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Diary of a Production Assistant – Part 3 – Celebrities 

Lori Wagner – Penthouse Pet of the Century

While Carnie! was a daytime talk show featuring fun and tears and even horrors we also had our share of celebrities. It was always interesting to have these “non-real” people on the show. It wasn’t until later in my career, when I saw a celebrity trash a hotel room, or throw their luggage across a lobby or ask for security even though no one knew who they were, that I realized that a few of these celebs in fact acted much much worse then the real people looking to be booked on “I want to father Madonnas baby”, where yes, in fact we had a bunch of men competing so the audience could determine, who they thought would be the best person to be the imaginary father of the baby Madonna was talking about having. For me, the best part of the show was the fact that all the guests were local so the entire travel was a roll of subway tokens.
So while we did, like most other 1995 talk shows of the time, focus on the real Americans who spent their time watching our shows and visiting our sponsors, following is a list of my favorite celebrities, well at least the ones that I can remember and/or have a picture.  
Now, besides my trip to the hospital to retrieve Doug Bady, when it comes to celebs on daytime talk, first on my mind, and most likely anyone who ever produced the genre is Richard Simmons. While in hiding in recent years, back in the 90’s Richard was everywhere; so of course we had our chance to book him. When the viewers found out Richard was going to be on the show the phone lines went crazy. It was then up to me to find the women/teens he would counsel. It was show full of anguish and these women were going to meet their hero to hopefully get the help they desperately needed. Everyone was set and then the unthinkable, one of Richard’s dogs died. He was heartbroken and didn’t want to travel. I honestly can’t remember what changed his mind, I’d like to think it was the stories, but he pulled through, made it to the show dressed in his trademark short shorts and tank top, and was as crazy and off the wall as you can imagine…and he also changed the lives of the women who flew from all over the country to meet him which was awesome. I wish I had taken a picture with Richard, but I didn’t, so I guess it’s onto the people where actual photos were taken.  

 

The world famous Tiny Tim
 
Now I have pictures with both Jaid Barrymore and Tiny Tim. Her claim to fame was being Drew’s mother, he, famous for Tip Toe through the Tulips, was an amazing avant guard performer from the 60’s. I don’t know why they were on the show, or if in fact I even produced them, but I know I’m glad I have these mementos of our meeting. 

Jaid Barrymore – mother of Drew

Now the final celebrity I can remember having the pleasure of meeting was the Penthouse Pet of the Century and one of the stars of “Caligula”, Lori Wagner. I met her through a friend who used to model for Playboy…my rolodex was way more interesting back then. Now Lori came to New York to do a show on reunions; she was to be reunited with her best friend from grade school who was now a middle school teacher/librarian in the Northwest. Now I had a policy for all out of town guests; I made it a point to visit them all to make sure their trip went well and/or to make sure they wouldn’t bolt like the Philadelphia people. Because I always believed in my own safety, I always brought along my PA or someone else who looked tougher then me in case things went down. To make a long story short, when we got to Lori’s room, she greeted us in a bathrobe and nothing else. Chatty and funny and full of stories we sat there as she talked for an hour. It was like a scene out of any 1980’s teen movies; two nerdy guys in the presence of a Penthouse Pet who leave with their virginity intact. The only thing I can remember from that night is her passion for the reunion and her desire to talk about her latest movie “Frankenpenis” starring John Wayne Bobbitt and Ron Jeremy. The guy with with dick cut off and the guy with the most famous dick in the business. Who could say no? The next day Lori was great, her friend was even better and “Frankenpenis” was featured on national TV. A job well done.  
I’m sure there were other celebs on the show, but they just didn’t resonate like the ones above.  
Up next…the final bookings and my first cancellation.  

#carnie #tinytim #drewbarrymore #penthouse #penthousepet #loriwagner #ronjeremy #madonna 

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Daytime talkshow guests – Diary part 2 

Doug Baty outisde the studio

A disclaimer. This diary is not going to be long; not from laziness, but actually due to the fact that I got promoted to associate producer within six weeks of starting. My time working as a PA was short lived, yet crazier then most other times I had in television. Besides getting the office in order, being the go to person for every whim of every other person in the office, well except for the receptionist, answering the phones to troll for guests for such shows as, “My mother needs a makeover”, we also had to deal with the PA groupies. These people had no idea who we were, but they loved us just for answering the phones at the show. We were the gatekeepers, our one bit of power. Without fail they would call, to chat, to give ideas, try to score free trips to NY. In between our fans, and potential show guests we also had to deal with the jokers who called to harass. “Your show sucks.” “Did Carnie eat Ricki?” “Go sing your fuckin songs.” It was mean tweeting, long before both Twitter and Jimmy Kimmel. With all this insanity, by far the highlight of the job was dealing with the actual guests. A mix of real people looking for their 15 minutes of fame and interesting characters who were pseudo celebrities. The six weeks in the trenches were like nothing else.
As my reign as PA was short lived, following is a week by week highlight of the times.  
The highlight of my guest encounters started in week one with Bubbles, the 400 pound wannabe stripper who wanted to spice up her sex life by performing a lap dance for her husband. Being that this was a debut show we pulled out all stops including having a fine bathroom fixture store send us a beautiful old bathtub, the ones with feet, because I convinced them that the publicity would be great for them. It wasn’t. All I recall from show is a woman in a loose fitting teddy grinding on her husband in a bathtub fit for a king. It was a fiasco, a travesty and the only thing from the first day of taping that made it to air. Thank you Bubbles, wherever you are. 
While week two was calm, things certainly picked right up in week three. I was assigned a show that had booked Doug Bady, someone who if he wasn’t, should have been a “wack pack” member of Howard Stern. On the Stern show he was got locked in a trunk on the streets of NY, pleaded with people to let him out then proceeded to scream at them when they attempted the rescue. Doug was a comedian with muscular dystrophy who once claimed that Jerry Lewis attacked him in his wheelchair. He hung out with Sam Kinison. What he was doing on our show, I have no idea. So Doug was scheduled to fly in and be driven to the hotel, standard talk show fare. I knew things were not going to be “normal” when we got a call that Doug was so drunk on the plane that they rushed him by ambulance to the nearest hospital. And of course the only logical person to go to the hospital to retrieve him was the PA, namely me. So there I was, a limo waiting outside, me with a passed out Doug Baty trying to get him discharged. Fortunately my legal prowess came into play and I got Doug out of the hospital, into the car and finally into bed at the hotel. Bright eyed and bushy tailed he was there the next day. My heroics saved the show and more importantly my job for another week.  
Week four saw myself and a fellow PA with conflicts that required us to be out of the office for a day. I was still representing a plaintiff in a breach of contract case for several million dollars. There was a motion for summary judgment that needed to be argued so off I went to court. The guy next to me needed to finish his gym class to graduate college so off he went with his short shorts. We both were successful. 
Week five had a show that escapes me now, but the guests certainly do not. The producer decided to book these flakey guests who were supposed to come up from Philly. Flakey guests are the ones who you give at best a 50-50 chance of showing up. To improve the odds that these mensa members made it to the show, myself and another PA were enlisted to take a limo down to Philly to pick them up and drive them back to NYC. When we got there, there were four of them, one more than there were supposed to be. The other guy was coming or they weren’t getting in the limo. So now we were six. The only other thing I remember about that ride was that I was the only one sober. The trip ended at the hotel in the city when we said goodbye to our loud new friends and delivered them to the waiting PAs at the hotel. All efforts went to naught when we found out early the next morning that they had beaten up the PA sleeping outside their room and took off.
I had shown I could handle the job. An opening for an Associate Producer opened up, there was lots of turnover, and I grabbed it. No longer a PA, my relationship with the guests had changed…but that’s for a different day.  

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Diary of a Production Assistant-  Part 1 

  
Diary of a Production Assistant – Part 1
“Are you of the Hebrew persuasion?” Dick Clark to me in 2001.

Why yes Dick, I am a Hebrew. For many, that means settling into a life of being a doctor, lawyer or accountant. Having an aversion to both blood and math, I decided upon the law. Seven years of schooling later, I was a practicing attorney. Four years later, things took a sharp right turn.

In 1995, I decided to leave the practice of law and start my career in the Entertainment industry. I gave up an office with a window, a secretary who was indispensable and a nice salary to become a production assistant, PA for short, on the brand new daytime talkshow, Carnie!. Yes, Carnie!, with the exclamation point, hosted by none other than Carnie Wilson, no exclamation point, of Wilson Philips fame. 1995 saw daytime talk explode with eight new shows starting, including ones with Gabrielle Carteris, Charles Perez, Danny Bonaduce and Tempestt Bledsoe. It was a rough and tumble year, everyone bloody and bruised, which I think can be best summed up by the NY Times who wrote this:
“Carnie,” featuring Carnie Wilson, is expected to be canceled before next season even though it is the most popular of the new shows, with a 2.1 average rating.
The fact that they didn’t use the exclamation point was a precursor of what was to come. We were in fact cancelled after that first year, replaced in a retooled version of the show which was to be hosted by someone name Rosie O’Donnell.    
But before that cancellation there were some crazy times, insane times, not to be believed times. Following is a list of badly misspelled notes from the first few weeks of working on the show. 

  

From Bubbles the stripper to picking up a guest at the hospital to having another PA beat up while he was trying to guard some guests, the stories behind these stories are even more insane. Next up the cast of characters both before and behind the camera. 

#carnie #daytimetalk #rosie #ellen #rantingsfromthebrink #1995 #insangucafe