STEPHEN J. CANNELL, RIP Emmy-winning writer and producer Stephen J. Cannell, who died Sept. 30, left a rich TV legacy. In one of his final interviews last spring, Cannell talked to Retroality's Chris Mann about NBC's plans to "reimagine" his '70s TV hit The Rockford Files.
GOING UPHILL FAST Olympic gold medalist-turned-Alka Seltzer spokeswoman Lindsey Vonn on her Law & Order cameo and being America's newest golden girl.
GROWING UP WEREWOLF Ripped True Blood star Joe Manganiello tells how vintage film monsters inspired his childhood dream to become a werewolf.
A CASE FOR C.A.P.E.R. A diligent Kids show devotee delves deep to uncover artifacts from, interviews about and fan love for the long-lost '70s Saturday morning live-action seriesThe Kids from C.A.P.E.R.
DIFF'RENT STANDARDS Why does TV's The Insider rip into yesteryear stars such as the late (and long-ailing) Gary Coleman while giving current celebs such as Two and a Half Men star Charlie Sheen a pass?
BIG-'BANG' BLOSSOM Nineties sitcom star Mayim Bialik on her Big Bang Theory gig, SNL spoofing and teenage awkwardness.
BIG-SCREEN "V"? Producer-director-writer Kenneth Johnson on his planned V motion picture and and his slew of re-imagined-by-others, iconic TV hits.
MUM'S THE WORD TV's Dr. Quinn, Jane Seymour, opens her heart and shares the healing thoughts of her late mother.
ECO GOSSIP GIRL Forget about the CW hit's kaput '80s spin-off. Lovely Kelly Rutherford—Gossip Girl's sassy socialite—shares her earth-friendly secrets from the '70s to today.
SKATE PLUS ATE '80s Olympic icon Brian Boitano on his Food Network show, his triple-lutzing South Park doppelganger and meeting Bronson "Balki" Pinchot.
SHE'S NOT DESPERATE Dexter's Julie Benz—now stirring it up on Desperate Housewives—talks about life after TV death.
VAN ARK "Y&R" SCOOP! DaytimeConfidential.com and others picked up our exclusive Q&A with Knots Landing's Joan Van Ark, who spills on her stint on The Young and the Restless
THREE'S CONTROVERSY: In this blog exclusive, Retroality's editor reveals that the late John Ritter initially doubted Suzanne Somers' cancer.
FARRAH'S STORY?: The iconic TV angel's producing partner, Craig Nevius, tells why he's suing Ryan O'Neal and Alana Stewart.
COME ON DOWN! A new book celebrates legendary Price is Right announcer Johnny Olson, while a Barker's Beauty reveals Rod Roddy's secret off-camera sadness
>>FOREVER GOOGLING in an e-sea of Britney "news" and Hanna Montana hell for the latest scoops on—and from—the pre-TMZ, made-for-TV celebs and primetime hits that helped you escape actual reality in the pre-reality-TV-obsessed '60s, '70s, '80s & '90s?
>>INSATIABLY CURIOUS about the Flower Power, Me Generation and Greed Decade influences—and current views and healthy passions—of classic Hollywood survivors and their inextricably linked, retro-inspired reality TV counterparts?
>>DREAM ON, televisionaries. Retroality.TV is your definitive voice of retrorealism, your uber guide to retrocentric boob-tube buzz and your 99% Britney-free online oasis where yesterday's fantasies meet today's reality
Author of the hit, acclaimed TV tell-all Come and Knock on Our Door, Retroality.TV editor Chris Mann served as Consulting Producer on NBC's hit 2003 telefilm Behind the Camera: The Unauthorized Story of Three's Company. He's also covered talent, legal issues and social trends as a freelance writer for the Los Angeles Times, TV Guide, emmy, Geek and other publications. Additionally, Chris pens and sometimes art directs celeb cover-story profiles and photo shoots for numerous healthy living magazines. click for more
JOHN RITTER RAVES: In this 1997 interview with RetroRewind.com's Dave Harris, the late, great John Ritter graciously shares supportive words for Chris Mann and Come and Knock on Our Door (see 4:40)
"I have to admit that Come and Knock on Our Door was the very best book I ever read about any TV show. I felt like I was on the set of Three's Company. The author (lemme just take this time to say that Chris Mann is a genius) captured every element of the show." -Bill Cassin (Scarsdale, NY)
"Chris Mann did a fantastic job on this book! I entered this reading experience expecting a superficial offering of one-sided stories about the trials and tribulations of this pop culture phenomenon known as Three's Company. I exited feeling satisfied at the invested hours I spent in reading this book." -Robert Nguyen (Orange Cty., CA)
"Chris has managed to tell the backstage story in a non-biased manner but has decided to let the stars tell their own sides, ensuring their integrity and the integrity of the book in the process. This book is anything but a tabloid. It tells the stories from those who experienced it. No commentaries are made. No opinions are offered. Just the facts.The show itself was dissected and Chris Mann speaks about the behind the scenes goings on as if he were there. -Roy J. Dlucca (Phoenix, AZ)
"Like so many others, I grew up watching Three's Company, so I couldn't wait to dive into this book. The behind the scenes stories are alternately funny and enlightening, and the author clearly went to great lengths to present all sides of the story. This is especially important, since opinions on the Somers situation vary widely." -J.T. Schweizer (Queens, NY)
"This book provides a great way to bring closure to an epic adventure from my childhood." -A reader
Last May, audiences were riveted as reality TV’s newest “bad girl,” Holly Robinson-Peete, took second place to America’s beloved, back-from-death's-door rock star, Bret Michaels, in NBC’s star-studded finale of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.
Fast forward to Oct. 18. Both finalists return to television in “real-life” vehicles: Peete in the mom-centric CBS daytime gabfest The Talk—featuring an ensemble of estrogen-fueled TV vets—and Michaels in his newest VH1 reality series Life As I Know It.
Despite losing to the Rock of Love sensation in Trump’s live finale, Peete emerged from NBC’s strategically edited boardroom series rich with reality TV knowledge that’s sure to help her should The Talk veer into The View’s trademark woman-on-woman snarking and snarling. (Her Apprentice charity, The HollyRod Foundation [which chiefly funds autism research and resources for families struggling with the affliction], received a record $600,000 thanks to Peete’s business savvy and unyielding tenacity. In fact, Trump liked her so much, he never officially fired her--and he and Snapple awarded both HollyRod and Michaels' charity the finale's $250,000 grand prize.)
In these outtakes from my interview with Peete for the August Wellbella, the former 21 Jump Street star gets real about her Celebrity Apprentice gig—including her friendship with fellow music lover Michaels, her as-seen-on-reality-TV conflict with ironic rocker Cyndi Lauper and resulting online furor accusing Peete of being “anti-gay.” The former Hanging with Mr. Cooper star also reveals how she felt to be labeled for the first time as a “bitch” and to see “Holly hate” among TV viewers.
Before CBS picked up The Talk, Peete told me she’d love to do a talk show. “I’ve had opportunities to do films but I’ve always chosen family first,” the mom of three said. “But a talk show is a great platform to talk about things I’m passionate about.” Would the media-savvy competitor consider a stint on Dancing with the Stars? “Hell, no. One, I can’t dance. Two, I feel I already lost a couple of years of my life just on the Celebrity Apprentice,” she said. “I’m not coming on reality shows to get kicked off. I’m coming on to win. If I can’t dance like the Pussycat Dolls girl, then I’m not going on.”
Then a return appearance on Celebrity Apprentice next spring is out of the question? Not so fast. “I’m sure Mr. Trump will bring me back to do something next season. He’s alright by me. He won over a lot of people with that finale. He did the right thing, the graceful thing. And it was a brilliant PR move for him.”
In retrospect, how was your Celebrity Apprentice experience? It was a wild ride. You know that ride at Disneyland they call Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride? Well, I call this Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride. It was craaaaaaazyyy. It was not easy. I don’t remember having a whole lot of fun. And it was at moments excrutiating. But boy am I glad I did it. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
But it was really difficult. And I have to say I’m really fortunate. I’ve had 25 years in the business. I’ve had a chance to see the trends of show business. I think I was really prepared media-savvy-wise to handle the sort of pressures I had to deal with. And that finale was really a very awkward, bizarre situation. I was sitting there next to someone who almost lost his life and yet (I) really, really wanted to fight for my charity—but didn’t want to say anything negative about him, because then I’d be Cruella de Ville.
My mom was moved that you remained standing for Bret during his intro in the live finale. Well, I appreciate that because it really was authentic. I really do like the guy and we’ve become friends. But there’s that competitive part of me that walked in and said, “You know what, I’m going to lose. I’m not gonna win. They’re not gonna pick me. They’re not gonna pick the mean, special-needs mom over the sweet, aging, ailing rocker. That ain’t gonna happen.” I walked in very clear and prepared, and I think that’s what really carried me through.
And I kept telling my kids, “Mommy has already won.” I didn’t want them to cry on camera or anything. We walked around the streets buying Compassion Berry in all the little stores of New York. It was really a win-win. And I have to tell you when that extra quarter of a million came (from Snapple), I almost peed in my pants. I had no clue (though) I knew they were gonna break me off a little somethin’-somethin’.
Well, you never got fired. Nope. Mr. Trump never said it. And you can tell he purposely never said it. Look, I have a much bigger picture in mind. I started this foundation with, like, 50 people in my back yard. And I’ve built it up every year. So I think they picked two good people to be in the finals. Who knew in the off season, in between, that this woud happen to Bret and that it would become Bretmania? You couldn’t predict that … Knowing for four months that he and I were going to be in the finals, I was really at peace with that part of it.
We did get along, and neither one of us wanted it to be Joan (Rivers) vs. Annie (Duke). I couldn’t even watch (the finale) last year, and I’d watched all of the episodes. But it just got too personal and mean-spirited last year. And when they called and asked me to do it, I said, “You guys, I can go toe-to-toe and I can be nasty when I need to be. But I’m not gonna sit there and lob personal insults in front of my children.” I can be a hard-ass, but I’m not gonna sit there and call someone a Nazi.
Did you ever feel in the doing of the show or the editing of the show that they were trying to hint toward that type of conflict with you and Cyndi Lauper? They did the best they could to make it appear as though we hated each other. And we really didn’t. We’re two different people. If I’m a reality producer, she is a dream cast member. She’s brilliant, she’s hilarious, she’s funny, she’s crazy. And then in comes me, Miss By-the-Book Corporate. I sit on five boards across the country. It was a perfect yin and yang.
What bothered me is when all of a sudden the LGBT community started coming after me, saying, “We hate Holly (because) she’s anti-gay.” Please. I have more gays that work for me than daggone Follies Bergere. That’s what bothered me most: that because we clashed, people automatically assumed that I was against her cause. That was disturbing.
You come in with: “Ooh, who’s that?” or “Oh, I hated her” or “That was my show!” You come in with that and you leave with something different, and that’s the journey that Celebrity Apprentice takes you on. What I liked about how it worked out is, yeah there were moments in there where I was like, “Oh, my gosh, there’s Holly hate out there,” and I’ve never been the kind of celebrity that you even associate the word “hate” with.” So it was a little bit awkward, but in the end I have to tell you that it was a journey. When people have strong feelings toward you and then in the end you sort of win them over, that’s when they feel even closer to you.
How did your drive and your awareness of image give you an edge for keeping your message on track during Celebrity Apprentice—despite having everything you said, every look on your face being captured and edited? I wasn’t aware of that; that’s the problem. I’m looking around saying, “Okay, I’m very media-savvy. I know a lot. But the one area where I definitely learned is reality.” I’d never done reality before, and it’s definitely a learning curve. That was the hard part. What I learned is when they’re in the editing room, they’re like, “Okay, we need an eye roll. Let’s go to Holly. We need a neck move. Well, let’s go to Holly.” They create the characters: “Holly’s gonna be the mean, bullying, special-needs mom, and Cyndi’s gonna be the quirky, eclectic, (good-natured) one.” So let’s say Cyndi has a moment of her (being ornery). They’re not gonna cut that in because it doesn’t work with their storytelling. They have to edit to the storylines they’re creating. So if you give it to ‘em, they’re gonna use it. That’s what I’d try to do differently—I’d try to keep it off my face. But I’ve never been good with keeping how I feel off my face.
The first episode in they had Carol Leifer calling me a “dumb bitch.” I’m like, “Okay, I don’t know how many more bitches I’m gonna be on the this show.” I almost said that in the finale. Ivanka said, “You didn’t come off mean.” I almost said, “Now come on, now. I set a record for the most money raised. But I think I almost set a record for the number of times someone’s been called the B word on national TV.” I was “a dumb B,” “a bee-yotch.” I thinks someone even called me “Aunt B.” I was the most crazy thing in the world. That’s a new one for me in my career. A new height.
Cyndi certainly got her digs in. Had you met her before the show? I’ve know Cyndi Lauper for years—every time I met her she never remembered me. She never remembered who the hell I was. (Laughs.) I’ve always admired her and loved her. Now, that’s different than having to meet time challenges with her and to hit that micro-mini deadline. But you cannot really truthfully, correctly edit that in there. They just edited the conflict. In the end, that’s what makes a really good reality show. Nobody wants to see us skipping through the poppies and holding hands. But I think as a result Cyndi and I gained a lot of respect for each other because we both took a lot of crap from what was shown.
And Sharon Osbourne’s ride was so different than everyone’s. She just sort of disconnected herself: “I’m not even going to the final.” She had a (scheduling) conflict but I don’t know that she was thrilled with the way she was depicted. She’s been pretty verbal about that. She comes from reality (TV), and so does Bret. I come from scripted (TV), so this whole concept of the editor being the writer was all new to me. It’s a new way of looking at television, and if I’m being honest, it was a steep learning curve. Until you’ve done one of these shows and then watched them edit it … Hindsight is 20/20 and in the end, it’s $600,000 for families affected by autism. That’s a philanthropic lottery right there.
How has Bret’s recent health scares and your respective experiences with children with health issues bonded you? To be honest with you, when we talk—I mean, it’d be really lovely to say we’re so bonded because we have this mutual, personal connection through our kids—we bonded because we make each other laugh. We get on the phone and start cracking on people and laughing about stuff. And we listen to music together. I love music, and he plays songs for me. We bonded as friends. I think we’re more connected on the fact that we just vibe well. It wasn’t until I worked with him on the task with Cyndi that I really made that connection. We started finding out that our senses of humor were very compatible and it was like, “Oh, this guy is cool.” I’d been judging him. When he was with the guys I was like, “Oh, here comes Bret.” He was always sticking his head in and trying to find cameras. I was like, “Oh, man, it’s Rock of Love.” I think I was very judgmental about who he was, and then I spent some really interesting time with him.
That’s the biggie. When you spend some really concentrated time with people … and you come off in most of these situations with a level of respect. With some people it’s like, “Okay, if I don’t see them again, I’m cool.” And most people are like, “Oh, that’s how you and Cyndi are.” But we had such a great moment at the finale. We laughed about how we were at it. Yes, we definitely had some conflicts, but we really like each other. We’re both moms and our kids were bonding at the finale. And it was that moment of, “Ahh, we’re cool.” So that was really good.
Her singing on the boardroom table in the finale was strangely fitting. It was the most bizarre, surreal stuff I’ve ever seen in my life. I was like, “Who’s gonna come out next?” But when I went back to the hotel that night, I felt like that right thing happened. I’m too show business-savvy to not understand that they made the right decision. So I’m really thrilled.
On a sad note, you tweeted about the tragic passing of Gary Coleman, who ironically died from the same thing that almost took Bret. Did you know Gary? I’d met Gary many times over the years. When I first moved to California, my mom worked for an agency that represented either Conrad Bain or Charlotte Rae. As a result I would go with my mom to the sets of these shows—it was like Take Your Daughter to Work Day. I remember being on the set of Diff’rent Strokes and thinking, “One day, I’m gonna be on a sitcom.” I wanted to be Dana Plato, Danielle Spencer—“Dee” from What’s Happening?!—and Kristy McNichol.
But I spent a lot of time on the set of Diff’rent Strokes and I really got a chance to see the brilliance that was Gary Coleman. He became a punchline and it really was tragic because he was a brilliant comic genius with unmatched timing. So it really hurt to hear he went the way he went. He’d survived so many health issues.
Your dad was the original Gordon on Sesame Street. How did growing up exposed to realities of the business prepare you for fame? I was so blessed to have a mother and a father in the business. My father was very discouraging about me being in the business. My dad was “Gordon” and I wanted to be on (Sesame Street) and he didn’t want me to be one of those showbiz kids. He knew it wasn’t a good scene for some adults, let alone kids. I begged and pleaded to get on. I had that one line where I said, “Hi Daddy.” I kept saying “Hi Daddy” and they wanted me to say “Hi Gordon.”
I still did this, that and the other here and there—a little Afterschool Special and my mom would take to do, like, a McDonald’s commercial. But I didn’t stop my life for it and I’m glad I didn’t. My dad said, “If you go to college I will support you in anything you want to do. But I need you to go to college.” My mom and my dad were divorced but in both their own ways they were instrumental—my dad in his discouragement but his encouragement of my education, and my mom in her showbiz savvy.
She always used to tell me, the number-one lesson in this business to keep working is to be good to the crew. If you’re good to the gaffer, the craft service person and the rest of the crew, they go on to every other production and the words gets around: “Oh, that Holly, she’s so nice and she’s so professional. She brought in lunch one day.” I didn’t do it because she told me; I did it because it came naturally. But if you’re good to the crew, they’re good to you. And that’s something I carried with me and I think helped me have a really good run in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
RETROALITY KITSCHIN'! Visit our daily Kitschin' blog for the latest retro-pop news,
views and musings about TV
reimaginings, reinventions and
all things Retroality.
'90s BABE BOUNCES BACK Baywatch star Nicole Eggert on her FunnyorDie.com video,
depression and being resilient.
IN SEARCH OF ANSWERS From her 21 Jump Street days
to her HollyRod Foundation
actress Holly Robinson-Peete has spent decades helping
heal her family and others.
AN ALL-NEW SNATCH! Move over, Mr. Belvedere! Sit
on it, Mrs. C! Here's the '80s'
hottest sitcom provocateur!
SAVED BY THE TACO BELL? He used to crush taco stands
but now Extra's Mario Lopez is a lean, mean, fat-burning
JUST SHOOT ME, WELLBELLA! Hot in Cleveland's Wendie Malick on staying young at any age,
Betty White's joyous laugh lines
and living beyond yourself.
OH, LORD, ANOTHER REMAKE: Hawaii Five-0's Jack Lord will
be reincarnated as hip actor
Alex O'Loughlin in CBS's reboot
of the iconic Seventies police
drama premiering this fall.
Check out Chris Mann's recent
Los Angeles Times story on 2010's batch of TV redos.
SUMMER REALITY MAKEOVER Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels on her new NBC reality series
Losing It With Jillian
DOWN-TO-EARTH ACTIVIST Splash's Daryl Hannah tells why she can't eat
seafood—or any once-living
creature—as she saves the
planet. Read her Q&A with Chris Mann in the April issue
of Vegetarian Times magazine.
sive! Meet the Bionic Woman,
Mini-Me, Jane Russell & more!
Coming: Gena Lee Nolin Q&A!
CHRISTOPHER ATKINS' "CONFESSIONS," PT 1
CHRISTOPHER ATKINS' "CONFESSIONS," PT 2
'HOLLYWOOD SHOW'-&-TELL: Retroality.TV has the scoop on
the Feb. 13-14 event featuring
a hot Knots Landing reunion,
Baywatch babes, Lindsay "The
Bionic Woman" Wagner, Hugh
"Wyatt Earp" O'Brian and more!
See Chris Mann's exclusive story
in the Los Angeles Times
JANET OR CHRISSY?: Joyce
DeWitt and Suzanne Somers sing
and dance for their suppers in
these bitchin' 1979 commericals
for L'eggs and Ace Hardware.
editor Chris Mann interviews
Scooby-Doo film scribe and
director-producer James Gunn
about his Spike.com series
PG-Porn in the Nov. 2009 issue
of Geek Monthly.