who also did a good job of playing Paladin on the radio, not to mention his guest roles on "Gunsmoke"). Perhaps the material was weak, but these pros were fun to watch.

    We liked the Cara Williams show less, and I've been wondering lately how it was that Frank Aletter managed to co-star in practically every sitcom that was on the air when I was a kid. Or at least it seemed that way.

    But there was one small, saving grace about the Williams show: a secondary character, a dippy jazz musician named Fletcher Kincaid, played by the great Jack Sheldon, who (I was later to learn) was (and still is) a real and really good musician. There's a recent documentary about him that I hope to see at some point.

  6. I have that whole "Colgate Comedy Hour" on videotape.
    The more you watch of it, the more you hate it.
    I understand that Cara Williams was one of the great impossible people to work with, a la Keefe Brasselle.
    I wrote a post about Jack Sheldon.
    I think it's still on the blog.
    He's had a stroke.
    I don't know if he's recovered well enough to play the horn again.
    The documentary was great.

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  11. Does anybody have any recollections about French dancer Noelle Adam on the 1963 Brasselle variety show?

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  13. There's a chance you are eligible for a complimentary $1,000 Amazon Gift Card.



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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."