Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Used to Work Next Door to Jerry Seinfeld

Lately, I've been watching Seinfeld. I have all 9 seasons in a collectors edition (and I watch reruns) so it's easy. I usually start with Season 3 where things really get going (in my opinion) and go to 9 and back again. Watching the show reminds me of the time I spend working at CBS Studio Center in Studio City, California. I was variously a receptionist, a writer's assistant, and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason's (Designing Women, Evening Shade) assistant when I worked for Mozark Productions in Room 104 in Bldg. 5.

Next door was the Seinfeld office, always a hive of activity. But at that time, ironically, I know, I wasn't a big fan like I am now. In fact, I ran into Jerry one day and introduced myself and told him that my sister and brother-in-law loved his show. Not me, them! Over time, I had various photos and books, like Seinlanguage autographed by Jerry to send home to my sister. Since I didn't watch the show all the time, I also got her a Master of My Domain sweatshirt because I missed that episode! When my mother came to visit she went to see the now iconic show, "The Contest."

I never made it over to a shoot, I did see them film "The Butter Shave" up on the roof and scenes at the "movie theater" which was the administration building on the lot. They used that building for a doctor's office and even put an ATM machine there, I think.  Even, the back of my apartment building just a block over was featured in the first two episodes of Season 4 when Jerry, George and Kramer head to Hollywood!

Over at Mozark, we were in our own hive of activity. Harry Thomason and Linda were a fantastic team and great, I mean GREAT bosses. We did our work, whatever needed doing, answering phones, typing scripts, running errands on the lot with little, if any, supervision. And there was food everywhere, in the office, on the set (the craft service table) and a catered meal the night we would shoot! Plus the work was FUN and being on set was really cool. I couldn't wait to see what the set decorators would come up with next. They created worlds within worlds every week.

Of course, at Seinfeld they were breaking ground and shooting all over the place. In the beginning they shot outside scenes in front of this little set behind the commissary. As the show got more popular CBS, actually built a fake section of the Upper East Side in NYC for them to use. Pretty cool, indeed.  

In the meantime, I was working on breaking into sitcom writing. Everyone was writing spec scripts back then, and I'm sure they are now, although the business has changed in many ways with reality programming. I even was accepted into the Warner Bros. Writer's Workshop which was a great experience. I also worked on an unproduced pilot called Diamond Lane and wrote the narration for The Giant of Thunder Mountain, a kid's film.

One day my friend, John, came down from San Francisco and I took him around the lot. We of course, stopped at the Seinfeld set. This is blurry since I took a photo of the original with my iPhone but it you squint you can see me in the Seinfeld kitchen in Season 4. At the time this saying was on the fridge: Think, Think Again, What do You Think? Just Think! I think it's good advice when making any decision. Thanks Jerry!

I worked in LA from 1992 to 1998 when I moved home to start my freelance writing business and eventually moved into non-fiction books and then mysteries. It was a long time ago but the memories still give me a warm feeling inside. TV is a business like no other and the friends I made remain to this day. My friend Allen Crowe is Linda's writing assistant besides being an amazing writer and playwright. Another, Pat Barnett, is an accomplished editor on shows like Everyone Loves Raymond. Good Friends...Good Times...

Do you have a favorite episode of Seinfeld?


Rosemary Harris said...

I don't remember what I was doing when Seinfeld first aired on television, but I've finally seen a bunch of them. I always like the Elaine episodes, E hating the English Patient was funny, but thought the ones when George worked for the Yankees were a hoot. Wasn't there one where he promised to buy calzone and he sends Kramer to the pizza place and K's hand gets stuck in the tip jar? Something like that...

Linda O. Johnston said...

I admit that I never saw the Seinfeld show on TV, Chrystle. I did see him in person at a shareholders' meeting for the Baron Fund a few years ago. The entertainer who was supposed to be there was ill in another country, so fund executive Ron Baron talked to his mother who lives in the same apartment complex as Seinfeld's mother--and the two moms conspired to get Seinfeld there in a big hurry! Delightful event, BTW.

Betty Hechtman said...

I saw CBS Studio Center from a different point of view. A long time ago, we lived a few blocks away. I was working for the phone company as an O operator. What a job to end up with after getting a degree in fine arts!

We got all of their calls. And Universal's and assorted well known people's. Sometimes they just called O because they were lonely.

Chrystle Fiedler said...

I loved the Elaine episodes too Rosemary, like the Sponge and the English Patient. In the calzone one George buys the calzones for George Steinbrenner so they have face time. When he gets his hand stuck in the tip jar (he took his tip out so he could put it back in and the guy would see), he's banned and Kramer has to go with his pants full of change!

That's funny that the mothers got Seinfeld there, Linda. Sounds like a Seinfeld episode!

Betty, I lived on Hoffman Street so must have been close to was great because I could walk to work!