The Palisadian-Post presents an homage to Will Rogers’ column, “Will Rogers Says,” with a column by Palisadian Jimmy Dunne—on life in the “greatest town in America.”
Around the day after Labor Day, we all kind of get kicked in the head that we have just about 90 days before the year is winding up—so we better get cooking.
One group dealing with this reality check is the recent college graduates. A lot of ’em have had a summer full of fun, cocktailing it up knowing their school days are in the rear-view mirror.
For many, Labor Day tells ’em “the party’s over.”
I have a special love for this moment in time in life. Getting your first job.
I’m convinced somebody drops cards out of a plane over the Midwest with my name and phone number saying, “When you get to Hollywood, call this guy.”
I set aside between 10 and 11 in the morning on Sundays to sit for an hour with kids dealing with how to navigate this moment.
This time of year is my “busy season.”
I’m forever amazed how we all fork out a ton of money for our kids to go to college, but nobody there ever seems to tell them what to do north of the day they get their dapper diploma.
So that’s why I meet with the kids. We have that talk.
For me, I had two interviews that taught me valuable lessons. Here they are:
‘Networking is Good’
My first job interview in California. I couldn’t have been greener. It was with some short, 80-ish music publisher in an office the size of a closet—on the basement floor smack at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine.
He talked exactly like May West—and he choked down a new pack of Camels every 15 minutes.
He sat in a really big chair so that I was staring up at him the whole time. Kind of like that scene in “Blues Brothers” with the nun.
This really dates me, but I gave him a reel-to-reel tape—it was before cassettes came out. He stuck the songs I gave him on his machine. Puffing away, as he started to listen, I told him he had them playing at “double speed”—sounding like a “Chipmunks” record.
He growled with his May West voice, “That’s how I like it. I get through ’em quicker that way.”
Then he yanked a sheet out of his pre-Viking desk. The sheet had one sentence on it.
He stood up, letting me know how short he was and that our meeting was over. With a cigarette dangling off his lips, he barked, “The ‘Ten Golden Rules of Songwriting.’ Write with somebody famous. If they’re not famous, write their name on it anyways.”
‘Give ’Em What They Need’
The dad of this little kid that I taught tennis lessons to in the suburbs of Chicago was a fraternity pal of Garry Marshall at Northwestern college days. Garry Marshall produced “Happy Days” and a bunch of other huge hit shows. The dad got me an interview.
Being a good Midwesterner, I dressed in a suit and tie. It was a boiling hot summer day.
When I walked into Garry Marshall’s office on the Paramount lot, he was sticking this little picture of his new tennis court on the mantle behind his desk.
As I walked in, he mumbled, “I’m never going to play. I got too many shows. I got no life.” He shoved the picture up there.
I knew from the second he sized me up I had no prayer for a job. He barely knew the fraternity brother.
I had zero experience. My only calling card was about a 10-page resume of nonsense running stuff at college in Kentucky.
On my way out of his office, I passed this kid in his 20s sitting in the secretary’s office. He was next in. The only thing I remember about him was he had a garden full of zits on his face. He muttered as I passed by, “Nice outfit.”
I looked at the kid, and just out of spite, I turned around and walked right back into Mr. Marshall’s office. Mr. Marshall was already on the phone.
“Excuse me,” I said. “I can give you something nobody on the Paramount lot can give you.”
With a nickel of fascination, he told the guy he’d call him back in 20 seconds.
Garry condescendingly said, “And what would that be?”
“I can give you a life,” I said. “I’ll see you at your tennis court this Saturday at 10 in the morning. I’ll give you a 55-minute tennis lesson, and you’ll give me a five-minute writing lesson.”
He looked at me. Came around his desk. Stuck out his hand and said, “See you Saturday.”
That Saturday, I gave him the tennis lesson, and he gave me a five-minute writing lesson. The next week, 10 minutes of writing. A couple of weeks later, it was raining—but he said to come to his house anyways. We sat at his kitchen table for hours—giving his advice about the magic of “story.”
He gave me a “gopher” job, and that job sprouted into all kinds of writing and producing opportunities. He was a mentor for me my whole life about way more than show business.
Back to Garry’s theme—the art of story. I know one story he played a big role in. Mine.
All I did was listen to what he needed.
It’s funny how job interviews, marriage, children, friends …
Sure is at the heart of it all.
Jimmy Dunne is modern-day Renaissance Man; a hit songwriter (28 million hit records), screenwriter/producer of hit television series, award-winning author, an entrepreneur—and a Palisadian “Citizen of the Year.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or jimmydunne.substack.com.
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