March 17, 2018
Hello out there!
I hope you’re all doing well, and enjoying these last few, fleeting days of winter.
(Or summer if you’re down under.)
I miss you all. I don’t like being out of touch for this long.
Still, I’ve written some fun stuff for the book since my last Newsletter, so I feel good about that.
(It’s a super nostalgic time for me right now. I’m enjoying re-capturing the Preps’ night club and Vegas adventures with stories about folks like Liberace, Streisand, Louie Prima & Keely Smith, Milton Berle, The Rat Pack and the Smothers Brothers.)
I get into some pretty bizarre and outrageous things that happen in that anything-goes world and I think folks will find it interesting.
But for me, the down side of writing a book is having to spend so much time ALONE.
I’m a people person, I admit it.
So, now and then, I’ll take a short break, crawl out of my man cave and head down to the super market where I can mix with other humans and, maybe even talk to one in the aisle.
“Scuze me…do you happen to see Grey Poupon mustard on the shelf anywhere?…” I’m probably looking right at it.
“Oh yeah… sure ‘nuff. Thanks a lot! Beautiful day isn’t it ?”
(In these sensitive times I’m very careful how I say that and to whom.)
“Attention shoppers… pervert on aisle 7!”
Or maybe I’ll drop off a few things at the dry cleaners and chat with the nice Asian lady who owns it and calls me, “Mister Bruce.”
On the wall opposite the front counter, she’s actually hung a framed and faded 1957 eight by ten of the Four Preps from her years as a teenage fan in Hong Kong.
(Every time I look at it I can’t believe I was ever that young.)
O.K. Enough about that.
Point is, I miss you and thought I’d get in touch briefly and send along a smallish book excerpt and then conduct a fun little quiz like on a game show.
After all, I did produce a few of those myself including “Name That Tune” and “Truth or Consequences” and, oh yeah… developed “Wheel of Fortune” while an exec at N.B.C.
Who knew it would be such a hit?!?
(Actually, Merv Griffin was positive it would be when he first pitched me the idea at the network! Lots more about Merv and “Wheel” in the book.)
But for now, here’s an excerpt about the Preps...
Glib Glen meets Rigid Rodgers
It’s early in 1958.
Glen Larson and I have been close friends since grammar school, and he’s now my partner in the Four Preps and the guy with whom I will write “26 Miles,” “Big Man,” “Down by the Station” and all our other hits.
When I first talk to him at age twelve on the playground at West Hollywood Grammar School, I can quickly sense that he’s as high energy, driven and ambitious as I am.
Ambitious?! At twelve?
Since 4, I’ve known I want to be a singer.
Does Glen know at age twelve that he wants to be a producer?
Well, on weekends he stages plays in his garage with neighborhood kids acting out scripts he’s collected in his wagon from the dumpsters behind N.B.C. at Sunset and Vine.
That’s’ a good 10 mile round trip… on foot, pulling a wagon.
And from that humble beginning, after our golden years together in the Preps, Glen will go on to become one of television’s most prolific Producers creating shows like, “Knight Rider,” “Magnum P.I.,” “The Fall Guy” and “Battle Star Galactica.”
(In recent years, he claimed bitterly that he wasn’t allowed enough participation in the re-birth of “Battlestar.” Which, incidentally, for a great many complicated reasons, had not
been a hit when Glen was in charge. An irony that did not
As for his contribution to the success of the Preps, Glen is a fine baritone, which in the Preps’ harmonic set up is the most difficult part to sing because, as group singers know, the baritone gets stuck with whatever notes are left in the chord once the other guys stake their claim on the easier intervals.
I never hear Glen sing out of tune or miss a note.
And, as the Preps spokesman, he always sets up my goofiness perfectly which is obvious if you listen on YouTube to any of the comedy routines from our live concert albums.
Nonetheless, later in his life he will refer to his years in the Preps as “a lucky accident” and “an amazing detour” from his ultimate career goal.
He’s my biggest fan during our 13 years performing together, and keeps telling me, “I’m just a straight man for you… you’re a white Sammy Davis Jr!”
What can I tell ya? Glen liked his beer.
In our days at HHS, we run on the school relay team. He passes the baton to me and I run anchor.
We’re cheerleaders together. Double date for our high school proms.
We will go on to have daughters born mere weeks apart who become good friends.
And biggest deal of all… we buy our first guitars together.
Mine is currently on display at the gorgeous, new eleven million dollar Catalina Museum in Avalon.
By the way, if you’re ever in So Cal, do spend some time on Catalina and check out that magnificent museum with displays about the island’s colorful history from fossils of early Indians to a secret WWII submarine base and spy training compound and visits by everyone from Winston Churchill to Marilyn Monroe and George Harrison.
Sorry for the digression… I’m Catalina’s biggest cheerleader and was actually crowned (with a kayak paddle) by her honor Ann Marshall, the mayor of Avalon as… wait a minute… this is embarrassing… I always say it wrong...
O.K., “Official Worldwide Ambassador of Goodwill for the Island of Romance.”
It’s a great honor that I truly cherish but unfortunately, I don’t get diplomatic license plates, so it’s no help in avoiding parking tickets.
Back to Mr. Larson.
Even in high school Glen has an edgy, sometimes sardonic sense of humor and as our popularity—and his confidence—grow—he becomes absolutely fearless about using it.
Case in point… our first Ed Sullivan show.
The very slow, very creaky elevator in the ageing Ed Sullivan theater, is roughly the size of a phone booth.
It crawls to our floor and opens to reveal two well-dressed gentlemen already inside.
Glen and I wedge our way in, the door closes and the four of us move slowly down in cramped and awkward silence.
Then we realize the two men standing next to us are Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
They will be guests on tonight’s show promoting the opening of the film version of “South Pacific.”
I can’t believe we are literally rubbing shoulders with these two giants of Broadway theater.
I’m speechless, which is rare for me.
But wise guy Glen isn’t.
He looks over at me, winks, then turns to the two of them and boasts, “We write, too, ya know!”
Hammerstein, who’s a mensch, can’t suppress a big smile and soft chuckle.
Rodgers however, looks straight ahead with absolutely no expression.
Shyness is not Glen’s strong suit.
And humor is not Rodgers’s.
End of excerpt. The book goes on with stories about Richard Rodgers’ dark side, his misfire with Alan Jay Lerner, and my connection to Rodgers’ grand piano.
Plus a whole lot more about Glen—and another original Prep, Ed Cobb, who will go on to be cited three times in the Guinness Book of World Records for writing and producing his rock and roll classics (“Tainted Love,” “Every Little Bit Hurts,” etc.), and breeding champion quarter horses.
Not to brag, cause some times we were brash, pushy stubborn and “too big for our britches,” but we were
hungry, ambitious, ballsy guys.
No wonder it finally happened for us!
O.K. So much for the excerpt.
Now it’s time to conduct the fun little quiz I promised you.
Five.. four… three… two… one.
The red light comes on and we’re now on the air.
“So now Johnny, how ‘bout telling our contestants what they’ll be playing for?”
“It’s ‘26 Miles!’” (cue audience applause cut to pic of CD)
A brand new, grand deluxe, super-duper custom Four Preps CD. That’s right folks, CDs are still around and you could be the lucky winner of an autographed copy of “26 Miles” featuring the title song plus 15 other classic summer and beach favorites like: “Jamaica Farewell,” “Memories Are Made of This,” “Love Letters in the sand,” “Lazy Summer Night,” “Graduation Day,” “The Things We Did Last Simmer” and “Quiet Nights.”
Here’s how to play.
Take a look at the object pictured below and identify what it is:
Hint: Don’t jump to conclusions...
have something to do with show business.
All you music lovers send your answer to:
Let’s say you’ve got… hmmm… let’s make it two weeks to submit your guess.
First 25 to correctly identify the mystery object will win that autographed CD.
So there you go with your challenge.
I just thought I’d knock off a quick one and see if any of you can come up with the correct answer.
I hope you have fun figuring it out.
(Good Lord. These days your smart phone can probably I.D. anything.)
Can’t wait for your guesses.
That’s all for now.
It’s great to re-connect.
I’ll be back with you soon.
Till then, take care of yourself and each other.
And let me hear from you.