06:14:37 am on
Saturday 13 Jul 2024

Ken LaZebnik
dr george pollard


“Hollywood Digs,” by Ken LaZebnik, below, is a great book. Listen carefully; you can you can hear editors, everywhere, cringing. “Such hyperbole is poor form,” they say, “more so if true.” 

If you read only one book this year, it must be “Hollywood Digs.” Editors, everywhere, cower at such a confession. Here, truth is the defence.

You’ll laugh aloud as you read of Belly Acres. Describing the Hollywood Vault with much awe, LaZebnik conjures images of James Bond and his world of austere technology. Dick Powell also gets long overdue attention in “Hollywood Digs.”

Leigh Wiener was a great photographer and a crafty fellow. He used guile to get a famous candid photograph of French actor, Simone Signoret. Her thank you note, to him, was as good as his photograph.

Today, almost no knows of Ben Hecht. He wrote sixty produced movies, a record, and as many novels; not one is in print. Hecht spent two months a year in Hollywood. He wrote film scripts, fast. Supposedly, he wrote two scripts in one month, earning fifty thousand dollars for each one. Hecht earned enough money to live, well, in New York City the rest of the year and write novels.

“Hollywood workers,” says LaZebnik, “are an army on a mission.” The history, of Hollywood, he says, is forming a crew that bonds to finish a film or sitcom episode. Getting the needed shots, at any cost, is the mission.

Those that work behind the scenes are part of “Hollywood Digs,” too. There’s a chapter on Micky Moore; he spent almost ninety years in film and television. LaZebnik also tells the story of the Abby Singer Shot.

LaZebnik ponders Hollywood puzzles. Writers fuel television. They provide more than ten million words, in story form, each season. Yet, writers are mostly invisible to viewers.

Hollywood has a gold rush mindset. Pilgrims arrive, do what they must to grab what they can and leave. Although films and sitcoms are permanent, the creative community, in Hollywood, is transient; Ben Hecht is a good example.

“Hollywood Digs” is adventure. At a yard sale, LaZebnik discovers the late Elizabeth Allen, a nameless working actor. Not a star, she was familiar. “I know that face. I saw her on television, all the time. What’s her name?”

LaZebnik is the ideal author for “Hollywood Digs.” He’s perceptive, sensitive and clever. He wonders, deeply, about the double identity issues that Hollywood stuntmen and women must face.

Unlike others, LaZebnik went to Hollywood and stayed. He wrote the television series, “Touched by An Angel,” among other shows. His original script for “Christmas Cottage,” a seasonal television drama, needed a few revisions. Yet, the star, Peter O’Toole, demanded the script return to its original form. “On the Spectrum” is his new stage play.

In this interview, Ken LaZebnik talks of a new Hollywood attitude. He describes how writers are taking television to new heights. He explains why we play down those that make us laugh and praise those that make us sad.

Grub Street (GS) I was happy to read about Dick Powell in “Hollywood Digs.”

Ken LaZebnik (KL) That chapter came about because his son, Norman, is a friend. Many of the chapters, in “Hollywood Digs,” take place in my neighbourhood. Norman lives down the street from me.

Norman Powell is the nicest fellow in the world. He has done everything you can do in the industry, producer, Vice-president of Entertainment at CBS and so forth. He’s modest; he doesn’t talk much about himself or his parents.

You would never know that he’s the son of Joan Blondell and adopted son of Dick Powell, two major Hollywood figures from the middle twentieth century. He never talks about his parents, as actors, singers or producers. I have to pry it out of him.

After winning a beauty pageant, Joan Blondell became a wisecracking movie star. During the 1930s, she made nine movies, with Glenda Farrell, as gold-diggers. “Grease” was her last movie, in 1978.

Richard Ewing “Dick” Powell had a varied career and much success. Born in Mountain View, Arkansas, in 1904, he moved from boy-crooner in movies, such as “Forty-Second Street” and “Footlight Parade,” both in 1933. Then he remade himself into a tough-guy star in movies, on radio and television. If Justin Timberlake ever played Phil Marlowe, the perfect tough-guy, convincingly, we’d have a modern Dick Powell.

Norman, 80 in 2014, is a storied producer and director of movies and television shows. He graduated from Cornell. From there he went on to produce the television version of “Gunsmoke.” He also produced “The Big Valley,” “The Bob Crane Show” and “Lazurus Man.” For a dozen years, Powell supervised programme development, made-for-television movies and such, at CBS.

He’s a rich vein of Hollywood information. As I said, it’s hard to get him to talk. When he does talk, the most remarkable stories flow from him.

GS What inspires you?

KL Perseverance, striving against all odds; win or lose.

GS What’s your goal for “Hollywood Digs”?

KL I think it’s a personal journey into Hollywood history. I look at what affected me, what resonated for me, personally and as a writer in Hollywood. A couple of the chapters are biographical. Others chapters deal with my experiences writing “Touched by an Angel,” for example, and “Christmas Cottage.”

Some parts, of “Hollywood Digs,” are reflections on other writers, such as Ben Hecht. I considered where the writer fits in Hollywood and how. I wrote about the plight of the Hollywood writer, which strikes me, emotionally, as a writer.

GS The stories you tell, in ‘Hollywood Digs,” are interesting, yet many are not uplifting.

KL At a recent panel, someone said, “Are there any upbeat stories in here?” I had to pause for a minute before I came up with Gidget. That’s an upbeat story.

I think, for whatever reason, that Hollywood has a fondness for the art for oblivion, which is not cheery. How can the inevitability of oblivion, for most in Hollywood, be uplifting? I find this interesting.

GS Hollywood is a sad place, in some ways.

KL Yes, most of what Hollywood actors, writers, directors and so forth create is permanent and timeless. Movies, for example, find new audiences each generation; digitalisation has renewed interest in the earliest movies.

GS I watched a digitised version of “The House of Rothschild,” starring George Arliss, the other night, never thinking it was eighty years old.

KL Yet, the creators, such as Charlie Chaplin, fade, quickly, in time. You see Charlie Chaplain, on screen, frozen in the moment, in 1922 or 1936. He's alive, in front of your eyes, today, as he was almost a hundred years ago.

GS That’s eerie, in a way.

KL Maybe, but, with rare exceptions, again, Chaplin is the best example, not many actors survive, across time. Who knows, today, that Emil Jannings won the first Oscar® for Best Actor, in 1927/28? Who knows, today, the great acting of George Arliss?

GS Who knows or cares that George Arliss discovered Dick Powell.

KL That’s right. The work of actors, writers and directors is mostly permanent, watched or not. They’re no longer recognised.

For more than one hundred years, thousands of women and men made movies, as actors, directors, producers, writers and so forth. How many are front and centre, even footnotes, in pop culture today? How did making movies affect their lives? How do the movies they made, all those years ago, continue to affect the lives of viewers?

GS Besides Chaplin, who’s an example?

KL Jock Mahoney was an actor, now long gone from memory. A top college athlete, in the Marine Corps for World War II and A-list Hollywood stuntman, he was the thirteenth Tarzan and starred in a string of Western movies. His accomplishments were important, as I write in “Hollywood Digs.”

For “The Adventures of Don Juan,” Mahoney had to jump from a plane into a water reservoir that, in fact, was a sewage treatment area. No one checked to ensure it was only water. He became severely ill; contracted dengue fever, dysentery, pneumonia and lost 45-pounds. He never recovered or worked again. Does the viewer wonder about such events as they watch Mahoney swing through the trees as Tarzan?

GS You have a chapter, in “Hollywood Digs,” on Elizabeth Allen, an actor, with a long career, but little recognition.

KL I felt so bad about her. I went to a garage sale, years ago, at her home. She had recently passed away. Her family auctioned her belongings.

I kicked myself for not buying some of her headshots, if only to offer late thanks for her work. I wish I knew she was in my neighbourhood. I didn't know.

GS Who was Elizabeth Allen.

KL I had to research her. Allen had a rich career, of mostly minor roles. In the 1950s, she was the “Away We Go” girl, on the hugely popular “Jackie Gleason Show.”

A Gleason monologue would open the show. When that part finished, he’d say, “And away we go,” with a beautiful young woman, Allen, escorting him offstage. Millions saw her each week, nobody knew her name.

Allen performed on Broadway. In Hollywood, she had parts on “Bracken’s World,” “CPO Sharkey” and co-starred on “The Paul Lynde Show.” During her career, Allen worked a grey zone between working actor and well-known star.

Micky Moore, he died on 4 March 2013, is another example. The 2014 Oscar® Show noted his passing, but misspelt his name, adding an “e” to his first name. He spent more than eighty years making movies, as an actor, in the original “King of Kings” and “Pollyanna,” with Mary Pickford; later Moore was among the best directors and unit production managers (UPM), ever.

GS I saw that. Originally, he was Michael Sheffield from Victoria, British Columbia.

KL Micky Moore worked almost to the end of his life. He loved to talk, to tell stories drawn from more than eighty years in movies. Not many asked to hear his stories, I guess.

GS How old was he when he passed?

KL He was ninety-eight.

GS Mickey Rooney is around and active.*

KL Yes, he’s as active as possible.

GS He’s active on Facebook and Twitter, too. He's at Art's Deli taking photographs, at the Palm, too. There are photographs of him at events, every week on Facebook.

KL If only we could record the careers of older movie people. Their stories and lives are rich with Hollywood history. Sadly, the history passes away with them.

GS Movies offer longevity, of a sort, but the bulldozing of Southern California, especially important movie sites, is moving too swiftly and too deeply for much to survive.

KL Yes, someone bulldozed the lagoon used on “Gilligan’s Island” and put up a parking lot. The 1960s-style ranch home, of Elizabeth Allen vanished, shortly after the yard sale, to make way for a McMansion. The same is true for the homes of many celebrities.

GS What’s a McMansion?

KL McMansions, that’s my word, are cookie cutter homes squeezed into the smallest patches of land possible. Each is roughly five thousand square feet. These houses are everywhere and sell for millions. An old ranch-style home, on a large lot, might hold two or three McMansions.

GS Progress can be disturbing, the homes and memories, the artefacts, are gone.

KL Yes, but I guess we can’t save every house, every lot, every corner from a well-known movies.

GS What’s your favourite piece of clothing?

KL My old school Levy blue jeans, which I could wear forever.

GS You mention, in “Hollywood Digs, that a film crew is a ferocious beast.

KL True, the analogy is an army. It has a specific mission, destroy a strategic bride, say. The focus is the mission. It must do whatever it needs to complete the mission.

A film crew, as an army, descends on a location. It lies, cheats and steals to achieve its goal. Its success means capturing the shot and nothing else matters.

Film crews are masters at charming civilians for whatever shot needed. Then it’s gone, moving on without remorse. Often, a crew leaves a shredded mess for someone else to clean up or blown away by the next Santa Ann Wind.

GS A line producer, she or he manages the location shoot, must be a charmer.

KL There many circumstances where personal charm ensures the shot. Sometimes it’s money. Maybe charm and money works best.

Line producers face such circumstances all the time. A friend, Martha Williams, is shooting a series for Hallmark, in Canada. No one knew the location was a farmer’s market one day a week, the day the crew needed a specific shot.

The line producer had to find a way to get the sellers and their stalls, as well as the shoppers, to leave. From what Williams told me, it took paying the sellers and charming the shoppers to get the shot. The shot is all that counts; crews do what they must to get the shot.

GS To succeed, I suspected the crew is a tightly bound group, but you say otherwise.

KL There’s a relevant story about former actor and President, Ronald Reagan. During an event, he focused; he was intense and on point, always. Once the event finished, he removed himself, mentally and physically, as fast as he could.

There is little sense of continuity among Hollywood workers. Reagan spent twenty years as an actor. This was his model.

During the shoot, there’s much emotional loyalty among the crew; it’s an incredibly tight-knit group, with an ultra-strong focus. As for hanging out between shoots, there isn’t much. The primary concern is getting this shot and finding the next shoot.

GS Finishing this job and finding another.

KL Yes, crews rejig for each shoot. It isn’t a regular day-job, with the same co-workers. In a crew of one hundred, a few members may have worked on other shoots, recently or a long time ago. A handful of the total crew, on any shoot, knows one another, other than in passing.

A crew includes actors, director and writer as well as carpenters, electricians and gaffers. Crewmembers are nomads, roaming from shoot to shoot. You need only think of how stars, in a movie, say, configure; seldom does a cast move, intact, from one movie to another.

GS There are few exceptions, maybe Will Farrell and Adam Sandler movies, recently.

KL The exceptions are notable. Crews are serial monogamists. One shoot ends, everybody looks for another shoot to begin. The only exception is a long-running television series, say, “Cheers” or “Touched by an Angel,” where the crew is ostensibly in place for seven or eight years or more.

In these exceptions, everyone on the crew watches your children grow; marriages begin, survive rough times or end. All the lives intertwine, to some degree, during a long shoot, such as “Frasier.” Still, everybody scatters when the show ends and the set struck.

Overall, on-the-job, crews are tight. Between jobs, the crew are outcasts from their community, each an island on to him or herself, until the next job. That’s Hollywood.

GS A large part of the Letterman crew joined him around 1980.

KL Crew stability may be one reason his show runs well and has lasted thirty-five years. Perhaps, it was the same for Johnny Carson. I think the writers might roll over faster than other crewmembers. Those shows always needed fresh material.

GS Crewmembers come to Hollywood to work, but seldom form a community.

KL Yes, that’s an idea from F Scott Fitzgerald. Hollywood is a gold rush town. That’s the prevailing attitude

Someone comes to Hollywood to strike to gold, with no intent to settle into or contribute, in a lasting way, to the community. People come here to dig whatever gold they can and retire, maybe to Santa Barbara or Santa Cruz; maybe back home in Michigan or Brooklyn.

The attitude struck me, hard. I grew up in the Missouri and went to university in Minnesota. Both places are different from Hollywood. In the Midwest, family and friends are important. In Hollywood, life is about the job.

I’m not sure I know what a friend is in Los Angeles. I say someone is a good friend, but I only, maybe, see him or her at Christmas. The friendship is sincere, but not formed in the usual way.

GS What’s your favourite word?

KL Baseball, it represents joy and the American way of life.

GS I think you imply, in “Hollywood Digs,” this mindset may be changing.

KL It’s roughly twenty-three years since I moved to Hollywood. Until the middle 1990s, if someone worked in film or, worse, yet, television, everybody viewed him or her as selling out. Over the past twenty years, that attitude has flip-flopped.

Today, everybody views film and television as a way to make an important contribution. Cable television, such as HBO or Showtime, and cable shows, such as “Sopranos,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Boardwalk Empire,” spurred the change. These shows are serious work and seen that way, today.

There are also the darker shows, such as “Walking Dead” or “True Detective,” thought to contribute to television as an art form. Audiences, as well as the industry, view serious shows as more important. Lighter shows or comedies travel a harder road to success.

Anyone, I think, would be proud to write “Mad Men.” It walks the line between humour and a deep, dark seriousness. “Mad Men” is evocative without much anxiety; it’s a finely balanced show.

The gold rush attitude may be largely gone, in Hollywood. Everyone here sees film and television work as much more worthy, today, than, say, twenty-three years ago. Settling here is less a problem, for many people, today, than it was many years ago.

GS From what you say, fifty years ago, film and television offered jobs that paid well. Today, there’s at least some intrinsic satisfaction from creating film or television. This moves it from industry to art.

KL Right. I think television is finding the art through a new generation of writers. The change hastened, as television writing increasingly drove the medium. Film is a director’s medium. Writers dominate television, now.

For writers, television, especially cable, offers the chance to write what he or she wants to write and take charge, in a large sense. Writers become auteurs, which is a paradox, of a sort.

GS Auteurs are authors, but writing always results in the authoring something.

KL Yes. Matthew Weiner, creator of “Mad Men,” is a great example. He was a writer on “The Sopranos.” The shift to television as a medium driven by writers leads to artistic satisfaction. This is how television has changed, especially in the last decade.

GS What item must you have with you always?

KL A pen, it’s the essential tool of the occupation.

GS You said, elsewhere, that network radio, usually mislabelled as old-time radio, which began, roughly, in 1926, gave writers huge standing.

KL Yes, before radio, there was much less need for writers. There were Broadway plays and revues, say, travelling shows and vaudeville. Once written, there might be some tinkering with the script, but not much new writing.

GS A vaudeville comedian might work the same fifteen-minute act for a year or more, as Fred Allen claimed.

KL Right, then, suddenly, here’s radio, with an unprecedented demand for writing. “Amos and Andy,” the first network radio mega hit show, needed about 11 minutes, of written script, a day, five days a week for roughly fifty weeks a year. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, they portrayed Amos and Andy, respectively, wrote every word, roughly fifteen hundred well-chosen words, for the show for years.

Fred Allen began on radio in fall 1932. He needed forty-eight minutes of new material a week, thirty-nine weeks a year. Jack Benny also started airing in 1932 and hired four writers to create twenty-four minutes of new material each week.

GS Jack Benny was the first radio star to credit his writers by name.

KL I didn’t know that. As an aside, Richard Shepherd, the father of a friend, Scott Shepherd, was a major movie producer. Scott has many connections to Hollywood; his grandmother was the second wife of Louis B Mayer.

Scott has incredible childhood memories and a remarkable ability to recount his memories. Scott remembers going to Los Angeles Dodger baseball games, with his father, Frank Sinatra, Jack Benny and others. His father was great friends with Jack Benny.

I heard a story about Jack Benny from Scott. The public persona Benny developed was of a miser, a hard-core penny-pincher. One day, Benny and Richard Shepherd were driving through Cold Water Canyon.

The Canyon is dry. Everyone is careful not to start brush fires. It’s a no-smoking zone.

Benny, without thinking, flips an expensive, still-burning cigar out the car window. A few minutes later, a motorcycle police officer pulls over Benny. The cop walks up to the car.

He has the burning cigar in his hand. Benny looks at him, bewildered and milquetoast-eyed. The police officer says to Benny, “Did you throw this burning cigar from your car on to the road?” Benny claims he didn’t. The conversation goes back and forth for a few minutes.

Benny asks to look more closely at the cigar. He examines the label, with great intensity. He says, to the police officer, “You know who I am. You know I would never smoke such an expensive cigar or throw it away before I fully smoked it.”

The police officer bought the ruse. He let Benny go. Benny avoided usual hefty fine.

GS That’s a great story.

KL Back to radio and writers, by 1935, one hundred or more scripted shows aired thirty-nine or more weeks a year. That demanded a great many ideas and written scripts. Bob Hope might need twenty new jokes or more, each week, as well as a skit featuring him and his guest star. This called for six or eight writers.

Hope was most heavily dependent on writers for all his performances, not only radio. When he was making a movie, Hope had his writers come up with jokes that fit the script. During the film shoot, Hope slipped these jokes into the script to appear he was adlibbing.

When all the radio shows moved to television, the need, the habit, for strong writing remained the most important part of making television shows as well as films.

GS What is your least favourite word?

KB No, it’s too often the answer in Hollywood and not only directly.

GS In “Hollywood Digs,” you note how F Scott Fitzgerald, the great American writer, said that fun is investing yourself in a goings-on you know mean little and will produce nothing of importance.

KL Yes, Hollywood is an overwork subculture, going back its earliest days. If one isn’t working, she or he is looking for work. In the twenty-three years I lived in Hollywood, I’ve given myself little fun.

Everybody in film and television focuses, almost 24/7, on work or doing something they believe leads to work. I go to a party that should only be fun. At the party, I talk with women and men, hoping to connect with someone that somehow can connect me to my next job.

I thought a great deal about the issue of fun. When I lived in Minnesota, fun was a big part of my life. During the lazy summers, I played softball with a bunch of friends. We’d sit on a porch drinking beer, doing nothing. All that lead nowhere, but it was intensely pleasurable and took the more demands parts of life off my mind, at least for a time.

Such lazy days don’t happen, much, if at all, in Hollywood. Overworking is the norm; you must work, hardest of all, to find fun. Besides, the glow of the last accomplishment lasts about thirty seconds, in Hollywood, before you need to find a new job.

GS What book are you reading now.

KL I'm reading a series of books about screenwriting. I’m hoping to teach a course or two on screenwriting, sometime.

GS Why did you decide to devote a chapter to F Scott Fitzgerald and Edward Everett Horton?

KL Roughly, ten years ago, Bart Schneider published a literary magazine, “Speak Easy.” I was in a huge F Scott Fitzgerald phase, in those days. I was reading everything I could find about him.

I stumbled on fact that, at one point, Fitzgerald lived in a cottage on the estate of the great character actor, Edward Everett Horton. I dug through old maps, of the area, and such. I discovered that Fitzgerald lived not far, a little bit west, from the intersection of Balboa Boulevard and the 101 highway, in Los Angeles.

From this, I figured Fitzgerald was renting a cottage on the estate of Horton. This fact fascinated me. I wrote an essay about Fitzgerald in Hollywood, Schneider published it in “Speak Easy.”

That essay is the first chapter of “Hollywood Digs.” A few years ago, Schneider began Kelly’s Cove Press. At lunch, when he was visiting Los Angeles, Schneider said, “If you wrote ten or twelve more essays, like the one on Fitzgerald, you’d have a book.”

I love Hollywood history. I had a great many ideas percolating, which I wanted to turn into essays. That’s how “Hollywood Digs” began.

GS Is the Edward Everett Horton estate, in fact, called Belly Acres.

KL Yes and spelt it as it sounds, B-e-l-l-y A-c-r-e-s. Jokingly, Horton also called it Belleigh Acres. He lived on the estate with his mother, Isabella Diack Horton, and a male friend.

GS That's funny. Horton never struck me as having such a sense of humour.

KL One of the administrators at the school my son attended is roughly 65 years old and grew up in Los Angeles. She remembers, as a child, how her primary school class went to Belly Acres. She recalls the huge main house and singing for Isabella Horton, who was roughly one hundred years old, at the time.

This shows how connected everybody is in Los Angeles. Edward Everett Horton was honourary mayor of Encino. He was a flamboyant figure, always, in and around Encino.

After “Hollywood Digs” went to press, I came across an article in the Encino “Sun.” The issue was from 1970, the year Horton passed away. There was a story about building the 101, noting the highway would go over a large part of Belly Acres. Seemingly, someone moved the main house to another location. A builder ploughed over the cottage where Fitzgerald lived.

GS What’s your favourite ice cream?

KL It’s not ice cream.

GS That’s okay; it’s fun to live dangerously.

KL Vanilla frozen yogurt, with a Heath bar, which is chocolate and caramel, is my all-time favourite.

GS Where did the name, Gidget, come from? Did her father, he wrote the book, “Gidget,” come up with the name?

KL No, the surfers she befriended on the beach, near her home, in the 1950s, called her Gidget, as in girl midget. This was what they called her. This is one of those chapters, from “Hollywood Digs,” where the reader gets to know in the real-life of a character thought fictional.

The public likely believes Sandra Dee is Gidget; she starred in several movies as that character. The true-life Gidget is Kathy Kohner Zuckerman. Her father, Dr Frederick Kohner, wrote the novel, “Gidget,” which he drew from her life.

Kohner Zuckerman wrote about surfing and the other surfers in her diary. When her father wrote the book, it was about her life on the beach, surfing and so forth. He fictionalised the life of Kathy Kohner.

GS That’s a good twist

KL Yes, another twist is the true-life Gidget is from a Jewish intellectual family. The movies and television show portrayed Gidget as a white, Anglo-Saxon that was most likely Protestant, a WASP. The Jewish heritage was the first part of the true Gidget to go.

GS What’s your favourite wild animal?

KL Elephant, huge and takes up so much space, but is so gentle

GS I read, somewhere, that Jock Mahoney, the actor, was stepfather to Sally Field, the television Gidget.

KL Yes, he was.

GS In the chapter on Jock Mahoney, most widely known as Tarzan, but also a top stuntman, in the 1940s through 1960s, you say, “A stuntman’s life is a double impersonation.”

KL That thought struck me as I considered what stuntmen do for a living. They impersonate an actor that’s impersonating a character in a made up story.

A stuntman or woman must look like the actor she or he is doubling. The stunt person must look as that actor playing a made up character. I sense these transitions aren’t easy.

Jim Burk, for example, stunt doubled for John Wayne, James Arness and Tom Selleck, among others. At six-foot six-inches, he matched the height of those he doubled. Burk could also double the acting style of Wayne, Arness and Selleck, thus deepening the ruse. For the viewer, those Burk doubled were performing the stunts.

GS That’s an honest-to-goodness double.

KL Yes, but I don't think a stuntman or woman meditate on his or her double role, much. Still, they must sense they’re impersonating an actor playing a character in a fictional story. Stunt doubling is interesting performance art, far removed from the authenticity of what the audience believes it sees.

GS Further, in the same chapter, you drop the phrase, “essential existential dilemma,” referencing, stuntmen and women.

KL These athletic actors impersonate twice, at the same time. Where do they find their authenticity? What is the meaning of whom he or she is when they are that far removed from the genuine? When a stunt person forges a character twice, what can she or he think?

GS Re-doubled disingenuousness may be a dilemma.

KL Yes, likely for all actors, at some point, too. I think stuntmen and women face this dilemma almost all the time, but don’t linger on it.

GS What sound or noise do you love?

KL Birds in the morning, since I was a child in Missouri. I find it a delightful sound, calming and reassuring.

GS You write about the Hollywood Vault.

KL It’s an incredible place and space. From the outside, it’s not imposing; the building is a modernist design, set among many similar buildings. When I went inside, it was a different world.

Entering the Vault is as entering the world where James Bond lives, technology is everywhere. Each square inch is hyperclean. The garage floor was squeaky clean.

Inside, there are flat doors that open at the corners. These doors slide apart, magically, after someone enters a code. I had never seen anything like the Vault.

The Hollywood Vault has refrigerated sections. Enter a code and the steel doors slide open. A hallway appears, again, magically. Its walls hold drawers of compact shelving.

Each shelf opens by turning a huge hand crank. Crank the handle and a shelf slides out. Before me was what I wanted to view.

GS How did the Vault come about?

KL Over decades, physical photographs amassed. Long ago, someone had a great idea. Collect, sort, store and sell the rights to hundreds of thousands of photographs. The flow of new photographs would never stop, nor would demand. Volume soon outstripped storage capacity.

Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills and Nash comes into play, at this point. Photography is the second great passion of Graham Nash. He played an important role in inventing a high-quality scanner for photographs. This scanner helped preserve and manipulate photographs as well as solving some storage issues.

GS The Hollywood Vault houses the work of many, many photographers.

KL Yes, but what I came to view was the work of Leigh Wiener. Among the fifty or so walls of the Vault, there’s a huge one, twenty-five feet by twelve feet, of photographs by Weiner. There are drawers and drawers of prints and photographs taken by Weiner.

His body of work is overwhelming. Weiner photographed everyone, everything, he saw. There are Hollywood stars, presidents, singers, musicians, athletes and many more. He photographed the last day of Alcatraz, the island prison off San Francisco.

William Wiener, his father, was a newspaper reporter and editor. He often brought home his good friend, Arthur Fellig, a top photojournalist in the 1930s through 1960s. Fellig was best-known for stark photography, with a deeply implied story.

Leigh Wiener developed his interest in photography from Fellig and other friends of his father. He also came to know Luigi, another top photographer in the early 1900s. Much of what shows, in the work of Leigh Wiener, came from Luigi.

GS Wiener learned, well, how to get a shot no one else did.

KL Yes, he did. During the 1970s, Wiener did a local Los Angeles television show focusing on photography. He talked a great deal about the Signoret shot.

GS Getting the best shot often involved exchanging expensive liquor for access.

KL Yes, in exchange for several bottles of high-quality Scotch, Wiener stood on a mount, a large scaffold, used by the television lighting crew during the 1958 Oscars® show. This gave him an unprecedented view of the live audience.

All press photographers wanted reaction shots of the winners. Wiener wanted shots of the moment of anticipation. He wanted to shoot that moment between the reading of the name of the last nominee and before the presenter read the name of the winner. His location on the lighting mount was to his advantage.

GS Now enters Simone Signoret, the French actor.

KL Yes, she was up for the Best Actress award. Wiener found her seated in the audience. As reading of the names of nominees finished, he focused his camera on her and started shooting.

In the anxiety of the moment, Signoret clutched her breasts, with both hands, and leant slightly forward. Wiener got the shot. Signoret got the award.

GS That’s a famous shot.

KL Yes, it ran as a featured shot in “Life Magazine.” A few weeks after the photograph appeared in “Life,” Wiener received a letter, postmarked Paris. Signoret thanked him for taking the photograph, adding that, “In moments of great stress, we reach for that which is most important to us.”

GS What is your favourite tamed animal?

KL Wheaton Terriers, as they’re joyful, over-energetic and full of fun.

GS Can we talk, briefly, about someone Wiener photographed, Ben Hecht.

KL Yes, Hecht was a towering figure in American screenplay writing. Hecht wrote roughly sixty screenplays; produced, not merely pitched or left to gather dust on a shelf: sixty scripts made into movies. The “Shakespeare of Hollywood” was his nickname. His movies include “Some Like It Hot,” “Gone with the Wind,” “Monkey Business,” “Casino Royale” and fifty-six others.

I find him so interesting because, as a writer of film and television, he is almost unknown, today. He won the first Oscar® for an original screenplay, “Underworld,” in 1927/28. For “Angles Over Broadway” he won a second Oscar® for Best Original Screenplay.

Hecht lived in New York City. He visited Hollywood a couple of months each year; long enough to earn enough money to live the rest of the year in New York City. In one month, I think, he wrote two screenplays, earning $50,000 for each.

GS Greatness vanished, what a legacy, but he also wrote novels.

KL Yes, once he listed among the great American writers of the early and middle twentieth century, such as Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser and Carl Sandburg. Today, not one of his novels is in print. He was the ghostwriter of the autobiography of Marilyn Monroe, “My Story,” a fact not confirmed until 2005.

Hecht would write a producible movie script in eight weeks. This is almost unknown today. These days, a script takes a few months, partly due to the special effects, partly because few can write that fast.

That's Hecht. The movies paid his bills. What he treasured, most, were the novels he wrote. Fifty years after his death, his movie characters continue to resonate and, due to digitalisation, have a new life, with a new audience. Yet, not one of his books remains in print.

His requiem for an unread novel was, “Like the child in the closet that nobody knows exists.” I don’t believe he was especially proud of any film script he wrote. His novels were his treasures.

GS You write about Al Jolson.

KL He was an interesting figure. What a huge, iconic star in American entertainment. I don’t know who might match his success, today.

Jolson, born 26 May 1886, in Lithuania, could hold an audience, rapt. It was a blend of talent, persona and confidence. Bob Dylan and David Bowie, among others, claim Jolson influenced them.

GS Yet, he vanished from the landscape, after his death in 1950.

KL Some figures live on through history, even though they aren't as popular as they once were. People remember Jack Benny; he was an answer on “Family Feud,” a few years ago. Al Jolson was such a huge entertainment star, say, a hundred years ago. You’d think people would remember him: few do.

GS There’s an Al Jolson Society, with an active website.

KL Yes, but it flies under the radar. Jolson didn't do many movies, which hurts his legacy. He did the first talking motion picture, “The Jazz Singer,” in 1927, which should help his legacy, but doesn’t.

GS There’s an annual “Jolson Festival” in Baltimore, in May.

KL That’s good to know. Working in Blackface, which doesn’t have any juice, today, inflicts much harm to his legacy. Seemingly, he was an incredible egomaniac, too, unpleasant company. Few want to immortalise him.

GS Ego problems can fade, with time, but Blackface is hard to dodge.

KL Agreed; roughly, thirty years ago, a Black playwright, Lenny Sloane, wrote a play about minstrel shows. His goal was to show how we overlook incredibly talented Black performers that performed in Blackface.

GS Almost no one, today, knows that most Minstrel performers were mostly Blacks wearing Blackface.

KL That’s true. Today, Sloane argued, people trash the artistry of Blacks that worked in Blackface. Critics treat such entertainers harshly or ignore them. This is a shame and a disservice.

Sloan looked beyond the need to work Blackface to survive. His point was not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Today, Bert Williams, the first Black to headline at the Palace Theatre, in New York City, is unknown, mostly because he sometimes worked Blackface. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson remains known, if only a bit, because he worked with Shirley Temple.

GS It’s unfortunate Jolson couldn’t predict the future and avoid working in Blackface.

KL Yes, I want to recommend a Jolson movie few have seen, “Hallelujah, I'm a Bum,” from 1933. It’s an experimental musical. The story, co-authored by S N Behrman and Ben Hecht, involves a hobo that has a series of adventures.

Jolson portrays Bumper, a friendly tramp from New York City. The story idealises the hobo lifestyle. The leitmotif is equality, a heavy topic for the day.

GS It may have skirted a pro-communist stand.

KL That could be. The songs, written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, grew out of conversations between and among the characters. In musicals, at the time, songs were formal pieces, more important than the dialogue wedged into the show, often loosely. Thus, “Hallelujah” was different: two characters would be talking and the dialogue would segue into a song, as an extension of the conversation.

“Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” is not a great movie. It was a box office flop. Yet, it’s relevant, today, and worthwhile seeing.

GS You have a chapter on the writer, Mel Shavelson. He said, “The Hollywood writer is the most well paid, invisible writer in the world.”

KL He's right. When someone, in the public, thinks of a movie or a television show, she or he thinks of the stars, such as Julia Roberts or Roseanne Barr. Next, producers, such as Spielberg, Woody Allen, Lucas and Scorsese, link with their movies; a more sophisticated viewer may associate Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmsuch with their movies.

Rarely do viewers, even the most sophisticated viewers, tie writers to movies or television shows. This is especially true for tent poles, the big feature films, such as “Lego,” written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Who knows Terence Winter wrote “Wolf of Wall Street,” “Sopranos” and “Boardwalk Empire”?

Television is a medium most dependent on writers; yet, its writers are the least visible part of any television show. Few can name the writers of “The Sopranos,” for example. That list includes Tim Van Patten and Matthew Weiner, who created “Mad Men.”

GS How many viewers knew you wrote, “Touched by an Angel”?

KL A great many, I hope, but what a viewer sees, on television, displaces my hope. Writers, such as Terence Winter and Matthew Weiner, are taking the writing of television shows to new heights, especially on cable television. The plots of these shows are most intricate. The writers create dialogue that’s polish, the scripts tuned, with racecar precision.

These writers are not simply competent or good. They verge on greatness. Many of them learned a much from the work of Paddy Chayefsky and Ben Hecht. Television, long a medium led by producers, is becoming a medium led by writers.

GS Rod Sterling was a television writer known to audiences.

KL They knew Rod Serling, yes, but he hosted, on camera, a top-rated television show, “Twilight Zone.” I think this was a smart move on his part. Terence Winter and Matthew Weiner aren’t on camera, maybe in a rare interview to promote one show or another. No one would recognise either Terence Winter or Matthew Weiner in a cameo role.

Viewers think a group, gathered in a room tossing around ideas, writes television. This might be true for “Roseanne,” say, or many sitcoms. Yet, “Seinfeld” used scripts created by one or three writers, working on their own; there was no writing room for the show.

GS I doubt there’s a writing room for “Mad Men,” “Girls” or “Boardwalk Empire.”

KL True, Mel Shavelson is right that film and television writers make good money and their work widely viewed. Yet, they enjoy almost no audience awareness or loyalty the way the author of novels do. This is unfortunate.

GS Television writers are invisible, regardless of affect or effect.

KL Yes, in theatre, the audience attends plays based on who wrote the script. If someone enjoyed “Glengarry Glen Ross,” on Broadway, she or he might want to see “American Buffalo” solely because David Mamet wrote both. Theatre goers know the importance of writing and give writers the due she or he deserves, whereas, in television, the writer earns a great living, but is invisible.

GS You mention, in “Hollywood Digs,” that we consider people that make us laugh, trivial.

KL It's something I thought a great deal about, especially here in Hollywood. My younger brother, Rob, has worked on the “Simpsons” for the last five years. Successful comedy writers make more money than does almost anyone, in Hollywood.

It is interesting how audiences and even the creative community don’t take comedy writers seriously. It’s obvious in Oscar® nominations; Academy voters routinely ignore comedies for lesser, but serious, movies. This mystifies me.

As Mel Shavelson said, the talent to amuse has a much lower standing than does the talent to move emotionally or provide great insights. Yet, great comedy, especially good comedy, is more difficult to write than a serious script.

We forget the class clown, unless he becomes George Carlin. We recall, well, the kid who earned A+ in every subject. He or she made us look bad; embarrassment seems never to leave us.

GS You go on to say that comedy brings “The refreshment of impartiality.”

KL Truth told quickly is comedy. If truth comes from revealing layers, as in peeling the skin from an onion, which takes time, each layer takes on meaning, as in, say, “Stories We Tell,” by Sarah Polley; it gets heavy. Film and television audiences take meaning most seriously.

GS Meaning is slow and serious. Truth, if delivered fast, is funny.

KL Yes, that's a good way to put it.

GS What turns you on?

KL Honesty, it cuts through artificial barriers

GS What turns you off?

KL Withholding, that is, to suppress emotion or information, which is common in Hollywood.

GS In “Hollywood Digs,” you discuss Eddie Fisher, a pop singer from a much earlier era.

KL This story came from the Samuel Goldwyn 80th birthday party, which I loved. Bart Schneider, my publisher, said I should write about all the celebrities in the photographs, taken by Leigh Wiener, at this historic event. I go on at some length, in “Hollywood Digs,” about the party and the guests.

Eddie Fisher is a sidebar to the Goldwyn event. He was in one of the photographs. I didn't know Eddie Fisher. I could not tell you any of his songs. I thought I’d find out about him.

GS Elizabeth Taylor dumped him she met Richard Burton.

KL Yes, Fisher was a traditional pop singer, before rock and roll. He worked from the late 1940s through the late 1980s. After singing on “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts,” a 1950 version of “American Idol,” he received national attention, in the USA.

Fisher had many hit records. “I’m Walking Behind You,” “I Need You Now” and “Oh! My Pa-pa,” his biggest hit, all reached number one on the “Billboard Magazine” Hot 100. His last recordings, in 1967, barely charted.

GS Fisher liked to brag he was a first-rate womaniser.

KL Yes, that fact shocked me. He had married Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens, one, two, three. In 1975, he married, again, but only for a year. In 1993, he married Betty Lin; she passed away in 2001.

Fisher admitted an obsession with sex. Sam Goldwyn, who had signed him, around 1950, obsessed with keeping that fact hidden from the American public. Fisher flaunted his womanising in two autobiographies. He was candid and, maybe, elaborative, about it.

GS What people will say about themselves?

KL I know. Carrie Fisher is his eldest daughter. Her mother is Debbie Reynolds. Carrie was in “Star Wars.”

In her memoir, Carrie Fisher mentions his womanising. She says that after reading what her father wrote, about his life, she needed a genetic dry-cleaning. That summarises Eddie Fisher, I guess.

GS George Jessel, I am enthralled by his limited talent, which made him a fortune, for seventy years.

KL Exactly, growing up, I knew about him, but wondered what he did. I didn’t realise he was a performer. What was his talent?

GS He was a celebrity, known for being well-know.

KL Yes, at age ten, he began in vaudeville. First, he formed an act with Walter Winchell and Jack Wiener; they were singing ushers, a common act around 1910. Next, he worked in a kid act, with Eddie Cantor, until he outgrew the part.

Jessel had a hit single, in 1921, “The Toastmaster.” He starred in several Broadway musicals, into the 1950s, as well as on radio and early television shows. In the late 1940s, Jessel, Milton Berle and other comedians, based in Hollywood, started the Friars Club of Beverly Hills.

Hosting a vaudeville show, in Chicago, in the 1930s, Jessel decided to change the name of the Gumm Sisters to the Garland Sisters. “Garland” came from the role Carole Lombard played in the movie, “Twentieth Century,” co-written by Ben Hecht.

The name change stuck. Gumm sister Frances changed her name to Judy. A superstar arrived.

From the late 1950s, Jessel made a good living by publicly praising celebrities, politicians and other notable people. He oversaw funerals and memorial services as well as less solemn events. His nickname was Toastmaster General of the United States.

Jessel eulogies were florid, meant, I think, for the Victorian Era. Yet, they carried, successfully, into the 1960s. Talent, for George Jessel, lay in praising others for a fee.

GS Tell me about Jimmy Stewart, the A-list actor, coming to work.

KL I came across that story in one or another biography of Stewart. In his older years, Stewart was still a huge star and recognisable. He was a frequent and popular guest on the “Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson.” He managed to stay current until he passed away.

A young fellow, assigned, by the producer, to meet Stewart when he arrived for the first day of shooting for a new film, waited at the official studio entrance. The young fellow waited and waited. He looked everywhere. He could not find Stewart.

Then the young fellow realised Stewart had used the gate intended for the rest of crew, the gaffers, the carpenters and so forth. When the young fellow found Stewart, he wasn’t wearing his toupee and he carried a lunch pail. He was eating a sandwich, with the crew.

For Stewart, superstar actor for fifty years, it was another day on-the-job. He had no pretence, at all. He was a worker arriving for a day on-the-job.

GS That goes back to what you said about crews and shoots.

KL Yes it does. This incident struck me as so wonderful. Jimmy Stewart was as modest in real life as on the screen, unaffected by stardom. Wish we could say that of more Hollywood residents, today.

GS That’s exceptional.

KL In the 1960s, when Ronald Reagan was running for Governor of California, someone said it should be Jimmy Stewart for Governor. Ronald Reagan should run for best friend.

GS What’s your favourite curse word?

KL F**k, it’s most used, useful and, likely, most often used word in English.

GS You like Frank Sinatra.

KL Well, yes and no. He's a huge figure. I stumbled on an article about one of his homes that enthralled me.

In the late 1940s, Dora Hutchinson, heir to the Chase Manhattan Bank fortune, built a home, not far from downtown Los Angeles. Hutchinson threw huge, lavish parties. She launched fireworks, from her patio, to let the neighbours know it was Happy Hour at her place. By the late 1950s, she had fled Los Angeles for her hometown, New York City.

Sinatra rented the Hutchinson house, called Chatsworth, for a decade. During the heyday of the Rat Pack, Sinatra lived in the 10,000 square foot main house, which had sixteen-foot high windows and a fifty-foot swimming pool. The fabled house supposedly hosted the trysts of Marilyn Monroe and President John F Kennedy, among others.

Yet, Chatsworth, the name and the house, seems out of place, in Los Angeles. It is far too extravagant, much too excessive, too over-the-top, even for Hollywood. Yet, there’s an elegant angle to the house and its occupants.

GS Elegance, you write, is portable.

KL You can carry elegance in a suitcase. Sinatra could be elegant anywhere. You can take elegance with you where you went, even the washroom. Yes, elegance is portable.

Still, I'm up and down on Frank Sinatra. I think he was a great singer, especially in his later years. In the last half of his career, he learned how to use his voice.

As a young crooner, he could just sing. As an older singer, he had to learn how to use his voice. He did it, well.

GS You walk into a room that’s bright, brilliant white. What thought crosses your mind first?

KL My eyes hurt.

GS I want to know more about the artists, the painter, Thomas Kincaid.

KL Kincaid was a huge industry. He sold millions of various pieces. I say pieces because he sold original paintings as well as various copies of his paintings.

His work appears on calendars, coffee cups and office walls. Kincaid was an enormous industry. He was a salesperson, funny and great to be around.

GS Kincaid was a huge business.

KL Yes, an enormous, self-created commercial entity. I admired him for that success. What caught up with him, at least in part, was technology, which shifted under his feet.

He invested millions of dollars into a plant that produced high-quality reproductions of his paintings. When someone bought an original Kincaid, it was a high-quality lithograph. An artist would touch it up; give it brushstrokes, to make the lithograph seem more than a high-quality printed copy.

Kincaid did not brush the lithographs. The painting was a Kincaid, a touched-up print, which sold as an “original.” This method allowed many people to enjoy an “original” Kincaid; people that otherwise couldn’t afford one of his paintings.

Then the colour copier came along. Kincaid had an incredibly expensive way of making his originals that, now, cost a few dollars with a colour copier. This destroyed his business model. The paintings were more than prints and less than the original painted by Kincaid, but his business model couldn’t compete with a photocopier.

Kincaid had more than his share of personal troubles, too. He passed away, probably from a combination of drugs and alcohol, at 54, I think. A month or so earlier, he had given me one of his paintings, the “Christmas Cottage.”

GS Why did Kincaid gift you his particular painting?

KL Kincaid gave me the painting because I wrote the script for a television version of a story based on one of his painting, called the “Christmas Cottage.” Peter O’Toole agreed to take the lead role in the show. This is the highlight of my career.

What happened was a script I wrote went into development, quickly.

GS By development you mean someone agree to film it.

KL Yes, the director, Michael Campus, looked for the right person to play the mentor of a young Tom Kincaid. In life, the mentor was a retired painter that moved in the house next door to Kincaid when he, Kincaid, was young.

Campus thought Peter O'Toole was perfect. He sent the script to O’Toole. To our amazement and delight, the agent for O'Toole said the actor liked the script and would do it after he finished his current project.

The price was right, for O’Toole, and we moved forward. As we prepared for the shoot, the script had some rewrites. There are parts that needed changing for the shoot. There was nothing huge, minor tinkering, mostly, moving scenes around and so forth.

A couple of weeks before shooting, we sent the adjusted script to O’Toole. He was on location, in China. Almost immediately, Michael Campus, the director, received an e-mail directly from O’Toole.

He said, “I loved the script I read. I committed that script to memory. That’s the script I want to do.”

O’Toole declined to perform the changed script. All the script changes reversed to original form. I felt it a great compliment to have Peter O’Toole prefer my original script to the changed version.

GS That said a great deal about your writing.

KL When O’Toole arrived, he was incredible. He was a schooled British actor. He memorised each word and gave full energy for every take, which was always perfect and true to the script, as written.

O’Toole was a dream for every writer. He didn’t the muck with the lines, paraphrase or move away from the script. This was the highlight of my life, as a writer.

GS Especially as he wanted to go back to the original script.

KL Yes, I think his performance was honest because he memorised his lines. That was what he did. Would he have memorised it if he didn't think the script, as written, was good for him?

GS No, I doubt he would.

KL I like to believe he memorised my script because he thought it was good. That he wanted to do it. I'll say that as opposed to needing a paycheque.

GS You write about Abby Singer, an invisible unit production manager (UPM) for television shows. I remember Abby Singer from “Kojak.”

KL Yes, Abner “Abby” Singer, he was a UPM and Assistant Director (AD) on many television shows, from the 1950s to the late 1980s. I never worked with Singer, but I know a great many UPMs that learned their craft from him. He worked “The Mary Tyler Moor Show,” “Kojak,” of course, the “Columbo” television movies and “St Elsewhere,” among others.

Many of the ADs and UPMs that came out of CBS, on Radford Street, in Los Angeles, were protégés of Singer. They all revered him. Abby Singer was among the best at his craft.

I met Singer in the fall of 2013. He was in his 90s.** Everybody loved and admired him. He was so generous, with his time, and was always ready to help people.

GS What’s an Abby Singer?

KL The next to last shot, of the day, for a television show or film, is the “Abby Singer Shot.” Someone would ask him how many more shots before lunch, say. Singer would say, “This one and one more.”

The second-to-last shot became the “Abby Singer Shot.” Every shoot, today, refers to the next-to-last shot as the “Abby Singer Shot.” It’s a good homage of him.

GS What is your favourite food?

KL Salmon, I always order it. I like the texture, taste. In Missouri, as child, salmon was not easy to get. For me, salmon is a luxury.

GS Who or what are the Romeos.

KL The Romeos involve retired old men eating out. They meet at Art’s Deli, a famous restaurant in Los Angeles, every day. Abby Singer was a Romeo. John Anderson, producer of “Touched by an Angel,” is a Romeo. Pals for decades, these fellows get together for a late breakfast, almost every day.

GS What books do you urge readers to read?

KL Other than my own, “Moby Dick,” “Huckleberry Finn,” “Farewell to Arms,” these books capture American mindset.

GS How long did it take you to research and write “Hollywood Digs”?

KL Well, the research and writing went on at the same time. I spent two years on “Hollywood Digs.” That's not counting the F Scott Fitzgerald chapter, which I published years ago.

GS Were you writing “Hollywood Digs” every day.

KL No, I wrote a play, “On the Spectrum,” at the same time. I can't honestly say I was writing “Hollywood Digs” every day. I was writing something every day, not just the book.

GS Do you try to write something every day.

KL Yes, if I don’t write something every day, I don't feel good about what I've done that day. Writing provides a positive and reassuring response, which is confidence building. It makes me feel good about me, when I write.

GS Do you enjoy promoting your book?

KL Well, that’s only now beginning. Book promotion takes me away from writing. I don’t like it for that reason.

GS What is your favourite indulgence?

KL Napping, I’m old enough that it’s a luxury.

GS Are you planning a sequel to “Hollywood Digs.”

KL My publisher, Bart Schneider, says I must do a second book, now. I’d like to do another similar book. Readers enjoy stories about celebrities.

The below-the-line workers, interest me a great deal. In a film or television show budget, the creative staff, writers, directors and actors, for example, are above the line costs. The below the line charges include the rest of the crew, the gaffers, carpenters and best boys.

The women and men behind the scenes have the most interesting stories. They see what goes on from a different perspective. I would love to do a book about the below the line people.

Yes, there will be another book. I hope it will be about below-the-line workers. Maybe, a book, with a mix of stories about stars and members of the rest of the crew, is the best idea.

GS You’re about to become the Studs Terkel of below the line Hollywood workers. What is something about you that would surprise readers?

KL I’m too easily involved in road rage.

GS What city could you lose yourself in for hours to explore?

KL London, I love that city.

GS Thanks so much, Ken.

KL You’re welcome.

Notes and Sources

* Mickey Rooney passed away on 7 April 2014, at age 93.

** Abby Singer passed away 13 March 2014, at age 97.

Donald Dewey (2014), “James Stewart: a biography,” published by Sphere.

Eddie Fisher (1999), “Been There, Done That: an autobiography,” published by St Martin’s Press.

Eddie Fisher (1984), “Eddie: my life, my loves,” published by Harper Collins.

Carrie Fisher (2008), “Wishful Drinking,” published by Simon and Schuster.

Carrie Fisher (2011), “Shockaholic,” published by Simon and Schuster.

Laura Leff, editor (2104), “The Jack Benny Times,” the official publication of the International Jack Benny Fan Club, Volume 29: 3-4, for May-August 2014. P. 3.

Michael Munn (2013), “Jimmy Stewart: the truth behind the legend,” published by Skyhorse Publishing.

Click here to buy books by Ken LaZebnik.
Click here for a list of all Grub Street Interviews
Interview edited and condensed for publication.


dr george pollard is a Sociometrician and Social Psychologist at Carleton University, in Ottawa, where he currently conducts research and seminars on "Media and Truth," Social Psychology of Pop Culture and Entertainment as well as umbrella repair.

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