After we won our College Sketch Trophy, My father generously offered to help us become professional writers by passing on our material to his Limousine customers, who were guests on TV talk shows that he serviced.
This is covering old ground.
I noticed two things as a result:
Lowell became a lot nicer to me.
But when I showed him a 14 page magazine article I had written by myself, which I knew was really funny, and had quality, he dismissed it as being "One joke".
Others had read it, and had laughed hard on each of the fourteen pages.
But to him, it was "one joke"
I knew better.
Why did these two things happen?
They are inter-related.
It was all political.
He was nicer to me because I now represented a genuine opportunity for employment.
He dismissed the fourteen page article as "one joke" because he wanted me to feel dependent on him.
That I couldn't write by myself.
Of course, I was too politically naïve to recognize this at the time.
So we supplied material to various celebrities with TV shows, through my father, and landed the "Odd Couple" job pretty quickly.
Thus began a continuing endless saga of "People looking past Mark to get to look at and listen to Lowell".
I described Lowell as the best and fastest oral-verbal writer anyone has ever encountered.
This was very showy.
At the beginning, he wrote a lot funnier than I did.
But I wrote more intelligently.
It was also the beginning of what I describe as "Ganz Wrangling"
When he and I wrote together in our office, he was, in effect, a bucking bronco.
I had to ride him.
He would flail off in every direction, dispensing wit and shit.
It was my job to accentuate the wit and eliminate the shit.
It was easy to do.
Because I had taste, and he didn't.
So I did it with intelligence.
At rodeos, the bucking broncos are not the ones that win the prize money.
That's what goes to the riders that stay on them.
I once described "The little man inside me" that instinctively told me what would work on the page and the stage.
Much like Edward G. Robinson, playing an insurance investigator in the film noir classic "Double Indemnity", described the "little man" inside him, who could always spot a phony claim.
And Lowell relied on me and my little man totally for our collective intelligence and taste.
So my contribution was all done in the shadows.
Nobody saw my little man except him.
And by the time I filtered out the shit for him, he was ready to go out in public and dazzle people with the filtered wit.
That little man was first in evidence when we won our college sketch trophy.
The two guys who ran the completion watched one of our rehearsals and, as a result, begged and pleaded with us to withdraw from the competition.
That's how big an embarrassment they thought we'd be.
And I said to the main guy, "Sheldon, you don't understand something. We not only won't drop out, but we are going to win this thing."
How did I know this?
At the time, I didn't have a clue.
But I knew that we would win.
I knew that we were doing professional work, and that we were up against amateurs.
In retrospect, I now know that it was the result of the very first conversation I had with the little man inside me.
Once we began working on the Odd Couple, Lowell never wanted me to open my mouth in public.
I wanted to.
In his interview, he implied that I didn't want to.
Any time I tried, he'd cut me off.
Or talked even faster, so I couldn't compete.
Soon enough, I stopped trying.
We were so successful, so early, that I didn't want to rock the boat.
And I didn't realize how much it was hurting me.
He made such an overwhelming impression with his mouth, that I was soon relegated to the back seat.
Once we became Head Writers on "The Odd Couple", the first indication of my being looked past to get to Lowell was in Garry Marshall's office.
What should have been a trialogue invariably turned into a dialogue.
Between Lowell and Garry.
With Garry grabbing the reins of the bucking bronco.
Garry also had that little man inside of him.
He kept Lowell on story, which is what I did with Lowell in our office.
A bucking bronco doesn't need two riders.
So I was just left there to watch the rodeo.
I think it was the beginning of Lowell's self-proclaimed love affair with Garry.
It took a long time for Garry to figure out what to make of me.
This then extended to our writing staff, who were just as intimidated by Lowell as I was.
They weren't intimidated my me, because I didn't seem to do anything.
They weren't there in the shadows, where I was Ganz Wrangling.
And the Ganz Wrangling was at the cost of my own writing style.
I was accommodating HIS writing style, and we certainly turned out some great work together, but I never had the opportunity to write by myself, by just working with a yellow legal pad, in longhand, which I knew I could do, at least as well as whatever he could do by himself.
Perhaps less jokily than he could, but far more intelligently.
I made some minor noise about writing some scripts by myself, but Lowell was very discouraging about it.
And again, I didn't want to rock the boat.
Once we went on to be Producers on "Happy Days", and "Laverne and Shirley", Lowell pretty much made it mandatory that he was to be the public voice in ALL situations---Giving acting notes, editing notes, running the writers room.
Giving more people the opportunity to look past me to look at and listen to, him.
He demanded deference.
Or at least it was implied that he demanded deference.
By this point, it was pretty clear to me that he held my career by a string, sittin' on a rainbow.
And that he could end it with one snip of the scissors.
I was at his mercy, and I am convinced that he knew it.
This is as far as I want to go with this today.
Until next time, and there certainly will be a next time.
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.
The paperbacks, "Mark Rothman's Essays", and my new novel, "I'm Not Garbo" are available for people without Kindle.
I have many readings and signings remaining, and the thing about Kindle is you can't sign one.
If you'd like one, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne & Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube.
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- mark rothman
- 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 email@example.com. 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."