Darrell Vickers: How I Went from a Suite at the Four Seasons to a Shitty, Bug Infested Apartment on Avenue Road in Three Easy Steps.

darrell-vickers

Andrew and I had died on gone to showbiz heaven. We’d somehow been hired to come in and help George Carlin put together a pilot he was writing and starring in for HBO. This was about as likely as John McCain quitting the Senate to teach Anger Management seminars.

country style donuts

Andrew and I had barely digested the last Country Style donut we’d eaten in Oshawa and here we were with our feet up in George’s swank Bel Air office complex telling the comedy legend himself how we envisioned his pilot unfolding. We were not only writing jokes for George but also Bobcat Goldthwait and Pat McCormick and a host of other top comics. These were heady days!

Sidebar

george carlinI just want to state, since I have a well-earned reputation for ripping the skin off people, that George Carlin was an absolute gentleman; a sweet, incredibly smart individual who treated Andrew and myself so kindly that it was almost embarrassing. He bestowed upon me an inestimable gift that will not tarnish with time nor tide. For, no matter what happens from now until the end of my days, I will be able to go to my grave knowing that “the George Carlin” thought I was funny.

But This Story Isn’t About That….

We were deep in the midst of filming this dream pilot when we got a call from our manager. A sitcom was revving up in Toronto called “Check It Out” starring Don Adams and we were up for a staff writing job. Dilemma! Should we attempt to pick this succulent employment fruit while it was hanging loose on the tree or should we turn it down and hope that our dream gig would pan out into a full blown series? Luckily, we realized that nothing even remotely enjoyable in showbiz ever pans out…so we took a meeting with the two producers.

tail1

For those L.A. historians, we met at the “Tail O’ the Cock” near Coldwater. This was as “Old Hollywood” as you got. It had deep red-leather booths, very similar to the ones at Chasen’s. red leather boothRonald Reagan, Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Kennedy had eaten there You could practically hear the ghost of Richard Burton retching up his last six gimlets in the men’s room as we ordered our entrées.  It had been a prestigious celebrity eatery for half a century. My guess is, when they were forced to serve the likes of us, they decided, “Fuck it!” and threw in the towel. They closed soon after, erasing any memory of our ass-grease ever having stained their crimson cowhide.

Arnie Sultan was to be the executive producer of this minor entertainment. He’d worked with Don on “Get Smart”, a show called “The Partners” (which I’d seen every episode of as a kid) and had recently helmed the thuddingly unfunny “Too Close for Comfort”. Arnie was a bulldog of a man and a legendary grouch. He could have been a boxer, with a neck the width of his ugly head and a pugnacious way of dealing with people. Fortunately, we got along fairly well with Mr. Sultan and “Stu” (the other showrunner) at the ‘O The Cock” and were offered the job.

Four SeasonsThings Are Good….

Andrew and I were now, “The Men”! We were returning triumphantly to Canada as staff writers on a major international sitcom! This was a country where we’d had to eat free carpet samples and hardware-store paint strips to survive. My old principle, who was convinced I was destined for a life of intemperance and penury, was only half right! We were each pulling down over two grand a week (and this was 1985), sharing a free car to tool around in and were staying in separate suites at the Four Seasons in Yorkville (a stone’s throw to fine Movenpick dining!). Life was good – I should have realized it wouldn’t last.

Things Get Better….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

About a month into our luxurious, room-service-filled stay, word came down that the show had struck a deal with a brand new condo complex and we’d be moving. Oh dear! But (contrary to atrium on bayevery established law in the universe) the new place actually turned out to be better than the 4 Seasons! We both were given cute little apartments on Edward Street in a massive 22 storey building. To make this change of locale even more propitious, we were right across the street from The Atrium on Bay (and an LCBO) and a short frolic from the Eaton’s Center – the absolute heart of Toronto…Did I mention there was an LCBO just across the street? we had nice modern kitchens and maid service twice a week. There was even a jogging track and barbeques on the roof. Yep, the L.A. boys were impressing their school chums big time!

lcbo

One day Michael Hadley (a great guy and a formidable associate producer) sticks his noggin into our office and informs us that Don was a little unhappy with the new lodgings. He really, really likes having room service. Luckily “Check it Out” had a sweet deal with the building and it would have been a bugger and a half to make any drastic changes to our living arrangements. Things were probably going to stay as is.

check it out ad

 

It Starts to Get Bad….

todd thickeOne glorious day, Todd Thicke flew into town. Todd’s been a good pal for over 30 years. He toiled and suffered with us through our dastardly days on “Thicke of the Night” but eventually went on to become richer than God with “Funniest Home Videos.” Mr. Thicke graciously invited us over to his father’s house for a meal and some drinks and possibly some more drinks. At least I think there was a meal.

Andrew navigated our way homeward and I tried not to throw up in our complimentary vehicle.

We successfully completed the return voyage to our new abodes and I poured myself into bed, praying that I was well enough in the morning to show up for work. Cool, sweet sleeeeep….then.

Bup. ooooooooOOOOOOOBOP Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!

“What screaming demon from the depths of hell is this?” I ask my hungover self at 2:30 in the morning. All goes quiet. More sweet sleeee….Then…Bup. ooooooooOOOOOOOBOP Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!

Holy shitting fuck-beans, what was going on? Then a pre-recorded message blares out of a ceiling speaker, “This is not a drill. There is a fire.  Please use the stairs and vacate the building.”

big staircase

The stairs? I’m on the 15th floor! Vacate the building? It’s night! This is Canada! It’s cold outside! I felt like absolute refried puke as I fumbled with my clothes. I could hear people’s footsteps in the hallway as I tried to remember how to tie my shoes. Then I heard, “Bup. ooooooooOOOOOOOBOP Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!” Motherfucker, that was annoying. “This is not a drill. There is a fire.  Please use the stairs and vacate the building.”

Fire drill

All we dazed and confused residents obediently tromped on down to the lobby, (like Dante heading off to the Inferno) only to be told that there wasn’t a fire. Apparently the smoke alarms were new and they thought builder’s dust might be responsible for setting them off. Back up the stairs we climbed and for the next two or more hours, every ten minutes or so we heard, “Bup. ooooooooOOOOOOOBOP Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!” Interestingly enough, the “Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!” wasn’t the worst of it.  It was the “Bup”. I’d just begin to dyspeptically drift on back to slumberland and then I’d hear that tiny noise, the harbinger of far fouler things to come. The few silent seconds between the tiny beep and the rising howl were absolute torture, worthy of Pavlov and his doggy victims.

It Got Even Worse….

Andrew and I hurried into work the next day, ready to regale the staff with the comical tale of our nightmarish evening only to discover that the staff had an even better tale to tell.

don adamsApparently Don, who was living on the 17th floor, had evacuated the building like everyone else. Only, when he reached the ground floor, he’d exited through the wrong door and it had dumped him out onto Yonge Street in just his dressing gown at three in the morning (A very cold three o’clock in the morning), where he’d wandered around lost like a geriatric flasher. It took him almost an hour of greeting people on the sidewalk to make his way back to the building, which was still going “Bup. ooooooooOOOOOOOBOP Wa! Wa! Wa! Wa!” every 7 1/2 minutes or so.

Needless to say, Don had had it up to his bloodshot eyeballs with that fucking place. He wanted his room service back and he wanted it now, Goddman It (and not to have to walk up and down a frigid Yonge Street with his wrinkled ass hanging out of his dressing gown)! We were notified that we had two weeks to secure new accommodations…on our own…in our spare time…with a meager monthly allowance because most of the show’s dough was being spent on putting Donny boy back into the Four Seasons.

avenue rd. st. claire

Schedule and budget pressed our hand and we eventually ended up settling for a shitty apartment building at the corner of Avenue Road and St Claire, run by this fussy, sashaying, pudgy little Dutchman who did nothing but complain about us and the manner in which we treated his dowdy digs. Plus, I contracted something just shy of tuberculosis and had to move all of my shit in the K Car after work while coughing up my bodyweight in phlegm.

Our new residence didn’t have a upscale jogging track or maid service or rooftop barbeques. And worst of all….it didn’t have an LCBO directly across the street.

It did have cockroaches and something that looked an awful lot like asbestos dust coating all the radiators in the winter. The laundry-room looked like the Joad family had used it to wash their overalls.

Of course, I’m a tad more philosophical about it now. Sure, we ended up trapped in bug infested crapholes for 6 months, but at least we didn’t have the imprudence to believe in ourselves and follow our dream. That way lay ruin. George’s HBO show didn’t get picked up and we wouldn’t work with him again for almost 10 years.

The George Carlin Show (we worked on this)

Sleep well, Mr. Carlin. But if you should be up in heaven and spot Don Adams wandering around, lost in purgatory with his ass hanging out of his silky night-robe, perhaps you could help guide him back inside. Would your believe!? He probably just walked out there through the wrong door.

george carlin in  heaven

=DV=

If you like the writing, then check out my serial novel at the link below.

There is a new chapter every Monday.

http://chateaudietrich.blogspot.com/

Darrell Vickers appears here every 4th Monday 

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.co

DBAWIS_ButtonDarrell Vickers started out as one half of Toronto area band, Nobby Clegg.  CFNY fans may remember the cheery song “Me Dad” which still gets airplay.  From there, he valiantly ventured to L.A. and eventually became head writer for The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  Since then, he’s created numerous sitcoms and animation shows in Canada and the U.S.  He still writes music and has an internet band called Death of the Author Brigade (members in Croatia, Canada and the U.S.)   Mr. Vickers also had a private music mailing-list where he features new and pre-loved music.  Anyone who would like to be added to his daily mailing list, just write him at Radiovickers1@gmail.com .

2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers: How I Went from a Suite at the Four Seasons to a Shitty, Bug Infested Apartment on Avenue Road in Three Easy Steps.”

  1. The JOAD FAMILY OVERALLS ……Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!!!

  2. So well written. A delight!

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