Thank you, Gene

So, it’s been MANY weeks since my last post (it’s been a very busy 2014 on THE SIMSPONS, but more on that in another post), and I’m bummed that my “comeback” post has sad news in it.

Music Editor Gene L. Gillette passed away this past January, but I only learned of it today reading CineMontage, the magazine published by the Motion Picture Editors Guild for its members.

My first blog post – and the motto of my career – is titled “Luck is When Preparation Meets Opportunity”. I tell students and aspiring show bizzers ALL THE TIME: “Your number-one job is to study, and learn, and ask questions, and do everything in your power to be ready to seize an opportunity when it comes your way. You have no control over when an opportunity may pop up, but you have total control over the preparation.” Gene was my second, but my best, opportunity.

When I was a tour guide at Universal Studios Hollywood back in 1984-1986, I would spend all my free time down on the scoring stage (sadly, Universal no longer has a scoring stage – the spot where the stage used to sit now holds the Jurassic Park ride) observing scoring sessions and pestering any music editor who would give me the time of day with questions about the craft. Many of the music editors did share time and wisdom with me, but Gene shared the most. Then, one day, Gene left Universal after many years at the studio. I didn’t know where he went.

My first big break (opportunity) came in 1986 when Dan Carlin, then owner and President of Segue Music helped me get into the Editors Guild (union) and gave me my first job. For more detail on that story, click here. For a variety of reasons, that job only lasted one year. Just when I thought I was headed back to the tour full-time, I got a call from another music editing company, Music Design Group. The owner of Music Design Group, Roy Prendergast, asked his music editors if they knew of any new, up-and-coming music editors who wanted to jump in and learn the new music editing techniques that were coming down the line. Film was on the way out and editing on audio and video tape – this was still a decade before digital would take a firm hold of our industry – was on the way in. Roy wanted to expand his staff with editors who would be flexible and willing to take on the challenge of learning the new media. Little did I know, Gene had landed at Music Design Group when he left Universal and he thought of me.

When last we spoke in 1985, I was still a tour guide trying to get into the union and land my first job. When Gene called me to tell me about Roy’s search for new music editors I had accomplished both. I came in for an interview on Gene’s recommendation and got the job. Two years later it was Roy who assigned me to work on the final season of “The Tracey Ullman Show” with the understanding that when “Tracey” wrapped, I would just transition over to the “little cartoon show” from “Tracey” that FOX was planning to launch as its own series later that year. Needless to say, the rest is history.

About the time “The Simpsons” started, Gene retired and I never saw him again. As I write this I’m trying to remember if we ever spoke again. I don’t think we did. A few years ago, I stumbled across a blog he had been writing and I left him a comment saying hi and thanking him for all he had done for me so many years ago. I didn’t get a reply for a long time, but eventually did just last year through LinkedIn.

That was my last correspondence with Gene.

He was a patient, gentle, thoughtful man who always had time for me and my annoying questions. I am forever grateful that he saw some smidgen of potential in me and, more importantly, that he acted on his belief and made a phone call that changed my life.

Thank you, Gene.

Seeing My Name on TV is Still Really Cool

I grew up on the outskirts of Hollywood, both literally and figuratively. Save my one year living in San Francisco to study at the music conservatory, I’ve lived my entire life in Los Angeles or one of its many suburbs.

My father worked for while in the U.S. shipping and distribution offices of Azteca Films, a Mexican film studio, then later as the manager of the great movie palace, The Orpheum Theater in downtown Los Angeles. My mother was a travel agent with a pretty impressive list of 60s and 70s movie & TV stars and night club entertainers as her clients: Sonny & Cher, Elizabeth Montgomery, Robert Goulet & Carol Lawrence, dancer Juliet Prowse, comedian Marty Allen, and impressionist Frank Gorshin (he was also The Riddler in the Batman TV series) to name a few.

Sidebar: Frank Gorshin arranged for me to visit the set of Batman one day on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot. Try as I might, I cannot remember exactly what part of the studio I visited. Of course, I was only eight or nine years old, so it’s not much of a surprise that I can’t remember. It’s just kind of fun to think of now that I spend so much time at Fox. D’oh! There’s more to read…

…But What I REALLY Want To Do Is Direct

I can’t remember a time in my life that wasn’t influenced by music. My mother studied ballet as a youngster and loved all the dance music by the great masters. She also loved big band music and introduced me to Duke Ellington, Glen Miller, Count Basie, Stan Kenton, and Maynard Ferguson. My father was born in Mexico City and learned to love music that he heard on the radio. He especially loved the dark, brooding music that played as the opening for his favorite mystery show. Somehow, he did some research and discovered that the music was from the opening bars of the music for the ballet “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky.

Here are those opening bars (I’m referring to the first sixty seconds of this video, but feel free to listen to the whole thing and be amazed at the beauty of Stravinsky!)

D’oh! There’s more to read…

Is This The End?

D'oh!Well, the ‘net has certainly been abuzz this week with stories, rumors, quotes, and anonymous sources all speculating about the imminent demise of THE SIMPSONS. While the loyal fans of the show are taking this news quite hard, I’ve been trying to digest what this means for my family’s and my futures. D’oh! There’s more to read…

My Brush With Barnabas

As SIMPSONS season #2 got underway with Alf Clausen as our new composer in the fall of 1990, I received an interesting phone call from composer Bob Cobert. I had worked with Bob on the longest miniseries in television history, WAR & REMEMBRANCE in 1988-1989 and he was very pleased with my work. NBC was going to revive the 1960s cult classic DARK SHADOWS as a nighttime soap.

Dark Shadows 1991Dan Curtis, the creator of DARK SHADOWS, was going to be Executive Producer and Cobert, who composed the music for the original series including the hit “Quentin’s Theme”, was going to score the reboot. D’oh! There’s more to read…

The Start of Season 2 – Changes

BlinkyThe first music spotting session for THE SIMPSONS season #2 was on September 20, 1990. I showed up at FOX as usual and was greeted by a big surprise. I was informed that Richard Gibbs was no longer the composer for the show and that the search for a replacement was underway. In the meantime, Arthur B. Rubinstein was called in to score the first two episodes of the new season and I was told that, if all went well, Arthur would be offered the job as permanent composer. D’oh! There’s more to read…

We’re a Hit – Even Tony Bennett Thinks So!

Although THE SIMPSONS aired its first-ever episode in December, 1989, it wasn’t really considered the premier episode. It was classified as a “special”. (Remember specials? Don’t see much of them on television any more.) So our second episode, 7G02 “Bart the Genius” would be the official start of the series (the first time we would use the Main Title sequence with the chalkboard gag, Lisa playing her sax and, of course, the couch gag), debuting on Sunday, January 14, 1990. BUT when counting episodes on the road to 500, “Bart the Genius” is episode #2. D’oh! There’s more to read…