Warner-Amex QUBE, in Columbus, Ohio was the first interactive television, and an incubator for talent and programming which had the eyes of the world on it. As first a junior then senior writer for Regional Emmy award-winning morning show, Columbus Alive, I was tasked with anything from cooking demos, to guest author and celebrity interviews, remotes, all the way on to full-hour serious subjects along the lines of Phil Donahue, Oprah and others of the day. Mentored by the best (thank you Jonathan “Jody” Heaps and Steve Sullivan), and supplementarily instructed by high-power corporate psychologists sharing everything to do with yielding the highest audience response rates– causing folks to get up from the couch, pick up their console and participate– I left QUBE confident of being able to pen engaging stories in any venue I set my mind to.
Along the way there have also been gigs writing my own award-winning documentaries (see the Pictures page) and freelance and commissioned feature screenplays, a tv pilot, etc.
DoingIt!– a Journal of Positive Living
For 5 years my wife and I published the subscription magazine/newsletter, DoingIt!– a Journal of Positive Living. Intended on providing a steady stream of uplifting positivity, constantly challenging the reader to contemplate concepts along the lines of– letting go of fear, living into his or her dreams and operating from a place in answer to the question, What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail?, Doing It! was a true labor of love– a body of work of which we continue to be extremely proud, that we revisit often and are regularly surprised by some of the gems contained within. An archive/digital download pdf of all issues is available for sale Here (clicking opens a new browser tab, taking one to the combined shopping cart of the work of my wife and myself).
Over the years I have freelanced ad copy and collateral for national clients (ex., Budget Rent-a-Car); had a stint as Director of Marketing for Raviant Networks— writing and tooling all collateral and product materials; as well as taken assignment work for RealTalk LA, Route 66 Magazine, Kansas City Home and Garden and others (see also– Graphic Design section of Pictures page),
I approached Harry Dean Stanton at a concert of his at McCabe’s Music Shop in Santa Monica, about narrating a story of mine (after John Huston had agreed and passed– see that story in Misc below). He later left a message on my machine that he was interested. I knew less about getting an animated special off the ground then than now– which is still nothing– so that languished. But this opened up a professional friendship. In the middle of his singing act he would give the band a break and regale the audience with spoken word– Sam Shepard monologues and things. I loved this portion of the show and later worked up enough gumption to ask Harry if he might be interested in reading some of my blurbs. He agreed.
A couple months later I was in Houston, gathering my things for the final move to L.A. after a couple exploratory excursions. I saw that Harry was playing in town (I think it was Rockefellers) and said I would take my best bud to the show as part of my send-off. Harry did not know we were coming. In the middle of the act he dismissed the band and asked the audience if they wanted to hear some poetry. An enthusiastic yes, and he introduced the first piece with, “This one is from a friend of mine from Houston.” It was a piece of mine which became one of his favorites. A really amazing surprise and treat– especially with a good friend there to witness it– and also an auspicious send-off to the City of Angels… portending, I felt, of good omens to come. Harry went on to do my stuff in his act around the country, and I got to see him perform it in such places as Club Lingerie, Harvelle’s, The Mint Lounge and more.
Some time later I got the urge and the nerve to contact Harry and voice that I thought I might be ready to give performing my own work a shot. On his recommendation I got an introduction to Eve Brandstein, and after sending her a few pieces, she put me on the roster of Temple Street Poets at Helena’s, and later at Poetry in Motion at Cafe Largo. People were gracious and a number of people voiced as much– among them Justine Bateman and Taylor Negron. But I could never hold a candle to how Harry read my stuff: with him I always heard exactly what had been in my mind as I penned each of the pieces he chose to perform.
- As hinted above I had another brush with greatness– in this case my first, in the visage of the legendary John Huston. I had known of Mr. Huston’s voice from voicing over an animated Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit and thought he would be perfect to narrate my script for a planned animated special– The Big Picture: A Children’s Story for Adults. I was too naive to know that someone not with his toe wet in this business, and having never been in L.A. or having any contacts… could not just write John Huston directly.Somehow I got an address, perhaps through his agent– Irene Heyman of the Paul Kohner office, and sent off my cover letter and story. Not long after I received a response, on John Huston stationary, answering that he liked what I had written and would be interested… “if I am still ticking”. He passed a month later. One of my near misses.
In the interim between query and response I started boning up on this man, reading a couple biographies, and came to figure out just how much of a bigger deal he was than a known voiceover artist and actor. I had written the renowned icon/writer/producer/director of The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Night of the Iguana, The Man Who Would be King… on and on, with a list of the world’s most beloved films, father of Angelica and Danny Huston; an endless list of accomplishments and contributions. All I can say is– ignorance is bliss! Because if I had known all that– I don’t see that I would have had the cojones to write him in the first place. Here again– just some hint from the universe that maybe I was slated to make something of myself. And here I am still dedicated to that task.
- My writing has also won me a couple of fun contests with really fun prizes (a couple of those stories on the Tidbits page). When the Muse hits I am genuinely at my happiest.
- Along the way there have been completed (unpublished or unproduced) projects like the humorous The Male Bonding Handbook, a commissioned Muppet movie– The Muppets Take the High Road (an It’s a Mad Mad, Mad, Mad World type scavenger hunt in Scotland) and the roadtrip movie Vinegar and Oil (old man– think Harry Dean Stanton– teaching a young kid “the Rules of the Road”); a few somewhat farther along like B.F.E.: The Caldwaller Chronicles (fictional smalltown stories–Garrison Keillor meets Tom Bodett meets Mayberry) and Prinsorceress (think magical, girly Harry Potter world… begun before there was a Harry Potter… ugh); and then the handful of things that have my attention now, which I will keep under wraps for the moment.
- And perhaps one of my more notable writing experiences was the “research” for Stare! 30 Days on the Streets of L.A. Stare was to be a non-fiction book about homelessness, inspired by a story I heard about a former governor who became such– having gone down a bad road and blown everything he had; along with the observation that a homeless person could look you square in the eye without flinching, but most “citizens” aren’t able to do the same in return. This all caused me to see “homeless” as not just one thing, but many possible stories, and perhaps not all 100% grim. I just thought there could be some good tales there, heart-wrenching, amusing or otherwise.
The plan was to get dropped off at the downtown bus station, with five bucks in my pocket and spend the month of that December learning all I could. I wasn’t going to be too inquisitive until I came back later and was to interview any notable characters I may have stumbled upon. Checking in with a couple outreach programs before submerging, just advising what I had planned, they all cautioned me against this and that things were more dangerous than one might know.
I found my place to flop– an abandoned brick factory type building (long demolished now) behind the Buddhist Temple off Alameda and 2nd. I scrounged tossed produce from around the produce terminals; learned if there was a line forming somewhere to stand in it– as it might just be nuns in a station wagon coming to offer sandwiches; found where one could get a shower and a dreaded fiber cookie (to get the pipes moving, as it were); learned of voicemail setups where messages could be received; just most of the basics one would think could begin the journey back.
I vowed to not take a bed from a truly needy someone at a mission, though I did find out what the protocol was of trying to secure one. And the final step was to beg for money for food, etc., which was indeed the hardest part.
In the end I didn’t stay the whole month. I had pretty much proved that someone with the wherewithal to not be there in the first place, and without a monkey on his back, could survive, and maybe fight themselves back above the poverty line.
I didn’t want to be another too-clever young writer pontificating about things and so the 90-odd pages written have sat unfinished for years. I did get the urge not long ago– 25 years after the fact– to re-read what had been put to paper; and it actually wasn’t as bad as I had thought it was at the time. And p.s.– on the way out of downtown, mission more or less completed, I did give away the original five bucks, a bedroll, etc., to some deserving soul. And I lived to tell the story. So– always something on the burner, and hopefully more pieces moving from back to front burner, and to a bookshelf near you, sooner rather than later.