Live From New York Book Excerpt

So we get to Burbank and we're taken to Johnny's office. He's there with his producer, Fred DeCordova, who's dressed like Mr. Hollywood, and there's Johnny in a dirty undershirt, sweat stains under each arm, gray slacks. It's maybe one-thirty in the afternoon. Johnny said very little at the meeting, he just wanted to know a few things about the show. Then Fred DeCordova started into this thing about separation. They were talking about guests. We said we didn't have guests, but they said yes you do, you have these hosts. So we worked out this thing that nobody could be booked on the show for a month before a Tonight Show appearance and we couldn't have them for a week or two weeks after. We were scared to death the whole time. So when we got out of there, we just went, "Whew."

TOM SCHILLER: The hip thing to do in those days was to go to the desert and eat hallucinogenic mushrooms. So we went to Joshua Tree and Lorne did the mushrooms. I don't think I really took them myself; it just seems like I did. He was talking a blue streak about this television show he was going to do; he would just never stop. I was really surprised that he could still take phone calls from New York at the pool after he had ingested those mushrooms. He never becomes noticeably different under any circumstances. You can't get through the glaze of brown eyes. You can't go behind them.

I didn't want to work in television; I wanted to be a great director, but I said yes to Lorne because I hated L.A. so much. When I first arrived in New York, I slept on the couch in Lorne's apartment. He would entertain people like Mick Jagger at the apartment, and Jagger would be sitting on the very couch that I was going to go to sleep on. I just couldn't wait for him to leave, because the second he got up, I would go to sleep.

HERBERT SCHLOSSER: No matter what anyone else tells you, the guy who created the show, and made it what it is, is Lorne Michaels.

LORNE MICHAELS: So much of what Saturday Night Live wanted to be, or I wanted it to be when it began, was cool. Which was something television wasn't, except in a retro way. Not that there weren't cool TV shows, but this was taking the sensibilities that were in music, stage, and the movies and bringing them to television.

Michaels continued his search for talent, listening to suggestions from network executives that he never for a moment considered, protected to some degree by Ebersol from direct interference. Some performers had to be pursued, others threw themselves at Michaels. He also relied on the many contacts he'd made as a performer and writer in Canada and on talent gleaned from improvisational groups like Chicago's and Toronto's Second City and the Groundlings in Los Angeles. If he had a fully conceived concept of the show in his head at this point, that's where he kept it, sharing it with almost no one.

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