Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Toupees Roasting On An Open Fire




Episode 39

When we strolled into the office from lunch, Genevieve handed us a sheaf of yellow phone message slips.

"Any good news or money?" Chris asked

Genevieve riffled through the phone slips, pulled one out."You might want to call this one first," she advised. "It's from Bob Cinader."

"Hot damn," Chris said. "When Uncle Bobby calls sometimes we get both."

The late Bob Cinader ( wasn't an uncle to either of us. But we thought of him that way because of all the career-guidance he'd given us. After years working for Jack Webb on shows like Dragnet and Emergency, Bob had become the ultimate fix-it man that all the studios and networks called on when a show was in trouble. Then he'd come in and take over the program for just long enough to straighten it out and be on his way to the next trouble spot. (He also served as a fix-it man for LA County's burgeoning Emergency Services. Check out the above link to see just how vital Bob was.)

We'd written a Quincy for him - Riot - which had not only topped the ratings for the series' fifth season but remains a cult favorite to this day. (Quincy has to do his coroner's investigative magic under the blood-shot gaze of rioting prison inmates drunk on rasinjack.) We'd also written what proved to be the last episode of The Rockford Files, The Solid Gold Spike. 

In the case of Quincy, Cinader managed to make peace between Jack Klugman, the star, and Universal Studios. In the case of The Rockford Files, James Garner had been screwed over by the Black Tower Pencil Brigade too badly for Bob to fix anything. In either case, our scripts were aimed at helping to solve the problems and went a long way in establishing our own reps as fix-it guys.

Chris headed to his desk, dialed the phone and when Bob's secretary answered he flipped the desk speaker on so we could both hear. Out contract was nearly up at Code Red and it was our hope that once we'd escaped The Towering Toupee's clutches that the angels of freelancing would immediately smile on us. And in the past Bob Cinader had proved to be an angel, indeed, albeit with a craggy face.

Cinader's gruff voice came on the line. "Hey, boys, how's life treating you over at Code Red?"

"Like shit," Chris said. "We want out of here in the worst way."

Hope bloomed for both of us. Chris flashed me a thumbs up.

"You coming in to take over the show?" I asked. "If so, we've got to warn you that the Towering Toupee has things so fucked up that neither of us think the show can be salvaged."

Another Cinader chuckle. "Towering Toupee, huh? You guys are priceless. But, no, I'm not heading over your way. I was asked to help one of Irwin's shows a few years ago, but all I got was a case of the hives. He's a piece of work. Thinks the world revolves around his asshole. I chewed him out when I left, but he's such a wizened little jerk-off that he still thinks I love him."

I said, "You've got Irwin pegged, that's for sure." Then, fingers crossed, I asked, "Got anything for us, Uncle Bobby? Our contracts are up in a few weeks."

Chris chanted, "All we want for Christmas is a Burning Toupee." We were entering the holiday season. Thanksgiving and Christmas were just ahead of us.

Bob chuckled. "Irwin really got to you, huh?"

"You don't know the half of it," I said.

"Actually, I do," Cinader said. "Or, a bit of it anyway. You see, Irwin phoned me at home last night."

Chris' eyebrows shot up. "What the fuck, over?"

Bob said, "Yeah, that's why I'm calling. To give you boys a heads up."

"I repeat my last," Chris said. "What the fuck, over?"

"He cried on my shoulder for half an hour about all his problems at Code Red," Bob said. "How the network fucked him over on the timeslot and the budget and then forced him to take that little hairball Adam Rich off their hands. It seems that when Eight Is Enough was still on, Adam's agent got a guaranteed TV series deal. A bullet-proof pay or play deal."

Suddenly, everything clicked into place. So the fact that Adam (The Beach Ball) Rich had been foisted on us by the Anything But Class (ABC) network had little or nothing to do with the ratings' game. "Pay or play" meant that either ABC had to put young Mr. Rich into a series - with a fat salary package - or pay him whether he worked or not. But, in one deft move they'd shifted the financial burden over to Columbia Studios, the suckers - I mean backers - of Code Red. And they probably didn't much care whether the series worked or not. Which is why they'd put us up against 60 Minutes - the monster CBS hit at 7 p.m. Sunday night. They were just going to burn it off, deal and all.

"And Irwin's known this all along," I supposed.

"Of course, he has," Cinader said. "After all these years in the Biz, Irwin knows to buy his KY Jelly by the caseload. But what he's really hoping is that if he can bump the ratings up two or three points he can maybe muscle the network to go for a second season. Or, if they cancel him, he'll be able to take the series over to another network and make the Magic One Hundred."

The Magic One Hundred was the number of episodes needed to sell a show into syndication. In the days of Blessed Syndication, networks only paid a portion of a show's budget. In our case, a measly $600,000 an episode. Even though we'd all cut costs to bare bones, it was still running us upwards of $700,000. Well, not us, personally - but Columbia Studios, with a little from Irwin's vaults, which were rumored to be even deeper and more heavily guarded than Jack Benny's.

It was a high stakes Craps game, called Deficit Financing. Because for that $600,000 the network got two runs - the first showing, plus a rerun in the summertime, or whenever. After that, the negatives belonged to Columbia Studios and Irwin.

To show you what a syndication deal can deliver, in later years (1988 or so) when the A-Team was sold into syndication, we were told that Frank Lupo and Steve Cannell - creators of the program - cut up $120 million. That's $60 million each. And that was just their share. Using my handy-dandy inflation calculator, $120 million dollars in 1988, equals $223,641,559.70 today. Get my drift?

"Irwin's frantic about it," Cinader went on. "Says he can't sleep at night."

"Probably suffering from uncontrollable regurgitation as well," I said.

"Well, boo-fucking-hoo for fucking Irwin," Chris said. Then: "What's he want you to do about it?"

"Well, before he had a chance to ask," Cinader said, "I told him that I wasn't available. So, instead, he asked what he should do to rescue the show."

"And you said???" We both asked at the same time.

"I told him his only hope was to hire the best fix-it team of writers I know - Bunch and Cole." Uncle Bobby said.

"And Irwin said, 'But, I already have Bunch and Cole.'

"And I said, 'Then, Irwin, you'd better call in the dogs and piss on the fire, because it is fucking over, my friend.'"

After falling all over the floor and laughing our heads off, we thanked Uncle Bobby and said goodbye. (We didn't know it'd be the last time we would talk to him. Almost exactly a year later he died of cancer. He was a helluva guy and I miss him still.)

Just after Thanksgiving, we were stealing time away from Code Red again, toiling over The Wolf Worlds - the second Sten novel - when Genevieve buzzed us.

I answered to hear her say, "You've got a call from Irwin."

I said to put him on, please and in a second I heard Irwin's secretary saying, "Hold for Irwin Allen."

It was Irwin's style to get his secretary to call you, then make you wait until he deigned to come on the line. So, I held. Meantime, I cupped a hand over the receiver and whispered to Chris, "It's the Towering Toupee."

In his patented stage whisper which could be heard from here, to Lower Subservia - and maybe even as far as Upper Hoostania - Chris said, "Tell him to go fuck himself."

Then, knowing there was plenty of time, he got out the Scotch and made us a couple of drinks. I swallowed half of mine right off the bat, knowing I was going to need it.

Then I heard Irwin's voice. Filled with phony cheer. "Allan, my boy, as you are no doubt aware your contract is up Friday."

Damn right, we were aware. We'd already hauled most of our stuff home, including some office supplies that we'd ripped off. (I still have a few boxes of paper clips left over from those days.)

I said, "Time sure can get away from you, can't it Irwin?"

A false chuckle. Then, "Well, it is quite close to Christmas. And it has always been my policy in these situations to extend my people's contracts a week or two. So, they won't be out of work during the holiday season. And in that spirit, I'm going to extend yours."

Irwin waited. Obviously expecting effusive thanks. I looked over at Chris, mouthed the word "contracts" and spread one hand away from the phone, indicating that Irwin wanted to extend same.

Chris shook his head. Mouthed the words, "Fuck him," and in my ear I heard Irwin say, "Allan? Are you there?"

"I'm here, Irwin," I said. "And we both thank you for your generous offer. But it won't be necessary. We'd just as soon go home."

I heard Irwin make with a shocked, "Oh!" as it sunk in that we'd just told him to take his job and shove it.

Then he recovered enough to say, "Good luck to you, boys."

He waited a beat, but I didn't wish him the same.

And then he broke the connection.

I hung up and turned to Chris. "Well, to quote the eminent philosopher, Robert Cinader," I said, "Let's call in the dogs and piss on the fire, because we are fucking out of here, partner, mine."

Chris raised his glass in toast - "Merry Christmas, partner."

And I toasted back, singing, "Toupees roasting on an open fire..."

We drained our drinks and I must say, it was the best Scotch and branch water I have ever tasted.





Here's Where To Get The Handsome CD Version
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Here's where to get the handsome CD version
Here's where to download the MP3 version



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:

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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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