Darrell Vickers – First Trip Part 2 – Making Up Reality

Andrew and I had been ensconced in the fire-hazard hills above the City of Angels for about a week and fortune had smiled down upon us like it thought we were somebody else. I’d shared a chat and a giggle with a half-naked woman, we’d eaten at The Sizzler and my apartment in Oshawa began to seem like a badly decorated, foul-smelling dream. By the time The Fifth Estate arrived, Nicholls & Vickers had become as Hollywood as a high colonic gift certificate.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

The Estate After the Fourth:

Now, anyone who has been in show business for more time than it takes Johnny Depp to find the bar at a wedding knows that reality television is anything but real. Even on something as prestigious as The Fifth Estate, fabrication abounds. Firstly, the Producer, Mike Levoie delighted in the fact that we traveled to L.A. by bus but there was no way Eric Malling (our erudite host) and company were going to subject themselves to that hell on wheels.

So, in accordance with the highest traditions of television journalism, they plopped us on a random bus at the oh-so-sticky-in-oh-so-many-places Hollywood Depot and fictitiously filmed it like Andrew and I were just pulling into Dreamtown. One bizarre stroke of luck that was actually true: During our counterfeit cruise, we spotted and then filmed Angelyne’s famous pink corvette zooming down the 101 in front of us.

Now that we’d officially arrived, The Fifth Estate set about capturing Nicholls & Vickers composing jokes and jibes around Alan Thicke’s pool. We didn’t actually do any real writing out there because it was too fucking hot but I could see that it had a certain visual appeal. Mr. Levoie even gave us a couple of snappy lines to say.

Eric Malling also interviewed Alan, who was very gracious and happily let Canada know just what talented guys we were. As I’ve previously stated, if it didn’t involve money, Alan could be quite generous.

The Fifth Estate then arranged for us to meet fellow Canadian Gary David Goldberg! I believe the idea was, they could still be giving us screen time but sweetening the televisual pot with someone who was infinitely more famous and interesting. Gary was living on Broadbeach in Malibu at the time, so we chugged up the Pacific Coast Highway in our rental car, unaware that we were about to have a frighteningly close brush with greateness.

The left turn onto Broadbeach was a fairly sharp and precarious affair and the average tourist (i.e., us) wasn’t allowed more than one or two Mississippis to adjust their speed in order to navigate the poop-loosening maneuver onto the isolated road. Andrew hairpinned off the PCH like he was Popeye Doyle and just missed t-boning Jackie Coogan’s car by a flea’s left testicle (this is traditionally the smaller of the two). Once we finished making Jackie swallow his own bald head, it was on to Gary Goldberg’s house!

Gary lived in one of those opulent beachfront homes where someone is murdered in the first five minutes of a Columbo episode. Mr. Goldberg was both charming and welcoming. He talked about his time on The Bob Newhart Show and how he’d just stumbled into writing for television after spending a goodly percentage of his charmed existence as a professional student. At one point, he invited us to view his new pilot down on the Paramount lot. Why yes, that would be a fine way to spend an afternoon.

Driving through those famous gates was an unbelievable head trip in itself. The history of that place was almost overwhelming. Little did we know that Andrew and I would be storming those very same gates fifteen years later to work on the best-paid but one of the least pleasant shows of our career. But that story’s for another day.

Gary’s offices were in Lucille Ball’s old dressing room cottage. When we arrived, his assistant was as pleasant as she was pretty and sat us down for our private viewing of Family Ties.

As I said, I found Gary to be a wonderfully charming and generous person but we both found the pilot to be completely flat and unremarkable. As was the series. Still, it ran for 171 episodes and made him a billion dollars, so hopefully that was at least some small consolation for not impressing us.

Back to Work:

Our evenings were still spent warding off the withering attacks on our material by our comedic competition. Mostly Rick Ducummun. We must have been holding our own, however (if only to not get them ripped off), because four or five days before we were due to return to Oshawa, Alan turned to us and casually announced, “Hey, if you guys are interested, I’ll extend your stay for another week.”

“Wow, that’s great, Alan. Thanks so much!”

“But you have to find somewhere else to stay. I’ve got a couple of women coming down here from Calgary.”

Alan always had a couple of women staying at his abode from distant lands.

“No problem,” pipes up Ducommun, “you guys can stay at my apartment. I’m going to be in Palm Springs all week.”

Well Wow, Wow-Pippedy-Pow! We forgive you for everything, Rick!

Only that was the very last time we were to set eyes on that rascally Mr. Ducommun for the whole trip. Or hear from him. None of our desperate and pleading phone calls were answered. Apparently, he’d just blurted out his selfless gesture in the room to please Alan but had absolutely no intention of selflessly following through with his thoroughly spurious offer. Fuck you, Rick!

As the days ticked by, Alan became increasingly interested in our alternate living arrangements. Andrew and I were in a state of highly perturbed perplexment. We sure didn’t want to go back to Canada but we didn’t want to live on the savage unforgiving streets of Gommorah, either. Eventually, the gals arrived. They got the bedroom; we got the couch and the floor.

The ladies were very amiable and delightfully bazoomed. Alan had met them while judging a beauty tournament somewhere in the prairies (Alan would happily bicycle from L.A. to the Yukon to judge a beauty contest). Generous sort that he was, he’d invited them and their cleavage to come stay for a tick at Chez Thicke. Again, Alan could be a very welcoming host. Very, very welcoming if you were a lady in the full bloom of womanhood. One night, he called over to the guesthouse to invite the bloomiest of his vivacious visitors to come and keep him company while he took a bath. She didn’t have to sit on the toilet while holding his hand or anything nearly so icky. The Thicke’s had a sunken bathtub in their bedroom.

But Alan could also be a bit of a scamp. The very same married lady was a tad peeved one evening. Apparently our celebrity host had bigheartedly offered to personally show them around the town. He just had to drop by his office in Encino first. They subsequently spent the entire day collating his P.R. packages and then Alan drove them back to the house. 

Alas, our cramped but comely co-habitation only lasted for a few short, perfumed days before Mr. Thicke shipped us off to his womanless Malibu beach house.

Not that this westward trek was worthy of Greek tragedy. Alan’s oceanfront domicile was pretty prime pickin’s. It spelled “Lifestyle” with a capital Me. Two stories, big windows and a modern kitchen. Why, you could spit to the Pacific from the upper balcony. A fella could get mighty used to taking his socks off in a shack like that! But, like with almost everything that Mr. Thicke offered you, there was a tiny catch. For some reason, his sumptuous splash palace had a gnarly alcoholic in residence at that moment in time and it was our assigned mission to convince him to vamoose.


I’ll let you in on a little, well guarded secret. While the world at large may have this worshipful perception of Andrew and myself as brutish, hyper-macho stallions, we’re really not the optimum stooges you’d want to employ to strong-arm a reluctant habitual tippler out of paradise. Qualms and sweaty palms were the order of the day as we motored northward on the PCH to our dipsomaniacle date with destiny.

When we anxiously alighted, there wasn’t a sign of the intoxicated interloper. Phew! The only thing that met our ears was the mellifluous sound of the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t ‘til we poked our heads into to one of the downstairs bedrooms that we discovered the unwelcome rounder, sound asleep. Yikes! This somnolent souse was far from resembling Otis of Mayberry. He was tattooed, probably in his late 30s and had a face that was born to be photographed in a police station.    

At first we opted for the tried-and-true technique of calling out his name but by the time we were shakily yelling “Vince!!!” at the top of our lungs, it became unavoidably apparent that a more physical approach was going to be required to roust him. This guy was out for the comatose count. I took a deep last breath and leaned over to shake his unconscious shoulder. His eyes exploded open like Dracula in a coffin. I had no idea what was going to happen next. My asshole had already bolted out of the room and was nervously waiting for the rest of me to catch up.

Fortunately, once he regained some of his rum-ravaged senses, Vince agreed to hop it without any blood needing to be shed.

Enjoy It While It Lasts:

Andrew and I basked in the beach house for the remainder of our stay. Alan dropped by one afternoon with a sparsely dressed young woman to check out how we were progressing. Somehow we got to playing a couple of our songs on one of his guitars. A few months later, we were elated to see Alan and Hagood Hardy perform The Ocelot Song on his daytime show. And, he gave us full credit for the ditty on the air! I think over the years that little tune has been worth nearly 20 dollars to us in royalties. Of course, at the time, the life-changing mountains of cash you receive for having a song on Canadian television isn’t really a consideration. It’s all about the art.

Nearly THIS!

 When we were miraculously offered an extra week’s stay in L.A., I had dared to dream that it would turn into a Dread Pirate Roberts situation. We’d keep writing jokes and Mr. Thicke would keep extending our stay. But, like almost everything you want more than life itself, it was quickly smashed to misery bits. Alan eventually did kill us in the morning and we found ourselves back on that freezing Greyhound, heading north.

Back in Canada, but…

The blessings were many. Now, Andrew and I were genuine Hollywood writers. We were being featured on the 60 Minutes of Canada (48 Minutes and 32 Seconds after the exchange). Hagood Hardy was about to play one of our fucking songs on national television! A major corner had been turned. Now, things were going to be different in our home and native land.

Things certainly were different but not nearly in the way we were expecting.

Next week: The final nail in our Canadian Coffin.



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

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