Sunday, November 26, 2023

"I'm Marty."

Meeting Marty at Nickelodeon.

In January of 2017,  Nickelodeon had just finished construction on a brand new, shiny building at the corner of Olive and Lake in Burbank.  To celebrate this massive undertaking, they threw a huge wing ding, with Big Wigs from New York and celebrities I'd never heard of. 

Amidst the VIP's, I hob-nobbed with fellow common artists, enjoying the amazing spread of food and drinks.  In the courtyard, a stage was set up where the Big Wigs spoke and people clapped.   There was a hunched over old man mingling about. He was exceptionally old.  So old, he stood out in the crowd.

"Who's that old man?"  someone asked.

"Is that Sumner Redstone?"  another asked.  Sumner was the owner of Viacom, which owned Nick.  Quite ancient, he was nonetheless still alive then, so it wasn't totally inconceivable that he could be in attendance. 

Things suddenly got very loud as the rap artist Pitbull took the courtyard stage.  Being Nickelodeon, I had assumed Pitbull would be a guy in a dog costume.  Not even close. 

After a few Pitty minutes,  I went inside the shiny new building to escape the noise.  There's an old rock and roll adage: "If it's too loud, you're too old."  To that point, there was another guy in the lobby - 'Sumner Redstone'.  As I sat alone at one of the swanky new lobby seats,  he came over and sat on a matching swanky new  couch angled perpendicular to me.  He tapped me on the knee and said very quietly, "Do you work for Nickelodeon?"

"Yes."  I nodded.

"So do I." he said.  

I looked at him incredulously.  "Really? What do you do?"

"I have a couple of shows here."  he said.  He spoke so quietly, I found myself leaning toward him to hear.   He asked, "Have you ever heard of Sid and Marty Krofft?" 

"Sure." I said. 

"I'm Marty." 

I leaned back surprised.  He gave a slight, satisfied smile, pleased to see I was impressed.  "You grew up with my shows, didn't you?" he said.   I smiled and nodded, appreciating how cool this moment was.

We talked for ten minutes or so about his glory days in the 70's, when they could pitch the networks six show and sell three.  I was leaning in the whole time, trying to hear these great anecdotes over the muffled shouts of Pitbull outside.  

"What are you doing now?"  I asked.

"We're doing a 'Bugaloos' reboot."  he said.  "The Bugaloos" was one of his many shows from my childhood in the '70's.  "We're filming a pilot in six weeks."

I boldly asked, "Can I visit?"  

Marty nodded and fished a business card from his wallet.  He started to hand it to me, then pulled it away.  "You have to promise me you won't sell this."  he smiled.

I raised my hand. "Promise!" I said.  

He glanced over to acknowledge a group of my fellow artists gawking at us, wondering why 'Sumner Redstone' was giving me his card.  Was I jockeying for a better job?  Pitching a show?  I saw Dave Knott mouthing to me, "Who is that?"  

"Guys, this is Marty Krofft." I said.  For those of them under the age of 40, the name did not register. The older ones went nuts.  One particular woman ran up to him all childlike and said "Can I get take a picture with you?"

Marty patted the spot to his right on the couch, indicating for her to sit beside him.  She instead jumped in his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.  We were all laughing as I said to Dave,  "She's going to kill him."  (She didn't.)

A month later, I saw Marty in the lobby of the shiny new building, talking with Vicki Fenton by the elevators.  I said hello and brought up the 'Bugaloos' shoot.   He invited us both over to the set.

On the morning of March 1st, we watched them film some of "The Bugaloos" pilot on the stages where "The Office" was shot.  The set was a faithful throwback to vintage Krofft productions, complete with giant psychedelic mushrooms.  

Vicki Fenton of the set of "The Bugaloos". 

 We spent some time with Marty in his office.  I was amazed and inspired to see this very successful octogenarian still at it because he liked it.   On our way out, he opened a cabinet with DVDs of every one of his shows. 

"What your favorite show?"  He asked.   He signed two DVDs as parting gifts. Vicki and I were all smiles on the way out, having spent half a day with a childhood legend.  

I had hoped at some point to get to work for him, but that dream ended yesterday with his death at age 86. Rest in peace, and thank you, Mr Krofft.


With Marty in his office.

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