Gary Kott


Writer and Producer in Hollywood.  Peabody Award, Writers Guild of America Award, NAACP Image Award, two Humanitas Prize nominations, People’s Choice Award, Emmy Award nomination.  Writer/Supervising Producer of The Cosby Show during its five consecutive years of number one ratings. Writer of pilots, movie scripts, and other TV shows including Fame, Remington Steele, Hotel, The White Shadow.  Previous career: Madison Avenue, Vice President/Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather, copywriter, Young & Rubicam, wrote and produced national television commercials and print ads. Playwright: Stage plays appeared at the Actors Studio in New York, the Grove Street Playhouse, and the Santa Monica Playhouse. Artwork: Original works of sculpture and paintings shown at multiple galleries and exhibitions. Guest speaker: Museum of Broadcasting in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Education:  B.A. Marietta College, Distinguished Alumnus Award.


When I was twenty-five years old, I was a copywriter at renowned New York advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.   While I enjoyed writing television commercials, I felt a need to create something more expansive.  One day a bizarre idea came to me.  While watching the evening news I noticed how easy it was to escape horrific images of war, murder, human suffering, simply flick to another station.  Thus was the genesis of Noose, my first crack at substantive fiction, though quite dark and disturbing.

One day at work my supervisor, who’d written and published three books, said to me, “Your TV commercials are more creative than expected.  You should take a crack at writing a novel.”  I answered, “I already have.”  He asked to read it.  I handed it to him, yellow copy paper, type-throughs, a mess, not uncommon in the days before word-processors.  A week later my supervisor walked into my office and said, “Your book is amazing.  Sick.  Depraved.  But wholly original.  Do you mind if I gave it to a friend of mine?” 

The friend was a famous crime writer, who read it, handed it to his agent, well established in the publishing industry.  The agent signed me, telling others that he discovered the next Kurt Vonnegut, classic counterculture, raw, darkly funny, satirical.  Unfortunately, the timing of my literary bonanza couldn’t have come at a worse time.  I was recently divorced, unhinged, broke.  A man I met had the answers to all my problems.

The man directed an independent movie that did okay in the United States but was a hit in Europe.  That led him to a major motion picture contract in Hollywood.   The man was free to choose the property of his liking, and when he read Noose, he chose that.  There was one nonnegotiable condition.  I had to drop my New York agent and start fresh in Hollywood.   I agreed.  What followed was a cyclone of personal and professional bedlam.  I was offered a job at another New York advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, hoping that the salary increase would help cover my mounting lawyer and alimony payments.  It didn’t. I was offered and accepted a job as Vice President/Creative Director of Ogilvy’s office in Los Angeles, again with hopes of relieving financial pressure.  It didn’t.

Marc Rubin, head writer of a new CBS television show, The White Shadow, convinced his boss, Bruce Paltrow, to hire me to write an episode of the hour drama.  Though I had no experience with the screenplay format, I did well enough to be hired again.  I quit my job and left the advertising business.  Soon, I was hired to write for an NBC show, Fame, then Aaron Spelling’s Hotel, Gary Marshall’s comedy Angie, Remington Steele, a pilot I created and sold to NBC, The National Complaint Department.  Things were moving so quickly I almost forgot that the fate of Noose had reached a dead end.  The movie was never made, I relegated the unpublished book to the bottom of my desk drawer.

Crestfallen, dreams of a literary career crushed, I began to write about a successful commercial artist, divorced, broke, hounded by lawyers, tired of making creative compromises, escaping to a deserted island in Tahiti.  Writing the book became jumbled, unfocused.  My Hollywood career continued to skyrocket.  I wrote a spec movie script, Back Door Man, that was quickly signed by a major movie agent.  My life began to resemble a character from Robert Alman’s movie, The Player.  Ten a.m., meeting with the head of feature film development at Universal Studios, one p.m., Fox, lunch with an Oscar-winning producer, four p.m. Paramount Pictures.

Back Door Man led to two screenwriting movie deals, one at Universal, another at Warner Brothers, a slew of additional television shows, five more television pilots, a two-year overall studio deal after five years writing and producing an enormous hit, The Cosby Show.  I also wrote a musical revue, By George, an evening of Gershwin with a cast of Broadway stars, a stage play, Hard Laughs, that ran for seven months.  My work in Los Angeles was rewarded with a Peabody Award, Writers Guild of America Award, NAACP Image Award, two Humanitas Prize nominations, People’s Choice Award, Emmy Award nomination.  I was a guest speaker at the Museum of Broadcasting and The Smithsonian Institution.  My college, Marietta, bestowed a Distinguished Alumnus Award.

I left Hollywood and opted for a quieter life back east.  I bought a house in Water Mill, New York.  There I continued to write stage plays, & Sons, As Is The Mother, Him and His Last Night of Sanity that were seen at the Actors Studio in New York, the Grove Street Playhouse, Dowling College Theatre.  I moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where I convinced myself that I could discover and write the hidden truth about Sin City.  I befriended casino heads, FBI agents, criminals, con artists, dealers of playing cards and dealers of drugs, former District Attorneys, mobsters, professional gamblers, professional cheats, handicappers, murderers, crooks on the Vegas blacklist, crooks still on the run.  How close did I come to discovering the hidden truth about Sin City?  I failed miserably.

I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where I continued to write stage plays, And Then, The Scent of Fresh Leather.   Married now to amazing Karen nee Rossman, textile entrepreneur, we split time between Santa Fe and Rancho Mirage, California.  It’s there that I wrote Art In Heaven, where, after years of being encouraged to act in my own stage plays, I finally took the plunge.  Karen became curator of my art collection, not things I bought, but things I made.  I started painting pictures and constructing found-object sculptures years earlier as a hobby to relieve pressure from my Hollywood screenwriting career.  I never tried to exhibit any of my artwork until Karen put her foot down.  “I don’t care what you say, I’m showing your artwork.”  What followed was a series of art events Karen produced in an industrial park, Think Stripe, The New Art of Modernism, Lyricals, others in uptown venues, a featured artist exhibit at Smith Vargas Fine Art, the Palm Springs Art Museum Artists Council, Animal Magnetism at the University of California, the Rancho Mirage Artists Studio Tour, the Leslie Jean Porter Gallery, the Palm Springs Art Museum Juried Art Show.

Finally, I retrieved from mothballs my two forgotten novels.  The first book was Noose, the unpublished one I wrote in my early twenties.  My intention was to give the book a rewrite by an older, more seasoned writer (me), but when I read it, I felt that the young author was so weird I left it entirely alone.  Book number two, The Master of Coconuts, I did extensive work on.  The novel follows a successful, battle-scarred artist searching for a noble new creative direction.  Artistic purity?  Or money?  Choosing the fantasy life of many frustrated artists, he chucks it all, escapes to a deserted Polynesian island, only to find that the pursuit of purity brings with it untold nightmares and challenges.


The sum of the parts of my writing career have now been bundled together and shipped off to my alma mater, a small liberal arts school in Ohio named Marietta College.  Included in the painstakingly organized boxes are scripts I wrote for television shows, pilots I sold to various networks, movie scripts I was hired to write, produced stage plays, TV commercials and print ads I wrote, plus personal memorabilia associated with all above.  My hope for the collection was twofold: 1) provide students with access to material they’d most likely never have an opportunity to see, 2) to demonstrate that it’s possible for a student to begin life in a tiny midwestern town and accomplish something in the creative world.

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