Thursday, September 27, 2012

"Another Office"

I was supposed to do a series of these.  I forgot.  Now I remembered.  So here’s another one.

My first office on the lot at Studio Center where the Mary Tyler Moore Company had its headquarters, had previously served as a storage closet for stationery and pens.  When I was relocated after one season, my erstwhile office became the Mary Tyler Moore Company’s Xerox Room. 

In The Complete Hollywood History of Storage Closets and Xerox Rooms, my occupation of that space barely rates a mention; I was there such a short time.  But being my first-place-to-work-not-in-my-apartment, it retains meaning for me far beyond its windowless insignificance.

Fleeing the opportunity to work on a show’s staff, my job instead was to write eight scripts a year for the numerous series that the Mary Tyler Moore Company had on the air at that time.  These shows included Mary, Rhoda, Phyllis, Doc, The Tony Randall Show, The Bob Newhart Show and The Betty White Show.  Over three seasons, I wrote twenty-four scripts.  Some of them good.

To no small degree do I attribute the quality of those scripts to the second office I was assigned to.  It is my firm belief that the office you work in makes a noticeable difference in your writing. 

I will momentarily jump ahead to the last office I occupied – twenty years later in the “Clara Bow” Building on the Paramount lot – to report that that office inhibited my writing.  Why?  Because it was long and narrow.  I felt like I was writing in a shoebox.  And this was reflected in my work.

Constrained.  Constricted.  Like a person with one eye on the page and another watching the walls gradually closing in on me.  Or so it appeared, in my consciousness, and, unfortunately, in my work.  I bet if I went back today, those advancing walls would be pressed firmly against each other.  With possibly a writer splattered between them.  

As it turned out, my second office on the Studio City lot was maybe a hundred feet directly across from my first office; if you looked out the window, you could see people Xeroxing in there.  I often wondered if the Xeroxers had any idea of that room’s recent history.  They probably didn’t even care.

Two offices, a short distance apart, but oh – what a difference.  My new office sat on the second (and top) floor of a hacienda-style structure, built of wood and stucco, brick-tiled roofed, and with an expansive veranda circumferencing the building. 

As with my first office, my second office had at that juncture a non-officey resume.  The edifice they put me in was not, in fact, in a building of offices.  It was, instead, a building of dressing rooms!

That’s right.  My office was a dressing room.  How’s that for a “step up” from storage closet-Xerox Room-to-be?  My new office had a wardrobe.  A pullout couch.  And hangers.

And that’s not all.  Talk about upgrades, this office was three times larger of my former office.  I could do cartwheels in there, if I could do cartwheels.  I could definitely dance around, which in moments of giddiness (loneliness) and euphoria, I occasionally did.  Unlike my previous office – and my Paramount office to come – when I stood in the middle of the room and extended my arms, I was unable to touch both walls!

Lemme tell you, folks, this was a really big office!

And that’s not the half of it.  Literally.  When you passed through a door in my really big office, you came into a really big bathroom, the exact same-sized bathroom, in fact, as my really big office.  And that place came Fully Loaded – toilet, sink, linoleum-tiled floor…

And a shower.

My bosses didn’t have a shower!  But this was a former dressing room, and dressing rooms come equipped with showers.  Venn Diagram:  Dressing rooms come with showers.  My office was a dressing room.  My office came with a shower. 

It was truly amazing.  On those sweltering “Valley” afternoons, any time I wanted, I could stop writing, and get in the shower!  You don’t think having a shower in your office is unusual?

In the entire rest of my career – and I was big there for a while –

It never



No wonder I wrote great there.  I had the best office in the world!  Two giant rooms.  A shower.  And the walls stayed where they were!

Downstairs, directly below me, was the Studio Barber.  Sol.  Can you believe that?  I was ten feet from a haircut.  Sol was maybe in his seventies, and he’d cut many famous people’s hair, the one he talked about most being Desi Arnaz, who loved Lucy, but, apparently, others as well.  Sol was not only generous with his storytelling, he was also generous with his lemons, handing me a bagful (from his tree) at the end of each haircut. 

There was another noteworthy thing about Sol.  He never had a set haircutting fee.  It was always, “How much do you want to pay?”  Who knows?  Maybe he made more that way.  Though he probably lost a little on me.  Convenience is one thing; exorbitance another.

Ed Asner had the dressing room next to mine.  That makes it sound like I had a dressing room as well.  Which I did.  Except it was an office.  Technically, however, he did have the dressing room next to mine.  (And I feel like an actor for one paragraph.)

This is the only regrettable part of the entire story.  Ed was doing Lou Grant at the time, and for some reason, the makeup they put on him made him look less like a fiery editor of a metropolitan newspaper than like a circus clown.  Ed’s face was  white and powdery, as if someone had pushed his face into an open sack of flour. 

Our paths crossed virtually every day. 

And I never said a word.

Why didn’t I?  I figured the people knew what they were doing.  I’m no makeup expert.  The camera adds pounds?  Maybe it removes powder. 

This was the bad version of “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, the kid saying, “The king’s naked.  But I think I’ll keep it to myself.” 

You get handed a wonderful office, you share the good karma.  You tell the guy he looks like he just passed away.  Somehow, I could never pull the trigger.

And my “reward”, down the line:

The narrow office at Paramount.    

1 comment:

Ben Kubelsky said...

Such an odd topic to write about but it was fascinating! I'm also a firm believer in the office space affecting one's work.