Friday, December 31, 2010


Another year ends in less than two hours. It's been a really tough one for me. I lost a car, lost a job, lost revenue on a great musical, and yet, my faith in God remains at all time high. Why? Well for one thing, I have an absolutely amazing writing partner: John Nugent. He is so absolutely brilliant and talented and kind and patient. I am the luckiest man in the world because I am connected with him. The odds in finding him: one billion million to one. I am also grateful that my very first collaborator: Randy Ames was spared death with his very recent massive heart attack. I have written some of the most beautiful songs in the world with this man. I only wish things had been more successful with him, but because my dearest God has everything in His Hands and plans, it just wasn't time back then. I pray a lot these days. I tell God that if I am ever very succesful, I will do my very best to give to others as much as he has given to me. Yeah, my life has been very hard, but I also have had some incredible blessings. I was spared death in 2006 when driving home on Halloween night, a woman turned in front of me making an ilegal left turn. I hit her broadside, but with God's amazing blessings, I didn't have a scratch. I didn't even break my glasses. She was uninsured and the cop at the scene was trying to score with her, and the car had six grand worth of damages-- but I was spared. God loves me a lot. He sends me great challenges, but he also gives me the sure way to overcome all of them. My blessings exist with my longtime companion and my dear friend, Tim Doran. He's the one who has made it possible for me to be a songwriter. I have challenges to face already in 2011, but with God's help, I will. Someday all of the sad days and disappointments will fade away. I am hoping that the new musical that John Nugent and I have written will really be successful when it opens at Mulholland Middle Theatre in February will really be successful. It's called "The Bremen town Boys" and is really a very funny musical spoof. Our web site for the musical is and I would love every one who reads my blogs will consider coming to it and really have a great time. Our dear friend David Marc is in the show. David is our good luck charm. And maybe my manager, jimmy wil sell my television series "First Mother" to Lanie Kazan. So, I thank God tonight for all of his many blessings. My glass will held tonight as John Nugent and break open the champaigne and toast 2011. It's got to be a better year than 2010. Bless all of you who read these words of mine. They are an observation on things I see and hear. I retired this year and i never thought i would eber have to do that, but i go where God leads me. i trust in him, totally!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Christmas Belongs To You"

Christmas 2010 for me was a lonely Christmas. for me! Perhaps the saddest Christmas since my my mother was killed at Christmas in 1974. It all came due to some eye issues that I had developed and after having a car repossessed after losing my job last year. Add to that a current vehicle from 1995 that is not very freeway friendly. So there were no visits to my three sisters and no visits to my nieces or nephews and no visits to great nieces and nephews. It was indeed a lonely Christmas. My sisters seem to stay within their own immediate families and not one member of my family actually went to see one of the others and that hasn't happened ever in my memory. Way back in 1996, I had a nervous breakdown and spent all of December of 1996 and all of January 1997 in a hospital and then a halfway house in Inglewood . The hospital was Gateway Hospital and the Halfway House was Excelsior House not far from the race track. Gateway Hospital was an interesting place that helped me to calm down and actually begin to forget my troubles. My business had failed miserably and very suddenly and it was of the worst crashes of my life. Excelsior House held a lot of great memories. I actually had the calmest thirty days in that facility tan I had ever known. There were no worries there. There were kind, good and wonderful counselors. I remember an amazing black gentleman who gave me a wonderful saying that went "Everyday above ground is a great day!" I made several friends. I only wish know that I had kept up with them. But even Christmas there, I had visits from my entire family. Not this year. everybody seemed troubled. Everybody seemed too busy and my youngest sister was so not in the mood for Christmas, she failed to put up a tree or wrap a single gift. I know why, and trust me, i wish I could have done something to solve her problems instantly. If I were rich, or even comfortable, my dear sisters would never have to ask for a single thing. I would be right there to solve their problems. Why that is hard for them to really understand that is a mystery. We were raised close as kids-- really close. My mother and dad were absolute champions of generosity. They wouldn't have given you everything they had and more. Even when my dad was hopelessly out of work when we were kids, there were always piles of presents and a huge tree and festive decorations. And the food? It was incredible. My mother made her own lasagna and egg plant Parmesan-- wow was that great! And she made home made pizza too-- now that ladies and gentlemen was absolute heaven. But there was no real warmth this Christmas. But I was so grateful to my long time companion who gave me a very special and totally unselfish Christmas present and my dear partner, John Nugent continues to amaze and thrill me with his incredible musical talent. We have now completed the casting on "The Bremen Town Boys" and I am so happy for that. We had many actors quit, it was getting to be really desperate. We have an amazing director in Cat Deobler. She is really amazing. And just as thought things were calming down, I get the news that my very first musical collaborator had a very serious and life threatening heart attack. He's only 55 years old. Wow-- life is certainly not a dress rehearsal. I love Randy so much. We have written some of the most beautiful songs together including the most special song of all that we wrote together in 1981 called "Christmas Belongs To You' I always thought that this song would have been discovered and become a Christmas classic song. I can't believe hopw many years I have been at this! Oh yes-- Eight hundred songs later. I'm still writing. I'm still trying to make it again. It isn't easy. I pray to God that a miracle happens soon. In the meantime, on we go and "The Bremen Town Boys" will go on in February to a fabulous audience. It's a very funny show with a lot of laughs and honest humor. All happens in Van Nuys at a new 136 seat theatre. Let's make this a great event! Come see it!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


For five grand and glorious years, I was a student of a comedy genius. His name was Danny Simon. Few people have been such an influence in my life as he. Danny was a sweet man who also could be tough as fingernails on a black board. But that was good for you. That made you learn. That made you work harder than you might off. As a librettist and playwright today, I call upon his principles and his rules of writing every single day of my life. That was especially true the day when I pitched a "Golden Girls" to the producers of that show, I slew them with this one: I was asked by them to come up with a funny premise for two of the characters of the show: Sophia and Dorothy. Thinking like crazy I thought about a showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" which my then room mate at the time had gone to see the night before at midnight. So I blurt out "Sophia and Dorothy are caught in a Rocky Horror Picture show line" Now you may not know that once you would get into one of these lines there is (because of security reasons) no getting out. You get into it-- you stay in it) The producers smiled and said "That smells funny!" Ah, ha, I thought, Danny had used that term all the time in class. So I continued. "Dorothy and Sophia are caught in a "Rocky Picture Show line and are compelled to go into the theatre with all of these crazy kids. The producers kept smiling. Then one of them asked me "What would Sophia say after she was forced to watch this odd classic?" In my best Sophia voice at the time I blurted out "All of these crazy kids pointed at me and went "Virgin, Virgin". That's like pointing at Queen Elizabeth and saying "Pretty, Pretty." They were on the floor. Danny Simon was my hero and now I am good friends with his ex- wife Arlene-- and she's a hoot all by herself! Danny's daughter Valerie was also my special friend. Born in 1918, Danny began as a delivery boy before he got a job of doing publicity which brought him into contact with those who would help launch him and his brother into the celebrity sphere. Danny and Neil got a job writing for the Robert Q. Lewis Radio Show and went on to write for comics like Milton Berle, Henry Youngman, Dick Shawn and others. They were hired to do the Phil Silver’s Arrow Show by a young producer, Ernie Gluxman. As Danny says, “from then on, we never stopped working.” Next it was with that classic Hollywood personality Tallulah Bankheard in a nine-year stint with his brother as one of the funniest comedy writing teams in New York. Neil wanted to stay in the Big apple, so when Danny left for Hollywood, Neil featured him in Come Blow Your Horn, the first of six plays that featured his brother. Meanwhile, Danny found plenty of opportunity in California. He became the head writer for the Danny Thomas Show, crafted humor for Ann Southern and, as he says, “went from show to show doing over twenty-five different ones including Carol Burnett.”
Danny’s success at being a writer inspired others to hire him to direct in theatres around the country. He brought down the house in Plaza Suite with Carol Burnett and George Kennedy and he took a play he wrote and directed, Catch a Star, to the Broadway stage.When a friend asked him to come and talk to his comedy writing class, Danny was “very nervous because I never went to college and I was sure the students would laugh at me.” Indeed, they laughed. But not at him. Instead Danny became a popular comedy writing teacher, traveling to locations around the world to teach at colleges and training institutes. Now, that he’s moved to Portland, his one regret is that he had to discard over 2000 adoring letters from his students. Though there was'n’t enough space in his apartment at the Rose Schnitzer Manor, for the letters, there’s plenty of room for accolades. Like the one from Woody Allen who said, “I learned a few things on my own since, and modified some of the things he taught me, but I learned about comedy writing, unequivocally, from Danny Simon.” Danny knew the secret of comedy. He used to say that you should “write with the sense of humor you were born with.” He loved Everybody Loves Raymond because the show’s humor came from the personalities and was then stretched. The best comedy is exaggerated truth that fits the character. Everything starts with the truth.”With a twinkle in his eye and a charming smile, the Danny used to say that this comedy writing technique worked for his brother, too saying “Neil writes about people he knew and understood and he is much funnier that I am...he has a brilliant sense of humor.” The brother’s success doesn’t come from one liners. Theirs is a brand of humor that emerges from characters who tell outrageous, yet believable stories.
Ernest Borgnine, Don Rickles, Vivian Vance...the list goes on and on. But Danny is not content to rest on his very many accomplishments, he’s busy at work, starting a senior theatre company in the retirement home. He has many good actors to choose from because Phil Silver’s cousin and others who love performing also live there. Whatever happens with the theatre company, Danny is happy. In his understated, writer-type of way, he says, “It’s been a nice life.” Thanks, Danny, for adding so much humor to ours. Thanks, Danny for being the very best teacher that I ever had. I will keep your principles alive.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pretty scary looking? Well. some nuns can be. Some of the ones that I had as a kid were really strict and when you got an expression like this one, you just knew that you were in trouble. John and I have decided to stage "Broadway Angels" as our second vehicle at our new playhouse in Van Nuys. "Broadway Angels" is the story of six cloistered Dominican nuns whose convent sits on some very oil rich land. A greedy cardinal discovers the sister's convent is sitting on some of the valuable oil rich land in the world. So he plots to evict the sisters and take the land for himself. The sisters need a miracle pronto! And so they invoke in prayer their favorite saint Saint Michael, the Archangel who brings Gabriel along for the ride. Michael asks God for a very special miracle for his favorite nuns. The miracle will make the nuns rich. God's instructions, however are a bit odd-- the nuns must buy a vacant Broadway theatre with the miracle money. Now all of that might be okay if the deserted theatre were being used as a convent and chapel as the nuns plan. But with the devil's interference, the city insists that the theatre which is an historical landmark must be be used as a Broadway theatre or remain vacant. Now what? What kind of show would a group of cloistered Dominican nuns be able to stage. The result is the basis of our musical. Did some Christmas shopping this day for my companion John and I had a nice lunch with my great friend Tim Doran. Second rehearsal for "Bremen Town Boys" and a few more auditions. Sure hope we can find all of the actors that we need. Weather here is bleak and cloudy. I miss the sun and the warmth of California.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010


Today is Woody Allen's 75th birthday. What an amazing comedy legend he has become. A student of Danny Simon's, Woody has long ago acknowledged dear Danny with this quote: "I've altered a few things and changed a few principles around, but unequivocally everything I ever learned about comedy writing, I learned from Danny Simon- and he's a nice man too! After Woody's false starts at NYU and City College, he became a full-time writer for Herb Shriner, earning $75 a week at first.] At the age of 19, he started writing scripts for The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, specials for Sid Caesar post-Caesar's Hour (1954–1957), and other television shows.[ By the time he was working for Caesar, he was making $1500 a week; with Caesar he worked alongside Danny Simon. In 1961, he started a new career as a stand-up comedian, debuting in a Greenwich Village club called the Duplex. Examples of Allen’s stand up act can be heard on the albums Stand up Comic and Nightclub Years 1964–1968 (including his classic routine entitled “The Moose”). Allen wrote for the popular Candid Camera television show, and appeared in some episodes. Together with his managers, Allen developed a neurotic, nervous, and intellectual persona for his stand-up routine, a successful move which secured regular gigs for him in nightclubs and on television. Woody started writing short stories and cartoon captions for magazines such as The New Yorker; he was particularly inspired by the tradition of four prominent New Yorker’s humorists, S. J. Perelman George S. Kaufman, Robert Benchley and Max Shulman, whose material he modernized. Woody is also an accomplished author having published four collections of his short pieces and plays. These are Getting Even, Without Feathers, Side Effects and Mere Anarchy. His early comic fiction was heavily influenced by the zany, pun-ridden humour of S.J. Perelman. Allen brought significant innovation to the comedy monologue genre and his stand-up comedy is considered highly influential He also became a successful Broadway playwright and wrote Don't Drink the Water in 1966. It starred Lou Jacobi, Kay Medford, Anita Gillette and Allen’s future movie co-star Anthony Roberts. A film adaptation of the play, directed by Howard Morris, was released in 1969 starring Jackie Gleason Because he was not particularly happy with the (1969) film version of his play, in 1994 Allen directed and starred in a third version for television, with Michael J. Fox and Mayim Bialik.The next play Woody wrote that was produced on Broadway was Play It Again, Sam, which he also starred in. The play opened on February 12, 1969, and ran for 453 performances. It also featured Diane Keaton and Anthony Roberts. Allen, Keaton and Roberts would reprise their roles in the film version of the play, directed by Herbert Ross. For its March 21 issue, Life featured Allen on its cover. He has written several one-act plays,including 'Riverside Drive' and 'Old Saybrook' which both explore well-known Allen themes. They have been produced in England for the first time by The Nuffield Theatre, a south-coast art house theatre, Southampton (September 2010) and directed by Patrick Sandord. So Happy Birthday, Woody. John and I are looking forward to the auditions this Sunday for "The Bremen Town Boys". We need more men to apply however-- sure hope that happens!