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FROM THIS EPISODE

I Don't Want to See Your Toes

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

I went shopping last weekend for clothes. I don't know why. I don't need any clothes. I'm a writer, and therefore a creature of habit. Basically, I wear pretty much a version of what I've worn all my life. Jeans or khakis, loafers or sneakers, some kind of belt, some kind of shirt.

"What's great about this jacket," the guy at Barney's said to me, "is that you can wear it everywhere. To the office, out to dinner, to a cocktail party or some kind of art function."

That really sounded like an exciting life. Rushing to the office and then dashing out to a cocktail party, to a dinner engagement, to some kind of jacket-wearing affair.

Unfortunately, I'm a writer. Mostly, I walk the dog and I sit around. But that's not to say I'm a slob. Look, the problem with being a writer on a television show is that you have to work in close quarters with a lot of other writers, the kind of people who take the idea of dressing casual and just really run with it.

"I don't want to see your toes again, okay?" I once had to say, a couple of years ago, to a young writer on our staff. He had decided to wear some form of sandal -- you know the kind, with complicated Velcro straps and thick tire-tread soles to work, to the office, to the writers' room, where we all have to sit for hours on end to do rewrites and story conferences. In quarters like that, you don't want to be staring at someone's toes all day.

As hard as it is for some writers to accept, there's such a thing as too casual. Being stuck in a writers room all day is hard enough, but if you're stuck in there with some guy who insists on wearing shorts, and insists on putting his feet up on the desk, at which point his shorts, which were baggy to begin with, just drape down and, and, and reveal things is just not...right.

And it can get worse than that. I remember once, when I was a young writer in a writers room, halfway through the rewrite, the executive producer stood up, and headed to his private bathroom. Which was just a few steps away. Behind a single door. A thin door. A door that, shall we say, was deficient acoustically. For the next several moments the entire writing staff and our two writers assistants heard...noises, and etc. "I hope," a fellow writer said to me, "that I am never that relaxed at work."

Actors, of course, always look great. Their sloppiness is attractive and insouciant and dashing. They instinctively know when casual ends and homeless begins. You'd think writers would pick up on that, of course, but they don't. Writers, in television anyway, are nominally in charge. They're the executive producers and the show runners and the ultimate bosses of most television productions, but you wouldn't know it to watch them shuffle into work in a pair of sweatpants and inappropriate hip-hop sneakers and a free cast-and-crew gift t-shirt from a movie that was released ten years ago. I once witnessed a tense conversation about an important moment in a script between a writer wearing bright red Nikes, cargo shorts, and an Air Bud 7 sweatshirt and an actor in $800 jeans, a cool purple shirt, and impressive hair. Who do you think won that little exchange?

Dick Wolf, the ubiquitous and powerful producer of the Law & Order empire of shows, is famous for wearing a suit - and actual suit, with a tie and everything - pretty much every day. He looks more impressive, and more intelligent, and more in control, than anyone else in the television business. More than any actor, writer, or even network president. When he puts his feet up on the desk, nothing is revealed. When he explains something to an actor, it stays explained. Of course, he's a talented guy, but when you've got a gajillion shows on the air and you're dealing with network executives and studio buyouts and directors on location, a nice suit doesn't hurt.

I'll start with a jacket. You know, something I can wear to art openings and swank night clubs. I never know what to wear to those.

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll congratulate our friends. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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