TV Surf Report: Live from Beautiful Downtown Burbank, Surf’s Up at ScriptFest 2017


Santa Monica, CA — Emerging Writers from all over the world converge on beautiful downtown Burbank each year in June for LA’s premiere screenwriting conference, Script Fest, aka, The Pitch Fest.

And I was there.

To consult. To brainstorm. To participate in a panel discussion imparting words of filmmaking wisdom.

Surfing Hollywood Goes to Burbank!

The highlight, of course, is meeting these writers, all eager to hone their pitches to prospective managers and agents, to get feedback on their ideas from production companies, and to learn about the Business of Show from folks like Me:

A theatre producer from Atlanta. A Canadian Jack Of All Trades from Alberta. A writer from Dallas. A psychic from Denver. A musician from Albuquerque.

I sat down with writers and asked So where are you from?  What are you here to do? Who do want to meet? What’s your Story?  And we go from there… The best advice I can give these writers is to pitch their idea back to them using a lot fewer words.  This interchange helps them hone their concept and focus on what their story means to them.  It’s a lot of fun.

Steven James, a best-selling novelist from Eastern Tennessee, moderated a lunchtime Panel Discussion, entitled, Words of Filmmaking Wisdom, which featured screenwriters Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes  (New Mutants, San Andreas, The Conjuring), development guru Danny Manus, and Yours Truly.

The best feedback I received from this panel was from a writer who pulled me aside to whisper, You spoke the least yet said the most.

Fantastic. And much appreciated.

The conversation included lively discussions about Creating Characters, Engaging The Reader, and Pitching Your Story.

Do characters reveal themselves or do they change, and which is most important in a screenplay? Prioritizing one over the other seems silly as it depends on your Story.

Take The X-Files for example: Over the course of 9 seasons plus last year’s re-boot, Mulder’s character is revealed while Scully changes from skeptic to less skeptical. They are the Holmes & Watson of government conspiracy stories.

And then there are the Trends not to chase: Super Heroes. Adaptations. True Crime.


Meanwhile, Steven James can plot a murder mystery and not know who the killer is until he gets to the end of the story, which amazed everyone in the room and on the panel. Such a revelation just goes to show you that not all writers think alike nor do they need to think alike, follow the same rules of Structure, etc.  But Structure is there for a reason, as Danny Manus wisely illustrated with his knowledge of having read and given notes on 3,000+ scripts.

The Hayes Bros. encouraged the assembled writers not to be afraid to break some rules, to have the courage of their convictions, and to know the difference between a Sales Draft (which they call their Flower Draft) and a Shooting Script.

I really enjoyed hearing about how they write as a team (holidays are work days) and how they write action sequences which are intended to put the reader in the car as it flips and crashes down a mountain.  Terrific stuff. Flowery.


Writer Cons like Script Fest are valuable tools for an emerging writer looking to make connections, to hone your ideas, and best of all, to find your Tribe.

A tip of the hat to event producers Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz who really know how to make a good event great.  Well done.


N E X T   U P:

Roger Federer Dresses For Success At Wimbledon



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Surf Report: My First Job As The Weekend DJ for the Local Radio Station in Hodgenville, Kentucky — Radio Days, Indeed


Santa Monica, CA — Little known fact:  When I was 16 years old, my first job was working as the Weekend DJ at the local radio station in my hometown of Hodgenville, KY. (pop. 2,500)

I am sure I was just terrible:  Squeaky teenage voice. Southern accent. Not much personality.

And yet, I know for a fact that I had a lot of fun.  What a great first job!

Radio Days, indeed.

The year was 1979, and back then, the station, WLCB Radio 1430 AM, was located on the town square, and the DJ booth had windows that faced both the square and the major thoroughfare, Lincoln Boulevard. You had a birds-eye view of the town in two directions (and vice versa).


Rural Americana was personified on Lincoln Square back then: Burba’s Hardware Store, Middleton & Marcum’s Clothing Store, the Five & Dime Store, My Dad’s Insurance Agency, The Local Eye Doctor’s Office, The Bank, The Car Dealership — Donohue Ferrill Motor Co., The Pool Hall, A Gas Station, Western Auto Bike Shop … and WLCB Radio, aka, Lincoln Broadcasting Co.

(Note: My hometown, Hodgenville, is the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, so many businesses adopt his name for their own.)

As teenagers were wont to do back then, my friends would be out riding around and would inevitably swing by the square and honk their car horns as they passed by the station, seeing me in the window, headphones on, microphone suspended in air, turntables spinning.

The Request Line was always open, so they’d call in and request their favorite songs. I recall Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall album was very popular, and Rock With You was everyone’s favorite anthem.  Also, I played a lot of Journey, Styxx, Kansas, KC & the Sunshine Band, etc. The format was most definitely Top 40.  I loved it.


The station manager, Ed Cundiff, was a bit hard of hearing, so he spoke very loudly. It was not uncommon for Ed to call in on the spur of the moment from wherever he was to let me know he was listening and to yell at me for playing a song two times in a row!

You could do that back then:  Play a song you loved so much that you just had to listen to it again (and again). So, I did.

Why Ed hired me, I do not know. It was the less important weekend shift, which meant afternoons on Saturday and all day on Sunday. I was a junior in high school.  Maybe, it was a marketing ploy on Ed’s part: Hire a high-schooler in order to get everyone in high school to listen.

It wasn’t just my friends that listened to WLCB though.  All the local businesses who ran ads dutifully played the station throughout the town. The Friday night football games were broadcast live as were a few local church services on Sunday morning.

On Sundays, I would ride my bike from home to the station at seven in the morning, about a mile, open up, fire up the generator, turn on the news teletype machines (yes, I know how old this makes me sound, but that was the technology back then), and brew some Folgers in the Mr. Coffee.

Church services and gospel music gave way to Top 40, and I remember Sunday afternoons were just the best.  Even my mother, God Bless Her, listened from home in our Sitting Room, where she was probably crocheting something.  She loved Lou Rawl’s You’ll Never Find (Another Love Like Mine).


The highlight of my radio career was a very sad day for my town: A beloved state trooper had been shot and killed, and his funeral procession was a very big deal and came right through town.  I filed a news report that was picked up by radio stations all across the state:

Reporting live from the square in Hodgenville, this is Steve La Rue for WLCB Radio.

It was my first hit of Broadcast Journalism, and I was hooked. Again, I am sure I was terrible. Squeaky teenage voice. Southern accent. Very very little training.

Whatever is the opposite of Gravitas, well I had that.

Today, I came across a Music Video which took me back to those fun-filled days at WLCB Radio 1430 AM.  It’s ON HOLD by The xx, a tune favored by KCRW, my local radio station here in Santa Monica.

The story within the video is a snapshot of small-town life for teenagers in Marfa, Texas: Hanging out. Football Practice. Cheerleaders. Crushes. Just timeless. Marfa represents Any Town in America, including my own hometown of Hodgenville.

So on this Saturday afternoon, this one goes out to all my friends in Hodgenville and Parts Elsewhere.  Thanks for listening!

With On Hold, Here’s The XX…

ON HOLD — The xx



The radio station, WLCB, is no longer a local radio station nor is it on the town square along with Burba’s Hardware, Western Auto, Donohue Ferrill Motor Co., Dr. Sawyer’s Optometry, Middleton & Marcum, the gas station.

Kind of a bummer.  Yet, I recall these Radio Days oh so fondly. Good Music sure can take ya back.

N E X T    U P:

Reporting Live from Script Fest in beautiful downtown Burbank!


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TV Surf Report: True Crime Trending Despite Salacious Stories That Make For Less-Than-Compelling Entertainment


Santa Monica, CATrue Crime Is Not My Genre.

For some reason, I actively shy away from these dramas especially when I lived through the years involving the court case or the television coverage of the murder, crime or scandal (i.e., The People Vs OJ Simpson; Jon Benet Ramsey). In many cases, the victims and their families are still alive and are in pain.

These stories just do not appeal to me.  I don’t find them entertaining, but apparently, lots of other people do. So get ready, fans of Joe Paterno, Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky: This TV Is For You.

Here’s what’s in development and/or production:

  • Untitled Joe Paterno Story at HBO with Al Pacino starring as Joe Paterno, the legendary Penn State football coach.  Barry Levinson directs this sordid tale about college football players, coaches, and Pedophilia in the locker room showers. Paterno looked the other way when one of his coaches got way out of line with his players. The scandal is a dark mark on his legacy.
  • Linda and Monica at Amazon. Ugh. Flint Wainess’ Black List Script based on the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal is probably a good script, but whether this a good story is up for debate. The story of a stained blue dress and best friends. Heartwarming.
  • Law & Order:  True Crime – The Menendez Brothers at NBC.  Two sons of privilege in Beverly Hills murder their parents and go to prison for their crime. An 8-episode series starring Edie Falco, Anthony Edwards, Julianne Nicholson, Constance Marie, Miles Gaston Villanueva and Gus Halp. Heather Graham and Elizabeth Reaser have also joined the growing cast roster.
  • American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace at FX.  Ricky Martin, Penelope Cruz and Darren Criss star in the story about the brutal murder of Gianni Versace on the front steps of his own home in Miami’s South Beach.  A manhunt ensued for his killer (Criss).


  • Murder on the Appalachian Trail. Geoff Hood and Molly LaRue (probably a distant relation) were a couple hiking the AT and were brutally murdered by a drifter. Adaptation of Earl Swift’s moving article in Outside Magazine.
  • Diana & I at BBC Two.  Story follows four ordinary people following the week of Diana’s fatal car crash in Paris.  Peter Cattaneo directs.
  • Trust at FX.  The true story of the infamous Getty kidnapping.  Brendan Fraser stars as the investigator.  True Crime and Anthology.
  • Escape at Clinton Correctional at Showtime. Benicio Del Toro and Patricia Arquette star in the limited series about two guys who escape from prison with the help of a female admirer. Ben Stiller executive produces.
  • Fever at BBC America.  Elizabeth Moss stars as Typhoid Mary, a immigrant imprisoned for spreading the disease among wealthy New England families. Based on Mary Beth Keane’s novel.  Megan Ellison and Sue Naegle of Annapurna Films executive produce.
  • A Very English Scandal for BBC One. Hugh Grant stars as a disgraced Prime Minister who was accused and acquitted of murdering his ex-lover. Stephen Frears directs.

'Florence Foster Jenkins' premiere, 64th San Sebastian Film Festival, Spain - 18 Sep 2016

Want more True Crime? More on this Trend can be found at SH – More True Crime Series


N E X T   U P:

Event Television Is Alive And Well

As Jesus Christ Superstar and RENT are heading to NBC and Fox




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Style Surf Report: Rafael Nadal Rocks Fashion (And Business) Both On And Off The Court — Vamos!


Santa Monica, CA — This week, the tennis world slides into Paris and the terre battue of Roland Garros, aka, The French Open.  And as you know, dear Readers, when I’m not surfing, I am most likely playing Tennis.

Rafael Nadal, a 9-time champion, is heavily favored to win a 10th RG title (and 15th grand slam title overall, passing Pete Sampras) at the ripe old age of 31.  Seriously, this is kinda old for men’s professional tennis or at least, it used to be.

The top 5 players are all 30+ (Andy Murray is 30, Novak Djokovic is 30, Stan Wawrinka is 32, Nadal, and the evergreen Roger Federer is 35).

Full Disclosure:  The resurgent Nadal is my pick to win not only Roland Garros but also my online pool at Tennis Channel Racket Bracket. My brother Will and I compete against each other for Eternal IntraFamily Glory and also, for a delicious Oreo McFlurry from McDonalds. Nadal, btw, wins millions.

The Spaniard rivals Federer in the Style Department in addition to their tennis: Both prominently represent Nike, a blue chip endorsement in the sports world. Off-court, Nadal has a fashion brand endorsement with men’s clothier Tommy Hilfiger:

GQ Magazine – UK Feature Story


And unlike Federer, Nadal has his very own Tennis Academy in his hometown of Manacor in Mallorca, Spain.  I really really want to visit this picturesque island.

Since Federer is skipping Roland Garros and the entire clay court season to rest up and prepare for the Grass Court season and Wimbledon, let’s check out Nadal at The French Open, which is my favorite Grand Slam tournament (Paris, slow red clay, great tennis, French cuisine, and a smaller more intimate stadium that is truly beautiful).

In order to dress like Nadal when he walks onto Court Philippe Chatrier, we’ll need to start a Tab at Tennis Warehouse and get Nadal’s gear. I suspect we’ll be able to qualify for Free Shipping. Here’s the clothing Drop Shot:


  • Racket(s): Am thinking we should have at least 6 (one to play with, five to break in frustration). Babolat Play Aero Drive ($349.00/each; $2,094)
  • String:  You thought those rackets came pre-strung? Think again, Amigo.  We’ll need Babolat RPM Blast 15 String at $17.95 each = $107.70
  • Shoes:  This is clay, a surface that demands sliding, so we’ll need Nike Lunar Ballistec 1.5 ($200.00)  At Wimbledon, we’ll need new shoes for the grass. FYI.
  • Shirt: Gotta get the Nike Rafa Crew ($100.00)
  • Shorts: Thankfully, Nadal has stopped wearing those Capri Pants and now favors the Nike Men’s Summer Flex Ace 7 ($85.00)
  • Hat: Nadal favors headbands, but sometimes dons a Nike Men’s Summer Rafa Heritage Hat ($28.00)
  • HeadbandNike Men’s Summer Head Tie Vivid Purple ($17.00)
  • Wrist Bands: Nike Premier Summer Doublewide  Blk/GhostGreen ($12.00)
  • Socks: On Sale! 3-pak for $13.50 (normally $18.00) Black Nike Dri-Fit Cushion Crew
  • Racket Bag: Babolat Pure French Open 12-Pak ($109.95) Twelve rackets seem like overkill at this level.  I mean, really!
  • Misc. Items like Overgrips and Abrasion Tape will run ya another $20 or so.  Nadal gets lots of blisters and his fingers are always taped.  Go figure!

Okay, we’re all set.  Charge it to MasterCard:  $2,767.15.  Ay Carumba! Muy expensivo, Amigo. I could probably make do with just one racket which knocks down the cost of my Cart to around $1,100. Damn!

Hey, that’s Tennis in 2017.


Meanwhile, let’s talk some logistics.  Now that we’ve decked ourselves out in Nadal’s gear, shouldn’t we spend a few days at his Tennis Academy in Mallorca? Vamos! Airfare on American Airlines from LA to Manacor will run ya $2,000 roundtrip.

At  Rafael Nadal Tennis Academy, Adult Weekly Tennis Camp programs run Monday to Sunday.  The facility, completed in 2016, looks muy fantastico to me.  I’m in.  Who’s with me? A weekly package will run us $1,300 US.  That actually sounds pretty reasonable to me. Uncle Toni, here I come. Carlos Moya, please have some Sangria on hand. Gracias!

After a week in Mallorca, my tennis partner Ted won’t know what hit him. Worth it!


 N E X T   U P:

Surf Trips. Television. And a Friend Trains for the 2018 Winter Olympics!

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Happy Memorial Day…


If you need me, I’ll be at the pool.


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TV Surf Report: Pilot Season – The Good. The Bad. The You Know What.


Santa Monica, CA — Seems the networks and streaming services are not quite done with Super Heroes, are sticking with struggling new series longer, and are ordering more and more pilots with some sort of built-in marketability (i.e., re-makes or spin-offs).

FX has renewed Legion for S2 as has Netflix for A Series of Unfortunate Events.  Fox has picked up both Star and Lethal Weapon, and surprisingly, The Exorcist. Even NBC picked up struggling Taken and Timeless for S2. The CW found an unlikely creative hit in its reimagined Riverdale.

There’s Good News for Creativity. Bad News for Tiresome Trends. And Downright Ugliness in Re-makes and Spinoffs that are really just Hedged Bets to reach a minimal audience in a crowded marketplace with a glut of product.

Here are the shows that have caught my attention, for better and for worse…

T H E   G O O D:

Amazon continues to make a few pilots and encourage the public to vote for which should be ordered to series.  Marketing ploy? Absolutely.  The New York Times TV Critics reviewed them (see link below).  Imagine if those old Dinosaurs — broadcast networks, cable and other digital streaming services could get that kind of free publicity?!

Amazon Pilots – Vote Now

Amy Sherman-Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a period comedy about a housewife-turned-standup, has all the buzz, and remarkably, has been given a two season order.  Sorry, Gilmore Girls fans, but you’ll probably have to wait a bit for that second season of the re-boot. Additionally, series star Lauren Graham toplines  Linda from H.R., a comedy pilot for FOX, however, it’s not going forward to series.


And, Adaptations…

  • The Witcher at Netflix.  Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski’s series of books get an English translation that sounds like Buffy 2.0, wherein, a group of young people hunt demons. Sean Daniel (The Mummy) executive produces.
  • Rise at NBC.  Series order for Michael Sokolove’s story about a working class high school drama teacher who inspires his students.  Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother) stars. Fantastic auspices.  High hopes.
  • Little Women at PBS.  The BBC and Masterpiece co-produce a new 3-parter of the beloved classic.  Should be a winner. Angela Lansbury to star as Aunt March.  Oh, Beth!
  • The Passage at Fox.  Justin Cronin’s dark vampire tragedy.  I am still troubled by this book which I read many years ago.  Intrigued to see if the series can match it. Off-cycle.
  • Melrose at Showtime.  Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) stars in this limited series adapatation of Patrick Melrose novels.
  • The Vampire Lestat.  Anne Rice and son Christopher are adapting The Vampire Chronicles for TV.  Am hoping Paramount and Anonymous Content (which optioned 11 books) shoot the series first then shop it to a US broadcaster.  Think International Co-production like The Young Pope or Rome on HBO. Christopher Rice scripted the pilot.
  • The Alienist at TNT. Luke Evans (Beauty and the Beast) toplines this Caleb Carr series now shooting in Budapest.
  • Jack Ryan at Amazon. Tom Clancy’s hero comes to the small screen after several feature film incarnations. John Krazinski toplines.

T H E    B A D:

Of course, there are more Super Heroes on the way.  I hear the faint scratching sounds that denotes Television’s inevitable arrival at the bottom of the super hero barrel.  Am thinking we may be near the end of this trend, despite DC Comics and Marvel Studios’ exhaustive best efforts:


  • Watchmen at HBO.  Zack Snyder had planned to adapt his own film for TV, but you know what they say about the best laid plans…so, Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost) has now taken control of the project and will adapt the comic for television.
  • Marvel’s Runaways at Hulu. Six diverse teenagers who can barely stand each other but are united against their parents. I can barely stand this premise. Series order. Ho Hum.
  • The Gifted at FOX. Stephen Moyer (True Blood) stars. Bryan Singer directs. X-Men meets Running On Empty. Could work!  Here’s a teaser: Marvel’s The Gifted Cannot help but think of Heroes on NBC as I watched it.
  • Inhumans at ABC. Series order. Marvel Studios just cannot be stopped.  Will be interested to see how this correlates to the MCU films.
  • Krypton at SyFy. Superman’s grandfather is an eco-lawyer warning the planet about climate change in this DC series from David Goyer.  Hmmm….sounds like current events in the US. Series order.
  • Cloak & Dagger at Freeform. Series order for this Marvel property. Inter-racial pairing solving crimes.
  • Squirrel Girl and The New Warriors at Freeform.  Series order and the likely companion to Cloak & Dagger. Way to go, Marvel.
  • Black Lightning at The CW. Cress Williams stars in this adaptation of the DC Comic.  Uber-producer Greg Berlanti EPs. Series order.
  • Deadpool: The Animated Series at FXX.  An adult version that kids will love.  Donald Glover (Atlanta) EPs with his brother.  Sounds like a winner.


T H E    U G L Y:

And, Re-boots & Re-makes… Some will work. Most won’t, though.  Blame Fox’s successful re-boot of The X-Files (which is coming back for 10 more episodes, btw).


  • Tremors at SyFy. So much for re-branding. Kevin Bacon reprises his role from the 1990 cult favorite featuring giant Graboid worms out for blood! UCP and Blumhouse produce. Hope they make it fun and not take themselves seriously.
  • The Good Doctor  at ABC.  A re-make of a South Korean show brought to ABC Studios by Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0).  Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) stars as a brilliant young doctor with a handicap. Here’s the Preview Trailer
  • S.W.A. T.  at CBS. Shemar Moore stars in the TV version of the 2003 Neil Moritz film, which was a feature version of a ’70s TV series.  Justin Lin, Shawn Ryan EP with a hundred other guys, it seems. Just what audiences need:  Another cop show. Yawn.
  • Snowpiercer at TNT.  Daveed Diggs (Black-ish, Hamilton) to star. Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directs the TV version of Boon Joon Ho’s futuristic film about a train filled with humanity’s survivors circling the globe. Josh Friedman (Sarah Conner Chronicles) is the showrunner. Pilot order. Sign me up!
  • Charmed at The CW.  Oy! This series hasn’t been off the air 10 years, and it’s already getting a re-boot. Thumbs down.  The creative auspices are from Jane the Virgin, so we shall see if this moves forward off-cycle.
  • What About Bob? at NBC. Gender flip. Sounds terrible. Yet it’s the familiar title that the network (and its studio, Universal) covet. Script order.
  • Dynasty at The CW. Grant Show (Melrose Place) is the new Blake Carrington. Krystle is Latina. Fallon is ….Fallon. Series order.
  • Lost in Space at Netflix.  Series order.  Danger, Will Robinson! Am hoping for a complete re-imagining of this beloved campy classic.
  • Will & Grace at NBC.  Now, NBC has a winner of an Event Series on its hands (or Peacock feathers, if you will) here.  I predict the 10+ episodes will premiere big and ratings will diminish considerably after that…just like the original series! The political humor will be quite timely. The gay jokes will be tiresome. More Grace, Less Will. Here’s the Teaser for the Re-Boot
  • The X-Files at Fox.  Mulder and Scully are coming back for 10 more episodes.  You’ll have to wait until 2018, though.  Meanwhile, check out Gillian Anderson in her fantastic turn as Media on Starz’ terrific American Gods which has been picked up for S2.  Great news for fans of the book.
  • Roseanne at ABC.  I have a very bad feeling about this one.  The entire cast is on board for a revival, though, even both Beckys.
  • She’s Gotta Have It at Netflix.  Spike Lee directs all 10 episodes of the contemporary update of his feature.



And Spin-offs.

Sometimes, ya get Laverne & Shirley. Most times, ya get After-MASH.

  • Supernatural at The CW. Now in its 12th season, the women of Supernatural get their own show, where naturally, they will battle monsters.
  • Game of Thrones at HBO.  The pay cabler has ordered no less than four spinoffs of the mega-hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire & Ice series.  Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Jane Goldman (Kingsman) are two of the scripters.  Bodes well for Westeros. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for Martin to finally publish Book 7, entitled, The Winds of Winter.
  • Sheldon at CBS. Ordered straight to series.  Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons gets an EP credit (and fee). Parsons will narrate the life of Young Sheldon.
  • Mayans MC at FX.  Sons of Anarchy begets a new chapter.  I trust the creative brain trust at FX to get this right.
  • College-ish at ABC. In a very synergistic move, the Black-ish spin-off is laid off at sister network, Freeform. Eldest daughter goes to college.  Sounds like A Different World, the collegiate spin-off from The Cosby Show. Could work…again.
  • Seattle Fire at ABC.  Shonda Rhimes spins off a firehouse drama from Grey’s Anatomy.  Series order. Stacy McKee scripts this ensemble drama. Gonna be hot.
  • The New Pope at HBO. Paolo Sorrentino begins a new chapter following the success of limited series The Young Pope starring Jude Law. One Pope too many?

N E X T   U P:

Forward/Story, A Report From Indonesia!


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Surf Report: Mother’s Day Is A Day To Get Creative When Mom Has Exited Stage Right…How I Handle A Difficult Day


Santa Monica, CA – Just got an email from Peets Coffee alerting me that today is the Last Day to Order Mother’s Day Gifts with Free Shipping!

There is no Reply function available to this email, but if there were, I would send the following response:

My mother is dead.  Your email wounds me!

And so it goes every May with endless emails from Home Depot, florists, and airlines, each proclaiming all these deals that are perfect for Mom!

Meanwhile, my Mom has been off-planet for 33 years.

Yet, that doesn’t stop Apple who insists via email that I should  Celebrate Mom with Apple Gifts! Or American Airlines who wishes me to Earn Miles this Mother’s Day with Teleflora!

Or, Delta Airlines, who reminds me that Gifts for Mom Means More Miles For You! Or Dell Computers, who lets me know that You Know Mom Best, so Surprise Her with Our Gift Guide!

These emails go on and on arriving daily at a feverish pace no less than 3-4 weeks prior to Mother’s Day. What is the point of Facebook or Cookies and Algorithms when these vendors clearly have the wrong guy?

Pain. Unintentional Pain.

Each mention of Mother’s Day, each year, is like a tiny pin-prick on my skin, reminding me that I do not belong to this social group, that I do not celebrate this holiday despite the fact that I am a frequent flyer on American and Delta and that I use a Dell computer.

For these reasons, I dread Mother’s Day.

At least, I used to dread Mother’s Day until I helped create the bizarro version for the Bereaved:

 Dead Mother’s Day.

I found a very specific tribe of like-minded individuals who shared my twisted sense of humor while a student at The Groundlings, LA’s improvisational comedy troupe.


Sandy, Claudette, Eve, and our improv teacher, the late great Cynthia Szigeti and I gathered at my home in Santa Monica for years celebrating Dead Mother’s Day, which we dubbed DMD.

Our mothers were all In The Great Hereafter.

And yet, Society still inundated us with commercials and events imploring us to celebrate this once beloved holiday. Since we couldn’t take our Moms out to Brunch, my funny and smart friends and I got together and toasted them with champagne and/or mimosas:

To Rose, Maureen, Flora, Cora, and Frances Bond!

So much laughter. So much fun.  And some Grief.

We got creative, too. Some years, we’d bring our Moms’ favorite records (Johnny Mathis!) or read the last letter we each received from them (freshman year of college!), or something equally memorable.

Some years, we’d bring new members, but our core group remained the five of us.

DMD was our way of saying to the world that celebrating Mother’s Day the traditional way does not work for us.

I am so sorry for your loss — that empty-sounding phrase that never really serves to comfort the bereaved became our hilarious mantra. At least, it was hilarious to Us.

Year after year, friends would ask me, kinda hesitantly, So you doin’ that weird Mother’s Day thing of Yours again this year?


Claudette, Sandy, Cynthia, Eve and I learned so much about one another by telling the Group about our respective Mothers: Who they were, how they lived, how they died. I learned to love these friends even more by learning about The Women Who Made Them.

Those were some really special Brunches, usually at my house on 3rd Street in Santa Monica, and usually with Fried Chicken on the Menu.  Or Quiche.  Or fresh Asparagus from the Main Street Farmer’s Market. And always with fresh Strawberries and Coffee Ice Cream and Coffee & Bailey’s and more Champagne. The party lasted hours.


Sharing Grief eases the burden of one’s grief.

I see that now. But what was great about these friends and our gatherings was that we shared Our Love for Our Mothers which, in some small way, was a means to honor them.

(And hey, isn’t that the point of Mother’s Day?)

My friends supported me when I couldn’t be in Los Angeles and host the annual DMD because I was in Kentucky caring for my elderly father.  Some years, I was there, some years I wasn’t, but the beautiful thing that happened was that Dead Mother’s Day did happen whether I was there or not.  Cynthia threatened to bring the group to Kentucky, to bring the party to me.  DMD was that important to her.

We really created something special.  Our Mother’s Day was more than just another Brunch.  It was a Gathering that became bigger than any one person. So cool. Always, Cynthia was the great Champion of DMD. She absolutely loved it.

This year, 2017, my friends and I are not gathering together at my house.

Eve is doing a play. Claudette now lives in the South of France and just finished writing her first novel.


Sandy works remotely running an international screenwriting competition and is living in Connecticut.

And Cynthia, our greatest friend, professional cheerleader and teacher, passed away in 2016 at the age of 65 after several years of struggling with Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Of course, I miss Cynthia dearly, but I don’t grieve for her.

Instead, I envision she’s in Heaven having a mimosa with her own mother, Rose, whom I know she loved more than any other, and that Cynthia has more than likely gathered all of our mothers for their own heavenly version of Dead Mother’s Day.

To Claudette, Sandy, Eve and Steve!

They are singing as they clink their glasses and share stories about us amid gales of laughter with Cynthia’s laugh being the loudest and happiest.

So bring on those annoying emails urging me to Buy Something for Mom! I can handle it, and so can my mother-less friends.

We continue to be Sorry for Our Loss but we also continue to honor our Mothers who really do live on through Us.

Salute!  Let’s brunch.



N E X T   U P:

Back to Television. Pilot Season.




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Beach Surf Report: Something’s Wild Across from Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica


Santa Monica , CA — Across the Bike Path from the Annenberg Community Beach House in North Santa Monica, is a non-descript, enclosed section of beach adjacent to an unused lifeguard tower not yet ready for Summer.

There’s no Signage.

To the naked eye, this relatively blank beachscape doesn’t look like much. An almost hidden walking path divides it in the middle, and the seemingly unremarkable area is completely fenced in on three sides but open to the Pacific Ocean.  And yet, these unmarked 2+ acres of sand are pretty special.

In fact, this beach is Wild.

Inspired by the nationwide March for Science, I took the day off from Surfing and instead, I explored Santa Monica’s Beach Restoration Pilot Project and learned more about its usefulness during a presentation by Melodie Grubbs of The Bay Foundation.

(Shout out to my rural Kentucky public school science teachers: Roger Pepper (General Science), Rex Burd (Biology), Roy Long (Chemistry I & II) and Paula Setters (Physics)

Wild Beach Restoration Project

Climate Change, that bastard, is coming for California’s Coastline with severe erosion predicted during the next 100 years.  Here’s where California’s Wild Beach Project enters picturesque Santa Monica.

By not grooming these three acres of beach, The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are hoping to re-create natural sand dunes with vegetation that will be resilient to rising sea levels and will help protect our beautiful coastline.

Begun in December, Wild Beach was seeded with several types of vegetation (Sand Verbena, Evening Primrose), some of which has just started to sprout.  As the former Head Gardener of Groundhog Hill Farms in my native Kentucky, I could relate to the shouts of excitement expressed by Grubbs when she saw the results of her group’s efforts:  Stuff is growing!  The seeding worked.

During 2017’s very rainy winter months, lots of driftwood and bamboo (along with way too much beach trash — mostly plastic drinking straws (looking at you, Perry’s Beach Cafe) washed up on the beach and onto the wild garden.  Only the trash was removed.


So, what’s next for Wild Beach?

Birds. Snowy White Plovers, in fact.  Per Grubbs, these birds haven’t nested in this area for 70+ years and have returned because of the tasty vegetation and a protected area that doesn’t get groomed on a daily basis.

So if you plan to visit, Do Not Disturb!

Meanwhile, there’s no volleyball or sunbathing going on in this area.  The Bay Foundation has got to get some proper signage up soon to let the Public know what’s going on there before the fast-approaching busy summer months.

(Signs are on the way says project coordinator Grubbs, who spoke to a group of interested residents as part of Mayor Ted Winterer’s popular monthly Ride With The Mayor program, which ironically, was co-sponsored by Perry’s Beach Cafe. (Heads Up, Perry’s:  You are terrific, but please ditch the plastic drinking straws!)  City Manager Rick Cole was there as well, answering questions about upcoming city events like the Summer Concert Series and all things #GoSaMo.)


Can restoring an Eco-system to Santa Monica’s beaches help the fight against Sea Level Rise and Climate Change?

Only Time will tell if this restoration pilot project is successful.  It’s definitely a lab experiment at the moment, but one that is both important and worthwhile.

I am reminded of a great Wendell Berry quote that goes something like this:

Invest in The Millennium.

Plant Sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest you will not live to harvest.

That’s what’s going on here, I think.  The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are looking toward the Future. They can see some big problems heading our way and are looking at some creative solutions.

So remember, that blank stretch of enclosed beach across from the Annenberg Beach House, well, that beach is Wild.

Long may it be so.

U P   N E X T:


Pilot Season — The Good. The Bad. The Super Heroes.





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Food Surf Report: Celebrating Nowruz, Persian New Year and Seasonal Cooking at Spring in DTLA


Santa Monica, CA —  On Monday of this past week, I had painful Gum Surgery. By Friday, I had my first real meal in days, and it was outstanding.

When the Universe (or rather, your public radio station) offers you a complimentary dinner, the answer is always, Yes!  Whether you feel great or not, whether you are not sure if you can chew or not, and whether your plus one can make it or not.  Just say Yes.  A good mantra for 2017.

So, from the dentist’s chair to a comfy bar seat at a 5-star downtown LA restaurant, I had a very interesting week which started off with me barely able to eat nothing more complicated than orange Jell-O or mashed potatoes, and ended with, well, read on…

Friday: On the train to downtown LA.

I will never decline a dinner (or lunch) invitation to meet a friend downtown ever again after experiencing the pleasure of taking the Expo Line train from Santa Monica: So nice not being stuck in traffic on LA’s congested freeways!  At 6 PM, the Expo line was packed with folks heading back East after a day at the beach, but the hour commute passed quickly. There were one (or ten) people yakking away on their I-phones, but other than their inconsiderate selves, everyone seemed in good spirits which helped lift mine, as well.

The walk from 7th & Flower to 3rd & Broadway was a bit of hike, but to a New Yorker, the trek would mean nothing.  Luckily, this Santa Monican was up for it (having lived and worked in Manhattan for two years).

Arriving at  S P R I N G.

I meet Sophie, a beautiful French girl/woman, with whom I’ve been exchanging emails for the last 24 hours.  (I had less than a day’s notice that I’d been given this dinner by my fabulous local public radio station, KCRW 89.9 FM, whose show, Good Food, ran a promotion on Twitter which I entered during a Vicodin-induced coma on the beach.  I am a multi-tasker: I can recover from painful dental work and get some sun!)

What was great about Sophie is that she could not have cared less that I was without my Plus One, she was happy that I came and with great ease, comfortably installed me at the cozy Bar where I could enjoy my meal and observe the beautiful dining room and spacious kitchen at Spring.  A trio of musicians were playing some lovely traditional music.  The ambience was just right.

At the bar, I ordered an Antique Gold (saffron infused Old Tom gin, dry vermouth, lemon oil, served up).  Strong but beautiful, I wisely decided to sip it…slowly.  Afterall, this was my first sip of alcohol all week as well as my very first meal!  I wanted to savor the occasion.

A beautiful dark-haired woman approached me at the bar, greeting me like an old friend.  This was Yassmin Sarmadi, one of the partners at Spring, and the wife of the chef, Tony Esnault.


Persian New Year. Nowruz Pirooz.

What’s great about this dinner, this celebration of the Persian New Year, is that it’s all new to me.  A new experience.  Viva Life!  Even slightly sedated and flying solo, I was able to take advantage of this cool opportunity to explore a new restaurant and to learn about a different food culture.

Spring is a French restaurant, but for tonight and the two evenings prior, Chef Tony and Yassmin had prepared a very special, 5-course, tasting menu commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year.

Nowruz. Passover. Easter.  These holidays all celebrate the food of Spring.

Yassmin and I had a great discussion about the Right of Spring in Iran, and how the meal was the culinary welcoming of the new season with the first harvest of spring herbs, vegetables and lamb.  Lovely.  Just lovely.

Heretofore, I had never given much thought to how Iranians celebrate Spring in their cooking.  Food has the power to unite us, and on this Friday evening in downtown Los Angeles, it did just that.  There I sat at the bar, making new friends, and being introduced to new foods, new traditions, and new music.  Nothing better.


The first course, Kuku Ye Sabzi, was a “frittata” of herbs, walnut and egg, topped with barberries and served with “sangak” bread and house-made yogurt.  Delicious.  Spring onions and Radish garnished the plate heralding Spring, my favorite season.

The second course, Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi, was a duo of smoked and pan-seared white fish, served with basmati rice and house-made pickled vegetables, and let me tell you, I have never eaten a more tasty piece of smoked fish. (photo above)  Major Umami moment for me and my palate.

(Each course, btw, came with a Wine Pairing, which I declined seeing as how that might prove a lethal combo with my painkillers as well as the train ride back to SaMo.  I continued to sip my Antique Gold cocktail and drank a lot of water.)

The main course, Reshteh Polo Ba Mahiche, was a succulent slow-braised lamb shank, served with rice and toasted wheat noodles, dates and raisins.  Wow.  Just wow.  My second Umami moment of the meal. The lamb was fork tender and just melted in my dentally reconstructed mouth.  So so good.

The fourth course, Bastani, was a trio of house-made Ice Cream:  Pistachio (yum), Saffron (savory and exciting), and Rose (surprising and not perfume-tasting — my clear favorite).

The fifth and final course, Chai Va Shirini, was samovar brewed black tea served with a trio of cookies:  Baklava, marzipan “toot”, and “nokhodchi.”  The strong tea and these bite-sized cookies were the perfect finish to an outstanding meal.  I sat at the bar, savoring my drink and wondered if Jonathan Gold, LA’s premier food writer who was sitting across the room, was having as wonderful an evening as I was.  I hoped he was.  The chances were good.

So there I sat, feeling slightly dazed and pleasantly stuffed, elated with this new dining experience as well as the cultural exchange of making new friends in Sophie, Yassmin and Chef Tony.

Lesson Learned:  Continue to try New Things.  Go to New Places. Meet New People.  Whether You are with your Plus One or just flying solo.  Go.

Also, support Public Radio.  Thanks KCRW and the folks at Good Food (Evan Kleinman, Camelia Tse, Abbie Swanson).

I look forward to returning to Spring to see and to taste how they celebrate Summer.


N E X T    U P:

Surfing Ocean Park and Destinations Unknown in SoCali.

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TV Surf Report: In Praise of Outlander, Men In Kilts, Cable Television, and Adaptations


Santa Monica, CA — Recently, I binge-watched the first season of Starz Channel’s compelling historical fantasy drama Outlander.

I realize I am kinda late to this Praise Party, but Tha sin sgoinneil sgeulachdan! which of course, is Gaelic for That is pure dead brilliant storytelling!

Credit goes to EP Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) for such a successful adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling series of novels, which I have not read…yet!

Time Travel. A Woman in Jeopardy. Men in Kilts. Period British War Drama.  It’s as if a woman from the 1940s got stuck in Braveheart and had to use her wits to survive.

Outlander has it all, but what I find most significant is the fact that I care about the characters and want to know how everything works out for Gabaldon’s heroine, Claire Beacham Randall Fraser (as played compellingly by Irish actor Caitriona Balfe).

Moore’s series succeeds on all technical levels.  Everything works, from Casting (Balfe; a star-making role for actor Sam Heughan who is my choice to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond; a fantastic villain portrayed by Tobias Menzies; and an all-around excellent roster of supporting players led by Graham McTavish and Lotte Verbeek) to Costumes to Production Design to Music (by BSG vet Bear McCreary).  All departments are bringing their A-game transporting the viewer to 1700s Scotland.


Moore’s writing team includes a coupla industry veterans, too: Anne Kenney (LA Law) and Toni Graphia (Chicago Hope). 

Costume Designer Terry Dresbach is married to Moore, and according to the Special Features interview on the DVD, she brought the Outlander books to the attention of Moore and his producing partner, Maril Davis.

The costumes are really something to behold, and the behind-the-scenes look at their production is fascinating.  Dresbach even has her own blog:

Scotland. I really really want to go there after watching the first season.  Somehow, Moore & Co. have avoided the Renaissance Pleasure Faire experience of it all. The majestic and mysterious Highlands are calling to me:  Tighinn An So! (Come hither!)

Of course, Outlander has increased tourism for Scotland, much like Downtown Abbey did for Highclere Castle outside London. And there are Outlander tours designed for “women of a certain age,” as my one and only friend in Edinburgh tells me.

He’s dead wrong, of course.  He’s also a writer.  And, a chauvinist.  He’s missing out by not watching an international hit shot on location in his own country, too.  Bloody Fool! The appeal of Outlander is quite broad.  There’s something for everyone, including Romance.

Gabaldon’s story starts with Claire traveling through Time from post-WWII Britain and getting caught up with the rugged men of the McKenzie Clan. That’s Season One.

I descend from Clan MacDougall. Outlander has reignited my interest in an unexplored branch of my Family Tree. This week, my browser history shows that I have been googling Tartan Plaids. And a Scottish castle, Dunollie.

Here’s the MacDougall Tartan:

MACDOUGALL TARTANNote to Self:  Find out where and who can make a Kilt.

Confession:  I have not watched Game of Thrones on HBO.  Am too attached to the fantastic books by George R.R. Martin to let another story version into my head.  I read the books first.  That’s an important distinction.

With Outlander, I was viewing blind with no preconceptions or expectations about the Story or Characters.  Like a good book, I was immediately drawn in by Moore’s storytelling and by Gabaldon’s enthralling heroine, who at one very poignant moment realizes she’s been split into three versions of herself due to her Traveling:  The Woman She Was. The Woman Trying To Get Back. The Woman Who Wishes To Stay.

Good Stuff.

Adaptations are a Big Trend right now in Television. Starz is set to premiere Neil Gaiman’s  American Gods, Netflix has a new version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and Hulu has Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  AMC is in production on Sarai Walker’s Dietland, while HBO has signed on to produce Nathan Hill’s The Nix.  Amazon and Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) are adapting Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as a limited series.


Historical Fantasy is a definite favorite of mine, too.  Starz seems pretty big on this genre as well as evidenced by Da Vinci’s Demons, Black Sails, The White Queen, and The White Princess.

Bravo, cable television!

Anne Rice and Christopher Rice have recently partnered with Paramount Television and Anonymous Content to adapt The Vampire Chronicles. The studio has optioned 11 of Rice’s books which is a good sign.  They mean business. Let Outlander and Showtime’s brilliant Penny Dreadful as well as Game of Thrones be their guideposts on how to adapt a good book series well.

So if you have not yet discovered Outlander, give it a binge.  Pour a glass of Dewar’s or Johnny Walker Black, and settle in for a good time.

As for me, Season 2 awaits.  Then, I’ll have until September when Season 3 premieres.

Tlachd a ghabhail! (That’s Gaelic, of course, for Enjoy!)


 N E X T   U P:

Pilot Season.

The Good. The Less Good. The Super Heroes.


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