I've been looking back on my adventure in Hollywood, culling pages from my journal...
As August 1991 drew to a close, things were still tumbling around. My Hollywood connection, Kevin, wanted a progress report on the re-write of “Jingle Bell Blues” (the old title of the now-former Pee-Wee Herman script) as he had a pitch meeting with William Morris coming up. He also wanted to pitch a cable comedy featuring comedy troupes (like Style Without Substance), which came out of that comedy festival he attended with me a year earlier. He wanted me to put together a list of groups for him.
Mid-August 1991, word comes in from Hollywood. Kevin wants to know how the “Magic” script is coming. Again. Once that’s out of the way, he remembers to tell me that “Kringle” is being sent to the William Morris Agency, as well as a couple of other places. But mostly he wants the “Magic” script.
Bill, from “Party” calls to assign me some bits to write. I note in my log that this is a good sign because the writer meetings have generally been without form. I write that some “kid” on the staff seems to have made an impression on people and might wind up as an on-screen character (“Oh, well.”)
So, Warner Brothers liked my script, but it was decided to pass the script directly to Paul “Pee-Wee” Ruebens, who promptly got arrested in a Florida porn theater. From the time the story first broke on a Friday night (as my family & I were packing for a weekend getaway) until that Sunday night (when we came home), the details trickled out and they were not happiness-inducing.
Just a few days later Kevin called with news: the Warner team read the script and liked it, but they didn’t love it. They were on the fence about it. So Kimberly, who now no longer worked for Warner, told Joel & Bill to send it to Paul Reubens. An end-run. They did just that, sending it to Reubens’ agent. The idea was that if Reubens and his people liked it that would be enough to push Warner off the fence. Or entice Rueben to set it up elsewhere. Or just option the damn thing. In the meanwhile, Bill and Joel were still all set to send out the Flebber version of the script to others as soon as the option expired. Not good news, not bad news, just different news. “Stay tuned,” I noted.
6/24/91; the one-year anniversary of my Hollywood odyssey, Staten Island branch.
Kevin called. Kimberly liked the script. Thought it was better, funnier (huh?). Anyway, it was on the weekend read list for the studio folk with (we assumed) Kimberly’s recommendation. She'd be leaving at the end of the week (so how much would her recommendation even mean at this point?). Besides, the option would expire two weeks afterward.
Mid-June I spoke with Kevin. He really loves the script (“so what else is new?”). It’s funny, but still “too simple.” They really have a problem with a clean through line on a comedy. Caught some typos, wanted line changes. He was editing speeches that had been there from the beginning drafts. These things are never finished. Then he brings up “Brain Donors” again.
I received the script at the end of May. Naturally, there was a call with Kevin. I was trying to save some of my actual jokes. I was being told the bad elves had to go, too repetitive, too one-jokey, just not funny. Still have to reign in my clever scene descriptions, cut pages, re-work Elfis into a scene of his own.
I finished it all quickly, trying to give Arsenio (the new hip elf) a decent scene, which I didn’t quite pull off. Arsenio merely exists because I was told to put him there. He doesn’t have a personality yet. Maybe, I decided, to make him a bit of a smart aleck. It was all under consideration.
A few days later, when next we spoke, I told Kevin that the option on the script expired May 6th, 1991, only a few weeks off.
Meanwhile, I completed and sent them the 75 pages I had. I thought the story was more heavily plotted but not “as funny.” I didn’t trust my judgement at this point. I scribbled that I was hoping the script reverts back to the Nick Flebber version.
Just a few days later and I had finished the draft of “Kringle.” I dropped the final 1/3 in the mail. Now it was out of my hands…
It’s the end of the month (March 1991), about two weeks later from my last entries and I somehow built up the courage to call Kimberly the executive myself. I had 30 pages done on the Christmas script. It was taking on a life of its own; some of the same gags, but a different structure. I felt I was building up to the part I liked so I can skimp on the ending village stuff I hated.
Great vacation! Disney World with my wife and daughters. Along the way, I got to see an old friend who used to be with our old comedy troupe, Style Without Substance. He was (and is) working down in Florida at the vacation resorts. I write in the journal that I’m “green with envy,” but don’t mention what he’s doing. Here’s what he was doing: Mark was one of the bright spots of Style, but after a while he dropped out and headed to Florida. There he was performing on Disney’s Pleasure Island, their “grown-up” part of the park with liquor and where every night was New Year’s Eve (Usually around 10pm). The island has since been re-purposed a couple of times (Personally, I was suspicious of a resort island named after the donkey-inducing utopia of “Pinocchio”). But this early version of the island, this site of bars and restaurants, included a comedy club and Mark was part of the troupe that performed sketch and improve comedy. It was very impressive.
I wrote nothing else about the vacation because it wasn’t that kind of diary...
Freelance writer, still hacking away.