Budding Writer, 1979: Fantasies of my youth

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Violas, crocuses, and forsythia come out for spring in Southbury, Connecticut, April 10, 2021. By Howard Fielding. Offered under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

As a young, starving writer, I wrote in my journal for this date about something most young, starving writers will have to go through someday:

… I … spent a lot of time worrying (in vain) about a visit from a Granite State Electric credit manager who threatened to cut off our power if the bill was not paid. It was not a nice afternoon.

Journal, Volume II
10 April 1979

The “(in vain)” tells me that the issue was resolved, but nevertheless it’s a rite of passage familiar to many struggling young adults and/or writers.

I read up on my next Journal Opinion assignment: covering a meeting of the Oxbow School District, a unified school district that serves Bradford, Vermont, and surrounding towns. I was impressed by the facilities of Oxbow High School and by the relaxed, yet efficient, way that they ran their meetings.

On the way home from the paper, I put the car on autopilot — I had already memorized the route — and did some daydreaming:

Driving home, I was delightfully enwrapped in my imagination, with a matured version of the fantasies of my youth. I projected my character Fred Warner into a situation where he meets, without knowing it, characters from Get Smart and The Avengers, still on duty in 1979! It’s great fun, much like dealing with old friends. And after all, in many ways these characters are old friends. Aside from the actors, writers, and directors themselves, I suppose I’m about as close as anyone can get to Smart and Steed. What I’d give to get in with Mel Brooks + Buck Henry and/or Brian Clemens, to get to work on these comeback shows … oh boy! Maybe I’ll send them my stories.


Dream on.

You deserve some context here. Fred Warner is a character I dreamed up in law school who would live the life I would have lived if I hadn’t gone to law school. I’ve resurrected him as a recurring character in several of the plots I’m juggling, most notably as a central character in He Said, She Said.

I’ve told you about my fascination for The Avengers. Brian Clemens was that show’s script editor and main writer, what we might call a show runner today.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned Get Smart, a camp spy-fi comedy of the 1960s starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. The show’s creators were Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. They were effectively out of the production after the first season, but their credit lines were always on the opener.

I wasn’t the only one to think of reunions for these series. Clemens did a bit for a short-lived revival called The New Avengers. The cast of Get Smart had brief reunions on TV and in forgettable films, but Brooks and Henry had the good sense to steer clear of them. The all bombed — so much so that of the Get Smart movies was called The Nude Bomb.

Fantasies of my youth, indeed. The one thing these revivals all had in common was that they were stinkers. Not all fun ideas are good ones.

My chances of ever contacting any of these producers or actors would have been slim to none. By 1979 they were all on to other projects. My best chance would have been Buck Henry, who was a Dartmouth alum and might at least have answered my letter. He was 49 at the time.

Today it’s too late. Henry died in 2020 at the age of 89. Clemens and Adams are gone, too. Brooks is still around and producing, at the age of 97. And Feldon, who played Agent 99, is now a mere 90.

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