Saturday, December 29, 2007


Since the woods (as well as the catwalks) have grown silent over the holidays, let me take this quiet time to further consider this successful vs. unsuccessful artist issue. I've had a few paying gigs over the years writing for newspapers and magazines. The longest job I had was writing for Paper magazine as the religion editor. If you know Paper you can see how this would be an odd position. Nonetheless I worked for them from 1989 to 1999. At the height of my tenure I made $125 per month for a 1000 word column. It barely covered my pot bill. And, if you can believe it, I had readers. One such reader happened to be a TV producer in LA. I had written a rather scathing column on the movie Forest Gump that caught his eye and his office gave me a call.
A lovely woman told me how much her boss liked my twisted take on the movie and wanted me to read my column over the air on a TV show that followed Nightline on ABC. I was psyched. I was also incredibly broke. My first question to her was "How much?" She kind of giggled at my query. "Well...." she went on, "....we don't pay our guests. This is a very good opportunity for you to promote your act." ACT? I had no act. Now when I say I was broke. I mean BROKE! I made $200 per week working the door at the bar Max. Fish and whatever my band could bring in playing LES dives. A real job wasn't an option at the time. I was an artiste.
So I told the woman I wanted at least $100 to do the TV gig and dug in my heels. Then she got tough. "You know there's thousands of people who would give their eye teeth to be on TV?" I told her I wasn't one of them and asked how much they got for ad space on the show? We went round and round. Long story short, that was the beginning and end of my TV career. I moved to the sticks, started writing way more about hunting than religion, got fired from Paper and for 12 years didn't watch broadcast TV in protest. Then a couple of years ago I got satellite TV. Not much had changed but the commercials.
Today the so-called successful artists who write for TV are on strike. My question to you is does anyone even notice? Late night shows like Letterman and Jay Leno are such garbage they are unwatchable. Newer shows like Colbert or John Stewart preach to the choir with such wink-wink heavy handedness they are almost as bad. The rest of TV is bad movies and unscripted "reality". And what is the big issue here? The paid writers want to get paid more if their "product" goes out over the net. Jeesh! These folks think they shit gold. Maybe I've discovered that new word for us "unsuccessful" artists. Scab-success challenged artistic brothers. We do it for free and never strike. Now if we could just get organized.


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