You’re Never Too Old to Start Again (or Too Young to Start)

There was a man I knew years ago, whom I only met once when he was 93 years old, totally blind and partially deaf. His name was Father Morgan, and he showed me that you’re never too old to start again and never to young to start.

Father Morgan was a renowned Episcopal priest and a brilliant botanist whose flora & fauna facts were featured in Encyclopedia Brittanica. At retirement age, he retired in Cherokee country, high up in the mountains of North Georgia. While he moved there to settle, community members encouraged him to start a church. So, at the ripe age of 65, he and one other man built a new church from the ground up. He started a whole new life at a time when most are winding down, and this wasn’t the only time he did that.

He looked like Moses with long, flowing gray hair. He didn’t care what people thought of him, just worked hard and never complained. One Sunday he arrived for his sermon without having any time to prepare. His nephew shared the morning service with him, from the liturgy with comments, scripture, sermon, and all of the readings in between. Remember, he was blind, so he couldn’t read anything at that point, and also at least half deaf. He just listened to his nephew, took it in, and did the best he could.

Well, wouldn’t you know…Father Morgan got out in front of the congregation and gave the entire service from his nephew’s verbal recital––every word, all by memory, without a hitch, at the ripe age of 93!

If this wasn’t incredible enough, we found out after the service that the night before, Father Morgan lost everything in a house fire. The home he lost was two generations old and housed every book and paper owned by him and generations before him––all of his sermons, all of his data on flora & fauna…everything.

He never mentioned a word about the fire to anyone during or after that sermon. When asked by his nephew what he wanted him to do about the house, he said, “Call the contractor and tell him we need him to start rebuilding tomorrow.”

Father Morgan was a true American hero. He quietly went about his life with humility, a remarkable work ethic, unending persistence, and the ability to rebuild his life no matter what challenges befell him. At an age when most are waiting to die, Father Morgan started anew, over and over.

What do you want to start, but tell yourself you’re too old (or young) to do it?

I say, do it!

-Gy

The Right Thing

There was a gaping hole in television that parked itself between California and New York. It was a the size of an orange 1969 Dodge Charger, and its drivers were Bo and Luke.

As I was finishing a project for Norman Lear, I was approached by producer Phil Mandelker, who was interested in writing a TV show about runaways. He asked what I’d written, and I told him about a movie I’d done called Moonrunners. He said he’d have a look at it, and hurried to call me after watching it. He said, “Stop writing what you’re writing for me. I want you to write something like Moonrunners for television.” He asked if I could make it funny. I told him, sure, I could—that was the easy part.

Before I knew it, I was creating an iconoclastic show that all of Middle America was waiting to see. The ratings skyrocketed by the second week, and by the tenth episode we were number one in the country.

Some people think only hillbillies watched Dukes of Hazzard. Hardly true. One story about moral lessons learned from Dukes that has stuck with me for years is of a philosophy professor at Wofford College in South Carolina. Once a year, the professor arrives at class dressed as Boss Hogg, complete with a white suit and white hat. He uses the costume to make a point about moral dilemmas: A frequent theme in Dukes is to pause during the middle of a chase scene. The guys will ask each other and themselves, “Is this right? Should we be doing this?” And the guys asking are the criminals! There is irony and humor in that, but the deeper meaning is that all of us at one time or another stop and ask ourselves that same question.

When we can do that with a show about car chases, we know we’re reaching the deeper universal element of right and wrong that lives in us all.

Just last year, I received a letter from a fan. He and his mother were going to a Dukes of Hazzard festival in Tennessee. He was driving late at night to get to the festival, when their car broke down three hours away from their destination. The son turns to his mother and asks, “What would Bo and Luke do?”

It’s clear to me, after chatting with many Dukes fans over the years, that the question of integrity and morality comes into play every time. There is frequently a meaningful conversation about the lesson the show taught, about right and wrong.

I hope you’re inspired to pause and ask yourself, “Is this the right thing to do?” I look forward to hearing when you’ve done this and how it’s turned out for you.

–Gy

Four Fictional Characters I Wish I’d Created

characters bannerAs writers, we all dream of creating a character who is so identifiable, so real to the audience that people start following that character’s story as if he or she were part of the family. It is what we live for as creators. I’ll start this out with a caveat – there are infinitely more than four characters that I wish I’d created. But, these four immediately come to mind when I try to narrow down my favorite fictional characters of film and print.

Jack Bauer
Jack’s Back! Need I say more? One of the most complex characters I’ve ever had the joy of watching on television. Of course, having the luxury of multiple seasons of 24 to build up the character’s back story certainly helps, but the name Jack Bauer is synonymous to fans with badass-ness, angst, grit, ingenuity, loyalty and otherworld survival skills. Kiefer Sutherland is absolutely brilliant as Jack, only adding to the rich depth of the character’s struggles, pain, deep suffering and dogged determination to save the world — whether the world wants to be saved or not. Everybody say it with me, “DAMMIT!!” (Sorry … if you don’t watch 24 you won’t get that)

Jason Bourne
Like Jack Bauer, the Jason Bourne character only grows in depth with every page of every book. A highly skilled CIA assassin with extreme memory loss – yeah, what could go wrong there? Brought to life brilliantly in the Bourne Series by the late Robert Ludlum, and then carried expertly into the new millennium by Eric Van Lustbader, Jason Bourne is the quintessential character that you 1) root for, and 2) should be scared to death of. A hero with serious trust issues and a license to kill. When a character like Jason Bourne is brought to life to the extent that he can capture a fan base spanning multiple decades and multiple novels, the writer(s) have done a masterful job of “playing God.”

Jane Tennison
Of all the wonderful TV detectives, Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison from the Prime Suspect series may be my favorite. Played by the incomparable Helen Mirren, Tennison is one of the first Detective Chief Inspectors in Greater London’s Metro Police Service. As such, she must negotiate the land mines of the male-dominated profession and those who are outright hoping for her failure. Jane Tennison is not only the smartest person in the room; she may be the most insecure. And, if her job weren’t stressful enough, she must constantly find a way to maintain stable relationships outside of work. A genius character in an equally genius series. If you have never seen it – go stream it today!

And, just to show my sensitive side – I thought I’d throw in some comedy as well. And, it’s not just one character in this case – I couldn’t narrow down to just one from this comedic masterpiece.

The Entire Character Ensemble of Frasier
I still watch the reruns. Every time I come across Frasier playing on my TV, I stop what I’m doing and I watch. And I laugh until I cry. The brilliance of the Frasier/Niles quirky, nutty dynamic is played to absolute perfection by Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce. Two psychiatrists with considerably more quirks than their patients. And to round out the nutfest: the lovable producer Roz Doyle, played by Peri Gilpin; the moon bat physical therapist Daphne Moon, played by Jane Leeves; and the curmudgeon dad Marty Crane, played so hilariously by John Mahoney – God what a brilliantly funny show/cast/concept. If I’m around 50 years from now, that show will still be on TV (if there is TV) and I’ll still watch every hilarious minute! WOW – I would love to have been a fly on the wall at some of those table readings!

As I said at the outset, there is no way to narrow my list to four memorable characters. I could list 4000. God I love to create. Here’s to the creators!
Blessings,
Gy