Producer Edgar J. Scherick Part One
Roone Arledge RIP
From the New York Times 12/5/02: In the mid-50's, Mr. Arledge came to the attention of an executive at ABC, Edgar Scherick, who was running the sports arm of that fledgling television network. Mr. Scherick thought he saw a spark of originality in some of Mr. Arledge's work and invited him to a meeting at which Mr. Scherick asked the young producer if he knew anything about sports. He did.
Mr. Arledge was able, at a glance, to identify every picture of every athlete on Mr. Scherick's office wall. He was hired.
In April 1960, Mr. Arledge became an assistant on a new package of college football games that Mr. Scherick had acquired for ABC. Mr. Scherick had no way of realizing at that time exactly how ideally he had matched man and milieu.
[Arledge] quickly showed an avid interest in receiving credit for everything ABC Sports put on the air - each ABC sports show ended with the same mantra: ``The executive producer of ABC Sports is Roone Arledge.'' Some, including Mr. Scherick, bristled at what they perceived as credit-grabbing, and Mr. Arledge did display a lifelong, somewhat inexplicable tendency toward embellishing his already-towering achievements.
LA Times' Rips Off Lukeford.net Again
From Claudia Luther's LA Times 12/4/02 obituary for Edgar Scherick: "Scherick's interests as a producer were wide and varied. He once said he was "interested in the human psyche, soul, morality" and that he wanted to be remembered "for honesty, good taste and courage."
Where did she gets those quotes from? From lukeford.net's profile of Edgar, the most extensive on record. Does Claudia Luther credit the source of those quotes? No.
About 200 people attended a funeral and memorial service for Edgar Scherick Saturday afternoon in Beverly Hills. At the All Saints Episcopal Church, I see the tightly-coiled Harry Ufland and his blonde wife Mary Jane. I see the tall aristocratic blonde grandmother - producer Dorothea Petrie and her much shorter husband Dan, the director.
I see a young curly-haired handsome priest (Rev. Jimmy Bartz) in his priestly vestments.
I can't sign the guestbook because it is still the Sabbath, when a Jew is not permitted to write or do any form of "work."
I suspect most of the crowd is Jewish.
I've read comedic scenes about Hollywood types at funerals or in synagogue on the High Holy Days doing deals. If that's going on here today, it's so low key I can't see or hear it. Scherick attracts a classy crowd.
His first wife Carol is there with big black jazz musician Illinois Jaquette, her close friend since the late seventies when she began taking piano lessons from him.
I walk inside the church with trepidation and sit near the back. I start chatting with a driven young agent Matt Sherman of APA (Agency of the Performing Arts).
Matt met Edgar shortly after he arrived in town from Boston two years ago. Matt was eating breakfast at Naten'Als delicatessen, a favorite of Larry King. Edgar was eating next to him. They started talking, hit it off, and have had meals together regularly eversince.
Matt last saw Edgar six weeks ago.
We trade stories about showbiz while I finish off the Sabbath in a church. Too weird!
It appears that about 40 of Edgar's former assistants have shown up to pay their respects along with about 40 producers. Most of the crowd seems to come from entertainment.
The service begins on time with the priest walking down the aisle reciting a prayer about the Resurrection. Then he leads the congregation (about 200 persons) in the 23rd Psalm, which Orthodox Jews will sing in Hebrew about an hour as part of shalosh seudat (third meal of the Sabbath).
Then the speeches began. The first came from Edgar's eldest grandchild who read a poem she'd written.
Then Sue Pollock spoke. Then a producer who'd worked for Edgar.
They recalled some of Edgar's favorite sayings:
"Before I shuffle off this mortal coil."
"We're hanging by a thread."
I was just reading a series of clips about Edgar on Friday. A Variety article named him as one of the industry's legendary screamers.
A speech by one of TV's first female executives. She's now in a wheelchair and blind.
A cell phone goes off. But only one during the entire service.
Edgar's son says they plan to scatter his ashes off the coast of Long Island.
Producer Michael Barnathan did some dead-on imitations of Edgar.
Final speech came from Edgar's eldest child.
Many of the speakers thanked Edgar's "angel" and nurse of the past four years - Lynette, whose loving kindness drew Edgar to convert to Roman Catholicism.
Rev. Jimmy read a speech from another priest who visited Edgar regularly during his final days and says how much Edgar loved and revered the Pope.
The speakers remembered Edgar as brilliant, temperamental, tempestous and funny.
Matt and I chat as the crowd files out, dressed in their Sunday best. A woman beside us asks if we're going to leave to. We're blocking her exit.
It's casting director Pam Dixon, who used to work for Scherick in the days he also employed Scott Rudin. Pam is a no-nonsense focused lady. About a month ago, she joined Edgar and some of his closest friends at his Century City apartment for his birthday party.
At 5:30PM, the crowd repaired to the Museum of Television and Radio on Beverly Drive for drinks, hors'dourvres, a video presentation and more speeches.
I speak with ex-agent Larry Auerbach, now a USC professor, who read my profile of Edgar. He felt honored that Edgar named him as one of his best friends in the biz.
I chat with Edgar's former assistant Michael Dains (1994-94), now a line producer and part of a choir.
A woman named Zane gives a funny ten-minute talk with her favorite memories of Edgar. The two often pitched projects together. Often, just before walking in, Edgar would say, 'I don't want to wear a tie during this.' He'd pull off his tie and hand it to Zane, who'd be forced to hide it in her pants.
Then days later, she'd get a call from Edgar asking for his tie back.
She recalled her first meeting with Edgar who was hungry. He asked his assistant, on his first day on the job, fresh from Harvard, to get him a Turkey sandwich, with lettuce and tomato on the side and coleslaw in the sandwich.
Forty minutes later the kid returns and puts the styrofoam container on Edgar's desk. He opens it and his face goes purple. "You're fired" he screams at the kid, who hasn't been seen in Hollywood since.
The lettuce and tomato were in the sandwich and there was potato salad on the site. Edgar said if the kid couldn't get his order right, he couldn't get movies right.
Edgar was remembered as particularly fond of women in the business getting ahead. He opened many doors for women and loved to hire them as assistants.
I spoke by phone 12/26/02 with Michael Dains, a former assistant to the late producer Edgar J. Scherick who now works as a line producer.
Michael: "I came to Los Angeles from New York in 1992 as an actor. After a year, I started working for producer David Brooks, who worked with Edgar. They had a project together - Passion for Justice: The Hazel Brannon Smith Story, A. It was shot in Atlanta and the film was sent to LA and I helped David on the post-production side. I was in Edgar's office a lot.
"I'd take Edgar to editing sessions and watch dailies with him. Edgar had an assistant leave. Hugh Taylor, who was running Edgar's operation at the time, asked me around 1994 to work for Edgar and I agreed.
"Much of my job was being his driver and accompanying Edgar to meetings. I was with him from the early morning until late at night. He could drive. He always did a lot of business on his car phone. I heard that he once got in an accident while trying to do business on his car phone.
[Edgar was a bad driver with a poor sense of direction. Around 1992, he got into a bad accident on Sunset Boulevard and was lucky he wasn't killed.]
"It was impossible to get Edgar to stop what he was doing to go to meetings. We would start giving him warnings well in advance. He also could not stand to be 30 seconds late. He had to be places on time. That's a real challenge in LA.
"If I was ever going to take Edgar somewhere, I'd drive the route first. You never wanted to be lost with Edgar.
"Edgar believed he always knew the best way to go, which was not always true. I went my way. He said, 'If we're late, you're fired.' I laughed. He said, 'No, I'm serious.' We arrived on time.
"Being his assistant meant being part of his brain. He was so busy, and had so much on his mind... When you're talking on the phone [in the entertainment industry], you usually have an assistant listening in and taking notes. If you're in the car, you're only hearing half the conversation and you're driving. You can't take notes.
"Edgar was uncomfortable with me being his assistant. He said to me once, 'You driving me around is like a thoroughbred pulling a garbage scow.' I just wanted to learn as much as I could from him. Some of his assistants didn't pay attention.
"Michael Barnathan told the story at his memorial service that when he was hired by Edgar, Edgar told him to just sit there. Michael thought he was supposed to do something but all he was suppposed to do was listen and learn.
"I recall sitting with Edgar in an editing session for Passion for Justice with the director and editors. Edgar had a photographic memory. We were looking at a scene when Edgar said, 'Wasn't there another shot of this?' There was. There was one reaction shot. Edgar suggested using it. It changed the whole scene and made it better.
"Edgar was willing to fight for things and it was fun to watch him fight and to see when he would back down.
"Roone Arledge told the story of walking in to Wide World of Sports and seeing Edgar's partner pinning Edgar up against the wall. They turned to Roone and said, 'Oh, it's ok.' Edgar told me about throwing furniture around the room.
"Edgar yelled. One assistant just before me quit because she couldn't take being yelled at.
"I felt like my relationship with Edgar was a father-son relationship. I saw assistants who'd come and go because they'd get pissed off with him and wouldn't deal with it. There was one time I was ready to quit on the spot but he came back and apologized. It was a moving moment. He realized that he had gone too far."
Michael Dains gave me a tape of Edgar J. Scherick speaking at a "Producers on Producing" forum at AFI May 9, 1985.
Here are some highlights:
Edgar: "What's important is to take your work seriously and not yourself. We are transient. We don't matter. This town has been going on for 80-years and the titanic clashes [of egos] are all forgotten and what lives on are the pictures.
"I have four children. All are in the industry in one form or another. I have not got one of them a job. I've never told any of them what to do.
"If you have a reasonable idea of yourself, you shouldn't have difficult evaluating other people. You look at a person and you can pretty well tell if that person is going to be any good or not.
"The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3 . I think it's a terrific picture. United Artists distributed it. It was the first time I had done a picture for a studio. Freddy Goldberg was in charge of advertising. They prepared an oil painting (at a $5000) for the campaign of a scene inside a New York subway station. One man was standing with a sub-machine and another man had a woman around his throat. It was beautifully done.
"We snuck the picture in New York and it went like gangbusters. The audience was screaming. But the movie didn't open well. I was working with a company that was an exceptional merchandiser of packaged goods. They had nothing to do with the movie business. I knew a guy in the marketing research department. I told him I wanted to find out why this picture was not clocking them.
"He set up some research. The motion picture had never done this before. No business ever marched on so blindly ignorant of their own market as the motion picture business. He set up research in which he checked what the expectations were from seeing the advertisement and what the reaction was after seeing the movie. Out of that came a lesson - an advertisement sets up expectations for a movie. If the audience's expectations are not fulfilled by the movie, they come out and give you lousy word-of-mouth, the key factor in selling a movie.
"This advertisement created a violent millieu and all the violence freaks zapped into that movie and it wasn't really a violent movie. And the violence freaks came out and told all their friends, 'Screw it. It's no good.' But the people who went into it who weren't violence freaks, and who didn't see the ad, liked the picture and came out speaking positively about it. We had spent millions of dollars convincing the real audience for this picture not to come.
"The man who did that research quit his $17,000-a-year job and came to Hollywood and became one of the most important figures in market research and telling the movie companies what to do. His demise began when he advised Warner Brothers not to do Star Wars.
"I don't think I've ever made a movie I wouldn't have my children watch.
"At the time I resigned as head of programming for ABC Television, ABC was the largest owner of theaters in the United States. I told Leonard Goldenson, head of ABC, 'I think you have to go into the business of producing movies because your supply of movies to your theaters will be threatened if the major [studios] succumb to the changes going on.' He said, 'Why don't you come back and form a subsidiary company to produce movies for us?' So I formed Palomar Pictures, which made films in New York.
"When I came out here [to Los Angeles], I realized that self-aggrandizement was important, so I changed the name of the company to Edgar J. Scherick and Associates.
"I try to find the best in people. If I meet a man, I try to find a part of him that I like and I relate to that part of him."
I speak by phone with producer Daniel H. Blatt 1/7/03.
Luke: "When did you first meet up with Edgar?"
Dan: "In 1969. I represented ABC in a termination agreement [with producer Edgar Scherick]. His lawyers were Walter Schirer and Mort Weinbach. As part of the termination agreement, Edgar got two pictures, including Jenny. I was assigned by ABC to be the lawyer on that movie and that's where I got to know him, Walter and Mort.
"Palomar Pictures was the name of a division of ABC [that Edgar ran] when he left ABC TV as head of programming. When ABC decided to go into the movie business, they set up a company in the East called Palomar, that Edgar ran, and a company in the West called Selma that Selig Seligman ran. Then ABC decided to merge the companies into one company called ABC Pictures Corp, which was to be run by Marty Baum [out of LA]. I ended up working at ABC Pictures West. ABC and Scherick decided to terminate their arrangement and I was chosen to represent ABC.
"Edgar and I didn't become friendly right away. There was a mutual respect. ABC sent me to California in March of 1970. In July of 1970, Selig Seligman died and everybody from ABC East came to the funeral - Leonard Goldenson (created the ABC network as David Sarnoff created NBC and Bill Paley created CBS), Si Segal (Leonard's number one man). Edgar asked me to pick him up at the plane. We spent the day and that's when it [friendship] started.
"Edgar made a deal with Bristol Myers [to finance his movies]. He called me up and asked me to come work for him. I left ABC and moved back to New York to work for him as head of business and legal affairs. My condition was that I would only report directly to him. We made a whole bunch of junky pictures in the beginning.
"We had a tiny company, with five employees. I was doing many different things. On The Heartbreak Kid, [Director] Elaine May and [writer] Neil Simon had a falling out. And the contract between Simon and Palomar was that we couldn't change a word without his approval. He agreed to write the script under the Dramatists Guild contract [playwrights have far more power than screenwriters, you can't change a word of their plays without their permission]. It's the only script he ever wrote that wasn't based on an original idea of his. It's based on a short story by Bruce Jay Friedman called 'Change of Plan.'
"Elaine wanted to make changes but she and Neil wouldn't talk to each other. So they had to find a conduit to go back and forth and negotiate the changes. I was chosen for the job. I'd sit with Elaine and she'd tell me what the wanted and I'd go to Neil and I had to find a way to effect creative compromise.
"We had some problems on Sleuth. I was chosen to go to London to meet with [Director] Joe Mankiewicz and the art director Ken Adam. I felt the picture was too long. So now I was getting involved with the script. I learned from the seat of my pants [on how to be produce]. Those two pictures got nominated for six Academy awards."
Blatt's first producer credit came in 1977 on Circle of Children, followed by Raid on Entebbe.
"We didn't get renewed at Bristol Meyers. I was the first one to say that we had to move to California. I moved and produced 1977's Circle of Children."
Luke: "Did Edgar scream at you like he did everyone else?"
Dan: "No. In the beginning, a few times. When I decided to leave, it became rupturous."
Luke: "You screamed at him? You don't seem like someone who screams much."
Dan: "I'm not a screamer but it was emotional. We were together a long time. It started out that he was my employer, then he was a partner, then he was the closest of friends, and then there was a break-up, like a marriage. He was clearly older than me. We'd been through a lot of good things and a lot of bad things together."
Luke: "Was he a father figure?"
Dan: "I wouldn't say that. When I first met him, I thought he was fantastic. I still do. But when you're with somebody 16-hours a day for a long time, everybody gets to know everybody's strengths and weaknesses. We were really close. The breakup [in 1979] was an emotional, difficult situation. There was money involved."
Luke: "You wanted to go out to work on your own because?"
Dan: "That's what I wanted to do."
Luke: "He felt like he couldn't continue to be friends if you did that?"
Dan: "It's like when you breakup with your wife or girlfriend, do you stay friends right away? It doesn't work that way. There were a lot of things going on at the same time. His marriage was in trouble. Moving to California."
It took until about 1984 for Dan and Edgar to re-establish their friendship.
Luke: "I've heard Edgar was one of the legendary screamers?"
Dan: "He was volatile. It wasn't one of his strong suits. I didn't think it was appropriate."
Luke: "Was it pleasant working for him?"
Dan: "It wasn't boring. He was smart with great ideas. He had bursts of energy. The guy that you interviewed at that bed, that's the guy. He wasn't the same person any more but you captured who he was. When I read the interview, I said, 'This is vintage Scherick.' When he said, 'If I could pick a gun and shoot Marge [his second ex-wife].' That kind of stuff.
"Like 99% of all people, he didn't fulfill his potential. He did great things but he didn't come close. With a different emotional makeup, he could've been a bigger producer. I don't want to get into it."
Luke: "He didn't seem terribly interested in money."
Dan: "That's not true."
Luke: "He wasn't terribly successful with money then."
Dan: "Right. He wanted money. Everybody wants money. But that wasn't the driving force. He was interested in making good projects and receiving credit for doing wonderful things."
Luke: "He wanted glory."
Dan: "You're putting words in my mouth. Listen, everybody wants to be recognized."
Luke: "I want glory too."
Dan: "Everybody wants to score the winning touchdown. Everybody wants the cameras going off as they go into the endzone. No one wants to miss the four-footer on the last hole.
"It's a generational thing too. Ed was an Eastener. He went to Harvard. He was a product of the Depression. His father lost all his money. Read about Irving Berlin and you'll see a guy who came out of the ghetto. I guarantee you that when Irving Berlin caught a cab and the fare was $1:40, he didn't just flip $2 at that cab driver. He grew up understanding the value of money. You can't escape that. At the same time, Irving Berlin took some of his royalties and sent them to charity. New York and Hollywood are two different towns requiring two different kinds of people. Some guys made the transition easily and other guy haven't.
"Ed was educated. He had an intellect."
Luke: "And he liked to let you know."
Dan: "That was his insecurity. Most people who have done things suffer from a combination of megalomania and insecurity. That's a tough combination to live with - for the person and for those around him. It forces you do things that you hate yourself for doing. Then you're in a business in which no one knows what will really work. There's all that insecurity selling, making and just holding your breath.
"Edgar did quality work, which doesn't necessarily translate into financial reward. The movie he did with [Director] John Frankenheimer, The Path To War, that was an attempt to do a quality piece of work about something. That's not Caddyshack."
Luke: "How well do you think he pulled it off?"
Dan: "By that time, Ed was a sick person. You can't say he made that film. He started that picture. It's a subjective thing. Did you think that guy was Lyndon Johnson who everyone said was so great?"
Luke: "No. The movie didn't work for me."
Dan: "No, he wasn't Lyndon Johnson. When you saw Gathering Storm, was Albert Finney Churchill? It was remarkable. Was Marlon Brando the Godfather? As soon as that picture opened, you said, 'Ohmigod, what is happening here?' Peter Finch was Yitzhak Rabin."
Luke: "Edgar told me he wanted you to speak at his funeral and you did."
Dan: "As I said at the funeral, Edgar had a great eye for talent. He was a charismatic character. He had a command of the room. He was literate. He appreciated good work. Edgar was one of a kind, plus and minus. When they [Brian Grazer, Scott Rudin, Michael Barnathan, et al] worked for him, he was the boss. You may have walked away mumbling but it didn't matter."
Luke: "Was he a happy man?"
Dan: "What do you think?"
Luke: "No. His last years were particularly bitter. The man I met was bitter."
Dan: "The golden years to him weren't golden. This is not a business for older people."
Luke: "When you had dinner with Edgar, what sorts of things came up most often in conversation?"
Dan: "Movies, politics and sports."
Dan is more liberal than Scherick. "I was a legal aid lawyer, a public defender, a civil rights lawyer."
Luke: "Did you ever turn for help to Edgar once you'd gone out on your own?"
Luke: "Did he ever turn to you?"
Dan: "Yes, periodically, he'd call me and ask what I thought. That's more to his credit than mine."
Luke: "Could you give me an anecdote about Edgar?"
Dan: "I was working with a director [Alan Parker?] who was brilliant but not interested in the project. Ed was frustrated with the guy and said, 'You're so arrogant, you don't even know you're arrogant.' I think that's the best line I ever heard."
Luke: "Edgar was an eager mentor?"
Dan: "No. He always wanted good people to work for him. He had the ability to spot them. The truth of the matter is, [Edgar] f---ing hired Roone Arledge. Anybody who tells you differently is a liar."
Luke: "It seemed to really gnaw at Edgar"
Dan: "Yes it did."
Luke: "The amount of success Roone had and didn't acknowledge Edgar and others."
Dan: "Roone took credit for something he didn't create."
Luke: "Wide World of Sports."
Dan: "A lot of great people have the ability to take credit for things they didn't create."
Luke: "Did Edgar falsely grab credit?"
Dan: "Absolutely not."
Luke: "I never got the sense he was intentionally lying to me."
Dan: "No he was not. What I read was pretty truthful."
Luke: "It seemed like he'd been a straight-shooter his whole life."
Luke: "What were his relationships like with guys like Michael Eisner and other studio chiefs?"
Dan: "A lot of these guys worked for Edgar. Leonard Goldberg. Scott Rudin. Brian Grazer. Larry Gordon. Robert Lawrence. Michael Barnathan. Chris Schenkel. Frank Barton. Edgar was there before they were. Eisner respected him. ABC was a distant third when he took over and the shows he put on the air, like Batman, Batgirl, helped propel ABC into competition with NBC."
Luke: "Edgar championed women."
Dan: "When he started out, there weren't many women in the business. Joan Scott was one of the first. Edgar had nothing to do with her but if you want to do a good story about someone in the business, Joan Scott. Do you know who she is? She created Writers and Artists Agency. She saw that there was no way that a woman could become a partner in an agency and she said, 'I will create my own agency.' Harrison Ford, Armand Assante, Jimmy Woods, she found all of them. She's a manager now in New York. She's in her seventies. She's vibrant and beautiful and smart and funny. Joan Scott will demonstrate what a woman could do and couldn't do."
Luke: "Did Edgar's friends stick by him in the last seven years?"
Dan: "Some did and some didn't."
Luke: "Did he have a lot of friends?"
Dan: "What's your definition of friends? He had a lot of people who liked him. They had a nice turnout at the funeral. Bob Daly [former co-head of Warner Brothers]. Barry Myer. Edgar was the last of an era. An era when a person could walk into a room and with the sheer enthusiasm of their passion for a project and sell it. It doesn't work like that any more because everything is so layered and corporate."
Luke: "I'd see people in my research for my book on producers and they'd mention they knew Edgar. I'd mention that I saw him regularly and they'd say, 'Give him my best.' And I thought, 'Why don't you call him and give him your best?' Part of the reason I went to see him so many times was that I thought he wanted the company. And then you'd get there and he'd throw you out after 20-minutes."
Dan: "He was tough on visitors. 'You can leave now.' F--- you, Ed, I don't want to be told I can leave now. I didn't drive over here to be told I can leave now. Right?"
Dan: "Did you feel that way?"
Dan: "Don't tell me to leave. I'm not rude to you. He was in bad shape. He was heavy. He was lying flat on his bed. He had leukemia. It was sad for me to see him like this.
"He liked baseball, fishing, literature. He appreciated a good sentence. He liked a good meal. He loved the business. He was a great salesman."
A Chat With Edgar Scherick's Former Head Of Production
I sat down with Hugh Taylor, former assistant to Edgar J. Scherick for four years (1988-90, 92-94), at his home in Los Angeles 1/26/03.
Luke: "Tell me about your book - The Hollywood Job-Hunter's Survival Guide."
Hugh: "It's basically a how-to-be-an-assistant to Edgar Scherick thing. It started over at Saban, when we were hiring a lot of people and this was going to be a guide on how to do coverage, etc. And it eventually become a book."
Luke: "How did you come to work for Edgar?"
Hugh: "I met Sue Pollock, who was Edgar's New York person [literary scout]. It was 1988. I was graduating from college [Harvard with a degree in, essentially, film]. The position of being his assistant opened up at that time and so he hired me [in June 1988]. I graduated on Thursday, got on the plane Saturday and went to work Monday.
"He was a larger-than-life character. He was about 62-years old. According to a lot of people, he'd already calmed down a lot but he was still a powerful personality in the full swing of his career. He yelled and screamed. He could be rough on people. I remember once he asked me to move his car and I didn't give him back his car keys and he yelled at me for five minutes that I had caused him to worry that he wouldn't know where his car keys were. He was like that all day long - breathing fire.
"He would mellow out towards the end of the day and tire himself out. As he got older, that would happen earlier in the day.
"Four weeks after I went to work there, we started to produce the six-hour mini-series The Kennedys of Massachusetts based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin book. The week I showed was the beginning of the 1988 writers strike. Edgar had his producing deal at Taft Entertainment (meaning they paid his office costs in return for first-look rights to his projects). They cut him off with the pretext of the writers strike. He was a homeless producer for a couple of weeks.
"Then when ABC (Orion Television financed) picked up The Kennedys, we went over to Orion for six months. During the Orion time, he made a deal with Saban to have a new home. Edgar always had to have a place that would pay for his office."
Luke: "What was it like working for Edgar?"
Hugh: "Pure education. My job was performing certain office tasks. I'd drive him around. I did a lot of script reading.
"Here's the way Edgar worked. He had many people in that assistant job over the years. If he feels like he likes working with you, he brings you more into the process. He barely spoke to me for the first month or two I worked there. He would tell me to type things up and read scripts. There was almost no dialogue. Then somehow that began to change. As we were driving around, he'd say, 'What did you think of that script?' And I would tell him. Over time, we would talk more. He'd give me little assignments, say, 'I want to make a movie about the boyhood of Mozart. Go research that.' I would go to a library and write up a treatment.
"Then he began taking me into meetings and I could sit in a meeting.
"I was so not-Jewish at that time [Hugh now belongs to an Orthodox shul]. I went to a meeting at NBC and they ordered sandwiches. They asked what I wanted. I said, 'Ham on white with mayonnaise.' [Meat and milk are forbidden to be eaten together by Jewish Law.] Susan Baerwold, executive at NBC, said to Edgar, 'That's real goyisha menu.' That's how Jewish I came across to people. Now I'm Orthodox and Edgar is Catholic.
"Edgar didn't realize that I was Jewish for the first two months that I worked for him. He was talking to his wife and he said I was a Gentile. And I said, 'No, I'm Jewish.' And that was right around the time the relationship improved, when he realized I was Jewish. I used to present completely not-Jewish."
Luke: "You went around with your tzitzit tucked in."
Hugh: "I didn't even know what tzitzit were at that time. If I had seen an Orthodox Jew eating a ham sandwich in a car on Saturday, it wouldn't have struck me as odd."
Luke: "What was Edgar's relationship with his Jewish identity?"
Hugh: "He was ethnically Jewish. He used a lot of Yiddish expressions. He was sensitive to anti-Semitism when he perceived it. He wasn't observant at all [of Jewish Law]. He had no affiliation with Judaism."
Luke: "Did he have many encounters with anti-Semitism?"
Hugh: "Very little. I think ABC in the fifties and sixties had some. That was a time when Jews were still on the outside of advertising and TV. It wasn't as Jewish as it is now. Obviously the CEO Leonard Goldenson was Jewish but there were people at ABC who didn't have a high opinion of Jews."
Luke: "When did you run Edgar's company?"
Hugh: "A year after I started there I became director of development. I helped manage all the drafts of scripts that would come in. We had 30-40 hours of [programming] in development. Then I [got my MBA from Harvard 1990-92] and when I came back, I became an executive with him. I spent the summers working for him.
"When I came back, he was leaving Saban and going to ABC on an experimental deal. At that time, the syndication rule hadn't been repealed yet [allowing networks to produce their own sitcoms and movies] but they knew it would be soon. Now it's the norm for networks to make direct deals with producers. The company became smaller. There wasn't as much money as there was with Saban. It was me, Edgar's two assistants, and one or two others. At Saban, there were about 14 other people.
"It was better for Edgar to have fewer people. The more people he had, the more harried he would become. He would feel that everybody would come at him from a million directions and he'd go crazy. He'd be on the phone and someone would poke their head through the door and he would say, 'I am not a hydra-head. I can't talk to two people at the same time.'
"He'd use a lot of classical and medieval terms. If he were busy, and he wanted someone else to take over a project, he'd say, 'You need to take up the cudgels and start fighting on this one,' like it was some kind of medieval contest. He'd talk about having the sword of Damocles hanging over his head. How Portcullis would come down and cut him off from somebody."
Luke: "He liked to show how literate he was."
Hugh: "He was smart and well-read. He used to do the crossword puzzle and he'd ask me for clues. He'd say, 'Who's a ninth century monk whose name started with the letter A.' And if you didn't know, he'd say, 'You're not paid not to know. You went to Harvard. You should know these things.'
"He was fond of quoting Oliver Cromwell. If a network passed on a project, he'd write them a letter, 'By the bowels of Christ, methinks you may be mistaken.'"
Luke: "My Dad quoted that a lot."
Hugh: "It's a good expression."
Luke: "Why did you leave him in 1994?"
Hugh: "It was a decision mostly to get out of the business. Working for him was stressful. It did take a toll on me. In the ABC deal [1993-94], I was the only executive there. I administratively ran the place and I was in charge of development. It wore me out. I didn't like the business after a while. We were doing a lot of true-story rights acquisition - calling up people who'd been victims of crime and trying to buy their rights. Not that I am so pure, but I became uneasy with twisting true stories around to make a dramatic point. Taking advantage of ambiguity in a story.
"There are incidents where someone innocent is convicted of a crime and their trial testimony will make it look like they did something, and because of the way the rules work, you can dramatize that trial testimony as real and people will view it as real and that's the way the story will be known. I became uncomfortable with that.
"One of the moments when it clicked that I had to get out... I went down to Florida to pursue the case. There was a woman who had been wrongly imprisoned for murdering her husband. It was a great TV movie story. You could imagine Jaclyn Smith wrongly accused of killing her husband. The woman had not gotten a proper trial. I met with her lawyer, one of these $500 an hour Miami lawyers, and he said, 'I think my client probably did shoot her husband to death but the fact is she didn't get a fair trial, so she deserves to be let out of jail.' And I say, 'Well, that's ok. I can make her look innocent in the movie.' As soon as I said that, I thought, 'Wow, is that what I went to college for? Is this what I want to do with my life? I've got to get out of here.'
"That's what the business had become at that point. That trend [of women in peril] came to an end. I could just picture the movie. Jaclyn Smith walking into jail and the door clanging behind her.
"I miss the creativity of it. Once for fun, Edgar and I made up a fake true story. Edgar needed to make a living so he would make these movies, but he really didn't like them. He didn't like crime and exploitation. Once for fun we made up a story of a nursery school teacher who was a prostitute and serial killer and we called it 'She Kills By Night.' We typed it up as a newspaper article and we faxed it to the network and one of the network executives phoned, 'This is great.' 'Well, sorry, it is fake.' Edgar could get away with that. If it had been me, I would've never worked in this town again."
Luke: "When I interviewed him, he didn't seem much interested in talking about his TV movies."
Hugh: "He was proud of his theatrical films but he did make a lot of good television movies - Betrayed By Love, The Kennedys, Phantom of the Opera, Path to War. The only [theatrical] movie he did while I worked for him was Rambling Rose and he had little to do with it. He had been the original producer on it but he had almost nothing to do with it when it was produced. He had found the book and had the script developed. There are many projects like that [at Edgar J. Scherick Productions] still sitting on the back shelf. I think they are going to try to resurrect some. When you pay the turnaround fees on movies developed 20 years ago, that can run $5 million."
Luke: "How did Edgar react when you quit?"
Hugh: "Edgar took it in stride. I told him that I didn't want to work in the business anymore. There wasn't much to say about that. If I had gone to work for someone else, he might've been disappointed. Everyone who worked for him eventually left. The question was whether you were leaving him at the right time or not. Edgar had a long history of helping people move on to the next level and then he'd help make the relationship.
"After two years there, I heard there was a job at TNT. I asked him to get me a meeting with [TNT exec] Alan Sabelson, which he did. I didn't get the job. He knew I was interested in moving along. I just burned out.
"It was around the time of the [January] 1994 earthquake. That was a big jolt."
Luke: "A lot of people changed their lives after that."
Hugh: "Edgar went crazy. He basically blamed me for the earthquake and that his life was inconvenienced. I just thought, 'This is crazy.' The day after the earthquake, the city was chaos. The police said, 'Don't leave your house. Don't use your phone.' He wanted me to come over to his house. He was trying to make phone calls. Nobody was in. He said, 'You failed me.'
"After I left, I would check in with him periodically. There were a group of us who had a strong attachment to him and we would visit him in the hospital.
"He had his stroke in 1996. I was engaged to be married."
Luke: "What was his relationship like with his second wife Marge?"
Hugh: "Until the stroke, it was a good relationship. They had a lot of respect for each other. She was an interesting woman. She had a Ph.D.. I don't know her maiden name. Her first married name was Iwasaki. Her daughter was Laurie Iwasaki. Then she married [after Edgar] someone named Scott, so she was Marge Scott Scherick.
"She was supportive of him [until the stroke]. She put up with a lot. He loved her. He was devoted to her in a lot of ways. They traveled together to productions in New York, London or Toronto. I used to book them on fishing trips to Costa Rica. The best fishing places are in the middle of nowhere. These trips were uncomfortable. You'd get on little planes, boats, cars. She would have to go down there and sweat it out down there in the fishing camp with him. Someone once said to Edgar, 'I didn't realize your wife was into fishing.' He said, 'She wasn't but now she is.'
"Fishing was his escape. That's why they bought a little place down in Texas."
Luke: "Were there any movies you made with Edgar that embarrass you?"
Hugh: "I was never embarrassed. We made a few movies that weren't that great. We never made a porno movie or anything really stupid and horrible. We made a couple of high concept low-end television movies. One was about a neurosurgeon who got raped and the rapist ended up on her operating table.
"Edgar involved himself diligently in all those things. I never heard him say, 'This isn't an important movie so I'm not going to get involved.' He'd be on the set and he'd supervise the editing and he'd go page-by-page with the director. He took to heart the maxim that you're reputation is what you make. Even if it is only a dumb movie for Sunday night, it better be as good as it can be. That's why he was able to work for so many years. Most people's careers [in Hollywood] don't last 20 years and he was in television for 50 years and in features for almost 40."
Luke: "How come Edgar had so many producing deals?"
Hugh: "I wouldn't say he burned bridges, but he could become a handful for whatever company that had him. Companies wanted him because they knew if they took him in, they'd get at least a couple of movies out of it. His TV movies were valuable at that time for creating bigger distribution portfolios internationally. If a studio like Fox could produce three or four TV movies a year, they could add that to the package they'd syndicate along with Die Hard and other hits.
"Edgar would clash with people. He said something revealing to me once. We were having a big fight over casting with the network. He wanted to cast Marcia Gay Harden, who's now a big actress but was then unknown. Big fight, arguing on the phone for an hour a day for a week, and he said, 'You don't really win regardless. Even if you win, you lose, because you've stained the relationship.'
"People wanted to work with him because he was like. If you have a [difficult] director or actor, someone like Edgar can handle them. Not everyone can. But it always has its own blowback.
"The business changed. Ten years ago, they were making a lot of TV movies. Now almost none. Deficit-financing television movies to distribute internationally [go into debt making TV movies for American networks in hopes of selling right overseas for a profit], that business barely exists anymore."
Luke: "How come he didn't own more of his product?"
Hugh: "He did own some of them but he was offered opportunities to sell them. He may have missed a few opportunities to make a lot of money. I never knew his financial picture completely but I'm sure he never made the huge fortune that some people make in that business."
Luke: "Was there anyone who wouldn't return his calls?"
Hugh: "Not that I know of. There were people who didn't like him and sometimes it was mutual. I don't think he had any kind of relationship with [agent] Mike Ovitz. What happened at the end, which was sad and revealing of how the town works, was that there were people who didn't know who he was anymore. When he was 70 in 1994, and we'd call New York to find out rights on a book and talk to a 27-year old book agent at ICM, the agent would say, 'Who's Edgar Scherick?'
"I think it was Fred Zinnemann who went into an interview at a studio and was asked, 'What movies have you done?' Fred said, 'You go first. Your list is much shorter.'
"I didn't tell Edgar, 'This guy doesn't know who you are.' It would've hurt his feelings and he would've gotten so angry that he would've called the head of the agency. So I faxed over the bio and said, 'This is Edgar Scherick. He is someone who can make this book into a movie.'
"With features, I could understand how that would work, because by 1994, Edgar hadn't had a feature film, aside from Rambling Rose, in about ten years."
Luke: "Did you see him lose touch?"
Hugh: "His stroke definitely effected him. He still got a few things made but he was dealt a big setback. There are certainly people who are disabled who make movies, but the perception that you are getting old and sick is bad. I don't know what happened to him and features. I don't know why he didn't continue to make features. I think he missed a generation of executives and once that happens, it's difficult to recover. He could call the people at the top, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Barry Diller, but he missed the middle layer.
"The people who ran networks (Bob Iger, Sandy Grushow, Ted Harbert, Jeff Sagansky) had a lot of respect for Edgar. They knew he had been head of a network and that there was this connection. They liked to talk to him about what was going on. He helped a lot of those guys along the way."
Luke: "Which of his protégés was he most proud of?"
Hugh: "He was very proud of Scott Rudin. He felt a lot of gratification that he had seen the potential in Scott Rudin early. I think Rudin was 19-years old when he brought him out here [from working in New York as a casting director]. I think he always felt proud that people like Brian Grazer, Larry Gordon, Dan Blatt, Michael Barnathan, went on to great success."
Luke: "Was Edgar a happy man?"
Hugh pauses for almost ten seconds. "Good question. I think the short answer is no. I think he was happy to the extent that he enjoyed making movies and being involved with interesting people. He spent much of his time grousing at people and intense conflict. That would make me unhappy. I don't know if it made him unhappy. To some extent, he thrived on it. He got to live a life and do things that a lot of people want to do and don't get to. Especially in later years, he had a nice relationship with his children. He was happy in a lot of ways. His day-in, day-out existence was unpleasant at times. He couldn't let go of things that bothered him."
Luke: "What were his strengths and weaknesses?"
Hugh: "One of his strengths was his ability to recognize quality material - find books, see the movie in a book or play, conceptualize it, sell it. He was strong at managing the volatile producing process. There are many things that can pull a production apart from the star who won't come out of his trailer to the director who has visions beyond the budget. He could keep all that under control.
"His weaknesses revolved around his temper. He would reach a point where he would lose his temper beyond any reasonable need. He was aware of it after the fact, after damaging a situation, potentially costing him the ability to do things. Organizationally he would suffer. One of the reasons he would have people like me around would be to pick up all the pieces and make sure that this paper got filed in the right place."
Luke: "How come he was never able to keep any of his employees for long?"
Hugh: "He was hard on them. Sandy Carrio worked for him for 14 years as his secretary. Her secret was that she was mellow and she didn't let it get to her. She had also worked for Don Simpson. She'd seen it all. His formula was to bring in people awfully young, pay them under the going rate, give them a lot of experience, and then they would move on. He expected that. He wanted people to go on to succeed on their own. He used to say, 'I don't want another replaceable part. I want a guy who's fired up who will go on to produce on his own.' And he got that. Sometimes he got people who wanted that but couldn't pull it off and just burned out. Edgar had high standards. He worked with line producer Lynn Raynor for about 25 years. He worked over and over again with Director Larry Ellikan."
Luke: "What parts of his job did Edgar enjoy and which parts did he hate?"
Hugh: "He hated managing and administrative stuff. He hated managing politics between people who worked for him. It's a pain for anybody. If he had two employees arguing over a project, he'd just get this look on his face, like 'Get out of here! I don't want to deal with this.' Edgar liked to make pictures. As he used to say, 'You're not making money unless you're making a movie.' He didn't like developing. It was a necessary part of the process.
"He enjoyed holding court. He liked to have people listen to him talk. He used to have a party every year at the holidays and everyone would sit around and listen to him tell stories."
Luke: "How many people did he fire while you worked for him?"
Hugh: "At least 20. Everybody who was there when I started was gone within a couple of years. A lot of people were induced to quit. Some people couldn't handle it. I had my own psychological litmus test for someone handling Edgar. If someone had difficulty with their own father they could not handle Edgar at all. They would crumble because he was the ultimate big bad father figure. He'd humiliate people. He'd ridicule people.
"He was going to bring in a new assistant. We brought this guy in for a trial day. Edgar sent him out to get lunch and the sandwich didn't have mayonnaise on it and Edgar fired him. Edgar said, 'I only want people who can be producers and this guy can't produce lunch.' In some ways that's harsh, but that was his thing. But in some ways it was like families where there's an alcoholic and everyone is tiptoeing around making sure that person doesn't get upset."
Luke: "Was there anyone who replied to Edgar with equal rage?"
Hugh: "His wife [Marge] could give it pretty good when she wanted to. She didn't always take the bait. She would sometimes settle him down. Sue Pollock in New York could handle him. She didn't get angry back. There were people at his level in the business, not in the office, who said, 'Edgar, maybe you should calm down.'
"I can remember an argument with Lamont Johnson, the director of The Kennedys of Massachusetts. I don't know what was happening on the other side but I could tell it was an escalating argument. Finally Edgar said, 'Lamont, if we don't look at this girl for this part we should have our asses examined.' He meant that their heads were so far up their asses they needed to have their asses examined.
"I remember writer-director Larry Cohen used to have screaming arguments with Edgar.
"Director Tony Richardson used to scream back at him. They would just go at it. It was like the Fourth of July. The network has strict rules about the length of a movie. It has to be exactly 93.5 minutes. Tony turned in a first version of Phantom of the Opera that was about 62-minutes long. Edgar went ape on him and Tony replied (in his upper-class British accent), 'So they will make it a three-hour miniseries. Who the f--- cares?' 'You can't do that to me. How dare you?' It was a battle of the titans."
Luke: "Edgar was volcanic."
Hugh: "That's a good word. That's probably why he had a stroke, that surge of aggression..."
Luke: "How would Edgar have liked his funeral and memorial service?"
Hugh: "I think he would've been into it. He would get reflective. He was at that age where a lot of his friends were dying. Part of my job was to keep his rolodex up to date and typed up. One day he said, 'I'm going to erase all the people in my book who are dead.' So he spent an afternoon, 'He's dead. He's dead. He's dead.' And he'd get all reflective.
"We think of Edgar as being old but Edgar was actually young for that first generation of television. All those big classic guys were dying off."
Luke: "Did Edgar get accused of unethical behavior?"
Hugh: "There was a studio person who accused Edgar of being on the take. It wasn't true and Edgar hated him for it. I don't think Edgar carried a lot of grudges."
Luke: "He seemed to carry one against Roone Arledge."
Hugh: "He thought Roone was not fair in taking credit for Wide World of Sports. Who knows what happened in 1960?"
Luke: "Did Edgar see himself accurately?"
Hugh: "There were certain areas where he did not appreciate his stature outside the world of entertainment. For example, he was interested in writing an article for The New York Times Sunday Magazine about television. They had a column called 'About Men.' He said, 'I don't want that. I want to write a feature article for The Times about my job.' We had to explain to him that nobody was interested in that.
"Once we were flying to London for a movie and he made a big stink with the airline about something. His wife was saying, 'Edgar, this isn't the Polo Lounge [at the Beverly Hills Hotel]. You're just another guy on this plane.' Edgar's not only the person to have this type of difficulty. He's a big person in the entertainment industry but elsewhere..
"He knew that his temper could get out of control. I worked for him. I wasn't his confidant. I was younger than his youngest son."
Luke: "He had good relations with homosexuals?"
Hugh: "Yes, he was very accepting. I never heard him make an anti-gay remark. We were the original producers of And The Band Played On movie [about the origins of AIDS]. He pushed hard for that to get made. It shows how networks change because in 1989 NBC didn't want to make it because it was too gay.
"He was a big proponent of women. Being of an older generation, he could get away with things that if a younger person had done would've been called sexist. He launched a lot of women in the business and as far as I know, he never did anything inappropriate.
"Once we were in an elevator with an actress who had just auditioned and was good looking, and I (only 22 years old) made some crack that she was smiling at him. He replied, 'Don't be a wiseguy. I've never had a dalliance with an actress.'
"He had a funny story about a man who worked at ABC in the 1960s, named Ed Sherick (spelled differently from Edgar's last name). And this man had a mistress who called the network and got Edgar's office and was talking to Edgar's secretary. 'I'm supposed to meet Mr. Sherick at the Carlisle Hotel.' His secretary was so embarrassed. It was a mistake. Wrong guy.
"Edgar was old fashioned in that way. He was [morally] strict. He wasn't a liar. He could bend things around if he wanted to make a deal but he didn't really need to lie. He made all these movies.
"One reason he succeeded so long as a producer was that he never laid a lot of bullshit on a network or studio. If something was going wrong on a shoot, he wouldn't hide it from the network or studio. He taught me something important. 'Do not mention a problem without having a solution that you can discuss at the same time.'"
Luke: "Was he a workaholic?"
Hugh: "No. He took his job home with him. He had been a workaholic. He'd cancel vacations with the family at the last minute because something had happened. That's not great if you are the family and packed to go to the Bahamas. He had a consuming job. You're working all day, then you have to read stuff at night and socialize...
"He enjoyed acting. The King of Comedy was his best part. He played Louis B. Mayer in The Kennedys of Massachusetts but I think that scene got cut. He always liked to go to the hairdressing trailer and get his hair cut."
Luke: "I think that 1991 ten-minute video Women in Film made of him on an ordinary day was revealing."
Hugh: "He was hamming it up. What they didn't show on that video when he lost it. Then he'd get really ugly. If someone made a mistake... Let's say a writer turns in a script, an executive with Edgar's company looks at it and turns it into the network. And Edgar decides the script wasn't ready and shouldn't have gone out. The script is already gone. So Edgar rides him. 'Why did you do that?' 'I thought it was finished.' 'Well, you shouldn't think that much. I'm not paying you to think. Why did you do that?'
"That could go on for half-an-hour.
"Edgar had a driver after his accident in 1989. I was responsible [in 1988] for getting Edgar's first car phone. He was talking on the phone when that  accident happened. His wife then forbade him from driving and talking on the phone."
Luke: "Was he in good health when you knew him?"
Hugh: "He was vigorous and robust but he had heart problems for years before the stroke. He had high blood pressure. Invisible ailments.
"When I first started working for him and he was screaming and yelling and carrying on, Michael Barnathan said to me, 'His doctor has told him to calm down and he's much calmer than he used to be.' Wow, what was he like before?'
"I asked people at studios if they'd make a feature movie with Edgar or is he just finished? They said they would make one if the right thing came along. He was eligible. He just didn't have the right project.
"Also, movies changed [studio released features became dumber]. The kind of movies he liked to make were getting made on cable. Movies have become so stupid. Intelligent feature films from studios are rare."
Luke: "Where did Edgar's demons come from?"
Hugh: "I think a lot of his demons were innate - rage control, excessive brain power. Not suffering fools gladly. That his father became virtually inert during the depression after having suffered a business failure was probably a strong motivator. Edgar had to "be the man" so to speak when he was just a kid. According to his older sister (who was about 10 years older than he) his mother was afraid of him he was so smart. He could talk circles around her. The Depression forced a lot of kids to skip childhood and become adults too early."
A Chat With Edgar J. Scherick's Cousin
On 3/30/03 Eric J. Feldman, cousin of Edgar J. Scherick, writes me:
Eric phones me Friday afternoon, 7/11/03.
Eric: "Edgar was a very private guy. I hadn't seen him in about ten years. I had a week-long business trip to LA last year so I made arrangements to see him. For the past decade, I wasn't coming out West and he wasn't coming to New York as much.
"I'm the only one in the family, outside of his immediate family, to see him in ten years. I don't know why Edgar never kept in touch with anyone from his family. At Edgar's Century City apartment, I met his son Brad, an extended cousin of mine, who didn't know that I existed, or that his father had an extended family. I explained to him how I was related and he said, 'That's just like my father.'
"Edgar's mother and my grandmother were sisters. He's my mother's first cousin.
"In your profile of Edgar, you talk about growing up in Long Beach [Long Island]. I still live there. I'm a third generation Long Beach person.
""Edgar's parents moved to Long Beach. My grandparents moved to Long Beach. There was a third sister, Edna Roth, who Edgar mentioned in his interview. I was named for Edna (the "E" in Eric).
"Edgar is about one year older than my mother and a few years older than my uncle. There were seven first cousins in that generation - my mother and uncle, Edgar, his sister Shirley, cousin Stanley (Edna's son), and Barbara and Roy, children of Manny, Edgar's uncle (brother of his mother and my grandmother).
"I remember Edgar as a child. I believed he moved to California when I was a teenager. I'm not sure if he cut off all contact with his family, or if he kept to himself while in New York. I don't remember him ever coming by my house while I was growing up. My mother always characterized him as an "intellectual snob," in other words, someone who was very bright who would not be afraid to remind you of that fact. He always liked my mother. He and my uncle did not get along. I don't think he got along with many people in the family.
"There was a mystique about Edgar. I was too young when he was with ABC to be aware of his accomplishments there. I do remember when I was a kid, he had put out his first film - For the Love of Ivy. There was this big buzz about it. Everyone in the family was talking about him.
"Everyone in the family referred to him as Eddie. No one called him Edgar except me, and that was after I got to know him. Our cousin Stanley (who also lived in Long Beach) used to come to my house all the time. He was the one who kept in touch with Edgar during those years (1970's). He always relayed the news that Edgar had a movie coming out in the theaters or on television. Edgar was quite prolific during those years. And I think that is what built this mystique in the family about him. He was certainly the most "famous" in the extended family. While the majority of the family became successful in their fields, no one in our family had anything remotely related to his kind of success.
"In the late '60s, early '70s, Edgar had a house on Point Lookout a small beach front community near Long Beach. I remember my grandfather taking me over there. Edgar had four kids, all within a few years of my age. I think I saw them once while growing up. He was married to Carol, his first wife. He drove a Volkswagen bus to carry his clan around. There was nothing flashy or ostentatious about him. His family would never mingle. I didn't know any of his kids. He kept to himself. He stayed in touch with those in the family he wanted to - his cousin Stanley, his sister Shirley, and occasionally my mother. His sister Shirley and my mother were best of friends until Shirley passed away.
"I remember Edgar and his sister Shirley at my Bar Mitzvah. I remember that he gave me a generous gift. Shirley is responsible for my first drink. I remember her exclaiming "There's the Bar Mitzvah boy" and dragging me off to the bar. Edgar gave me a generous gift, more than anybody else gave.
"I went to college to study film and communications, just because I was interested in it. It had nothing to do with Edgar. There was this film theory course I took and the professor assigns us to watch a movie on TV one evening, and write a paper on the underlying mores and values. The film was Edgar's "The Stepford Wives."
"I finish college (at Adelphi University on Long Island, about 1981) and I'm looking for my first job in the business. My mother says to call Edgar. He'd moved out to California. I was reluctant to call. My mother gets a hold of someone to call in Edgar's office. I think it was Susan Pollock. I call her and she sets up an appointment with me for Edgar for Saturday morning at 8:30 at his apartment in New York City. So what do I do? I show up in a three-piece suit. I go in there thinking, 'I'm going to impress this guy. He's going to want to help me.' He shot me down so bad. I thought I'd impress him with my knowledge of the industry by talking about one company in particular. He says, 'Don't tell me about this company. I know everything there is to know about this company. I'm friends with the president of the company.'
"I learned something then. You don't talk to Edgar. You answer his questions. He throws questions at you left and right. Like, 'What are you doing? What do you want to do?' And, at that time, I couldn't answer him. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted a job. That's not what he was asking me. I thought he blew me away. Later, I realized that's just his style.
"A couple of years later, I was working at MTV. I was also a member of the International Radio and Television Society. There were these monthly luncheons at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I go to the biggest one of the year with the theme - ask the three network executives. They had the heads of programming at all three broadcast networks on the dais. I'm there with my boss. They're introducing everyone on the dais, like Brandon Tartikoff. 'And then the host says ‘this guy here used to have the job of one of these three, and now he's a movie executive, Edgar Scherick.'
"I'm sitting in the balcony at the back of the Waldorf. When it was over, I run up to the dais to see Edgar. He sees me and says, 'What the hell are you doing here?' I say I come to these luncheons all the time. He asks, 'What are you doing?' Right away he starts with the questions. 'Are you working?' He goes, 'Here's my number in the City. Call me. I want to talk to you.'
"I called him the next day. He starts in with the questions. 'Who got you that job?' Nobody. I got it on my own. He liked that. He made a time for me to come by his apartment, which was two blocks from my work. I go over there and he throws questions at me about my work and about the family.. And that's when my relationship with him really started.
"I went out to LA a few times on vacation. I'd stop in and see Edgar at his house. When he'd come to New York, we'd get together. He was always interested in what I was doing. I would try to get information from him. I'd ask him about a film. He'd give me a three-word sentence and change the subject. He never talked about any of his work.
"Once, I met him for breakfast for the Dorsett Hotel on 54th Street. This was apparently, a hangout for ABC executives. He knows everyone there from twenty years earlier when he was at ABC. A sea of people come by to say hello to Edgar. I read the trades and I recognize these people. It's the head of this network, the head of that company. He had that aura about him. People wanted to talk to him. People wanted to do business with him.
"I remember once talking to one of the top three guys at NBC that I met at an International Radio and Television Society event. I asked him if he knew Edgar. He said, 'Sure. I know him well.' But the way he said it was, 'Yeah, I know him but I don't like him. I respect him.' I got that impression from a lot of people with Edgar. Everyone knew him and respected him but not everyone liked him. They would never talk bad about him but they would never praise him either.
"Your piece put a lot of things together in my head. I realize now that he brought them product they needed for broadcast.
"So we're having breakfast. He says, 'Are you finished yet?' I say yeah. He says, 'My friend Howard is here. Let's go over and say hello.' We get up and go a couple of tables over and it's Howard Cosell. At the time, Cosell's hands were shaking. He died a few years later. We hung out with the guy for 40-minutes. I walked back to my office and the receptionist said, 'You look like you are in a good mood.' I said, 'I just had breakfast with Howard Cosell.'
"Outside of that first day when I went to Edgar in my goofy three-piece suit, I never asked him for anything. I treated him as a relative and a friend, not as somebody who could do something for me. I think he appreciated that.
"When I lost my job at MTV in the late eighties, I tried to get another one. Edgar knew about it. He insisted I send him my resume. A few weeks later, I got an envelope in the mail from Edgar's office. It was a copy of a letter he wrote to a guy named Michael Fuchs, who at the time was chairman and CEO of HBO. I still have this letter. In it, it says, 'I have a cousin who's looking for a job. He's interested in such and such. I understand you have this position open. I'd consider it a personal favor if you would see him.' I couldn't believe it.
"I get a call a couple of days later from HBO. They want to talk to me. I have a whole series of interviews there but I never got the job. It broke my heart. I thought, 'If I can't get in the door with an intro to the chairman, I'm never getting a job in this business.' That's when I changed careers and went into computers and never looked back.
"The last time I think anyone in the family saw Edgar was 1991 when my oldest brother got married and Edgar went to the wedding. He sat [with his second wife Marge] a couple of tables over from me with the older people. I remember him and Marge getting up to go outside to get some air. He sees me and he gestures for me to come with him. I walk out with him. And you should've seen the looks of all the relatives as I went for a walk with Edgar. I think shock best describes it as no one knew I had a relationship with him. I don't think many people spoke with Edgar that night. Maybe it was because they were afraid or intimidated, or just did not know what to say to him. He could be an intimidating guy.
"From that time, until last year, I don't recall seeing Edgar once. I spoke to him many times. I was the only one to call him to tell him that this relative is happy, this one's sad, this one's dead.
"I called him in 1999 to tell him my grandmother (Edgar's Aunt) had passed away. He'd already had the stroke and he was already bedridden. I'd heard he was ill but I didn't know the extent of it. I made a major faux pas. I didn't know [Marge had divorced him].
"When Edgar called me back, I could tell his voice was different. It was husky and his speech was slurred. I told him that his aunt (his mother's sister) had passed away. I asked him how Marge was. I had no idea what happened between them. He replied, 'She's fine.' We were only on the phone a few minutes when he said, 'I can't talk now. I'm tired.'
"I didn't talk to him much for a few years. I figure he's ill. I'm busy.
"Last September, I went to LA to work at a trade show. I call Edgar's office and spoke to Stephen Abranson. Nobody in his office knew me. Stephen goes to Edgar and says, 'There's a cousin by the name of Eric Feldman who's coming to LA and wants to visit you.' And Edgar said, 'Oh yeah, he's a nice guy. I want to see him.' Stephen and Lynette [Edgar's Filipino nurse] were stunned as they had never heard of me.
"I go to see Edgar at his Century City apartment. He looks happy to see me. I say, 'Edgar, how are you?" And he says, 'I'm an invalid.' He looked vastly different. He'd gained a lot of weight. He had an eye patch.
"We talked for a while. He had a massage therapist out. It was just like the old days. Edgar was firing questions at me. His first question was, 'So, how many relatives do I have alive?' He asked many questions about the family. He asked me if I was married. I said no. He said, 'Why not?' I try to say something funny like, 'No girl asked me yet.' He ignores me and goes to the next question. We played that game for a bit but this was different.
"I told him that I'm real proud of him. With a puzzling look on his face, he asks why? I told him about watching the movie The Path To War on HBO in April. As the movie unfolds, I say to myself, this looks like something Edgar would do (I was not aware that the film was his). The movie ends and there are the credits, and it is his film. I told him, I knew you were ill. Millions of people never make a movie in their life and you made it from here [the sick bed]. His eyes lit up. He was so happy. And he started telling me about the film. He told me more about his work in that little time together than my whole life with him.
"I come back Sunday. Lynette says, 'I don't know how long Edgar's got. We were up all night. We were at the hospital at 4AM.' I stayed with Edgar for a couple of hours. He was watching the football game and drifting in and out of sleep. Lynette kept saying ‘Edgar, wake up, Eric is sitting there' to wake him up. Edgar responded, ‘so let him sit. It will do him good to sit there.' Interestingly, I noticed many family resemblances. He had the same eyes and facial expressions as my grandmother. I even saw a touch of my Uncle in him.
"I asked him if he had anything in the works. He said he was working on a film called 'D.C. 9/11.' He told me what it was about. I asked who was going to play the president. He said they didn't have anyone yet. The script wasn't done. It was the only time he told me about a project in the works. That's why when I read your piece, I thought, 'Here's everything I've ever wanted to ask this guy. You had it. He opened up to you. Edgar probably knew it was close to the end and he had so much to share that he had never shared with anybody.'
"When I was on my way out the door, and we were saying good-bye, he says, 'If there's anything I can do for you, let me know.' I made him a happy man when I said, 'Edgar, I've got everything I want.' He had the biggest grin on his face because he knew that I came to see him to see him. Not to ask for a favor. I think in retrospect that reason was why I was one of the few in the family he ever bothered with. For example, I know of one of his first cousins his age that tried to call him and Edgar wouldn't return the calls.
"Then I got a call a couple of months after my visit. Edgar had died. That was a Thursday. The memorial service was Saturday. There was no way I could get there. I also realized that if I went, I would not know a soul in the place. None of his kids know me. As much as I wanted to attend, I was concerned about giving the impression that I was there with an agenda since no one would know me.
"In all the years of knowing Edgar, there was only one thing I wanted to ask him for - a simple little thing that he would've laughed at and probably not done - I wanted a bit part in a movie. One page of dialogue. If you ever saw the movie The King of Comedy. He has a bit part in it. Similar to that type of role. The only reason I wanted it was to say I did it. When I was at MTV, I got the chance to be on a couple of TV commercials. But I never asked him for this because I never wanted him to think I wanted a relationship with him to get something from him.
"I got the impression that many people who went to see Edgar wanted something from him. He taught me a valuable lesson. If you want something from somebody, you have to ask yourself what value are you bringing them?
"I now live several blocks from where Edgar grew up. His mother passed away when I was four years old. Edgar's sister Shirley loved me. She didn't have any children.
"A few days after Edgar died, Rhone Arledge passed away. Then I read in Newsday about five ABC television executives who passed away within a few weeks of each other. One of them was Jake Keever, who was an old friend of Edgar's. He was head of sales at ABC for many years. He died two weeks before Edgar."
A Japanese-American woman named Marge called Dennis Prager's radio show to defend Japan's anti-nuclear policy. I suspect this is Edgar's ex-wife. She was blown away by Prager's denunciation of stigmatizing inanimate objects like weapons instead of moral evil.
Seth Raxton writes: Luke, I read your interview with Edgar Scherick last night. I worked for him in the mid-80's and enjoyed getting up to date on the his life, since it intersected with mine. Scherick discovered and was a mentor to two other producers, Michael Barnathan and John Solomon. His mother was Holly Solomon, one of the most well known art gallery owners in New York for decades. His father is a multi-millionaire named Horace Solomon.
Michael Barnathan has executive produced the Harry Potter films and Mr Solomon has been a Disney producer for years. They would be interesting subjects for a biography.
It was fascinating to read about Edgar's conversion to Catholicism. I remember at the time his secretary was a woman named Levine, but she was raised Catholic, her father having converted from Judaism. It's fascinating how these themes appear in people's lives.
John never had a relationship with Edgar. I don't believe Edgar ever liked him. Scott Rudin's relationship with Edgar ended abruptly and permanently when he left Scherick and Associates without even saying "goodbye" and/or "thank you" to his mentor. Another interesting subject for a profile would be Steve Krantz, married to "author" Judith Krantz and the father of Tony Krantz and Nick Krantz. I worked for Nick Krantz after I worked for Scherick.
I'm getting hit by bricks as I stroll down Memory Lane! Edgar used to say, "the tyrant you know is better than the tyrant you don't know." That is to say I guess Edgar was a "kinder and gentler" tyrant. I was never able to form a relationship with him that was necessary to keep working for him (and get anywhere). John Solomon wasn't able to either. Edgar was tough, but I never heard him yelling. Correction, I never heard him screaming in a reprimanding bent-on-humiliation sort of way to a staff member a la Dawn Steele. He was tough. It took Michael Barnathan forever, maybe like two years, to receive an "audience" with him to ask for a job, ie help with establishing a career. And their fathers were good friends!
You can sort of judge a powerful successful person by the proteges they leave behind. I could be wrong, but Barnathan is the only decent mentee of Edgar I know of. Scott Rudin is a horrible individual. I should say that Michael Barnathan was a mentor to me.
What I got out of working for Edgar was meeing him and realizing producers could be good guys. Although he got mad at me over something and stopped returning my phone calls years ago! I was bemused re Scherick's comments on "gay mafia." I think he was mildly homophobic. I don't know if he would have mentored Scott Rudin so aggressively if he had known he was gay. I don't think he formed a professional relationship with John Solomon for the same reason. It's nice to know he evolved towards the end of his life - if he was telling the truth.
By the way, I also worked for Larry Elikann. Larry is the director Edgar worked with eight times. He is a character, sort of like a New York Jewish Howard Hughes. He has long stringy grey hair and wears these fishing vests, although I don't think he was ever at a lake. Part of my job duty was to buy his cigars which he chain smoked at Dunhill Beverly Hills. On set, I carried them around in a fanny pack. He would yell for me on set, I would rush over, unwrap a cigar and light it for him. It was like this "act". He talks sort of like James Cagney. He's hysterical, bombastic, full of facts. His regular producer was Gary Adelson, the son of Marv Adelson who was married to Barbara Walters. Gary despised me and I left.
How did you gain an audience with Scherick? I'm still shocked by his second wife's behavior. Although no one in the office really liked her. We didn't understand the connection.
I'm teaching now, high school at the moment, and writing as well. Teaching is a more valuable profession, although Administrators and District officials are becoming increasingly "Hollywood Producer-like" these days, with the changes in the market and rise in teachers available to work. Speaking of which I should get back to my lesson plans!
I'm surprised Edgar's children weren't more concerned about ensuring his legacy was recorded. That's why I sort of question the closeness of the relationship(s). Hmm picking up a dubious vibe on the subject . . . I only knew one of his offspring, the screenwriter. He seemed a down-to-earth sort of chap. Used to arrive on a motorcycle to visit his dad on-set. I wonder how they really felt about him. I know when my dad was dying, I didn't only visit him "only on the weekends," as Scherick stated in the interview. In fact I lived in his room until he was gone.
Were you at the funeral? I would have liked to be a fly on the wall. Edgar for his part lived, breathed ate Hollywood 24-7, I can't imagine him being there re children's milestones like he stated, but I could be wrong. Maybe all his kids' milestones were held in the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills? Haha. That was his favorite haunt. Then I would believe he attended all those concerts, recitals, graduation ceremonies, etc!! He was always there when he wasn't at the office. There was something really low key about him. Most producers "make and entrance" when they walk into a space. They like the attention, especially entering their own suite of offices. However with Edgar I must say it was different, although he loved to see and be seen too (the Polo Lounge) in a subtle way.
I worked in Hollywood for 10 years, like between '84-94. I was busy. I never compromised myself. Later I became involved in the Latino community, traveled all over, decided my calling was teaching, like both my parents. I studied Spanish literature and composition. I studied Buddhism, which I still practice. I know . . . "very Hollywood". I also worked for a director named Brian Gibson ("The Josephine Baker Story" & "What's Love Got to Do With It?"). Another Buddhist. Another Hollywood character. Another interesting profile.