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Meeting Howard Stern

Private Parts promo photos

Working in Rockefeller Center was like working no where else. On a day to day basis you had to deal with the hoards of tourists, which seemed to increase by 10,000 fold during the lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas tree; there was also the proximity to Times Square which facilitated the time four of us, three female producers and me, piled into an peep show booth to do “research” for an upcoming show; and it was here, that I even got to meet royalty when I produced a show with Catherine Oxenberg, star of Dynasty, daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and soon to be ex-wife of Casper Van Dien, he of Starship Troopers fame. Even with all of the above, nothing compared to the three encounters I had with the great Howard Stern. 

Catherine Oxenberg – Princess

The first “Howard” meeting came in the summer of 1996, prior to the taping of first show of In Person. It was a Sunday, and I heard they were shooting “Private Parts”, Howard’s movie, at 30 Rock. I, of course, used this as an excuse to go into work for some papers that I really didn’t need. Double parked, for a while this was a theme in my life, I ran over to the building and saw… nothing. I was duped. There wasn’t even an Internet to voice my displeasure. Dejected, I got my work, which was mostly likely something close to nothing, and left. As I exited the door, there he was, Howard Stern. I froze. I was speechless. Hell, I didn’t even notice Robin. I stopped, we chatted, posed for pictures, became friends…well at least in my mind. In reality, once I snapped out of my star stupor, I realized I had to run to my car before it got towed. Our formal meeting would have to wait, yet this tease was encounter one.

Howard and Robin in the scene I saw being filmed

The beauty of working at 30 Rock is that television is/was everywhere. Our offices, located on the 8th floor, happened to be a couple of floors above the studios for Conan, aka the old Letterman digs. Many times we would walk down the stairs, sneak into the back of the audience and watch a live taping. We saw countless shows of a young Conan, but, the highlight of those trips was a taping in March 1997, the night Howard Stern appeared. The place was packed, the security was tight and somehow two of us managed to sneak in. I can’t remember much from that night other than the crowd was going crazy and Howard trashed the set. While I was as far away from the stage as you could possibly get, my presence in the same room, encounter two.  

Besides Conan, Howard was doing many other shows promoting “Private Parts”, and somehow/someway it was pitched to our show. I’m not sure how our daytime audience was the right target group, but I didn’t care because, as fate would have it, I was to be the producer. I knew now that the last two encounters were now just a prelude to the main event, an actual meeting with Howard. I was psyched. I would meet him, we would become friends, I would appear on his radio show, his daughters would babysit Josh, everything was now in place…and then reality set in. I was so busy daydreaming that I didn’t immediately comprehend what was to come next. The studio told us the guest list for our show would include Robin and Fred and Gary and even some of the kids who portrayed Howard as a youth, everyone, but Howard himself. A movie promotion without the star. A line was drawn. Should we hold firm and demand, “no Howard no show”, telling them without Howard there wasn’t a point. Would we allow ourselves to become a shill? Was it even worth it? Of course! I committed to this show, wanted to meet the supporting cast and most importantly didn’t have anything else booked to fall back on. Long story short, I got to pre-interview and meet everyone in the cast; the show was fun and full of great clips, but of course, behind the scenes was the real action.  

Scene from Private Parts

At the time of “Private Parts”, the feud between Howard and Rosie, my next door taping neighbor, was at its height. They hated each other and made no bones about making it known.   Now, because our green rooms were so close, we had to make sure that no one from the Stern show would run into Rosie. We set up a plan that would make the CIA proud. We had people with walkie talkies staked out everywhere. We had doors and hallways blocked. I even made sure no one mentioned anything with Howard or Stern. It was overkill especially given the fact that in the months we had been taping, NOT ONCE had Rosie seen any of our guests. However, these weren’t racists or twins or Penthouse Pets or some woman who just got dumped by her fiancee, this was the arch enemy. And of course we blew it. Before the show even started when I was talking to Gary, aka Baba Booey, I saw Rosie out of the corner of my eye. She was walking straight towards us. Would they fight? Would I get fired? But most importantly, where the hell were the cameras. Somehow, someway we managed to avoid direct contact, but the slapstick insanity of achieving that goal did make for funny stories…and from what I remember some more Rosie bashing, the next day on Howard’s show. A mention, even if it didn’t include my name, and thus this show completed by Howard trifecta. And to this day, we still have never spoken.  

#howardstern #privateparts #30rock #rockefellercenter #nyc #newyork #sirius 

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30 Rockefeller Plaza – A TV Mecca 

30 Rock

Carson, Belushi, Murphy, Letterman, Brokaw, Brauer. After my experience at Richard Bey I found myself at the greatest building in TV, 30 Rock, NYC. When Carnie ended, two shows emerged. The first was the ratings juggernaut, multi Emmy winning trail braking show Rosie, and the second was a little show called In Person with Maureen O’Boyle. The offices for the two shared a hallway, the studios for the two were next door to each other and the two even shared green rooms but, that’s where the similarities ended. Rosie was the start of the celebrity daytime talkshow, In Person was initially a daytime show with a news bent, but soon became a daytime issue show. While Rosie would have been a blast, my destiny was In Person. Months later, we encountered Rosie at a friends birthday. We had brought Josh, he conceived during Richard Bey, born during In Person, and she was thrilled. She went to pick him up and play with him and he proceeded to scream, and scream and scream until she put him down. I’d like to think it was his way of saying screw your for not hiring my father, but I’m sure it was just gas.
30 Rock truly was an amazing place to work. Roaming the hallways I would see stars galore, especially when Rosie started to get hot. On any given day I would see Elton John, Michael J Fox, Mel Gibson (pre Jew ranting days), Bill Cosby (pre, well I guess not pre anything), most of the cast of Friends, among countess others, but none, compared to one magical encounter. Now while Rosie was interviewing celebrities, I was doing shows about a deranged man trying to hire a hitman to throw acid on the face of his estranged lover (I still have the TV movie of the week treatment if anyone is interested), a plea to help overweight relatives and New Age healing techniques to name a few. Because our green rooms were right next to Rosie’s, several times a month, a celeb might bump into one of our real people, but nothing compared to the time I was doing yet another “I Hate My Racist Relative” show; which for some reason were becoming my specialty. The show was over and it was time to get the guests out of 30 Rock before they started spewing more reprehensible crap. So there I was, escorting the most vile, racist, hateful future Tump voters back to their green rooms when a door opened and none other then Henry Winkler, aka The Fonz stepped out. You would’ve thought these Nazi idiots had seen Hitler himself they were so excited. They forgot their hatred of blacks and gays and basically everyone else and ran to get a pieces of paper for an autograph; and Henry, to his credit signed every single one. I apologized profusely and he said it was fine which only confirmed that The Fonz is the coolest Jew ever.  

  
And even with all that, things got more interesting.  

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The first inductee to the Guest Hall of Fame 

   

Hall of Fame guest – Vindi Bey

After surviving my first show, I was entrusted with producing some more. They included another reunion show, where a guest fell out at the last second and my AP tracked down and booked my first girlfriend thus making me a guest on my own show. My performance, about a B minus. 

There was Richard Bey’s Summer Olympics 1996 which featured a screaming Captain Lou Albano who was out of control even after the cameras were turned off. This show also included a remote where we had our “contestants” do a “synchronized” dive into the freezing cold pool of the hotel next door; it also had a race, in and around the WOR building, after the contestants had stripped off their sweats revealing naked body suits with fig leaves haphazardly placed. But, to top it off, the highlight of this episode was behind the scenes when we saw a guest try to walk out before the taping had even started. Before a show, people would occasionally get cold feet and you had to calm them down and get them on stage, whatever it took. Sometimes it was a pep talk, sometimes it was yelling and sometimes it was just $100.00 and extra time in the limo after the show. Fortunately for us, he was stopped, naked suit on, gym bag in hand, not by a producers, but by his daughter who told him he had to do the show and marched him back to the dressing room.  

Naked suits outside WOR

There was Richard Bey’s Greatest Show on Earth, an entire show devoted to both amateur and professional sideshow acts. From a spoon playing father and son to the fire eater, to the teenage belcher to the contortionist that used the same dentist as me, the episode was a favorite of mine and helped fuel my love of the unusual that I would use in the years to come.  
Then of course was the show that will always be near and dear to my heart: “Richard Bey’s Greatest Fan” also called “I Love You Richard”.   This was a show I wanted to do since the day I arrived. An homage to Richard and his passionate fans. These were the people that made up the audience, the ones that watched on TV, and some that even got rides homes from Richard when the last bus to NYC left before our taping had ended. To book the show we used a “crawl” on the local feed. The crawl is/was a live scrolling ad running during the show asking for guests. Like most things with our show, I seem to remember that the people at WOR weren’t thrilled about doing it, but like everything else with the show, it got done. So the crawl would run and depending on the topic the phone would ring off the hook or awkwardly stay silent alerting the producer that they had better find another topic. For Richard Bey’s greatest fan, the phone line went crazy. We had every misfit, stay at home mom, college burnout, and non-English speaking fan within 200 miles of Secaucus. The selection process was arduous, but we narrowed it down to 9 people who would go through a litany of tests, while dressed as Richard, to see who in fact loved him most.

The cast of “Richard, I Love You”

It was perfect and then a gift was granted. Every so often you’re in the right place at the right time, for me, it was the taping of another show. There in the audience he was, my AP and I saw him and just had a feeling. Little did I know that that he would wind up as the first member in the Hall of Fame of Guests. Varinder Bey aka Vindi Bey aka The Turbinator. Now, not only was Vinid an audience member, but he was a med student who actually was living with a bunch of other students in the same hotel where we staged our pool follies. And he wore a turban. Jackpot. Through sheer persistence, that most likely included stalking the hotel, we tracked him down, convinced him he wasn’t jeopardizing his medical career and finally landed him by agreeing that he wouldn’t have to put a Richard Bey wig. Well it also may have taken a couple hundred bucks, but it was worth it. While the others were crazy, from singing Richard original songs, to giving him teddy bears, to professing their love in Spanish, to even passing out at the dance portion of the show from dehydration or maybe some other substance, none could touch the Turbinator. As soon as he bounded on stage he was a fan favorite. Eyes bugging out his head, he enthralled everyone. He jumped, he yelled, he high fived, he danced and laughed and he delivered like no other…and he wore a turban.   

Vindi Bey

Given the beauty of the internet you can actually watch his highlights here.   

Vindi Bey highlights
But what sets him apart and puts him in the hall of fame is the line he uttered after drinking a blended concoction consisting of cottage cheese and fish and milk and tomatoes, and various other products, not including meat. After gulping it down he spontaneously grabbed Richard’s mic and exclaimed,

“I don’t smoke dope, I don’t drink bourbon, all I want to do is shake my turban.”  
Sheer perfection. And to think today he’s most likely working as a gynecologist.  
My Richard Bey years ended soon after this as I was allured to the calling of working at the greatest building in New York television, 30 Rock working right next door to the show that was about to change daytime TV.  

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The Richard Bey show and my first production   – Part 7

Secaucus, home to WOR channel 9

From swamp land to outlet malls to high rise housing, Secaucus New Jersey has it all. (well, it all except for being counted as a correct spelling in spell check) For me, the most important resident of Secaucus was WOR, Channel 9, a fixture in my house growing up. With shows like Romper Room, to my beloved Mets to Morton Downey Jr., to the first Howard Stern TV show to People are Talking which changed to 9 Broadcast Plaza which then changed again into the Richard Bey show, Channel 9 was my favorite station growing up. Now, here I was, walking into its hallowed halls, ready to go to work with the man himself, Richard Bey. 
The office was like nothing I had ever seen. From what I remember, it was on the second floor, at the top of a stair case in what seemed like open floor space broken up by mid sized dividers. At Carnie, we all had our own phones and voicemail, but this was not the case here. There was one central phone line which housed the single answering machine. One machine for all the people working on the show and yet, they made it work booking their own brand of crazies for the air. The other distinct feature I recall about our floor was the cafeteria on the opposite side of the building. A standard no frills affair, it’s where I ate everyday. The food was passable, but I don’t think I ever deviated from whatever Chinese rice concoction I had ordered on the first day. 

And then there was Richard. I had spent my years at my third rate law school, the months studying for the bar exam, the months after that looking for my first job, the years after that working as a lawyer and finally the months at Carnie as a fan of Richard Bey and now I was finally going to meet him. He would dress in costumes, break up fights, dance in the audience and bring out the best in whatever insane guest was put in his way. I remember seeing him that first day and probably incoherently saying something about being a big fan and that it was an honor to work there. I have no idea what he said, but whatever it was, it thrilled me.   
 

My treasured Richard Bey autograph
 

Again, while I loved everything about this show but, I only spent a short amount of time working there. I started as an AP and worked on such classics as “I Am Opposed to Your Racist Views” where a 21 year old punk called both Richard and me stupid Jew or something super witty to that effect; the reunion of long lost crushes, where of course I had the pleasure of booking yet another silicone enhanced Playboy bunny/Penthouse Pet, back when people cared about those magazines and various other shows where people would scream at each other. Nothing, however, was better then the times we found out that people on air had lied about their story. Not only were they subjected to the “Wheel of Torture”, a spinning wheel were someone was strapped down, spun around and then had tons of different crap, from hershey syrup to spoiled milk to actual crap thrown on them, but because that sometimes wasn’t enough, there were some that were escorted off the stage, found their bags packed, return plane tickets confiscated and no way to go home. 

The shows, the people, the building, everything was great and it was here, in my very fortunate meteoric rise up the ranks, I became a trial producer even after proposing a show called “Pubic Hair Makeovers” which was met with stunned silence by everyone except Al Goldstein who loved the idea when I pitched it to him many years later.

As a producer I was able to conceive my own show and get it on the air. It was a dream come true. I was in control. It was my vision that was going to see the light. Unfortunately, I can’t remember that first show, the guests or the outcome. I do however remember the day like it was yesterday, because it was also the same day I had to drive into NYU Medical Center to make a deposit at the fertility clinic. We, like other couples, were having trouble having a baby and decided to try our hand with a fertility doctor. Now the menstrual cycle did not give a shit that it was my producing debut so here I was, in the pouring rain, double parked on the east side of Manhattan with an episode full, of hopefully real guests, scheduled to show up in Secaucus, NJ.  

It was the fastest I ever moved in my life. Leaving the car in the street with the blinkers on, I ran up to the clinic telling them I was double parked and had no time on my hands. As they showed me to my room, I remember uttering these words verbatim,

“Don’t go away, this will take a second.”

Before she closed the door, I was done. No magazines, no videos, nothing. It’s a record that stands to this day. Pants barely zipped back up, I ran down stairs, drove through across town through the monsoon and put on my first Richard Bey show. I guess it was a success as I was allowed to produce some more, including two that I will never forget…and nine months later, my son was born.  

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Carnie! ends and a trip to unemployment 

Seinfeld – Costanza , Sokol

After several months, it was the end of the season for Carnie! I had actually survived my first stint in TV and I was hooked. In addition to the craziness previously reported, there were lots of other insane times that just didn’t fall into any category.  

For example, there was the time there was a snowstorm which made travel virtually impossible. Our guests were in, but we still needed a “justice of the peace” to perform a TV wedding, aka one that doesn’t count but appeases the bride and gets the man off the hook, at least until she finds out that the whole thing was a sham. These TV weddings also included giant fake “diamond” rings that I would buy from a sweet old couple that worked at the old Woolworths on 42nd or clothing at Lane Bryant on 125th Street. For the snowstorm wedding, everything was set, except the officiant. Without anyplace else to turn, I recruited a friend from law school, who decided to do the “wedding” on air even though neither one of us was sure this was a breach of legal ethics. In the end, the wedding was performed and no one got hurt, well almost. While my now former friend wasn’t disbarred, he did wind up spending more money on an accountant than we paid him just to figure out how to claim his TV fee on his taxes.  

Backstage at Carnie!

Of course there were the memorable shows, like the time we hosted a mother/daughter beauty pageant complete with an opening dance number. This show was of course quickly followed up by an episode about mothers who hated their daughters where we had to bribe the mother with a trip to Disney World just so she would come to NY to be on our show. For every I Wanna be a Drag Queen show, there was the Sisters Who Never Got Along reunion.  
There was even the time I agree to go on the show for staff makeovers. I transformed from a Ralph Lauren wearing fool, into a Ralph Lauren wearing fool with a new haircut and who for a day wore a Versace shirt. The upshot of that episode was six months of dyed hair and the need to change my home phone number after someone on the staff gave it out to an “obsessed” fan who was now enthralled with my new look. 

Carnie and me 1996

And then one day it was gone. I was finished. I was out of work.  
And then for the first time in my life, I went to the unemployment office, a right of passage for some in the Entertainment industry. In NYC one of the unemployment locations is on West 54th street, right near the old David Letterman theater. Now, if you haven’t been there, it’s a nondescript building that I’m quite sure was the model for the office that George Costanza visited when he was filing for unemployment. Let’s face it, this building is right down the street from the Soup Nazi. Making me even more certain of this fact, is that I’m convinced that the Seinfeld created, Keith Hernandez loving Mrs. Sokol was based upon the woman who “helped” me. Anyway as Mrs. Sokol was going over my resume and I was being my typical jovial self trying to crack jokes and make her laugh, she stabbed a dagger in my heart.  
“Oh, Cardozo, third rate law school.”
I was astonished. I didn’t hear anything she said after that. I mean second rate I could maybe understand, but third rate! We had just reached number 51 in the country, third rate! Thoughts raced through my mind. Should I dare ask what year she graduated Harvard. Should I get up and walk out? Was it a test or was she simply that big a fuckin bitch. Either way, I never found out because soon enough I was working again. That’s right, I landed a gig at NEWSTALK television. Starting salary, $200.00 per week. Time worked there, two days. Nothing more to really say about it simply because I can’t remember much beyond leaving a voicemail to let them know that while I appreciated the job, I wouldn’t be coming back because I had just landed an associate producer job in Seacaus, NJ at the Richard Bey Show.
No joke, it was a dream come true. The Richard Bey Show. Since I returned home to attend my third rate school, I had been a fan of the show. From the wheel of torture, to the I Hate my Sister Olympics to the Mr Punyverse contest, it was television at its most outrageous and I was about to join the fun..

#carnie #seinfeld #costanza #richardbey #daytimetalk