Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #75 – “Come On and Take a Free Ride”

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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

Burl Jr., Cloud Creek’s New Caretaker, has himself a new ride. He’s standing in the middle of the clearing now, hose in hand, washing it for the fifteenth time in the last four days.

New ride it may be, but not a new vehicle. Burl Jr. bought Sweet Jane’s sister Celia’s Chevy pickup. He’d been eyeing it for years, and she gave him a deal he couldn’t refuse.

“This is going to cut into your ‘leaving home to strike it rich in the music business’ money,” I pointed out as Burl Jr. demonstrated the adjustable shocks.

“It’s worth it,” he said. “I’ll hit the Big Time in style. Look here, we’re talking about chrome headers!”

How could I argue? After all, once upon a time ole Larry B didn’t just love cars, I defined myself by what I drove.

In college I was the guy with the old ’59 Corvette. The new Stingray had replaced this model in the showroom, but driving it still made me cool…and a little eccentric. A pretty solid description of whom I wanted to be.

When I first moved to Los Angeles I drove a Mustang. The color code said it was “bronze,” but parking lot attendants said, “Pull that brown car in over there.”

The color alone made me an outta tune in a city where cars are icons that identify their drivers just as the symbols painted on their shields I.D.’d medieval knights.

So, beginning a pattern that lasted for thirty years, as soon as I got a little money I traded in the Mustang for a brand new, bright red Alfa Romeo. The Alfa was rear-ended the second day I had it, and then had its front smashed in by someone demonstrating his new power garage door the day after the rear was fixed.

Someone was telling me something, but I didn’t listen. Driving such a rare and fragile Italian car didn’t just make me cool, it announced that I was a budding Fellini. A television auteur!

In the years that followed I drove a succession of foreign cars, showing off for every traffic cop in L.A., culminating in a brand new Porsche. This silver bullet was my ride for fifteen years.

Impatience was the hallmark of my career and my life, and the Porsche suited me so well that it showed up in all my dreams as a kind of stand-in for me.

When things went well, my dream Porsche roared down the road like thunder. When I had a heart attack I dreamed that a hole opened up on the street where the Porsche was parked and swallowed it whole.

And when the show business thing wore off and I grew heartsick and tired of my life of flash I finally sold it and bought a series of more practical vehicles. A Montero SUV. A GMC pick-up. A couple of Ford F150s. If you live anywhere near rural America you know the drill.

Even then, the only vehicle that made it into my dreams was the silver Porsche. Any time the dream LB went anywhere I did it in that car. The personality traits that had made the Porsche me and me the Porsche still ran my personal show.

Until I moved to Paradise and learned what life really was all about. Until I learned what it was like to work from sunrise to sunset just to survive. And how fine it felt to get through the year with my land still mine. And to have my neighbors wave and talk to me simply because I was one of the guys.

I stopped dreaming about the silver Porsche. About any car.

Until Burl Jr. proclaimed his love for that Chevy.

That night I dreamed I was in an underground parking structure. A middle-aged farmer in overalls walked me to the only vehicle there.

“She’s all fixed up,” he said. “Better than when it was new ‘cause I gave it the Paradise spin. Go on. Get in. Drive.”

In my dream, I got into the car—a better than new ’59 ‘Vette—and headed out to the world.

I was twenty-one again, cool but eccentric, beginning a new life that could go in any direction I chose.

Every night since then I’ve dreamed I’m in that car. Driving the blacktop and gravel of Paradise.

No side trips. No crashes.

I’m one lucky man.

How many people get to start all over again…on the right road?

LB: ‘Bags Groove’ and Other Memories

by Larry Brody

Last Thursday was my birthday. I’m not going to go into how old I am. Let’s put it this way – I’m older than I ever thought humanly possible.

I’m so old that time now passes twice as fast for me as it did back when I, erm, wasn’t so old. What I remember as happening last week in fact happened two years ago. What I remember happening five years ago actually occurred ten years in the past.

Actually, my time lapse sense is more subjective than that, which I didn’t realize until sitting down and writing the paragraphs above, and looking at a picture my wife, Gwen the Beautiful, just put up on Facebook.

Turns out that what I remember looking like – hell, make that the person I remember being this morning, as I woke up – in fact existed not two days or two years or even two decades ago but forty holy-crap-racing-like-the-wind! years ago.

Here I am, at the moment when, as head writer-producer (they didn’t call us showrunners then) of the critics’ darlin’ series Police Story, I reached the peak of my climb up life’s all-too-slippery slope.

Since then it’s been a slow but fascinatingly head-over-heels descent down the other side of said slope, and while I’m cool with everything that’s happened along the way, you’d better believe me when I say you’ll never see me shirtless in a photograph taken now!

Those of you who may be curious, however, are more than welcome to listen to the music I loved more than any other kind back in the day, music I listened to last Thursday while realizing it still stood at the top of my list, above even my all-time second fave, The Who’s Quadrophenia.

Here’s Bags Groove, a jazz album featuring Miles Davis, Milt Jackson, Thelonious Monk and a ton more great musicians. It seemed older than God – and maybe even older than I am now – when I first heard it in what then was called “Junior High,” but right now it reverbs through my head as brand new.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #74 – “Tone of Voice”

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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 while I was out on the front porch, talking on the phone with a friend in L.A., Emmy the Pit Mom came outside through the open door.

“You here to enjoy the night air?” I said. “Great.” I patted the wooden swing. “Want to sit next to me?”

At the other end of the line my friend chuckled. “Say hi to Gwen the Beautiful for me.”

“Oh, I will. As soon as I go inside.”

“Isn’t that who you were talking to just now?”

“No, that was Emmy.”

“The dog? You were talking to the dog like that? I was sure it had to be the woman you love. Or at least a human being.”

Those of you who are regular readers know how my mind works. So you know what he said got me to thinking.

And, of course, wondering.

Is there really something so strange about how I talk to Emmy? I talk to her the way I do all the animals around here. The way I talk to Huck the Spotless Appaloosa, Elaine the Not So Wild Mustang, Decker the Giant-Hearted, Belle the Wary, and the cats and the chickens too.

And I realized that the strange thing about the way I talk to the animals here on the Mountain is that I talk to them the same way I talk to people. I talk to them as conscious, self-aware human beings.

I talk to them the way I treat them—with respect.

Respect! For animals?! Who’d a thunk?

Certainly not me. Back in the day when I was scrambling for a living, fighting tooth and claw for my little piece of the pie, I saw a huge difference between humans and other species.

Humans were Kings of the Hill. Rulers of the planet! Big Kahunas in every way.

And animals—horses, dogs, barracudas, whatever—were background. Décor. Not so much creatures as objects to be bent and shaped and controlled.

Don’t get me wrong. I had lots of pets. Loved them all. But I talked to them in that stern, authoritarian voice people reserve for All Things Less Than Human.

“Come! Sit! Stay! Heel!”

Or in that sugary sweet supplicating tone we use when expressing affection. “Good doggie. Good girl. Who’s Daddy’s favorite kitten? Mmmm….”

Whoa. Imagine if we talked to our children that way. Or our spouses or partners. Co-workers….

Oops, never mind. As I look back on my life as father, husband, employee, and employer I realize I don’t have to imagine that at all.

I did talk that way.

Never thought about it. Never even noticed.

Patronizing? Sure.

Condescending? You bet.

Desperate for love and approval and authority too? Absolutely.

There I was, an adult in the meat market we call the Big City, begging, borrowing, and wheedling my way to personal and business success—and never noticing, not for a moment, that although I would say, when asked by those close to me, “I’m doing this all for you. My life is all about you,” that wasn’t how it was. My thoughts, feelings, and deeds weren’t about “you” at all.

They were all about “me.”

When I bragged about the achievements of friends and family I really was bragging about myself.

Looking for honor by association.

When I entered my St. Bernard in dog shows and showed off her ribbons it wasn’t because she loved it so much. It was because I felt enhanced and empowered by her “success.”

Now, though, I’m out here in Paradise. Surrounded by trees and critters. At the mercy of the wind and the sun and the rain.

Sharing this mountaintop with—yes—the woman I love.

And also with the animals whose behavior and interaction teach me so much everyday.

And for the life of me I can’t find one reason not to think of every single one of the creatures I’ve gotten to know so well as “people.” Nor to order them around.

Or even wheedle or beg or cajole.

I just plain respect them too much.

This morning I called my friend back and explained all this to him. His response was another chuckle. “You’ve been in the woods too long,” he said.

I don’t think so.

Right now I don’t think I ever could be in the woods for too long.

They’re filled with way too many new people of all species for me ever to get to know and love and respect.

Larry Brody: Live! From Paradise! #73 – “Just One of the Boys”

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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

My new haircut, the one that buzzed me within an eighth of an inch of my scalp, has brought me a whole new world of acceptance here in Paradise.

Folks who never noticed me before nod as I walk by. Other folks wave from their trucks as we pass on the highway. The stocker at the market even comes out of the back to say howdy.

At last I’m one of the boys.

The clincher came yesterday when Brannigan the Contractor and I went over to the courthouse to check on the title to some property near Cloud Creek Ranch.

After we’d finished our business we walked over to the square, where a couple of Good Old Boys were shooting the breeze. Brannigan wrapped both men in his usual energetic bear hug, and then introduced us to each other.

Uncle Ernie, six plus feet of hard wire in a weathered face, shook my hand and smiled. Jimmy Blue, a little shorter and a lot rounder, did the same. “So you’re the new boy on the old Ross place,” Uncle Ernie said.

“That’s a great property,” said Jimmy Blue. “Remember the fun we used to have in that pond back when we were kids?”

“That’s what—a hundred and sixty acres?” said Uncle Ernie. “All the way down to the creek?”

“Is it that big?” Jimmy Blue said. “I don’t remember. When I think about the place all I see is woods.”

“Woods and critters,” Uncle Ernie said. “Used to go trapping out there. The Fish and Game Department had a bounty for everything. Fifty cents a squirrel. Same for rabbits and civets.”

“There were civets on my place?” I said.

“Sure were,” said Uncle Ernie. “Ornery little things. Spotted polecats is what they are, only they smell worse.”

Jimmy Blue leaned forward. “’Worse’ is putting it kindly. Civets smell so bad that if you ever meet up with one you’ll spend the rest of the day looking for a dead skunk to roll on.”

“Used to trap a lot of coyotes at the Ross’s too,” Uncle Ernie said. “And red wolves.” He looked at me curiously. “Ever see any red wolves these days?”

“Not a one,” I said. “But we don’t see much in the way of wild things. My dogs think it’s their job to keep the property clear.”

“And it is,” said Jimmy Blue. “Unless trapping’s your thing.”

“Larry’s thing is ‘appreciating,’” Brannigan said. “You’re looking at a man who’s so happy he left the city he could bust.”

“So you like it here, do you?” Uncle Ernie said. “That’s good. Very good….”

He looked me up and down. Nodded as though making a decision. “We need men who love this place to help take care of it. Could be we’ll stand you for office someday.”

“With all due respect,” Jimmy Blue said, “there’s more to public service than loving the land.”

He turned to me. “What about fiscal responsibility? Where do you stand when it comes to saving money?”

“Are you kidding? He’s all for it,” Brannigan said quickly. “A regular saving fool!” He gave me a look that said, Go along with me here.

“Oh,” I said. “Right. Absolutely. In fact, back in L.A. I saved so much money one day not buying a Ferrari that I was able to go down the block and buy a Porsche with the difference so it didn’t cost me anything at all.”

It was an old line Bob Hope had used on a TV show I’d produced. I knew I wouldn’t get the laugh he did, but I waited for the smile.

And waited some more.

Uncle Ernie and Jimmy Blue exchanged gazes.

Uncle Ernie shifted on his bench.

Jimmy Blue cleared his throat.

“Reckon it’s time to get on home—“ That was both of them, talking at once.

In about ten seconds they were gone.

Brannigan kicked at the dirt. “That was Uncle Ernie!” he roared. “If Uncle Ernie says he’s going to stand you for office in this town you’re as good as elected! You had it all right there—till you started in about Ferraris and Porsches!”

“But I’m not interested in running for anything—“

“Of course you are. Why else would you stand here like the perfect candidate? As your ex-campaign manager, I’m telling you. Next time stick to Chevy and Dodge Ram!”

And so it goes, when you’re one of the boys.

LB: Latest News from the Writers Guild of America-Talent Agency Battlefront

by Larry Brody

Last night, members of the WGA received the following email about a situation with ramifications everywhere. (P.S. This seems to me to be a Good Thing and, I hope, a harbinger of even Better Things to come:)

November 18, 2019
Dear Members,

Today the WGA signed a negotiated franchise agreement with the Rothman Brecher Ehrich Livingston Agency. This comes on the heels of last week’s agreement with Abrams Artists Agency, which means both agencies can now represent WGA members again for covered writing services.

Under the Rothman Brecher agreement, packaging fees are banned after a sunset period ending January 22, 2021. In order to induce more agencies to sign, the sunset can, under certain circumstances, be extended.

The agency also agreed to information-sharing with the Guild, including contracts and invoices, which will aid the Guild in enforcing late pay, free work, and other MBA violations.

The agreement includes other modifications to the most-recent franchise agreement, including allowing the agency to have up to a 5% ownership interest in an entity engaged in production or distribution. This limitation protects writers from the egregious conflicts of agency-owned production companies outlined in our recent video, while allowing a minimal ownership share.

You can read the agreement here. Redlines reflect changes made to the Buchwald Franchise Agreement. The most-favored-nations clause means any franchised agency may choose to adopt this agreement if it chooses.

Our goal remains to move the negotiation process forward with the remaining unsigned agencies. We will keep you updated as progress is made.

In Solidarity,

WGA Agency Negotiating Committee

Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
David Shore, Co-Chair
Meredith Stiehm, Co-Chair
Lucy Alibar
John August
Angelina Burnett
Zoanne Clack
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Ashley Gable
Deric A. Hughes
Chip Johannessen
Michael Schur
Tracey Scott Wilson
Betsy Thomas
Patric M. Verrone
Nicole Yorkin
David A. Goodman, President WGAW, ex-officio
Marjorie David, Vice President WGAW, ex-officio
Michele Mulroney, Secretary-Treasurer WGAW, ex-officio
Beau Willimon, President WGAE, ex-officio
Kathy McGee, Vice President WGAE, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, Secretary-Treasurer WGAE, ex-officio

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.

In solidarity,