Jet City Journal, the sequel

My brother Tod and I started our day yesterday visiting bookstores — at one of them, I found a signed first edition copy of a Ross Thomas novel ("Missionary Stew") for $25. I felt like I’d stolen it.

We then went to the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, where we had a great time signing our books, chatting with Bill Farley about Rex Stout & Nero Wolfe, browsing their fantastic selection, and talking mysteries with Vince Keenan and David Thayer. I could have stayed all day…and given our next signing experience, I probably should have.

Our next stop was the Barnes & Noble University Village… where they had lots of copies of my books, several posters announcing my presense…and no copies of Tod’s books and no mention of him on the posters. He was thrilled. It got even better when the announcement on the loudspeaker invited people to come meet "Lee and TOAD Goldberg." I’m sure Tod will go to into far more humiliating and humorous detail on his blog, so I’ll leave it at that. But it made us appreciate independant mystery bookstores like the Seattle Mystery Bookshop even more.

Our family showed up in force, so that part was great, and afterwards we went back to our Uncle Stan Barer’s beautiful home on the lake for dinner, where our cousin Aaron Barer showed up with his friend KUBE 93 DJ Tiffany Warner…a bright, funny, and attractive young woman (it’s no wonder she’s also a successful model) who put up with our strange family and bizarre conversation with patience and good humor.

All in all, it was a great trip but I am eager to return home, see my wife and daughter, catch up on all my mail, and get to back to work. Most of all, I’m looking forward to being warm again!

You Can’t Escape Hollywood

I spoke to about 900 Jackson High School students on Friday —  doing my schtick during six different assemblies throughout the day (special thanks again to librarian Barbara Stoltzenburg and her fantastic staff).

Each one of the assemblies/classes was different. Although I gave the same talk, half my time each period was devoted to fielding questions from the students. The questions really shaped how the talk went and, from my perspective, gave a personality to each session. During one period, there was a young girl, perhaps 16 or 17, who asked some really perceptive questions about the business, how television shows are developed, and the details of production schedules.

Afterwards, she came up to me and told me, very quietly, that she’s just signed to be one of the stars of a SciFi Channel pilot. She told me about it, who the producers were, when production was starting, etc. She asked me some more questions, shared with me some things her "Hollywood" agent and her "Seattle" agent were telling her to expect, and the whole time I was thinking…here I am, in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and I might as well be in Los Angeles.

At my daughter’s school, you can talk to any 10-year-old, and they know all about pilots, the difference between above-the-line and below-the-line etc… because this is an industry town, and if their own parents don’t work in some aspect of "the business," their friends’ parents do.

The last thing I expected this weekend was to encounter a teenager in Mill Creek, Washington who was as well-versed and as immersed in Hollywood as a Calabasas, Studio City, or West L.A. kid. The remarkable thing was how low-key she was about her upcoming pilot gig. She didn’t mention it in her questions, and waited to tell me about it privately. When I mentioned my conversation with her to a couple of other English teachers they had no idea which student I was talking about (I forgot to get her name). So, clearly, she hasn’t been going around the campus bragging to everyone that she’s going to be in a pilot.

So I guess she hasn’t gone entirely Hollywood after all…

Jet City Journal

I’ve been scarce around here the last few days because I am up in Seattle for some booksignings. I kicked off the trip speaking to the students at Jackson High School in Mill Creek, where I was bombarded with questions about writing books and TV shows (special thanks to school librarian Barbara Stoltzenberg and her terrific staff. I’ve never seen a nicer high school library). I have to admit there were a few quaestions that caught me by surprise, like "What kind of car do you drive?" and "does your wife look like Jessica Alba." It was a lot of fun, but after talking to hundreds of students over an entire school day, I had almost no voice left. (Did I mention it’s freezing up here? They are experiencing this thing called Winter. I’ve encountered winter a couple of times in my life before. I am so glad we don’t have it in L.A.)

Afterwards, my Uncle Stan Barer took my brother Tod and I to the Sonics game, where we had floor seats so close to the action we got to see the beads of sweat on every player.  It was also fun watching the  millionaires fight over the inadequate supply of free chocolate chip cookies in the VIP room at half-time. I’ll post some pictures from my Jack Nicholson-esque perch when I return to L.A.

This morning it’s off to the Seattle Mystery Bookstore and Barnes & Noble University Village to sign books, meet some friendly readers, and do the humanitarian work that allows me to write this trip off my taxes. The Seattle newspaper listings about the signings have amused me and irritated Tod — one read something like "Lee Goldberg will be signing his books MAN WITH THE IRON ON BADGE and DIAGNOSIS MURDER: THE PAST TENSE with his brother" and didn’t even mention his name. I had nothing to do with it. Honest.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse

The USA Network has gone all-out celebrating the Jan. 3 release of my book MR. MONK GOES TO THE FIREHOUSE. Today they’ve launched a terrific website devoted to the books, which includes a really cool presentation of an excerpt from the book, a dozen streaming video interviews with yours truly, and a bio with all the sordid details of my life including my years as sous chef at McDonalds and my professional reawakening as tantric sex instructor.  I wish all my books got this kind of promotion.

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

The vast majority of execs I’ve worked with in TV and publishing during my career have been terrific people who I count as friends. But I’ve had several situations in recent years where I’ve caught a few executives lying about me or the work that I’ve done. When I’ve confronted them with their dishonesty, they freely admitted it without shame or apology.

In one case, I accidentally found out about some damaging untruths about me from a friend and quickly contradicted the story, figuring there had been some unfortunate, but innocent, mis-understanding somewhere along the line. It never occurred to me that the exec I was working with had intentionally lied about me…until I heard from him.

"Why did you tell X the truth?" he demanded.

"Because someone gave X the impression that I’d fucked up." 

"That was me," he yelled.

I was astonished.

"But I didn’t fuck up," I said. "I’ve never done anything like that."

"I know."

"Then why did you tell X that I did?"

"Because I was the one who fucked up," he said. "Now you’ve made me look like a liar!"

"You are!" I yelled back.

"They don’t have to know that," he said.

"You lied about me to hide your own fuck-up. You made yourself look good and me look bad."

"So? You should have gone along with it," he said. "You’ve deeply hurt my feelings."

No matter how much I tried to explain that it was his fault, and that the injured party was me, he just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) understand. Nor did he seem to care about the damage he’d caused to our business relationship.

In another case, an executive told me how happy he was with my work writing/producing a TV series, how much he loved being in business with me, and how he hoped we’d enjoy a long professional relationship together. Which would be nice, except that I knew for a fact that earlier that same day he’d told another producer how much he hated me and offered him my job for the following season. What the exec didn’t know was that the producer was an old friend of mine and immediately called me.

When I confronted the exec with this, he simply said "So what? That’s business. Grow up."

Another exec we worked with took credit with the network, right in front of us (and in conference calls), for creating and developing stories and scripts he not only didn’t come up with or work on, but that he didn’t even see until roughly the same moment the network did.

We never confronted him about this, nor revealed it to the network of course, because it would have made him and the show (and us) look bad. But the exec had no problem whatsoever lying to our faces or, apparently,  any fear that we’d contradict him. I guess he was right on that score. I didn’t know how he could do it without feeling deeply embarrassed and ashamed every time he saw us. That said, we are team players and we thought that establishing that was more important to us and our careers than speaking up to him or anyone else. In the end, this came back to haunt us, but if we had it to do over again, even knowing what I know now, we’d make the same choice.

Lying isn’t new…but I think the complete lack of shame some execs are showing when they get caught in the act is a new wrinkle. I mean, they aren’t even bothering to make excuses or dodge blame or cover up…

Hmm. Come to think of it, I may have discovered a new kind of honesty: being honest about your dishonesty. Pretty soon, if we aren’t vigilant, that may become the new definition of integrity in Hollywood…