Monthly Archives: December 2010

From “Van Dyke” to JFK …

Morey Amsterdam

Morey Amsterdam

Throughout the 1980’s, I used to see Morey Amsterdam frequently at the Hamburger Hamlet, a local “industry” restaurant on Sunset Boulevard, on the West Hollywood/Beverly Hills line. It is still there today, still serving up the burgers that made the once thriving chain (now whittled down to just a few locations) so popular. My office was across the street from the Sunset location at that time. I was there a lot. When friends and family would come into town for a visit, the Sunset Boulevard Hamburger Hamlet was a sure bet for a celebrity spotting – and not just a “spotting,” but an actual, real-life “encounter.”

These weren’t necessarily the level of “A” list celebrities we think of today (Cruise, Hanks, Bullock, Witherspoon), but older, iconic celebrities who had long ago paid their dues, earned their fame and continued to have loyal fans thanks to series and syndicated television. They were celebrities who became famous in a simpler era. Fans weren’t so much star crazy as they were respectful; paparazzi (or celebrity photographers) weren’t so much bounty head hunters as they were kinder (many even fans themselves).

What does this have to do with the addition of our interview segment this week on Everything.

Morey always seemed as eager and happy to meet with and chat with fans as he was to dine with friends and colleagues. It was great to observe – and it was even greater to talk with him about his life and career when we met over coffee for our Beverly Hills-based chat show on June 1,1992.

It was “The Dick Van Dyke Show” that brought him massive fame from television in 1961, but Morey had had a prolific and sustaining career since before the days of live television, including his own show. The popularity that found him in 1961 continued long after the “Van Dyke” show ended its original network run in 1966. The show has remained a fan favorite in worldwide syndication and U.S. cable networks for decades keeping both the characters and the actors who portrayed them forever etched in American pop culture.

Dick Van Dyke’s “Rob,” Mary Tyler Moore’s “Laura,” Rose Marie’s “Sally,” Richard Deacon’s “Mel” and Morey’s “Buddy” were key among the plots and twists that earned “The Dick Van Dyke Show” a rightful place in television history.

But there was a serious side of Morey Amsterdam, as well. He talks about meeting the soon-to-be presidential candidate John F. Kennedy in the early 1960’s and the relationship that followed in our 1992 interview. Clips from that interview in a package we call “From Van Dyke to JFK” is now available for viewing on-demand on the Home page.

Morey died in 1996 at the age of 87 leaving behind a legacy of his own. As much fun as it was to hear the tales, observations and perspectives from a rich life and career, I must admit, his revealing story about JFK was the most remarkable for me then and now.

I’m happy to be able to share it.

From Los Angeles,

Brad Lemack

Everybody loves … Doris Roberts

The cast of "Everybody Loves Raymond"The cast of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

When I interviewed Doris Roberts in May 1992, “Everybody Loves Raymond” wasn’t yet a factor in either her life of her career. It would be four more years before the role of a lifetime that came to define (or refine) both her life and career would find its way to her.

Up to that point, Doris was the definition of a “working actor.” With a career built on first theatre, then television roles, Doris gained a regular audience of television fans from her role as Mildred Krebs on the series “Remington Steele,” in 1983 (the series ran from 1982 – 1987), starring a pre-James Bond Pierce Brosnan.

As that series was released in syndication around the globe, Doris enjoyed a level of international fame she never knew even from years and years in theatre playing to sold-out houses.

It changed her life. But her life would change again as she earned added fan and industry recognition (and five Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series) for “Everybody Loves Raymond,” as Ray’s know-it-all mother, Marie Barone.

In 1992, Doris joined me for a chat about her life, her choices, her challenges and her career. The success of “Raymond” that we all know about now, but that was still ahead of her then, gives added meaning to her words and her perspective.

From Los Angeles,

Brad Lemack

“It takes ‘Diff’rent Strokes’ to rule to the world …”

Gary Coleman as "Arnold Jackson" in "Diff'rent Strokes"

Gary Coleman

Just added to the collection is our 1992 interview with “Diff’rent Strokes” star Gary Coleman. Tragic life, interesting chat and profound perspective on success in the business of acting.

As I wrote when news of Gary’s death was first announced last May, I was so sad, like many of his fans, to ponder how and why his post-“Diff’rent Strokes” life played itself out the way that it did.

I liked Gary, personally. We first got to know each other through our work at Embassy Television, Norman Lear’s TV production company. He, of course, was in the studio rehearsing and taping episodes of the series. I was in a building elsewhere on the lot tending to publicity matters. But when our paths crossed, it was always like hooking up with an old friend — and we had another old friend in common in A. Dudley Johnson, Jr.

Dudley and I were best pals from our days at Emerson College, in Boston. After graduation, Dudley moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of writing and producing television — and he got his break “in” pretty quickly when he was hired by Norman Lear’s company (then Tandem/TAT Communications) first as a receptionist for the production office for “All in the Family.” His talent, his passion and his tenacity got him noticed and, before long, he moved on up (although not to “The Jeffersons”) to “Diff’rent Strokes,” where he and his writing partner, Robbie Jayson, were added to the series’ production staff as writers/producers. If you recall the two characters in the show named “Dudley” and “Robbie” (friends of Arnold’s), you now know the real roots of how those parts were created.

It was Dudley who was responsible for my getting a foot in the door at the Norman Lear empire. A few years later when I joined the Lear team as a publicity executive, it was Dudley who first introduced me to Gary.

What does all of of this have to do with the Gary Coleman interview we just added to the RerunIt collection? Only everything.

Several year later after we had all moved on to work and careers in other arenas, Dudley, who had in college, produced a little television chat show we did at Emerson (and also came on board with my talk show at WBZ, in Boston, adding some professional notches to both our belts) had an idea.

His idea was for us to return to talk television for a limited run chat show set in a coffee shop in Beverly Hills. He would produce, I would host and together we would test the waters of a new series idea. Some 100 episodes later (most broadcast live), we a had an astounding collection of conversations with some of the most iconic pop culture figures in the history of modern television, including our interview with Gary Coleman.

Gary had taken his share of hits from the media over the years, and he wasn’t seeking publicity when we sat down and chatted in 1992. But he knew he would be safe — and he knew that he would be treated as the friend he was.

That’s how this interview happened. It’s a bit of a tale on how it came to be, but sometimes it’s the details that inform the bigger picture.

Years later watching this interview makes me think that I should have cut my hair shorter much sooner and, more importantly, reminds me of how wise Gary was at such a young age.

Although we put segments from this interview up on YouTube immediately after hearing of his death, Gary is now a permanent part of the RerunIt collection and we’re thrilled to be able to share his perspective, his reflections and his passions with you, always available on demand.

With special thanks to Dudley …

“Diff’rent Strokes” theme song

From Los Angeles,

Brad Lemack

“New York is Where I’d Rather Stay …”

"Green Acres" was the place to be on CBS-TV from 1965 - 1971.

"Green Acres" was the place to be on CBS-TV from 1965 - 1971.

Green Acres was an instant hit when it premiered on CBS-TV in 1965. The comedy about a successful New York City attorney and his glamorous wife who trade all of the trappings of their upscale urban life for open air, wide spaces and the life of a gentleman farmer and his still-glamorous life made for some hilarious interactions with the locals.

The series ran for six years, producing 170 episodes that are still a hoot to watch today – and the fact that “Hooterville” is as urban as this series gets opens the doors and barnyard gates to some of the greatest characters ever created for television, including Arnold the pig.

Eddie Albert was the perfect foil in his role as Oliver Wendell Douglas. The elegant and beautiful Eva Gabor (sister of Zsa Zsa) was equally perfect is her role of Lisa Douglas, the reluctant rural transplant who keeps trying to find, introduce and maintain any degree of “posh” to “Green Acres.” The series theme song remains an all-time TV fan favorite.

I was beyond thrilled to interview Eddie Albert back in June 1992. I was – and am – a big fan. We had first met a few months before our interview at an industry screening. He was there with series co-star and pal Eva Gabor. The opportunity to meet both of them was, to borrow an earlier referenced adjective, a real hoot.

In our interview, Eddie talks about his philosophy of positive thinking, the success of Green Acres, his role on the series and his friendship with Eva.

A prolific actor with a respectable stage, film and television career, Eddie died in 2005 at the age of 99.

We hope you enjoy his look back on his impact on American pop culture.

From Los Angeles,

Brad Lemack