Producer Edgar J. Scherick
We talk (2/14/02, 2/18/02) while producer Edgar Scherick lies in bed, oxygen tubes going up his nose. A big color television plays silently in front of him. I sit beside his bed.
"My parents (Jacob Jay and Jenny) were born in the United States. They were of German and English stock. My father was a manufacturer of boys sailor suits. My mother was a beautiful woman from the lower East Side. They were married in 1910. In 1919, my sister Shirley was born. I was born in Manhattan at Lion Hospital at 18th Street and Second Avenue on October 16, 1924.
"When I was two weeks old, the whole family moved to Long Beach, New York, on the south shore of Long Island.
"My earliest memories are selling blotters and little things around my neighborhood. My father was a fisherman, and at five years old, I started fishing in the bay. I fished until I had a stroke in 1998.
"I remember going to silent movies like The Ten Commandments. I can still see the pages of the Bible as they were burning. I remember being scared out of my wits by horror pictures and having terrible nightmares. I loved Abe Lincoln in Illinois. I loved any picture where Indians were getting shot. I liked Errol Flynn in Captain Blood. I liked swashbuckling films. My parents liked movies too. Everybody went to the movies in those days.
"The local theater had circulars, which told what the program was for the week. I gave these circulars out house-to-house. And my pay was a free pass to the movies anytime I wanted to go. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they ran a double feature. Then they changed to a new double feature. I saw all four movies every week. I found out the day the news reel changed.
"They say that a pool player is a sign of a wasted childhood. I can tell you the name of practically every character actor in Hollywood from those days. I like these [TV] stations that show black and white movies from my youth.
"I was a precocious kid. I went to a private kindergarten. I could read and write when I was four years old.
"My family was wiped out by the Great Depression. My father had earned a good living. His business was wiped out. He was worth a good hunk of money. He was out of business for a month, commuting into New York, without telling my mother that he had closed his business. We lost our house to the bank. My mother began to sell off stuff we'd accumulated to put food on the table - cut glass, wine... She held the family together. I never went hungry.
"My father was very unhappy. He lost everything in the depression. He was cranky as hell. My mild-mannered mother gave us the best food. It was a dysfunctional family. There was a lot of tension in the house over my father's position in the household. He started a screaming session every morning but he never hit us.
"My mother's sister Edna Roth used to spend summers with us. She was vivacious and funny and beloved by her friends. She was in all these philanthropic organizations like Hadassah.
"I was raised by three women - my mother, my aunt and my West Indian nanny Rose Dunbar.
"I loved my sister. She died many years ago."
Luke: "What did your dad do after he lost his business?"
Edgar: "He hung around and got sick. He sent me out every morning to go to the candy store to get two cigars and a newspaper. He ran up a considerable bill at these mom-and-pop stores. He never worked again. He had a couple of shots at things but they never worked out. He got a political job at City Hall as an assistant tax commissioner but he never amounted to anything. He was a big Democrat.
"My mother earned the money. Everything foreclosed in Long Beach during the depression. She would go to the bank and rent a house. She'd fix up apartments in the house and people would come down to spend the summer in Long Beach. She accumulated enough money to live through the following winter. She amassed $15,000 in the bank before she died.
"My father died of a heart attack in 1949 at age 74 and my mother died in 1952 at age 82.
"I had a remarkably happy childhood. I lived on an island that had a bay on one side and the ocean on the other side. I grew up with nature.
"Rose used to wheel me on the boardwalk in a stroller. Another black woman did the same thing with another kid. These two women became friendly and the boy in the stroller became my lifelong friend, Martin Warshaw. He now lives in Ann Harbor, Michigan. He was a professor of business at the University of Michigan.
"I had a whole coterie of friends. Jack Goldberg, Arthur Phillips, cousin of Arther Miller. Martin Eufelder, Elmer Block."
Luke: "Any of them become famous?"
Edgar: "I'm far and away the most famous."
Most of Edgar's friends were Jewish. Scherick, who believes in God, rarely went to temple and he never had a Bar Mitzvah.
Luke: "Did your family keep kosher?"
Edgar: "Are you kidding? We were lucky we could eat. As my sister used to say, 'I follow the Ten Commandments, that's my religion.' I think she fasted on Yom Kippur."
Luke: "Did you grow up believing Jews were smarter than other people?"
Edgar: "No. There was no sort of superiority taught in my house. Everybody was equal."
Scherick attended the public and mainly Jewish Long Beach High School.
Luke: "What were the most influential books you read as a kid?"
Edgar: "Microbe Hunters by Paul DeKruif. It was about great scientists like Louis Pasteur. I read a lot. The Count of Monte Christo. Treasure Island. Kidnapped."
Luke: "Did you know any Mafia?"
Edgar: "A bit. A family called Carlino. The father was a lawyer for Lucky Luciano. In my town there were a lot of Mafia. The only connection I ever had was with an actor Keefe Brasselle, who played in the Eddie Cantor Story. He was connected to the Mafia. In Point Lookout, where I lived in the summer time with my parents, there were quite a few Mafia around. But I always felt safe there because they never fouled their nest. They never bothered me. I never thought much about them.
"I was a good student at school. Teachers liked me. My friends and I created the newspaper and took on projects. I served on the yearbook and played intermural sports. I was 5'10 and I was never a great athlete though I played everything in its season. I graduated high school in 1940 at age 16. I went in to New York to work as an office boy at an advertising agency and a runner at the export area in New York. I didn't make much money but whatever I earned, I brought home. I went to New York City College at night.
"I realized that I was attractive to women but I didn't worry about it. We used to play spin the bottle at age 14.
"I entered the Army at 18 years of age in March of 1943 and served for three years. I was a meteorologist running a little weather station in Iceland for two years. It was terrible. I learned discipline in the military but it was unpleasant. I was lucky that I didn't get shot. I didn't want to see combat. I'm a card-carrying coward.
"They said to me in basic training, 'Your size is perfect for tail gunner.' I said I was claustrophobic. Heaven forbid you stick me in there and have people shooting at me.
"I was happy to go in. In those days, the worst thing that could happen to you was to not go into the war. The war was so important, what was at stake, the thought of staying at home and not participating was frightening.
"I first saw a television after the war in Long Beach, New York. There was a radio store that sold tubes and small AM radios. There were no FM radios then. This particular store in Long Beach had a television set with a glass top. They televised a game from Ebbets Field between the Cincinnatti Reds and the Brooklyn Dodgers. That was the first baseball game ever televised. They had a television at the Worlds Fair in New York.
"I got into Hobark College in upstate New York. It was populated by professors from Harvard. I became interested in Harvard and I transferred there. I majored in Economics and English. I graduated in 1949 Magna Cum Laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. My classmates included Henry Kissinger, Schlessinger, Bobby Kennedy."
"Beginning at Harvard was difficult. I went to the Veteran's Advisor and said, 'I could die in my room and nobody would know I was dead until the body began to smell.' It was impersonal."
Luke: "Did you date a lot at Harvard?"
Edgar: "No. Those Radcliffe girls were not my idea of Heaven. I had some lovely experiences."
After graduation, Scherick served in Boston as Assistant Campaign Manager for Mayoral candidate John B. Hynes who defeated the incumbent mayor James Michael Curley. The classic campaign inspired the novel The Last Hurrah. After the election, Scherick co-founded the New Boston Committee, an organization dedicated to reforming city government and the public schools.
"I liked Boston and wanted to stay. I got a job working for a man who ran a chain of clothing stores. He advertised on WHGH TV and I would go over to the studio to work on the commercials. These were talkshows with live commercials. I got a taste of it and I decided that was what I wanted to do. I wrote documentaries for WHGH for Bob Choat.
"Television was just beginning. I came to New York to work in television. I tried to get an interview with Doris Ann, who ran NBC's religious programming. She wouldn't see me. At an employment agency, I saw an ad for a time buyer for $60 a week at Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample. It said you must know Neilsen. I wanted to know where you had to go to meet this guy Neilsen.
"I was interviewed by several people. And one of them [Lyndon Brown, head of marketing] said, 'Do not let this man out without giving him a job.' I was an impressive young man.
"I got the job as an assistant in the media department. The clients included General Mills and Proctor & Gamble. It was the number two broadcasting agency. I stayed there six years. It was my graduate school. I had a terrific mentor who taught me the broadcast business. I met the presidents of all the networks.
"Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample manufactured programming that they placed on ABC, like The Lone Ranger. CBS would not take other people's programming if they could avoid it.
"I started as a time buyer and then became media supervisor on the Falstaff beer account. Then I became director of Sports and Special Events."
In early 1953, Falstaff wanted to sponsor baseball on network TV. They were already broadcasting locally the games of the St. Louis Cardinals and Browns. Scherick's plan was to black out the major league cities and broadcast to the half of the country that supported minor league ball. Edgar worked out a compensation package to reimburse the minor leagues for the potential loss of fans. The Broadcast Committee of the National Association of Baseball turned him down.
So Scherick lined up broadcasts of the Indians, the White Sox, the Philadelphia A's, and the New York Giants with commentator Dizzy Dean. Falstaff sponsored and ABC broadcast the "Game of the Week."
When baseball's "Game of the Week" moved to CBS in 1955, Scherick was approached to become head of sports. National sales manager for the network, Tom Dawson, asked Edgar what he thought of CBS's operation. Edgar reacted in his typically blunt and brash way. "It could be improved." CBS hired Bill MacPhail, head of publicity for the Kansas City A's.
"In those days, TV stations would send out circulars advertising their local shows. One day, across my desk comes a flyer from a station KMTV, Omaha. And it offered me in Omaha the home games of the Chicago Bears and Chicago Cardinals football teams. Falstaff Beer had a brewery in Omaha. I investigated and found out that ABC was feeding a patchwork network of stations on Sunday mornings when the Bears and the Cardinals were home. I went to my boss and said, 'We've got to talk to the president of ABC.' I arranged for us to buy half of those games [for Falstaff Beer].
"I felt there was a TV sports revolution coming. I took a job at CBS in 1956 as a sports specialist. I shaped the regional networks that provided the basis for CBS's entrance into pro football broadcasting. I negotiated those rights with Bill McPhail, head of CBS Sports. They had those rights for 40 years and then lost them."
At CBS for only eight months, Edgar ran into a familiar problem with sports programming - the lack of events during the first quarter of the year. Big Ten Basketball was the only sports programming CBS had on during that time and it received low ratings. So Scherick phoned Bill Reed, the lieutenant of Big Ten Commissioner Tug Wilson. 'Bill, you're getting cancelled by CBS. You'll never make it as a national vehicle but you can as a regional one and I can clear the regional network and sell it so that Big Ten basketball can have a very fruitful and long life.' Reed gave his go ahead for Scherick to set up that regional network.
Ed left CBS in 1957 and through his company Sports Programs Inc formed the Big Ten basketball network. He signed on Standard Oil of Indiana as a major sponsor.
In his 1978 book, The Thrill of Victory: The Inside Story of ABC Sports, Bert Randolph Sugar names Scherick as a key figure in the rise of ABC Sports. "Described by many of his former colleagues as a high-strung Mad Hatter, Scherick was a combination midwife, clairvoyant, and public-address system for the coming sports revolution in the late 1950s." (pg. 20)
Edgar: "There was a guy who controlled the Sterling drug account. He said he had a nephew who's supporting his mother and needs work. I said that I'd see him. In walks a kid with green Dartmouth socks on. Jim Spence [future Vice President of ABC Sports]. I hired him."
Edgar's other hires included [future head of NBC Sports] Chet Simmons, and producer Chuck Howard. In 1960, Scherick hired Roone Arledge to produce ABC's NCAA football.
Chet Simmons remembers Scherick tangling with his director Jack Lubell: "I remember one time when Lubell literally lifted Scherick off the floor with his hands around Ed's neck. I thought Jack was going to kill him, because all the while Scherick was making these gurgling noises with his tongue hanging out. Finally, Jack let him go and said, 'Don't worry about it. But we will take care of this later.' I don't even recall what they were battling about because they were always scrapping, but it wouldn't have shocked me if murder had been committed." (Spence, pg. 55)
"The first instant replays came in with NCAA football," says Scherick. "In those days, the Ampax [videotape recorder] machine was huge. [The year 1958 marked the first use of videotape.] We had it on a trailer and we dragged it to the football game in a truck. And I'd see a play and say, 'That's one.' We'd mark it. And when halftime came up, we'd replay the highlights of the first half. There was no instant replay.
"I went back to Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample. They had General Mills for a client and Wheaties was one of their products. Wheaties had great days as the breakfast of champions. But they could no longer afford to buy the rights to games. I said I would create and buy pre-game shows. I did some research and found out that these pre-game shows got 40% of the ratings of the games.
"I knew that sports was the best vehicle for delivering mature men to TV advertisers. Affiliates loved having sports. When the guy went to the country club, he could say, 'We've got the Dallas - Washington game this weekend.' That made him a big man at th country club."
Scherick gave ABC's head of programming Tom Moore the idea to televise the November 1958 Bluegrass Bowl. It was a postseason college football game (between Florida State and Oklahoma State) played for the first, and only, time in Louisville, Kentucky. It was the last broadcast of Harry Wismer, a one-time giant of sports broadcasting, and the first national telecast of newcomer Howard Cosell.
Edgar says: "I flew down with Howard on the plane, and I had to listen to him tell me for three hours that he is the greatest announcer in the history of the world.
"Here is the first football game I ever televised or produced for ABC. We televise a game in six above zero between two nondescript college teams. The players wore sneakers, and they slipped and slid all over the field, facing empty stands of 2,100 people. On either side of me, two of the greatest sports characters in the history of sports broadcasting... It's got to be the low point of my life." (Sugar, pg. 41)
Jim Spence remembers: "The first [NCAA] game we [ABC] did - in 1960 - was between Alabama and Georgia with Fran Tarkenton, who later would work fro ABC Sports, quarterbacking for Georgia. The madcap Scherick just about drove Gowdy, Christman, Arledge and everyone else crazy with his antics. Never quiet, he'd race back and forth between the mobile unit where Roone, who was producing the telecast, and the others were trying to call the shots, and the booth were Gowdy and Christman were trying to call the game. It was so bad that, before our third telecast, Gowdy and Christman met with Roone and threatened to quit if Scherick didn't stay out of their hair. Roone didn't want Ed in the mobile unit, either, and told him how critical it was for him not to interfere. Still, Scherick showed up at Lawrence, Kansas, for the next game. Unwelcome in the booth, an intrusion in the truck, he became frantic as he tried to find a place where he could watch the telecast. Finally, he wandered into a nearby building on campus, saw an open office with a television set, and promptly made himself at home. He turned on the set, propped his feet on the desk, and was fretting about the coverage of the game when another man appeared at the door and said, 'Excuse me, sir?'
"Ed said, 'Be quiet.' 'Excuse me, sir?'
"'Be quiet," Sherick sharply told him. 'Can't you see I'm trying to watch this telecast?'
"The other guy stood his ground. 'Excuse me!' he replied, 'but I'm Dutch Lonborg, and I'm the athletic director here at Kansas, and you, sir, are sitting in my office.'" (Spence, pg. 59)
Edgar: "The Gillette razor company, the biggest razor company, had a programming on NBC called Friday Night Fights. [In 1959] NBC decided the program wasn't up to their standard of quality, so they threw Gilette off. And this was Gillette's most efficient advertising vehicle. Gillette got upset and came to ABC and asked if we would put on their Friday Night Fights. ABC said yes, if you will back us on NCAA Football and baseball's Game of the Week, we will give you Wednesday Night Fights. We made a huge deal."
The $8.5 million Gillette paid ABC enabled the network to buy the right to NCAA football in 1960-61, and financed ABC's Wide World of Sports, which helped ABC secure the rights to the Olympic Games. "Of the major milestones in the history of ABC Sports, only "Monday Night Football" (begun in 1970) owed nothing directly to Gillette money." (Rader, pg. 103)
ABC told Scherick not to hire Howard Cosell because he was Jewish. "They said, 'Don't let him on the microphone. Don't give him a job.'
"I liked Howard. He was smart and a seething mass of insecurities. He had total recall.
"The first time I saw Jim McKay, he was doing five minutes of sports on the CBS news. I used to say to him, 'Jim, sit tight. I'm going to get a literate sports show for you.' Then Wide World of Sports came on and I brought him on. It was my show until I merged with ABC Sports in 1961. It was a tax-free transfer. We exchanged stock for stock. I then turned over sports to ABC's sports department, which was essentially under Roone Arledge."
In his autobiography, The Real McKay: My Wide World of Sports, Jim McKay writes about joining WWS in 1961: "A few years before, a man named Edgar J. Scherick, whom I had met when he was a salesman at CBS Sports, started a little independent company called Sports Programs, Inc. The company's first show was an hour and a half fully devoted to the opening of a new harness racing track called Roosevelt Raceway. Since he had known us at CBS, Scherick hired Chris Schenkel and me to be the commentators on the show, which aired on ABC's flagship New York station, WABC-TV, at eight o'clock on Friday night.
"On the program, I'd show the viewers how beautiful the paddock was, then throw it to Chris, who would explain how efficient the concession stands were. We'd go back and forth like that, ad nauseam. The hour and a half seemed like an eternity, but it represented the first income for Sports Programs, Inc., and Scherick was pleased.
"In time, ABC contract with Scherick to have his company do all its sports programs, and so he was the one Arledge had to convince that I was the man for the new summer replacement show." (pg. 81-82)
In February of 1961, Scherick merged his company with ABC and Edgar became ABC's Vice-President of Sales.
The first show of Wide World of Sports (4/19/61) was a television first. ABC televised live the Penn and the Drake Relays, on the same day, cutting back and forth. The initial ratings were terrible.
Arledge and McKay discussed that the most important thing with sports was not the technical achievements but the people involved: "who they were, where they were from, how they got to this moment, how they might handle it, why it was so important to them - all the personal dreams and insecurities with which the viewer could identify. This human approach expanded from Wide World to our coverage of ten Olympics, and, in time, to all networks' coverage of sports." (McKay, pg. 90)
Edgar: "Roone Arledge gets all the credit. I hired him out of total obscurity. Nobody would've ever heard of him were it not for me. Though he was talented. I made Roone Arledge the president of NCAA football, when his experience did not warrant it at all."
Luke: "Do you have any good stories about Roone Arledge?"
Edgar: "None that I want to talk about. He's not my favorite person in the whole world. He couldn't share credit where credit was due. He had to get all the glory for himself."
In his 1988 autobiography, Up Close & Personal, former Vice President of ABC Sports, Jim Spence, writes: "ABC Sports stands today as a monument to Roone Arledge. I have only one quarrel with that: Some other names should be on the monument, and the name at the top of it should be that of Ed Scherick."
Luke: "Tell me how you got the rights for ABC [for the 1960 and '61 seasons] to NCAA football?"
Edgar: "In those days, only a certain number of college games were televised. And that was controlled by the NCAA. They sold the package of those exclusive rights. I decided we wanted those rights back. The main contender was NBC. Their sports department was run by Tom Gallery, former cowboy actor and husband of Zasu Pitts. I knew he was the guy to beat. So I head to figure out how to do it.
"We came up with a good figure to bid [on March 14, 1960]. I found the most innocous guy in the company, and I said to him (Stan Frankel). 'You're going over to the hotel where the bidding takes place. You're going to watch what Tom Gallery does. He'll sit with the back of the chair in front of him with his legs over it. When the bidding comes around, he'll look around to see if there's anybody he recognizes. He'll have a low bid and a high bid. After he puts his envelope down on the table, you get up and say, 'I represent the American Broadcasting Company.' And put down your envelope.
"I sent another guy right behind him. I told him, 'If the first guy falls down and breaks his leg, you've got the same envelope with the same bid.' I told them, 'If anybody asks who you are, don't lie. Tell them you work for the American Broadcasting Company.'
"Asa Bushnell represented the NCAA. He said, 'It's time for the bids.' Gallery got up and put an envelope on the table. Then Stan Frankel did exactly what I told him to do. They adjourned to the back. When they came back, they were stunned. They announced that the rights were awarded to ABC. Quite a coup for me.
"I got announcers Curt Gowdy and color man Paul Christman, who'd been a great star with the Chicago Cardinals. I called him up and offered him the job. He says, 'Mr. Scherick, thank you but I'm doing color for the Chicago Cardinals. I live in Chicago. I have a paper box company. Doing this show is good for my box business.' I said, 'How much do you make?' He said, '$375 a game.' I said, 'I'll double it.' He said, 'I'll take it'."
"I produced numerous closed-circuit boxing matches for Irving Kahn. They played in theaters with a big projection screen."
In 1963, ABC's head of programming Dan Melnick quit. Scherick, ABC's sales manager of the time, went in to the head of ABC, Leonard Goldenson, and said, 'That's my job.' Scherick got it. His official title was Vice President of programming. He developed such shows as Batman, The FBI, The Hollywood Palace, Bewitched, and Peyton Place. His employees included such future producers as Scott Rudin, Robert Lawrence, David Nicksay, Brian Grazer and Michael Barnathan.
Luke: "November 22, 1963. President Kennedy is shot."
Edgar: "I was the only executive in the building. Everybody else was out to lunch. I got a call from the newsroom. I sent word to the guards. 'Don't let anybody out of the building.' I didn't know what was going to happen. And then traffic started again and people went in and out.
"It was a different time. We did not feel that we could put commercial programming on the air with the president lying on a bier. We took all commercial programs off the air. I had to program the time with new programming."
Luke: "The program Ben Casey was an early success."
Edgar: "It was developed and owned by the Bing Crosby company. They sold a development deal to ABC. As soon as I saw the pilot, I said, 'The show's a hit. This guy Vince Edwards will be a star 60 minutes after we put the show on the air.' It helped start the medical show genre. It was the first runaway hit ABC ever had."
Luke: "You helped develop the show Batman."
Edgar: "Traditionally in television, you put a schedule together, put it on in September and it stayed. We had a time at ABC when shows weren't working. I decided that we should have a second season and take some shows off that weren't working and put some new shows on.
"There was a bald Russian working for me named Yale Yudoss. He'd come in and say, 'We should do Batman.' I'd say, 'Get out of the office. Ridiculous.' He was persistent and he finally got through to me. We looked into it and the rights were available from the comic company. We acquired the rights.
"I went out to 20th Century Fox where we had a lot of business. I said to Bill Self, the head of television for Fox, and said, 'We want to do Batman with you.' He said, 'I don't believe it.' I said, 'It's true.' So he called in a producer on the lot, William Dozier. It was a huge hit ."
Luke: "Tell me about your 1965 series The FBI."
Edgar: "Benny Kalmenson was president of Warner Brothers after Jack's retirement. Tom, who ran ABC, loved the idea of doing the FBI. Benny was well respected in those circles. He was an American patriot. He contacted the FBI to see if they were willing to do it. I remember every script was vetted by the FBI. Nothing was done that they did not totally approve of."
Luke: "The Hollywood Palace [1964-70] ."
Edgar: "When I took over programming, I inherited the Jerry Lewis show. It was a two hour debacle. So we had to do something. We fixed up a theater in downtown LA, which I named 'The Hollywood Palace.' I could talk about Jerry Lewis for hours but I won't. After that show failed, I decided we should do a vaudeville show out of there. I got Nick Vanoss to produce with his partner Billy Harbach, son of Otto Harbach of Broadway fame."
ABC had hired Jerry Lewis in 1963 to do a two-hour variety show. ABC bought the old Capitan Theater on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, and renamed it the Jerry Lewis Theatre. ABC decorated the bathroom with initialed "J.L." tiles.
While preparing the show, ABC's then head of programming, Edgar Scherick, remembers: "I can get very little dialogue about the content of the show from Jerry. The producer is walking around with this thick, black notebook and he keeps saying, 'It's all in here; it's all in here. The sketches, the dialogue, the monologues....It's allin here.' Now as the show gets closer - and I've seen nothing - I'm in Lewis's office and he screams at another of his producers because the matchbook covers that said The Jerry Lewis Show hadn't come back yet. That's when I said to myself, 'We're in serious trouble.'" (The Thrill of Victory, pg. 20)
The show called itself "the most revolutionary show in TV history" boasted the singing of Jack Jones and the jokes of Mort Sahl. It bombed and was pulled off the air after three months.
Using rotating hosts like Bing Crosby and George Burns, ABC's The Hollywood Palace, played for five years. It was the first show that ABC used color cameras.
Edgar: "That was a freeball pilot, meaning that a studio makes shows on their own. They showed it Jim Aubrey, head of CBS, who didn't buy it. So John Mitchell, head of Screen Gem, the TV producing arm of Columbia, brought it to us. We took one look at it and said, 'We want it.'"
Luke: "Peyton Place [1964-69]."
Edgar: "That was already in development when I took my job as head of programming. We made the pilot. And the network was so nervous about it because they thought it was pornography. Finally, the New York Times magazine wrote an article about the social significance of Peyton Place and that took the curtains off. It was a huge success. It changed habits in America. People didn't go out on certain nights when Peyton Place was on."
Luke: "Did you have moral qualms about the show?"
Edgar: "Not at all. It was the biggest hit I was ever associated with.
"I remember Newsweek referred to me as "the house intellectual" at ABC. I thought more than most people. I wasn't just wedded to television. I had a sense of society as a whole and what made it tick. And what television's place was. Somebody said to me, 'How can you, a Jew from New York, pick programs for the entire country?' I said, 'I'm no different from the guy in Rockford, Illinois. We like the same things, so I don't worry about it. Things that I like, he invariably likes too.'"
Luke: "You had many disputes with Peyton Place producer Paul Monash."
Edgar: "They couldn't get a story I liked. I raised hell and brought a woman in, Erna Phillips, the queen of the soap opera. Monash opened the files of our exchange of memos to TV Guide. And TV Guide wrote an article that made me look foolish. And I resented that. I thought those memos were private. I would never do that to him. But that's a long time ago. And if I see him, it's all forgotten."
Luke: "Why do you think there are so many Jews in television?"
Edgar: "Jews gravitate towards entertainment. There's something especially gratifying about it as a career."
Luke: "How do you feel about television?"
Edgar: "I think it is a miracle. Tonight I am going to watch the Olympics in Salt Lake City. I never cease to be in awe of television."
Luke: "How do you relate to the view that TV is the tool of the devil?"
Edgar: "That's bullshit. But it can be dangerous for children. It has to be regulated."
Luke: "What do you remember about producer Scott Rudin?"
Edgar: "He worked for me for five years. He's brilliant. Driven. The smartest man whoever worked for me. I secretly renamed him, 'Scott Rude.'"
Luke: "What do you remember about Brian Grazer?"
Edgar: "He was a little pipsqueak. He was always working to better himself. He was a hustler, always calling up people. He never impressed me with having much intelligence."
Luke: "Do you remember turning down the TV show Get Smart?"
Edgar: "I didn't turn the show down. I turned down the people who brought it to me."
I found this on the web: "From the first ring of Agent 86's telephone-equipped evening shoe in the pilot film, "Get Smart" set out to be, if nothing else, different. Here was a show that would make its bid for success one one ground: ridicule-ridicule of every past TV comedy success, ridicule of the blooming mania for spies, and most important, ridicule of itself. The question was, how would an audience react to such outright lampoon. ABC's program head, Edgar Scherick, thought the idea was too far out, and after putting up some of the money for the pilot film, turned the idea down. It was one of those mistakes that cause epidemics of neuroses among network vice presidents. NBC's Mort Werner bought the show ten days after it was offered, and as soon as the first episode was aired, "Get Smart" took off."
Edgar: "Danny Melnick brought it to me.The funniest experience Danny Melnick ever had in his life was when he walked by a manure pile. I just didn't believe that he could make something funny. Then they went out and got Leonard Stern and he made Get Smart into a hit with the help of Mel Brooks."
Luke: "Do you regret turning it down?"
Edgar: "Sure. You don't want to lose any hits. Nobody's infallible."
Luke: "What other shows did you turn down that you later regretted?"
Edgar: "None that I can remember."
In his autobiography, Beating the Odds, former ABC CEO Leonard H. Goldenson wrote about Scherick's departure: "[T]he head of network programming has to have his hands in so many pies simultaneously that it's difficult to concentrate on any one program. So it's hard to leave a personal mark on any show in particular. This became a source of frustration to Ed. Soon after Batman debuted, he resigned to start his own company." (pg. 250)
After Scherick formed his own production company Palomar in 1967, he made more miniseries than anyone, including The Kennedys of Massachusetts, On Wings of Eagles, and The Phantom of the Opera. He served as executive producer on Woody Allen's first film, Take the Money and Run, The Stepford Wives, I Never Promised You a Rose garden, and Rambling Rose.
Edgar married (Carol) for the first time in 1960. It lasted 20 years. Then he remarried. His Japanese-American wife Marsha, a Ph.D. in Bio-Chemistry, divorced him in 1998 after he suffered a stroke. Scherick has four kids from his first marriage- Greg (Beverly Hills), Jay (a screenwriter living in Brentwood), Brad (Beverly Hills) and Christine.
"After I got a stroke, my second wife, who I didn't deny anything to, didn't want to be married to a man with a stroke."
Edgar watches TV as he talks to me. "There's Lesley Ann Warren, a friend of mine. She worked in some of my films. What a pistol she is.
"I didn't fool around on my marriages. Not once.
"Nobody ever gave me a boost. I earned everything."
Luke: "Why did you leave ABC and start up your own production company?"
Edgar: "Because I wanted to. All my life, since I was a boy, my mother had said to me, 'You will learn the business and then you will go into business for yourself.'"
Luke: "What do you remember about making your first movies like The Love Of Ivy."
Edgar: "How unpleasant and hard it was. We were shooting at night at a department store in Long Island and it was costing a lot of money. I didn't like how the production managers were running things."
Luke: "The Killing of Sister George ."
Edgar: "It was a controversial picture because it was about two lesbians and a young girl. It had one shocking scene. It was an X-rated picture."
According to a review on Imdb.com: "The story is very well handled, and tries not to fall prey to cheap exploitation. But the love scene between York and Corale Brown, although cleverly done, is perhaps a little graphic - one wonders why Aldrich had to be so detailed & time-consumed with this particular scene. A lesbian act is a lesbian act, it really doesn't warrant so much time going over every detail of sexual foreplay as portrayed here. Again, in my cynical mind, I suspect such controversial titilation had more to do with box office than any serious indictment of the subject matter in question."
Luke: "The Birthday Party ."
Edgar: "I thought it was a good picture but nobody would pay any money to go see it."
Luke: "Take the Money and Run."
Edgar: "We got a script from Woody Allen who had never done a movie. In those days, a picture would open on a Wednesday. We'd get reviews Thursday and Friday you'd run a big review ad for the weekend. On Thursday, I got Woody to come to the advertising agency while we culled the reviews. And the reviews were good. I sat with him. Woody never says anything. 'If they like this picture, just wait,' he says to me. That was the only thing he said to me the whole time. I thought Woody talented and funny. He's very smart. He's done some stupid things in his life like marrying his [step] daughter. His movie Crimes and Misdemeanors was brilliant."
Luke: "Ring of Bright Water  was one of the big movies of my childhood. A beautiful movie."
Edgar: "We showed it at a screening in Hollywood. After the otter was killed, a scream went up and a woman leaped up and started for the lobby. I ran out to the lobby and she said, 'You killed that beautiful otter.' I said, 'Go back and watch the rest of the picture.' It was Gypsy Rose Lee. She came up to me afterwards, 'That was a beautiful picture.' She loved animals."
Luke: "Jenny "
Edgar: "I had put Marlo Thomas on the air with That Girl. This script came in and she liked it. I decided, 'What the hell, I'll make it.' It wasn't much of a script and it wasn't much of a movie."
Luke: "The Man Who Wanted To Live Forever."
Edgar: "That was a television movie. I don't want to comment on television movies."
Luke: "Sleuth. "
Edgar: "The only picture in history where the entire cast was nominated for an Academy Award."
Luke: "I heard you had a lot of fights with director Joe Mankiewicz?"
Edgar: "In the play, there was an intermission and I wanted to put in an intermission into the movie. And he didn't. And we had a big disagreement. We had some fights during the making of the picture. I thought he could've been more efficient spending money.
"One day I'm reading a book of the memos of [studio exec] David Selznick. And I come across something that makes a precise statement about something that is going on with Sleuth. I copied it out. At night, I'm having a drink with Joe at his quarters and I whipped this paper out."
Luke: "The Heartbreak Kid."
Edgar: "Directed by Elaine May, who was talented but crazy in a wonderful way. I was the only producer who constrained her at all."
Luke: "Gordon's War."
Edgar: "That was a black picture we shot in New York. I said to the producer Robert Schaffel on the first dailies, 'The audio is no good.' So he said, 'It's freezing cold. And the sound man is freezing cold and going up to his apartment and sitting up there.' I said, 'You get him on the street.' He went and got the guy to come down on the street. They had an argument. Finally, the producer fired him. The guy replied, 'I'll never work for a Jew again.' The soundman said to him, 'I'll never work for a Jew again.' The producer said, 'What business are you going into next?'"
Edgar has a big scene in his 1974 movie Law and Disorder.
Luke: "The Stepford Wives ."
Edgar: "This was a book by Ira Levin that titillated me. That men would order their women to get bigger tits... The picture became a cult movie. The term 'Stepford Wives' is part of our language. Scott Rudin and I are doing a sequel for Paramount."
Luke: "You did 1979's An American Christmas Carol with Stanley Chase."
Edgar: "Stanley worked for me at ABC. I fired his ass. I didn't think he was worth a damn at the time. I was a tough man."
Luke: "Shoot the Moon ."
Edgar: "I bought the script for $25,000. That's a pretty auspicious list of movies you're running down there. Not bad for a guy lying in bed."
Luke: "I'm Dancing as Fast as I Can ."
Edgar: "Michael Eisner said, 'Let's make the first Valium movie.' I think it is the only Valium movie. I hated the guts of our lead actress Jill Clayburgh. She was cruel to everybody."
Luke: "White Dog ."
Edgar: "Paramount owed me a movie. Michael Eisner said, 'Get me a picture and I'll make it.' I'd worked hard on a feature that didn't make it. They had a script called White Dog. It was a controversial film about black relationships. I can hardly own up to it to this day because I had little to do with it."
I pause to pat the dog.
Edgar: "Your time is going to run out here so you better keep going."
Luke: "He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin'."
Edgar: "The only picture to win an Emmy and an Academy Award the same year. It was a documentary on a ballet studio in New York."
Luke: "Evergreen, 1985 miniseries."
Edgar: "Based on a best seller. NBC's Brandon Tartikoff was stunned that it was successful. I said, 'Brandon, you don't understand this picture. It's about family. A family is a marvelous theme.'
"Brandon was so smart. He was a great man. He treated me with great respect. Rightly so. Brandon had an instinct about the history of the business. He knew my place in it. Fred Silverman, a bit of a historian, says there have been three great periods of network programming. And Edgar Scherick's was the greatest. He looked at what came out of that period and the people who worked with me. He respected what I did. Having been in that position, he understood the difficulty.
"I should charge you for this interview."
Edgar: "You laugh."
Edgar's physical therapist comes by.
Edgar waves to me. "Goodbye Luke."
Luke: "What do you remember about your 1985 miniseries Evergeen?"
Edgar: "It was about something that interested me - immigration into the United States. Lesley Ann Warren was the leading lady and she was a pain in the ass. When we'd be ready to shoot, there'd be no Lesley Ann Warren. She'd be in the make-up trailer, and I'd have to go get her. She'd be sitting in her chair, taking three strands of hair, curling them to the right and then curling them to the left. Finally, I'd get her out of the make-up trailer onto the set so we could shoot. She then did a good job.
"About a month after the picture was finished, Lesley Ann Warren walked by. I yelled, 'Lesley Ann, you came out of the trailer.' We laughed. I had a good relationship with her. She was a little crazy, highly neurotic. She got the director, Fielder Cook, ill. Something got clogged up in his intestines. We had to take him to the hospital. They were wheeling him into a room when one of those heavy intravenous things fell off the stand and hit him on the head. He recovered and was back to work the next day."
Luke: "Why does the topic of immigration interest you so much?"
Edgar: "I'm an American. And I'm of Jewish heritage. So that should answer your question. It's the story of America."
Luke: "How did you get involved with the Wednesday Morning Club [a group of Hollywood non-liberals founded by ex-radical David Horowitz]?"
Edgar: "They came to me and asked me if I would be one of the founding members. I said I would be happy to. They knew I was conservative."
Luke: "Looking at your peers, would you say they were 80/20 Democrat?"
Edgar: "Much more than that. They're heavily biased towards Democrats and liberals."
Luke: "How did you deal with that throughout your Hollywood career?"
Edgar: "It never bothered me. I never worried about someone's politics. It had no material effect on the project. I've always said what I wanted to say. I shocked some people."
Luke: "Tell me about your 1986 miniseries On Wings of Eagles, based on the Ken Follet book."
From Imdb.com: "Ken Follett's best-selling novel becomes a 5 hour mini-series. As the Ayatollah Khomeini takes over Iran, two executives of the Texas based Electronic Data System's (EDS) are arrested in Tehran and held for $13,000,000 ransom. H. Ross Perot (Richard Crenna), the company head, tries diplomatic approaches to get his executives released. When that fails, he hires a retired Army Colonel (Burt Lancaster) to head up a rescue mission. They put together a first-class team including Paul Le Mat as Lancaster's second-in-command and Esai Morales as an Iranian EDS trainee."
Edgar: "I sent the project to NBC and they bought it. We needed someone to play Lieutenant Colonel Arthur E. 'Bull' Simons who led the raid into Iran. Burt Lancaster was the logical guy. His CMA agent, the late Ben Benjamin, named a figure [of about $1 million], which for television was a lot of money. We paid the price. Burt had just had a bipass operation. I had to pay a big premium for insurance for him. We finished the picture on a mountain near Mexico City and I was concerned about the thinness of the air. I brought an ambulance and doctor in on a 24-hour basis. And he was fine."
Luke: "Your 1987 TV movie The Stepford Children."
Edgar: "It was based on a good idea - the children of Stepford were being Stepfordized. The script [by William Bleich] turned out middling. Somebody who worked for me called me on the phone. 'The director [Alan J. Levi] is walking off the picture. What do I do?' I said, 'You go in and direct for the rest of the night. We'll worry about it tomorrow.' I don't think the director walked off. As soon as they find out someone else is going to direct, they don't walk so fast."
Luke: "Tell me about NBC Entertainment head Brandon Tartikoff."
Edgar: "I was fond of him. He was an exceptional man. Smart, funny, knowledgeable. I'd done the same job he was doing at another network years before. He was the best I'd ever seen at that job. We got along famously."
Luke: "Hands of a Stranger."
Edgar: "Larry Elikann directed and he was one of my favorite television directors. I enjoyed this because it went smoothly. And the cast were friends of mine. Armand Assante and Beverly D'Angelo. I was in love with Beverly D'Angelo. From a narrative point of view, it may be the best mini-series I've ever made."
Luke: "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Edgar: "I sold it to A&E, which was a small company then. When news got around that I wanted to make this picture, there was roiling among the black community, who did not want this picture made. To them an Uncle Tom [was regarded negatively]. I wanted to find someone of authority to say, 'That is a good idea. Go make this picture.' The head of the NAACP, Sydney, said, 'This is one of the great classics of American literature. It had a great effect on the Civil War. Absolutely this picture should be made.' So we made it for little money in Mississippi in terrible heat. And Edward Woodward was playing Simon Lagree. And his wardrobe was a jacket and a weskit [vest]. And I said to him, 'Edward, what are you doing out here in this heat?' And he said to me, 'Edgar, when again will somebody ask me to play Simon Lagree?'
"We had a plantation house. And they called me to the set. 'There's a crucial moment here where we need a line.' Uncle Tom had great faith. He believed that all things would be solved by faith. And I came up with this terrific line that solved the problem perfectly."
Luke: "The Kennedys of Massachusetts, a 1990 mini-series."
Edgar: "I was in England when I got a call from a colleague in New York. 'Doris [Kearns] Goodwin is writing a book about the Kennedy clan. And I have an outline of it.' And she got it to me in England. I said I was interested. My friend said, 'Instead of flying back to California, why don't you go see Doris Goodwin?' So I went to Concord, Massachusetts, where she lived with her husband Dick Goodwin [of Quiz Show fame]. I stayed with them that night and we got to know each other. And she liked me, and I got the rights. There were a lot of people after it. She won the Pulitzer Prize for that book."
Luke: "Have you heard that she did a lot of plagiarism on that book and others?"
Edgar: "I've heard that. I don't believe it. Who could she plagiarize?"
Luke: "The Secret Life of Ian Fleming ."
Edgar: "That's a fake. I thought that up. I knew that Ian Fleming had a house in the West Indies. So I thought we should make up a story about his life. Then I sold it to Turner Broacasting and we made the movie with Sean Connery's son [Jason], a very nice looking young man. I don't know what happened to him. I thought he was going to be a prominent actor."
Luke: "Phantom of the Opera."
Edgar: "We went back to the original book. I shot it in France. Tony Richardson directed it. A real miserable man. He was terrible. I didn't know he was sick with AIDS at the time. I had countless run-ins with Tony Richardson. He caused me untold trouble. He rewrote the script without anybody authorizing him to. I had to spend a week restoring the script to its original form, the script the network approved. The two women who worked with him said, 'To get along with him, just let him do whatever he wants to do.' I said, 'That's not my style.'"
Luke: "In the TV movie, the producer is in charge."
Edgar: "I don't know what that means. That means a lot of discussion."
Luke: "Doesn't that mean it is your vision that should prevail?"
Edgar: "I just finished a picture for HBO called The Path to War. It is the picture of Director John Frankenheimer from start to finish. He consulted no one.
"Fever  was a picture I made for HBO about the thrill of criminal behavior. Larry Elikann directed. Those films I really liked, I remember. Marcia Gay Harden was the actress. I found her and I liked her a lot and nobody knew much about her. The guy at HBO didn't want her and I really leaned on him. I said to him, 'By the bowels of Christ, bethink ye that ye might be mistaken. You are wrong, wrong, wrong.' [A line from Oliver Cromwell.] He cast her finally after I got done with 'the bowels of Christ,' he was speechless."
Luke: "Rambling Rose, 1991."
Edgar: "I read the book by Calder Willingham and I thought it was a beautiful book. I employed Calder Willingham to write a screenplay and he wrote a lovely screenplay. I couldn't get it shot. Finally, I gave it to Martha Coolridge to read. At that time, she was a director of no note. She gave it to her friend Laura Dern. Laura loved it. Laura was living with Finnish action director Riny Hall, and she told him that she wanted to make that picture more than anything in the world. And he had some pull with Miramax and they wanted to do what he wanted to do. And that's how the movie got made."
Luke: "Was that the last feature you made?"
Edgar: "No, The Wall . You make it sound so final. I'm not done by a long shot. Since you've been here, I've sold a picture to Showtime on the telephone. It's called Crisis at the Whitehouse. It's about what happened in the Whitehouse on September 11. Lionel Chetwynd is writing it. He's at the Whitehouse doing interviews. He's on a president's council and so they opened up to him. Lionel is speaking to everyone who was with the president that day.
"What else do you want to know? Come on, I'm getting tired of you already."
Luke: "Betrayed by Love ."
Edgar: "Aren't we all?"
Luke: "The Good Old Boys ."
Edgar: "That was based on a Texas novel that I read and liked. And I sent it to Tommy Lee Jones. I knew he'd read it. Years ago, Tommy Lee Jones was a football player at Harvard. And I saw in the monthly Harvard magazine that Tommy Lee Jones wanted to be an actor. And I had enjoyed him as a football player. So I called him. 'Look, I'm in the movie business. I don't have any jobs for you but the next time you come to New York, call me up.' So he came and called me up. He said, 'They're making a picture at Harvard called Love Story. There's a scene in there with several Ivy League jocks. I'm an Ivy League jock.'
"So I called the producer of the picture and Tommy got a job. There's a scene in Love Story where the guys are playing poker in one of the dormitory rooms. One of them was Tommy Lee Jones. That was his first appearance on film. He never forgot that. So if I sent him something to read, he'd read it.
"He said he liked the book. And two weeks later, 20 pages of the script arrived. Without me asking, he started writing a script. So the person I worked with on the movie said, 'Look at this? What's going to happen? He's writing a script. What are we going to do?' I said, 'Look, it's pretty good. Let him write.' And he wrote the script for the picture. Tommy Lee Jones is smart. He's almost a legend up at Harvard."
Jones made his directorial debut with The Good Old Boys.
Luke: "Tyson ."
Edgar: "It's a story of Cus D'Amato and Mike Tyson. I was close to boxing. I did a lot of championship fights. And I knew Tyson's foster father Cus D'Amato. I produced the telecast of the fight where Ingemar Johanson knocked out Floyd Patterson. Then the night that Floyd Patterson won the title back, Cus D'Amato and I stayed up all night talking. It was such a great moment.
"I saw Tyson's sixth fight and I knew his story well. There was a book on Tyson by Jose Torres, a former light heavyweight champion. I acquired the book and used it as the basis for a screenplay, which I sold to HBO."
Luke: "Ruby Ridge ."
Edgar: "My then-wife took off the internet the summary of some senate hearing. And I read that and said, 'Oh, that's a movie.' I sold it as a four-hour miniseries to CBS."
From Imdb.com, this description: "A mini-series dramatization of the controversial 1992 attack by federal agents on the Idaho home of Randy Weaver, a white seperatist. The ten-day siege, begun over a minor gun charge, resulted in the deaths of Weaver's son, wife and dog, and a U.S. Marshall. The incident caused major public outcry against the FBI and U.S. Marshals."
Edgar: "It was a controversial project because Randy Weaver was a hero to many Americans. Many people felt strongly that he had been terribly wronged by the US government and that they should protect him."
Luke: "The TV movie business has changed."
Edgar: "It's getting smaller and smaller."
Luke: "Did you see it coming?"
Edgar: "No. It doesn't affect me. I can sell ice to eskimos."
Luke: "Why does it not affect you?"
Edgar: "Because I am able to sell things. I never made the traditional movie. I always asked a question of a piece of material - is it touched by singularity? If you try to sell the same old rot, it's not going to work. I looked for subjects that would touch inside me."
Luke: "Which of your projects have had the most meaning to you?"
Edgar: "Raid on Entebbe. The Path to War. It was something I lived through [Vietnam]. I was thinking lying in this bed that I've probably lived through more history than any other man alive. My whole life is part of the panarama of American history, beginning with the Great Depression, which affected me deeply. Then WWII, the Vietnam War. And I've had a little to do with each of those epochs."
Luke: "What did you have to do with the Vietnam War?"
Edgar: "I made a movie called The Wall. Did I have anything to do directly with the war? No."
Luke: "Were you opposed to the war?"
Edgar: "I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it, yeah or nay."
Luke: "Who are your favorite people in the industry?"
Edgar: "Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini. That's a silly question."
Luke: "Which of your peers do you respect the most?"
Edgar: "Larry Gordon. It's hard to say. I don't spend much time thinking about them."
Luke: "Did you socialize much with the industry?"
Edgar: "No, I was a family man essentially. Though I moved among all circles with ease. Everybody knew me. Everybody's door was open to me. I went where I wanted. I am one of the few men in Hollywood today who can get anybody on the telephone. From Lew Wasserman on down."
Luke: "Which of the titans stand out most clearly in your mind?"
Edgar: "Lew Wasserman. David Selznick. A giant. But I didn't know when I was with him. I didn't realize what a giant he was."
Luke: "Did you have many dealings with Barry Diller?"
Edgar: "I hired Barry Diller out of William Morris into ABC. I remember how smart he was and how nice he was and is to me."
Luke: "Michael Eisner."
Edgar: "I like him a lot. Michael Eisner once said on a public forum that Edgar is the first man to ever pitch him a project in this business. It was a TV show for ABC, Tales of the Nunandaga. It was about a fictional American Indian tribe.
"Come on, let's get down to cases, here."
Luke: "What do you think of the increasing consolidation of the entertainment industry?"
Edgar: "I've never thought of consolidation as a good idea. It eliminates competition of ideas.
"I don't think your book is going to be too interesting based on these questions you're asking."
Luke: "What part of your work did you enjoy the most?"
Edgar: "The creative part. Coming up with an idea and seeing it through to fulfillment."
Luke: "And which part of your work did you dislike the most?"
Edgar: "The wrangling and the arguing. The duplicity. Next."
Luke: "Do you have a pet project you've been nursing for years?"
Edgar: "I just pitched a project based on a book called The Shadow of Blooming Grove. It's a biography of Warren Gamiel Harding, America's worst president. That's what I want to call the project - America's Worst President. What a schlemiel this guy was.
"What else? This is trivia we're talking about now. Not to me, but to readers. What do they care what I think I want to do now?"
Luke: "What do you want to be most remembered for?"
Edgar: "Honesty. And good taste. And courage."
Luke: "What have been some of the most courageous things you've done?"
Edgar: "Told the truth in all conditions. I didn't give in to the stroke. Here I am. It's pretty debihltating.
"I can't have anyone around me who doesn't tell the truth."
Luke: "Who do you hate the most in the industry?"
Edgar: "I don't hate anybody. I hate no man on earth. It's debiltating to hate. It saps your energy. I'm very angry with my ex-wife [Asian woman who left Edgar after 18 years of marriage, after his 1998 stroke]."
Luke: "Did you find you had to change the way you did business in Hollywood?"
Edgar: "No, I've always done business on a forthright basis."
Luke: "How do you think you've changed over the years?"
Edgar: "I'm less loud. More subdued."
Luke: "Why were you so loud?"
Edgar: "I was frustrated by inefficiency and stupidity and the only way I could get through was to raise my voice, which is the least effective way to get through."
Luke: "Why did you develop that trait?"
Edgar: "When I was an infant, my mother hired a West Indian woman to take care of me. And she was hard of hearing. As I grew up, I had to talk loud so I could get through to her. It affected me for the rest of my life."
Luke: "What part of your meaning in life has come from your work?"
Edgar: "The meaning I've found in life comes from the accomplishments of other people. So many people have done so many wonderful things."
Luke: "Were you a workaholic?"
Edgar: "No. I always went home to my family in the evenings."
Luke: "What kind of a father were you?"
Edgar: "Dutiful. And I have good children. There was never anything they did, any athletic event, that I was not there. I was in total attendance to their lives."
Luke: "Who are your heroes?"
Edgar: "Franklin Roosevelt. I can't think of anybody off hand. I can think of hundreds of people. La Guardia. Herbert H. Lawman, Governor of New York for many years."
Luke: "Any books which have most influenced you?"
Edgar: "I can't think of any now. Somebody came to me today and said, 'I have a friend who has the rights to Profiles in Courage. Would you be interested?' I said, 'That's old hat by now.' It was an interesting book. There were stories in there that were exciting. Any time a man stands alone for something he believes in, that's exciting. Where he lays it all on the line, it can't get any bigger than that."
Luke: "Were there any people in your life who did that when you were a kid?"
Luke: "Perhaps heroes on a movie screen?"
Edgar: "Ask me what movie popped in my mind now - John Ford's Young Abe Lincoln.
"I've been fortunate to spend my life in the company of some exciting people - writers, actors, directors."
Luke: "Have people stuck by you in the past few years?"
Edgar: "Sure. I have plenty of good friends. Have they turned around and called me up to say, 'Hey, here's something we want you to do'? No. The business is not that way. But I have no complaints."
I return to Edgar's bedside March 4, 2002.
Edgar: "I hear you keep the Sabbath?"
Luke: "Yes, I'm an observant Jew."
Edgar: "Good for you. I respect that."
Luke: "What should I be asking you that I haven't?"
Edgar: "I think it is quite amazing, that in view of the fact that I've had a stroke and am more or less bedridden, that I can operate with my mind and my telephone. I've through it well. I'm pleased and proud of myself. There are a lot of things that I should be doing that I'm not doing. Reading is impossible for me because I can't hold a book in my hand. I've only got one hand that works (right) and one hand doesn't work at all."
Luke: "Tell me about your stroke in 1998."
Edgar: "I was eating at a restaurant. I go to the restroom and I leave my credit cards on the table. I told someone that I was picking up the check. I come back. I'm having a strenuous conversation and all of a sudden, I fell over. The next thing I remember is being on a gurney and being put on to an ambulance and taken to the hospital. I was in the hospital for weeks."
Luke: "And at what point did your wife Marsha leave you?"
Edgar: "Not until I got home. As long as I was in the hospital, I wasn't cramping her style."
Luke: "What kind of relationship did you have with Marsha before your stroke?"
Edgar: "Very good, I thought. I took care of her. I gave her everything she wanted. She was a church mouse when I found her and she turned into a fully flourishing woman, culturally and intellectually."
Luke: "How did she break it to you?"
Edgar: "She said, 'I'm selling this house [across the street from the Harvard-Westlake prep school].' They moved me into here. I'm very dependent. Blance DuBois' last words in The Streetcar Named Desire. 'I've always depended on the kindness of others.' I'm totally dependent on Linnette [Edgar's Phillipino nurse]."
Luke: "You've always been in charge. What's it like to be dependent?"
Edgar: "Very unpleasant. I've learned a discouraging amount about the fallibility of human nature."
Luke: "Has it been an opportunity for spiritual growth?"
Edgar: "Yes. Because of Linnette, I was exposed to Catholicism. I never really got much spiritual input from Judaism. About a year ago, I converted to [Roman] Catholicism."
Luke: "Has that been good for you?"
Edgar: "Oh, I like it. Yes. It helps me. I went to Church Sunday. During the Eucharist, I cry. It touches me deeply."
Luke: "What about Catholicism appeals to you?"
Edgar: "The everpresence. The ever healing protecting presence of Jesus. See Jesus up there by the television set?"
Luke notices for the first time the small Jesus on the cross statute.
Luke: "And you never found that in Judaism."
Edgar: "I'm very proud of my blood. The blood of heroes in my veins. They can never take it away from me. I'm proud of being a Jew. I consider myself a Jew. In formal religion, I consider myself a Catholic. I was converted in this room by a Jesuit priest who was a friend of mine. I've known him a couple of years, but only from this bed. I've been in this bed for about five years."
Luke: "Are you able to get out every day?"
Edgar: "Most of the time, if there's somebody there to help me. To get me into the [wheel]chair. I can't walk."
Luke: "Do your friends from the industry call you?"
Edgar: "Not socially. But from the point of view of business, yeah."
Luke: "Have you been surprised by the people who have not stayed in touch?"
Edgar: "No. I've been pleased with the fact that nobody has been deterred from doing business with me because I had a stroke."
Luke: "When was the last time you heard from your wife?"
Edgar: "I had a meeting with her in the lawyers office six months ago. If I had a gun, I'd shoot her. She's now suing me for half of what I have in this world. That's the law in California. A terrible, terrible law."
Luke: "What went wrong with your first marriage?"
Edgar: "She had a nervous breakdown and then she turned to health food and became overwhelming and dominated the whole house. I don't mind that the kids were raised vegetarian but she was telling me what I could eat and what I couldn't eat. It was terrible. Oppressive. That was her religion. I used to sneak out and have a hamburger. I used to get some migraine headaches. I'd have to turn out the light and lie down. And my son walks in and says, 'The reason that you have this headache is that you ate sushi last night.' I said, 'That's enough. I'm out of here.'
"She administered to her mother in her mother's last days and tortured her. What she did to her mother - no oxygen. She's basically a good woman. I don't have strong negative feelings. I'm telling you about what happened more than 20 years ago. She lives in New York. When she's out here, she comes to see me. And it's always pleasant."
Luke: "What were some of the most common scams you've seen?"
Edgar: "In the early days, they talked about kickbacks to production manager. I was a time buyer at an advertising agency. I spent thousands of dollars. Only once was I offered a couple hundred dollars to do something dishonest. I refused. My only motivation as a producer was to protect the picture and the money of the financiers."
Luke: "Hollywood has always been known for its creative accounting."
Edgar: "Nobody creative accounting'ed me. I never went into a picture expecting huge returns on net points."
Luke: "Tell me about the Wednesday Morning Club, created by Michael Horowitz."
Edgar: "We've had some great speakers like George Will, who says, 'Ever year is divided into two parts. Baseball and the void.' I agree. Baseball is a big part of my life. It's filled with strategies. You have to be courageous. Hitting a round ball with a round bat is an athletic feat. I live and die with the New York Mets. Mostly die."
Luke: "Did you put your values into your movies?"
Edgar: "I put no messages in anything. I remember once I was looking at a rough cut of one of our movies. This man hits a woman. And then he hits her again. I got upset. 'How can you do that? That kind of unmitigated violence is out.' One hit was enough. I hate violence."
Luke: "On TV and in movies, liberals are always pushing liberal messages."
Edgar: "I don't know what you're talking about."
Luke: "Have there been topics and materials that you wanted to work with but couldn't due to Hollywood's liberal mindset?"
Edgar: "No. My politics, to my knowledge, have never interfered with anything I wanted to do."
Luke: "Why do you think Hollywood has never made a movie celebrating the Persian Gulf War where we kicked the Iraqis out of Kuwait?"
Edgar: "It's yesterday's newspaper."
Luke: "We've made an endless number of movies about Vietnam."
Edgar: "That was a national trauma. The other one wasn't. It was clean and delineated."
Luke: "Could it be that most of Hollywood isn't patriotic?"
Edgar: "Not so. It just wouldn't make an entertaining movie. It was inconclusive. Sadam Hussein is still there. You seem to be consumed with this idea of messages. I think you're way off base."
Luke: "Well, liberals are always pushing liberal messages in the LA Times, NY Times, Washington Post, the movie studios, and the networks."
Edgar: "I don't think it's hurt the country. We're in good shape except for this war. I spoke to Gore Vidal today. He thinks of Bush as an unmitigated disaster. I want to do a movie about America's worst president - Warren G. Harding. Gore says, 'Bush.'"
Luke: "Gore Vidal is nuts."
Edgar: "He my be nuts but he's Gore Vidal. He's very smart. He's Al Gore's cousin. I have to read a book of Vidal's on Hollywood. I like him. He's so smart."
Luke: "Is that the trait you value most in people?"
Edgar: "No. Honesty. Forthrightness. Honor. Keep your oaths. I admire character. I hate duplicity. I hate lying."
Luke: "Well, Hollywood is rife with lying, duplicity and bad character."
Edgar: "Somehow I've escaped it."
Luke: "What do you think about the large number of homosexuals in the business?"
Edgar: "I've always thought that homosexuals probably have a sensitivity and creativity that other people might not. That's why they gravitate towards the entertainment business. There's no homophobia in me."
Luke: "You worked on many movies with Dan Blatt."
Edgar: "He's capable, intelligent, hard working, well trained in the business. He's a good friend of mine. When I'm dead, I want to be cremated. If they have a memorial service for me, which I don't want, Dan Blatt would be the man to conduct it. He knows me well. Dan is special. I don't know if you got that out of him."
Luke: "He doesn't say much."
Edgar: "He's not used to being interviewed. I've been interviewed all my life. I want to hire a publicity man for [the two-and-a-half hour HBO movie] The Path to War and for him to publicize my role in it. It took ten years of development.
"Two guys brought me the material - the eventual writer Daniel Giat and exeuctive producer Howard Dratch. They had the idea and I sold it to HBO."
Luke: "Why did it take so long to get made?"
Edgar: "Because it was a complex script. It had to vetted on every point to make sure it was totally accurate."
Luke: "Do you own most of your films?"
Edgar: "No, just a couple. The picture is owned by the financier."
Luke: "Do you regret not starting your own financing entity?"
Edgar: "I've done good work and I'm satisfied. There's only one guy in this business I refuse to talk to, and that's the manager of English director Tony Scott, brother of director Ridley Scott. The manager did something to me that's just inexcusable. If I see him, I just walk right by him.
"I brought Tony Scott over from England. We traveled to Chile together. We got close. He was at my house all the time. I wanted to see how he was. I called him up one day. And I got a call back from his little mouse manager who says, 'Edgar, if you want to talk to Tony, you should go through me.' I never spoke to him again. It was an insult of monumental proportions."
Luke: "Did you speak to Tony Scott again?"
Edgar: "No, I didn't. After that, I don't want to talk to him."
Luke: "Who were your favorite people to deal with?"
Edgar: "Anybody who was straight forward, I liked.
"Hurry up, you're hanging by a thread here. I'm giving you my valuable time. Where do you get all these questions? You sit in your house and think them up?"
Luke: "I research and write down questions. I've tracked down every reference to your name on the internet."
Edgar: "Do you go to shul every Friday night?"
Luke: "Yes. And Saturday morning. And most every day, I'm in shul."
Edgar: "Good for you. Can you read Hebrew?"
Luke: "A bit."
Edgar: "I was a crackerjack. The rabbi at the Talmud Torah [afterschool Jewish education system] loved me."
Luke: "When was the last time you talked to a rabbi?"
Edgar: "Years. I find most of them pompous. The guy who used to interest me was the head of Chabad, Rabbi Menahem Schneerson. He used to hand out dollar bills. He's dead now."
Luke: "He had a stroke."
Edgar: "He ate too much schmaltz [chicken fat]."
Luke: "Did you have any other favorite rabbis?"
Edgar: "Rabbi David Desola Pool was a big Sephardic rabbi on Lexington Avenue in New York."
Luke: "Do you have any favorite priests?"
Edgar: "I like the Pope. I think he's an interesting man. One of the important men in the world today. He speaks many languages. He writes plays. A courageous man."
Luke: "So you've found some solace in Roman Catholicism?"
Edgar: "Yes. I feel Jesus' presence a lot, which helps me. When you turn the lights out here at night, it's black and you're all alone. I have nobody except Linnette in the other room. I feel that Jesus watches over me."
Luke: "How often do your kids come to visit?"
Edgar: "Every weekend."
Luke: "What was the last book you read?"
Edgar: "Bernie Brillstein's. It was wonderful.
"Director Irvin Kirshner made a lot of money directing The Empire Strikes Back so he doesn't have to work. He goes around and lectures under the title 'Hollywood and Pickled Herring.' Why? 'Everybody thinks that the people in Hollywood want to make film. If they could make the same amount of money making pickled herring, they'd make pickled herring'."
Luke: "Is that true?"
Edgar: "Not true at all."
Luke: "If you had not gotten into TV and film, what would you have done?"
Edgar: "I probably would've been a sportswriter. I was the Sports Editor of my highschool newspaper and my college yearbook. Or I would've been a teacher. It's the most noble profession.
"Let's keep going. This is not interesting to me."
Luke: "Who have been your closest friendships in this industry?"
Edgar: "William Morris agent Larry Auerbach and USC professor.
"I want you to see this videotape, 'The First 1600 Years of Edgar Scherick.' There was a place that helps people who are partially sighted [blind]. And they wanted to honor me with a dinner. That's how they raised money. I agreed. I worked at it and I raised more money than they ever had before. I figured that nobody at the dinner would know who I was, so we better get something that shows a bit about me. So they followed me around [in 1991] and made this tape."
Let's go to the videotape:
Edgar: "The state of morality in this country and in this town leaves a lot to be desired. Every single thing we touch involves some element of twisting, turning, maneuvering to find some worthless irrelevant advantage. Everybody is out to position themselves a little bit better regardless of what is said about themselves. Today there are no more mentors and initiators. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor at the advertising agency Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample. He was a pioneer in broadcasting. And in the six years I was at the agency, he taught me the business and it served me in good stead all my life. I've tried to be a mentor like he was to me.
"If you look at the Hollywood Hills, there must be a wealth of people of age and maturation, be it writers or directors, who could be of such value to this business. We must build a bridge between them and the younger people. Today the young people have nowhere to turn. One 26-year old with a question turns to another 26-year old, who doesn't know what to do and gives him back the same amorality. They feed off each other. And people wonder why principles disappear. Because there's no handing down of the torch.
"If a guy gives you something to read, either buy it or don't buy it. You don't give him a critique. He didn't send it to you for a critique."
Goldenson, Leonard H. Beating the Odds. New York: Charles Scribner. 1991.