My first job in show business was for a trailer cutter during the summer after my sophomore year in college. His name was Michael Spolan. I showed up for my interview in a jacket, tie and trench coat. He wore running shorts and a tee shirt. He was the coolest adult I had ever met. He hired me to be his messenger and assistant editor.
A year later, the fall semester of my senior year, I was in LA on an internship. Michael flew out to meet with Frank Zappa to discuss cutting the trailer for the upcoming Baby Snakes. A full-blooded New Yorker, Michael had never driven a car in his life. I ferried him around town, picking him up at the Chateau Marmont and bringing him to his meetings with Frank.
The first time I met Zappa, he came to the front door of his editing facility to let us in, leading us down the long hall, swaying a bit like a thin NY skyscraper. He was singing the praises of a strange new LA food called burritos.
Michael needed trailer copy for Baby Snakes and since his usual writer was back in New York, he asked me to take a crack at the script. I wrote two, which he edited into one, and for which paid me the staggering sum of $200.
That night I drove him to Zappa’s house in the Hollywood Hills, where we met his wife in the kitchen. Frank was sleeping, though it was early evening. We learned he didn’t keep a conventional sleep schedule of eight hours per night, but rather came up with his own schedule. He found two shorter blocks of sleep to be optimal.
When Frank woke up he took Michael (and me with him) on a tour of the new sound studio he was building on his land. It had inner and outer walls with a vacuum in between. His mixing board was state of the art and cost him a couple of hundred thousand dollars.
After, we sat down in his current studio where Michael showed Frank my script. He didn’t want Frank to know the script was written by a college student. So I sat quietly as Frank read my script, laughed my the jokes, but never looked at me with his shiny, approving eyes.
A year later, I was out of school and working for Michael full-time, as messenger, assistant editor and copywriter. I had just seen a then unknown performer, Pee Wee Herman, in a small New York club. His act floored me and gave me an idea for a movie — a parody of a 40’s/50’s war propaganda film about a lovable, weenie of an all-American boy, who’s out to save the world from the clutches of an evil rock’n’roll star. It was called, The Adventures Of Johnny Doo Dah, a comedy in the vain of John Waters.
Because Michael was still friendly with Zappa, we had Frank in mind to play Ray Beam, the evil rock star. I wrote the part of Johnny for Pee Wee Herman (I didn’t know the actor’s name was Paul Reubens). We were all crazy mad over the music of Nina Hagen and she inspired the part of the rock star’s evil hench-woman, Dirty Gretchen.
This screenplay will never get made. And I wrote it fresh out of college, so there’s that too. I wince when I read the word yeah spelled yea. But I will be a bit in love with this story until I die.
So sit back and hold onto your seats. Here are….
The Adventures Of Johnny Doo Dah!!