In 1970 I was working on the Lawrence Welk show. The producer director, Jim Hobson, told me..
that he had been approached by a producer by the name of Chip Clark who had a script for a show he had worked on with the chief writer for Lucille Ball. He said he had raised $20,000 to create a pilot of the show and he had asked Jim if he would be interested in directing it. Jim told him he did not have the time to do that because of his obligation to the Welk show but he thought perhaps I might be interested.
We arranged a meeting the next week with Chip Clark. I told him I'd be interested in looking at the script and if it was good I'd be willing to produce and direct it for him. Chip was an old vaudevillian and he had written a show called "THE NEW FACE OF VAUDEVILLE." It was a musical comedy and it had a cast of well-known vaudevillian performers who were friends of his.
Chip had grown up in a family of vaudevillian performers, and as was typical of those marvelous people when a child was born to two of them, he would just be included in the act.
Jeff's mother was very old and infirm and she required constant attention. Chip and his wife took care of her and made sure that she took her blood pressure every hour.
Well, I read the script and it was terrible. I couldn't believe it! The head writer FOR THE LUCY SHOW! I wondered how in the world the great Lucille Ball and husband Desi Arnaz managed to make such a great show of such awful material.
Anyway I told Chip that I thought he had an interesting idea but I would have to write my own script. Well, Chip Clark liked me and told we'd be happy to have me take a shot at it. So we sat down, and discussed a possible story, and about a week I managed to produced a very funny script that included a cast which consisted of such notables as SLAPSY-MAXI ROSENBLOOM, THE PROFESSOR, THE TWINS, and VIRGINIA O'BRIEN, who was a well-known actress in movies famous for her deadpan expression.
One of the key scenes was where the twins have to get on the train with one ticket because they don't have enough money for two tickets, by pretending to be one person by hiding from the conductor so he only sees one of them at a time. Also, Chip Clark is broke and so he hitches a ride on the roof of the train. At one point in the script Chip can be seen through a window on the inside of the train leaning down and frantically banging on the window, with the wind blowing in his hair.
Well, Chip had raised $20,000 from his friends and family to do the pilot, which was quite a bit of money in those days and more than adequate to accomplish creating the pilot. However, Chip had a weakness for gambling on the horses, and he managed to lose all that money in one day. One very bad day at the track. We had a couple of production meetings, but when I found out that there was no money I dropped out of the project.
Several months, maybe a year or more had passed and I had had no contact with Chip Clark. However, one day I was reading the Los Angeles Times and there was an article headlined "CHIP CLARK SUES SONNY BONO FOR $20 MILLION". It seems that Sonny Bono had used some gags that Chip Clark had written without his permission and without paying him for use on the " Sonny Bono show." I thought it was interesting, but I didn't give it more than a passing thought. A few days later when I was at ABC-TV doing some editing I noticed that one of the editing booths had been fixed with shades that had been pulled so you couldn't see inside and a sign had been affixed that said 'AUTHORIZED ENTRY ONLY."
I asked my editor, Nick, if he knew what was going on in there, and he said that a bunch of ABC lawyers were screening a Sonny Bono show for some reason.
Later, when the lawyers were gone, I had my editor pull the tape of the Sonny Bono show they had been looking at and I screened it myself. To my surprise there was a scene taking place on an airplane, and from the inside of the airplane looking through the window could see Sonny Bono banging on the window with the wind blowing in his hair.
So Chip Clark was suing Sonny Bono for stealing a gag that I had written!
Oh well, that's showbiz, folks.