Thursday, September 25, 2014

QUITTING COSBY - 12 Years a Writer

            We wrote and filmed four episodes before the "Cosby Show” show went on the air.  My writing partner, Korby Siamis, and I were absolutely convinced that “The Cosby Show” was going to be the biggest flop of all time.  Here’s a cartoon she drew and sent to our agent, Bernie Weintraub.  She drew a sinking ship-- “The S.S. Cosby”-- and stick figures labeled Korby and Karyl swimming back to L.A.  Why?  The cast was wonderful; the writing was top notch.  But live in the studio, the audience reaction seemed luke warm.  They didn’t seem like they were loving it.  No question the writers were living in a bubble (true on all shows) but did our bone-weary exhaustion completely color our perception?  The feminist in me thought who was going to believe Claire is an attorney AND cooks a full meal for six in high heels every night, keeps the house clean with no maid, and why is she not completely and totally exhausted like the rest of the moms in America?  Who is going to believe she’s never mad at Cliff, no matter what he does?  Claire’s a mom who's having it all and she’s got a briefcase that looks empty.  So fake!

            Day One of “The Cosby Show” began at lunch on the 65th floor of 30 Rock in an all glass private party room adjoining the famous Rainbow Room.  This was my 12th year a writer and I already knew the First Day is the Best Day on any TV show because nobody knows anybody yet, so nobody hates anybody yet, etc., etc.  It’s downhill after today.  Still, the views from here are fantastic.  Truth be told, that’s why I took this job.  Not to bob and weave for a comedy superstar (been there, done that), certainly not to stay up all night writing joke after joke till I want to KILL THE PERSON WHO IS KEEPING ME AWAKE!  DISCLOSURE:  I took this job for 1.  A free trip to New York, all expenses paid.  2.  To have fun in New York  3. The $$$$.  4.  To get a break from my rebellious teenage son.

            It was a gorgeous July day.  Spectacular views with all of New York at our feet, literally.  We were gathering for a First Table Reading of our script with Bill and cast.  This would be the first day of everybody meeting everybody else.  There were two long tables.  One table had a script set at each place: our script, Korby’s and my perfect script, a script so wonderfully written it would be filmed First.  On the other table was a bar mitzvah- worthy spread of deli delights on silver platters.  There was a silver coffee urn, fine china and pink tablecloths!  A floral centerpiece!  It doesn’t get any nicer!  I love my job (at least so far)!
            A few NBC executives were milling around along with the William Morris agents (who had packaged the show), Tom Werner and Marcy Carsey (exec producers), and a reporter from TV Guide.  We met our line producer, Caryn Mandabach, who was around thirty and extremely pregnant.  The child actors and their parents were there.  Gorgeous kids have gorgeous parents.  Phylicia Rashad, who was going to play Bill’s wife, was just charming and went around introducing herself and asking us about ourselves.  She loved our script!  We loved her.  How could you not?  Everybody we met complimented us on our script.  We were the writing stars of the day!  “The Cosby Show” will appreciate my writing.  Yay!  Everyone was mingling and nibbling, and NIBBLING.  An hour goes by and we’re sick of nibbling and smiling at each other.  I was already tired, having arrived at 6 AM on the red-eye.  Everyone’s looking over everyone else’s shoulder and keeping an eye out for the man of the (no-longer-lunch) hour, Bill Cosby.
            Suddenly everybody in the room perked up.  That could only mean one thing in show biz: the star is in the building.  Cosby enters with his longtime agent, David Brokaw, over an hour late.  No smiles.  No apologies.  Ouch!

              As Cosby made his way around the room, he could have just stepped from the pages of GQ.  His silk shirt and linen jacket exuded style and star power.  He wears a bulky sterling silver ID bracelet engraved with the words “Camille’s Husband.”  I’m wondering, He needed a reminder?  And why did he have to spoil the picture with the stinky old wet cigar?  What is with men?  Even unlit, don’t they know cigars stink?  Don’t they care they’re driving people away, especially me?  
              After Bill sat down, everybody quickly took a seat at the table.  The director, Jay Sandrich, welcomed everyone and went around the table first introducing the actors and then the writers.  It was like the first day of Camp Success and everybody was smiling and happy to be there on full scholarship.

Cosby was reserved to the point of being almost not friendly.  I tried not to take it personally even though I had fantasized he’d immediately get a kick out of me and think I was cool.  When you’re a major star, everyone wants to be your friend and you have to be careful who you welcome into your inner circle.  We also knew Cosby had wanted black writers on the show.  Carsey and Werner hadn’t found a black writer yet, but were still actively looking.  The title of Producer (which should have been my title) was being held in reserve in case a qualified black writer materialized.  For now, the first “Cosby Show” writing staff of four were one hundred percent white, seventy-five percent Jewish, and fifty percent female.  I hoped Cosby wasn’t going to hold that against us.  However, if I had created a show starring a woman about her life as a woman, I’d be mad if they only hired men to write it.  I’d be furious.  

      Jay Sandrich had directed my second “Mary Tyler Moore “episode, “WJM Tries Harder,” and other episodes of mine over the years.  He was very gracious in introducing us and praised our script.  “They perfectly capture the voices…”  blah blah blah.”  The reading began.  Jay read the stage directions aloud and then the actors jumped in.  It was the first time we had heard our script on its feet and it was pretty exciting.  It’s very gratifying to hear the little chuckles and laughs along the way.  Everyone seemed pleased.
            Korby and I had lifted the theme of our script, “You’re Not a Mother Night,” from one of Cosby’s most enduring monologues where he gives his long-suffering wife a night out at a fancy restaurant.  Claire automatically cuts Bill/Cliff’s meat out of habit from excessive mothering.  Back home after dinner they wind up dancing romantically together in the bedroom, whereupon Bill says, “Let’s get it on.”  They kiss and we fade out.  End of episode.  
            Keshia Knight Pulliam, who was five, sat next to Tom Werner, who was thirty-five.  Like a nice daddy, he shared his script with her and pointed to each word she should read aloud. She was completely adorable.  Everybody loved her.  Malcolm Jamal Warner was perfect and seemed to have already memorized his lines.  All the actors gave it their best with one exception: Bill Cosby.  As the reading went on, Cosby began to mumble his lines into his lap.  He was visibly unhappy and barely projecting his voice.  Obviously Cosby was the only one in the room who hadn’t read the script beforehand.  Everyone exchanged furtive glances of alarm.  The reporter from TV Guide feverishly took notes!  Eventually, just to make sure we picked up on his displeasure; Bill shoved his entire cigar into the side of his cheek so that only a few inches stuck out.  His line readings became indecipherable.  I started getting heart palpitations.  I couldn’t wait for the reading to be over so I could throw myself out the 65th story window onto 50th Street.  By Fade Out, the Wrath of Cosby permeated the room.  There was polite applause, but the director was quick to announce that there were “a few kinks in the script” that needed to be worked out.  "Perfect, but with kinks?" That's a new one. 
            When you sign on to staff write a new TV show, you never know if that job will be a dream or a disaster.  For instance, when we signed on to staff writer Tony Randall’s “Love Sidney,” the fired writers from the previous season told me, “Tony Randall's  a maniac and a monster.  There’s constant rewrites, no days OR nights off, so if you’re taking the job just to see New York, forget it.  You’re never leaving the Writer’s Room.”  We took the job anyway.  Tony turned out to be a doll.  I saw New York and had the time of my life.  It turned out the previous season, Tony’s wife had been gravely ill, so Tony can be forgiven for his uptightness.  His anger was temporary.  I realized you never know the pressures that go on in another person’s life that can turn them into a Gila monster and you,  his lunch.     
            Like everyone in America, I loved the stand-up Cosby, the “I Spy” Cosby and the irrepressible Jell-O Cosby.  But there was a new Cosby, a late night talk show guest - Cosby who was a snarling preacher.  He was scary.  I told myself maybe Reverend Cosby was grumpy because he needed his own sitcom.  Cosby wasn’t doing “The “Cosby Show” for the money.  He already had all the money in the world.  IMHO Cosby was doing a sitcom because it was the biggest pulpit he could find.  Reverend Cosby had a message and he wanted America to hear it.  I could totally relate because I write for the same reason.  I hoped and prayed, now that Cosby had a sitcom bully pulpit, he’ll morph back into the Jell-O Cosby. 
            A private meeting was called post haste with Cosby, Brokow, Carsey, Werner, Sandrich, and our exec producer/head writer whom I’ll call Geeky.  All of us little people were sent out into the hall like schoolchildren while the grown-ups held their secret talks.  If Geeky doesn’t defend our script, Korby and I will go from stars to schmucks in thirty minutes flat.  It was all in the hands of Geeky.  Heaven help us.

The upshot of the private confab is that Bill had “serious problems” with our episode.  He had an idea of how to “fix” our script, but a new set will have to be built.  Karyl and Korby’s script is set aside and a re-write on the next almost written script – will begin.  A script by (surprise, surprise) Geeky.

Bill’s “improvement” on our script?  Instead of a restaurant, Bill takes Claire to a hotel room and the dinner is brought via room service.  That way, Bill reasoned, sex can take place immediately following the meal.  Really?  As a woman and mom, if my husband gave me a night out away from mothering, I hope we wouldn’t spend it hidden away in some hotel room eating notoriously terrible Room Service food just so we can conveniently have sex after dinner.  I would be furious, thinking I hunted  for the perfect dress, got my hair done, and got waxed SO HE COULD HIDE ME IN A HOTEL ROOM?!  This hotel room idea was a man’s fantasy of what a woman/mom wanted, but it was actually what the man wanted.  And the man was my boss.
            More bad news for me:   The Cosby Show wasn’t going to be shot at Rockefeller Center because “Saturday Night Live” takes over the studio.  Been there, done that.  We were going to be working out of Brooklyn.  I HATE working in the middle of nowhere.  PROOF: In my previous career as a dress designer, I quit a perfectly good job because I had to leave Manhattan to work in a factory in Long Island City.

              NBC Studios Brooklyn was a decrepit brick building in the heart of a run-down Orthodox Jewish neighborhood.  Midwood, Brooklyn is famous for only one thing:  It is the birthplace of Woody Allen.  Is he still living there?  No, of course not.  He moved away and for good reason: There were no decent restaurants, no fashion boutiques, none of the New York big city sights and sounds I had taken this job for. 

              Like on all new shows, the offices were makeshift and temporary.  There were never any actual offices for us to work in.  Over the years I’ve worked in myriad hellholes including trailers, dressing rooms, hotel rooms, and once in the back of a speeding truck.  Our producer had rented two apartments to use for offices in a pre WWII residential building near NBC.  The groaning elevator took around two years to go up two floors and reeked of Ben Gay and matzo balls.  The tiny dark living room was set up with a card table and steel folding tin chairs: our ad hoc Writer’s Room.  So inspirational, especially the previous tenant’s granny-like wallpaper!  Caryn, Tom and Marcy had the apartment above us along with the secretarial pool and mountainous piles of office supplies.  A fire hazard waiting to happen.

              The desks and typewriters were rented and they looked it.  The secretaries had a new-fangled thing that only one secretary knew how to use and nobody would dare touch -- a computer.  Instead of the Empire State Building and the stunning Manhattan panorama, my view was of Avenue M, the main drag, with its ancient kosher butcher shops, candy stores and low-end baby boutiques.  Instead of spotting fashionable women dashing in and out of Saks Fifth Avenue, I would watch the prudently dressed Orthodox Jewish moms in their wigs and white tights with their enormous broods of children in tow marching to Yeshiva school.  I think: This is the cult branch of my religion and like all religions it’s about the subjugation of women.  These are the thoughts that float through my mind while writing comedy.   

              Tuesday we assembled on the dark, freezing NBC sound stage for a cast reading of the new first Cosby episode.  We writers had worked past two AM writing Geeky’s script in a sub-zero conference room in NBC 30 Rock.  Isn’t a freezing room a form of torture?  This is why I know I wouldn’t last two days at Gitmo.  I hate being cold and I hate being tired and, guess what?  I’m both and I haven’t been on the job one week.

To those former bosses who have accused me of having an "attitude problem,"  I say, Fuck You!  Fuck you for keeping me up all night because you didn’t think the script was funny enough!  I guarantee you I was funnier at eleven than I am at one AM.  Why can’t you make a fuckin’ decision?!  But we don’t get to go home till the executive producer, the King of All Comedy declares the royal script sufficiently funny.  So we’re being punished with sleep deprivation for being not funny enough.  Happens on EVERY show.  Everything is taking twice as long as it should.  My bosses are always the kings and queens of comedy and we, their mere court jesters.  Been there, done that.  The thrill was gone.  Way.

              The “Cosby Show” had arranged for a Town Car to pick the writers up in Manhattan and deliver us to Hell every day.  There was BabyCakes, Geeky, Tom Werner, Korby, me and our driver, Jupee, from India.  We were Jewish sardines in a Crown Victoria.  As we emerged from the Midtown Tunnel I took a wistful last glance at my beloved Statue of Liberty.  I said a silent goodbye to her and to the beauty of Manhattan.  Soon we were at NBC in Brooklyn.  We went from the hot July sun into the dark, dank mildew-y freezing NBC studio.  There were the usual bleachers set up` across from the familiar Huxtable household set.

Our group had grown since yesterday.  Our numbers now included stagehands and wardrobe people.  New York Child Protective Services laws mandate that besides a parent or guardian for each child actor, a social worker and a tutor must be on set at all times. 

              Bill had an entourage of two: A personal chauffeur and valet who held Bill’s cigar for him while he was acting, and Bill’s teenage son, Ennis, who was a “gofer.”  Ennis was a tall skinny kid of sixteen.  He was shy and, like everybody else, seemed a little intimidated by his dad.  It must be difficult if your real dad is everybody’s fantasy dad.  Celebs’ kids are notoriously screwed up and spoiled, but Ennis exuded good upbringing.  He was a lovely kid.  Sadly, ten years later Ennis was murdered in a random robbery on an LA freeway off-ramp.

              The cast reading went well.  Cosby was more engaged than when he was reading our script.  He only swallowed a quarter of his cigar!  Naturally, Geeky was hailed as the show’s savior.  He stood up and took a big exaggerated bow while everyone applauded wildly.  Did Geeky share the credit or acknowledge those of us writers who lost sleep making his good script great?  He did not.  Not a peep.  So now I return the favor by omitting his name.  

              After the reading there was a break before rehearsal.  Bill/Cliff’s doctor’s office set, which didn’t exist in the abbreviated pilot presentation, had been built and the producers wanted to show it to him.  The writers went to see it, too.  Bill was playing a gynecologist, but when he saw the stirrups on the examining table he winced.  Apparently he was only thinking of Cliff being a cute baby-deliverer but neglected to contemplate the yucky lady parts place where babies came from.  He had the prop man remove the stirrups immediately.

              BabyCakes and I were poking around backstage when Bill came by on his way to his dressing room.  “Ah, my writers!  Gotta minute?  Let’s talk about some stories.”  He seemed fairly upbeat.  Maybe yesterday was an anomaly.  I was nervous as we followed Bill backstage in the dark, through a labyrinth of giant black curtains.

              Bill’s dressing room was tiny, old and cold, with exposed brick like a tenement.  Cosby obviously hadn’t personalized it yet.  There were no pictures or telegrams or the typical things you’d find in an actor’s lair.  We sat across from Bill on a threadbare pink satin piano bench that was wedged into an alcove.  I immediately took out my notebook and pen, in case any good story ideas got pitched.  Since I had failed to win Bill over on day one, I was hoping this was my second chance.

              Bill sees my pen and says, “Don’t bother with that – let’s just talk a little and get acquainted.”  I thought, Great.  I put down my pen.  Bill asks, “You’re four- eleven, right?”  Turns out, so was Bill’s mother! Cosby likes short ladies!  I’m IN!  “I’m going to call you ‘Legs’,” he declared.  I took it as a compliment.  

              BabyCakes, unable to let the attention fall on anyone else for too long, launched into his I’m just a first-time writer and humble country boy show.  He says with wide- eyed wonder, “I cannot believe I’m sitting here with Bill Cosby!  I was only in Hollywood for one month!  I’m from Podunk.  If a guy like me wanted to learn about jazz, where would he start?”  Cosby’s love of jazz is well known.  Was it shameless pandering or genuine interest on BabyCakes part?  It didn’t matter. Bill completely perked up at the thought of schooling this goofy-cute and funny young man in the nuances of Dizzy Gillespie et al.  In my mind, I rolled my eyes.  There’s one on every show just like there is in every office and every classroom.  They’re not bad guys.  They’re young, attractive, fun and they have an uncanny talent for getting ahead in this world.  BabyCakes was just the newest! BabyCakes’ greatest desire was to be “SFL”-- meaning, “set for life.”  A man in his late 20s was planning his retirement.

              Cosby turns his attention to me and asks what other shows I’ve written.  Before I can begin BabyCakes interrupts and says, “She knows Richard Pryor.  She wrote a ‘Sanford and Son’ with him! She won an Emmy with Richard for writing on the first two Lily Tomlin specials.”  BabyCakes was telling Cosby that Other black comics liked Karyl and Bill should too… or something.

Whatever BabyCakes intention, it backfired.  Upon hearing the name Richard Pryor, Bill’s attitude completely changed.  Just as he had done the day before at Rockefeller Center, Bill could barely speak.  He stared at his knees and said very softly, “No… like… dir-ty talk. “  Then the unlit wet cigar went all the way into the cheek and I knew I was shit after all.

               BabyCakes, ever the eager beaver, jumps in, “Got any story ideas, sir?”  Cosby was in charge of accepting or rejecting story ideas, so finding a story Bill liked was a big leg up on a script assignment.  “Yes I do,” said Bill, whereupon he put his hands behind his head, looked at the ceiling and rattled off a slew of absolutely fabulous story ideas.  Some ideas were kernels, others more, but all eventually became scripts.  BabyCakes and I were writing as fast as we could, but BabyCakes took dictation like an ace stenographer on speed.  I’d never seen anything like it.  At that moment I realized, if you could write fast enough, you could become the star writer on this show because Cosby himself would tell you what to write.  The best Cosby writer was Bill Cosby. 

               Wednesday afternoon there’s a run-through on the stage so the writers can see what’s working in the script and what isn’t.  Secretaries, interns, parents and guardians of child actors, extras and stand-ins are summoned to take up seats in the bleachers and to laugh where it’s funny.  The writer’s personalized director’s chairs hadn’t come yet so the writers sat in the back row of the stands.

              There was a scene in Geeky’s script where the doorbell rings.  Tempestt Bledsoe/Vanessa runs from the kitchen to the front door yelling, “I’ll get it!” and opens the door.  Malcolm enters.  Suddenly Bill steps out of character and yells, “Cut!  Stop the music!  Everybody hold your places.”  All eyes are on Bill.  I thought it was shocking.  The director is the only person on set ever allowed to call “Cut.”  It was a breach of show business protocol.  I held my breath wondering what would happen.  Was this the tip of the iceberg as far as Cosby’s controlling the show?  Short answer: yes.

              Bill had a serious problem.  “Is this little girl going to open the door without knowing who’s on the other side?  I gulped.  Cosby was so right, but I knew fixing this minor detail meant yet another late night rewrite.  Why?  Because, it’s not going to be simply Vanessa asking, “Who is it?” and Malcolm answering, “It’s Theo.”  That would be too easy and not funny.  It’s got to be something cute like Vanessa saying, “Who is it?”  And Theo saying, “Come on, open the door.  You know who it is.  It’s me!”  And then Vanessa might say something like, “Me who?”  And then Theo would say, “Theo, your brother.”  Then Vanessa would say, sassily, “Oh really?  You got any proof?”  Etcetera.  Add that exchange and the script will be a page too long and we’ll have to cut some lines elsewhere in the script.  With Geeky, THAT could take hours and HOURS.   

               “The WRITERS don’t have a problem with the door?”  Bill booms.

              Geeky mutters to me out of the side of his mouth, “Obviously we didn’t have a problem when we wrote it.  It’s a minor detail.  It’s a dramatic license, for Christ sakes.”  Bill doesn’t want to let it go.  He shades his eyes, squinting up into the dark bleachers.  “Somebody, turn up the lights so I can see who I’m talking to!” he yells.  BLAM!  The houselights come on.  I have a heart attack right then and there.  Geeky whispers to me, “Stand your ground, this is bull.  We’d still got the pilot to finish writing tonight.  I need some sleep.  You gotta help me out. ”   

              It gets worse.  Cosby’s voice bellows, “Will the writers who are parents please stand up.”  I want to die.  Geeky and I stand.  All heads turn to us.  “Do you let your children open the door without knowing who’s on the other side?  What about you, Legs?”  I’m dying.  Cosby already hates me twice, for my script and for Richard Pryor.  Now I’m about to dig myself another hole?  “Legs, do you let your child answer the door without asking?”  

               “Yes,” I peep, unconvincingly.  There was no time to explain that our door had a fan shaped window in the top, so we could see easily who was on the other side.  Of course my son knew not to just open the door for anybody, but Geeky was depending on me to hold the line with him against Cosby.  Cosby is now glaring at me like the bad mom and/or lying writer that I am.  ”And it’s okay with you?” he asks with great disgust.  All I could do was grin and shrug my shoulders sheepishly. 

              Next it was Geeky’s turn.  At last, Geeky will rescue me.  “How about my Executive Pro-Doocer?  Do you let your children answer the door without asking?  ” booms Bill.  Geeky says, “No sir, I don’t let them open the door ever, even to go out.  I pass them through the window, but only to people we know really well, like their grandparents.”  That gets a chuckle from everyone, including Cosby.  That leaves me standing in a steaming pile of bad parent poo.  Thank you Geeky!  “Back to the drawing board, kiddies!”  Bill says pointing at the writers.  We worked on BOTH scripts that night.  At three AM we finally finished the pilot script scenes, which were going to be filmed Friday night along with Geeky’s episode.  

              The Cosby schedule almost never improved.  Since there had been no pre-production time there was no backlog of scripts.  All of the freelance scripts needed complete re-writes.  Our scripts were typewritten which made the entire pre-computer process of assembling a daily script amazingly, fantastically, time consuming!  We could never catch up.  In our spare time, we were tasked with reading from a pile of scripts to find writers worthy of replacing us when we went back to LA after the ninth show.  We often worked all day Sunday too, and only got to quit at 4 PM because that was the deadline for Monday’s script to be typed and duplicated.   

              Wednesday’s breach of parenting ethics lead to the hiring of Dr. Alvin Poussant, Ph.D. Poussant was a psychologist and a longtime crony of Bill’s.  The good head doctor was going to review each script to make sure that it passed psychological muster.  To me the whole arrangement had the stink of censorship and I hate all censorship.  My motto is: stay away from experts or they will SUCK the comedy out of your script.  In my experience there’s no greater comedy-killer than psychologists.  Putting a shrink on the payroll meant we were going to do more than entertain.  It meant we were going to TEACH.  Reverend Cosby wants to sell his code of ethics to as large an audience as possible.  The sitcom is his forum.  

              Bill wanted to show the TV audience THIS is the proper way to live.  If you have these Huxtable morals and standards, you will lead a good, purposeful life.  Cosby was doling out life lessons, just like Garry Marshall did on Happy Days and Tony Randall did on all his shows.  The Cosby pilot was the perfect example:  Cleo and Cliff are in the bedroom.  The son tells the father he plans to drop out of school.  Bill sets Theo straight with a funny money demo.  If that didn’t get the message across, Cliff says, “I brought you into the world and I’ll take you out!”  The father says essentially, “I will kill you if you drop out of school and become a bum.”  That was Bill’s message to youth and I couldn’t agree more. 

              The TV Guide article came out about the first Cosby cast reading.  The writer described Korby and me as the “slack-jawed writers” reacting with shock to Cosby’s trashing our script.  I guess it was some sort of vindication.

              After we got home, Tom and Marcy invited us to the Cosby wrap party at the LA Museum of Science and Industry, to a Cosby Emmy party at the David Geffen Theater, and to a slew of Cosby related events.  Months later I visited the gorgeously remodeled NBC Studios in Brooklyn.  Besides putting in new beautiful offices, they had a professional kitchen with a chef cooking healthy lunches and dinners for the writers.  I finally got to meet one of our replacement writers -- a guy I like to think I had helped discover from a pile of scripts on Marcy’s desk.  I had read his off-Broadway play. With a name like Matt Williams, I was sure Cosby would finally get his wish and have an excellent black writer.  He got an excellent writer, albeit white.  Best of all Bill was more than gracious when he spotted his old friend “Legs.”  He said he didn’t know I was leaving till I was already gone.  I guess that’s an example of the deep separation between Stage and Writer’s Room.  I was relieved Reverend Cosby still had a little Jell-O left in him.   

“The Cosby Show” was a milestone for women in sitcoms.  We had a female executive producer and female line producer, plus two women writers (although technically, as partners, we were only counted as one person).  I felt like women were finally making it in sitcom.  One day on stage I noticed our producer, Caryn Mandabach, was missing.  I asked around and someone told me she had her baby yesterday.  “Oh.”  A little while later I spotted Caryn walking around on stage and she was still big as a house.  “Oh Caryn, you’re here.  Some idiot just told me you had your baby.”  And Caryn said, “I did, yesterday.  He’s up in the stands with his nurse.”  Caryn waved to a smiling toothless black lady in a white uniform.  The lady waved back while holding a teeny, tiny one-day old baby.  ONE DAY!?  ONE DAY?!  And she’s back to work, like she skipped work yesterday in order to get her roots touched up?  What was the world of working women coming to?  
              (The day after I gave birth I was still in the hospital, walking bowlegged while straddling an industrial strength sanitary pad the size of a canoe.  My hair was in a point.  I was exhausted, stressed and so overwhelmed it lead to a case of post-partum depression so severe it lasted for eighteen years!  Did I rush back to work?  I did not.  I took six months.) 

              My generation of working women accepted the old Ginger Rodgers dictum that said to get ahead women had to do what men did “backwards and in high heels.”  This was my 12th year in show biz.  Caryn represented a new generation of Hollywood working women.  She couldn’t take a few days off to have a baby?  Now we’re supposed to give birth in the field, tie the umbilical cord with our teeth and go back to picking cotton?  What the hell!  If Caryn set the new standard, I couldn’t compete.  I had neither the stamina nor the ambition, but Caryn did.  Eventually it paid off to the tune of three hundred million dollars when “The Cosby Show” was sold into syndication.  No one can say she didn’t earn it.

Saturday, September 06, 2014