On Staff at The Golden Girls
#15, November 12, 2014
I worked on The Golden Girls TV show back in the late 1980's. No, not as a writer (I wish) but as a Production Secretary. The job was my introduction to Hollywood and the world of professional writing. It was also my introduction to Hollywood weird.
I say weird because nothing in Hollywood should ever be taken seriously. Think about it: nobody, and I mean nobody, knows for sure how or why any TV show, movie, cartoon, song or actor hits it big. Oh, sometimes you can see a trend coming, and some people have a way of sensing things that makes them seem like they know what they're doing. And some companies can create hit after hit because they're so doggone huge that they can turn a flop into a hit through sheer Force of Mouse (am I referring to Disney? surely not! *ahem*). But nobody can create a show and know for certain that it will be a hit. They don't KNOW. They can only throw theories around. It's all guesswork. And yet people take Hollywood tremendously seriously because a hit=$$$.
Just think for a moment what the world would be like if banking were done completely by guesswork.
Okay, stop thinking that. Hollywood is terrifying enough.
Anyway, I learned all of the above when I worked for two seasons on The Golden Girls. I worked with the writing staff. They were amazing people. They taught me what it means to be Professional, with a capital P. They also taught me what it means to be Ridiculous, with a capital, bolded and italicized R.
Example of Amazing: If it was necessary, the writers would stay in their offices writing away all night. As in, until dawn. Yes, they made good money and so, like any other well-paid workers, they expected to work long hours sometimes. But I'm talking wow. Why? Well, can you sit down and be funny on command? These people had to be funny, week in and week out, whether they felt funny or not, whether they had good personal lives or not, whether they'd had any sleep or not. Like I said — amazing.
Example of Ridiculous: They could also be zonking bizarre, as in the time I had to type up a script for a... Certain Writer. So there I was, typing Certain Writer's handwritten script into the word processor, but before I got halfway through, I had to go take notes at a script meeting. Certain Writer was in that meeting with me. On the way out when the meeting was over, Certain Writer turned to me and, completely seriously, asked, "So how's the script coming?" As in, they wanted to know if I was done typing it up. As in, they had totally spaced the fact that I had been in the meeting with them. As in, how could I have typed up their script when I was sitting at the same table they were sitting at for the last two hours? Like I said, the writers could be ridiculous.
But it wasn't just the writers who were amazing and ridiculous. I had to take notes for... let's call this individual High Ranking Company Person... during tapings. I had to take notes while this person ate popcorn. And gave the notes with their mouth full.
Or how about the time I was told I had to read my boss's mind? I'm talking literally. No exaggeration, no smile, no joke. So I did my best to read my boss's mind, I really did. But I failed that trick. I can fetch and play dead with the best of them, but read minds? Nope.
Maybe Hollywood people get weird (or start out that way) because the ability to entertain is a mysterious skill, whether you're a writer or actor or producer or executive. The business itself is ridiculous. And admirable and amazing. So it stands to reason that ridiculous, admirable and amazing people tend to work there.
Book writers aren't the same. Yes, many are weird and even goofy, but it's a different animal. At the risk of making sweeping generalizations, book writers tend to be more logical, practical and even more calm. In my experience, Hollywood people range from "unusual" to "freakish." I think they pump something into the air in Los Angeles to exaggerate the weirdness there. Over the years people have thought it's smog, but no — it's Weird Gas. I moved away from Weird Gas City years ago, but I lived there for ten years, so I think I got permanently Weirded.
Anyway, that's it for now. I'll no doubt blog about my time on The Golden Girls again because I learned so darned much there, but now I have to check over some notes I made about my latest novel.
At least I didn't have to get these notes from somebody talking with a mouthful of popcorn.