Friday, February 10, 2012

"A Flutter Of Possibility"

Mentioning Everything Goes yesterday reminded me that I was momentarily – and if it went well, longer – a series regular on a network television series. I have no proof of this, the tapes having being mysteriously erased, perhaps – and I’m not being paranoid here –in a Gaslighting effort to make me appear crazy. I can imagine no other reasonable explanation. Other than the show was just crap.

Everything Goes was a Talk/Variety show produced in Toronto. We made a hundred, ninety-minute episodes in three months, taping two shows per day every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I was one of three writers, specializing in fashioning introductions to be delivered by the show’s host, an assignment which involved inserting “Will you welcome please…” before the names of all the guests

The series was intended to be broadcast on hundreds of local television stations throughout Canada and the United States.

It was broadcast on five.

And then it was cancelled.

(There are stories to tell about Everything Goes, but today, my intentions lie elsewhere. Hopefully, an “elsewhere” that’s more interesting.)

One of the creative partners on Everything Goes was an expatriate Canadian named Frank Peppiatt, who, with his partner John Aylesworth, had relocated to the States and done extremely well, producing a number of variety series, stylish ones featuring gifted luminaries, such as Perry Como, Judy Garland and Julie Andrews, and one of the “lowbrow” designation, Hee Haw, which made him a fortune.

One day, during Everything Goes, Peppiatt energetically saunters over, sidles close to me in a confidential manner, and says, “We’re doing a summer replacement series for CBS starring ‘Mama Cass’ (of superstar group The Mamas and the Poppas.) I want you to play her boyfriend on the show.”

If I chewed gum which I don’t, at that moment, I would have swallowed it.

A man had just offered me – no, had guaranteed me – a job as a series regular on a major American television network. And not just as a writer – I would be handling those duties as well – but primarily

Cue the “Fairy Dust I Can’t Believe This Is Happening” music…

As an on-the-air, recurring, comedic participant.

Exhale. And thank The Lord!

One caveat, of course. This was show business. And, arguably, as much as anything else, show business is about lying. Or, as the liars like to describe it, “We had the best of intentions at the time; it just didn’t work out.” Which is sometimes the case, but more often they just found somebody they liked better. Either that or else somebody higher up had lied to them.

And yet, my little heart could not help but flutter. At the very least, there’d be the memory of the offer. They couldn’t take that away from me. For the rest of my life, my mind would retain the image of that preliminary saunter, the confidential silde, and the (almost) heart-stopping moment that the offer was made. Okay, it didn’t pan out, but still. I’d been asked.

“I got a call from the Yankees. They asked me to play for them.”

“You’re playing for the Yankees?”

“No, they took Derek Jeter instead. But I did get the call.”

Though my recollection here is hazy, I am pretty sure I spread the word, as I am not skillful at harboring secrets. (So don’t tell me any, or I’ll blab.) I was simply too excited to keep it to myself. Almost instantly, I imagined the booming voice of the show’s announcer intone,

“From CBS, in Hollywood, the Entertainment Capital of the World, it’s…

The Momma Cass Show

Starring ‘Momma Cass’ Elliot…

And featuring…

(A couple of other people who can write about it on their own blogs, and…)

Earl Pomerantz…”

Oh, yeah! There were big things in my future, I was certain of that. Who knows? Maybe someday, I’d be a clue in the TV Guide crossword puzzle.

“Twenty-Three Down – ‘Television funnyman…BLANK Pomerantz.’”

BEAT.

Are you ready for the crash?

About a month later, “Momma Cass” chokes on a ham sandwich, and dies.

CUE THE WHISTLING SOUND OF A DROPPED BOMB, FOLLOWED BY AN EAR-SPLITTING EXPLOSION.

For a week, Frank Peppiatt in unable to look me in the face. He knows what I’ve gone through, the stratospheric elation, followed by the elevator-plummeting letdown.

What can he say to me? The dream, so nearly within my grasp, has evaporated before my eyes, the victim of an oversized woman, taking too big of a bite.

Finally, there he is, standing silently beside me. I know what’s coming. The obligatory,

“Sorry.”

But I’m wrong.

Instead, it’s

“We’re doing a summer replacement series for CBS starring (superstar country singer) Bobbie Gentry. I want you to play her boyfriend on the show.”

Crank up the “Fantasy Machine.”

I am back in the game.

To Be Continued…

8 comments:

Frank said...

I bet Momma Cass would have made a great ham actor as she chewed the scenery.

diane said...

I'm sure you weren't trying to be crude, Frank, but I for one am not amused.

Josiah Andary said...

I know, the ham sandwich story has somehow persisted over the decades but in fact...

"In 1974, Cass Elliot travelled to London where she had a two week engagement at the London Palladium. After performing to sellout audiences and basking in repeated ovations, Cass tragically succumbed to a heart attack on July 29, 1974 in London, following this successful concert tour."

"Despite the post-mortem examination finding that Elliot had died of a heart attack and no food at all was found in her windpipe, the false story that she choked on a sandwich has persisted in the decades following her death. In fact Elliot had lost 80 pounds in the eight months before her death by fasting four days a week. Her fatal heart attack was most likely related to this extreme weightloss measure."

In tribute to your almost-career as a comedic actor, I'd like to sing, "Dream a Little Dream..." Fitting.

Guy said...

I just rewatched the pilot of "Newhart" for the first time since it debuted, and I noticed the first guests at the Inn are a Mr. and Mrs. Pomerantz. Is that a nod to you? (The episode is credited to Barry Kemp)

Earl Pomerantz said...

If Josiah Andary's information on the death of "Mama Cass" is correct, and I know no reason it wouldn't be, then I have unwittingly promoted an inaccurate Urban Legend. I do not feel good about that.

Earl Pomerantz said...

Response to Guy:

Yes, Barry Kemp gave me his pilot script for comment, and I offered some suggestions. He rewarded me by using my distinctive family name in his script. He also hired me to consult on all of the subsequent scripts of the first season of "Newhart."

Guy said...

Thank you. Any old 'Newhart' tales you might share?

Frank said...

I wasn't trying to be crude diane as I think Momma would have made a great comic actress. That`s the last time I will ever believe in ham urban legends!