Since our lives are focused around "Zero Hour" these days, it feels like the coolest celebrities are coming out of the woodwork to see Jimmy -- especially fans or friends of Zero Mostel.
Yesterday, we were taken to lunch by Mark Evanier, who was a writer with Jim on and late, lamented network variety car crash (and thus, wonderfully watchable) "Pink Lady and Jeff." (I knew Mark best as the writer of the comic "Groo The Wanderer," drawn by the great Sergio Aragones. Mark took us to the Magic Castle -- no pics, unfortunately; cameras not allowed inside -- where the two of them regaled each other and us (we were there with a songwriter/performer friend of his, Shelly Goldstein).
One of my favorite stories concerned "Pink Lady." Produced by the madly insane Sid & Marty Krofft, who produced such delights as H.R. Pufnstuf and Lidsville, the problem with Pink Lady was that "Pink Lady" was a pop duo -- two Japanese girls who didn't speak a word of English. So, they had to do comedy sketches, learning the words phonetically.
Aside from the usual backstabbing and infighting of people who were pretending to be nice, Mark said one time, just because he could, he called up the production staff and said, "We need an elephant!"
"Any kind. Just an elephant. The biggest one you got."
They call back.
"African or Indian?"
"What's the difference?"
"The Indian has tusks."
"I don't care. Just get us an elephant."
So, the next day, the producer calls back and says, "The trainer needs a copy of the script."
Problem was, there was no script. They hadn't written a sketch for the elephant yet. Mark was so frustrated and slap happy, he had just ordered the elephant because he could.
He responded, "What? The elephant gets script approval??"
When the elephant arrived in the parking lot for the sketch, it proceeded to take the world's largest dump. Mark said, "It's probably still out there dumping."
Mark keeps one of the best blogs on the Net. He is an endless font of show biz insider memories, recalling every voiceover artist, co-star, minor celeb who ever appeared on TV or movies. Jim said "Mark remembers everything." And, Jim, who also remembers everything, for him to say that about Mark means something.
Just at the end of our dinner, the great composer Richard Sherman ("Mary Poppins") came over to our table to say hello to Mark. What a smart man! Right now, they're doing a stage presentation of "Mary Poppins" in London. Shelly asked him why there are so many changes from the movie and Dick told us a very interesting story. He said that the original writer of Mary Poppins, P. L. Travers, just hated the movie. There's an article here in New Yorker about it.
Dick told us she hated the fact that there was a story arc, that the kids were nice, that the mother was a suffragette, that the dad learned a lesson, etc. "What she wrote was a series of little vignettes where Mary Poppins just 'pops in and out.' But for a movie, you need a story arc. At least, we thought so. So, she never allowed us to convert the movie to a stage production as long as she was alive. It was Cameron Macintosh in London who secured the rights under the proviso that 'no Americans are involved.'"
I love show biz bits of gossip like that.
Meanwhile, at the show we've seen Jerry Stiller & Anne Meara:
Mrs. Al Hirschfeld brought Jim a copy of Al's caricature of Zero:
The rest of the run is all but sold out. There are seats here and there, but this has been a fantastic success for the West Coast Jewish Theatre, which took a chance on this play. More news still to come!
Tags: zero mostel, doris roberts, mark evanier, pink lady, jim brochu, magic castle, mary poppins, richard m. sherman, sid & marty krofft, al hirschfeld, stiller meara
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