Writer-producer explains the one lesson learned
No doubt you’ve heard this old saw: “Show business is high school with money.”(Of course, given our current economic situation, I’d probably rewrite that to “Show business is high school without representation.” I will point out, in the name of full disclosure, that I did, in fact, have an agent in high school, which, in retrospect, hurt more than it helped. For example, my stellar 4.0 GPA be-came a much less-impressive 3.6 after commissions. It still rankles.) The more I chew on it, I’m starting to believe there’s some truth to the old saw. For as much as we drape ourselves in Italian wool and fill our driveways with German engineering, it’s probably true; in the solitude of our well-appointed, recently renovated bathrooms, the face we see in the mirror is that of the geeky, gawking, half-baked schnook we were back in grades eight through 12. Daily Variety has posited me a pip of a question: “What lessons did I learn in high school that have helped me in Hollywood?” In order to answer this, I had to think back upon my high school days. Mindful of ageism in the television business, I can tell you I had no problem thinking back to those carefree, simpler times, what with them having come to a close only just last spring. After much contemplation, I’ve hit upon the sad conclusion that there is only one lesson I learned in high school that has helped my slow, steady advance to the upper middle in Hollywood. But this single lesson is so powerful and of such continuing value that I’m reluctant to share it with so many others. And yet, here it is: Don’t screw with Les Moonves. Yes. That’s it. I’ll explain. I attended high school in Scituate, Mass., a small town on the ocean halfway between Boston and Cape Cod. Les was not a student at Scituate High School at the time, nor was he ever a student there. I did not know Les or a single thing about him during my years in school. And yet I knew he was out there — somewhere — waiting, crouched, muscles coiled, ready to spring and strike. Had you said the name Les Moonves to me at that time, I might have confused it as a direction to a chef making some exotic dish. “A little more saffron next time. And a little less moonves.” But so great is Les’ power, that even when I did not know of him, I knew of him. I can recall heading home for the day after school, my shoes scuffing against the green linoleum. I’d push through the heavy, scarred metal doors and out into the sweet air of freedom. But before I could savor that glorious elixir or pause to reflect back on the day’s lessons or the random, vicious beatings from my peers, a chill would pass over me and the hair on my young neck would rise and stand frozen. “Out there, somewhere,” I would think, furrowing my brow and scanning the horizon, “There’s Moonves. And I’d better not screw with him.” OK, enough kidding around. We all know show business is nothing like high school. It’s a frustrating, joyous, occasionally noble endeavor practiced by some of the most talented, creative and distinctive personalities on the planet. No matter who we see in the mirror, we’re adults now, trying to carve out a place in the world for ourselves and the ones we love. High school? That was a long, long time ago. Now if you’ll excuse me, Les has a stockholders’ meeting. I have to carry his books back to his office.