Show Business Kindness

If you have 15 minutes, and who doesn’t, it’s worth your time to watch an impromptu Instagram video by comic Jeff Ross and musician John Mayer driving their friend Bob Saget’s car home from LAX.

Saget, 65, a nineties lore staple as the star of Full House and Americas Funniest Home Videos, as well as a perennial comedian/actor, died quite unexpectedly this week in a Florida hotel room the morning after doing one of his standup shows. 

He basically hosted YouTube, before there was YouTube

There was no foul play, no drugs and no scandal.  Though autopsy results are pending, right now it looks like he had either a sudden heart attack or a massive stroke.

As the Omicron version of COVID continues to decimate the U.S. and the planet, and we all continue to lose our minds over fascism, voting rights, masks and the people who refuse to wear them or get the g-d damned vaccine (Note: F-ck U Novak Djokovic, you’ll break that Grand Slam record over ALL of our dead bodies!) it might seem relevant to ask the question:

Why are you writing about Bob Saget?

I mean, other than the fact that he died?

Well, I’ll tell you.

America’s Dad

In a two-month period where we’ve lost revered show business legends like Sidney Poitier, Betty White and Stephen Sondheim, seeing the amount of show business love and heartbreak in reaction to the death of Mr. Saget feels…unparalleled?

Funny as he was (Note: I’ll always remember him for his hilariously filthy monologue in The Artistocrats), and as good of an actor as he could also be (Note: Check out his Law and Order: SVU season 8 episode, Choreographed), this isn’t an industry that comes together to laud people for anything other than superhuman success or super duper amounts of accrued money.

Not that Bob Saget wasn’t known among his peers for generous helpings of both.

But it seems what he was mostly known for was his unbridled and unrelenting love and generosity.

He was beloved.

Apparently following his death there was a three-day pajama party/shiva (Note: Jewish tradition for paying respect to a family who have lost loved ones where people bring LOTS of food) at his home with his family; his entire Full House family, which he kept together for decades as their own second family, (Note: Yes, BOTH grown up Olsen twins/moguls were there); as well as a diversity of comics, actors, musicians and other show business luminaries.

But as both the public and the personal tweets mounted there were only three words that united the many dozens, nee many hundreds of them:

KIND.  CARING.  LOVE.

Google his name and type in any of those words and see what comes up.

I guess the fourth word would be funny and it’s likely that would be the first word any comedian would want to have as their epitaph.

But it’s not as if we don’t know and expect comics to be funny.

What you rarely see leading the list in show business tributes is the constant and incessant use of the word kind

It’s not that everyone is mean.  It’s more that in the competitive and sometimes cutthroat world we humans have created, few individuals lead with kind and continue to do so that continually, dependably and personally over decades.

Bob Saget was like a lovable golden retriever, wasn’t he?

People can be kind on the set and a pleasure to work with but they likely won’t be your lasting good friend.  Someone can be a close buddy but it’s rare so many close buddies will be people you worked with and who you still might be competing with for a job.

Which also doesn’t account for those many non-pros who you have made sure to keep in your inner circle or to reach out to in times of trouble no matter how busy or rich you became, simply because you were kind.  Or, more likely, merely because you wanted to.

Jimmy Kimmel, who has cried before on his television show but contrary to so many mean tweets doesn’t do often, tells it much more specifically and emotionally:

We don’t talk a lot about real love and kindness in such direct ways any more for fear of appearing melodramatic or, to use one of my students’ favorite terms/fears, too cheesy.

Sometimes cheesy is good!

But that’s what got Jeff Ross and John Mayer to do something any L.A. resident would herculariously (Note: It’s a word now!) try almost anything to avoid — driving through freeway traffic to Los Angeles International Airport to find their friend’s car somewhere in a dreaded, unmarked multi-level parking structure, pay the overdue penalty and then turn right back around and drive themselves together again through rush hour traffic simply because someone had to do it and it was a way to help.

I mean, it’s not like you couldn’t get a lineup of p.a.’s to complete that task for you, with or without pay.

… and he was funny!

That might not seem like the ultimate display of kindness for those who don’t live here but you’ll just have to trust The Chair on this one.  Out here on the left coast, upper echelon of show business, this simply DOES. NOT. HAPPEN.  EVER.

Though love and kindness, those now seldom discussed qualities too often relegated to the cultural death heap of the sixties, never fail to surprise.  And occasionally, to inspire.

Full House Extended Theme Song

A Creative Life

Every life is a creative life because how could it not be?  We are literally creating every moment we live based on what we do or don’t do.   

Each minor or major or in-between choice leads to another, and then another, until before you know it decades have gone by.  The very act of living means we are making something that has never existed before.

Us.

Whoa Chairy

That was not meant to reek of new ageism, even though it does.

And no, we are not in an episode of This Is Us, now in its final season in case you have somehow managed to not be assaulted by NBC/Universal’s currently relentless marketing blitz.

I will miss Milo and his denim jacket

It is merely to state, and own, that we humans are ALL creative beings.   That is to say every one of us, according to the latter’s dictionary definition, has an imagination and an original idea(s).

Which has nothing to do with what is commonly referred to as talent. 

I’m reminded of this with each hour I’ve spent watching Peter Jackson’s irresistible Get Back, an eight-hour documentary of the documentary that chronicled the 1969 Beatles’ creation of their iconic Let It Be album (Note:  Somehow now weirdly being streamed only on Disney Plus).

Does this make them Disney… princes?

It also tugs massively at the heart with the passing of international screen icon and humanitarian, Sidney Poitier this week.

Just as it nostalgically takes us back to any number of seminal artistic triumphs we’ve enjoyed that were created by people like film director Peter Bogdanovich and songwriter Marilyn Bergman.

Thanks 2022. 

And no, it doesn’t matter that the combined ages of the last three is 268.  Or that it we added in Betty White last week we’d be at 367. 

A tough week!

Not to mention where we’d be at if we included the two long-deceased Beatles.

Talent is a natural aptitude or skill in a certain area that, in its extreme form, gets developed far beyond an ability to just merely do something well. 

Cultivated in the right way and at the right time it can transform our way of thinking, entertain us beyond belief and, in rare circumstances, change the world. 

Often for the good and, sometimes, even for the bad.

… and whatever this is

Jeopardy’s current $1,000,000 champ Amy Schneider, a trans woman, has begun to change our perception of who becomes a champion, and not only on a game show.

Our most recent former president, leading a movement that’s huckster-ized fantasy into fact and earned him more than a billion dollars in donations, leads the most anti-Democratic movement in the history of the U.S.

Dark vs. light.  Light vs. Dark.  

And who said the Marvel Universe isn’t relevant?  (Note:  Okay, I have).

… and don’t ask this guy. #ImwithMarty

But let’s stay with the light for now.

Watching The Beatles in their messy creative space amid all that footage, as any aspiring artist should, the level and ease of their talent is their least surprising quality.  In fact, it’s a given.

What’s more fascinating is observing just how young, goofy and utterly, humanly flawed each one of them are.

– Paul’s smart, boundlessly creative and so up it’s annoying. 

– John broods, cuts through the bullshit, does weird voices and likes very much to do drugs. 

– George, the youngest and perhaps wisest, desperately wants to be heard but seldom is.

– Ringo, loyal and unfazed by everyone, is up for anything except for all the unnecessary drama.  When that happens he clandestinely exits the room.   

Ringo (and his shirt) is just here for a good time!

Watching them you think, is that… it???  They remind me of my high school or college friends but with more colorful clothing. (Note:  I’d buy a copy of any one of their shirts off the rack and wear them tomorrow if only someone had the brains or talent to reproduce them.  And so would you).

This, of course, is the point.

My experience with the uber talented is not only are they all quite human, both good and bad, but that in real life, they can be so down to earth, surprisingly normal (or expectedly, abnormally normal) that, frankly, it’s shocking.

Sometimes it works!

I was fortunate to meet Sidney Poitier some years ago at restaurant because a friend knew him and he invited us to sit down at a large table of his family and friends.

I figured to myself, Oh Steve, (Note: This was before my Chair days), don’t say anything stupid and DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, react to how handsome you think this 80 year-old man is.

Well, before I could process all that and several minutes into various smaller conversations around the table, Sidney suddenly puts a hand on my shoulder, looks me in the eye and says, So Steve, what do you do?

Me, trying to keep my cool.

I mean, it’s like he was interested.  Though, wouldn’t any stranger at a table be if he was seated next to you and there was a lull in the conversation?

Actually, not necessarily, which is part of what made him who he was.  He was just a guy with extraordinary talents.  He knew it, I knew.  That was a given.  But he also was a mensch, had a life and was a lot more than that.

As for Bogdanovich, I decades ago I worked on his movie, Mask.  To this day, he knew more about film than any one I’ve ever met and was not shy about proving it in every conversation.

Plus so many neckerchiefs (and only he could pull them off!)

That and his toweringly intellectual way of speaking could come off as high-fallutin’ and rarified.  Yet get him on the topic of his late, murdered girlfriend, Dorothy Stratten, whom he’d just written a book about, and he was no different than any grieving uncle who’d just lost the love of his life.

It wasn’t affectation.  It wasn’t a pose.  It was simply a truly messed up guy who had been through it and would never be the same.

None of which changed the effete public persona he liked to present to the world and came so naturally to him.  When I ran into him some years later in Westwood on my way to a movie he’d just seen, he greeted me with a huge hello and called from across the street:  I’m doing a picture at Metro!  Give me a call!

Um… what?

Metro, I thought?  Metro?  This was the late eighties. MGM hadn’t been Metro in, um….well…forever?  Nevertheless it was as real and as human and inviting as a guy like him could ever be.  That is, happily greeting a young man he had formerly employed by name and publicly inviting him to come see him at… Metro! 

What you learn about talent over the years is that it doesn’t replace anyone’s humanity or raise it to a different level.  It is only one more characteristic for a person to create a life that reflects who they are based on the choices they have made and will make.

Choosing wisely, or more to the point, authentically, is the key.

Lulu – “To Sir, with love”