“It Was 30 Years Ago Today…”

Published by Rick on Tagged Uncategorized

              December 8, 1980, already 9 December in Britain when IT HAPPENED. I was spending some time in LA with Monica Ganas, my partner in Rick & Ruby, who was newly-married and pregnant while my first marriage was imploding. We’d decided to leave San Francisco and heed the advice so many had given us a year or so earlier, so we were scoping out what possibilities there were in La-La. In many respects, we were too late, as several of our biggest supporters had moved on, but it wasn’t a total wasteland. 

                  On the night of December 8th, we were meeting at the house in the San Fernando Valley of Dale McRaven, the producer of “Mork & Mindy.” He had become a fan after seeing us open for Robin Williams a year before, and believed that her pregnancy was a great idea for a story line they could build an episode around in which we would guest star. So after dinner and several drinks, we had some creative juices flowing, but mostly it was about hanging out and getting shit-faced. Dale was a huge football fan, and though I cared little, Monica even less, Dale kept the ABC Monday Night Football game on in the background with the sound low. It was a game that seemed to matter only to the people watching it in the stadium, as it involved East Coast teams, one of which, The Philadelphia Eagles, would go on to win the Super Bowl a month later.

                   Then came that on-screen interruption of an ABC News bulletin. Whenever they interrupt a national telecast, this has got to be at least a plane crash or a natural disaster. But none of us were prepared for the announcer to say that Beatle John Lennon had been shot! At that point, he wasn’t confirmed dead. That announcement came about 30 minutes later. What was appalling in a way was watching the football game and seeing the stadium crowd’s celebratory mood as the Eagles were clinching not only a victory, but an apparent playoff berth of some kind. Clearly no one in that throng of 40,000 had been told. “It all means nothing” droned Howard Cosell, the always-outspoken and very distraught main announcer for the game, while his partners Frank Gifford and Don Meredith (who died only a few days ago) tried to carry on commenting on the game itself. 

                   We stayed a little while longer after the game was over, then once we were in the car, with the radio playing back-to-back Lennon tunes, did the reality hit. Not that I sat there and bawled like a baby; it was more like “Holy shit, John Lennon’s dead!” I did get emotional with my soon-to-be ex-wife later on when I called her to commiserate and it seemed she wanted to talk more about our impending divorce. I don’t intend to depict her as a callous insensitive bitch (That I usually save for my third wife!), but the shoe fit at the time, and that’s what I called her before hanging up.

                      The music of John Lennon continued to play throughout the rest of the holiday season, enough that I grew to hate some of it, and still haven’t reconciled myself to the icon-ization that “Imagine” continues to receive from critics and fans alike. I still consider it to be hippie drivel, and that “All You Need Is Love” said the same thing so much better. Picky picky. I think it’s more astonishing that amidst the whole outpouring of love for Lennon in the ensuing month, the Christmas #1 in England was the embarrassing “There’s No One Quite Like Grandma,” by The St. Winifred’s School Choir, sandwiched in between “Just Like Starting Over” and “Imagine.” For you American readers, the song is as bad as the title and artist would suggest.

                        Oh yeah, and we did that episode of “Mork & Mindy” in March of 1981. Good pay, but I found out just how much I sucked as an actor. My one face-saving moment was during rehearsals when it was obvious I had no natural feel for acting, and the cast members were trying to encourage me. “It’s just talking,” said Pam Dawber, who played Mindy, to which I replied, “Yes, but I’m boring when I talk, too!”  The episode continues to air somewhere in the world every now and then, because I’ve continued to receive residual paychecks of somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 at least once a year. It’s even on YouTube, but I’m too embarrassed to watch.     

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