Skip to comments.Dr. Laura, Heal Thyself - (Burt says he did 4 months work for her and she stiffed him!)
Posted on 07/15/2005 7:47:16 PM PDT by CHARLITE
Back in March, I received an e-mail from a stranger. He identified himself as Dr. Laura Schlessingers producer. He explained that they were planning for her to do a one-woman stage show. Although the second act would consist entirely of Dr. Lauras answering written questions from the audience, they wanted a funny script for the opening act. Would I be interested in having a meeting? Sure, Im game for just about anything that doesnt involve heavy lifting or getting on an airplane.
So it was that a couple of weeks later, I drove up the coast to Schlessingers home in Hope Ranch, a very chi-chi part of Santa Barbara. The dinner was first-rate and apparently I passed muster because I was invited aboard the project.
We agreed on a basic format, which consisted, for the most part, of my writing monologues in addition to letters and phone calls to Dr. Laura from famous people and fictional characters, all seeking her help with their problems.
I went home and began writing. As Id complete a page or two, Id e-mail it to Ms. Schlessinger. As a rule, she seemed pleased. When she wasnt, shed let me know and Id take another whack at it. As I had told her and her producer, a nice guy named Geoff Rich, I have a normal amount of writers ego, but I was more than willing to submerge it in this case. When I was writing for television, after all, I was writing dialogue for actors to perform. If they didnt like what Id written, I was more than ready to argue about it. But this was different. Dr. Laura wasnt going out there as Hawkeye Pierce or Rhoda Morgenstern or Dr. Sloan, she was going on stage as herself, and she had to be totally comfortable saying the words I was putting in her mouth.
The first glitch occurred when I was mailed the deal memo. That was when I discovered that Dr. Laura was demanding the primary writing credit, even though she wasnt going to do any of the writing. I told the producer that I was willing to wager that the lady I listened to on the radio would give short shrift to anyone whose ego was so needy that shed insist on grabbing credit for work she hadnt performed. He laughed. Good point, he said. Laughter over, he added that she insisted on the credit.
I told him Id go along with it because I was preparing to fight over the royalty schedule. He gave in on the money.
In any case, I continued writing amusing, even witty, material for the next several weeks, all the time wondering when they were going to hire a director to start working with my star. Then I got the newsDr. Laura had flown back to New York to meet a few contenders, and had selected a woman with a background in soap operas. Fine. I really wasnt expecting Mike Nichols.
Dr. Laura e-mailed me to report that the director was coming west, and wed soon be getting together to figure out what more needed to be written. I waited. Then I waited some more. I finally decided I had gotten the dates wrong. I hadnt.
It seems that the director had not only arrived in Santa Barbara, but had begun working with Ms. Schlessinger. After three days, the director phoned the producer in New York and reported that it was hopeless. Dr. Laura couldnt memorize lines, no matter how brilliant they were, and was in a panic.
Now I had known all along that she felt uncertain about her ability to remember lines, but the producer and I both assumed that was merely a natural case of the jitters. She wasnt going to debut Dr. Laura: In My Never Humble Opinion (her title) in Santa Barbara until mid-August. Inasmuch as Id been feeding her pages since early April, she had months to work on it. Besides, the stage set we had discussed would provide plenty of places in which to cleverly conceal cue cards if she needed them as a crutch.
In any case, when Mr. Rich began his phone call with the old news that The good news is we have a director, it wasnt too hard to figure out that the bad news is that they no longer had a writer. The new plan called for Dr. Laura and the director to come up with ten topics that Laura felt she could discuss off the top of her head.
I was assured Id be paid in full always the right thing to say to a writer who has his lawyer on speed-dial. Before hanging up, I couldnt resist asking Mr. Rich if Dr. Laura always delegated others to extend her regrets.
In retrospect, I liked dinner, I liked Dr. Lauras house, her cars, and her producer. But I could only marvel at the chutzpah, the gall, of someone who spends three hours a day dispensing advice to people, telling them how they should behave, who signs off each and every hour with her signature, Now go and do the right thing, and who then behaves so boorishly in her own private life.
Dr. Laura, you insisted on stealing credit for work you werent going to do. And when, after three long months, because of your own inability to do something child actors do every day of the week, you dumped the person who did the work, you werent even decent enough to call or even e-mail an apology.
Im afraid you wouldnt know the right thing from a hole in the ground.
About the Writer: Burt Prelutsky is a humorist, movie reviewer, writer for television series and movies, and author of the new book, "Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco." His website is at http://burtprelutsky.com.
Burt receives e-mail at BurtPrelutsky@aol.com.
just someone else trying to bring dr laura down, i guess people think that her advice is to "harsh"...people need to toughen up
What part of Mr. Prelutsky's article did you not understand?
(A) He got paid in full.
(B) He should have discussed the credit before starting any work. Writing for a TV show, movie, etc. is always pretty much work-for-hire unless you are a Name, and he should have been smart enough to realize this was a similar deal. Movies, for example, often have legions of writers, and only a few actually get their name on the project. Also, he was much in the position of a ghost writer, and ghost writers only sometimes get their name on the project.
(C) I am surprised that he was surprised that the whole thing fell through (as far as his end went). Dr. Laura is a charming talk show host and I think that she often (though not always) gives good advice ... but she is not a trained actor with experience memorizing page after page of dialogue. He should have been expecting the whole thing not to go forward.
(D) Wonder how many new clients he'll attract with this whining?
I have a legitimate celebrity-stiff anecdote.
A decorator finished the house our company built that made a cover spread in House and Garden Magazine.
He did a professional job with the details of textures and finishes, painting and plastering.
He said he'd restored some 1920's plaster in one of the homes in the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport and the drunken Rose had stiffed him.
She got plastered twice but only paid for once.
But I can imagine a few other things, he was snarky, and was clearly put-off from the beginning, she probably thought he was an arrogant vainglorious bonehead!
He may well have been difficult. Perhaps as tie went bu they became less enchanted with his material and his ability to work with them, -sounds likeit from his complaints.
Fact is, you ditch people like this with varying degrees of finesse all the time in business. It's good management.
What? She should have kept him on staff because changing the plan might offend his ego?
Having said that, I have come to despise certain things about Dr Laura, -EVEN- while knowing she's right about 90% of the time.
I cringe at the way she treats "losers".
No finesse. And she is capricious with her compassion.
-Being "Frank" is cool, but she's just bombastic at the worst time. -Pregnant 16 year old calls in and gets 9 yard of bathos. followed by the classic: "BECAUSE YOU KICKED YOUR HEELS BEHIND YOUR HEAD FOR SOME LOSER!?" There are times when I could tell that people were made to feel terrible, and that's no way to get a point across.
She could be equally staunch adamant, firm without the catty denigrating. -Bad role model IMO
I did like her though, when she wasn't shreikin'
Our local market just replaced her with Glen Beck and I have to say it's a pleasant change from the "Shrew like harping". I guess the moral is, we all need a little shrew-like harping, but in moderation ;> Does every radio station in America need Dr. Laura, ya. -Could she tone the "MEAN" down a bit? Ya.
With all due respect, I don't think that Burt is judging her on her professional advice. He's illustrating that for a woman who has made quite a name for herself (and a fortune) prescribing the correct behavior, ethics and morality for others, her own leaves a lot to be desired.
If you had assiduously worked in a consciencious, professional manner for another professional, over a 4 month period of time, wouldn't you expect payment? . . and wouldn't you anticipate a personal communication from the person who hired you four months earlier, if you were to be abruptly terminated?
Burt's point is simple. In her own conduct, she lacks good manners at the very least. At worst, she's a cheap skate!
......and personally, I've found her to be quite unbending, very often cold......and her insistence that once people have gotten married, they MUST stay married regardless of the circumstances.......to be unrealistic, therefore flawed.
Thanks for your stimulating comment, anyway!,br>
I wouldn't call her a monster, it would rhyme with "punt".
She could be equally staunch adamant, firm without the catty denigrating. -Bad role model IMO
I was assured Id be paid in full always the right thing to say to a writer who has his lawyer on speed-dial.
So I don't think it's fair to say he did not get paid. Sounds like he's just ticked 'cause she didn't use his stuff and wasn't overly polite about it. This is on the level of everyday rudeness, not moral turpitude.
Ah, come on, aren't you being a little hard on Dr Turkey Neck...
Then you obviously don't know any real conservatives.
Dr Laura is so boring I cannot comprehend how she remains #2. It can't last. By this time next year, Michael Savage will have overtaken her to be second to Rush (no one will ever take that slot away from el Rushbo)
I do not like Michael Savage. I love Larry Elder and Tammie Bruce, but have not found them on the east coast...WMAL area or Harrisburg, PA area.
And we KNOW that what Mr. Prelutsky says or thinks is the Gospel truth because???
Why? Are you expecting a sizable portion of the talk radio audience to GO COMPLETELY INSANE in the next twelve months?
I had a friend who had just moved to LA when Dr. Laura had her brief disastrous foray into TV.....
So she signed up with a Temp Agency till she found a real job...one of the jobs...
Yes, audience member for Dr. Laura's TV show. They had to HIRE an audience; even giving away free tickets they got nobody.
I keep a copy of one of her nude photos in my wallet...y'know, protection from vampires.
She has no tv presence. I guess because she was trying to be nice and likeable for that audience. I always am suspicious of people who jump around from moral system to moral system. She went from partying hippie to professional Orthodox Jew to whatever she is at the moment. There's no reason to believe that in her personal life, she has any particular loyalty to any particular ideology. Another reason to be suspicious of her is that cackle. Verges on insanity.
I'm SHOCKED that you could be sooooo naughty.... LOL
They always do that with a new program. Dr. Joy Brown did the same thing when she went to television.....so what?
He was hired to be a ghost writer. Why didn't he understand that? Also, why didn't he get his money up front? He sounds a bit naive, but maybe that's how business works on the left coast.
Or this one.
My only criticism is she jumps to conclusions too often on what the caller's problem is - I know she can't let them go on forever but there is some middle ground between cutting them off so she can give an answer that has nothing to do with the issue and boring the audience with minutiae.
It's almost like she's not even listening. I know she would say something like she's been doing this for years and she knows where the caller is going, but her answer isn't even close to what the caller needs. She's definitely not intuitive which she probably thinks is an advantage but it really isn't in her field.
Do like her family values though.
The whiner did not seem to be upset when the initial contact was made by a subbordinate to Dr. Laura. Why would he be upset when his termination was issued by same?
"MUST stay married regardless of the circumstances.......to be unrealistic, therefore flawed."
Dr Laura makes exceptions for infidelity, drugs and drunks....
Remember that she's not getting these calls "cold." They've been extensively screened, and before she pushes the button to start listening to them, she's had a chance to read a lengthy summary of their issues and problems that appears on her computer monitor. The screener also makes sure that the caller has a legitimate problem and is a real caller, not someone who is trying to create a situation to embarrass or stump Dr. Laura. When she appears to be cutting a caller off to jump to conclusions, you'll rarely hear the caller say, "No, Dr. Laura, you completely have hold of the wrong end of the stick, it isn't like that at all." All talk show hosts do it this way. Laura's screeners are really tough and insightful, and often they only let the markedly idiotic callers through, for dramatic effect.
How do I know? My dad worked for a big organization that had both a TV station and a radio station. When Dad would drive in from the country to pick up his paycheck, I would go with him and I saw how they operated.
What bothers me is her authoritarianism. "Go do the right thing."
I'm certainly no moral relativist, but she comes off as coldly imperious, and seems to lack any sense that it is "human to err," and that very good, well-meaning people can and DO make mistakes, especially when they are young.........like some 40 years younger than she is. I find myself wondering just what kinds of "skeletons" there might be in her own closet from when she was somewhere between 18 and 30, which is the age range when millions of people make poor life choices....and with the very best of intentions.
I also have trouble with the fact that there was a "deadly" estrangement between herself and her mother, and while it may be that this wasn't her fault at all, it's extremely weird that her mother's body lay in that house for a couple of months before anyone even knew that she had been killed (by an intruder, as I believe it was finally reported). Just not easy to explain something like that scenario, considering Laura's profession.
Thanks so much for your comments. They add so much substance to this thread! I truly appreciate your remarks.
I don't think she's a monster. I think she's boring as hell.
Not being able to stomach more than 30 seconds of her drivel, I'm not qualified to judge whether she's a monster or not, so I'll leave that to others.
And she's only fair as a porno-poser.
One of us is misunderstanding this story. Where does he say that he didnt get paid? You added the line to the title that she stiffed" him, but I don't see it.
I read that her producer promised to pay him. Did I miss something about later refusal or are you making that part up?
Im not a fan of Dr Laura, but liked her for awhile. I could never reconcile how a woman could sleep with her producer on her way to the top, and then when her body gave out, preach the morality of abstinence so condescendingly, even after the photos came out.
It sounds like there was tension between Burt Prelutsky and Dr Laura from the beginning. No wonder she treated him rudely in the end. No wonder hes now betraying her professional confidence. Only a nut would do that. No wonder they couldnt get along. I dont think that will help his career or hurt hers.
I know people who have worked with her and say she cusses like a sailor.
Just the way Burt wrote it, I drew that conclusion from it. I'll email him and ask if he can clarify this point.
........and thanks for adding this bit: "I could never reconcile how a woman could sleep with her producer on her way to the top, and then when her body gave out, preach the morality of abstinence so condescendingly, even after the photos came out." It is something that I never knew.
Thanks for asking about Burt's salary issue. Nothing wrong with challenging assumptions!
I highly recommend you look into Sirius. Both Elder and Bruce are on, along with Laura Ingraham, G. Gordon, Glenn Beck, NRA News, and lots of catagorized commercial free music. Mrs. H-T gave it to me for our anniversary this year and I'm really liking it.
Dr. Laura is a bitch. But if Einstein had been an asshole would E still be equal to MC squared? If Newton had been a child molester, would apples fall up?
It all makes perfect sense. Dr Laura's mother was borderline nutcase. She made her daughter borderline nutcase with ambition. Daughter functions at a very high level, mother at a lower one. Daughter is fascinated with psychology as a way of understanding herself.
What sets Dr. Laura apart from many others with this profile is her cold ambition. Oprah has it, too, as well as Dr. Phil. Oprah's streak of borderline nutcase leaked out this week with her grudge against Hermes for not opening the door after hours to her. Again the cold ambition, "I'm somebody, don't you know!" Dr. Phil's streak hasn't shown clearly yet but it will. And the list goes on and on. Very interesting if you like studying psychology. Once they show their Achilles heel, they get humility and meet with Jesse Jackson for prayer sessions to regain the public affection.
They're all hypocrites, bigtime, and Burt Prelutsky, a gifted, funny writer who's been in the business and knows it inside out, is just pointing the hypocrisy out to us who see only the polished exteriors. He's entirely right to be disappointed, as it appears he assumed Dr. Laura was a cut above Hollywood average in manners and honest behavior. I guess he'd say, "Even after all these years in the biz, I still had something to learn."
Just my two cent's worth.
'Dr.' Laura is a COMPLETE FRAUD. Get real. She has been disavowed by both a major famiuly group and most the entire Jewish community of Dallas over her behavior, rudeness and outright basic courtesy for other people.
If you listen to her give you advice, perhaps you need more than you think you do.
I do in general agree with her regarding marriage. If you're a Christian, there are two reasons for allowable divorce. Yet many Christians use the "we've grown apart. we grown in different directions" yada, yada. yada. Those are not scriptural reasons for divorce. Adultry and a nonbeliever leaving a believer are. The only two. A Christian can't complain of growing apart, alchoholism and so forth and filing for divorce. Two people made a solemn oath before and to God and the world to stay through better or worse. When it gets slight less than better, too many want to fold the tent and move on.
"Dear Char--I just finished reading the responses. To answer the questions I can recall: I did get paid in full. I did not have any problems with Dr. Laura for the three months I was working on the show.
"I was not hired as a ghost writer. Even the contract gave me co-writing credit; the point is she was not doing any writing, but still insisted on getting a writing credit. That was something I did not think the Dr. Laura we know from the airwaves would find acceptable behavior in somebody else.
"In fact, after she read the piece, Laura wrote to say how much she had loved working with me. My nose was out of joint, not because of money, but because even three weeks after she and the director decided there was no way she could memorize the material, she hadn't gotten back to me. It's true that I was first approached by the producer, but it was Laura who had told him about me.
"It seems she had been a fan of mine from the days I wrote a humor column for the L.A. Times and was writing MASH scripts. I think that addresses the various points the readers raised. I guess I agree with those who feel that, considering her own well-publicized past, it would not be a bad idea if she wasn't so completely intolerant of other people's mistakes. Best wishes, Burt"
"I wasn't too surprised that Laura had her staunch defenders, but I was a little surprised by the ones who thought I was whining. I was attacking her for her hypocrisy. I have dealt, as you can imagine, with a lot of horses' patooties in TV, but none of them ever claimed to be a living saint, one who concluded every hour with a mantra of "Go and do the right thing."
"The readers who annoyed me were those who thought I was upset about the money or even about being let go. Under the sircumstances, they didn't have any choice. I was not bitter about it. In fact, from the very beginning, it didn't make sense to me that I was hired. I didn't quite see Laura doing comedy material, but I was told she really wanted it that way.
"So I obliged, and did my best. Which even she and the producer acknowledged was pretty good. In fact, her producer thought I should salvage the material for a funny book. Which I might do. Inasmuch as I signed the contract knowing she was going to share writing credit, I wasn't even kicking about that.
"But after working for three months, I thought this paragon of virtue owed me a call or at least an e-mail. Odd that so many people don't see to get it."
The Kennedys used to ski in Waterville Valley, NH, which is the next town east of me. I can introduce you to a whole bunch of people who can attest to their character.
And, yes, it is just as you might have suspected.
Thankfully, the ones who still survive have decided to go ski somewhere else. I don't know where and I don't care. Just as long as it's not around here.
John Sununu has a home here, though.
None of what you attribute to the writer was in the piece.
That is most telling.