6.10.2007

Rogers and Me

I've been thinking a lot lately about Sally Rogers. My favorite character on The Dick Van Dyke Show, she was the first girl comedy writer I ever heard of, so as far as I was concerned, she must be what we were all supposed to look like. If all I needed was a smart mouth, a pair of sensible pumps and a dime store bow in my hair to make it in network television, show me the way to Woolworth's. Imagine my disappointment at learning that they won't let a woman meeting Sally's general description anywhere near the lot nowadays, except maybe to work the cash register at the commissary.

In the pilot episode, Rose Marie, the former film actress who played Sally, was thirty-eight years old. Her writing partner, Buddy, who got his start in vaudeville, was in his fifties, but they were inexplicably portrayed as being around the same age. She even called him "kid," but then she called everybody that. I was never sure what the deal was between Buddy and Sally, since he was supposedly married to somebody else--but even back in third grade, when I became hopelessly addicted to classic TV watching re-runs after school--I felt a certain forbidden tension in their relentless banter.

What really didn't add up for me, though, was the way Sally was far savvier than either Buddy or their head writer Rob at answering the senseless demands behind the scenes at The Alan Brady Show. As smart as she was, the poor girl couldn't get a decent date to save her life. Laura Petrie, meanwhile, was played by a twenty-four-year-old mother of a six-year-old child, putting Mary Tyler Moore in eleventh grade at the time old Dick knocked her up and moved her out to New Rochelle for a life of leisure. Remarkably, this fundamentally accurate depiction of socio-sexual politics driving the industry hasn't changed much over the last fifty years. This despite all that nonsense with the Women's Movement and the thousands of girl soldiers dying and dismembered in Iraq and that loud mouth one with the philandering husband who's running for president.

The upshot of all this is that I'm feeling a tad miffed today at having been unlinked by fellow bloggers Ken Levine and Craig Maizin. This is the blogospheric equivalent of asking a girl to leave a party because of an embarrassing drunken rant. I actually know Ken, peripherally, through his writing partner, a fellow Miamian who came to see me performing in an improv club back before South Beach was a cool place for either one of us to be. Coincidentally, they had a sitcom about a girl writer called Almost Perfect on the air at around the time I came out here. The character was the show runner of a hard-nosed cop show who would call her daddy and cry when the guys beneath her were mean. Although I didn't know it at the time, that too was a spot-on skewering of the goings on in a typical writer's room.

What I like about Ken's blog is that unlike everybody else in Hollywood, Ken actually does know everything, and he really has been around forever. He's not old or anything, just a very young success I'm told was running M*A*S*H* by the time he was in his mid-twenties. I was like eleven at the time, so by all rights the job should have been mine. I suspect the real reason his blog is so popular is that deluded fans like me honestly believe he'll have an astonishing late career success and start doling out jobs based on the pithy one upsmanship going on in his comments section.

Craig I don't know personally, but when he first linked "Things They Don't Tell You In Film School," he probably expected semi-relevant screenwriting tips from someone who actually has some of those to share. A top feature writer and longtime activist, his site offers a valid service to aspirants--though I'd wager that the bulk of his anonymous commentary is left by major screenwriters representing warring factions within the Writers Guild. Half the time I have no idea what the heck they're talking about, the other half I find it a bit hard to care, inasmuch as gender inequity, fat discrimination, how to extend an unemployment claim and other super important stuff that's all about me so rarely comes up among the big boys.

I don't personally know any girl bloggers in the Scribosphere, although I like Jane Espensen because she always tells you what she had for lunch. I think that's an important thing to know about people, as is what they choose to wear in front of the computer and whether or not they drink and blog. A turkey sandwich, pajamas, and hell yes are my current stats. Diablo Cody isn't really one of us, since she was a blogger before she was a screenwriter as opposed to vice versa. She's also a former stripper who wrote a memoir called Candy Girl resulting in a three-picture blind deal at Paramount. What can I tell you, powerful men like whores. Not that I'm accusing her of being a whore, just because she sold her body for money and got a career out of it, so please don't have her lawyers call my lawyers. And yes, I am just jealous, especially since she also wrote an impossibly buzzworthy first screenplay, Juno, which white hot director Jason Reitman just wrapped for John Malkovich's production company. It's about a girl who sells her baby and thinks it's funny. I'm predicting this one becomes next year's Little Miss Sunshine. As for Jill Soloway, her post entitled "Courtney Cox's Asshole," may be the funniest piece of American literature to come down the "pike" in the last century.

Sometimes I think we're this big Algonquin Round Table in the sky, and I only wish I were a latter day Dorothy Parker, who never wrote a novel or any real masterpiece and is thus best remembered for her easy way with a quip fueled by talent, martinis and bitterness. If she had a blog in her declining Hollywood years, I might have unlinked the poor dear myself. Other days, I'm good old Sal, only with too much fashion sense to shellac my hair into an immovable wave and paint my lips into a permanent smile--and too many street smarts to believe the truly important thing is to keep them laughing in the aisles. Unless of course you're writing about the bleached anal canal of a certain Mrs. David Cox-Arquette. Damn, I wish I'd come up with that one.

19 comments:

  1. Julie, I linked to you. I think you're funny and cool. It's hard out there for a screenwriting femme.

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  2. I'll be damn... I come back today and see a link to my site.

    I always link back to everyone as long as I know about it.

    Thanks...

    I liked Rose Marie, Buddy, and Rob but I thought Alan Brady was awesome...

    Unk

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  3. If it's any consolation, my plan to sleep my way up the ladder has not been going well. I keep ending up with bartenders and that doesn't help me at all because they're trying to do the same thing by getting in my short film.

    So the moral of the story is that if you're a girl in Hollywood, you're screwed either way.

    Haha I made a pun.

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  4. Today's bartender is tomorrow's Tarantino. Hollywood Rule #532: Always be nice to the help.

    And Alan Brady is still awesome. Didn't he just direct Georgia Rule? Let's try not to hold that against him.

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  5. I not only screamed with delight upon discovering you way back when, but I quietly continue to scream in sotto each time you make an entry, because not only is this a fabulous example of a working hard at it screenwriting blog, it is also a shining example of how a blog in general should be done... let me paraphrase

    YOU ROCK

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  6. MQ, you are too kind. I have been thinking of adding a PR flack to my entourage. Any interest?

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  7. Craig Mazin seems to clean up his links every once in a while and probably thought your site was inactive when you took that long break.

    I wouldn't take it personally.

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  8. Doug, you are sweet. I would be equally surprised if he noticed my absence or my come back and flattered either way.

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  9. "powerful men like whores"

    Clearly I'm sleeping with the wrong people.

    xoxo
    -C

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  10. I linked you, and I'm a famous chick writer!!

    (in 5 years...give or take)

    Also, those screenwriting blogs are Full. Of. Nerds. Dudes who take screenwriting as seriously as jesus took walking on water.

    And Jesus *walked on water*

    All they've ever done is read too many books.

    Those blogs are about men masturbating to their coolness. I'd rather stare at my wall then have them tell me anything.

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  11. It's funny because it's true. Or it hurts because it's true. I forget which. But the plight of the girl writer in H'wood hits close to home. We girls have to stick together, links and all!

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  12. Chad, honey, aren't you one of the most powerful men in Hollywood by trade I bet you're turning away the hot young starlet booty right and left. (Chad is a casting director). Check him out, JM, because he is a boy and he's still more fun to read than the wall.

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  13. Anonymous9:01 PM

    Gary Allen Shay said...

    Kudos to you oh Julie. . .
    Somehow found your blog and discovered brilliance spilling from your fingertips. What a writer you are! Reminded me of the same feeling I had when I interviewed Frank Zappa (brilliant mind - he actually granted me the longest interview he ever did - he was renowned for bye bye after 15 minutes with any reporter) After an hour and 45 minutes we both had to go, or I might still be talking with the man - maybe he'd still be alive! Enjoy the interview: http://www.online.ee/~afka/Books/Articles/1984-11_Songwriter_Connection.htm

    You are truly a needed inspiration in this world of sleek geek speak.
    All the best, Gary Allen Shay
    http://www.ukscreen.com/solo/composer
    8:13 PM

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  14. Gary, you are too kind. I am happy to be compared to any Zappa, though I would have expected Moon Unit. I am always happy to have a fan across the pond. Or anywhere, near any pond.

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  15. Hey, JustMe, doesn't it suck when men make sexist generalizations about women? ;)

    Welcome back, Julie!

    J

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  16. Says a wildly successful married father of two and original Mr. Nice Guy.

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  17. How is the not naming names thing going? I get hung up on Dorothy Parker. If I'd been born in time, I'd have loved her hating me.

    You're still linked at Waking Ambrose, which will help you climb the ladder in the Santa Clarita Social Services scene. So, that's something.

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  18. Well, I would link you... if I had links. Maybe I do have links though... maybe?

    So, you get that bow for your hair yet?

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