More About Donation to Marietta College
I spent weeks painstakingly sifting through a lifetime of scripts I wrote in Hollywood, television shows, movie scripts, stage plays, TV commercials and print ads from my days on Madison Avenue. My Alma Mater, Marietta College, flew out two impressive representatives to pick up the collection and drive it back to Ohio. Here is an inventory of what their students will have access to.
Produced Television Shows
THE COSBY SHOW – 1985 – 1990
Included are 190 annotated drafts, revisions, notes. During my time as writer/producer, The Cosby Show was the number one rated program for five consecutive years, a feat accomplished only twice in the history of television. Its impact on American culture was immeasurable. The New York Times, in an article examining the phenomenon of a black man, Barack Obama, rising to the Presidency of the United States, concluded, “The Cosby Show had succeeded in changing racial attitudes enough to make an Obama candidacy possible.” In South Africa, during the height of repression, The Cosby Show was the most popular television program among white viewers. Many historians believe that the show’s universal human appeal so changed global perceptions of the black family, that it had a mitigating impact on the eventual end of apartheid.
THE WHITE SHADOW – 1-7 – 1979
THE WHITE SHADOW – 2-1 – 1979
I’ve included nine file folders filled with various annotated drafts and story outlines, including one for an episode titled “Airball,” based on a script I wrote about an airplane crash landing I was in. The episode was directed by Jackie Cooper, who stopped by my office to tell me he was surprised that my name wasn’t included on the final credits. I also received no credit for a story I outlined involving the Harlem Globetrotters, though the show’s producers did invite me and my nine-year-old son to hang out with the legendary basketball team on day of shooting. Being that these were my first television assignments, I was grateful for the money they paid me, and chose not to arbitrate.
ANGIE – #60432-022 – 1979 – final draft
Included is a file folder filled with annotated drafts and story outlines. I received this assignment via two spec scripts I wrote for hit comedies “Rhoda” and “Taxi.” Angie creator Gary Marshall, and the ABC executives were so entertained by Doris Robert’s blue-haired old friends playing cutthroat penny-ante poker, rumor had it they were considering a spin-off. One sitcom under my belt and I almost had my own television show, commonplace today, but unheard of back then.
FAME – #2709 – 1981 – final draft
Included here are five file folders filled with annotated drafts, outlines, and studio notes to producer Bill Blinn. Though it was rare back then for a writer to be hired on comedy shows and dramatic, I found a niche in both.
REMINGTON STEELE – #2722 – 1983
Included here are seven file folders filled with annotated drafts, story outlines, TV Guide listings, and Christmas party invitations. This assignment came about circuitously. The creator of “Bret Maverick,” starring James Garner, read my spec screenplay “Backdoor Man,” and hired me to write three episodes. Unfortunately, midway through outline one, the show was cancelled, and I was out 0f work. Fortunately, one of the Maverick writers was hired by a new detective show starring Stephanie Zimbalist and a handsome young actor named Pierce Brosnan. Soon I was called into the office of Supervising Producer Glenn Gordon Caron, pre-Moonlighting, who bought my story idea of con man Brosnan’s mentor coming to town and causing havoc. The producers hired Stephanie’s father Efrem Zimbalist Jr. to play the part of Daniel Chalmers in a recurring role.
IT’S NOT EASY – 1-4 – 1983
Final drafts and two file folders filled with annotated rewrites, outlines, casting headshots, and a xerox copy of a storyboard I created for the opening credits. This doomed comedy, created by Jim Brooks alum Patricia Nardo, was cursed from the start. Original star Gerald McRaney was yanked from the show to return to his detective series Simon & Simon. Then co-star Larry Breeding, a talented actor I cast for one of my commercials, was killed in a car accident. Though the show was eventually recast and placed on ABC’s fall line-up, it never clicked with TV watchers. One consolation came in the form of another writer on It’s Not Easy, Carmen Finestra. Carmen and I worked together on several other shows, and it was Carmen who one day would pull me in on a surprise comedy sensation called The Cosby Show.
HOTEL – 2-15 – 1984
Included are a second draft script plus a file folder filled with annotated rewrites, story outlines, notes, and production schedules. I’m still not sure why I was hired to work on Hotel. The show was a primetime soap opera oozing with scandal, romance, melodrama, a genre I had absolutely no experience writing. Nonetheless, the powers-that-be at Aaron Spelling Productions read my screenplay “Back Door Man” and put me on their list of qualified writers. I was regularly called in to the Spelling production offices for private screenings of new pilots in development. Even though I never remotely felt comfortable with the Spelling soap opera style of writing, I was once again hired to write for one.
GLITTER – GL – 010
Included are a Spelling final draft along with a file folder filled with annotated story outlines, revisions, and handwritten scenes that, to me, illustrate the frustrations of a writer grappling with the challenge of adapting to a highly successful but foreign writing style. Unfortunately, to my ninety-year-old Aunt Martha, it was my style of writing that was way off base. Aunt Martha once chided me in her nursing home, “Don’t give me that crap you like to write. Give me some sex. Give me some violence. Those are shows I want to watch.”
PUNKY BREWSTER – #0108 – 1984
Not much here but a first draft and a final draft. I knew very little about this show before they hired me, but once situated, I found writing the script fun.
GOODBYE CHARLIE – 1985
Another disappointing loss for Patricia Nardo, but an unforeseeable win for me. Goodbye Charlie was a remake of a Debbie Reynolds movie now starring Suzanne Somers. The network was so sure that this was a hit show, they gave Pat Nardo a budget to hire writers and begin preparing scripts for the fall schedule. One morning Carmen Finestra knocked on my door. He’d just received an offer from a new series called The Cosby Show and they wanted him to move immediately to New York City. I told Carmen that he’d be making a huge mistake. Goodbye Charlie was destined to be an enormous hit, much bigger than the upstart Cosby Show. Unfortunately, Carmen chose Cosby, and since Goodbye Charlie wasn’t officially picked up yet, he was free to go. A month later Carmen called me, “Want to come to New York? Bill Cosby is firing nearly every writer, but you’d fit in perfectly.” I scoffed, “Trade Goodbye Charlie for an eight o’clock family show? Not a chance.” A few days later the fall lineup was announced. Goodbye Charlie was nowhere to be seen. The network passed on the show, and we were all out of work. Moments later, my phone rang. It was Carmen, “Now do you want to work on The Cosby Show?” Soon I was on an airplane to New York, where I remained as one of the main writers for five years. For anyone curious, I’ve included two first drafts I was paid to write for Goodbye Charlie. Proof that for a screenwriter, there’s no such thing as “unproduced.” Every word on paper can lead to something extremely productive.
Television Pilots Purchased By ABC, NBC, CBS
OOPS ALLEY – NBC – 1979
Annotated outlines, scripts, story development. A comedy series about a husband, wife, and their children struggling to keep afloat America’s last family-owned bowling alley.
THE NATIONAL COMPLAINT DEPARTMENT – NBC – 1979
Pilot script and three file folders filled with annotated drafts, outlines, and index cards. For generations the President of the United States has promised citizens a voice in their government, and he finally delivers. Now there’s a Treasury Department, a Defense Department, a State Department, and the newest government addition run by a roomful of average Americans, the Complaint Department.
YOU’RE ONLY YOUNG TWICE – PARAMOUNT – 1982
Included are annotated scripts, story outlines, revisions, and character breakdowns. A crotchety old man dies and is given a second chance at life. He comes back in the body of a young boy, but, unfortunately, with the same crotchety old-man brain. It’s going to be a challenge for him to learn how to act as a normal, fun-loving kid, especially when he’s forced to sneak off to enjoy his favorite cognac and cigars.
BUGS RUNYON – CBS – 1990
First draft, second draft, file folder with annotated revisions, notes, outlines. Davis Runyon has spent a fortune putting his sordid past behind him, building a vast estate ala the Kennedy compound, grooming his son for the presidency, taking on high-publicity charity causes, like housing juvenile delinquents that, unfortunately, know all too much about his checkered past, his illegal deeds, and his loathed, secret nickname, Bugs.
MAMA YAMA AND THE FISHMAN CHILDREN – NBC – 1990
Three annotated rough first drafts, two first drafts. A comedy series that could easily be called “Auntie Madonna.” Two children, orphaned after their parents die in a plane crash, move in with their next of kin, the most outrageous female rock star, clueless, but well meaning, about how to tame her wild lifestyle and take on her new role of “mother.”
Movie Script Deals
THE CONVENTION AFFAIR – UNIVERSAL – 1983
Annotated script, revisions, story outline, notes. After being scrutinized by multi-levels of executives reading my spec script “Back Door Man,” I was approved to write this screenplay about men at a business convention going wild. The next day I met with the producers and pitched a twist, “Instead of men at a business convention going wild, make it women at a business convention going wild, too wild, as attested to by the attached seven-page list of complaints by the Department of Broadcast Standards and Practices.
THE BUILDING – WARNER BROS. – 1986
Annotated drafts, notes, outlines, a studio project report, and notebook with a hand-written first draft. It’s the oddball tenants of an old New York apartment building versus an avaricious developer harassing, intimidating, trying to evict everyone by making the building unlivable. Chaotic tenant meetings make it look like this ragtag group of lowlife, has-been, never-was don’t have a chance to defeat their merciless enemy with his team of crack lawyers. However, by cleverness, will-power, and a touch of dumb luck, they rally through impossible odds to keep their beloved, dilapidated building.
BACK DOOR MAN – JAY WESTON PRODUCTIONS – 1980
Annotated drafts, outlines, notes, rewrites of my first spec screenplay. A truck mechanic in an isolated farm community rewrites the classic romantic poets and passes his versions off to love-deprived women. Hours after writing Fade Out, a fellow writer asked to read it, passed it on, and instantly I was signed by a feature film agent at International Creative Management. Soon my life looked like a scene from Robert Altman’s “The Player,” 9:30 am pitch meeting at MGM, 2 pm pitch meeting at Paramount, 4 o’clock pitch meeting at Universal. Producer Jay Weston gobbled up Back Door Man, swore to get it made, but didn’t. Nonetheless, my consolation prize was entree to the highest levels of movieland, writing assignments on other people’s projects, and, very important to a recently divorced and broke drifter, money.
There is an online database called IMDb that gathers, and lists credits taken from the crawls of produced movies and television shows. Actors, writers, directors can click a search box and up will pop, with almost pinpoint accuracy, their names along with every time they appeared on screen. It’s an impressive feat carried out by pop culture buffs and dedicated volunteers. However, for most creative people that slogged their way through the swampland of getting discovered, getting hired, getting hired again, IMDb only tells a fraction of the story. In my case, IMDb states that I was a writer/supervising producer of The Cosby Show, true, and, also true, writer of Fame, Remington Steele, The White Shadow, and that I received a Writers Guild of America Award and a Primetime Emmy Award nomination. But what IMDb fails to show are the countless stacks of speculative manuscripts I killed myself to complete yet garnered no appreciable recognition, production, or monetary gain. And so, with respect to the fruitless work I did on these projects with utter conviction of their worldwide success, I’d at least like to name them in their memory.
THE ISLAND OF MAN
PANAMA’S ACCOUNT OF THE MATTER
JACK DU SOLEIL
ON WORKING FOR MONEY
MEG & BLU
THE LAST FREE MAN ON EARTH
Produced Stage Plays
BY GEORGE – STAGE DOOR THEATRE – 1982
Annotated notes, drafts, programs, sheet music. A Gershwin revue starring Teri Ralston (Company), Tucker Smith (West Side Story), musical arranger Paul Horner (Peggy Lee). Excellent critic reviews caught the attention of Ira Gershwin, still alive, who sent his young assistant, Michael Feinstein, future Ambassador of The Great American Songbook. Years later, I sat next to Michael at a dinner party. Famous now, he still remembered By George with great enthusiasm.
HARD LAUGHS – SANTA MONICA PLAYHOUSE – 1985
File folders filled with annotated drafts, outlines, call sheets, programs, reviews. Based on The Warm-up, memoir of comedian Sammy Shore (founder of the Comedy Store), the play centers on Sammy, played by Ron Palillo (Welcome Back Kotter), fighting off demons of doubt minutes before going on stage as opening act to the celebrated comeback performance of Elvis Presley. Hard Laughs began as a two-week engagement that was extended for seven months.
& SONS – THE ACTORS STUDIO – 1993
Annotated scripts, drafts, revisions, correspondence. A dark comedy about three brothers, irreparably damaged by their recently deceased father, struggling with their torments to run their inherited father’s business. Starring Studio veterans Jerry Stiller, David Margulies, David Garfield, Kelly Curtis, and original member Salem Ludwig. While I have many framed accolades from my writing career, on the wall facing my desk hangs the cast list of the Actors Studio staging of & Sons.
HIM AND HIS LAST NIGHT OF SANITY – GROVE STREET PLAYHOUSE – 1997
File folders with annotated scripts, revisions, notes, programs. A one-person play that takes a man from the edge of the ever-expanding universe to the very depths of earth’s magma. While the theatre was packed for every performance, my accountant just shook his head, “I don’t see a penny in this one.” A famous producer attended, attended again, then again. One night I asked him, “You’ve seen the play three times. Are you thinking of taking it to Broadway?” He shook his head, “No. I just like it.”
AS IS THE MOTHER – DOWLING COLLEGE THEATRE – 1995
Annotated scripts, drafts, revisions, programs. A play that raises the question, what’s worse, a father that brutalizes his children, or a mother that doesn’t protect them. Because of the harsh portrayal of a mom and daughter locking horns, I asked the college not to advertise that I’d written for family sitcoms, concerned that audiences would come expecting an evening of light gags and jovial fun. However, the college insisted on publicizing my credits. I was sitting in the audience on opening night. Nobody knew I was there. At the end of the first act, people were in shock by the ruthlessness between the two actresses, no more so than two women sitting in front of me. One of them turned stunned to her friend, “Well, this certainly isn’t The Cosby Show.”
THE WE/ART IN HEAVEN – WAREHOUSE THEATRE – 2015
Annotated script, revisions, fliers. This is a two-part theatrical event. One, “The We:” Fifty spot lit yellow ledgers floating in black space, each ledger containing a pencil sketch of a person accompanied by a hand-written entry pinpointing his or her painful inner flaw. The audience is invited to read the ledgers and get to know the people. Two, “Art in Heaven:” A full-length one-person stage play about the lone spirit, Art, whose job it is to send people in the ledgers to a heavenly repair shop designed to fix any and all human imperfections. Unfortunately, the repair shop has been out of service for eons, and Art, though not trained for this, is vexed with the impossible task of trying to help incalculable damaged souls. By the time I wrote “Art In Heaven,” I’d been a professional scriptwriter for years, and worked with countless stars that garnered the lion’s share of fame and glory for work I’d originated. Now was the time for some comeuppance. I decided to play the part of Art myself. For several weeks I nearly killed myself performing the role, every night more terrifying than the one before, staring face to face at a frightful audience. From that point forward, when someone asks if I mind that actors get so much attention, I answer definitively. “No,” I insist, “The actors deserve every speck of notoriety they get. If not more.”
AND THEN – STAGED READING IN A MOTEL CONFERENCE ROOM
Annotated scripts, revisions, correspondence, notes. A play about a wife and husband who’s either the sanest man on earth, or utterly insane. My shining moment. Tad Mosel, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright (All the Way Home), said this about And Then: “Monumental. God on stage. The most devastating end of a play since Long Day’s Journey into Night. It’s what we strive for as writers but rarely achieve.” Tad’s praise was my Pulitzer.
Message From The President (of NBC)
Favorite All-Time Television Show
The Museum of Broadcasting
Emmy Awards Invitation
Madison Avenue Memorabilia
Before launching into what turned out to be a notable career in Hollywood, I had a notable career on Madison Avenue. After creating a homemade portfolio of speculative print ads and television storyboards, I was hired as a full-fledged copywriter at legendary advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather. Between the ages of twenty-three and thirty I wrote and produced so many popular commercials I was rewarded with a series of titles, Creative Supervisor, Creative Director, Vice President. Unfortunately, the titles alone weren’t enough to pay for some unexpected financial difficulties, explaining the true motive for my jumping ship into the turbulent waters of Tinseltown. Still, my memories of a young man working in the grown-up world of international advertising remain fond; living for weeks at the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, traveling to Paris to shoot wine commercials, being handpicked to present my work to the master himself, David Ogilvy. Hmm. Hollywood. Madison Avenue. Which was the acme?
The Fight Against Inflation
Nationwide Is On Your Side
TV Commercials (click to watch) https://youtu.be/ON-0RZZBUe0