Monkees Question of the Moment: What Do The Monkees Mean to You?
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“The Monkees have come to mean so many things over the years – to me and to many others who have followed their careers both together and individually. As the band members said, even they don’t belong to themselves anymore. The Monkees belong to the audience.”
Mr. Gardner had begun his writing career doing comical political satire books called Who’s In Charge Here?. Those books caught the attention of then President John F. Kennedy, who invited the writer to lunch at the White House. After his assassination, Mr. Gardner sent a condolence letter to then Attorney General RFK. When RFK decided to run for the Senate in New York, he asked Mr. Gardner to join his speech writing team. (Sound a bit like The West Wing, doesn’t it?) After Senator Kennedy went to work in Washington, Mr. Gardner wrote a book about the campaign: Robert Kennedy in New York. Mr. Gardner’s first work in television was in New York as the senior writer on That Was the Week That Was which was a forerunner to “Weekend Update” on SNL. All this work in comedy led him to partner up with Dee Caruso to work for producer Buck Henry on Get Smart and when Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson came to Henry asking to meet some hot young comedy writers to run their new show… well, you know what happened. And that’s how The Monkees are connected to Camelot?
Monkees Question of the Moment: How did you defend The Monkees to your friends?
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“…But I also wrote it in honor of and to honor the fans who love the show and lived with years of teasing when the mistaken reputation of the band and the show as ‘plastic’ kept dogging them. With this book I hope to show that those early and continuing fans all recognized the diamond in the rough from the start. ”
As a writer Garry knew the truth is always where to go for story – and this never rang so true and raw as when he invited Gilda Radner on his show during her battle with ovarian cancer. Together they wrote the deeply honest joke that involved Gilda saying she hadn’t been on TV in a while, Garry asking her why, Gilda saying she had cancer and then smiling up at him and asking, “What did you have?”
In this Emmy Legend oral history clip, Shandling spoke about working with her on that episode and how they both knew the subject had to be faced — and somehow made funny. It turned out to be the SNL star’s last appearance on television.
This weekend Antenna TV airs “I’ve Got a Little Song Here” written by Treva Silverman. One of several staff writers for The Monkees who went on to win Emmy Awards for her later work in television (Her Emmy came from The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Treva was the only woman writer on the The Monkees.
If you’re interested in learning more about Treva’s post Monkees work, the blog “…by Ken Levine” did a nice coverage of her work on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, complete with some script pages and a whole page of biography noting that Valerie Harper (Rhoda) called Treva the “Feminist conscience of the show”. In my book, I write that Treva brought that same feminist conscience to The Monkees where viewers can note that none of the young women the Monkees dated were ever ditzy – they were always women of substance – serious about their schoolwork or with careers already in place or otherwise involved in the world. Not bad for a show about four band members. I believe that attitude came to The Monkees from Treva – the only female writer on staff.
In her coverage of a day at the set of The Monkees, Gloria Malerba was able to show her (largely teen) readers how much hard work goes into filming a television show – and how many people are employed by such a hit show.
I particularly like the photo on the lower left of Davy Jones in costume taking “a last minute look at the script’ – a nice reminder that as often as we hear the show as ‘all ad-libbed’ – it was not. Writers conceived the characters and conflicts and then wrote dialogue for each of the regular stars.
Of course, Cheever was also writing to Harriet Weaver but the editors left her name off the title, so it’s also a good look at how the Weaver marriage operated (in the same way The Letters of S.J. Perlemnan became a look at the marriage of Dorothy Parker and Alan Campbell since he wrote so often to them).
What I enjoyed most was the inside look Cheever gave of coming to Hollywood when a studio adapted his story The Swimmer into a film – Weaver had much more experience living in Los Angeles as a writer of local histories so he helped Cheever navigate La-La-Land.
If you don’t know either of these writers, a selection of Cheever’s short stories, The Stories of John Cheever, won the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (not too shabby) and John D. Weaver’s obituary in the Los Angeles Times tells you how important he was: “Weaver wrote two novels and eight nonfiction books, including one that helped change history: “The Brownsville Raid,” a 1970 book that led to the exoneration of 167 black soldiers who had been discharged without honor 64 years earlier.”
Both are well worth reading – as is Glad Tidings. Check them out.