Friday, August 11, 2017

"Family Ties": oral history of the 1980s sitcom – part 6 – other cast

Introduction to the Family Ties oral history (including the list of interviewees and links to each part).

What was your impression of Marc Price?

John Putch (s1, 2, 5): Funny. I don't think we crossed paths. I remember the folks at One Day at a Time commenting that the Skippy character was very similar to the Bob Morton character I played on ODAAT. I didn't see it, but it was ironic that I was doing both shows.
Gracie Harrison (s4): Great sense of humor, kind, and fun to work with. I always though Skippy was underrated!
Sonia Curtis (s5, 6): Marc Price was very sweet and excited. Kind of like a puppy dog. Bounds of energy and enthusiasm—much like Skippy, whom he portrayed so brilliantly.
Amy Lynne (s5): I knew Marc before that show. He was the comedian at a kids' variety show in L.A. Marc is awesome, very talented, sweet as can be. Full of energy, which is how he comes across on the show.
Darrell Thomas Utley (s6): He had a scene where he would say few lines with me, so he did hang out with me behind the scenes to get the chemistry going and was pretty much a funny guy.

Susan Kohler (s6): I had a scene with Marc, Brian, and the boy who played my son. Marc was very hard working and very funny.
Danielle von Zerneck (s6): I loved him because of his Joe Franklin appearances. Remember him being around but have no clue if he was even in my ep.

What was your impression of Scott Valentine?

Brian McNamara (s5): So different from his character! Could not have been nicer.
Sonia Curtis (s5, 6): Scott was great. Funny and sweet. We had the same agents at the time and I saw him and his wife at charity events we all helped with.

What was your impression of Brian Bonsall?

Darrell Thomas Utley (s6): I remember being invited to his birthday party after we were done shooting the episode. We went out to a WWF match and got VIP access to meet Hulk Hogan that night. Overall a nice kid but we didn't keep in touch after that.

Susan Kohler (s6): Brian would disappear from the set and production would stop until they found him.

Earl, what was your impression of Tom Hanks (guest star, s1 and 2)?

He was a lot busier on the set than I was. Very pleasant. I was a big Bosom Buddies fan. The two of them on that show were just magic. Tom told me he had hesitation about doing it—at least that's what I remember!

Peter, though you and Tom have had long, busy careers, did you two ever chat about the fact that you both guested on Family Ties?

Yes. He said "You've gotta see this kid Michael J. Fox. It's like butter, it's so easy for him."

Chris, what was your impression of Bridgette Andersen (young Mallory, s1, who died in 1997)?

Nothing especially.

Chris, what was your impression of Kaleena Kiff (young Mallory, s2)?

I do remember she talked about Matt Dillon and wanting to go see Rumble Fish. That's about it.

John [Putch], what was your impression of Crispin Glover (s2 guest star)?

Sweet guy. Unique and unpredictable.

What was your impression of Gary David Goldberg?

John Putch (s1, 2, 5): Smart, soulful, and caring head of show. I had little interaction as I was only the guest cast a few times. But Gary continued to bring me in to read for his other shows as the years went by. He was very loyal that way.
Terry Wills (s1, 2, 5, 6, 7): The biggest mensch I ever met. I loved Gary. He was kind and funny and unbelievably generous, and produced the absolute best catered dinners ever.
Edward Edwards (s2): Gary was a truly remarkable writer and producer. When we met at the audition, I knew at the time that I actually was a completely different type than what Gary had envisioned for the character. After the first pass at the audition scene, he was laughing really hard and gave me some notes to do it again. I took that ball and ran really hard for the end zone. It was one of those great moments where I was able to take his notes and embellish them to the delight of all in the room. When I left the room I knew I had done everything possible, but I still had doubts as again I knew he originally was thinking of a different type and a different age.
Kate Vernon (s2): My memory of him is so dear. Such an easy laugh—easy to make laugh. It was reassuring and confidence-building. His soul was centered in such a warm place. He loved actors.
Tom Byrd (s2): Gary David Goldberg was one of the warmest, most supportive creator/producers I have ever met. He often preferred hugs to handshakes.
Kathleen Wilhoite (s2): He had an infectious laugh and he'd laugh loudly at rehearsal if he liked the way a scene was going. It made me happy to hear him laugh.
Lenora May (s2): My good friend was his assistant and said he was the best boss. Generous to a fault. I didn't have much contact with him.
Alan Blumenfeld (s2, 3, 4, 5, 6): More often than not, once you were a guest on a TV show, unless your character came back, you were done. But Gary had a repertory company—I don't remember the names of the other actors [he would hire more than once]. [They included Robert Costanzo and Terry Wills.] That was a real break in tradition. To say that we were grateful for that would be a real understatement.

Very often Gary would give me a job in November or December, which are slow times in the industry.

How sad that he's gone. I didn't go to his funeral but did see him a couple times in the years before he passed. I went to the reading of his book—he wrote this wonderful book. He was an amazing man.
Timothy Busfield (s3, 5): Great, encouraging. I was about to make an entrance on the "Best Man" episode where we have the joke about Yentl. Doug is so different from who I am so to pull that off required focus. I had to drop my IQ a good 50 points to go on. [Then] Gary ran backstage to where the entrance door is and told me how great it's going. But at 27, I told him to go away because I'm in a zone and I'm this character and the last thing I want to be doing at that moment is talking to the creator of the show! As we are counting down! The last ten seconds before the camera rolls belong to the actor—too late for notes. I'm like get the f*** out of here! He laughed. He got it.
Lily Mariye (s3): Gary was the Big Boss, the Papa of the set, a formidable presence. He was smart and wise and had a huge heart. I was very sad to hear of his passing.
Robert Costanzo (s3, 4, 5, 6): I always had a fondness for Gary. He went to Lafayette High School in Brooklyn. That school has a lot of famous alum—Sandy Koufax, Larry King, Rhea Perlman, Paul Sorvino. Gary and I knew each other because my brother played baseball for Lafayette. Gary was a really good ball player, especially basketball. He and I had sports in common, although we didn't hang out. I went to St. Francis Prep because my mom wanted me at a Catholic school and also so I wouldn't get taken advantage of by the fast Jewish girls at Lafayette. (laughs)

I'm a big neighborhood guy and I love that we all came from this sort of wasteland where you wouldn't think of anybody being in the arts. People from blue collar families who wouldn't know stage left from the Stage Door Deli.

Gary and I both ended up in L.A. and I'd heard he was trying to find me. He wrote the Last Resort character Murray the maître d' for me. When we set up a meeting so he could pitch me Murray, we became fast friends. He loved to talk about the old neighborhood. I hardly saw him but we spoke on the phone.

Gary used to go back to Brooklyn, get a limo, pick up his old friends, and go to the gym at Lafayette to play ball. They'd open it up for him, maybe on a weekend. I wasn't there but would hear this from my brother. Then they would go down to Nathan's in Coney Island to eat. He was very generous.

Gary was strong. He liked to have control. His casting was usually on the point. He had good instincts so I would not quarrel with him. I can't put him in the class of a Norman Lear but he was a very solid writer, very funny. He just knew how to do it. He wound up selling the Family Ties syndication rights to Paramount for something like $60 million—you can look that up. It was a big deal at the time. He eventually got tired of the business.

My brother was a fireman and wrote an interesting script about my Uncle Pete and his son Paul, who Gary knew from the baseball team. Paul was a writer for the New York Post and had a terrible accident on the highway, hit his head. He was never the same. I thought Gary could've gotten it done but he wasn't interested in directing television at that time.

His daughter Shana Goldberg-Meehan was a producer on Friends and the spinoff Joey. I played Joey's father—they were going to add me to the cast but then the show got canceled.
Norman Parker (s3, 5, 6): Whenever I was in the presence of Gary, I felt I was with, quite simply, the nicest and finest guy on the planet. It seems to me so right that he created
Family Ties. Funny, like Gary himself, was but a small part of the humanity of the man and the show.
Adam Carl (s3): Over the years I've found myself wishing I remembered more about my interactions with him. I recall him being warm, avuncular, and supportive. I later did another series for his company (Ubu Productions) called The Bronx Zoo that starred Ed Asner. I did about 11 episodes, but I don't think I actually saw Gary the entire time I worked on that show.
Peter Scolari (s4): He was the best showrunner I'd ever seen and the best executive showrunner with half-hour comedy. In the modern era, the greatest showrunners I've known are Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner.
Gracie Harrison (s4): It was an honor to work for him. After a long morning rehearsal of my scene, we broke for lunch. As I walked back onto the set after the break, he was wrapping up a meeting with main principal cast and crew. He saw me walking across the set and started applauding, and then everyone took his cue. He then told me how happy they were with my performance. I was absolutely blown away. I will never forget how inspiring and grateful it made me feel.
Brian McNamara (s5): After two days of rehearsal, he didn't want to cut the show, [which] was long. He liked it so much that he went to the network and asked to make it an hour episode.
Sonia Curtis (s5, 6): Gary was like the father on set. Tall, kind, smart, and I felt protected. He seemed to really create that safe family environment and used to laugh hard and loud at rehearsals and run-throughs. He seemed like a very kind man.
Stuart Pankin (s5): Clever, creative, and made a brilliant decision casting me. I believe he was an unknown before I did the show. I guess I put him on the map. Two negatives: He should have paid me more, and he never wrote or sent flowers (is that three?).
Dana Andersen Schreiner (s5): Very nice. Very encouraging. I had read for him different times for different projects, [including] quite a few times for
Family Ties. He was always very complimentary and friendly. My Family Ties episode was the last one of the season so there was a big wrap party after we taped and Gary went out of his way to tell me that I should be sure and come.
Alyson Croft (s5): He was always laughing and very encouraging.
Ellen Latzen (s6): I remember Gary David Goldberg being a very nice man. He had a great presence. But what will always stand out in my mind about him was his laugh. There could have been 100 people in the audience, but when someone delivered a joke, it was his booming laughter that almost drowned out the rest. It was a staple of the show, the indicator that what was happening was funny. His infectious laughter can be heard in every episode of
Family Ties, and I found that oddly comforting when filming.
Darrell Thomas Utley (s6): He was the guy whom I remember as someone important because he made my role happen. He really genuinely embraced my role and made sure I was comfortable. He arranged support such as interpreters.
Susan Kohler (s6): He was very generous and had the most heartfelt laugh. He paid attention to everything and had such a positive attitude. During rehearsals, that genuine laugh prevailed while we worked. It was very affirming and you knew the humor was coming through.
Christina Pickles (s7): One of those rare and kind producers—supportive and positive.
Jaclyn Bernstein (s7): Gary was wonderful to me! As a child, I didn't know the breadth of his work. You meet so many executives and most of them just treat you like the kid, but Gary treated me like family. He wanted to bring my character back as a recurring, but it was the final season so we talked about developing another project together. I later worked on his beloved Brooklyn Bridge.

Part 7.

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