Other things I did and I’m not ashamed to admit
What makes Joe special?
I’ve won awards.
I wrote the non-televised Cable Ace Awards show for 4 years running – 3 years for dick clark productions (and I got to meet Dick who was not difficult to get along with) and one year for Tall Pony Productions. If you can’t remember when cable shows couldn’t get arrested at the Emmys, then I’m older than you.
I wrote Disney Channel promos – Harry Anderson was the celebrity pitchman.
I wrote for Disneyland Show Development – this is the entertainment arm that creates the shows and “atmosphere cast member” interactions with the public at the parks. At the time, the project was called “Westcot”, slated for Disneyland. After picking our brains for about 5 weeks, mining our “best ideas”, the entire group of writers were all laid off.
It’s not that I minded because I had to drive from Woodland Hills to Anaheim for 9:30am start meetings. Here, let me put it in “The Californians speak” – I took the 101 south going east to the 405 south down past LAX to the 22 east over to the 5 north or I could’ve taken the 105 east from the 405 south to the 605 south to the 91 east over to and down the 5 south, depending on traffic. Fun? Wow!
I wrote two episodes of a family comedy/drama TV series produced in Spain (“Médico de familia”). It bested fútbol in the ratings. I took four years of Spanish and five years of French and three years of Latin, or what underfunded Catholic schools call “a well-rounded education”. I remain internationally dangerous in several languages, causing residents of several European countries to cringe at my remarkably inadequate pronunciation and accent. “Semper ubi sub ubi”. Words to live by.
I had an opportunity to pitch Kevin Meany, the comedian, who was doing a comedy special. The director was a fellow Canadian who I met through Frank Peppiatt. In preparation, I’d written down a few ideas that developed into a few stand-up bits. If you’re not familiar with his routines, Kevin had a particular shtick that played off his mother’s constant fear that she’d be sued and lose the house due to his behavior.
I was not hired but for your reading pleasure, I present those here.
I just bought a house, which is amazing, because prices today are astronomical, unless you’re buying a place in Greenland or Antarctica and then the commute is a bitch. You talk in figures you really can’t grasp. The whole thing is like a game of Monopoly. You land somewhere. You pass some paper. They give you a deed. You wake up the next morning, you own Ventnor.
I bought a place in L.A. and I mention it because in L.A. there are only two jobs; screenwriter and real estate agent. They generally issue a license with the birth certificate. It’s like Original Sin. Everybody’s born with it.
Being a real estate agent is like being a politician. Creative lying is not only an asset, it’s expected.
To begin with, there is no backyard that cannot accommodate a pool. “Sure, you can put one in. Sixty feet deep, four feet across. It’s easier to heat. You’re closer to the Earth’s core. High diving board. You can dive deep no problem. You won’t end up in a wheelchair.”
They say things like, “Real estate always appreciates.” And it must be true because in the time between them asking “How much were you thinking of spending?” and you answering, they’ve got the perfect place, only it’s fifty thousand more. How do they know? God and real estate agents are omniscient.
I looked at a lot of places in the older, more established part of town. Pre-war places. The Civil War.
The standard room size is 4 X 4. Wall to wall carpeting is a throw rug.
“Imagine how it would look with this wall missing.” It would look like a large phone booth. I don’t want to buy a place that comes with its own sledgehammer.
“Imagine a spiral staircase here going up to the roof.” I wasn’t thinking of spending a lot of time on the roof. “It’d be great for getting to all those hard to clean places.”
Does it have central air conditioning? “Doesn’t need it. The house was raised two feet off its foundation. It’s got a crawl space. It’s like a freezer under there. You could store beef. The house is built over underground springs fed by the Arctic gulfstream. Check your geo. You put your ear to the ground in the dead of the night, you’ll hear gurgling.
Of course you’re buying the mineral rights with this place. Oil. There are people in Beverly Hills who get checks every month. Big oil companies just suck the oil out. You never even know it’s gone.
Gold. That’s why people came to California. There’s plenty of it left. It shifts with the earthquakes.
This house is earthquake proof. There are metal rods. They’re attached to the Earth’s axis. Self adjusting.
They like to dazzle you with stupid, infinitesimal details.
They say things like, “This place is immaculate. All the valves have been cleaned.” What does that mean? “It’s got recessed wiring. All the wires are behind the walls.”
The lawn is low maintenance. “It’s astro turf. All you do is hose it down.”
“It’s got individually injected chlorophyll. The previous owners used to lick the dew straight off it. Had the freshest breath. That’s why cows have fresh breath. Ever smelled a cow’s breath?”
L.A. is a big city. It’s got big city crime so the security system is always a big selling feature.
“It’s got a state of the art security system. Not that there’s a lot of crime in the area. It’s got laser beams. Cut a man in half.”
“It’s got snakes in the backyard. Vipers. They’re nocturnal. Never see them but they’re there.”
You try to catch a real estate agent in a lie and it’s impossible.
What’s that structure back there?
“A guest house.”
Where’s the garage?
“Or a garage. It doubles as a guest house. They can sleep in the car.”
Is that a built-in barbeque pit?
“It’s a sacrificial altar but they’ve changed the city ordinance. You could use it as a barbeque pit.”
(AS MOTHER) “That’s not a barbeque pit. Barbeque pits don’t have skulls. Out there in the gazebo practicing your voodoo. That’s not right. You didn’t get that squirrel jacket from a fur trader. Your father and I don’t have a sacrificial altar in the backyard but people will blame us for raising a monster. They’ll show up with torches. We’ll lose the house. That’s not right!”
When I was a kid I wanted a dog, so I did what every kid does who wants a dog. I whined and I cried.
Every day for three years straight whenever anyone would ask me a question, all I would say is “I want a dog!”
So, finally, my dad got a dog but he was always trying to save money so he didn’t go to the pet store. He went to a company that did experiments on animals.
It was a mixed breed; part pit bull, part piranha. It was just four legs and teeth all the way back to its tail. Still I loved that dog. I named it, Flossy…because of all the teeth.
Every Sunday it was the same ritual. My father would run out to the car, lobbing raw meat like grenades till he made it inside safely.
He’d pull the car up on the lawn to the front of the house and throw the door open. My mother would fire the kids into the back seat. Sometimes she’d smack you off the side.
Flossy would chase the car, snapping at the tires and leaping up at the windows as we drove down the street. It would be sweltering and the whole family would be sweating in a hermetically sealed vehicle moving down the street at 5 miles an hour so the dog wouldn’t get run over.
My dad would be flicking Swedish meatballs out the side vent window trying to distract him and the dog would be catching them mid-air.
Us kids would be going, “C’mon Flossy, you can do it”.
My dad would scream at us, and my mother would yell at him and tell us to pray to St. Bosco, the patron saint of dogs so Flossy will stop chasing the car.
We’d go through thirty, forty pounds of raw meat waiting till he’d be too full and drop back. Then my dad would floor it. Fifty, sixty miles an hour down suburban streets – running stop signs, cutting across open fields trying to lose him. We’d leave at 7 o’clock in the morning and just make it to the 11:30 mass.
Flossy was always dragging things home – little trophies it would place in the middle of the kitchen floor: dead birds, chunks of cat fur – once, an artificial leg.
One day I was playing with Flossy, as I did everyday, growling and snapping at him from behind the ¼-inch plate steel kitchen door. I was waving a red handkerchief at him when he suddenly lunged for my arm. Fortunately, the firemen were able to loosen his grip with the help of a hydraulic.
Nothing could stop Flossy or so we thought until the animal control man came to our house with a dog he’d found roadside, crushed beyond recognition in the shape of a tire tread. It was Flossy.
We identified him from dental records – fortunately I had a complete set on my arm.