Archive | 7:59 am

I Remember The Man Who Wrote It All

3 Jul

Julu 3, 2010

I only met him once.

It was a long time ago, maybe twenty years ago. My friend Marc and I had been invited to someone’s birthday party. We didn’t know the guy, but were invited via a mutual friend, Marvin Ming. If you read either of my previous Marvin Ming blogs (here and here) you already know that this was no ordinary party.

When the three of us arrived, the first thing we noticed was that the house was very quiet. We stood on the doorstep and rang the bell and there was no other sound than the echoing of the bell. Soon the door was opened by the birthday boy’s father, who looked back into the house and yelled “Alex! Your party is here!”

Let me make this clear. Aside from the birthday boy (and I’ll keep on calling him the birthday “boy” despite the fact he was around 18 or 19) the party consisted of his father, his friend Marvin, and a pair of strangers. (I seem to recall bringing a present but for the life of me I have no idea what it could have been.)

So after being introduced, we sat in the living room and the father mentioned that they were moving to Hawaii that Sunday. Interesting, I thought, as this was (as I recall) Wednesday or Thursday and the cluttered house showed zero signs of packing. The father muttered something nasty about his ex-wife and showed Marc and I around the house while Marvin and Alex, the birthday boy, went off somewhere else.

Marc and I were brought into a room that at one time was a dining room. It had a dining table with chairs around it, but that is where the resemblance ends. All four walls, floor to ceiling, were shelved, and on those shelves?


Literally, and no exaggeration, thousands and thousands of videotapes, with hundreds more stacked up around the room. (I can only imagine, twenty years later, what happened when the world shifted to DVD.) And of the thousands of tapes, not a single one of them was store bought. Every tape was something he had recorded from television.

So who was this guy? A videotape wholesaler with extra stock on hand? A huge television fan? Or was he The Man Who Wrote It All?

Yes, he was The Man Who Wrote It All, Art Lieberman.

C’mon, you know Art Lieberman. You must. OK, even if you never heard of him, you must know his famous TV show, The Twilight Zone. He wrote about a third of them.

“I thought Rod Serling wrote The Twilight Zone,” I said.
“No, he had a whole team of writers and he just stuck his name on them. Rod Serling never wrote a thing.”

Interesting news. As a budding writer I was impressed. So which ones did he write? Turns out he, coincidently, happened to write every episode I named.
“The one where the airplane goes back in time and they see dinosaurs?” Yep.
“The one where the Earth was moving closer to the sun but it was really moving away from the sun?” Uh huh.
“The one where the aliens say they come in peace but they brought a cook book?” That’s mine too.
“The one where Starbuck crash lands on the Old West planet and finds the cowboy Cylon?” Yeah, Rod put his name on that too.


He next brought us into the laundry room so he could show off his computer. This was around 1989 but the computer was obsolete even by then. It looked like it would crash if you tried to play Pong. He sat us around the computer and asked us if we wanted to play a trivia game. I was starting to feel a little guilty. After all, we were supposed to be there for his son’s party, weren’t we? And stranger or not we should at least see him for a couple of minutes. But the trivia had begun.

Art had booted up the computer (I think he used a crank on the side) and some orange words flickered on the old monochrome display. Art emceed.

“Who wrote the hit song “It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To”?
We didn’t know.
“I wrote that back in the 50’s. I wrote tons of songs but we didn’t get any money for them.  You know the answer song “It’s Judy’s Turn to Cry”? I wrote that too.


And so the trivia game went.
“Who wrote Casablanca?”
Marc- “Rod Serling?”
Me- “Art Lieberman, only Rod put his name on it.”
Art Lieberman- “Right! I wrote it. Somewhere in the house is a film reel with the original ending I wrote.”

It was an absurdly easy trivia game once you realized that every answer was Art Lieberman, and he had a BS story to go with each one. Some of the stories included more nasty remarks about his ex-wife.

He brought us back into the living room to show us one of his most prized videotapes- a bad copy of 1982’s all-star gala, Night of 100 Stars.

This was a truly awful TV special which promised to bring you, the viewing public, 100 stars, and damned if they didn’t deliver. Oh, the stars didn’t do anything, but they were there. Sure, they stretched it a little- was Ed Koch ever considered a star? But by the end of the show 100 stars had paraded across the stage.

“And now Ladies and Gentlemen, Tony Orlando!” the announcer screamed, while Tony Orlando walked through the glittery curtain at Radio City Music Hall. A large “27” graphic filled the screen and the applause had barely died down before the announcer called “Joyce DeWitt, everyone, Joyce DeWitt!” and the curtains parted, Joyce DeWitt waved, and a large “28” filled the screen.

Duly marched around the stage were A-list celebs, like Liz Taylor and the ancient Lillian Gish, B-level stars like Linda Grey and Charles Grodin, and others, like Lucie Arnaz, Danielle Brisebois, and the afore-mentioned Ed Koch, who made you wonder when they ran out of stars.

And we sat there and watched, not the show, but Art Lieberman, who was counting the stars. Yes, he was keeping count.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, here is…Nell Carter!”
“That’s 56!” Art screamed.

Art tried to get us into a debate about whether or not Dick Clark and Ed McMahon  should be counted as one or two since they were introduced together when the birthday boy made a reappearance and asked if we were going to have cake. Art jumped up to go the kitchen and we ran out of the room, into Alex’s bedroom where he showed us “an actual Star Wars movie prop.”

It was a lumpy piece of pipe, with threads on one end like it came from under a sink. It had a dent, a lump soldered on to the other end, and some paint flecks.
“What is it?” Marc asked.
“That’s a lightsaber!” Alex said.
“No it isn’t,” I opined.

Marvin went on to explain that he got it straight from a guy who got it from the set from some other guy, yada yada yada, and it looks better on camera, and anyway it was his present to Alex so say something nice.
“Nice old pipe,” I said. Marvin was just as bad as Art Lieberman.

Finally, ice cream cake time, in which Alex said it was nice to have all of his friends there (again- one friend and two strangers who were with his father all night) and he blew out the candles on the cake which had pink frosted flowers and the words GOOD LUCK! written on it. As we ate the cake, the Night of 100 Stars was still playing in the background and Art was still counting. “Look! That’s Daniel J. Travanti! 63!”

Cake over, the night was through, and Art said that he’d love to have us over again but they’re moving to Hawaii in a few days. At this point Marc and I would not have believed him if he told us that it was gravity that kept us on the ground, and he must have seen the look on our faces and quickly added “we’re packing tomorrow.”

And that was it.

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