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???