My Smothers Brothers anecdote

I read, recently, that the Smothers Brothers may be the subject of a biographical film, produced by (among others) George Clooney.

Tom and Dick Smothers were a comic folk-singing duo who had worked their way from the coffee house and college circuit to a nationally-televised television show. I was a big fan, from the days of their first album. Here’s their version of a Lonnie Donegan hit; please come back when you’ve finished:

When the TV show began airing, I was still living at home, up the California coast, and driving to L.A. once a week or so, looking for work. Mostly, I was answering classified ads in the Los Angeles Times, posted by employment agencies who’d send applicants (well, me at least) to finance companies, looking for someone to loan money at usurious rates to people who…needed money and couldn’t land a bank loan. Evidently, there was a fairly substantial turnover in those jobs.

“But,” I would explain to the employment agency guy (always a guy), “This isn’t what I want to do — I want to work in the entertainment industry.”

“That’s all right,” they’d reply. “This job [at the loan company] will keep you afloat while we find what you really want.” In other words, they were sending out applicants who they knew didn’t want the job, and would leave it at the earliest opportunity. And. of course, picking up their commissions. Nice.

Finally, out of desperation as much as anything else, I asked myself, what do I really want to do? The answer: work for the Smothers Brothers (hell, if they thought Bob Einstein was funny, I’d be a shoo-in).

Somehow I got a number, which I called from a phone booth in Westwood. Whomever I got (Denny Shanahan, probably, who was their in-house publicist) was polite, though discouraging.

Years passed, and I got my first job in the music biz rather than TV. Many years later, as a reporter, I dealt with Shanahan, then working as publicist at Knott’s Berry Farm. Years after that, I worked briefly as a publicist for Ken Kragen*, who’d been the Smothers’ co-manager (with Ken Fritz) back when I made that call from Westwood.

Funny ol’ world.

Now, I wonder who’ll play me in the movie.

* main client at the time: Kenny Rogers. Also Dottie West, Gallagher, and a couple more. A story for another time.


One comment on “My Smothers Brothers anecdote

  1. Will Yaryan says:

    Jack Black, of course.

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