back to school, las vegas, penn and teller, star trek, terry farrell, TV, Uncategorized

Valerie Desmond is Getting Married – The Time I Met Terry Farrell

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Terry Farrell – Back to School

In honor of Terry Farrell and Adam Nimoy (Spock’s son) getting engaged, here is a brief recounting of my encounter with Ms. Farrell.   I hope this will not bring on a restraining order, but I digress.

For one glorious year, actually more like nine months, I had the pleasure of working with Penn and Teller on their show Sin City Spectacular.  It was amazing.  If you haven’t seen it, try and find it.  During that time I produced many bits, but it was one that didn’t happen that stood out from the rest.

When I was assigned a celebrity, I tried to find some unique talent that they could bring to the table.  Sean Hayes played the piano and then went on a rant about the Gettysburg address, Judge Reinhold whistled by a campfire and then walked away with a fake armadillo while Gordon Clapp of NYPD Blue fame went bare assed while read a page from his diary which turned out to be a Penthouse forum encounter with his Emmy.

When someone didn’t have a secret talent or couldn’t think of something they wanted to showcase, it was left up to me to try and find something, anything, for them to perform. The fall back was having them do a trick with P&T.

One day I got assigned Terry Farrell.   Yes, Terry Farrell or as she would always be known to me, Valerie Desmond from “Back to School”.  Others might know her as Dax from a little show called Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

So Terry and I spoke and laughed and in the long run, she decided to leave it up to me to come up with a funny bit, bad idea.   I mean I was the guy who once proposed pubic hair makeovers as a show topic.   A couple of days later I called Terry, I now had her home number, and proposed something along these lines:

“Even though you can’t really sing or dance, Why don’t we pretend you’re in a 50’s girl group singing the song “Lollipop”.   The backup singers will be singing while you go to work licking a lollipop.  Things begin to get out of hand and in a sexual frenzy you run into the audience and begin to give someone a lap dance.  As you’re about to reach orgasm, the song will end and Penn and Teller will come out and say goodbye.”

There was silence, but this was good.  It wasn’t dismissed out of hand, a minor miracle. In fact, she thought it was funny and was game. This was easier than I thought.  Talk Soup here I come.

Now, bits like this can sometimes take on a life of their own.  The more time someone has to think about the bit, like the one above, the more likely they might realize that its not the best idea.  Time was not my friend.

As someone who never slept, especially in the days before we would fly out to Vegas to tape the show, I was prone to checking my work voicemail incessantly.   With three days to go I thought I was safe, but then, at 5:00 AM,  I got a message from Terry saying she had rethought the idea and wasn’t game anymore and said we should talk later. Calculating that she had left the message only minutes, ok maybe a few hours before, I decided to write up a quick revision, fax it over and call her to review it.  I mean who doesn’t like getting a call at 5:30 AM from a frantic producer who’s trying to get you to perform oral sex on a lollipop.  It went to voicemail. Not one to give up, I called again. She didn’t pick up.  Needless to say, several hours later I got a call from her publicist who wasn’t too pleased.   After that. I didn’t speak to Terry until Vegas.

A few days later, we were to meet face to face.  I was nervous, even more so then normal.  What would she do, what would she say.  I was ready for anything.  In the long run, she was cool, laughed about the whole thing, but said if I ever contacted her again she would file a restraining order.  I’m not sure if she was kidding or not, but I didn’t intend to find out.  Unfortunately, she didn’t do the bit or even the 5:15 AM rewrite below,  but I did get her to leave a voice mail message, as Valerie Desmond, for my friend.  It’s still his most prized possession.

As a post script, the following year I met Terry again while I was working at Donny and Marie.  I tried again, but the lollipop bit didn’t work out there either…and fortunately it didn’t result in the threatened restraining order.

Terry Farrell bit Part 2 – written and faxed at 5:15AM



las vegas, magic, Script, TV, Uncategorized

Comedy Bit – Judge Reinhold

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Judge Reinhold – Fast Times at Ridgemont High

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.