Background: as I once said to Ben Franklin, "Life is like a fountain." He looked at me with a confused expression. I quickly ran to the outhouse before he asked me to explain. That is a good policy for life. Tell them you suddenly have to relieve yourself and then run. That will save you a lot of explanation.
Seriously, I wasn't born in 1776 but I think I would have enjoyed it more. I was born in 1927 in a lovely city called Cernauti in Romania. The "t" had a little virgula under it making the pronunciation "tz." Hang with me, I'll teach you geography and history.
Mother was born there when it was a cultural center of Eastern Austria and called Czernowitz. After WW I Romania took over the province of Bukovina or Bukowina or Bucovina (Eastern Europe has flexible spelling) and Czernowitz became Cernauti. When WW II started, Stalin held a gun to King Carol's head and took Bessarabia (which is now Moldova) as well as the northern part of Bucovina including Czernowitz and renamed it something Slavic sounding which the Ukrainians inherited and now they call it Chernivtsi, may they all rot in hell, particularly Putin.
My grandmother was the top couturiere of Eastern Austria and built a 20 room mansion in which I was born. Our former Romanian houseboy had been sent to school by the Romanian Communists after WW II and visited our old home in the 1960s to discover that fifty filthy people lived in it. He informed that none of the walls had been painted or washed since before the war. Dirt was Communism's religion.
I grew up in Canada but moved to the U.S. in my early twenties and took out U.S. citizenship. At this point I carry both U.S. and Canadian passports. I vote in both countries but please don't blame me for the terrible administrations we've had in these countries in recent history. I always vote for losers.
My motivation to become a writer was the same John D. Rockefeller's motivation to get into the oil patch - money. As an infant I wanted to become a cowboy like Tom Mix or the Lone Ranger. Then I reasoned that I might get shot if I lived that kind of life but if I became an actor, I could play cowboys and the bullets would be blanks, so I favored acting.
In my teens I got into summer stock theater and did very well. At the same time I joined a radio drama group at a local radio stations and decided that the dramas they used from Radio Writers' Laboratory in Lancaster, PA, were not very good. I felt I could write better and more entertaining plays and thus I started writing radio dramas and comedies.
RWL was happy to have me on board. They syndicated these plays and quick sales encouraged me to continue. Later I enrolled at Lorne Greene's Academy of Radio Arts with the likes of Leslie Nielsen, etc., from where I graduated with honors and then I worked in a number of small town radio stations as a DJ and newscaster and general announcer. I did my very first radio network drama with Leslie who introduced me to all the greats in radio in those last golden days of radio drama.
Another Lorne Greene grad and I corresponded while we worked the tank town stations and when we both got back to Toronto he called to tell me that I had comedy writing talent and that I should feel honored because that assessment had come from the country's greatest authority on humor.
I was charmed and asked who that authority was. He confided it was he. When I laughed he became angry. He was serious about that. We tried developing radio comedy shows but made little progress. An ad agency man suggested we develop a show for a new young man who had come to town who seemed to have some potential. His name was Monty Hall. I recorded my first radio commercial with Monty.
At one point, the head of radio at Toronto's Young & Rubicam, then the world's biggest ad agency called to offer me a job. I asked what he wanted me to do? He said to write and produce commercials. I said I do takeoffs on commercials, then he mentioned the money. The salary. That filthy lucre, moola, d'argent, gelt that so many people kill for. I asked, "Every week?" And he said yes, and that's how I started a career as an ad man. I ended up in New York and in Boston and Chicago and L.A. and quickly hit it big as Vice President creative on America's biggest TV spot account working with names such as Jackie Gleason and Art Carney and Zsa Zsa Gabor etc., etc.
Of course I skipped a lot of details even up to this point. I had worked as a farmer and stevedore and actor-writer-director-producer in theater, radio, TV and films. During my Madison Avenue days I became very active as a songwriter and publisher and records producer with over 40 releases on most major labels such as Columbia, RCA Victor, London, Decca, Baton, Sunbeam, on and on.
I can't afford to give you too much detail because I'm in the process of writing my bio in a collection of diary notes segueing to mini memoirs titled "On and On and On..."
I've sold a number of screenplays, none produced, and am currently in development with half a dozen feature films that are structured for maximum crossover potential in markets in which Hollywood has yet to make a dent.
Rain Books, in the fall of 2007 published a book adaptation of one of these, "Dangerous Days."
I left Madison Avenue some years ago for all sorts of entrepreneuring. This should be obvious to you. The contemporary ad campaigns, particularly in TV are pathetic. I explain my modus operandi as being a slave to interesting ideas. Some of these ideas left their marks. I developed the grandfather of the music video without which MTV could never have been launched and ditto for BET. And I developed the original concept for the Vacation Time Share which caught on quickly and became a multi-billion dollar industry in 18 months.
That should keep you. Excuse me, I now have to run to the bathroom.