There are many elements to show business — writing, acting, directing, promotion, distribution, photography, music, lighting,
stuntwork, special effects, animation, editing, negotiation — even, on occasion, the creation of a work of lasting import and meaning.
This week, I intend to discuss the single most important aspect of show business...
I am speaking, of course, of parking spaces.
True, there are those who would argue that show business actually revolves around lunch — where you lunch, with whom you lunch,
how much time out of your workday you can manage to consume while consuming lunch. I would be the last to claim that lunch is not very, very
crucial. But in my experience, lunch comes in second to parking spaces. The amount of energy and emotion that is expended on the topic of
parking spaces is truly staggering.
To many, the location of your parking space is of enormous concern. (So is what you park in your parking space.) The better
your location, the greater your stature.
Best is when you have a spot just outside your office or studio with your name respectfully stencilled onto the concrete stop block or
(even better) painted on a sign.
The next step down is a space without your name but with an assigned number in the section where other important folks park.
Then the rock bottom — worse in some ways than having no parking space at all — is when you don't even get your own spot;
they just tell you to park in some big lot, wherever you like — first come, first served. I have seen people hide their faces in
embarrassment when they were spotted putting their auto into an unlisted stall.
Parking spaces can be an important indicator of where you stand in the inevitable caste system of every job. I know people who
first learned that they were being fired because they discovered a worker painting their name out on their assigned spot. (Recently, an ousted
network exec said to me, "I knew I was in trouble when they started paving over my parking space...and I was still in it.")
One of the first times I went to a meeting wherein someone was possibly going to hire me to write a TV show, I learned the importance
of the parking space. My then-partner and I had a 4:00 appointment with one of the producers of The Nancy Walker Show to see about maybe
writing an episode. I was driving and we were running late. I pulled into the first available parking spot on the lot, just outside their
building, and we darted inside. I guess we were afraid that being two minutes late for a meeting would somehow cause the producer to presume we
were unlikely to get a script written on time.
Ninety-nine instances out of a hundred, when you hurry to get to a meeting promptly, they keep you waiting. "Just grab a seat," a
secretary told us. We grabbed seats. A few minutes later, she casually asked us where we'd parked.
"There was a spot right in front of the building," I said.
The lady paled. "You didn't park out front — in the spot by the tree, did you?" From the way she said it, I gathered
she thought her husband had been sunbathing in that spot.
"Yeah," I said. "Right by the big tree."
The woman reacted like I had just pressed a button to launch nuclear warheads. "You can't park there," she shuddered.
"That's Mr. Lear's spot."
Mr. Lear? As in, Norman Lear? Norman Lear was the Executive Producer of The Nancy Walker Show and a man of
extraordinary importance. He was gone for the day and not expected back. Still, you don't tug on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the
wind, you don't pull the mask on the old Lone Ranger and you don't park in Norman Lear's parking space.
I dashed outside as if my life depended on it and quickly moved my car to the nearest-available spot, which I recall as being somewhere
near Elko, Nevada. By the time I returned, our meeting was in progress, my partner was chatting with them, and I staggered in, wheezing from a
long sprint. "You guys think you can write this show?" the producer asked me.
I gasped for air. "Yes...we're fresh, we're clever and, most important, we're not parked in Mr. Lear's space."
The producer said, "Fine, let's give it a try." (The producer was the late Jerry Davis, a wonderful, colorful gent whose career
dated back to writing Martin and Lewis movies and who later produced a number of situation comedies, including Bewitched and That Girl.
Bernard Slade's Tribute — the play and movie with Jack Lemmon — was based on Jerry's life.)
That was how we got hired to write for The Nancy Walker Show. We only lasted six weeks...but that was okay because Nancy only
lasted seven. I hope it wasn't because she parked in Norman's spot.
For three years, I had an office over at the Sunset-Gower Studios, located (by an amazing coincidence) at the corner of Sunset
Boulevard and Gower Avenue in Hollywood. Once upon a time, they called the place Columbia Studios and parts of it looked like they hadn't been
changed — or cleaned — since Frank Capra worked there.
I was erroneously delighted when they assigned me a terrific parking space, immediately adjacent to the stage wherein our show
taped. It was so terrific that everyone else who had business there parked in it. Each day, I drove onto the lot. Each day, I found
someone else parked in my space. Each day, I then drove back to the front gate to insist that the guard find another space for my little
Mercury Zephyr. Each day, this could take him the better part of thirty minutes.
It got so that when I drove in, before I'd even cruised over to my assigned stall, I'd stop at the gate and ask the guard, "Any chance
of me parking in my space today?"
"Doesn't look good," he'd say.
A program called Those Amazing Animals taped on our stage when we weren't using it. A veritable habitat of beasts both
tame and wild were featured on the show and most of their handlers decided that the most convenient place to park their vehicles was, you guessed it,
my space. One day, I drove to the spot that had "Mark Evanier" emblazoned on it and found a cage full of tigers. Real, live, snarling
tigers. With stripes, whiskers, teeth, the works.
I promptly drove back to the guard hut.
"There are tigers in my parking space," I told him.
"What?" he said, which I suppose is what I would say in the same situation.
"You heard me," I replied. "There are tigers in my parking space."
I guess he hadn't been on duty when the big cats were trucked in. He gave me one of those looks and said, "Come on."
"Honest to God," I said, knowing full well that I had the truth on my side. "There are tigers in my parking space."
"Tigers are indigenous to India," he said, trying to be cute.
"Well, they're now indigenous to India and my parking space," I said, being even cuter. "You don't believe me? Get
The guard shrugged, got into the passenger seat of my car and I drove him over to my parking space where, indeed, there were
"There are tigers in your parking space," he said.
"Did I lie? Did I? Now, the question is...are you going to move them or are you going to find me another parking
"I think I'll find you another parking space," he said.
"Good call," I told him.
(By the way, the tiger is one of the fiercest and bravest of all animals. But I doubt a one of them would have had the guts to be
in Norman Lear's parking space.)
The following week, Those Amazing Animals was taping again. I drove to my parking space and found a cage of
ostriches. Immediately, I drove back to the guard shack. "There are ostriches in my parking space," I told the same guard.
Without missing a beat, he said, "Don't worry — the tigers will get them." I hate guards who are funnier than I am.
A few weeks later as I drove in, the guard stopped me. "I found three guys in your parking space," he explained. "But don't
worry...I got a picture of them."
He handed me an eight-by-ten glossy photo and there, so help me, were the Three Stooges in a 1945 publicity still, posing together in
what was now my assigned spot. Larry, Moe and Curly were in my parking space.
I told the guard, "If you don't mind, I'd rather have the tigers."
For two years, I worked on the KTLA lot, formerly the Warner Brothers Hollywood lot — not to be confused with the Warner Brothers
Burbank lot, which is now Burbank Studios. KTLA is a local TV station in Los Angeles but they somehow came to own this big studio and they rent
its facilities to many a network or syndicated series.
It was a good place to do television but a miserable place to park a car. The number of spaces they had simply did not coincide
with the number of people who worked there. To solve the problem, they bought and paved over an empty lot about a block away on Bronson Avenue
and assigned spaces in it to all who could not be accommodated in the main complex. The many secretaries, production assistants, camerafolks
and even writers grudgingly accepted their banishment to Siberia, aka the Bronson lot.
But there were a number of Very Important Folks — producers, mostly — who raised a stink...and not a little stink, either,
but a full-blown, giant-economy-size, hold-your-nose stink — the kind you could lob into an abandoned warehouse to flush out barricaded
gunmen. There were grown adults producing network TV shows, making tens of thousands of dollars a week, threatening to quit or take their shows
elsewhere just because they had to park in the Bronson lot.
For weeks, all talk at KTLA revolved around the injustice of the dreaded Bronson lot. At one point, I asked the Unit Manager
— he's the guy who runs the studio operations — if there was any chance we could have a certain Stage Manager assigned to our
program. "He's doing the show that tapes on Stage 3," I was told. "But they may be moving to another studio."
"They don't like the facilities here?" I asked. KTLA had great crews, great stages, great everything-but-parking.
"They're threatening to leave," he explained, "if all their producers have to keep parking in the Bronson lot."
Finally, someone at KTLA — it may have been that same Unit Manager — had what could pass for a brilliant idea in the TV
business. He solved the whole Bronson lot brouhaha merely by painting a sign. "The Bronson lot" had been an unofficial name, engraved on
no placards; it was just what everyone called the overflow parking lot across the street. Now, they gave it an official name, proclaimed on a
big, green wooden sign...
They called it, "Producers Lot B."
Suddenly, all opposition to parking there disappeared. It was still the same parking facility, still the same uncomfortable walk
from there to your office. But none of the people who'd been kvetching about having to park in the Bronson lot had any objection to parking in
something called "Producers Lot B." Such are the ways of show business.
Then, a few months later, a couple of producers started to complain. They wanted to know why they had to park in "Producers Lot
B." Why, they wanted to know, couldn't they park in "Producers Lot A?"
There was, of course, a pretty fair reason: There was no "Producers Lot A." They had named the Bronson lot with a "B" because it
was their second lot, presuming that the main lot would be considered "A." Or maybe the "B" was for "Bronson," I don't know. But there
was no "Producers Lot A."
Strangely, that explanation appeased no one. In a business where you're a hero if your show wins its time slot, an utter failure
if you miss by some microscopic fraction of a Nielsen number, parking in a lot with a "B" on it suddenly seemed distinctly beneath what little
dignity some producers possess.
Fortunately, about this time, KTLA was running out of parking spaces in "Producers Lot B" and they procured another empty lot, this one
about two blocks from the main studio. It was quickly dubbed "Producers Lot A."
Suddenly, everyone who parked in "Producers Lot B" was demanding to be switched to "Producers Lot A" — this, even though "A" was
vastly less convenient, considerably more of a hike. All the same execs who wouldn't park in the Bronson lot but would park in "Producers Lot
B" now wouldn't park in "Producers Lot B" and insisted on being relocated to "Producers Lot A." (In point of fact, the easiest thing for all of
them would have been to do what I took to doing — parking on the street next to the main studio lot. It was much closer and it was
usually available early in the day. The only problem was that you can't have your name painted on one of those spaces and that kind of thing
matters to some people. It matters a lot.)
That was what I suggested to others who had to park there. To the Unit Manager, I suggested he purchase an empty lot about twenty
blocks away, pave it over and name it "Executive Producers Lot A-1." It would have been the height of inconvenience —
— but I'll bet you some people would have demanded a space in that lot. Even if it was full of tigers.