In my decade of working in L.A. TV news, I was never fazed by celebrities. I guess it’s because I was either writing about or surrounded by them.
The start-up news operation I was privileged to be a part of was located on the Paramount Studios lot in Hollywood, next to (and this shows how long ago this was) Wings, Cheers and Frasier. I knew absolutely nothing about Wings. I never watched it because I worked weeknights. But I knew all about the plane: It was parked next door.
I confess I made a stab at trying to get a job at Frasier. A producer graciously agreed to meet with me. “Can I work here in the mornings before I go to my job next door?” I pleaded. “No,” she said. “I won’t have you being a gofer. Here’s a script. Write something.”
Best advice I could have received. Did I write something? Nope. Too busy working on the news and hanging out at the beach.
Then there was the time our station doubled as the fictitious station in the film Groundhog Day. Us mere mortals hung out all night, watching superstar Bill Murray – well, he was at the time – pretend to be a weatherman, hoping we’d make the cut as newsroom extras. I didn’t.
I did a little schmoozing with director Harold Ramis, one of my comedy idols. He had his assistant give me a copy of the script. Did I use it as a model to write something? Nope. Too busy working on the news and hanging out at the beach.
Anyway, as I said, I was a spider in a celebrity web. I worked with a woman who was dating Harrison Ford’s son. The news anchorman on The Simpsons is said to be based in part on one of my anchors, the late, legendary Jerry Dunphy.
Entertainment Tonight host Mark Steines got his start there. Dateline reporter Josh Mankiewicz did a stint, as did CNN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell. Magic Johnson and Roseanne made frequent appearances. This being in the thick of the OJ Simpson murder trial, late uber defense attorney Johnnie Cochran and another Kardashian — Kim and Kloe’s late dad Robert – another Simpson attorney — were always in the news.
And an earnest young guy named Anderson Cooper was often on to talk about some investigative piece he was working on. “That guy’s gonna go places,” predicted my executive producer.
I was most enthused about Beethoven the dog, who was on with his girlfriend Missy, promoting their new, at the time, movie. I have a picture of me slobbering all over him — somewhere.
The point being, they all ate lunch just like everyone else. (Sounds like a good name for a book; not to be confused with Julia Phillips’ scathing blockbuster, which I read when I first arrived in Hollywood, You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again.)
So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that, barely a day back in L.A., after all those years, I’m hanging out with a woman with ties to some of the biggest names in TV history.