Darrell Vickers – Ted Zeigler Part 10: Nicholls and Vickers Set Sale!

Early on in our mutual quest to bring about world peace through comedy, Ted handed down his golden rule for success in The Business. “Suck up to the receptionist.” He would joke with them, send them thank-you notes or flowers and generally spread the butt butter on as thick as possible. They may be the badly treated and criminally overworked trolls of the entertainment industry, but the lowly receptionist is the gateway to talking to the asshole in charge. “Charm the underpaid and disinterested voice on the other end of that line and they’ll push their boss to talk to you.”

Of course, Theodore L. Zeigler was an undisputed master of goofy humor and beguiling the pants off people he didn’t know. Coming from Andrew and myself, such unsolicited blandishments would have seemed creepy and unsettling, as almost any conversation with either of us still does today.

The very first return on Ted’s assiduous assistant ass-kissing landed us a pitch at “Love Boat.” By the time we were allowed our turn at bat, Aaron Spelling’s aquatic cash cow had been on for seven long, unfunny years. That’s 546 separate stories of which Andrew and I had seen maybe two… between us. Regardless of our less-than-fan-club devotion to the show, we dutifully hammered out about a dozen maritime musings and headed over to their Hollywood offices.

Our initial meeting was with Mike Marmer. He was a veteran scribe whose typewriter days stretched all the back to the original Milton Berle Show! He’d also launched the laughables for Steve Allen, Ernie Kovacs, the Smothers Brothers, Flip Wilson and a ton of Dean Martin specials. The man had a heavy humor history. After a brief few minutes of everyone in the room expressing how unhappy they were working for Aaron Spelling, they sat back and invited us to regale them with our risibles.

The Good News:

Mike was a super nice guy and easy to engage with. At one point, he stopped us to express his amazement. “I hear the same five tired stories being pitched in this office over and over again, but these are actually new and fresh ideas!” He was delighted. But not as much as we were!

By the time we’d finished our patter, it was like tossing around some possible plots with old pals. Mike and his two staff writers zeroed in on seven of the 12 we presented as being of particular interest and started us immediately on an outline for our very first “Love Boat” episode.

Even Better News!

Now we had a credit on CBS and a really big one on ABC! Holy foot-licking boob-touch!

Spound and Tilton on Love Boat

Our first of surely countless pelagic premises concerned a courier – played by Michael Spound – who had a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist.  While on board Captain Stubing’s ocean-one-liner, he falls head-over-keel in love with Charlene Tilton, who encourages him to cast off the cuffs so they can indulge in some nautical nookie.  Will our faithful courier remain true to his task or will Spound come ‘round so he can pound her mound? You can see why they jumped on this like Rudy Guiliani on a bottle of Grecian Formula!

These scripts had to be written in segments that would be feathered into the hour-long episode with two other stories. Florence Henderson and Tracy Nelson were also on that particular cruise but would never intersect with our characters.

About a week after we’d excitedly delivered the outline to the powers that be, a meeting was set to discuss the notes for our first draft.

Odd But Even Better News!

This notes session was with a completely different set of producers, led by Tony Webster. Mr. Webster’s career went back to “Caesar’s Hour.” He’d also written for Phil Silvers, “Car 54,” The Smothers Brothers and Red Skelton.

Spelling obviously believed in hiring war-weary vets… and Tony redefined the word “weary.” I don’t know whether Mr. W. was a two-fisted drinkin’ man, but he sure fucking looked like it. I took from a number of his fellow staffers that he was not a particularly pleasant person to break bread or stories with.

Tony had a couple of suggestions to help smooth out a few of our bumpy plot points. After he’d finished explaining the first one, we were a little confused.
”That’s what we wrote,” Andrew answered.

He then moved on to points two and three that also required altering. Again and again we were forced to declare that the very changes he was suggesting were in the draft submitted to Mr. Marmer. Tony was not a terribly trusting man, so he asked to see our original pages, which we handed him. After a quick scan, he harrumphed like the blind camel in “Ishtar” and sent us off to begin the first draft.

Mr. Marmer had probably done us a favor. No producer on a show can bear to let an outline go through the fun factory without a good splash of his or her own urine on it. If Mike hadn’t changed all those story points, Tony would have been compelled to. By taking a hammer to our original outline first, he enabled Tony to unwittingly hammer it back into the story that we’d already written.

The Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit! News:

The first draft was also very well received and it was given the greenlight to be produced. Yowsa!! We were the “Love Boat” golden boys. A meeting was set up to discuss which of our other stories they wanted us to dive into next. 

And then that week’s show aired (not our episode – just the show that week). It was the lowest-rated episode in “Love Boat” history. Aaron flew into a poorly-written rage and fired everyone we’d ever talked to, including the guard who gave us our parking pass. Our next meeting was immediately canceled. Not only didn’t we sell any of our other stories, we never got back in to pitch ever again.

When our episode finally did air, it was practically unchanged. Here we were, “Love Boat” savants and we’d been Trotskied off the show by the new regime. Oh, the residuals we could have had… “Love Boat” played all over the world. Lucrative checks came in for more than two decades on that one script. FUCK!!!

A good rule in life – don’t become the Romanov’s favorite houseguests two minutes before the Bolshevik revolution.

A Small Piece of Spelling Trivia:

My old C.A.A. agent never had a bad word to say about anyone, but he represented Aaron the TV Baron at one juncture and said he was truly the face of evil. One of the writers on the “Love Boat” warned me that there might be periodic hiccups in getting some of our residuals. Spelling made a game of fucking with people. At any time, without warning, all payments from his company would cease without explanation. He knew he owed the cash but made a game out of holding onto other people’s hard-earned dollars for as long as possible. Once he lost the lengthy arbitration case, which he always did, he paid up.

Robert Wagner brought “Charlie’s Angels” to Spelling and then spent decades in various courts trying to retrieve some of the money he’d been cheated out of. The creators of the series also spent years suing for their share of the profits.

I have a residual check from Spelling-Cramer productions for literally 0 dollars and 0 cents. He had to issue the check because of union rules but figured out a way to pay us precisely nothing (Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather” could have learned a trick of two from Mr. Schlock). And all of this penny-pinching chicanery from a man who could afford to build a 50,000 square-foot house in the middle of Beverly Hills.

Back to Our Story:

Even though losing all our contacts at “Love Boat” was a monumental setback, albeit not as permanent as the Rominov’s, Ted continued to work his magic with the show business downtrodden. He somehow convinced the woman in business affairs to sign an H1 application for us. It stated, quite erroneously – and on an official federal document, no less – that we worked for the company. So, for the next year or so, Andrew and I were able to enter the U.S. at will as employees of the Spelling-Cramer Corporation – a place where we couldn’t even get a meeting!

Years later, Andrew and I would pen a pilot and an outline for a series for these fine fellows and it would lead to the weirdest, most evil conversation I’ve ever had while waiting for an elevator. But that story will have to wait for another day.

Next time, Mr. Zeigler gets us involved with the brother of someone, the friend of someone and the agent of someone, but alas, not the money of someone.



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.co

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: