I was having lunch a few months ago in Manhattan with a friend of mine. We were in a mid-town restaurant called Circo and I was there to visit friends and I've known this guy since college and he's now a pretty big deal in the foreign policy journalism world, and appears often on television as a talking head kind of pundit, so we got a good table and were treated well.
A few tables down was the president of a TV network on which I've had several shows. All cancelled. But no hard feelings. That's the business.
So after lunch, we get up to go and the network president sees me and waves and suddenly I feel important and I want to introduce my friend -- it was going to be a kind of two-fer, you know? The network president was going to see me as a person who moves in various circles -- entertainment, world affairs, you know -- and my college friend was going to see firsthand that although I had spent most of lunch complaining about my career, I was still a player.
So we walk over, I make the introductions. Small talk small talk small talk. Enjoy your comments on the show, says the network president to my college friend. Thank you, says my college friend.
And then the network president turns to me and says, "So, do you live here now?"
Meaning Manhattan. Meaning, not in Los Angeles. Meaning, what do you do now? Meaning, you've left the business, right?
"No no no no no," I said. "I'm still, you know, in LA."
Awkward pause. Nice meeting you. We're out the door.
On the street my friend turns to me and says, "Do a lot of TV writers live in New York?"
"Some," I say.
"Why are you using your high voice?"
"Does it bother you that the network president is clearly unaware that you're still in the business?"
"Rob, are you still in the business?"
"Well, I don't even know what that means. And neither do you. You're throwing terms around like ---in the business' that you don't really understand, and it's not something that, you have to, it's just, it's just...yes, I'm still in the business. But I think to see me here, in Manhattan, at lunch, probably just made it seem like I may have a home here, in addition to my home in Los Angeles. You know, two homes. Do you have two homes. That was the underlying question."
"I think the underlying question was, what do you do these days for money?"
"You know, for someone who wrote so emphatically that they were going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, you're making a lot of insinuations.. So just stick to your knitting, my friend. You just worry about yourself. I'm doing fine."
But the whole thing rattled me.
Until I remembered that a few years ago, when I had a show in contention for the fall season on that president's network, I was invited to buy a table -- for $15,000 -- at a charity dinner honoring that network president. And I didn't want to buy the table, but I also didn't want to not buy the table, see? So what I did was, I implied that I no longer lived in Los Angeles, that my base of operations was somewhere else, and so, obviously, I wouldn't be attending the dinner. But not because I'm cheap. Because I live somewhere else.
But I don't live somewhere else. I live here. And work here. And to make that clear, I'm going to probably have to spend $15,000. And, buy a certain friend of mine lunch.
That's it for this week. Next week, next week some bad news. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.