Darrell Vickers – The Magic Hour Part One of Part Two – I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye I Say Hello

“My pants are down around my ankles and I’m bent over my desk.  What do you want?”

This colorful interrogative was bellowed over the phone to our agent by a Fox executive in Business Affairs. 

Perhaps I should back this story up a smidge:

As stated in an earlier blog, the very same Fox exec (let’s continue to call him Newman) had dangled a derisory wage before us to become the head writers on The Magic Hour. Newmie possessed a well-earned reputation for criminally low-balling talent unlucky enough to have dealings with him. This suited us to a tee because Andrew would rather have had his tonsils pulled out through his asshole than take the job and I was supportive of his somewhat reluctant stance. And, in the ensuing months, the third season of Ned’s Newt had swung into high gear. So, when it came to gainful employment, we were already sitting pretty.

And then the phone rang:

Our agent informed me that the Newmeister had reconsidered his penny-pinching position and was now willing to up the piddley pittance that he had proffered. I said fine, I’d talk to Andrew, but you didn’t need to consult Tyler Henry’s ouija board to predict his response.

Besides the fact that we absolutely loathed working on the pilot, Andrew and I had already committed to Ned’s Newt. We had 26 episodes to pound out and animation demands a finely oiled conveyor belt of script production. So I made the call, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

And lo and behold, our agent was on the other end of the phone once again. More money was on the table. Yikes! Unless Newman had been visited by The Ghost of Christmas Past the previous evening, something seriously fucked up was going down on the Magic Hour. This kind of generosity and attention only comes when the house is in flames and you’re the only one they know with a bucket of water. Now, we really didn’t want anything to do with the show. Andrew and I had been called upon to give the comedic kiss of life to a number of flailing productions in our day and it’s about as much fun as giving a lingual nut massage to a wild-eyed macaque.

 Plus, the The Magic Hour already had a head writer – one of Jay Leno’s people. What the fiery fuck was going on over there?

More money. Shit!

As the amount of jack increased, I was placed in an increasingly uncomfortable position. It was my duty to inform Andrew about each and every financial entreaty tendered but I had to present these remunerative allurements in a way that didn’t betray my feelings. They were now offering us some pretty substantial jack but I in no way wanted Andrew to feel pressured into accepting the offer for my sake. My dispassionate veil must have been fairly successful because Andrew’s mind remained unchanged.

Again, we turned them down.

Upping the Stakes:

The next day the phone rang. It was Magic Johnson. “Hey Darrell. How’s it going?”

Shit! Fuck! Big scorchy weenie stings!

I knew from the first word out of his mouth that this was going to be Spanish-Inquisition excruciating.

“Hey Magic,” I weakly replied.

“Say, we gotta work out a deal here, man. I’ve got to have my boyz back in charge.”

FUCKKKKK!!!!

Andrew was sitting there, staring at me as my lips flop-sweated onto the phone receiver.

“Well, we’d sure like to but… See, we have this other show. We’ve unfortunately already signed the contract. If you want recommendations, I know a lot of very qualified people.”

“You know there’s only two guys I really want.”

AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

“It’s just we’re committed to this other series and it’s a fulltime job. I’m so sorry.”

I perspired and stammered and apologized and finally, mercifully, I got to hang up the phone.

Flashback:

This situation had only happened to me once before. Yet, both times it involved people I truly liked and respected. In 1993 Andrew and I were running two sitcoms for CBS. The workload was veritably Dickensian. We were in the middle of some emergency story meeting or something and our assistant rushed in and told me that Bette Midler was on the phone. Hmm.

About a year previous, Bette had read our Have Mercy pilot and loved it. She’d invited us down for a meeting at CAA. The Divine Ms. M. wanted to do a movie about private school hell. In L.A., the richest, most successful people on Earth are forced to grovel at the feet of private school principles to let their children into these lauded places of learning and keep their blessed children away from “the public”. If these uber wealthy luminaries were lucky enough to get in, they were forced to perform at fundraisers, do maintenance assignments and man a booth at the annual fair in 100 degree heat.

At my daughter’s school, Westland, I once had to dig up some soil to create a garden with Viggo Mortensen. Another year I was up on a stepladder installing a backyard sunshade with Tim Allen.

Alas, like most dream projects Andrew and I have been involved with, it didn’t go anywhere.

Back to the Flashback:

     Ms. Midler’s assistant was on the phone. Bette was going on tour and wanted us to write some material for her. What a humdinger of a job! YES!! In fact FUCK YES!! Then I gazed around the room at the spent and sallow sacks of humanity waiting for me to get off the phone so we could get back to work on The Trouble with Larry. My heart sank like a Walmart canoe. It was obviously impossible. After a few nano-seconds of deep despair and regret, I told her I was sorry and what an honor it would have been to write for Bette but we were just too murderously busy. She nicely pressed on.

     “Bette loves you guys. Please, let me put her on so she can just give you an idea of what she needs.”

     I couldn’t do it. It was hard enough turning down her assistant. I was damned if I was going to drop a pile of shit on someone I truly admired. I apologized again and again and said I just couldn’t do it and hung up the phone. And then, I may have possibly wept.

     I’m sure Bette thought that I was a world class, turd-mongering puke-bucket. Even today, that call still sends barb-wired shivers of sorrow down my ever more rickety spine.

     In both these cases, it was suffering beyond endurance and, atypically, it wasn’t even my fault. But, at least now that I’d been thoroughly sodomized by fate once again, my unsaintly torment was at an end.  

And then the Phone Rang:

“How about more money and you only have to consult?” our agent queried. “Just three days a week on Magic. That would leave you four whole days to work on Ned’s Newt!”

By this point, there was so much sugar on the table my teeth were beginning to ache. Still, I summoned all the powers of Skeletor and forced myself to deliver the offer to my reluctant partner in the calmest, most neutral way possible. I could tell that even he was wavering but after consulting with his blood pressure gauge, he again declined.

That was when my agent called and repeated the colorful and accommodating quote from the top of this blog. “Listen, let’s put this to bed. I’m going to suggest they pay you (shit load of money here) a-day, three days-a-week for 13 weeks. What d’ya say?”

Greed weasels began to avariciously ransack my once pure-of-heart cranium. The root of all evil had now grown to the size of a prize-winning marrow. I quivered, then sighed. “Let me get back to you.”

The offer was for more money than we made to head-write The Tonight Show and this was only part time work!

Andrew looked truly pained. Way back, when he and I were sub-subsisting in Oshawa, we penned a quip about a poison that tasted so good, you couldn’t resist killing yourself. Fox was now dangling a bucketful of that very same toothsome toxin in front of us with two gold-plated spoons.

“How about this,” I offered my perplexed partner. “How about we tell them that we want full pension and health on the entire amount.”

Fox would HATE this proviso but I knew that there was going to be a mountain range of heartache awaiting us, brandishing finishing-nail-encrusted baseball bats, if we answered in the affirmative. Plus, we would be committing ourselves to 13 weeks of backbreaking hours without a single day off. This deal had to be the stuff of legend to make it worthwhile.

Fox immediately said yes (Oh dear) and we were now officially crew members on a clearly damaged and sinking ship.

Unlike the pilot, the actual series was being shot at Paramount. This was one of the only studios we hadn’t already worked at. Paramount is way down on Melrose and there is no easy way to get there from the Valley. On the upside, my parking spot was in the famed Paramount Blue Sky Tank. It’s a huge hole in the ground with a massive green-screen behind it. The water scenes from Star Trek IV were shot there. When a movie comes along needing scenes at sea, they move all the cars out and pump in 950,000 gallons of water. It costs about 30 grand to fill it. My car got relocated at some point during production so they could shoot scenes for The Truman Show in there. So, when you think about it, my parking spot was in a major motion picture!

Star Trek The Voyage Home
The Truman Show

So, I parked the Benz in a sometime lagoon and headed to the production offices. A couple of the writers were still around from the pilot. They seemed happy enough to see us. The head writer was a little less pleased because he was the reason we where there. Let’s call him Pete. The whole set up just wasn’t workable. Pete had been told to use our material whether he wanted to or not. He may have been the head writer but nobody liked the comedy spots he was putting out. Plus, we were only working three days-a-week and earning five times as much as him. Please forgive us Pete – we were reluctantly dragged before you with heavy hearts.

There were also a couple of new wielders of whimsy on staff. Ones with actual variety experience! Let’s call them Sam and Mark. More on the dreaded Mark later (he will have an entire blog dedicated to his japeries and shenanigans). These particular Johnny-Pun-Latelys were somewhat nettled by our rejoining the Magic Team. Sam was especially nettled a couple of days later when Fox fired him to help pay our salaries. He was a bit of an unpleasant fellow at the best if times and I’m guessing when they were going down the list of candidates to throw onto the tumbrel, that’s what made his name especially appealing.

Now again, we had no knowledge that this was going to transpire. But Sam believed in his dark heart of hearts that we’d personally axed his ass and went on a mini tirade where he sprayed generous amounts of morning coffee all over our office, in our filing cabinet and – for good measure – on photographs of Andrew’s young son. He subsequently went on to a long career on Saturday Night Live where that kind of tiny-dick behavior is probably far more commonplace.

If the first two days on the job were this exciting, what other Earthly delights lay in store for us?

Stay tuned. In future installments, there’s a disastrous co-host, a writer from the bubbling pits of hell, the biggest non-sequester in showbiz history and a strip show in front of children.    

=DV=

DBAWIS_Button

Darrell 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

One Response to “Darrell Vickers – The Magic Hour Part One of Part Two – I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye I Say Hello”

  1. Damon Hines Says:

    Hey, Bob, how are ya? Oh, ok, thanks, been worse. Making coffee, garbage is out…PB&B to go with java,,um…Darrell’s latest came up Error 404 under the DBAWIS banner…I’ll try again…nope, nothin’. Later, ‘gator.

    cheers, Damon.

    8>D

    On Mon, Apr 12, 2021 at 11:42 PM Segarini: Don’t Believe a Word I Say wrote:

    > segarini posted: ” “My pants are down around my ankles and I’m bent over > my desk. What do you want?” This colorful interrogative was bellowed over > the phone to our agent by a Fox executive in Business Affairs. Perhaps I > should back this story up ” >

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