Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #54 – “Things Change”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Last night brought Paradise its wildest thunderstorm of the season. Thunder roared, lightning crashed, wind and rain assaulted the earth.

It was glorious.

The aftermath, however, was a whole other thing.

This morning Burl Jr. the New Caretaker and I left the Mountain at eight o’clock on a quick run to Paradise Feed. The electricity was out, but the sun never lies. (Neither do the battery powered atomic clocks conveniently located in both the main house and the Annex.)

On our way we passed toppled trees, downed fences, and an aggravated power company crew. “Too bad we don’t have any traffic signals in Paradise,” Burl Jr. said.

“Why’s that?”

“Because it’d be so much fun to see how people react when they go out.”

“I’m missing something,” I said. “But it’s not the traffic signals.”

At the feed store we were greeted by the biggest damage yet. Everyone who worked there was standing by the big forty-foot hay barn, staring in disbelief.

Burl Jr. and I stared too. Last night’s wind had picked up the whole structure, carried it about twenty feet, and then dropped it back onto the ground, shattering every support. It squatted where it hit, caved-in like a barrel with crushed staves.

Burl Jr. whistled. I shook my head. We were in the presence of the true power of the storm.
Phyllis, who pretty much runs the place, came over to the truck.

“You came for hay, didn’t you?” she said.

“I’m not going to get any, am I?” I said.

“We can’t go in there,” Phyllis said. “Only thing keeping the roof up is the twenty foot pile of Bermuda at the back.”

“We wanted alfalfa,” said Burl Jr.

Phyllis looked relieved. “Oh, then you would’ve been out of luck anyway.”

“When will you have any hay?” I said. “Alfalfa or otherwise?”

“When we get ourselves a new barn.”

“When’ll that be?” Burl Jr. said.

“Oh, I imagine sometime after the insurance company finishes roasting us over a hot fire.”

Phyllis went back to the barn. Burl Jr. and I went back on the road. Our destination—the next town, about ten miles away, and its County Farm and Feed.

A long, tall drink of water wearing a nametag that identified him as Albert the Manager greeted us with a grin.

“Why, we’ve got plenty of alfalfa!” he said. “No problem. Only eight dollars a bale.”

“Eight dollars!” Burl Jr. looked like he was about to choke. “That’s two dollars more than
Paradise Feed.”

“That’s not how I see it,” said Albert the Manager. “How I see it is that Paradise Feed doesn’t have any alfalfa for sale. That makes what we’re asking the going rate. That’s business.”

“That’s robbery!” Burl Jr. said. “You’re buying it from the same farmers Paradise Feed bought it from and paying the same price. Can’t be more than three dollars a bale.”

Albert looked thoughtful. “I guess you could wait for Paradise’s new barn,” he said. “Or you could lease yourself a big rig and drive 500 miles to Iowa City, Iowa where the farmers with the alfalfa are. You licensed for that?”

“We’ll take eight bales of alfalfa right here,” I said.

Albert was already writing up the sale. “Thank you kindly. Just bring this ticket to the big trailer outside.”

He gave me a familiar “Hey-We’re-All-Hard-Working-Men-Trying-To-Make-Our-Way-Through-This-World” kind of gaze. Turned back to Burl Jr. “Things change, son,” he said. “That’s how life is.”

Burl Jr. didn’t say anything. Not until he and I were out in the parking lot. “What was that old boy doing,” he demanded, “telling me ‘things change?’”

“Believe it or not, Burl,” I said, “he was trying to keep everything cool. And maybe teach you something about life.”

“I’m not a kid. I know how life is! That’s why I’m so mad.”

“That’ll change too.”

“I don’t want it to. I want to be me, fighting and kicking to the end!”

Burl Jr. wore a look I’ve seen in my mirror many times. I thought about all the changes I’ve gone through in my life. Who I was. Who I am. Who I’ll be.

I started chuckling.

Burl Jr. stared. “Why are you laughing?”

“Oh, I guess because it’s so much fun to see how people react when the traffic signals go out.”

By the time Burl Jr.’s seat hit the seat of the truck, he was laughing too.

The Latest WGA-ATA Weekly Report

by Larry Brody

It was been pretty damn quiet on both the Western and Eastern Fronts last week.

No new lawsuits. No authorized spokesmen spouting their side’s line.

But that doesn’t mean the Writers Guild and the Association of Talent Agents and their members, both individual and corporate, have made up. No, no, no, no.

No real movement there at all.

Here’s the most interesting news during that pretty much no-news week. At least to me.

Verve Seeking Package Fees For Unscripted Projects

Writers John August & Craig Mazin Debate WGA’s Rejection Of Agencies’ Offer To Share Revenue

William Schmidt Leads “Loyal Opposition” In Bid For WGA West Presidency; Two Guild Leaders Call For Him To Be Investigated For Not Firing His Agent

More to come, of course. Seeya next week.

In Solidarity,


Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #53 – “The Almighty Women of the Universe”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

Gwen the Beautiful celebrated her fiftieth birthday last summer. She did it in the traditional way.

By not celebrating at all.

Oh, we had a nice dinner out, but that’s not much of a celebration for half a century of life. Which was fine with Gwen.

In the months since, however, it’s been bugging her that she didn’t look her age squarely in the eye, and a few weeks ago she formulated a plan.

“I’m calling the Almighty Women of the Universe together,” she said. “We’re going to get together and do more than just accept our years. We’re going to take pride in who we are.”

The Almighty Women of the Universe is the name of a group of five women who’ve been pals since their twenties. There’s Gwen, and Margie, her best friend, a driven career woman in L.A. And Abby, a happily married schoolteacher from Oklahoma City; Geri, an artist who lives about an hour down our road; and Katya, the earth mother of the group, from Austin, Texas way.

Katya’s the oldest of this particular posse, at fifty-five. Gwen’s fifty years make her the baby. But she’s always been the one the others turn to for support.

The women jumped at this chance to get together, and last weekend they gathered here for three days during which everything ceased to exist for them but each other.

The weather was unseasonably warm, and they camped out in the Cloud Creek clearing, with a couple of side jaunts over to a nearby commercial cavern and another place where a friend of Geri’s has an elephant farm.

This was the women’s show. They invited me to hang around, but I knew I didn’t belong. I stayed as far from them as I could except for one cook-out dinner of stir fry. As a result, I don’t know all that went down, but I can say safely that they strolled through the woods and went down to the creek. And ate a lot of chocolate.

They kept a big bonfire going the whole time, and danced and sang. Geri played the autoharp. Katya and Abby drummed on some of the drums I’ve picked up over the years from places like Taos Pueblo, Mexico, South Africa, and the South Side of Chicago as well.

The last morning they were together, Gwen and Margie made breakfast in the house and brought it back outside. This time, when they invited me to join them it seemed right. The women were in such good spirits that even Belle, our oversensitive, snakebit dog, was calm and friendly with them.

And Emmy and Decker kept trying to get on their laps.

As I sat with these sisters-daughters-mothers I felt warm and proud. I felt their wisdom and tenderness and love. They were comfortable with themselves, and their newfound peace enveloped me, so that I was filled with the sense of being safe and at home. That morning, as I gulped down my eggs and sausages I knew I was sitting with the most beautiful women in the world.

After the other Almighty Women drove off, Gwen and I spent the rest of the day in each other’s arms. In the days since, a new sense of openness and acceptance has pervaded our ranch.

Belle still is being calm, if not downright affable, with strangers. And even the Annex—I swear!—has gotten into the act. The inexplicable aroma of strawberry shortcake I’ve mentioned before has vanished from the premises, and it smells more strongly of stir fry each day.

Yesterday at the Paradise Supermarket I noticed a pretty young woman smiling the smile and walking the walk of the flirt. She did her best to make sure everyone looked. I smiled back at her, but couldn’t bring myself to take part in the rest of the game.

Sure, she’s got a fine figure and a seductive air, but all I could think was, “What? Do you really believe I’d be interested in you? You’re like a little girl, and I’ve got a real woman waiting for me at home. A woman who’s beautiful not only outside but inside as well. A woman who’s deep and knowing and wise.”

And then I thought something else. And came this close to telling her:

“You know, if you play your cards right and learn from all the living you’ll do, you can become something special too…in another twenty-five years.”

The Latest WGA-ATA Weekly Report

by Larry Brody

More lawsuits! More recriminations!

Looks like things are heating up in what seems to be turning into a fight to the finish between the Writers Guild of America and the Association of Talent Agents. (What does it say about the situation that I almost typed “Association of Travel Agents instead?)

Here’s the most recent communique from the Guild:

July 3, 2019
Dear Members,

Here’s a pre-holiday weekend update:

Last week’s announcement by the Guild that it would no longer negotiate with the ATA has resulted in conversations with some individual agencies this week. While we do not generally comment on individual confidential negotiations while they are in progress, we did respond publicly when the Abrams Agency head used the media to express frustration that the WGA was not willing to go backward and use the expired AMBA as a basis for a new agreement. Our email response is available here. We remain ready to discuss any specific concerns Abrams – or any other agency – has with our current proposal and continue to seek a negotiated solution with each agency.

Tuesday the WGA sent letters to potential investors of Endeavor’s IPO.

Yesterday packaging fee stories from PODs were posted on the Guild’s website at this link.

A survey reminder will go today to members who haven’t yet taken the survey. Search for it using the subject line: Reminder: Take the WGA Member Survey.

Here’s a link to a Daily Beast story about the campaign.

Guild members Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina interviewed David Goodman about the agency campaign on their Children of Tendu podcast. You can listen here.

Los Angeles-area members are invited to come to next Wednesday’s Member Get-Together at the Guild office. Board and Negotiating Committee members will be available to informally answer questions, and you’ll have a chance to network with other members as well.

RSVP at this link to attend the WGA Member Get-Together
Wednesday, July 10, 7-9 p.m.

In Solidarity,

WGA-Agency Agreement Negotiating Committee

WGA Statement of Purpose: Why Agencies Must Change

Our agents work for us. Every dollar they make must be generated as a percentage of the money we make. That is what it means to be our representatives and our fiduciaries. Agency-based studios and packaging fees make a mockery of that and are in violation of the agencies’ ethical and legal obligations to writers. We have taken too long to demand that these practices end. But the persistence of a corrupt system does not make it right. And putting things right does not blow up the business. We do not owe our agents their wealth; they owe us their loyalty. That is what we pay for. In a complex, changing, yet immensely profitable time in our industry, writers need true allies, not deeply conflicted ones. It is for this idea—simple, old-fashioned and un-revolutionary—that we stand—and for which we come together as a Guild again today.

More links for you:

WGA: TV Producers Recount Packaging Horror Stories

WGA Doubles Down On Endeavor IPO Criticism With Letter To Investors

Verve Signs Showrunner & Top WGA Negotiator Meredith Stiehm

From where I sit, it’s appearing harder and harder to believe that even after this is over we’ll all be able to be friends.

In Solidarity,


Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #52 – “Amber Mode”

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THE USUAL NOTE FROM LB: From the summer of 2002 to  the spring of 2010, Gwen the Beautiful and I were the proud and often exhausted owners of a beautiful Ozarks property we called Cloud Creek Ranch.

In many ways, the ranch was paradise. But it was a paradise with a price that started going up before we even knew it existed. Here’s another Monday musing about our adventure and the lessons we learned.

Oh, and if y’all detect any irony, please believe me when I say it comes straight from the universe and not your kindly Uncle Larry B.

by Larry Brody

I’m in Amber mode today.

As in Youngest Daughter Amber, the dangerously beautiful young woman who more than any of our other kids reminds me of—well, of me.

We think alike. We aspire alike. We rant and rave alike. Most of the time the similarities make for a lot of fun. But they can be frightening as well
The reason Amber’s on my mind today is that she’s transferring colleges. Leaving the Art Institute of San Francisco, where she’s been majoring in creating video games, and entering the San Francisco Art Institute, where she’ll be part of the world of what academicians call “fine art.”

Gwen the Beautiful, Amber, and I talked about it over the phone last week. “The two schools only sound the same,” Amber said. The old one’s all about making a living. But I’ve got to be creative. I’ve got to be free!”

This was upsetting because I was very proud of Amber when she started on her video game road. It seemed made for her not only because she’s brilliant and talented (if I do say so myself), with the potential to raise this new playing field to new heights, but also because the school flat-out guarantees every graduate a job.

Not that it was the first time we’d ever disagreed. We had a similar situation when we moved to Paradise.

We arrived here during the summer. Amber was only seventeen and had been raised in Southern California for most of her life. Still, she tried her best to fit in here. She loved the property. The animals. The sky. She found a place that was hers down at our pond and spent hours there talking to the cedars.

Amber made friends. Went to parties. Appreciated that they were just like parties back in L.A., celebrations of music and bravado and, yes, teenage pain.

She saw the truth: Teenagers are the same everywhere.

And the greater truth: All people are the same.

A few things put her off. First was when a group of girls told her she shouldn’t dress the way she did. “You’re wearing bright colors. We never do that. It’s so tacky, the way the boys are looking at you.”

The second troublesome thing was the chawing. The teenage boy who was Paradise’s hot catch at the time came by thinking he’d impress her with how far he could spit. Funny thing. Eight feet of brown tobacco slime didn’t push the right buttons. Amber got him back into his truck—fast.

The third strike came when she was talking to another boy getting ready to leave for college.

“What’s your major?” Amber said.

“Metal work,” he told her.

“Like sculpture? What a great thing to do!”

The boy looked puzzled. “Metal sculpture? Why would I do that? I’ve got the talent to do something important. I can build fences strong enough to hold the biggest bull—“

And that was it. Paradise’s fate was sealed.

“Can you believe that? He blew off art!” Amber told us.

“He’s got other things to worry about,” I said. “Survival…”

“Human beings need art in order to survive,” Amber said. Art takes us away from the bad parts of reality. It lets us heal and helps us grow.”

“I know, baby. What I’m saying is—“

“What I’m saying is I’m so out of here!”

Off Amber went, back to L.A. to live with relatives and finish out her senior year. We missed her like crazy. You wouldn’t believe the phone bills.

Now she’s in San Francisco, making another move that causes me concern.

On the one hand Amber’s twenty-one and on her own, learning exactly what she wants to learn, the way she wants to learn it.

On the other hand she’s taking a big risk, gambling on her future in a way that doesn’t pay off for most people.

“Meh!” she said over the phone when I pointed that out. “It paid off for you.”

I love my dangerously beautiful daughter and am even prouder of her now than I was before. Through Amber I’ve come to understand that one person’s paradise can be another’s middle of nowhere. And vice versa, of course.

And that to live a good life what you’ve got to be best at is being yourself.

Especially when—even when we think we’re on opposite sides—she’s still being just like me.