Live From New York Book Excerpt

While all this was going on, Sandy Wernick at ICM, who had Lorne as a client, set up a meeting for us in L.A. I didn't know Lorne but discovered he had substantial credits in specials and that he'd been involved in Laugh-In. Lorne pitched an idea based on Kentucky Fried Theater. I decided right away that it wasn't for me. I just didn't really dig it. But Lorne and I hit it off. Meantime, I'm buying up a lot of talent.

Just after Christmas of 1974 I get a phone call from a managerlawyer in Atlanta, now dead, who says that he represents Richard Pryor and has convinced Richard that television is a disaster and whatever career he has, he'll never be able to do what he does well on over-the-air television. He could not be himself. So the deal was off. I came back right after the first of January and told Schlosser that Pryor was out. Some day subsequent to that he wrote me a memo and said, "Why don't you bring the show back to New York and even think about doing it in old Studio 8H?" So that part was his idea: "Use 8H." Then I got hold of Lorne, the closest contemporary to me I'd met in this whole process. He did not have an idea at this point. We goof now about the number of people who've talked about how "the idea" was "sold to NBC." No idea was sold to NBC. I adore Bernie Brillstein, but anything in his book about selling an idea, it never happened. Get the lie detectors out; ask Lorne. It's all bull----. What did happen was that Lorne just took my breath away in the way he talked about things, how he wanted to have the first television show to speak the language of the time. He wanted the show to be the first show in the history of television to talk - absent expletives - the same language being talked on college campuses and streets and everywhere else. And I was very taken with that, among other things. So I told NBC there were two people I wanted to do the show, which would be a live comedy show from New York: I wanted this guy Lorne Michaels to produce it, and I wanted a guy named Don Ohlmeyer to direct it.

BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: You know that at one point NBC suggested Rich Little as the host? I swear to God. We had a meeting with a guy named Larry White. He was head of NBC programming. And we went to see him with the first real pitch of Saturday Night Live ever. Lorne told him what he wanted to do, and Larry White said, "That's the worst idea I've ever heard in my life."

DICK EBERSOL: The night Lorne picked me up at the Beverly Hills Hotel to go see Kentucky Fried Theater - he never said a word about being married - there was this really, really gorgeous dish who got out of the front seat and into the backseat. So we all went to this play, and Lorne and I sat together and this girl sat next to me. And they had introduced her as "Sue Denim," because Rosie loved having these various names. And we finally got back to the Beverly Hills Hotel, and I'm thinking, "This girl is really a knockout and smart as hell, maybe I ought to ask her out." Because I wasn't anywhere near married in those days. And at some point, when we walked into the hotel to have a drink, it came out that she and Lorne were married, though they weren't living together at that time. But I know they pulled the wool over my eyes for at least three hours.

ROSIE SHUSTER: Dick thought that I was procured for his delight or something. There was a little fuzziness around my introduction.

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