Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Irwin Allen's Recipe For Disaster


Episode 28

WGA Strike Class Of '81
Richard Brooks, Bo Goldman,
Gore Vidal And Billy Wilder
To understand how we wound up getting run over by Irwin Allen's big fat toupee, you first have to know about the Writer's strike of 1981.

The strike wasn't as long as the 1988 strike, which lasted a bank-account-bruising, lose-your-home-and-everything-you-own, five months. Nor, was it as short as the two-week 1985 eating-Danish-at-Farmer's-Market-while-picketing walkout. But it did last a mortgage payment squeezing three months, just like the 2007-2008 Studio ball buster. (A week or so ago we avoided a strike and signed a deal with the producers after much hard bargaining by our brave team of negotiators.)

The '81 strike was over technical issues, such as how much the royalties ought to be for hitherto unknown media markets, like VHS, and later DVD's and streaming videos. In my view, despite all the agony the writers have suffered during those strikes we've never come out well. The '81 strike was badly mismanaged - also in my view - by a professional labor negotiator.

She was a person whose name I totally forget, but whom we immortalized in Sten #3 (Court Of A Thousand Suns) as a voracious sea monster. We called the critter a Gurion (Gurionus-awfulus, to you biology majors) and it featured many barbed tentacles and turned itself inside out to swallow you with its fang-lined stomach.

Yech, right?

Our view of the dis(re)membered woman entirely.

Defenders Of The Earth
During the strike we scraped by with some magazine freelance work, and even wrote a little animation - the animation writers weren't Guild members, so although the pay was low the work was legal. We also got a helluva education about comic book heroes and animation from Stan Lee, working on some his shows like Defenders Of The Earth. (Mandrake Rocks!)

We worked the picket lines regularly, which was sort of fun because you got to meet old friends, catch up on their news - thereby gaining ammunition so that later on you could talk about them behind their backs.

Meanwhile, Kathryn's career in the escrow business was really taking off, so when vacation time came around and her boss said company policy was use it or lose it, we had money enough to pack up our little Honda car and set off on a camping trip up the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. Chris remained behind to tend our rather empty freelance store.

Kathryn and I took El Camino Real (The King's Highway, or Highway One) all the way, getting forced onto a freeway or a larger road only occasionally.

We had a marvelous time, cruising along the Pacific Ocean where cattle ranches ran right down to the water's edge and you'd see longhorns standing belly-deep, cooling off. There was the Big Sur, the redwoods, fishing villages and the mountains, where we saw an eagle owl with a wingspan as long as our car, pursuing some kind of lapdog, clutched in the arms of a scampering woman.

Along the way, we would buy things for dinner - artichokes from Castorville (the artichoke capital of the world) crab claws and sourdough bread from the docks in San Francisco, and so on until we stopped for the night.

Our camping gear was all from motorcycle magazine advertisers - light weight mountain tents, sleeping bags, pop out butane burners - on loan for the trip with promises of articles lauding said gear upon our return. We set up in seconds every night, while others struggled with ungainly tents, or leveling and hooking up their motor homes.

Then it was a nice dinner under the moon and the stars, a loaf of sourdough, a good jug of wine and a dusty bottle of brandy for afters and thou - Kathryn being my thou. And I hers. And there was much singing in the wilderness.

Eventually, after many days and hundreds of miles we reached the end of the King's Highway. It stops at Port Angeles, just across the bay from Vancouver Island, in Canada. We wanted to try the famous High Tea at the Empress Hotel, so we took the ferry across. It was delicious, as advertised, and we had a lovely time playing tourist on the island.

On the way back, a radio news announcement broke into the easy-listening music station playing on the ferry's loudspeakers.

It seems that the Hollywood Screenwriters' Strike had ended.

Son of a gun. Amazing to hear such news from afar - and in another country yet. Proof positive that you'll get airtime anywhere in the world if you use Hollywood as a modifier.

Over at Port Angeles I phoned Chris. "Shit, Cole," he said, "did you hear the news?"

"That's why I'm calling," I said. "Your sister and I are going to hop on I-5 in the morning and we can be home in a couple of days. Meanwhile, you can beat up on our agent to set up pitch meetings before all the shows are sold out."

There was an unusually long pause on the other end. Unusual for Chris, that is. Who was a motor mouth of the first order and proud of it.

I blinked first. "What's the problem?" I asked. "Did you get pissed at the agent and fire him? Don't sweat it for not asking me first. He probably deserved it."

I don't remember who our agent was. In those days we went through agents like bacon through a goose. Chris used to say: "In the spring the swallows return to Capistrano, the buzzards come back to Hinkley, Ohio, and Bunch and Cole fire their agent." (More on that subject a little further down the Misadventures road.)

Chris said, "No, I didn't fire him. In fact, it looks like the little weasel got us a job. Or, damn close to it."

I was pumped. I gave Kathryn a thumbs up and said, "Out of work for three months and back on the job in nothing flat. That's great news, partner."

Another pause, but a shorter one. "It's not exactly great," Chris said. "Maybe good news, or even so-so news. Or maybe it's plain old shit news."

"So what if we have to write a dumb script for a dumb show," I said. "We'll be on to another one in a few weeks. That's the joy of freelancing. Bad boss one day. Good one the next. All putting money into the book-writing coffers."

"It's a fucking staff job," Chris blurted.

Now it was my turn to pause. For those of you who have been following these misadventures, you'll know that we swore off staff jobs back when we escaped Galactica 1980 and seven years of indenture at Universal Studios.

Chris said, "Al, I'm so damned broke that American Express is calling to tell me to leave fucking home without it."

"You don't have American Express," I pointed out.

"Well, if I did," he said, "the fucking phone would be ringing off the hook with creditors dunning me."

I sighed. "Aw, shit."

Chris sensed that I was weakening. He said, "The weasel's pretty sure he can get us a two-script guarantee. On top of four grand or more a week." (According to my handy-dandy inflation calculator that would be $11,242.48 in today's dollars.)

"Okay, okay," I said. Then: "Who's the meeting with?"

"That's the good part," Chris said. "It's with Irwin Allen."

You know who the late Irwin Allen was, don't you? The self-proclaimed Master Of Disaster? Architect of the first "Poseidon Adventure," and "The Towering Inferno" movies. Creator of Boob Tube hits like "Lost In Space," "Land Of The Giants," and "Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea," to name just a few.

Pretty damned impressive, right?

Chris said, "It's a show about firemen. Called Code Red."

That sounded cool. Who doesn't love firemen?

"We can learn how to blow things up and set things on fire," Chris added.

I liked that too.

"Plus," Chris said, "plus... and this is even better... our old buddy Lorne Greene is the star of the show."

"Holy shit," I said, delighted.

Lorne was one of the few bright notes on Galactica. Doing his best with lousy scripts and even lousier production bosses. He was also very kind to writers. Especially Bunch & Cole type writers. A prince among men.

Chris said, "Maybe we'll get to pay Lorne back for all the shit he had to put up with on Galactica."

"Damn straight," I said, ending the hesitation waltz. "We owe him big time... I'm in if you are, partner."

Poor Lorne.




Can't wait to read the blog each week to find out what happens next? No problem. Click the following link and buy the book. 

Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.

Here's where you can buy it worldwide in both paperback and Kindle editions:

U.S. .............................................France
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Hear voice artist Colin Hussey's 
Bring all the stories and people 
To life in the audiobook version
Of My Hollywood MisAdventures.


Ever since my British publisher put all eight novels in the Sten series in three omnibus editions, American readers have been clamoring for equal treatment. 

Well, my American publisher – Wildside Books – was listening and has issued all three omnibus volumes on this side of the Atlantic. Here are the links to buy the books:

THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.


A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.



A True Story About A Boy,
A Teacher, And Earthquake,
Some Terrorists And The CIA

LUCKY IN CYPRUS is a coming-of-age story set in the Middle East during the height of the Cold War. An American teenager – son of a CIA operative – is inspired by grand events and a Greek Cypriot teacher. 

He witnesses earthquakes and riots and terrorist attacks, but in the end it is his teacher’s gentle lessons that keep him whole.

Here's where to get the paperback & Kindle editions worldwide: 

Here's what readers say about Lucky In Cyprus:
  • "Bravo, Allan! When I finished Lucky In Cyprus I wept." - Julie Mitchell, Hot Springs, Texas
  • "Lucky In Cyprus brought back many memories... A wonderful book. So many shadows blown away!" - Freddy & Maureen Smart, Episkopi,Cyprus. 
  • "... (Reading) Lucky In Cyprus has been a humbling, haunting, sobering and enlightening experience..." - J.A. Locke,



What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)


A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan

After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.

BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 



Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.

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