Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler: Part 7 – Boy, I Could Sure Use It!

It was just another, dreary, chaotic, backstabbing, life-sucking day on “Thicke of the Night” when I first espied the one and only Theodore L. Zeigler bounding into view. He was loping down the hallway of the production office in his rainbow suspenders, looking for all the world like a 3-D Robert Crumb cartoon. Little did I suspect that this lanky, eccentrically attired, grey-haired curiosity would one day change my life forever.


The crafty, penny-pinching powers-that-be on “Thicke of the Night” had wrangled a separate broadcast deal with Global TV which required them to present a minimum amount of Canadian content to fulfill all their federal funding dictums. Thus, the show would shoot extra pieces exclusively for the Canadian market. God forbid Alan and Fred Silverman would deign to foist homegrown Canadian talent on a horrified and unsuspecting American public. This was only 1983, after all, and Mr. and Mrs. Uncle Sam were still reeling from being subjected to the harrowing comedy stylings of Wayne and Shuster on Ed Sullivan.

Where We Came In:

Apart from our myriad cruel and demeaning 26-hour-a-day quotidian duties, Andrew and I were also a part of the team press-ganged into herding the separate-but-far-from-equal north-of-the-border talent. This was the reason for our initial meeting that seemed to be a bit of nothing but turned out to be all of everything. Theodore seemed quite an amiable sort of confrere as he squished himself into Todd Thicke’s microscopic office and reminisced about his time spent “under the beanie” in Montreal before seamlessly segueing into his ideas for comedy spots.

And then Zeigler upped and left, and we never saw him again.

Where We Dropped Out:

By the time November ambled along, we too had departed that shipwreck of a show for shores unknown, through seas untamed.

Shockingly, we came to discover that the wages for not being spat upon and humiliated on a daily basis were practically zero. Nicholls and Vickers were now just two more down-and-out, wanna-be writers begging for scraps on the cold, unfeeling and unforgiving streets of Hollywood. As I have stated many times, it was an insane, career-flushing act of the lowest intellect to quit “Thicke of the Night” and it would take a long string of totally ludicrous and unbelievable events to save our idiotic, unemployed asses.

The Beginning of the Idiotic, Unemployed Ass-Saving String:

Andrew and I knew almost no one in the city that heartbreak calls its home. We had just enough Tinsel Town money saved to last a few scant months. Things were dire. We had screwed the pooch. Burnt the bridge. Taken up the accordion. We had truly cooked our goose and now we were being forced to lie in it. An ignominious return to our home-and-disinterested-land hung threateningly over us like a failure-drenched Sword of Damocles.

On the practically blank “good news” side of the ledger, we somehow managed to inveigle CBC Radio into wiring us a few bucks to do a pilot about Canadians in Los Angeles. So far so good.

The Problem:

Andrew and I weren’t on-air personalities. We aren’t even in-your-living-room personalities. The last social event I was invited to was cancelled due to a Clackers injury. We would definitely need to procure a professional host. But we couldn’t pay very much. Obviously, the person needed to be Canadian. But we still couldn’t pay very much. To make matters worse, we had no idea how to find someone Canadian not pay very much money to.

The Solution:

I rang up our old boss in the Research Department at TOTN to see if he had any suggestions. Good old Todd recommended we contact that odd duck with the threadbare suspenders and gave me his number. At this point in history, the world was still decades away from emails and only a few weeks past using Luwian Hieroglyphs to communicate.

Zeigler picked up the phone and I made our embarrassingly puny pitch. It was a show for Canadian radio called “L.A. Calling” and we could only afford to pay him 600 dollars. His unexpected reply was, “Boy, I could sure use it.” This is not the traditional entertainer’s response to this kind of query. Especially after being offered such a sub-measly sum of cash. Especially from an entertainer with a 30-plus year career in television. Even if he was being forced to gnaw the flocking off his wallpaper for sustenance, the average celebrity would hum and haw – possibly even tut-tut – and tell me that he’d have to consult his busy calendar.

Illustrative Story:

A comedy-writing friend of the legendary Bob Smith was living in a crummy, bug-infested apartment somewhere in the bowels of Hollywood. Eventually, he grew tired of facing thousands of ommatidia staring back up at him from his box of Captain Crunch and purchased an armful of cockroach bombs. The trick is, you pull the tab on the little boxes of death and then you are afforded a couple of minutes to get the hell out. Pretty easy instructions, only once he’d pulled all the tabs the phone rang (this was before cells). It was Alan King on the line. He was going on tour and needed some material. The writer needed to leave that second but he was afraid if he hung up the phone, he’d never hear from Alan again and he certainly wasn’t going to admit he was billeting at a holiday camp for Neopteran insects. So, he laughed and insouciantly chit-chatted with his new paycheck as one after another of the bombs went off. He calmly took notes as he was pushed lower and lower to the ground to avoid choking on the murderous cloud of noxious gas that was filling the room above him. For this is the unbreakable showbiz creed. “Death before losing a job or confessing the truth about your woeful state of being.”

This was not how Ted operated, though. He really didn’t need six hundred dollars from a couple of Canadian nobodies but that was just his way.

Getting to Know You:

Theodore lived in a blindingly bright yellow house. He had picked the color from a small sample card at the hardware store. It was only when he saw it splashed across the entirety of his Studio City bungalow that he realized that it was way, way too yellow. As an extra bonus for the neighbors, you could have shot a remake of Beau Geste in his bone-dry front yard. Watering the grass was far too bourgeois for this staunch fellow of the left. You could feel the parched and browning blades of scattered scrub gazing longingly at your skin moisture as you walked up the cracked concrete path to his yellow, yellow door. And the inside of Chez Zeigler was no more sightly. His small den was buried under an avalanche of socialist periodicals – the vast majority of which were still wrapped and unread. His living room at the rear of the house was home to an army of filing cabinets stuffed to the Bolshevik brim with press cuttings and photographs of capitalist atrocities perpetrated upon the lowly proletariat. His front bedroom contained a photocopier that probably qualified for refugee status. Ted would record and make copies of every detail of his life from important business contracts to the fart he had just before breakfast… in triplicate… and quadruplicate. You could have molded a life-sized papier-mache model of the moon, including an anatomically correct Mons Huygens, with the superfluous documentation held within those cracked and badly painted walls. You could have wiped the ass of the entire Chinese nation for a year with enough paper left over to mop up the collective butts of Taiwan and parts of the Miyakojima Islands. It was feared due to Newton’s Second Law of Motion (Fnet = m • a) that the shear mass of stationary inside his disorderly domicile might be adversely affecting the Santa Monica tides and endangering the pier. And then there was all the shit he had in his garage!

In the end, I don’t believe Ted actually died. I think he merely ceased to photocopy.

Next week, we start the pilot and Ted makes us an offer we couldn’t refuse.



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

2 Responses to “Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler: Part 7 – Boy, I Could Sure Use It!”

  1. Atticus Mann Says:

    So so funny as always, laugh out loud moments like, “how to find someone Canadian not pay very much money to”, which also leaves your options open as to whether to later split the infinitive. “gazing longingly at your skin moisture,” on the floor, damn. Incongruously picturing Buffalo Bob Smith at the mention. And after “shear mass of stationary,” now laughing at the spell checker, not with it.

  2. Hello Darrell it’s so interesting to hear of your life adventures as a comedy writer. This is Gail Jeffery long lost neighbor on Radisson Ave. and childhood friend of Janine. I’m living in Halifax, Nova Scotia working as a high school art teacher, I really just wanted to be an artist, went to art school but the starving part wasn’t that appealing. I happened to be googling names of old acquaintances and stumbled across your column. A lifetime really isn’t long enough and it’s so great that you are documenting all the trials and tribulations of your career for all to see. I send out my very best wishes to you and would love to connect with Janine if that is possible.

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