Back in 1999, when no one was quite sure the world wouldn’t explode with Y2K, I was working on Donny and Marie and they entrusted me with producing Miss America; more likely, it just fell on one of my show days and despite the trepidations of what international incidents I might trigger by speaking with her, they let me proceed anyways. I just found my notes of questions that I wanted/possibly did ask her. In retrospect, they probably should have rethought me leading this segment. While the questions start off tame, as with many of my interviews, they seem to veer off on an insane tangent by the end.
QUESTIONS FOR MISS AMERICA
Why do you think you won over everyone else?
Do you have any hidden talents that we didn’t see last night?
What is happening next in your life?
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
If you were a judge, who would you have picked?
What was the toughest part of the competition?
What do you hope to accomplish with your reign?
Do you think you are ready for the all of the attention?
How cold do you think the water is going to be when you jump in tomorrow?
If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Are you a little bit country or a little bit rock n’ roll?
Who was your favorite Miss America?
Unfortunately, I can’t find the answers to these probing inquiries, but rest assured she did not, like most others, answer the tree question.
Did I leave anything out? Let me know in case I get to interview again sometime this century.
While working on Penn and Teller’s Sin City Spectacular, a great show on FX that was cancelled way too early, I had the pleasure of collaborating with celebrities. As one of the producers on the show, it was my responsibility to try to get the guests to do something out of the ordinary, something that you would never expect to see, something that would hopefully allow P&T some down time. It was easy for the celebrity to say, “I love Penn and Teller, can’t I just be in a bit with them. I really don’t want to do anything else.” For some, their names shall remain nameless, there was no option. They refused to play along. In fact, in one instance, a guest, someone who became a huge TV star a few years after our little show, cancelled, rather than try to do something out of his comfort zone. He was the exception.
Then there were those that played along. Below is the final product from the amazing Judge Reinhold. A great job, sounds incredible and the bit has a perfect ending. The initial idea was a bit more bizarre.
When I found out Judge was going to be one of my guests I was beyond happy. He was Billy Rosewood from Beverly Hills Cop, Brad Hamilton from Fast Times, Elmo in Stripes; hell, he was even Aaron the close talker on Seinfeld, and now it was my job to produce him.
We got on the phone and discussed ideas for a bit. It was then I found out he was a whistler. Not the annoying kind, like the guy on the subway who is driving everyone crazy, but an amazing whistler, a whistler you wanted to hear. But we were on a TV show, a kinda crazy one at that, so we had to do something to enhance the bit. Even in the days prior to YouTube, you still needed a YouTube type moment. I mean we did have Talk Soup on E! to strive for.
So Judge and I spoke and plotted and laughed and came up with an amazing visual. Yes he would whistle, yes it would be a western scene and yes it would appear to be a straight bit, but the end was where we would wow people. In our bantering back and forth we came up with Judge finishing his performance, turning around, and revealing chaps with no pants. After mooning the entire free world, he would mount a miniature horse and ride off the stage. Perfection. A total surprise. The perfect button, to a straight musical performance.
Well, the saying best laid plans of mice and men often go awry applies to TV prep, even when mice aren’t involved. A week away, things were set and then I got a call from Judge. He was still laughing about the whole concept, but he broke the news to me, the sight of his bare ass would not be happening on our show. He called his manager, the kiss of death, the voice of reason, one of the few adults in the room. He reminded Judge while the bit MIGHT be funny, the thought of losing some of his endorsement deals, all which have a moralities clause, probably wasn’t a good idea. No pleading would work. There was no way we could cover that potential loss. It was done. Bare ass out, everything else in.
The night of the taping. Everything was set. Judge was in costume. The minature horse was backstage. The campfire scene was set. And then we waited. The call time was 9PM but we were running behind It was now 10PM, then 11 and soon it was closing in on midnight. It was then the animal handler came over to me and said they had to leave. The horse was pregnant and couldn’t really stand anymore. And one other thing, she couldn’t take anything on her back. So now, minutes away from taping, I had a minature pregnant horse who couldn’t hold weight and now had to leave the studio. We had booked them for six hours and they were leaving after four. I had just gotten screwed by the horse handler. As the horse and owner waddled off I had to think. It was now time. No bare ass, no small horse, just a campfire and aardvark.
“Pick up the aardvark?” That was it. I can’t be sure if it was Judge or me or someone else who came up with that idea, but it was perfect. No one would see it coming. It was just crazy enough to work…and with the taping about to happen any second, there was little else we could do. We improvised and killed. The audience loved it. The camera loved it. And even the fake aardvark was happy.
I love Vegas. I love the lights, the action, the fact that as soon as you step off the plane you skin begins to feel like a lizard. Now while the strip has its charm, like being able to walk, or more likely uber, from New York to Paris to Venice, the real magic happens in and around Freemont Street in Downtown Las Vegas. As soon as the sun goes down, the area takes on a life of its own, the likes of which you have most likely never seen before, nor will you ever see again.
People all dressed up for a night out on Freemont Street.
This was the only time I gambled in downtown. I walked down an abandoned street to get this picture. Walking back I saw a mysterious figure in the shadows. Passing by, my fears were diminished as I saw it was just some guy taking a dump in the alley.
The Western Hotel once again. Heads everywhere and a chest scrawled into the glass.
Elvis out for a walk. One of several out and about on Friday night.
Speaking of celebs, one of the two KISS bands downtown. Moon boots and a thong, a perfect look.
Sold Out…and a sign from election night.
This picture is a visual smorgasbord encompassing all that is downtown. Of course, the highlight for me is the woman fondling the big balls.
And in closing, a short video of a giant flame throwing preying mantis playing Huey Lewis which greets you at Container Park. Of course it does.
I love Downtown Vegas. With the old hotels on the strip now gone, this is the one place that retains some of the history of Vintage Vegas, that and you don’t have to walk five miles to get to the next hotel. As someone who adheres to the dress code of shabby prep, Ralph Lauren clothes that are either too big or too wrinkled and most time both, I fit in with the eclectic mix of hipsters, street performers, midwest first time visitors, locals, drunks, beggars, punk kids and every other cliche you can think of. At the end of Freemont Street, past the canopy that lights up at night, past the Heart Attack Grill with people happily weighing themselves hoping to eclipse 350 pounds so they can get their free meal sits the El Cortex hotel, which, since 1941, has entertained guests. As you enter, you can feel the history, among other things, oozing from the walls. One day I found myself inside and for some reason drawn to the electronic craps machine. A few words may have been changed, but following is an almost verbatim blow by blow of what happened. I changed the names to protect the innocent and because this, most likely, in some form, will wind up in a movie I’m writing.
I’m not sure why this exists, but back in the mid-90’s, before I even ventured into the TV world, I wrote this mash up short script of beloved 1970’s TV show Brady Bunch meeting gritty 1990’s cop drama NYPD Blue. Please forgive the lack of format. Enjoy….I think.
You would think I would remember a lot about a day I lost $80,000,000.00, but it was back in the 80’s, during a summer job, a summer job where I was a temp.Well I was a temp, until the day after I lost $80,000,000.00.
What I do recall of that summer was that I was working at One Liberty Plaza, the old Merrill Lynch.It was my first summer job that didn’t involve working in a warehouse, where I shipped dresses, learned how to wheel dresses through the streets of NY and was schooled on bribing JFK custom officials with fresh canned tomatoes.
The days leading up to the eight figure loss are as murky as the job I was doing.I was on a floor that accepted some sort of Fed Funds to pay out to the holder.We used antiqueated computers to check cusip numbers, but worked mostly from carbon copy papers. The hours we paid out funds was from 10-3, not a second later.It was never crowded until around 2:30 when bike messengers would line up outside a bank teller like window hoping to beak the strict deadline.
I was 20.I was, believe or not, somewhat of a wiseass, whose favorite pastime was to get into fights with the multitudede of Jews for Jesus that used to hang out around Wall Street; that is unless of course it was a cute girl who on one occasion I convinced to meet me at a bar after work to further discuss her ridiculous views.And here I was, assigned to shadow the woman who had the final say as to whether of not these funds would be paid out.It seemed like everything centered on her.
I want to say was named Pat, that or Peg. Either way, she had just been thrust into the spot a few weeks before and was not handling it well.Besides the gallons of Coke, the soda, not powder and hundreds of cigarettes she smoked, things “seemed” to be normal.Then one day, she didn’t show up.Vanished.There was a rumor of a nervous breakdown, but no one could confirm anything.It was years before the internet, so she was basically forgotten.
And once she was gone there was no one to take over the desk by me.This was the 80’s.Anything goes.The manager of the entire department was probably so coked up, powder, not soda, that he thought it was fine to have some kid from Bergen County, who hung out at Paramus Park on the weekends, to be in charge of millions of dollars.It was now up to me to decide on millions of dollars in payments in a moments notice.And while hectic, and cutting down on my Jews for Jesus dating, things went well.I’d love to tell the story about things going haywire, but I kinda enjoyed the power of being able to reject work the second hand reached 3.Clerks were running towards me to get things done, suddenly I was the expert while the manager was taking all the credit.
Things went great for a month.I was making enough money to have my very own Girbaud pants and capezio shoes, the same ones that Lionel Richie wore on the cover of the Can’t Slow Down album.I had outlasted Pat/Peg, by weeks…and then the day came.It started like any other, a woman, who most likely was a hooker in her night profession, came around and gave everyone a back massage and the carbon copy papers began to trickle onto my desk. (fyi – this is not a metaphor). Then an amount I had never seen before $88,000,000.00. It was big.Bigger than any amount I had paid before.And it was faded.I asked someone else at the desk and he said it looked like $88,000,000 to him, but he had just come back from a four drink lunch, the 80’s.Another guy said 88 and even massage woman thought that looked likely so I paid it out and closed out the day.
I knew something wasn’t good as soon as I got in the next morning as there were several guys in dark suits in the managers office.Was he being busted for coke?They left, but he remained.Then I was called in.The next few minutes are a blur, but it was something to the effect of the payment was supposed to be $8,000,000 and I had lost the bank $32,000 in over night interest due to the $80,000,000.00 mistake. A head was going to roll and that head was going to be mine.I had 15 minutes to get out.No pleading my case was going to work.He wanted me gone to save his own ass.Looking back I can’t blame him, he had a nose to feed. I was the temp, low man on the totem pole, the easy sacrifice.I’d like to say I was defiant and walked out in a Jerry Maguire moment, but I can’t because I used my last minutes getting one last massage and more importantly, the movie hadn’t even been made yet.
Thus ended my stay at Merrill.That was until i was hired again as temp the next summer and something even more insane happened.
Years ago, when the kids were small, I took a crack at writing the first of a series of bedtime stories.Here is that story. Any and all comments are welcome.
The Adventures of Max and Max Cheese
One beautiful summer day, Penelope was in the park. She was busy running around with all the other little children.She came across a mother who was holding her new born baby.She loved the baby.It was small, smaller then her.It smelled nice.It smiled widely in it’s mothers arms. Penelope wanted a baby of her own.Someone she could hold and take care of.Someone who would smile when in her arms.It was just then she looked down and saw two very little babies.She reached down with her cupped hands and picked them up.
“Hi Mommy.I’m Max and this is my brother Max Cheese.”
Penelope was puzzled.“Hi Max and Max Cheese, I’m Penelope, but I’m not your mommy.”
“You ARE our mommy” said Max Cheese.“Whoever picks us up gets to be our mommy for the day.”
Penelope was thrilled with her new babies.She ran over to her daddy who was sitting on a bench.
“Hi daddy.These are my babies, Max and Max Cheese.”She stretched out her hands to show her daddy.
“Nice to meet you Max and Max Cheese,” said Penelope’s daddy.He pretended he saw them, but he really couldn’t.
“How old are your babies Penelope?”
Penelope thought for a moment and then said, “They’re two, I mean they’re three.No I think they are one.”As she kept giving different ages Max and Max Cheese kept getting bigger and smaller.They were getting dizzy, but they were having fun.
“Well have fun with your babies”, said Penelope’s father and he went back to reading his newspaper.
Penelope ran over to the swings.“How about a ride Max and Max Cheese?”
They both cried hooray so Penelope careful put them on the swing and started to push, but not too hard because they were so small.Penelope was having the time of her life with her new babies.
From the swing they ran over to a bench and had a birthday party.Then they went back to the swing.Then they all went down the slide.The babies then began to yawn.Penelope had a great idea.She loved to sleep on her daddies tummy so she knew the babies would like it too.She carefully carried them over to her daddy and put them on his stomach.They were asleep in no time.
“Daddy, please don’t move, Max and Max Cheese are sleeping on your tummy.”
With a big grin, Penelope’s daddy told her not to worry.In fact, he laid down on the grass so the babies would be more comfortable.
Minutes later Penelope was back.Max and Max Cheese were up and were waiting for some more fun.Back to the swings and the slide and another birthday party.It was the best day ever.
At the end of the day Penelope had to leave the park.She wanted to take Max and Max Cheese with her, but they said they had to stay at the park for the next little girl who wanted to have some babies. Penelope was sad, but she understood.She kissed Max and then she kissed Max Cheese.They all waved goodbye.
Max and Max Cheese knew Penelope was a good mommy.As the park grew dark, they thought about their perfect day. They knew tomorrow would bring a whole new adventure with a new mommy and so to contain their excitement, they both shot up some smack and drifted off to sleep.