"Today I take pride in my brother Charlie, whom in WW2 fought in 11 major battles among them, the landing in Africa, the invasion of Normandy &, the Battle of the Bulge. For his efforts, at Arlington, he received a 21 gun salute & his name enshrined in their marble wall!" - Carl Reiner
PBS Presents Premiere of “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II” in Honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day
GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II is a feature-length documentary spotlighting the little-known story of the more than 550,000 Jewish Americans who served their country in all branches of the military during World War II. Filmmaker Lisa Ades (American Experience: Miss America) brings the struggles of these brave men and women to life through first-hand experiences that reveal their fight against fascism, as well as their more personal war to liberate loved ones in Europe. After years of battle, these pioneering servicemen and women emerged transformed: more profoundly American, more deeply Jewish, and determined to continue the fight for equality and tolerance at home. GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II premieres nationwide on Wednesday, April 11 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings) in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day (April 12). The film will be available to stream the following day on pbs.org and PBS apps.
*Originally appeared in The Jewish Voice
Former area resident and creator of the Dick Van Dyke show shared his excitement about the announcement of "Dick Van Dyke Way!"
"So excited that 48 Bonnie Meadow Drive, the fictional New Rochelle address of Rob & Laura Petrie's on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" will, officially, be renamed Dick Van Dyke Way. It's equally exciting that 48 Bonnie Meadow Road was the house in which my wife Estelle, I and our first two children, Robbie and Annie lived until moving to LA to write & produce "The Dick Van Dyke Show." The answer to those who asked if the address of New Rochelle house in which I lived was 148 Bonnie Meadow Rd--it wasn't. I changed the fictional Petrie family to 148 so as not to have the folks who bought our house be bothered by tourists." (via Twitter @carlreiner)
The creator of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' opens up about casting Marie, who died Dec. 28 at age 94, as TV writer Sally Rogers: "She knew more about show business than any of us will ever, ever know."
I remember Rose Marie from when I was a kid — she was a big child star when I was growing up: Baby Rose Marie. My parents were astounded at the sound this little person could make.
When she was 4 years old, her career was taken over by the Mafia — she went to Vegas and opened the Flamingo Hotel for Bugsy Siegel. So Rose Marie started Vegas!
But when I cast her in The Dick Van Dyke Show, I didn’t know any of that. I was looking for an actress to play a woman writer because we always had a woman writer when we were doing Your Show of Shows. So I went to the Morris office and the agent said, "I got her, she’s right here." And sitting there was Rose Marie.
She’s the one who suggested Morey Amsterdam for Buddy. I was thinking of somebody more strapping, like Mel Brooks. But she had a misunderstanding about the show the first season. She'd been told it was a show about television writers. But I'd written a show about the home life of one writer. So that first year was really tough on her. She didn’t have enough to do.
The next season, every once in a while, to showcase what she could do, we had her sing or dance. She was a one-woman band. She could do anything. And she knew more about show business than any of us will ever, ever know. She'd been in it since she was a kid.
A statement from our co-founder Carl Reiner:
I was so sad to learn of the passing of Rose Marie. There's never been a more engaging & multi-talented performer. In a span of 90 years, since she was four, dear Rosie performed on radio, in vaudeville, night clubs, films, TV, & Vegas & always had audiences clamoring for "more!!"
“It’s all about creating a lasting and worthy legacy,” says Lawrence O’Flahavan, Co-Founder and Executive Producer at Random Content Ink of the mission of the Los Angeles-based organization. “While we are far from the finishing line in our work with Mr. Reiner, we have discovered a lot about the need for artists to continue to create, the needed protection their work deserves, as well as solidifying and shaping their relevance.”
All too often, after hearing a song, watching a movie, or seeing a TV show, someone will research an actor, a writer, an artist only to find a frustratingly out-of-date website, next to no active social media and worst of all, a labyrinth of out-of-date website links. Sadly, all too often, an admirer’s best source of information about the artist is in the hands of user-generated content like Wikipedia.
Random Content Ink was specifically created out of necessity by Carl Reiner and his creative partner, to be the publishing home for himself and his creative endeavors. After the 2013 release of the groundbreaking, ‘I Remember Me’ iBook, Mr. Reiner has continued his prolific writing career. An accomplished and best-selling author, Carl Reiner is now recruiting other creative legends to publish their works, share their stories, and to preserve and solidify their legacy through print, video, and other media content.
Artists such as Peter Cetera, Vicki Lawrence, Johnny Rivers, Bertie Higgins, Donald Fagen, and Rupert Holmes, are just a few of the tens of dozens of artists whom are still active, touring and in some cases making new music and creatively engaged in new endeavors. Each of them have sold millions of hit albums and given happiness and joy to generations of fans and they remain relevant touring musicians and performers. However, they have limited social media presence, and websites unworthy of their success and stature. Random Content believes that they deserve their rightful place in entertainment history for their achievements! Moreover, they deserve their legacy to be overseen and protected. Random Content Ink is an organization that not only works with artists to help them create new work, we help protect and enrich their life’s work.
Random Content Ink welcomes the opportunity to serve all artists whom wish to continue to create, solidify their legacy, and continue their relevance, through our diverse portfolio of services from print and digital publishing, web design, digital storytelling, and social media strategy and execution as well as many other media solutions.
Carl Reiner was recently a guest on Larry Wilmore: Black on the Air’s podcast. Wilmore is an Emmy Award-winning producer, actor and comedian. He currently hosts a podcast where he weighs in on the issues of the week and interviews guests in the worlds of politics, entertainment, culture, sports, and beyond. Larry sat down with acclaimed comedian, producer, and director Carl Reiner to discuss his early time in showbiz, his new book ‘Too Busy To Die,’ and his thoughts on President Trump. They also discussed current book in progress, "Alive At Ninety-Five" and gave Larry a sneak peek. Listen to their conversation below!
Saucony, the 119 year old racing shoe company recently set out to see how 10 people across the globe run their world on a daily basis in remarkable and inspiring ways. Carl Reiner was at the top of their list! This campaign included an Instagram takeover that gave each featured person the opportunity to show us how they run their world. Saucony's "Run Your World" campaign encourages followers to, "Push it. Shake it. Create it. Get after it. Show us how you Run Your World." And that is exactly what Carl Reiner did!
Unboxing videos. Lacing up his new Saucony's. Showing off his new sneakers. Even telling us where he believes the term "sneakers" came from! Carl Reiner's Instagram takeover for Saucony was non-stop laughs and left viewers in awe of how this 95-year-old directer, writer, actor and Twitter enthusiast runs his world! In case you missed the Instagram takeover, his complete Instagram Live Q&A and takeover is below! He even offered viewers a sneak peek at what he's been working on and his latest & upcoming books!
The Dick Van Dyke Show, created by Carl Reiner debuted on October 3, 1961 on CBS. Starring Dick Van Dyke, Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Larry Mathews, and Mary Tyler Moore, the show went on to win an impressive total of 15 Emmy awards.
In the below chapter from "Why & When The Dick Van Dyke Show Was Born,” Carl Reiner explains the beginnings of the Dick Van Dyke show.
Ruinously Rotten Ratings
In 1962, for reasons not too difficult to fathom, the ratings for the first season of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” were much lower than our competitor Perry Como and his very popular variety show. The word ‘cancellation,” hung over heads like the sword of Damocles.
The network executives, requiring shows to fill their summer schedule, offered us six thousand dollars per episode to re-run our shows.
Sheldon Leonard, after discussions with the accounting department, decided that, financially, their deal was not worth considering.
Here, Sheldon and I had our first disagreement- a major one that provoked me to come very close to shouting.
“Sheldon,” I argued, “the only reason our ratings were bad was that were competing with ‘The Perry Como Show,” the highest rated program on television.”
Perry Como was a very handsome Italian gent who sang ballads in a silky smooth, baritone-tenor voice that melted the hearts of both men and women.
“And as for the six thousand dollar offer,” I said, “I’d be willing to give the network the shows for nothing! I’m sure that during the summer when ‘The Perry Como Show,’ is on hiatus, the public will at least give our show a look- I know that whoever sees it will be hooked and tell their friends about it!”
Sheldon Leonard, gent that he was, graciously let me have my way- and the rest, as they say is history.
To read more about the creation and behind-the-scenes stories of the Dick Van Dyke Show, order your personalized copy today
"How To Live Forever" by Sumwon Hoohaz & Carl Reiner is available free when you purchase a copy of "Too Busy To Die."
Carl Reiner tells Conan O'Brien how to get his new book "How to Live Forever" free of charge.
"Carl Reiner, Now You're 94"
Comedy legend Carl Reiner returned to the Paul Harris Show to talk about his new graphic diary, "Carl Reiner, Now You're 94," as well as some other highlights of his career and life: His memories of the late Mary Tyler Moore; Working with Alan Arkin on "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming"; Working with director Norman Jewison on that movie and "The Thrill Of It All"; Why he cast George Burns and John Denver in "Oh, God!"; How he managed to work on movies at the same time he was running "The Dick Van Dyke Show"; That time he and his wife stayed in the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. Listen, then click here to subscribe to the Paul Harris Show podcasts via iTunes!
Carl Reiner talks to Tavis Smiley about falling down the stairs at ninety-five-years-old. Carl delivers a public service about why he was not hurt by showing us his morning stretches.
Legendary filmmaker and television icon Carl Reiner confesses his secret feelings about Trump to Tavis Smiley. To watch the interview in its entirety, tune in to PBS this Friday, March 31, 2017. Check your local TV listings. Visit our website at http://www.pbs.org/tavis for more interviews.
He's fine, but Carl fell down the stairs this morning and the first thing he thought of was Conan. More CONAN @ http://teamcoco.com/video Team Coco is the official YouTube channel of late night host Conan O'Brien, CONAN on TBS & TeamCoco.com.
Carl Reiner tells Conan O'Brien how he fell down the steps. Carl attributes the fact that he didn't get hurt to his daily morning exercises depicted in his book "Carl Reiner, Now You're Ninety-Four;" and tells how you can get your own personalized version of this book.
Had I not been honored by America Cinematique, I might never have remembered this darling story I am now in the process of typing. At a book signing event, which took place before a screening of“The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” I had a question an answer session. One of the questions asked was about the film we had just screened.
“The Russians Are Coming” holds a very special place in my heart, as it came about at a time when I was nearing the end of my rewarding five year stint as the creator-producer of“The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
There were still four more episodes to mount when I received a call from Norman Jewison, a film director who wanted to discuss something he thought would interest me.
The following day, while seated in my living room, Norman told me of a wonderful script written by Bill Rose and the note Bill had sent about the casting of this film it read, “If there is a God, Carl Reiner will play the part of Rozanov, a Russian sailor.”
I was flattered and had not the character been described as a Russian, I might have jumped at it, but instead I explained to Norman Jewison that I had no interest in playing another Russian accented character. I had done fake double-talking Russian with Sid Caesar on “Your Show Of Shows” and just last week I played a Russian artist on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” I loved doing it. The episode, entitled “October Eve” and I played a Russian artist, Serge Carpenter who painted a nude portrait ofLaura Petrie (Mary Tyler Moore) that she intended as a birthday gift for her husband. When posing, she wore her dance leotards, but the artist’s creative mind envisioned Laura nude and that’s how he painted her. (Great show–I recommend you find it and watch it.)
Norman accepted my reason and left, but returned the following day to offer me another role, a role I could not refuse–the male lead opposite Eva Marie Saint! Yes, The Eva Marie Saint, who, had co-starred with The Marlon Brando and The Cary Grant would now have me as her leading man!
Which brings me back to the American Cimemateque event and the memory that was evoked by a question I was asked about “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming,” the only picture in which I was given star billing.
The woman wanted to know if there was any special memory I had about the shooting of that film, and I recalled something that had nothing to do with the making of the film. My memory was about an outdoor lunch I had while on location in Mendacino California, and it happened while seated at a long, wooden table.
While chatting with Alan Arkin, who, by the way won an Academy Award for playing Rozanov, I happened to glance at Eva just as she was about to take a sip of wine from a paper cup. I shouted, “Eva, don’t, there is a bee on the rim!” but Eva did and the bee did what bees do!
She let out a howl, and to calm her while I examined her lower lip, I joked, “You know, for snake bites, someone must immediately suck out the venom– it should also work for bee bites. I’ll do that if you like.”
I saw that the bee had left his stinger in her lower lip, and quickly plucked it out. There was no swelling and luckily no after effects.
I told the woman who had asked the question about “The Russians Are Coming” that the little incident I described, I had once used as a very satisfying denouement to an episode I had written for “Good Heavens,” a short lived 1976 series which I had produced and hired myself to play the starring role.
In the series, I played an Angel who rewards an individual for having done an unsolicited good deed. I would grant the good Samaritan one wish and when that wish was fulfilled I would disappear and the do-gooder would have no memory of ever having met an Angel.
I recall but a few of the stories from “Good Heavens,” but I do remember the one in which my son Rob played the ‘good soul’ whose wish was to become a baseball player–and I, his angelic father, had the pleasure of granting him his wish.
The pleasant memory that nudged itself into my head when asked about “The Russians Are Coming” was one that involved the thirteenth and final episode of“Good Heavens.”
It starred Loretta Swit and Clu Gulager who played lovers that were destined to be mated but their predilection for quarreling threatened to end their romance.
In the last scene, they are in their trailer about to embark on a trip, when they become involved in a heated argument. I had written the script but had not found a way to stop them from arguing, until Eva Marie Sainte’s bumble bee popped into my head.
I shouted to Clu and Loretta the idea I had. They were to continue with their dialogue but beaware that a bee entered their trailer-- and I would supply the sound of a buzzing bee.
In a long shot, while they were arguing and swatting at the buzzing interloper, Loretta acted as if the bee had stung her lower lip. After Clu removed the stinger, I had him say to Loretta the line I said to Eva Marie, “You know, for poisonous snake bites, someone must immediately suck out the venom, it should also work for bee bites. “I’ll do that if you like.”
We then had a closeup of Loretta’s fingers holding out her lower lip for Clu to suck, which he does in earnest. After a proper amount of suck time, the two begin feeling amorous–glance into each other’s eyes, then slowly rotate their lips into a position where their tongues can properly French kiss--- as we went in for a tight close up.
Mary Tyler Moore dies at 80
(CNN) When Mary Tyler Moore auditioned for the role of Laura on "The Dick Van Dyke Show," series creator Carl Reiner famously put his hand on her head, walked her down to producer Sheldon Leonard's office and said, "I found her, here she is."
That might have been television viewers' introduction to Moore, but audiences would continue finding her for years to come, in a Hall of Fame career that included two of the best sitcoms of all time: "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."
Moore was an inordinately gifted comedienne, from her trademark bouts of crying to her stammering delivery when flustered. Yet her career went well beyond that, from her brilliant performance in the movie "Ordinary People" to her influence as a co-founder of MTM with then-husband Grant Tinker, a TV production powerhouse that produced not only "Mary Tyler Moore" but many signature programs, including "St. Elsewhere," "Hill Street Blues" and multiple spinoffs from her program, such as "Lou Grant" and "Rhoda."
Tinker, the former NBC chairman, died in November, and the loss of both of them in such short order almost feels like the end of a TV era.
Having started as a dancer -- and been featured solely for her legs as the secretary whose face was never seen in the 1950s show "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" -- Moore had to overcome skepticism at the time that a beautiful actress (someone who could famously "turn the world on with her smile," as the song went) could also be funny. Her series, moreover, marked a breakthrough in terms of depicting a working woman, one who was single, dated but devoted to her career.
"She did everything so naturally and so gracefully," Reiner said of Moore in a 2015 PBS special, calling her "the Grace Kelly of comedians."
Moore's career actually hit a fallow period after "The Dick Van Dyke Show," before Van Dyke featured her in a variety special that helped trigger interest in her among network executives.
"The Mary Tyler Moore Show" followed in 1970, quickly becoming one of the most popular series on television. While Moore was surrounded by a one-for-the-ages cast, she more than held her own, including what many consider one of the greatest sitcom episodes ever, where Moore's character -- after admonishing her co-workers for joking about it -- breaks into uncontrollable laughter during a funeral for Chuckles the Clown.
Moore continued to work regularly -- in television and on stage -- after those shows, while earning plaudits for her work as an advocate for various causes, including diabetes research.
The memories that linger, though, will for most stem from the glow she brought to the screen in the 1960s and '70s. And thanks to those shows, that hat she tossed skyward during the credits of her eponymous series will never come down.
Look for this chapter below in Carl Reiner's latest memoir "Too Busy To Die" explaining how he got the role as Saul Bloom.
One of the exciting things about being in show business is that, at any time, and usually when you are least expecting it, something will drop from nowhere, and offer a challenge that you’d be a fool not to take. The something that dropped from nowhere was really a someone, Jerry Weintraub, a persuasive, dogged, charming, soft spoken, master of benign bullshit and one helluva producer.
Until Jerry rang my doorbell on this Saturday night at 11:45 PM, and disturbed an interesting discussion that my wife and I were having with our friends, I had not seen Jerry Weintraub since “Oh, God!”, the film he produced and I directed twenty years earlier. My first thought was that his car had stalled and he needed a phone, but it turned out that all he needed was me. His new film, “Ocean’s 11,” was going into production and he was searching for someone to play “Saul Bloom,” one of the gang of eleven.
Jerry, being as honest as he needs to be in order to function successfully, did not say that he had come to me because I was the perfect actor for the role. He told me that he had found the perfect actor, Alan Arkin, but Alan had a conflict. Alan had gone to the hospital to undergo minor surgery to repair something that needed repairing. If Jerry could have delayed the film’s start, he would not have dropped by. Ever the gentleman, Jerry stayed only long enough to hand me a script, recite the names of the extraordinary cast and director, and apologize for the intrusion.
Many things about the offer pleased me and first among the many was Alan Arkin being cast. Alan and I share a pleasant history that started with his playing a fictionalized version of me in the play “Enter Laughing,” and continued with our playing roles in “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, and in the recent past, playing his older brother in “The Slums of Beverly Hills.” As an added connection, my wife, in her night club act, sings Alan Arkin’s romantically-humorous love song, “I Like You.” The words and music of“I Like You” are:
The things that pleased me most about the projected remake of “Ocean’s 11” was the quality of the script, the juiciness of my role and the actors with whom I’d be working. They were not only talented, but genuine stars who attracted huge crowds whenever they dared to go out in public, and who, I soon learned, were all funsters.
The film was to be shot in Las Vegas and, for one month, I’d be required to live in a suite at the Bellagio and would be paid a salary generous enough to make me feel wanted. George, who played Danny Oceans, the leader of the pack of thieves, was also a major force in convincing all of his star friends that the fun and excitement of working with him, each other and director Steven Soderberg, made it worth accepting less money than they ordinarily would be paid.
During the course of the first few work days, I had the opportunity to perform with, lunch with, and chat with:
I did not include Julia Roberts in the impressive list of stars I met, because we never did meet or were even introduced. She didn’t work in any of the scenes I was in and unfortunately our paths never crossed, although they came close to crossing when she came out of an elevator in the lobby of the Bellagio to play a scene with Andy Garcia. However, on my way to lunch I did meet her and siezed the opportunity to tell her how absolutely magnificent she was in the film portraying Erin Brockovich.
Being twice as old as every member in the company except Elliot Gould, of whom I was only a third older, I didn’t get to hang with the guys. They all possessed superhuman ability to get up early, shoot all day, play hard-driving basketball between takes, and be up for long evenings of partying. I used most of my energy to eat, learn my lines, and go to bed. Luckily, I had enough energy to pose for this treasured cast photograph.
One of the lovely things about being in a good movie with good people is the residual good feelings that remain long after the movie’s on DVD. I love reading about and rooting for all of their individual successes in films, marriages, love affairs and in aiding good causes. In the case of“Ocean’s 11,” which was a huge hit, there is also the positive feedback you get from young people, who might not be old enough to have seen you do your thing when it was easier for you to do your thing.
Comedy legends Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, along with MC Judd Apatow, headlined a rollicking live streamyesterday at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills produced by LA-based Random Content. The event kicked off #ComedyFest, Comedy Central’s week long comedy event currently taking place on Twitter, and the occasion for Mel Brooks’ first tweet @MelBrooks.
Random Content Executive Producer Lawrence O’Flahavan crafted the idea for the event, selling the concept of a live kickoff featuring Brooks and Reiner to Twitter’s Creative Director of Media Partnerships Fred Graver as a means to promote Reiner’s “I Remember Me” iBook produced by Random Content. Comedy Central President of Original Programming Kent Alterman soon came on board, and Judd Apatow signed on as a presenter.
Random Content played a multi-faceted role in the event, producing the comedy legends’ live stream, editing the promo for the show and providing a twitter feed component which enabled the three comedians to field a Q & A using tweeted questions from notables including Ron Howard as well as audience members and Twitter users. Random Content produced the I Remember Me iBook promo showcasing the features of the unique rich media release.
During the live stream, Reiner often served as straight man to Brooks’ comedic jabs. For instance, when Reiner called the humor in Blazing Saddles “vulgarity in good taste,” Brooks countered “like being a sensitive rapist.” Brooks took the occasion to commemorate late beloved collaborators Richard Prior (“the funniest comic that ever lived”), Madeline Kahn (“I didn’t have to direct her in Blazing Saddles – she directed herself”) and Anne Bancroft (“I got lucky. Very lucky.”) The two legends discussed what makes something funny, and whether that had changed over their decades-long careers, in response to a tweet. “Making fun of the things around us,” was Reiner’s ageless formula for laughs, whereas Brooks chided him, “Carl was always political. And always bald.”
#ComedyFest’s star-studded lineup whereby Brooks and Reiner will tweet alongside popular young comics like Amy Schumer and the director Paul Feig, many providing brief videos via Twitter’s new video sharing service Vine which, like Twitter, has a length limit (six seconds.) Noted Twitter’s Graver during his introduction of the comedy greats, “With comedians, there’s a new golden age on Twitter.”
“Entering the business of producing iBooks, live events and promos, through Random Content, is exciting,” says Film Director/Executive Producer Lawrence O’Flahavan. “We’ll announce many more such projects in the near future.”
About Random Content
Random Content is a Los Angeles publishing / digital production company comprised of graphic designers, filmmakers, editors, and development minds. Random Content is an ideas machine where collaboration has produced award-winning results since 1994. Random Content breaks new ground in iBook production, branded content, interactive and broadcast. Founder/EP/Director Lawrence O’Flahavan has assembled a team whose experience in strategy, marketing, design and technology creates engaging new ways to tell stories in every possible medium. From digital initiatives to groundbreaking apps, we work with our partners to conceive, produce and distribute memorable entertainment.
Time, you know, chooses its targets carefully. With red wine, certain cheeses or ancient architecture, the wearing of years adds a richness of depth and a uniqueness of flavor that allows them to stand out as superior to a fresh bottle of newly-laid plonk served with Velveeta on crackers in an American-Soviet high rise box. Less fortunately, that simply smashing shirt or skirt you bought in 1986 now makes you look like a windmill on a miniature golf course. No, clothes don’t age well and neither do television sets, hairlines or memoirs.
Oh, that’s right. Memoirs do not age well, particularly les romans à clef with their leads and surrounding characters hidden by disguises as flimsy as Superman’s curl or Clark Kent’s eyeglasses. The joy of them becomes their fatal flaw. We all enjoy a good old game of, ‘I Know Who That Is!’ as that cheating poet with the roguish curls and lust for battle can only be Lord Byron. And if you did not recognize that reference to Lady Caroline Lamb’s 1816 novel Glenarvon, don’t feel too badly for no one else has read it for pleasure in the last century and a half. They lose their potency. Supporting characters who had achieved a certain notoriety and thus were worth spotting like Easter eggs or buried truffles descend first into trivia and then into inconsequentiality.
And yet, some do survive and even improve over time, the rare few that beat the odds like Cary Grant’s looks or an antique watch. There’s Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises for one, Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night or Dominick Dunne’s re-casting of the Woodward murder in The Two Mrs. Grenvilles. One must not forget either Dorothy Parker’s Big Blonde which is the story of its author’s descent into alcoholism. Any or all can be read and enjoyed with absolutely no inkling of who the hell Gerald and Sara Murphy were or what a Belair Stud is. (It was a horse ranch darling, not a gigolo.)
For a roman à clef to have a life beyond the immediate party game, it absolutely must have two qualities going for it. As a novel, it must have a richness of story that just happens to coincidentally involve some notable celebrities or other newsworthy figures. And of course, it better be bloody well-written.
For those two reasons, I equally love and admire Vicki Abelson’s Don’t Jump. Yes, it took me a while to get around to saying that, but great books like great stage actresses deserve a proper entrance.
What I found most incredible about Don’t Jump is how it has grown. Full disclosure: I read an earlier draft of Don’t Jump three years ago or so. I had ‘intermet’ Vicki Abelson because of my admiration for her fantastic book salon held at her home in Los Angeles, Women Who Write. At the time, I thought her manuscript was more than publishable in its current form. It was sharp, it was funny, it told the story well of Andi, a nice Jewish girl from New York who existed as a close observer of the music and television scene through the 1980s and 90s while never quite making it to stardom herself. I told Vicki, ‘Keep at it and you will find a publisher.’
We then flash forward and what I have just read is a complete, rich, wonderful novel. Yes I know who the musicians are, the athlete is and the talk show host. They scarcely matter. Andi herself has matured within her book. She is a perfectly articulated portrait of a woman who seeks identity in the world of entertainment; a world where no one is ever quite who they proclaim to be. Stars you know are like real stars; the closer you get to their center the more likely it is you will be burnt to a crisp. That bitter truth leads Andi into an addiction to marijuana. If reality sucks, change the channel.
Now, I expect some shrill criticism of Vicki Abelson for writing about a marijuana addiction, to which I can only say shut up. People can become addicted to anything – booze, smokes, salt n’ vinegar chips, chocolate, shoes, porcelain hippos, cars, sex and yes weed too. Andi’s marijuana also came mixed into a nasty goulash of addictions to love and, when all else fails, food. So leave the correct politics at the door.
Don’t Jump explores every corner and does so in smooth, flowing language. To quote one passage, when Andi rushes home after an afternoon tryst, she writes:
‘Slowing as I got to my corner, I tried to casually stroll into the building. Smiling at Nick, the afternoon guy, I ran to the elevator to try to beat Frank home. As I approached the door of the apartment I listened for a second. When I didn’t discern any sound, I quickly unlocked the door, immediately double locking it behind me. Throwing off my clothes, I pushed them low in the hamper, well under the mounds of more recent wear. Jumping in the shower, I scrubbed myself silly, quickly blow- dried my hair and the mirror to hide my recent activity. Since when did I shower before dinner?’
Don’t Jump is also wonderfully funny, with the humor coming, as all the best humor does, from the characters placed in awkward, believable situations and not from jokes laid in with a staple gun. It is not at all dissimilar to Carrie Fisher’s Postcards From the Edge and forty years has been way too long a wait for someone to come along who can write in that outside/insider mode. That said, Vicki Abelson can fire off a punchline like a rifle shot. ‘If I was going to hell, I was going down in a blaze of horny.’ I laughed out loud at that one and trust me, I am one lousy audience when it comes to comedy.
Ultimately then, Don’t Jump is a delicious roman à clef a la Carrie Fisher, with the emotional honesty and deft writing of a modern Dorothy Parker. It has an intelligence without snobbery, a wit beyond crudity, a sensitivity without preachiness … and is funny as all hell.
About Random Content
Random Content is a Los Angeles publishing / digital production company comprised of graphic designers, filmmakers, editors, and development minds. Random Content is an ideas machine where collaboration has produced award-winning results since 1994. Random Content breaks new ground in iBook production, branded content, interactive and broadcast. Founder/EP/Director Lawrence O’Flahavan have assembled a team whose experience in strategy, marketing, design and technology creates engaging new ways to tell stories in every possible medium. From digital initiatives to groundbreaking apps, we work with our partners to conceive, produce and distribute memorable entertainment.