by Larry Brody
Back in the early ’80s, I was the Supervising Producer of an ABC series called The Fall Guy.
It was a big hit, and I ran it for three years.
We had our crises, but The Fall Guy was filled with action and humor, and for the most part it was so much fun to work on that I couldn’t wait to get to the studio everyday.
There was, however, one problem.
The star, Lee Majors, hated me.
In all my years on the show, he only spoke to me three times.
The second time was when I came to see him during the shooting of the first episode. He said, “Get out of my trailer.”
The third time was at a party at another producer’s house. He crooked a finger and beckoned me over to a corner of the dining room.
“Know why I hate you?” Lee said.
And as soon as I said that, he took me back to the first time. (You thought I got the numbering wrong, didn’t you?)
“Think back to when we first met. To the first words out of your mouth.”
I thought about our meeting. The show was three weeks away from production, and our little building at Fox Studios had been buzzing all day with the news that Lee was back from a vacation and coming over to say hi.
I was as buzzed as everyone else. I wasn’t a big fan of his work on previous series, but I’d enjoyed my experience as a freelance writer on The Six Million Dollar Man. Everyone on the show had talked about what a great guy Lee was, and friends of mine who also knew him agreed.
“Down to earth.”
“Fun to hang with.”
“Wait till he takes you duck hunting!”
So when Lee drove up in his red Ferrari and strode into the office, I was eager and prepared to make a friend for life. I thrust out my hand to welcome him and blurted out the first thing that came to mind, loud and strong, for everyone in the office to hear.
“Here he is, everybody! Here’s the hero!”
Lee’s forehead wrinkled. He frowned. Did an about-face.
Went back out the door and into the Ferrari.
“You mocked me,” Lee said as we stood in the corner of the dining room. “You made fun of me in front of the entire staff.”
“But I meant it. You were a hero to me.”
Lee’s brows knitted, just as they had that day years ago. Frowning, he left me standing there alone.
The reason all this comes to mind is that last Saturday night Gwen the Beautiful and I went to Donny the Storyteller’s house to meet an old high school friend of his who he’d described as, “Larry B’s biggest fan.
“Gil reads you first thing every Friday. Then he e-mails me to discuss what you’ve written. You should see his file on the Old Billionaire.”
According to Donny, Gil was planning on making the five hour drive all the way from Oklahoma City to show me his appreciation, soon as I gave the nod.
How could I not want to meet someone like that?
Which brings us to Saturday night.
There we were. Donny, Gwen, Gil, and me.
Gil thrust out his hand. “I think I’m pleased to meet you,” he said. “But I’m not sure. This is Donny’s idea, you know. From what I’ve read of your columns you’re kind of iffy to me.
“Your early stuff about life in Paradise was interesting, but after the first year you jumped the shark,” Gil went on. “All that drivel about spirits and mounds and dreams! If I’ve got to read one more conversation with the universe, or the wind, or your horse, I’m going to throw up!”
My brows knitted. I frowned. I turned away, to a wide-eyed Gwen. I took her hand in mine, and out we went, taking off for home in our pick-up.
Later that night, Donny called, talking very, very fast. “Larry B, it’s not what you think. Gil’s the funniest guy I know, in a sarcastic kind of way. He can’t help himself. He was excited, and trying to talk like you write and—”
And I get it now, at last. After all this time I understand what I did to upset Lee Majors.
And I’m sorry, Lee. I’m saying it here in public, as loudly as I can.
I hope you’ll forgive me. And prove yourself the better man.
The Much Better Man.
Because I’m admitting here in public, also as loudly as I can, that I’ll never forgive Gil.