April 2017

April 30, 2005

April 30, 2005

Jack and Mary deNove, my sister Janet, me and John
Jack and Mary Denove, my sister Janet, me and John

I met Mary Bennett my first quarter at UCLA, when we both snuck into an encounter group for depressed Sproul Hall residents. (Neither of us were depressed enough, according to their survey – we must have hidden it well.)

Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969
Mary Bennett, Cowgirl. in the Sand, circa 1969

Ten minutes into group, we cured our depression by deciding to be roommates. I did take the precaution of checking out her LP collection first. When I discovered that – like me – she owned Mason Williams’ obscure first album, it was a done deal. I’ve never regretted it.

Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975
Mary (bridesmaid) and Jack at my wedding in 1975

Mary met future husband Jack Denove before I met John but they married five years later. Apparently they weren’t quite as impulsive. Since Mary and Jack went to Loyola Law School and J was in law school at USC, they were one of the first couples we socialized with. Mary and I served as bridesmaids in each other’s weddings and John eventually joined their law firm – now Bennett, Cheong, Denove and Rowell.

Jack & Mary

I didn’t know Karen Stuart well but I liked her. John worked for her husband, Tony Stuart, before joining Mary and Jack. In this instance, my first instinct was correct. I shouldn’t have let Karen read my book without doing a rewrite. Since writers generally get only one shot – one read – I should have made sure it was as good as it could be. This is Not My Beautiful Wife, the novel in question (title taken from the Talking Heads song Once in a Lifetime)  wasn’t ready.  Karen was kind and gave me  useful notes, but this once in a lifetime opportunity was over.

John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong's wife - Wilkie must be behind the camera - me)
John, Jack, Mary, Becky Miller Cheong (Wilkie Cheong’s wife – Wilkie must be behind the camera – me)

Maybe one of these days I’ll pick it up and try again.

April 28, 1968


April 28, 1968

My nuclear family circa 1968
My nuclear family circa 1968

It’s difficult if not impossible to convey what life was really like in 1968 to people who weren’t even born then. IMHO, most films set in the sixties are cliched embarrassments. The best was “The Big Chill” but even that was nothing like my reality.

I never considered running away. My father made a concerted effort to stay close. He would sit beside me and listen attentively to both sides of a new Beatles album – not to censor my music but to stay connected to my world. He took me – my opinions, my passions – seriously. Since I was still a self-involved child, it never occurred to me to exhibit similar interest in his music. My loss.

My father and I on my Confirmation Day.
My father and I on my Confirmation Day.

Baby boomers like me – teenagers in the late sixties – weren’t all about sex, drugs and rock’n’roll although “revolution” was in the air. My friend JoAnn, an aspiring model, had been obsessed with appearances – her personal revolution was reflected in a new craving for more authentic relationships.

My friend JoAnn
My friend JoAnn

The times exerted a powerful effect on Tal Pomeroy, who drew a high number in the draft lottery. One of the smartest boys at Wilcox, he was successfully challenged in his efforts to help me grasp the periodic table of the elements.  He didn’t take a traditional route to his eventual M.D. like he might’ve in the fifties. Instead, he criss-crossed the US, worked all manner of jobs and got to know all kinds of people. Along the way, he handwrote long beautiful letters which could never be condensed to a text or tweet.

Tal Pomeroy
Tal Pomeroy

I’m grateful I came of age in the sixties. Were they better or worse than other times? I don’t know – but I doubt any other era could be as interesting.

Coming of age in the sixties

April 26, 1996

April 26, 1996

Malibu ShoresUnfortunately, this was the first and last cast party for Malibu  Shores – eight episodes aired on NBC at 8 PM Saturday nights before we got cancelled. It makes me feel a little bit better (but not much) that our time slot was referred to as the “Tower of London” – where shows were sent to await execution.

Malibu Shores TV

Pull the plug

Malibu Shores TV - OFF

This was my only experience on staff at a TV show. At first, it was a huge shock to my system – we were expected to work in the Aaron Spelling offices from 9 AM until midnight or beyond (plus weekends) if necessary. Eventually, I adapted and grew to love it right around the time it ended. The time pressure could be as exhilerating as it was exhausting. It was gratifying to see what we wrote produced as soon as copies could be made instead of enduring the uncertainty of casting-contingent MOWs (also referenced above).

Charisma Carpenter
Charisma Carpenter

For the millions who never saw a moment of Malibu Shores, Charisma Carpenter was cast as the ultra-bitchy queen bee popular girl. She played the part perfectly – no one came  close to her reading in the casting process – which was truly a testament to her talent for acting. In person, she was delightful, friendly and unassuming.

Charisma Carpenter, Queen Bee
Charisma Carpenter, Queen Bee
Keri Russell
Keri Russell

Keri Russell was also terrific in the lead role, which she also nailed with a sensational audition.

Star-crossed Malibu Shores teen lovers Keri and Tony
Star-crossed Malibu Shores teen lovers Keri and Tony

I love to watch her brilliant, nuanced performance on The Americans today and remember the beautiful sun-kissed teen she played on Malibu Shores.

 

April 24, 1966

APril 24, 1966

Santa Cruz Beach postcard
Santa Cruz Beach postcard

This is another one of those splendid spring days Sandy and I shared, when not a whole lot happened. I  probably wouldn’t recall it at all, if I hadn’t written it down (and I think the beach photos posted here might’ve been taken today). I can’t imagine what we found so hilarious about “Rockin’ Robin” – we were probably punchy after a day in the sun and surf with our best friend. As usual, my perennial fear made it into the mix – “I bored her” – but Sandy’s mother was sweet and reassuring.  We were both barely fifteen years old. It was a good time to be young in a city like Santa Cruz.

Sandy on the beach
Sandy on the beach

For whatever reason, my family didn’t go to the beach a lot, at least not that I remember. Our family outings – rare on Sundays, a working day for my Lutheran pastor father – more often than not took us to Mt. Cross (a Lutheran Bible camp in the mountains) or a local tour of model homes. We weren’t looking to buy – we lived in the parsonage, which was owned by the church – but we loved to pretend we were moving into our own house. My sisters and I competed over who got the best imaginary bedroom.

Me circa 1966
Me circa 1966

I haven’t been to Santa Cruz in decades but I’m sure – like the rest of the Silicon Valley – it’s nothing like the Santa Cruz I remember. I invite anyone who reads this and has been there recently to share their impressions about how it’s changed – what it’s like today.

Sandy and me on the beach.
Sandy and me on the beach.

Is the boardwalk still there?

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

The roller coaster?

Roller Coaster

April 22, 1974

April 22, 1974

Looking back, it’s clear I over-reacted. At 23, I had yet to master the art of accepting rebuke – or any kind of criticism, really– without bursting into tears. Sometimes all it took to trigger the waterworks was a personal remark from an authority figure. Now that I’m old enough to be an authority figure myself, it happens less but I haven’t conquered it entirely.

Near tears face - and yes, I know this dress is ridiculously short, but that's what we wore in those days.
Near tears face – and yes, I know this dress is ridiculously short, but that’s what we wore in those days.

I never could have worked for one of the notorious screaming Boss/Producer from Hell types in Hollywood.  My tendency toward tears is one reason – but not the primary reason – why. I do not – and never will – respect an adult who behaves like that, regardless of their “talent” or “power.” Anybody who loses control of their emotions and inflicts damage on underlings is somebody I do not want to be around. (Just to be clear, this isn’t what happened in the above diary entry. Roger Corman wasn’t a screamer. Even when annoyed, he exhibited the self-control and class of a gentleman. I reacted inappropriately.)

Roger Corman - Tears

These standards were ingrained in me by my father and mother, who always behaved like mature adult parents, never regressed to childish bullies having a tantrum. I don’t recall either of them ever screaming at us, let alone heaping on invective. They didn’t need to, which might at least partially explain my over-reaction to Roger. Growing up, I could sense parental censure in the subtext of “Please pass the salt.” I craved their approval so much that no screaming was necessary, the mere threat of their disapproval did the trick.

"She cries easily" face again
“She cries easily” face again

Given my lack of experience with open anger let alone rage, maybe it’s not surprising that an authority figure who “spoke sharply” might upset me enough to quit.

April 18, 1982

April 18, 1982

J settles down after the shock (talking to Jake Jacobson)
J settles down after the shock (talking to Jake Jacobson)

For John’s 30th birthday, I threw him a genuine surprise party (with a little help from my friends). I’ve never done it for anyone else and no one has ever thrown one for me. I’m not sure how I’d react. Given my social anxieties, probably not well.

Anne Kurrasch and future law partners Mary and Jack deNove
Anne Kurrasch and future law partners Mary and Jack Denove

There were a few logistical hiccups. We were leaving for Hawaii in a few days but – to avoid going to work – J told his boss, MPR, he was leaving today. I couldn’t advise him against this without spoiling the surprise even though – since I’d already invited his office staff including MPR – everyone knew he lied. Fortunately, they had a sense of humor.

J with his boss MPR
J with his boss MPR

The party lasted well into the following morning, as most did back then. Turning thirty was a big deal. Only yesterday “Don’t trust anybody over thirty” was a catch phrase. How could people as young as us turn thirty? What happened to our twenties?

Mary Bennett deNove, Anne Kurrasch, me, Joyce Salter
Mary Bennett Denove, Anne Kurrasch, me, Joyce Salter

Decades later, thirty no longer sounds old and the question is different. What happened to our thirties, our forties, our fifties? Before long, we’ll know what Paul Simon meant when he sang “How terribly strange to be seventy.”

J and I with Joyce and John (forever young) Salter
J and I with Joyce and John (forever young) Salter

I don’t feel like I’m fifty, let alone sixty, so I can’t possibly contemplate seventy. I doubt I’m alone here. Almost everyone my age eventually says something like, “I know I don’t look my age.”  I assure them it’s true even though it’s patently false and they do the same for me.  In my mirror, I don’t look my age either but it’s meaningless. In my own eyes, I never will.

J doesn't seem to age

J doesn’t seem to age either, at least not until I see him – or myself – in photographs. There, the truth is revealed. Sometimes I don’t spot myself at all because I’m looking for someone younger. Sometimes I wonder how my mother snuck into the picture. Why are photos so much crueler than the mirror?  Someone out there knows the technical reason. Maybe they can also explain where my thirties and forties went.

Where did our thirty and forties go?

April 13, 1994

April13, 1994

She led two lives_edited-1

 It’s exciting when a script goes out for casting. The Helios Movie of the Week, “She Led Two Lives,” ended up starring Connie Selleca.  The project I was about to travel to Texas to research didn’t get made. A disproportionate number of research trips took me to small towns in Texas, probably because a lot of stories ripe to be turned into TV movies occur in  small Texas towns.

I knew a lot about small Iowa towns - like Graettinger, my father's home town.
I knew a lot about small Iowa towns – like Graettinger, my father’s home town.

These were heady, exciting times but some of my weaker diary entries. Today’s entry reads like a call sheet. Mentions of J and my family are cursory, I didn’t record any adorable things the kids said or profound observations from my dad. In retrospect, I wish I’d filled these pages with personal anecdotes and quotes from my family instead of tracking blips on the radar of my career.

Summer days with the kids.
Summer days with the kids.

This leads to a bigger regret – I wish I’d spent more time with my children when they were young instead of obsessing about my next writing assignment. The writing doesn’t matter much now but I’d give anything for a few days with Chris, Sam and Alex when they were thirteen, six and five. (Maybe not thirteen, that was rough.) In my dreams, they’re always five or six.

Summer with the kids

Before I feel too guilty or too sorry for myself, I should add that I was lucky. I wrote at home, not in an office, and I could make my own schedule. To all intents and purposes, I was a stay-at-home mom who could volunteer at their school or scout troop, pick them up if they got sick in the middle of the day etc. Maybe I took all that time for granted and that’s why I didn’t value those years enough. I hope to do better when and if I have grandchildren.

With CD. It would be nice to have a baby in the family again.
With CD. It would be nice to have a baby in the family again.

 

 

April 11, 1988

April 11, 1988

Art Everett, the Hostess with Horrible Hair, Russ Carpenter
Art Everett, the Hostess with Horrible Hair, Russ Carpenter

The Last Emperor Best Picture

Amazingly, one of our guests this evening would win his own Oscar ten years from now in the very same venue (the Shrine Auditorium). It wasn’t amazing because he lacked talent, but because Oscars aren’t easy to come by. Our friend Art Everett’s friend Russ Carpenter (pictured, above and below) received the Cinematography Oscar for “Titanic”  in 1998. (Cinematography Oscar for “Titanic”)

Sam fascinated by the feathered fan.
Sam fascinated by the feathered fan.

Bernardo Bertolucci - Best Director

Terry McDonnell, Joyce and John Salter
Terry McDonnell, Joyce and John Salter

The rest of us are still waiting.

Michael Douglas - Best Actor

Cher- Best Actress_edited-1

John Salter, Judith Russell, Terry McDonnell, Joyce Salter and Jon Crane (cut off)
John Salter, Judith Russell, Terry McDonnell, Joyce Salter and Jon Crane (cut off)

Sean Connery - Best Supporting Actor

Olivia Dukakis - Best Supporting Actress

 

 

 

 

 

J, Sam, Judith Russell, Terry McDonnell
J, Sam, Judith Russell, Terry McDonnell

Adapted Screenplay

Original Screenplay

 

 

 

 

 

Art Everett, Judith Russell, Russ Carpenter
Art Everett, Judith Russell, Russ Carpenter

Babette's Feast - Best Foreign Film

April 8, 1973

April 8, 1973

Image from "The Top 25 Film Schools in the United States 2014."
Image from “The Top 25 Film Schools in the United States 2014.”

The extreme competition for a toehold in the entertainment industry makes it a major challenge. That, plus the fact a lot of people assume there’s nothing to it. Most people would never attempt to perform brain surgery or extract wisdom teeth because they’re not trained professionals – but when it comes to acting, writing, directing, everybody’s an expert. Some people are right, they’ve got what it takes. Most are wrong; they fail to realize the craft and hard work involved in making it look easy.

Me around 1973
Me around 1973

For years, industry experts have claimed that if you write a great script, it will be discovered but I disagree. I can’t prove it but I suspect a lot of great scripts die in the drawers of discouraged writers unable to get a read from somebody with enough power to help.

Link to a YouTube series by Michael Akkerman, one of my current students at Columbia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClffzUrRDXk
Link to a YouTube series by Michael Akkerman, one of my current students at Columbia. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClffzUrRDXk

I got my big breaks from professors in college – notably Bill Froug and Shelly Lowenkopf – who liked my work and recommended me to agents. That’s my first advice to anyone who wants to break in. Take a class, impress the professor, make friends with him, her or anyone else with connections. The seminar’s bottom line advice was correct for its time –  networking (“hanging around”) and exuding confidence are your best bet.

Link to "Life as a Mermaid" a web series my current student Faith-Ann Bishop and former student Ryan Brennan have both contributed to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhhRQ8-sIZc&t=41s
Link to “Life as a Mermaid” a web series my current student Faith-Ann Bishop and former student Ryan Brennan have both contributed to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhhRQ8-sIZc&t=41s

To a certain extent, YouTube and other on-line venues level the playing field. If your short film goes viral, it doesn’t matter if you live in Kansas and don’t know a  soul in Hollywood. They’ll find you.

Marketing
Marketing & Branding are essential to success.

I hate the word platform but it can’t be ignored in today’s market. An ability to market and brand yourself is invaluable. These subjects weren’t taught when I was in film school and I’m not sure they’re taught today – but they should be.

April 6, 1976

April 6,1976

Family Plot

The introvert in me resists going out, particularly when it necessitates small talk with people I don’t feel comfortable with (the other NBC secretaries). However, when I commit and follow through, I tend to use my remaining time more wisely, like the example above. Since I understand this dynamic intellectually, you’d think it would be easy to make commitments to leave my house but it’s not.

My NBC ID card
My NBC ID card

My usual excuse – which I fully believe when I use it – is that I can’t go out and socialize because I have too much writing or organizing to do. At any given time, this is true. A truly overwhelming amount of desperately-needed organization has been hanging over my head for at least thirty years. It doesn’t get done even when I prioritize it. I live for the day it’s complete – it would be fantastic to be unencumbered by clutter – but I don’t make progress. There must be massive subconscious resistance at work.

My friend Gailya Melchoir with stepdaughter Mindy and son Brandon, 1970s
My friend Gailya Melchoir with stepdaughter Mindy and son Brandon, 1970s

I’m better about writing than organizing, but not a lot. External deadlines usually do the trick, although I’m a master procrastinator and don’t get serious until the last minute, Still, give me an external deadline – something due for someone else, not myself – and whatever I need to do gets done. Self-imposed deadlines don’t work because there’s nothing to stop me from extending them to accommodate my inherent laziness.

LATER X

Energy Saving Mode

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d love to change these self-destructive tendencies and for a long time I harbored the illusion it was possible – I’d learn from my mistakes and make better choices. Unfortunately, it hasn’t happened yet and I’m losing faith that it ever will.

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