Memory Lane

Tonight I went to a cocktail party and screening at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to celebrate the Archive of American Television's DVD release of the classic series STUDIO ONE. The boxed set contains 17 episodes, including the original, TV production of "Twelve Angry Men," which was long thought to be lost until a rare kinescope turned up recently in the estate of a deceased trial lawyer who collected books, movies and ephemera about the law. So much our priceless TV history has been lost through carelessness and stupidity, but that's another story…

You never know who you are going to bump into at these events and, for me, this one became an unexpected opportunity to revisit the start of my career in television. I ran into Bruce Bilson, who directed the first script Bill Rabkin & I ever had produced, an episode of SPENSER FOR HIRE. We chatted for a bit, and then I spotted Leonard Stern walking across the room. He was one of the executive producers of MURPHY'S LAW, a short-lived series starring George Segal that was our first staff job. I was pleased and flattered that Stern not only remembered me and Bill, but also my book "Unsold Television Pilots" (Stern, in addition to being a legendary writer/producer, is also a publisher, one of the partners behind Price Stern Sloan and now Tallfellow Press).

Jack Klugman, a veteran of many live TV productions, was also at the cocktail party (he was there to speak on a panel after the screening). I said hello, reminded him who I was, and thanked him again for guest-starring in one of our best DIAGNOSIS MURDER episodes, "Voices Carry." I liked the episode and his performance in it so much, that I ended up writing a prequel — the novel "Diagnosis Murder: The Past Tense," which became the most widely acclaimed of the eight novels in the series.  I told him that, too.  He seemed flattered, or maybe he was just being polite.

For a TV nut like me, being able to go to events like this is one of the great things about living in Los Angeles.

Barnes & Trouble

Borders is teetering on the edge of financial collapse and now the Wall Street Journal reports that Barnes & Noble, while not as bad off as its main competitor, is feeling some pain…and expecting more. B&N chairman Leonard Riggio wrote an internal memo that says, in part:

Never in all of the years I've been in business have I seen a worse outlook for the economy. And never in all my years as a bookseller have I seen a retail climate as poor as the one we are in. Nothing even close. […] Barnes & Noble, too, has suffered from this crisis, albeit not as severely as most retailers, and certainly not as much as other booksellers. As you know, our comparable store sales have declined for the first time in our history. As a result, we are bracing for a terrible holiday season, and expect the trend to continue well into 2009, and perhaps beyond.

Do I Have A Sign Around My Neck that Reads “Ask Me an Incredibly Stupid Question?”

Five hundred people, mostly women, showed up to see fifty male mystery authors at the 9th annual Men of Mystery luncheon and booksigning in Irvine today. During the autograph session, I was sitting at a table signing books with Thomas Greanias and my brother Tod when a guy came up to me to ask a question…

"My wife read a Monk book you wrote, I don't know which one, but he was wearing a raincoat."

"Okay,"  I said.

"She thought it was terrible.  Have you written a Monk book that's good?"

"And she thinks your brother is fat and that you're stupid," Tod said to me.

I laughed. The guy looked at Tod. "I don't understand."

"You just came over here and told Lee that your wife hated his book."

The guy looked at Tod with a bewildered expression on his face. "That's why I want to know which one is good." He looked at me. "Can you recommend one?"

"What didn't she like about the book?" I asked.

"She said it was very, very dark."

"My Monk book," I said.

"Yes," he said. "The one with the raincoat."

"Oh, that must be the Monk book I wrote about pedophilia," I said.

To be honest, I forgot what was said after that though I remember that my brother was busy typing on his Blackberry, giggling to himself as he updated his Facebook page with the conversation.

Later, at the end-of-the-day signing, a woman came up to me and asked:

"Did Dick Van Dyke have any medical training?"

"No," I said.

"Then how was he able to play a doctor on TV?"

"He was acting," I said.

"You can do that?"

"Tobey Maguire wasn't bitten by a spider and imbued with super powers and he was able to play Spiderman."

She shook her head in astonishment. ""Weren't you worried about getting sued by people? What if they followed his advice and got killed?"

"Then they were too dumb to live," I said. "Natural selection."

She walked away. I think she was insulted.

Finally, at the cocktail reception for the authors, a woman standing beside me said hello.

"I'm Carole," she tugged at the name tag on her chest. "Want an excuse to stare at my boobs?"

"Do I need one?" I asked.

"It helps," she said.

"I'm a happily married man," I said. "The only boobs I'm allowed to stare at are my wife's."

I walked away and immediately told the story to Col. Bob Levinson and Alan Jacobson and pointed the woman out to them. I'm not sure, but I think Bob rushed over there for a look.

“They Painted Beautiful, Plunged Creative”

Annie Proulx has complained to the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, among others, about how much she hates all the "Brokeback Mountain" fanfic out there. So The Guardian in the UK decided to see just how bad the fanfic is and published excerpts from ten of the very worst.  Here are a couple of examples:

4. Ask, and Thou Shalt Recieve, chapter 8: You Checkin' Me Out, Cowboy?
" Jack wasn't bad at giving directions. He was awful."

[…]this is trailed by the author with the tantalising line:
"another one of those where Jack survives his attack … but perhaps,
it's not for long. Warnings: Rape"

5. The Chill Hour
"They painted beautiful, plunged creative. The kingfisher, silent, did not remove his belt."

A nice short one, this. Unfortunately it's quite difficult to know what's going on.

6. Memories
"Good mournin' to ya to cowboy."

fabulously named DracoPotterMalfoy-JackEnnisDelMar adds the ingredient
all Brokeback Mountain afficionados have been crying out for. No, not
gratuitous sex (although there will be some of that in the final draft,
apparently), but amnesia.