I just saw on the Huffington Post that Garry Marshall has died. I am overwhelmed with grief. What a great man who gave me some big breaks in my career. I’m very sad. Just devastating news.
Alan Young, a wonderful and versatile actor, died today at the age of 94. He is best known for starring in the iconic TV series from the 1960’s, Mr. Ed. If you’re too young to remember the show and/or have never seen an episode in reruns or on YouTube, may I suggest you treat yourself.
Mr. Ed was a silly show about a talking horse. And I loved it. I mean, I loved it.
In the late 1980’s I had the great privilege to work briefly with Alan Young on a short-lived CBS sitcom called Coming Of Age. It was about two retired couples living in Arizona. Alan played the cheerful next-door neighbor to star Paul Dooley. The series also featured Phyllis Newman, Glynis Johns (the mom from Mary Poppins) and Kevin Pollock.
Though the series never found an audience, I had a great time working there for part of the first season. I was under contract at Universal, waiting for Coach to start. Coming of Age was being produced by Barry Kemp’s production company. I was invited to pitch in and was delighted to do so.
I’ve always been a little worried about meeting performers who I loved as a child, fearing that they won’t be as wonderful as I hoped. Sometimes that concern has been justified, but plenty of times I’ve found the performer to be even nicer than I could have imagined. Some examples of performers who I loved as a kid and then turned out to be wonderful people in real life were Betty White and Shelley Fabares. Alan Young was also someone who just made me happy to be around him.
I got to work with some wonderful older performers on Coming of Age, including Bob and Ray and Van Johnson. If you don’t know who they are, look them up.
I’m sad at Alan Young’s passing, but I’m very grateful I got to know him and work with him. I loved his show as a kid, and I loved him as an adult. Alan was one of those people who really do help make your dreams come true.
I haven’t put up a post in a long time, and perhaps I’ve waited too long. There’s the whole matter of having something constructive to say. What prompts this post is an article I happened to read in the March 23 issue of Wired Magazine. I hadn’t read an article in Wired in a long time. I picked the magazine up in a hotel in Hawaii. The cover featured the actors from Silicon Valley. Since I love that show and had some time to kill, I thought I’d glance at the article. It’s worth a read for all of you looking to break in to show biz. The article also seemed to nicely follow a conversation I had a couple of weeks ago with my twenty-something friend, Sam.
Here’s the takeaway from the Wired article about Silicon Valley: those guys have a hit show but they are all still out hustling every week on other projects. They haven’t kicked back to enjoy their success. The article suggested that part of the reason is because they aren’t paid that much to do the series. But more than that, they have long breaks between seasons, and the series isn’t seen by that many people, so in order to keep their individual brands hot they are all working on other things: stand up comedy, indie films, improv, writing, podcasts, etc.
This brings me to my conversation with Sam. He, too, is working on multiple projects. Even though he has gotten his foot in the show biz door, he isn’t resting. He’s got a lot of irons in the fire.
When I broke in a million years ago, once you got a job writing on a series you didn’t have to work on anything else. (And there wasn’t time.) But now, with shorter orders for series, even if you get a gig on a writing staff you will likely enjoy less pay and have much more down time during the months when the series is on hiatus. The Wired article said to me, “even if you hit it big, you still have to keep hustling.” So why not start the hustling now?
The people who are going to make it are the ones who have the drive and talent to pursue multiple goals simultaneously. You don’t want to lose focus, but you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket either.
I get it that it’s harder for you to make it than it was for me. The Wired article told me that even after making it, you can’t let up. You’ve got to keep reaching for new things. When you’re in your twenties and thirties, you have the energy. Use it.