Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little History on WNO from Jonathan

I remember pitching WNO at NBC.  Took me 2 years.  Flying to NY every few weeks from TO.  The old station wagon went unfixed.  We ate frugal.  We never went out. The mortgage went unpaid.  We were doing the occasional Spanish and French inserts for Sesame St and Readalong for chump change. On top of air fares and hotel I was taking this estimable suit, Bill Dannhauser, Head of Specials, for expensive lunches.  Good man, I really liked him.  A good suit, but, hey, a suit.  We started talking about Other Things.  Life. People.  What's It All About. One warm spring day he suggested  -  HE suggested  -  we just take a walk up to Central Park.  We lunched on a hot dog and a cola sitting on a park bench talking about our kids.  I was so close to giving up, man, we were so under water Jean and I talked in bubbles.  But at that moment I knew we had it made.  And so it was.  I went home the next day with a down payment of $40 THOUSAND DOLLARS, seery ass money back in the day.  We were all ready to roll and man did we roll.  Rock and roll.  The amazing thing was that I had not signed a contract yet!  I never knew if NBC just made a big mistake or whether Dannhauser made it happen or what.  Believe me, I never asked, I just ran from the airport to the bank praying I had not become delusional.  Of course, everything got signed soon after but my lawyer never got over it.  After that he stood up when I came in, big smile, big handshake, if he was on the phone he quickly said he was in a meeting and hung up, he would take me to lunch fer crine out loud.  Jean thought maybe I was not a total lunatic after all.  Friends were in awe.  It was the best of times.  

Later I learned that NBC was being very insufficiently appreciative of these new hot stars on this new hot SNL show and they, Belushi, Chase, Radner and all were  so cocky they were saying FY to anything to do with NBC.  There was resentment on both sides.  But Gilda was our friend and the fact that she had agreed to do the principal voice when they could not get any of these rude kids to do anything, well, that was what did it.  I am not sure that any of the suits at NBC, including Dannhauser, ever understood the script or the presentation story board which was like a pre-school comic book.  Prior to airing, a glum group of suits attended the pre-screening and the only laugh was at the party scene, the line in reference to the staircase something like "they don't put that kinda work into things anymore".  At the end nobody said anything to me. It was not a thrill.  

Within a few months everybody who knew me at NBC was gone.  I tried to present "Let's Play Grownups" to Dannhauser's replacement, a 40ish chickiepoo named Mickey Dwyer who I guessed to myself had been a high school girls volleyball coach until the previous week.  You can imagine the frost on THAT little get-together.  


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