Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Pheaturing Rob Burnett

What's up, kids? Welcome to the Phile for a Tuesday. How are you? Here's an inspirational quote to get you through the workday: "If you think your boss is stupid, remember: you wouldn't have a job if he was any smarter." -John Gotti. Thank goodness for dumb bosses and an hilariously awesome time-wasting blog like this one. Anything to keep us from doing any actual work today, am I right? There's no way to make the clock move any faster, but I can make you watch while you wait.
The college cheating scandal has filled the place in our hearts that has been left empty with the lack of a third Fyre Festival documentary. The tale of rich people finally facing crimes has the perfect origin story: a rich person trying to face less consequences for his crimes. The bust of the college cheating crime ring has a perfect origin story. The Wall Street Journal reports that the authorities first heard about this massive fraud operation from Morrie Tobin, a Los Angeles financier who was implicated in a different white-collar crime, and offered the tip about College Cheatgate in a plea for mercy. The bust of the college cheating crime ring has a perfect origin story. LinkedIn Tobin was cornered by the feds for his alleged involvement in a pump and dump scheme, which is that thing when finance guys submit false reports to artificially inflate the value of a stock and then selling it off to make bank. To try and get off easy for that crime, Tobin tipped the FBI off on the other one: the massive fraud operation that facilities rich kids paying bribes to get their kids into elite schools by pretending to be athletes (the "Aunt Becky") and/or cheat on the SAT (the "Huffman-Macy.") Tobin told the feds that Rudy Meredith, the recently indicted ex-Yale soccer coach, solicited a $450,000 bribe in exchange for getting Tobin's daughter into Yale as an "athletic recruit." He led the feds to William "Rick" Singer, the mastermind behind the whole operation, and it kicked off a ten-month investigation that ensnared such figures as Felicity Huffman and Aunt Becky. Tobin was not charged in Operation Varsity Blues, but is awaiting sentencing after taking a plea deal in his pump and dump case. After Tobin lead the feds the head of Aunt Becky, the judge is sure to.... have mercy.
The college cheating scandal is the best thing that has happened to lovers of schadenfreude since the Fyre Festival and the ripple effects keep on rippling. Both "Fuller House" and the Hallmark Channel... the more wholesome Lifetime of which Lori Loughlin is queen... have cut ties with the actress, as a federal indictment kind of spoils the family fun. "Garage Sale Mysteries" will never be the same. Fear not, "When Calls The Heart" fans: the "Heart" will go on, just without Aunt Becky. There are other characters, including... a Mountie? Loughlin's daughter, the not-so-studious influencer Olivia Jade, was on a literal yacht when the scandal broke. She has since lost her endorsement deals with major brands, and has been dropped by Sephora, which is like a death sentence for beauty vloggers. Oh, and she dropped out of school, but that makes the whole thing worth it, doesn't it? Who will be the next major scammer-daughter to fall? Please say Ivanka Trump.
Speaking of Ivanka Trump... Melania Trump is reportedly the only person who can save us from Ivanka. Welcome back to "The Real White Housewives of D.C.!"  The new book Kushner, Inc.: Greed, Ambition, Corruption by investigative journalist Vicky Ward blows the lid off the myth of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump by reporting that they are NOT the selfless civil servants nobody thought they were. The husband-and-wife team have gone from inheriting jobs at their respective fathers' real estate companies to overruling Department of Justice guidelines to set up shop in her father's White House, with daddy getting them security clearances like admission to an elite college. According to Ward, Jared and Ivanka aren't just using their semesters abroad in Washington to personally enrich themselves, but also that Ivanka earnestly believes that she's setting the stage to eventually become president herself. Kushner, Inc. writes that according to former Cabinet member Gary Cohn, Ivanka sees "her father’s reign in Washington, D.C.," as "the beginning of a great American dynasty." Ward also reports that everyone at the White House despises the couple, but the president can't bring himself to fire them. Ward appeared on "The Late Show" with Stephen Colbert to serve up some of the tea that Trump will inevitably tweet about, and revealed that the only person who has the balls to say no to the self-proclaimed princess is Queen Be Best. Ward said, "So here’s an interesting suggestion: Melania Trump... is the only person in my book who has ever successfully stood up to Ivanka Trump and won. I have a scene [during the transition in which] Ivanka Trump has told the world that she’s not going to be joining the White House. Absolute rubbish. Behind the scenes [she was] making all the plans. [She actually had] a “Trump family office” drawn up for the East Wing, which is normally the territory of the First Lady. When Melania Trump heard about this, she put a very quick end to Ivanka’s plans." Ward explained on Twitter that Jared and Ivanka aren't side characters in the story of the Trump administration's corruption... they are the story of the Trump administration's corruption. Melania Trump... welcome to the resistance.
Now for Ivanka's brother... People think Don Jr.'s angry tweet about "racist air" is dumb, even for him. As the nation continues to be enraptured by the college cheating scandal, another case study in how the rich and wealthy by their way into elite institutions has reminded everyone that American meritocracy is a myth. Yes, this is a loquacious (SAT word!) way of saying that Donald Trump Jr. tweeted again. The president's eldest son, despite having every door kept open for him with a wad of $100 bills, always whines on Twitter about how he's a victim of censorship and the Left.

Don Jr. seems to think that the consequences of pollution aren't brought upon by the infrastructure that creates it. He appears to be mocking the study for saying that air is a sentient being with racial biases, but instead of landing a punch on those dang scientists, he's outing himself as an idiot who doesn't understand what words mean. Had he read the article, he would have learned that scientists aren't accusing the air of being racist, but rather found that communities of color are often the ones who live near the power plant smokestacks. “Someone had to make the pen you bought at the store,” said study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Washington. “We wanted to look at where the pollution associated with making that pen is located. Is it close to where people live? And who lives there?” It is close to where people live, and it is often black and Hispanic families who live there. Little Miss Flint, an 11-year old activist from the city that still doesn't have clean water, implied that Don Jr. is so dumb, he isn't even worth explaining things to. If this tweet is any indication, Don Jr. didn't do so well on the reading comprehension section of the SAT. Since issuing this tweet, Don Jr. has moved on to more intellectual pursuits.

The Ivy League's best and brightest, everybody. Go Quakers!
This isn't the first time J.K. Rowling is getting burned for adding details about the Harry Potter universe long after the books have been published. In a time when representation is a major priority in the entertainment industry, some people are grateful for Rowling's modern changes to Harry Potter and the Woke World of Wizarding, while others are roasting her for not featuring these details in the original text. Just because you're a genius of fantasy novels doesn't mean the rest of us lowly dummies can just intuit that Dumbledore kissed a boy and he liked it! While she has added plenty of insight into her subtle intentions for the characters and story over the years, the main detail fans are reacting to is Dumbledore's sexuality. Considering you've known about this fact for over twelve years (Rowling revealed Dumbledore's homosexuality in 2007) the detail has come back into focus with the new Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald movie. Honestly, young Dumbledore and young Grindelwald would've made a very hot couple so nobody is upset about that. It does seem, though, that these afterthoughts to her characters are her trying to play both sides. Others defended her wholeheartedly: Rowling's most recent update on Grindelwald and Dumbledore's love affair was on a feature for the Blu-ray DVD. But like, did Ron and Hermione have a threesome with Harry, or NOT?
I recently stayed in a hotel and glad I didn't have to deal with this hotel's nightmare of a password...

If I had a TARDIS I would probably end up dressing like the Queen's Royal Guard and passing out...

Ha! That should have been a Mindphuck. They tell me at Walmart I'd see some weird sights... I didn't believe it until I saw this...

Man, there should have been some satisfying clapbacks at Fox News in Internet history...

Oh Captain, My Captain. One of the best things about the Internet is you can see porn free and so easily. The problem is if you're at work or school you might get in trouble, so I came up with a solution.

You're welcome. Now from the home office in Port Jefferson, New York here is...

Top Phive Other New Details About The Harry Potter Universe J.K. Rowling Came Up With
5. The Whomping Willow was gay.
4. Voldemort was half lesbian.
3. Dumbledore had a Wizndr profile, which is the wizard version of Grindr.
2. Wingardium Leviosa was Hermione’s safe word.
And the number one new detail about the Potter universe Rowling came up with is...
1. Butterbeer is cum.

What the fuck?! If you spot the Mindphuck and I'm sure you will let me know. Ahem. Moving on... so, there's this guy who tells lies but is really bad at it. He wanted to come back on the Phile and tell us what happened recently. Please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hey, Chip, how's it going?

Chip: Not so great.

Me: What happened?

Chip: I told my new girlfriend I went to grad school and never graduated.

Me: That's good, right?

Chip: No. It's a giant lie. I just said it to impress her.

Me: Well, did you tell her the truth?

Chip: Only because my mother found out and told her.

Me: Well, at least the truth is out now, Chip.

Chip: Yeah. I am gonna go now. Thanks for listening, Jason.

Me: Yup. Chip Cooin, the world's worse liar, kids. Man, that was laaaammmeee.

I don’t know who’s more sad about this transformation: dad or his son. Here’s hoping that kid just hates Curious George! Okay, so, there's this sex therapist who comes on the Phile now and then and gives us some "advice." She's supposed to but it never turns out that way. Anyway, please welcome back to the Phile...

Me: Hello, Professor.

Liz: Hello, Jason.

Me: So, what's going on? Any advice you can give us?

Liz: Don't have sex before marriage. My old sex ed teacher said to me once he grew up on a farm and learned all he needed to know about sex was by watching the animals.

Me: Ummm... great. Let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.

Liz: Hahaha. Yeah.

Me: Good job, Professor. Professor Liz Chickasaw, kids.

Dick Dale 
May 4th, 1937 — March 16th, 2019
Surf's down.

Our president is at it again, not understanding how comedy works. Trump has been incredibly clear about his disdain for "Saturday Night Live" for awhile now on Twitter, but his most recent attack on the sketch show is truly unhinged. While it's true that comedians take every opportunity they can to roast people in positions of power and the president usually gets burned, Trump has to understand what makes him so easy to mock. He's a former reality TV star who grew up a millionaire and then put his name on a bunch of golden towers to make more millions. He's so much a caricature of a wealthy man who hates change and poor people that he's essentially a McDonald's-fueled Scrooge. Maybe Obama didn't have as many "one-sided" sketches because doing presidential things isn't as funny to put in a comedy as, I don't know, having an affair with a porn star? "SNL" didn't air an episode this week and instead ran a rerun of their Christmas episode that featured a sketch parody of It's a Wonderful Life. Trump, who claims to hate "SNL" but continues to watch it, tweeted this in response Sunday morning...

First of all, "not funny/no talent?" I'm dying to know who Trump thinks is the funniest and most talented comedian? Is it himself? Then, Trump really went for it...

If you're confused, yes he did just accuse "SNL" of colluding with Russia. Was that maybe just a joke from the man who said one of the most popular comedy shows in America is "not funny" with "no talent?" I hope so! What would a bunch of comedy writers gain from Russia? I have so many questions. Russia, can you answer on this?

This is soooo cool. The 95th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

Sir Michael Caine will be the guest on the Phile in a few weeks. Crazy, right? Now for some...

Phact 1. McDonald’s in New Zealand serves a Kiwiburger that tops a beef patty with a fried egg and a slice of beet.

Phile 2. When a poacher’s snare killed one of their own, two young gorillas teamed up to find and destroy traps in their Rwandan forest home.

Phact 3. More than 50% of sloth deaths occur on their once a week trip to the ground to dig a hole and defecate.

Phile 4. Kimilsungia flower, a symbol of the North Korean regime, is originated from Indonesia. In 1964 when the Leader of North Korea was visiting Indonesia, the President of Indonesia gave him the new type of orchid and named it after him.

Phact 5. Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, during a 6-hour spacewalk on the International Space Station, nearly became the first man to drown in space when his helmet began to inexplicably fill with water due to a leak.

Today's guest is a producer, director and writer, best known for being the executive producer of "Late Show with David Letterman" and as the former president of Worldwide Pants. He is a five-time Emmy award winner, and has received 31 nominations. He recently wrote and directed wrote and directed The Fundamentals of Caring. The film was received warmly as the closing night film at the Sundance Film Festival and premiered on Netflix as a Netflix Original on June 24th, 2016. Please welcome to the Phile... Rob Burnett.

Me: Hello, Rob, welcome to the Phile, sir. How are you?

Rob: I'm good, just got back from Whole Foods.

Me: I love Whole Foods, or as I like to call it... Whole Wallet. Hahahaha. So, where are you from, Rob?

Rob: North Caldwell, New Jersey.

Me: When you were a kid did you want to be a writer? I always wanted to be some kind of writer myself.

Rob: I'm one of those people who had early knowledge, early passion and with that early anxiety of how to get from point A to point B. Yes, I always wanted to be in show business. Comedy I loved. My father was a dentist in New Jersey, I had no contacts whatsoever with show business, I had no idea how to get into it at all. But I had a strong desire honestly for as long as I could remember.

Me: How did you start your patch to becoming a writer then?

Rob: I went to Tufts University, but I really didn't know how that was going to get to where I needed to be. We had some amazing people when I was at Tufts, Hank Azaria was there, Oliver Platt was there, but I was never really involved in the theater. It's funny, in my senior year I did some writing in a playwriting class and I had to do a scene and get one of the actors to do the scene and Hank Azaria who was some guy I didn't know, he did my scene and it was phenomenal. I thought I was a genius, but it turned out he was actually. Whatever I write and what Hank Azaria does it fantastic. That was my only step towards show business in college, and then I made the movie and decided I have to go to Los Angeles. I graduated from Tufts, I loaded up my car with all my worldly processions and drove my aging Malibu Chevrolet to Los Angeles and said, "Here I am. Let's go."

Me: Once you go to L.A. what did you do?

Rob: I'm so glad you asked this question. I show up, not knowing anybody there. The first night I stayed in a Travel Lodge next to a 7-11.

Me: When did you start to write and what were you writing?

Rob: I started to write newspaper articles. I decided to come back home to New Jersey and I thought as long as I'm going to pursue this writing career so I got a job at a regional newspaper at the time was called The Herald News. I think now its called The North Jersey News. I was an editorial assistant at this newspaper, and I wrote in my spare time and that lasted for some months. I quickly decided that this was not the kind of writing I was interested in.

Me: You have worked with David Letterman for a lot of years on his shows, Rob. How did you first start to work for him and get to know him?

Rob: I was at a low point in my life I broke my ankle playing basketball with my friends, the paper was sold and I was sort of laid off. I was in my bedroom, laid back in my parents house with really no prospects whatsoever and as a young man trying to decide how I was going to make my way in this world. I was sitting there and I decided I love "The David Letterman Show" I'm going to send in a writing submission and see if I can become a writer on "The David Letterman Show." So I did, I put together a writing submission, I sent it in and amazingly a man named Steve O'Donnell, who was the head writer called me on the phone which was just mind boggling to imagine. He said, "We got your writing submission but we don't have any writing jobs but there are internships." I applied for an internship and got it.

Me: So, what was it like when you first went to work for Letterman as an intern?

Rob: I worked in the talent department which was the department that booked the guests. I was essentially a secretary, answering phones, it was all low level stuff. What was really interesting for me was that up to this point in my life I think I always managed to do enough to get by. I had the wits about me to get into Tufts University and all that. I don't think I really excelled in anything but when I got to "The David Letterman Show," the minute I walked through those doors something clicked in my brain, I just thought I cannot believe I am in this place, this is where I love, I need, I belong to be. So I literally was the first one in that office and the last one to leave every day. No task was to small. Again not accomplishing anything amazing but I just did everything with intense seriousness as if my life depended on it. And then obviously I got extremely lucky because in the talent assistant which was the lowest position, this woman got promoted and I was literally sitting at his desk and I got hired on staff. It was a joke around the office how quick I was hired, but again it was another example of dumb luck in my favor.

Me: So your first job there was a talent assistant? What did you do after that?

Rob: Yeah, my first job was a talent assistant just doing some very basic things and then one of the writers, a guy named Larry Jacobson, I told him I had desired of becoming a writer and he hooked me up with a comedian named Wil Shriner and I would write jokes and send them to Wil and if Wil used one of my jokes he would send me twenty-five dollars, which I found thrilling quite frankly. In fact thr first joke I ever got on television was not on "The David Letterman Show" but on "The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson." Wil Shriner was the guest on the show, I've written a joke, Wil goes and sits next to Johnny, Wil does the joke and Johnny says politely, "That's funny." This moment is probably the highlight of my life. I high fives with my roommate that Johnny thought I was funny. I grew up watching that show and to hear Wil say something that I came up with on that set and have Johnny reply to him turned my body inside out. It's crazy.

Me: Hahahaha. That's great. Wil was a guest on the Phile last year. So, how did you become a writer for Letterman?

Rob: I continued to write jokes for Shriner and at some point I actually set up a meeting with Dave himself and just said, "You know I have been writing jokes for Wil Shriner I hope that's okay." I wanted to make sure I wasn't doing anything wrong in doing that. And to my surprise and delight Dave said, "No, that's fine, but if you want to submit jokes to me please do." Which was incredible. So I began to submit monologue jokes while I was not a writer on the show I would slip some monologue jokes in which was not an overall suit of mine in retrospective. Nonetheless the door creaked open and I wrote a few jokes and I got a few on. Then finally at that time in the show the writing staff was immovable. They were the same writing staff for about six years, no one left. Then finally someone left and it was finny, there was all these writing submissions, and I was told it came down to three finalists. One was a kid from Oklahoma, I was the second and the third was Conan O'Brian. Conan I think is still upset to this day. It's funny, but I think things worked out just fine for him, him having turned out to be one of the funniest men on the planet. I did get the next working job, they said they did like my submissions, they kind of indicated to me I would get the next opening which I then did which was about three years after.

Me: That's so cool. So, how did you become a head writer?

Rob: It was a surprise and a shock to me. I was twenty-five when I became a writer on the show in February '88 and then what happened was we did these remotes where every Monday, this was back with "Late Night" on NBC, Monday's we would go out with a camera crew and shoot those pieces, then we would edit those all week and show them on Friday. At one point Dave decided that one of the writers should be in charge of those pieces so I became in charge of those pieces beefier I became the head writer. Those remotes were the thing that was probably the most natural for me. I just found them exhilarating I guess. To go out with a camera crew with the funniest guy in the world and shoot stuff then get to edit it and make the best three and half piece I can make. That's just seemed like comedy heaven. Then after a year I think I had a fair amount of success doing that time. Then Steve O'Donnell who was the head writer for about eight years, just got to the point where he needed to try something else, he called me in on a Thursday and said I was going to be the head writer on Monday. I had no idea what I was in for, in fact I showed up on Monday and honestly I had no idea what the head writer did basically. The way the show was structured the head writer was kind of doing his own thing. I didn't know and I had to quickly learn what that job was. It was difficult and intimating. I was never at the beginning of my time NOT being very successful. I was in a room with great comedy writers and suddenly I'm the one who has to be the judge and jury of ideas. It was difficult until I decided I just had to step up and do my thing or else I was going to fail.

Me: So, how does it work being a head writer? You have the final say with what to take to Dave? 

Rob: Yeah, that's pretty much it. I looked at a lot of material, I rewrote a lot of material, I wrote a lot of material myself. I drove the ship in a big way. It is the most creative position on the show and I think. I was there deciding we need more of this and less of that. I had a lot of control of what was being generated and I bought it to him and I learned quickly if I'm bringing the ship in the right direction.

Me: Didn't Dave's ex-girlfriend Merrill Markoe worked on the show as a head writer? Did you meet her? What was she like?

Rob: Yeah, I never worked directly with Merrill. I was starting there as she was going to leave. She was nice enough to say hi to a low level person in the hallway but she was an unbelievably funny person.

Me: So what was Dave like to work for?

Rob: Dave was hard on me when I first started. His confidence probably wasn't on me rightfully so. I was very tentative, there was a day that comes to mind... we were at rehearsal and Dave was on a schedule that just clicked along no matter what was going on. At that time we would rehearse 2:30 to 4, then Dave would leave rehearsal to prepare for the 5:30 taping. There was one day I remember, I can't exactly place when, it was probably a couple of months in of my head writer tenure, and we had two ideas and he hadn't approved either. We left rehearsing and it was a bit of a mess. The whole crew, the producer, the director, and me didn't know what was going to happen knowing we were going to record the show in an hour and a half. I went upstairs and I went into Dave's office and I asked him, "So what shall we be doing?" He turned to me and he looked at me very sternly and said, "This is supposed to work the other way around." And he turned and walked away. This was a big moment for me because I realized he's right, I'm the head writer I'm supposed to be telling HIM what we're doing, not asking him what we're doing. This was a turning point for me and I had decided that if I'm going to fail then I'm going to fail. From that moment it was me saying, "Look, this is what we're going to be doing." Pretty soon after Dave and I became a pretty strong working relationship. It was a really nice partnership at that point.

Me: What was it like going from NBC to CBS? A lot of changes, right?

Rob: Well, it was hard and a gift at the same time because we did Studio 6A in Rockefeller Plaza for a lot of years. So the idea of being at a new place with new possibilities, that was really exciting. It was definitely different, and the biggest difference is the size of the theater. Studio 6A had about 116 seats or so and the Ed Sullivan Theater fitted 461. It's a bigger space and the requirements are bigger. The move from 12:30 to 11:30 was also a huge deal. One of the big advantages of the Ed Sullivan Theater, and I think Hal Gurnee gets a lot of credit for that location, was that we were on street level. So those side doors, which we used to call the Bill Murray doors because on the first show Bill Murray came out through those doors, inside we were doing a TV show then you open up those doors and there's 53rd Street. There's Rupert at the deli, there's Mujibur and Siraju the guys who worked at the gift shop and New York City was right out there so there was a lot of brand new possibilities for a lot of us.

Me: Were you involved with Letterman when he hosted the Academy Awards? I have to say I thought he did a great job.

Rob: I was not involved with "do you want to buy a monkey?" I wrote the Uma Oprah joke. I've been asked to leave show business but I refused. It's funny how that came about, to be honest with you it was right before the show he was looking at the monologue and he was a little insecure about things. The actual joke was "Uma, Oprah, Oprah, Uma, have you two met Keanu?" It was a stupid joke, just something for Dave to do and it actually got a laugh the first time. Then Dave kept on going back to it some the problems for him was he couldn't Oprah and Uma, he didn't know where they were so that threw him a little bit. It is what it is and I thought Dave did a really nice job hosting the show. There was a lot going on there, the fact that he was a TV guy, an outsider making fun of people that possibly they weren't ready for in that night. I think the expectations were so incredibly high anything less than a grand slam home run created this super negative response. I take as much responsibility as anybody else. It is what it was.

Me: You created the TV shows "Bonnie" and "Ed," which was one of my favorite shows back in the day. When did you realize you wanted to get into that kind of comedy?

Rob: Well, I did a lot for "The Late Show" at that point and I wanted to write different things. I met Bonnie, we hit it off, and I moved to California briefly to do the Bonnie Hunt show which was in 1995. That unfortunately did not work, I came back to the show then when I came back I actually talked to Jon Beckerman who was one of the writers there and who I've written a lot of stuff with and I said, "We should write a show together." I started writing "Ed" which was somewhere around 1995. I wrote "Ed" as a half hour single camera then CBS was going to do it and HBO was our production partner. In 1996 Robert Morton the executive producer of "The Late Show" left and I was asked to come back as the executive producer. So we put "Ed" on hold and I asked Jon to be the head writer of the show and he and I kind of worked together, The show was having a rough time around that period. It was 1995 when Leno passed us in the ratings and the show was in a little bit of a rough spot. We dedicated ourselves to the show and put "Ed" aside. Then the show righted itself, we never really caught up to Leno in the rating but we did go off and win four or five Emmys in a row which was nice. Then finally a couple of years later Jon and I went off and did the pilot of "Ed" first for CBS who passed on it, we got it back, and a year later we did it for NBC and it was now an hour show and it ended up getting on the air in 2000.

Me: When you won your first Emmy what was that like, Rob?

Rob: Oh, it was a complete and utter shock because by this point everyone who was nominated for an Emmy always said they never expected to win. The truth is we go there hoping to win no matter what anyone tells us. In our case we have been nominated for Emmys, I think I have thirty plus Emmy nominations, we would go every year and we would lose. Not just once but twice and a third time. I remember distinctly being there having been ready to speak if we won for writing as head writer and ready to having to speak if we won for show. We had never won and this was going back to the 80s. In fact during the commercial break the first year that we won I thought of a joke acceptance speech. I was so convinced that we wouldn't win so I went to find Ray Romano because I thought Ray might win and this will be a good joke for Ray. So I went to look for Ray and couldn't find him in time so I came back to my seat and we won the Emmy. We were like how did this happen? We did this for thirty years and it didn't happen. I remember walking up to the stage and all I'm thinking is I had something in my head that I was vaguely prepared for many, many years and now I have something in my head that I thought of fifteen seconds ago. I went with the one I thought of fifteen seconds ago and I will tell you factually as a man who watched comedy and gauges audience reactions this joke killed in the room. I remember the experience really well. The joke was, and its really a joke that was meant for the room, it was a silly little joke that said, "I think I may have kissed a seat filler." Then the little tag was, "Sorry, sir."

Me: Haha. Where do you keep the Emmys?

Rob: In Florida with my father in a trophy case centrally featured in his room. They mean more to him then they could ever possibly mean to me. So for that reason I feel very lucky to have them.

Me: Awe. So, as I said I loved the show "Ed." I was upset when it got canceled. What was your feeling about that? Were you pissed?

Rob: We had done 83 episodes and we were on for four years. By the end of "Ed" things were getting a little big ragged. I was required to go back to "The Late Show" in the fourth season of "Ed" so Jon and I were trying to run "Ed" from the Ed Sullivan Theater which was virtually impossible. I felt that the quality of the show started to give and I felt that I wasn't living up to my responsibility to the great actors we had... Tom Cavanagh, Julie Bowen and on and on. This was a difficult time for me. When they decided to take the show off the air I was grateful there was a plan. They told us they were going to take it off the air so I thought it was time, I was not devastated. We had done really nice work, I was proud of the show and shows are not meant to go on forever. I thought we kind of told our story.

Me: You directed a movie called The Fundamentals of Caring. What made you go and direct a movie?

Rob: I wrote so many jokes for the Letterman show which was great as I kept on doing it and doing it and it's thrilling in that old show business way. I was in the Ed Sullivan Theater and there was costumes and celebrities and everyone is running around and we're putting on a show. It was great but at the same time it was very disposable by definition. The analogy I use is we were mining for tissues. I go deep in the mine and at the end there's a tissue I could wipe my nose with and throw it out and then I have to start again. There is joy and greatness in that believe me but it's not easy. To move to "Ed" for me was oh, there's something here that's a little more lasting in a certain way. "The Late Show" in entities is a bigger thing than "Ed" was or ever will be and yet there's episodes of "Ed" that I could put in and show my kids that will move them. It's hard for me to show them old remotes from "The Late Show," some of them hold up, but it's a different thing. So with movies I think it's an extension of that. I hope to do hopefully stuff that will last longer, that I can look back on, stuff that exists. I feel happy and lucky about The Fundamentals of Caring is there it is, I have this thing. People say, "Hey, what do you do?" I say I directed a movie and they go and watch it and come back and tell me they love it even though they might not have. People lie, it's show business, that's how people are. I just try and enjoy making a longer thing.

Me: You showed the film at Sundance, right? What was that like?

Rob: It was miraculous. We were the closing night film at Sundance, we sold the movie to Netflix three days before Sundance and I was walking around the Sundance Film Festival. We just wrapped up the Letterman show and that part of my career, and a few days later I was at Sundance as a director of a film and the film is playing at the Echo Theater to twelve hundred people, the I was able to have one of the highlights of my career that moment, I was just so grateful for that.

Me: So, what are your plans next, Rob?

Rob: The short answer is I'd like to continue to do movies. Maybe I'll get back into some streaming television type thing but at the moment I have my personal life. I have my two girls, I have a house now. One of them by the way works for the Jimmy Fallon show which is just adorable for me. She's literally walking the same halls I was when I was her age. She's doing her thing there which is great. I do have a son who is a junior in high school who I just adore.

Me: That's great. Rob, thanks so much for being on the Phile. It's so cool you're here. Please come back again.

Rob: Thank you, Jason.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to Rob Burnett for a great interview. Maybe one day I'll have Letterman on the Phile. Anyway, the Phile will be back next Sunday with Michael Sweet from Stryper. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Pheaturing Rupert Holmes

If you like Piña Coladas, and getting caught in the rain, if you're not into yoga, if you have half a brain, if you like making love at midnight, in the dunes of the cape, I'm the love that you've looked for, write to me, and escape. Ha! I love that song. Hey, kids, welcome to the Phile for a Tuesday. In the Piña Colada song, the guy wants a girl with half a brain. Is she likes getting caught in the rain, she is half-brained. By the way, I love doing this blog thing more than Rupert Holmes likes Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain.
How rude! Nearly fifty people, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin, have been indicted by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston for allegedly bribing college athletics coaches and entrance exam administrators to get their kids into elite American universities. A tale of vast wealth, fraud, and privilege... not to mention the "Desperate Housewives" and "Full House" connections... have turned this absolutely bonkers indictment into the new Fyre Festival. People have to laugh, or else they'll cry about the myth we've been sold known as "meritocracy." The details are pretty insane. According to the indictment, Huffman (aka Lynette from "Desperate Housewives") participated in a scheme to get her daughter extra time and an answer-correcting proctor, and when she learned that the high school provided a presumably non-criminal administrator, she responded, "ruh ro!" like Scooby Doo. Other parents also Photoshopped their childrens' heads onto athletes' bodies to pretend that they could join the school's varsity teams, while also allegedly bribing the coaches. People are having fun with Huffman's old tweets, particularly this one...

There is always a tweet. Donald Trump Jr. tried to dunk on Huffman, forgetting that he's Donald Trump Jr. 

Some of you may recall that Huffman is married to fellow actor and now unindicted co-conspirator William H. Macy. According to the indictment, he was frauding with the fraud, too. The bribe to the proctor was laundered through a charity, because that's way easier than just making their daughter learn the word "lugubrious." One could say that William H. Macy... has no shame.
If you have yet to tumble down the rabbit hole of the Melania Trump body double conspiracy theory, then let me tell you, it's a beautiful chunk of the Internet to experience. Regardless of whether or not the theory holds water (my soul is firmly convinced that it does), it's deeply entertaining to examine the photos that keep this theory going. Over the weekend, Internet detectives beheld a new image that suggests maybe, just maybe, Melania has a stunt double for PR purposes. Over the weekend, Donald Trump and Melania visited Alabama to pay respects to the twenty-three people who died in a deadly tornado. While there, they had a photo taken in front of the memorial...

The photo quickly went viral due to how "off" Melania looks, and many feel it is further proof that she has a body double. People have really done their homework on this body double theory, so we can each truly study it and make up our own minds. Mostly though, people saw the photo as another fresh opportunity to make jokes about the theory. After all, who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory now and again?! If you look at history and all the shenanigans that have gone down, a lot of conspiracy theories don't feel out of left field. This goes double under the Trump administration. If there IS a body double, or multiple, the people of American are beyond ready to hear their testimonies. If they exist, I am beyond ready for Melania's body doubles to step forward and spill the insider information. I have a feeling Mueller would be more than down to interview them as well.
Chris Evans, aka Steve Rogers aka Captain America, is consistently hailed as a "woke bae" for his anti-Trump tweet, but recently had a slip up when he smiled with a controversial Republican congressman who loves his character. Rep. Dan Crenshaw is famous for having been made fun of by sex symbol Pete Davidson, but is also known in other circles as the moderator of a Facebook group that promoted the deadly right-wing Charlottesville rally and was a home for Pizzagate conspiracy theorists and racist fun. Evans yukked it up with Crenshaw, who showed off his glass eye sporting Captain America's logo. Many of Cap's fans were not impressed. Maybe Crenshaw should refresh himself on Captain America's antifa history. It doesn't get anymore "antifa" than this.

Tucker Carlson, a hate-mongering TV host who looks like an evil Snoopy balloon, makes his living telling your racist uncle and grandparents to be afraid of anyone who isn't Donald Trump. According audio uncovered by Media Matters, before Carlson was mainstreaming conspiracy theories like "childcare is a globalist conspiracy theory endangering white people," he was sharing his thoughts on underage girls and sex with Bubba the Love Sponge. Like Trump himself, Carlson called into shock jock radio shows to share his views on "young girls sexually experimenting" and the right of adults to marry 15-year-olds. Among his hot takes, Carlson defended Warren Jeffs, a convicted pedophile who married underaged girls off to adult men. He also has a lot of thoughts on the "sex lives" of 13-year-olds, saying that a teacher who molests 13-year-old boys is, in fact, doing a favor for 13-year-old girls "So my point is that teacher’s like this, not necessarily this one in particular, but they are doing a service to all 13-year-old girls by taking the pressure off. They are a pressure relief valve, like the kind you have on your furnace." he said. Rather than apologize, Carlson invited anybody who doesn't appreciate his thoughts on children to come debate him on TV for ratings. If you're a woman who dares to challenge him, prepare to be called ugly and the C-word.
An Illinois grand jury indicted fake hate crime actor (who has also appeared on "Empire"), Jussie Smollett, adding to the frenzy around the hate crime that wasn't. The grand jury charged Smollett for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report, in two separate sets of charges for each time he spoke to the police. Each felony carries a maximum of four years in prison, so yeah, Smollett is looking at up to 64 years (!!!). That's a lot of years, especially considering the fact that Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort was sentenced to only three years for literally conspiracy against the United States.
Do you kids like Hot Pockets? Have you seen the new one that just came out? No? Here it is...

"There's literally just a fucking dog in there." Hahahaha. I'm laughing. So, if I had a TARDIS I would go fly in a plane in the early 1960s...

It'll be just me and six flight attendant's. Did you see the State of the Union a few weeks ago? Not only did some Democrats give shady looks but Republicans did as well. Like Rep. Rashida Tlaib for example.

There has been some satisfying clapbacks at Fox News in Internet history. Check this out...

"You’re a millionaire funded by billionaires... and what they want you to do is scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about their tax evasion" was such a good read that Tucker Carlson refused to air it. It's so warm down here in Florida and so cold up north right now. Did you know that minus four degrees looks like a dude taking a dump? No? Take a look...

Ha! Told you! I know, that's so stupid, that's as stupid as...

Okay, let's have a laugh, shall we?

Seventy-year-old George went for his annual physical. All of his tests came back with normal results. Dr. Smith said, "George, everything looks great physically. How are you doing mentally and emotionally? Are you at peace with yourself, and do you have a good relationship with your God?" George replied, "God and me are very close. He knows I have poor eyesight, so he's fixed it so that when I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom (poof!) the light goes on when I pee, and then (poof!) the light goes off when I'm done." "Wow," commented Dr. Smith, "that's incredible!" A little later in the day Dr. Smith called George's wife. "Thelma," he said, "George is just fine. Physically he's great, but I had to call because I'm in awe of his relationship with God. Is it true that he gets up during the night and (poof!) the light goes on in the bathroom, and then (poof!) the light goes off?" Thelma exclaimed, "That old fool! He's peeing in the refrigerator again!"

Go ahead, treat him like furniture. He’s too exhausted from dedicating his entire life to your well being to do anything about it, you ungrateful jerk! Hahahaha.

If you spot the Mindphuck let me know. Okay, not long ago I introduced you to this guy who likes to get into fights for no reason. Well, he got into a fight earlier today and wants to tell us about it. So, please welcome to the Phile once again...

Me: Hey, Porkchop, what's up?

Porkchop Eddie: I got inna a fight earlier almost.

Me: So, what happened and with you?

Porkchop Eddie: I was headed to a concert. Crossing at a crosswalk, a car aggressively pulled up on me and I screamed it was disrespecting me and tried to fight it. Tried to fight a car.

Me: Oh, Eddie, who among us hasn't tried to fight a car?

Porkchop Eddie: I know, right? I'm gonna go to the bar and have a brewski, wanna come?

Me: Uh, no, I have a blog to finish. Rupert Holmes is here. Portkchop Eddie, kids.

Ohhhhh, man, this is so cool. The 95th book to be pheatured in the Phile's Book Club is...

The great Michael Caine will be the guest on the Phile in a few weeks. Can you believe it?! I can't. Now for some...

Phact 1. Imported wines are often giant “boxed wines” when they’re shipped. They are a huge bag of wine traveling inside a cargo container.

Phact 2. Vodka was originally produced in the 8th century in Poland.

Phact 3. Police broke up a Lego heist ring last year for stealing $40,000 worth of bricks and found that one of the suspects was also in possession of another $160,000 of bricks, which was 18 pallets worth.

Phact 4. The above ground section of rail track between Bondi Junction and Edgecliff was meant to be Woollhara Station.

Phact 5. In order for NASA to recognize you as an astronaut, you must travel higher than 50 miles from the Earth’s surface.

Today's pheatured guest is a British-American composer, singer-songwriter, musician, dramatist and author. He is widely known for the hit singles "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" and "Him" (1980). His latest release is a box set titled "Songs That Sound Like Movies: Complete Epic Recordings." Please welcome to the Phile... Rupert Holmes.

Me: Hello, Rupert, welcome to the Phile. How are you?

Rupert: I'm thrilled to be here.

Me: When I read your bio I was surprised we have a few things on common... we were both born in England then moved to Long Island. You're not British, right? Where in England were you born? 

Rupert: I lived outside of Manchester. There's milage saying I'm British even though I didn't sound British at all. I was born in a town outside of Manchester in a town called Northwich, and most people from England correct me and say, "You mean Norridge." But no, actually it's Norwich. It's an ICA factory town and I grew up on a street that looked like the opening credits for "Coronation Street." I remember at the end of the street there were these three Ica brick chimneys spouting soot into the air. The air had beautiful kind of scent to it which was probably killing people but I loved it. I really loved being there and I actually have memories of age three and I remember Guy Fawkes Day there, and the bus that took us there. The bus felt like a living room, had nice little lamps inside. I wondered how were we moving in a living room. It was a green double decker bus.

Me: How and when did you move to Long Island?

Rupert: My dad was an American G.I., he was serving in England after the war, he met my mother there who was a beautiful literate British girl and they fell in love, they were married and I was born there. When I was 3-years-old my parents said we were going to move to a place called Long Island. I thought Long Island... pirates and palm trees, but it was Nanuet, a really tattered suburb of New York. The first words that were said to me, I must of had a British accent for about two months, were "get off my property!" My English accent went out the window in about a week. I still grew up saying "coffee" and "dog" and I got beaten up for that.

Me: I first moved to America when I was five and the first thing we did was go to Jack in the Box and I freaked out when we went through the drive-thru and the "clown box" talked to us. Was it a big culture shock for you being in America then, Rupert?

Rupert: Well, I had a split personality. I didn't fit quite well on wither side, I felt a little bit like Lawrence of Arabia, when he went back to England and couldn't quite fit in, he wasn't quite the Arabian horseman that he thought he was.

Me: Who were your influences with songwriting and telling stories?

Rupert: My mother raised me to believe the American revolution was a diplomatic blunder on the part of George Washington and all would be remedied, so she fed me tons of British creativity. I grew up with a lot of Noel Coward, Oscar Wilde, I loved the short stories by G.K. Chesterson about Father Brown, which is now a TV series that doesn't resemble those stories. Yet I was an American growing up with the Everly Brothers and Elvis and all that stuff. I certainly took to the writings of Raymond Chandler who by the way was British, a lot of people thought he was an American writer. He wrote the kind of stuff my song "Brass Knuckles" is made off.

Me: Okay, so, when I got the request to interview you I thought, yeah, I can ask you about that  Piña Colada song and Guardians of the Galaxy, which it was in, and I didn't know what else to talk to you about, even though you have a new box set out. Then I read all the stuff you've done and I was like wow. I never realized you wrote the play The Mystery of Edwin Drood. What was that about?

Rupert: Ha ha. It was based on an uncompleted novel by Charles Dickens. As far as the Piña Colada song I sing "I thought it wasn't half bad." It's not really an American expression, it's more of a British thing.

Me: With the song "Brass Knuckles" did you write it as a story first then turned it into a song? 

Rupert: That's an interesting question that no one ever asked. Ummm... to some degree yes, in other words with the lyrics of "Brass Knuckles" the sentences are quite long. It's a very simple rhyme scheme. I can write about three quarters of the sentence if I was writing a pulp novel, then I'd say, "Oh, God, what rhymes with 'love'? Comes to shove, wings of a dove, I'm not going to say love." So to some degree I will start to unspool the song as if I didn't have to worry about it rhyming.

Me: That's a cool way to write a song. Okay, so, back to you writing Broadway musicals... was it hard for you to write for Drood?

Rupert: When I started writing my first Broadway musical, Joe Papp, it's producer, who produced The Chorus Line said to me, "Great, you will write the songs, who will write the book?" I said, "Well, I thought I would." The book is the script, there actual dialogue in case your readers didn't know. He said, "Can you write a book of the musical?" I said, "My God, I had to do complete movies in three minutes where everything has to rhyme. For me to write something that doesn't have to rhyme, that's the most liberating thing I'll ever experience in my life! It should be a breeze."

Me: So, your new box set is called "Songs Like Sound Like Movies." Do you always write songs that are stories, Rupert?

Rupert: Yeah, I always wanted to be a story teller and I always wanted to be a composer. When I was growing up and was 18-years-old I thought is there someway I can have my cake and eat it too. Which by the way is a completely logical goal, cake wise. To have ones cake and never to eat it seems misguided. Eating without having it is lunacy so it's really not overreaching to say "have my cake and eat it too." How can I be a story teller, I didn't know anyone in musical theater, but I was an 18-year-old guy with hair down to my shoulders and I played a lot of instruments and tin pan alley was a free market at that time. I could intrude my way into that world and I thought I could make mini movies in three minute songs. That was my long term goal. Let me tell stories and view the lyrics as a script and the arrangement as the cinematography and find the instrumentation that fits that story and don't worry what I'll do about for the next story. With my first album it doesn't have the same band or accompaniment. One story is about a saxophone in the 1940s that never takes a solo so I reassembled the Glenn Miller Orchestra. Another song would be an opera and require a cinematic operatic nature, and another one would be solo on piano because that's what the song requires. It was all part of the attitude I had going into making my own music. I didn't get to do that in the beginning, in the beginning I had to do what people paid me to do to get my toenail into the door.

Me: I looked at your titles of your songs like "I Don't Want to Hold Your Hand," "Everything Gets Better When You're Drunk" and "Studio Musician." Do you think about the titles when you write? 

Rupert: I say nine out of five times out of ten the title proceeds everything. "Brass Knuckles," "Widescreen," "Second Saxophone," very often it's the topic of the song. My biggest hit, "Escape" the last words I ever wrote for that song were " Piña Colada." That one needed a parenthetical, so hence in parenthesis "The Piña Colada Song." That's one where I didn't start with  Piña Colada's as an idea. The idea was the couple was looking for some sort of escape.

Me: Do you keep a book of song ideas and titles?

Rupert: I usually take the idea and write the song or put it away thinking someday I'll go into that "trunk" and bring it to life. Usually I don't, I got to write it in real time. I've been trying to write a song for centuries now it seems called The Cruelty of Mirrors. It's about someone walking through a day thinking he looks pretty good and he looks at his shadow and it looks like there's a pretty stealth guy there. Then he turns and accidentally passes a mirror and there's this schlub. Sometimes this reality has this terrible way slapping you in the face. It's like that's not me in the picture, is it? I've never been able to make a song out of that. There's ones that start and I could never get past the first verse. One a few occasions I've written the first verse, set the song aside for a few years and then finished it. My second biggest hit, "Him," I wrote the first verse but didn't have the chorus for it for two years.

Me: Okay, so, I have to ask about "Escape (The  Piña Colada Song)" which you already mentioned. How did that song come about and how did it get to be the ONE?

Rupert: The evolution of the song is such daft. I was making my fifth album and I was a successful songwriter at that time. My first album Barbra Streisand discovered it and recorded some of those songs, and although I had success as a songwriter at that point I had yet to have a real true hit record from my first four albums. I had one from my fourth album that started to climb the chart but as it did the record label went out if business and that kind of killed any chance there. I was finishing up work on this fifth album called "Partners in Crime" which was mostly misadventures of couples. I had a song called "People Need Other People" that I liked and I decided to record that to balance out the many ballads on the album. I did the recording session and my drummer on that album, Leo Adamian, said, "You know, I could use a second drummer on this." I said great, and so we got a second drummer and usually when we did a second take of a song we do take one and everyone rushes into the control room to hear how it sounds, to hear how the drums are miked, bass is boomy and has a nice sound to it. We'll do some adjustments and go out and do another take in earnest. We came in to listen to take one and the take was sloppy, it was a mess. I knew we could do better than that take. I looked and that second drummer we bought in was passed out on the floor. He clearly was not going to be playing any other songs that evening and we had to pack up and put it to bed. I'm running out of time on the album and definitely running out of budget. I didn't have enough money to book another session with more musicians, I didn't know what to do. I found in that first sloppy take sixteen bars of music that were tight, where the track had really good pocket. I did something at that tight was not heard of but is now common in rap... but I had to do it analogue, not digitally. We duplicated those sixteen bars which was tight to another twenty-four track master machine over and over and over again and then with razor blade and tape we cut together sixteen bars until I ended up with a four minute loop of those sixteen bars. If you listen carefully to the record you'll hear those guitar riffs repeat every sixteen bars. Now I had a track which was good, I didn't have to record a new track. But now I had to have a new song to fit that track. I knew it had to be a story song because the main track wasn't that diverse, so I had to make the story the key feature of the song. I wrote a lot of lyrics to try to fit it, I wrote lyrics that sounded too much like a Billy Joel song to me. The night before the last day I'm booked to record the last cut on the album, it's 1 a.m. and I don't have a song. I look across the table I'm working at in my apartment and I see the Village Voice newspaper which at that time had a ton of personal ads in it. Personal ads always amused me, I'd read them for story ideas for songs, and what always amused me was no one ever took a total ad that said "loser seeks someone of equal despondency," actually if they did they might do well. But people describe themselves glowingly. I always think if they're so wonderful why do they need to place an ad, couldn't they just walk down the street and attract people? Then I thought play fair, don't be cynical, maybe this person is placing this ad because their life is dull and they want this adventure of meeting someone this way and discovering what might be there. Then I thought, what I often think when I'm writing lyrics, if I'm this person, because I'm not usually this person telling the story, people think I am that guy in the  Piña Colada song. They think it's about me and my wife... people, it's not about me. It's about the character. That Agatha Christie, is she blood thirsty or what? I wouldn't want to be alone with her for a second. Anyway I think if I were this character what would be the logical outcome knowing my luck and fate and life, and it occurred to me and I thought that could work. I wrote this lyric at one in the morning and the chorus went "if you like Humphrey Bogart and getting caught in the rain." I go into the studio that day and my guitarist, Dean Bailin, who appears in tons of my work, he's there because he's going to be sweetening whatever I put down on this track. He's there and I think the song has a twist ending, my big fear was the twist ending was obvious. So, I said to the engineer I'm going to sing this song all the way through, start to finish, don't stop the tape for anything. If I make and mistake I'm just going to plow ahead, because I had to find out in real time if my guitarist got ahead of me, if he got the ending of the story before I got there. What you're hearing when you hear that song is the very first time those songs crossed my lips. I've read it the night before, but I haven't vocalized it. What you're hearing is an ad lib, like a jazz scat singer, having to get all those syllables in. I sang the whole song through without any thought that would be the vocal. It was just for the benefit of my guitar player. When I was done I asked him did he get it and he said no, it fooled him. I said, good, now we'll sweetening it. The one key thing which is terrifying how someone's life can turn huge corners based on the quick decision that's made. Just before I was going to sing the song for him I looked at the lyric on the music stand and I thought it was so dry, I've done so many movie referencers in my work, I thought maybe I shouldn't do that, maybe I'll need something more colorful. This couple wants an escape like their on vacation, but when you go on vacation and go to the island and you go on a pink beach one day and someone comes over and say what would you like to drink you don't say I'll have a Budweiser. You're on vacation and you want a drink that announces this is the official beginning of you having escape from the humdrum daily life. I thought what are the "escape" drinks, and as I reviewed them I realized I never had any of them.  Piña Colada... I never had a  Piña Colada in my life, but I like the sound of it. So, I changed those two words for another two words and my fate was sealed.

Me: I think that's the longest answer I ever received. Are any of your songs about you, Rupert? 

Rupert: Some of my of course creeps in there, I take some portion of my ego or my id and make that into a full formed character hopefully. But like all my songs they're a narrative and about somebody with a choice in life.

Me: Cool. Okay, so, how did you first get your own record deal, Rupert?

Rupert: I was hired by Epic Records to be the non-existent voice of bubble gum groups, or pop groups. The groups didn't exist, and I would write the arrangements, sometimes I'd write the songs but not always. I would go in and try to sound like a 17-year-old or 18-year-old lead singer of a pop group. I was about twenty-two at the time. They wanted me to do more of the same, on a more classier level, and I had some songs that fit that bill. Then I thought to myself I'm making all these records to keep myself in the mix of the record business and to stay empaled by the way, and to put food on the table, and to get to know more people in the music business. But one of these days I had to make a record that spells out what I want to be first as a writer. What kind of of stories I'd like to tell. I had this one song that was exactly not what Epic Records wanted me to record, it was obviously a song sung by a singer/songwriter, an individual person. It was him telling a narrative about his life. I said I'm going to throw this into the mix, I'm going to add this and see if they throw me out of the room. Or of they say I wanted all their money, this is not what we hired me for. I was going to be a group called Rosebud and if the record was a hit they would have created a group to be called Rosebud, and go out and be Rosebud. I made this record called 'Terminal," and they heard it and said they didn't want to put it out as Rosebud. They wanted to put it out as Rupert Holmes. Then I came to a tough decision, almost as tough as the fellow in the song. I said here's the problem, I always said if I was going to record under my own name it would be only the kind of songs and the odd stories I want to tell and it would have to be an album. I can't just take one shot as a 45 and if it doesn't work it's all over. I have to have a chance to do a range of songs where a critic might revoke the album and they said they weren't prepared to make that commitment. I thought okay, I'll wait another year. They called back a week later and said they thought about it and they'll give me a budget and I can make an album as Rupert Holmes. That album became "Widescreen." They didn't oversee anything, I had total creative freedom. That album "Widescreen," the first of the three on the Cherry Red collection was a huge gateway for my career all because I made that choice of saying this is not what they wanted.

Me: How did you first get in contact with Barbra Streisand, Rupert?

Rupert: She called me out of the blue. Can you imagine? She was not only the biggest recording star but the biggest actress in Hollywood. I picked up the phone and I head a voice that said, "I have been listening to your album and I would like to record some of these songs. I see you do all your own orchestrations so I guess you should come out here and orchestrate an album for me. I'm working on a movie called A Star is Born, you probably could write a few songs for that." I said, "This is the worst Barbra Streisand impression I've ever heard. Who is this really?" It turned out to be her.

Me: Another thing we have in common was both our fathers were musicians... what did your father do?

Rupert: My father was a classical musician who studied at Julliard. He was a big band musician, he was the lead alto in the big bands when he was 19-years-old. That got interrupted by World War II where he was an infantry band leader, he worked at NBC radio in the early 50s in the pop realm and then he became a school teacher. He had a nervous break down, he couldn't take the competition when radio transitioned into TV.

Me: Awe. You write so many different genres, Rupert. Why do you think that is?

Rupert: I was exposed by age five to so many different kinds of music. By the time I was five I knew Robert Farnon. Nobody knows who Robert Farnon was. He was a wonderful British composer who wrote all kinds of white frothy journey into melody songs. I had all these Duke Ellington records that my father owned that I listened to and Count Basie and Jammie Lunceford I also new Mozart's 40th by the time I was five before it became a ring tone. I was brought up with Duke Ellington's philosophy that there are two types of music... good and bad. I was an equal opportunity enjoyer of every style of music. There is nothing in the musical world that I don't have some favor songs or cuts from including rap today. I always thought how do they do that, ho do they get that sound.

Me: You worked with Marvin Hamlisch on The Nutty Professor. What was that like, working with somebody else?

Rupert: They are times where I am the lyricist and the composer and there are times where I am just the lyricist and sometimes the way Marvin and I worked, we would talk about the song and what it should feel in its mood and sometimes he would go away and write a theme. He would hand it to me and my challenge would be to hang words on that existing theme like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Would be contained and defined by the melody and the rhythm of it what he already written. We worked well collaboratively, and half the time I would write the lyric first. Obviously if I'm writing the lyrics to someone else's theme I'm probably going to do something different than if I was writing the music myself. I find that very exciting and it keeps me on my toes and allows me to write type of songs that I may not have written otherwise.

Me: You also wrote a TV series, right? What was that like?

Rupert: Yeah, it was called "Remember WENN" for American Classics and I wrote fifty-six episodes. It was a wonderful job I had. It was s series with no commercials, no laugh track, set in 1939. Sometimes a script we were looking for from somebody else didn't arrive or wasn't filmable I had to write a script that I wasn't anticipating writing. I would have to write a script on a Thursday for a TV episode that would be filmed on a Monday.

Me: Cool. Rupert, thanks for being on the Phile. I hope this was fun, sir.

Rupert: It was a pleasure, you asked questions I don't normally get asked and I'm sorry my answers were a lot longer than you expected. Jason, nice talking to you, thanks for your support, I really appreciate it.

Me: Thanks, Rupert, please come back again.

Rupert: Yes, I hope we can do this again sometime. Bye for now.

That about does it for this entry of the Phile. Thanks to my guest Rupert Holmes. He did a great job. The Phile will be back next Tuesday with TV producer and director Rob Burnett. Spread the word, not the turd. Don't let snakes and alligators bite you. Bye, love you, bye.

I don't want you, cook my bread, I don't want you, make my bed, I don't want your money too, I just want to make love to you. - Willie Dixon