Lord knows I have mixed feelings about Pee-Wee Herman (as explained here) but his death this week really affected me. He was a running reference in my family. My dad "portrayed" him at family picnics, when we did family shows. My kids enjoyed the shows and movies (until the whole Christmas thing). We imitated him. Paul Reubens was a guy who hustled and made a career for himself and just stood out from the crowd. And at one point I spent months writing in his voice, attempting to imitate his style and humor for Warner Bros. I really thought I had done a good job of it. Granted, things didn't work out back then and now his passing suddenly shuts a door of (possibly imagined) opportunity. Or the chance to ever tell my story to him. I mean, I friended him on social media. I linked my blog posts to him several times. No reaction. And now I'll never know if he was even aware of my existence. He was a creator and writer, and I hoped there might be a connection there, but no more.
I've been going through some old scripts, working on a new project, and I stumbled across this sketch. I have no memory of writing it and had forgotten it existed. I took the character Pee-Wee Herman and combined him with the classic "Playhouse 90" series from the 1950s. How boomer can you get? So, it's scenes from the old teleplays that were broadcast on CBS and adding Pee-Wee to them. This was for TMI:Hollywood, and they were a generation younger than I and the sketch wasn't selected. I didn't think of it as topical, but now I see how any sketch, topical or evergreen can have an undetermined shelf life. Ideas age, references fade into the past, personalities pass on. So, because I have little else to do, here's my sketch:
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.
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…
Back in March 2016, a new multi-media platform was about to launch. A podcast, radio show with written articles on line to support the on-air hi jinx. It was a new comedy, The Morning Kvetch. And they needed experienced kvetchers to supply material to the website. Enter me. I had a number of rants and rant-like bits that could be re-worked to fit their site, so it seemed like a good thing. No pay but EXPOSURE!
Yeah, not so much. Granted, my contributions to the site started to wane as the year progressed but I was very much surprised to find out the site no longer exists. It's just a Go Daddy placeholder denoting the domain name is available. Gone, all gone. So, I'm going to drag them out and post them here from time to time. So, let us present:
I've been looking back on my adventure in Hollywood...
* * *
90% Finished! That’s what Kimberly the WB exec said.
It’s now the beginning of October. Kevin calls. They finally met with Kimberly and she flipped for the script. She was “wowed by how I both altered the script and plot points and captured Pee-Wee’s character” (That’s right, I did that). BUT it’s only 90% finished. A “few small scenes here and there.” A “little editing.” They want it down to 90 pages (I forget how many pages it was 110? 115?). They want a “subplot” with the elves, Trinket and Tweedle (um, okay). They want to introduce the villain O’Kiley earlier (“So we can hiss." Sure). And add the PI, Nick (Add Nick???).
Well, as I was saying before the holidays interrupted us, I've been looking back on my adventure in Hollywood...
Things were quiet during September. Except for one big milestone. Paperwork arrived from the Writers Guild of America. Based on the information that Warners had submitted, the guild sent me the application to join. Finally, I’d be a card-carrying member of the Writers Guild. Talk about validation! Except...
I've been looking back on my adventure in Hollywood...
It was the end of July, a week after my last entry, when I finally wrote again. I had sent the script. Kevin and Joel read it. Loved it. I had impressed them with the speed and quality. We were then waiting on Bill’s input. At that point we would have to decide if we were passing the script to Warner (They thought it was that solid), just give Kimberly the Executive a look-see or start some changes on our own, like punch up the Lumberjack scene to be as funny as the Square Dance scene. Change the elf Truman’s characterization (he was a bit fey and maybe out of place in this version of the story) and some other odds & ends.
While attempting to keep a regular journal of my trip to Hollywood and its aftermath, it would be two days before I made a new entry to my diary. It was to say that the legal papers had arrived plus Les the Lawyer called to follow up. I learned the Warners’ lawyer is located near where I work in Manhattan (“Maybe when they cut the check I can just run over and pick it up. Ha-ha.”). Les is covering all the bases on this script sale; payments for daytime serial rights (wha?), credit-based bonuses, extra 1st-class tickets for travel if needed. On 7/20, I finished and printed out a full draft of “Pee Wee’s Christmas Caper” (Yeah, we never did settle on a title).
Freelance writer, still hacking away.