Interview with Andrew
Here is an interview with Andrew, done by Nahan Chandrashekar of the Hollywood Artists Group on 8/1/2004.
NC: You are a TV historian and connoisseur of classic television. How did all this get started for you?
AR: It was 10 years ago, almost to the day. I remember the date well because two months before, the O.J. Simpson murders happened. Anyhow, I saw a Columbia House ad on TV for All in the Family. My own family never had cable TV when I was growing up, and I was anxious to see episodes of that series again. When I got the tape, I watched it and really longed to see more classic TV. I also bought some CD recordings from Columbia House around the same time. When they ship your merchandise, they always include many flyers for other stuff they're offering. So here was this flyer for Twilight Zone—four episodes for $4.95 + shipping. I mailed in the coupon and got the first tape in their Collectors Edition series. I was impressed by the four episodes on the tape, but not taken by storm. Then six weeks later, they sent the second tape which had the famous episode "The After Hours", starring Anne Francis. I was hooked immediately—on Twilight Zone, anyhow. I never thought I'd meet Anne or have an opportunity to say 'thanks for hooking me,' but eight years later I finally did.
NC: So, you did not grow up on classic TV.
AR: No. My parents didn't pick up cable TV until I was about 20 and in college. They moved to a huge new house and finally decided that since I was grown and out of the house, that they'd get it for themselves. After I saw I Love Lucy, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, The Bob Newhart Show, and all those shows I'd missed in reruns, I was pretty appalled at what I'd missed. Discovering all that old TV was a true joy—like finding a hundred dollar bill in a garbage can. I didn't know that there were so many great stories out there on the dial and I thought such fine writing and acting could only be found in old movies.
NC: But your first big plunge into that world of classic TV was not with Twilight Zone, it was with Mary Tyler Moore, a series that I hate to say has not stood the test of time quite as well.
AR: That's right. TV Guide did one of their numerous polls recently and put The Zone at number 8, leaving out Andy Griffith and many other shows that have cult followings. Of course, Star Trek was placed at No. 1 … sad but true. And yeah, I didn't get right into Twilight Zone even though it was the first series I 'discovered.' I suppose my big interest in Mary Tyler Moore spawned because there were no web sites on it. And there still aren't, really! Twilight Zone has an abundance of websites … even run by Japanese and Italian fans. Another story—on a rainy Saturday in November 1996, I went to my college campus bookstore and bought Mary's autobiography. I was very taken by the frankness with which she wrote about her life and at that point, I started watching all the episodes of her sitcom.
NC: Have you ever met her or any of the other cast?
AR: No. I haven't met Mary and I doubt I will. There was some stuff that arose between her and myself … indirectly, in 2002. I think it stemmed from her dislike that I built a site on the show that has her name in the title. I was actually accused, by her attorney, of "diluting her trade name." Can you imagine?! I also wanted to create some merchandise having to do with the show, and that project came to an abrupt halt. Some of these older actors have only their past to live on … I'm just surprised that she and her lawyer didn't think about the words 'free speech' before they contacted me. I didn't get sued or anything, and the site is still up at www.mtmshow.com (Addendum 2006: www.mtmshow.com was sold off to a third party). I met Ed Asner earlier this year. What a class act, what a man. Very humble and unassuming, Ed is. I met Cloris Leachman a few years ago when doing an interview for TV Land. She's nice and supremely talented. I was excited when Lifetime asked me to contribute to the Intimate Portrait they did on her life. I didn't really have too much to contribute other than a few old photos of her that I had sitting around, plus a little info about her work on the MTM Show, but the credit was nice! I see Cloris walking her dog in Westwood sometimes, stopping to talk to strangers. I hope to meet Valerie Harper and Gavin MacLeod before too long. They both have tons of raw talent, like Cloris.
NC: You said that you first got into her show in 1996 and your site didn't come around until 1999.
AR: Right. March of '99 was when I put the site online. I had no computer until then. In the intervening span of years, I watched a whole slew of old TV shows including the ones mentioned earlier.
NC: What was your first credit?
AR: I got a mentioning in the acknowledgements section of the second edition of "The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book" by Vince Waldron in 2000.
NC: And you have this other website now?
AR: TwilightZoneMuseum.com was built just after the 2002 Twilight Zone Convention. It's not as big a site, just devoted to the latest in TZ history.
NC: Why did you work so hard to do the Twilight Zone Conventions?
AR: Because no one else had ever dared do one. Creation Entertainment (the company that does the Star Trek/Farscape/Xena conventions) for some reason never tried "Twilight Zone". There's also the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation, based in New York, but because they're back east, it would have been difficult for them to get it going. My good friend Bill DeVoe had the idea of doing a "Zone" themed cruise, but it fell through for budgetary reasons. In 2000, he contacted a number of TZ actors and a lot of them were interested. So, when we called them up in 2001, they were already primed and ready for a bonafide autograph show in the LA area. And we were lucky enough to fill the ballroom at the Beverly Garland Holiday Inn with 60 celebrities in 2002 and again in 2004.
NC: How do you get the celebrities to come?
AR: We know many of them—and they all travel in the same circle. The Internet has
helped a lot—a good number have websites. The actors who we get in touch with
come to trust us. We're very nice guys … unlike most show coordinators, we
aren't about making money off of their presence at the show. How do we get
so many actors? Well, one actor knows 'so and so,' who knows 'so and so',
and it carries on from there. We do sometimes have to go through agents, which
is often difficult since agents do one thing - they get paying jobs for their clients.
Of course, our event does pay...I know at our show in 2002, there were actors
who pulled in $1500 or more in a single day. But here's the rub—the agent gets none of
the cut, and that's why they tell us that "shows like yours aren't good for actors."
Whatever that means.
Anyhow, it certainly beats sitting at home reading
a newspaper and drinking coffee on a Saturday morning. You'd be surprised how genuinely nice
many of these old actors are … and they're easy to be nice to. The fans often
know more details about their work than the actors themselves! A lot of stars are uneasy
about doing shows, though. They walk into them with both eyes open, and then
no one comes over to their table to buy a signed picture. It can be humiliating
if the star is self-conscious. But our shows have had more of the flavor of
reunions, not conventions. They're like reunions of actors who haven't seen
each other in 20 years or more.
NC: Do you ever face problems, or is it pretty smooth-sailing?
AR: Oh, there are tons of problems, but not ones that can't be handled. Like any demanding job, there are bumps all along the road. We've had a few celebrities who got bitter before the shows and backed out for various reasons related to us not paying them for attending. We had about five or six people try to hone in on what we were doing and tried to make our show into 'their show.' Coming up with the money to advertise the event appropriately was tough too, and despite the amount we spent, we could've done even more PR.
NC: Add to all of this that you did NONE of it for money and you were a college student when you started your TV ventures?
AR: By the time we planned the TZ shows and whatnot, I was out of college. I got a B.S. degree in chemistry in 1999 from the fine Chem Department at Oregon State University. I worked for two years at a small Japanese-owned chemical company in Portland Oregon. It was a very easy job, but low-paying. They were giving their PhDs about $20 an hour, so you can imagine what I was getting with only a bachelor's degree. Then I took a job at a local hospital, and that lasted another year before I decided to move to LA. To answer the second half of the question, well … sometimes it's not all about the lettuce. I've gotten some money recently for the convention, and other related projects. But I've done tons of interviews on radio and in person for free, and given material to producers to use in their TV specials. It's more or less a loving contribution! The conventions happened because we took the bull by the horns and said 'we're going to do this.'
NC: So which is your favorite medium, scifi or comedy?
AR: Comedy. I don't know much about sci-fi really. Rod Serling was always the first to tell everyone that Twilight Zone was not a sci-fi show. And indeed, it wasn't. There were sometimes elements of it, because Serling himself did like sci-fi. He was big into Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and others. But Twilight Zone is about fantasy and the extraordinary. Ordinary people in extraordinary situations. But comedy is my first love.
NC: Who are your favorite comedians?
AR: Don Knotts and Lucille Ball. No one has ever come close to those two non-pariels. But I also enjoy the work of Doris Roberts, Tim Conway, Art Carney, Jack Klugman, Carol Burnett. They're all geniuses in my book. Klugman and Burnett did Twilight Zone episodes … actually, Klugman did four of them. He was just that good—he could do comedy, drama, anything, equally well. And he's still working! Cloris Leachman, as well. She's another one who can do *anything*. Of more recent and younger comedians—Chris Rock, David Spade, Megan Mullally. I'm still having a hard time coming to terms with John Ritter's death. He was right up there with the best of them.
NC: Wasn't The Truman Show based on a Twilight Zone episode?
AR: Yes, along with a cadre of other movies that were done in the spirit of certain TZ episodes. Truman was based on the episode "A World of Difference" by Richard Matheson. Poltergeist was also a take-off on another Matheson episode.
NC: Have you youself gotten any recognition as The Twilight Zone person, kind of like Burgess Meredith did in that one episode about the hydrogen bomb?
AR: (Laughs) I don't take much credit for what I've done. I've gotten some props and kudos from celebrities who came to the conventions, and I appreciate them. I had lunch with an older actor recently who was in the original series. The lunch was my attempt to get him to participate in the convention. He didn't want to at first, then ultimately agreed. He introduced me to a couple people as "Andrew, producer of The Twilight Zone!" That was funny. Another lady asked, "Are you Andrew of The Twilight Zone?" That killed me too. I'm just trying to keep Rod Serling's flames lit. Jeez, I wish that guy hadn't been a smoker. And I wish TV networks weren't so sadistic. They worked Rod way too hard. He'd still be here. Every person I've ever met, with the exception of a couple writers who were transparently jealous of his talent and success, has attested to the fact that Serling was one of a kind—that his genius almost bubbled out like a geyser. The great writer Earl Hamner of The Waltons fame remarked that Rod almost "levitated" … that's how enthusiastic he was about his career.
NC: Talk a bit about your book that is being released later this year. You mentioned to me earlier that it took some effort to get it done!
AR: Let me start by saying that I never imagined, in a million zillion years,
that I would ever get *anything* published. I've never considered myself
a writer, although writing comes naturally for me. I never took any
A.P. English classes in high school, have only read a scant few of the
great literary works, and I scored only 50% on the SAT-V section.
I was good at math, not at analyzing literary works.
In college, I took four writing courses, all of which were a complete waste
of time. You can't teach writing. You either have it or you don't,
and those who do 'have it' are obligated to go back and constantly
rewrite and improve upon what already may be pretty good. But I'm digressing.
I'm publishing 10 scripts from Twilight Zone that were written by other writers. By 'other', I mean that these weren't written by Serling or any of the writers he employed regularly. One of my writer friends, Chris Conlon, suggested I do it. I asked him why no one had published any of these 'unsung' scripts. In fact, I asked him the question for like two years. Finally one day he said to me, "Andrew, I wonder why you don't quit asking me about this and just do it yourself?" Thanks, Chris, for getting me off my ass!! I only wrote about 10% of the page count - the scripts are framed by my commentary about the stories and the writers who penned them. So, it's a showcasing of *their* work, not mine.
I shopped the idea around to a few publishers, two of whom immediately said 'no' because Ray Bradbury didn't want his three TZ scripts published. He's got his reasons; maybe someday they'll be in another compilation. There was another lady whose late husband wrote three scripts, and she wanted some exorbitant amount like $1500 for *each* of them. So we didn't buy them. All of the other heirs and three still-living writers agreed to our proposed fee. My publisher is Bear Manor Media, Inc. Ben Ohmart, the president, and I have very similar tastes in old and forgotten TV and radio. I will always be grateful that he picked up "Forgotten Gems from The Twilight Zone", which will be released in two volumes. The content of the book is much the same as many script books—the scripts, plus commentary on them and biographical information on the writers.
NC: I see a violin over there in the corner. You play?
AR: Since I was 9. I started out in a grade school music class where about 40 kids played stringed instruments. That was in fourth grade. By the next year (fifth grade), all but me and six girls had quit. By the sixth grade, I was taking private lessons and in the eighth grade I got into the Portland Youth Philharmonic. The PYP is the oldest youth orchestra in the world (founded in 1923), and was at one time, considered the finest. Maybe it still is. I played in there through high school and I still practice a lot when I can. Right now I'm learning an interesting and difficult concerto by Prokofiev that I actually have wanted to learn since 1991 but only now feel like I have the technique required to play it!
NC: Wasn't he the one who wrote "Peter and the Wolf"?
AR: That's him! Well, he wrote the music, not the story. I think the story is about 300 years old!
NC: Do you ever write your own music?
AR: Nope. I tried a few times, but never was able to make much of my musical ideas. Maybe I'll try again when I'm 50. I've transcribed a few things for violin that were written for other instruments - perhaps I'll try doing an arrangement of a Celine Dion song from Titanic or Howard Shore's music from Lord of the Rings!
NC: You moved to Los Angeles last year. Where did you relocate from?
AR: It's great—everything happens here. I am still trying to get used to the traffic, though. I wish everyone would drive as fast as I do! I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. Green grass, but nothing happens there...except that they have a great symphony orchestra.
NC: Where did you live when you first got here?
AR: At a friend's apartment. I slept on the couch until I got a job that would pay the rent on my own place. That seems to be the way it goes for every person coming to LA from out of the area who wants to get into showbiz!
NH: Are you into current media as much as the old stuff?
AS: A friend got me liking Will and Grace. It's a fairly risque show, but great writing, and that's what I like. They also have a good ensemble of actors—like an ensemble of musicians playing a piece of music, actors have to work closely with each other to make a script work. I never liked Friends or Everybody Loves Raymond—that's not to say that the acting was bad, but the writing wasn't good. To quote the great Burgess Meredith, "you can't do anything unless the possibilities are there." The script has to be interesting, above all. It isn't usually funny unless the material itself is at least somewhat interesting. I'm into a couple live radio shows—I HIGHLY recommend The Phil Hendrie Show to anyone who even remotely has a sense of humour. I've never laughed so hard in my life at some of his material and I hope Phil really hits it big sometime soon. He belongs on the big screen. Movies - I usually wait for them to get released on DVD now. I don't like movie theaters (the ambience, I mean) and I don't like critics. Like I always say, 'make your own decisions about what is good or bad.' I consider Lost in Translation one of the five worst movies I've ever seen, yet there are those who consider it a great work of art. When I first came to LA, I found myself going to a lot of movies. I went to see about twelve pictures within a four week period. Of those I've seen recently, I enjoyed Return of the King, House of Sand and Fog, Mystic River and In America. I recently met Sean Penn's mother, who was in a TZ episode, and although she's taken the compliment about a million times by now, I told her just how much his performance in Mystic River meant to me. I'm not usually a big complimenter, but that was special. Awards are just awards—they don't mean much and someone more deserving usually gets overlooked. But Penn deserved that trophy from the Academy. I also like what Kevin Smith has done. He writes and directs his own flicks. He's a remarkably insightful and intelligent person. Dogma (his 1999 indie movie that spoofs religion) is one of my all time faves. I didn't see it until four years after it was released, but its accuracy and humor blew me away. He also casts his movies very well, but he's overused Ben Affleck and now needs to write a film for Jason Lee or his talented 'hetero lifemate' Jason Mewes. The Coen Brothers have also done some nice stuff—Fargo kicks ass—top 10 American movies of all time, no doubt about it. It'd be cool to meet them sometime.
NH: What is next for you?
AS: No more conventions, that's for sure! Been there, done that. I will continue my job as producer. I'm doing stuff with DVD documentaries now, which is what I've wanted to do for a long time. I also see myself working closely with actors in the future—not as an agent, but perhaps as a publicist. And I'll keep the websites going as long as I can. Anyone out there who can help me with that?!! But most importantly, I am trying to keep an anti-Hollywood attitude and not get swept up into the impersonal, breakneck-paced lifestyle. There should always be time to stop and smell … whatever it is one enjoys smelling.