It is a truth universally acknowledged that L.A. is a company town. But what happens when we don't know how to navigate the "company" that owns the town? And what if I just can't wear a sleeveless dress to the Emmys? What happens then?
So about a year and a half ago, Dick Cavett came out with a terrific memoir called Talk Show, and agreed to do a Writers Bloc event. Writers Bloc is the literary series I founded about 17 years ago. We bring to L.A. favorite literary writers, personalities, comedy geniuses, politicians, and authors of just about any stripe. Or at least stripes that interest us. Although Writers Bloc has hosted some of the most iconic names in literature, culture, politics, television and film, my world isn't entertainment. My orientation has been, pretty much, books.
Back to Cavett. He was one of the most influential and interesting talk show hosts who played to the top of the class instead of to the bottom third, and therefore required a nice big venue and a terrific onstage conversation partner. The Saban Theater was available, a huge old beauty which meant I had 1,700 seats to fill, in two weeks. After careful research of about a minute and a half, I asked Mel Brooks to do the onstage chat. He had been on the Dick Cavett Show many times, and I thought it would be fun. It was of course extraordinary fun. Mel sang, he danced, he did impressions, had a brief dialog with the other 2,000 Year Old Man, Carl Reiner, and Mel and Cavett covered some touchstone moments in both of their careers. Extraordinary.
Mel brought along a few cameras, edited the footage, ran it on HBO, and HBO in turn made it available On Demand for months. Mel Brooks has a pretty good sense of humor, and made me one of the producers. It was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Show. My friend Susan, a showbiz manager, pays close attention to this stuff, and texted me a congratulations the minute it made the news, as I landed in Washington, D.C. for a long weekend. Another friend Helene heard or saw a mention on E! Life was buzzing.
But the thing is, I didn't even know how to secure a pair of tickets. I am still not quite certain about the definition of executive producer. Have you ever counted the number of producers and executive producers some of those tv series list? Do all of them go to the Emmys? So many tough questions. I don't even know about the ticket process.
Do I need to sound like I have a frantic office, buzzing with activity? Should I have a friend call the Television Academy, saying she has Andrea Grossman on the line? A quick call to Mel's office answered a few big questions, but prompted more. As in, oh my God, do I have to wear a floor-length dress? The things we executive producers have to worry about.