Friday, November 21, 2014
How About Chicken?
The two funniest things I ever heard about anyone saying were:
1) At a gathering of A-List celebrities at dinner aboard a yacht, one of the A-Listers initiated a game---"Who Has Met Whom?", thinking that at least one member of this group had met just about anyone that could be imagined.
His first question was "Has anyone met Eleanor Roosevelt?"
Immediately, Warren Beatty's hand shot up. "Actually, I met Eleanor Roosevelt."
From the furthest end of the table away from Beatty, another A-Lister called out to him.
"Did you fuck her?"
2) In the 50's a struggling young actor had to take a day job working at the soda fountain at Howard Johnson's, in Times Square.
He hated this job.
He hated the clientele, primarily made up of tourists.
He hated having to discuss with them the renowned 28 flavors of Howard Johnson's ice cream.
One afternoon, a middle-aged lady sat at the counter, trying to make up her mind about which flavor of ice cream she would settle on.
And she prattled on about it, finally asking the young actor what he would recommend.
With this being the backbreaker, he responded "How about Chicken?"
He was summarily asked by management to turn in his apron and his scooper, which he didn't mind at all doing.
The quotee in both instances was Mike Nichols.
Mike Nichols was a giant, in all respects.
A great wit.
A great performer.
And that rarest of rare things, a great director.
Both stage and screen.
One of the only directors to find sustaining success on stage and screen.
There was nothing about Orson Welles that was sustaining.
Elia Kazan found it, but he had other problems.
I'm not one to easily give out compliments to directors, as I regard most of them as complete hacks.
Writers, to me, are the visionaries.
So I exempt them when I talk bout directors.
Non-writing directors are, for the most part, merely camera pushers.
When I've tried to get my movies made, negotiations usually break down when some studio attempts to foist some hack director on me, rather than allowing me to direct it myself.
I would usually say something like "Look, if you can get Mike Nichols to do it, or Scorcese, or Francis Ford Coppola, I would gladly step aside. Past that, they're all hacks."
And my movie would go back on the shelf.
I want my movies to be made well.
I would much prefer my movies not be made at all than be made badly.
As great as his great ones were, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf", "The Graduate", "Carnal Knowledge", "Silkwood", "Working Girl",
"Postcards From The Edge", he also had his share of clinkers.
"The Fortune", "Heartburn", and I was not a fan of "Catch-22". I found it way too confusing.
But then I was never able to get past page 60 of the novel.
I think that Nichols understood that even a great director can't transcend a bad script.
He might have attempted to with those stiffs, but just couldn't get over the hump.
But even in the stiffs, there were almost uniformly great performances, and staggeringly great photography.
Nichols was clearly a hands-on actors director.
Even in "The Fortune", he put Stockard Channing on the map.
In "Working Girl" he managed to make me a fan of Melanie Griffith, who in subsequently lesser hands, virtually vanished from the screen.
Nichols was a great psychologist when working with actors.
Before "The Odd Couple" hit Broadway, they were a smash in Boston.
The cast, in previews in New York, was already settling in for a lengthy run.
First day of previews, Nichols completely changed the blocking.
This staggered and bewildered the cast.
Why is he doing this?
It made no difference, and it went on to be the smash hit that it was always destined to be.
When asked subsequently about the change of blocking, Nichols replied that he was worried about the cast getting too complacent, and they needed shaking up.
This also speaks to something I also believe in: the over-importance given to stage blocking in general.
Except for key moments in my plays, I have approached blocking as "just let the actors be comfortable on stage, and make sure that they don't bump into each other.
I've essentially taken my cue from Nichols, and his approach to "The Odd Couple"
I'll have more to write about directors as hacks in the future.
When Mike Nichols and Elaine May teamed up, they did this sketch called "The $65 Funeral".
It involved Mike, as the grieved relative, answering an ad for a $65 funeral, subsequently learning that absolutely nothing was included.
May asked "And how were you planning to transport the deceased to the church?
Nichols, bewildered by the question, replied ".....cab?"
He finally settled on the much more expensive Hearse.
Now that it's Mike's turn, I'd certainly like to think that Diane Sawyer is going to spring for far more than the $65 funeral.
At least for the Hearse.
He certainly came a long way from "How about chicken?".
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 and 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 not e-books.
But they are available for people without Kindle.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
And now, we've got my reading of my "Laverne and Shirley Movie" screenplay on YouTube, and my 4-hour interview at the Television Academy's Emmy TV Legends Website.
Here's the link:
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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."