Live From New York Book Excerpt

HERBERT SCHLOSSER: I wanted to do the show live if possible, and I wanted to do it in New York City, because New York had lost all of its entertainment shows. Everything had moved to Burbank. Even Carson had moved to Burbank. Which left a void in 30 Rock. I originally thought it should be two hours and so forth. But the research department was very conservative. Nobody seemed to be enthusiastic at the meeting. Now I'd had an experience with the Tomorrow show, which I didn't want to repeat. I had wanted to put it on, and we went through the procedure as you should of having a financial analysis and a research analysis and so forth, but I never could get an answer from my own network people.

So I was talking to Julian Goodman, who was the chairman of NBC, about my frustration with my ideas for Saturday night, and he said to me, "You should just call Les Brown" - the reporter from Variety. "Have lunch with him and just tell him you're putting the show on." So I did. And it was in Variety a couple days later. Sure enough, the wheels started moving more rapidly.

DICK EBERSOL: I would go to the Chateau Marmont, where Lorne lived, and basically for nine or ten days, between going out to dinner and all this stuff, we worked out a loose thing of what this show is going to be. It's going to be a repertory company of seven, and a writing staff and fake commercials and all that.

BERNIE BRILLSTEIN: About this time, Lorne invited me to his birthday party - his thirtieth, I think - the only party ever held in the lobby of the Chateau Marmont, where they all used to stay. So the party supposedly starts at nine. I was the old man of the group, so I arrive at nine-thirty. And there's not a soul there. Not one. And finally Lorne comes down in slacks and pajama tops, just waking up or something. He said people would be there in a while. This is so Lorne. And about eleven o'clock, here's who walks in: Richard Pryor, Lily Tomlin, George Carlin - the entire underground of Hollywood comedy. And that's when I knew Lorne was a real somebody.

NEIL LEVY, Production Assistant: Lorne's a cousin of mine, and he had brought Paul Simon up to a cottage where I was staying. I didn't actually know who he really was. That's what an idiot I was. I asked him if he was from Simon and Garfunkel. He said, "Yeah, used to be." They had broken up four years earlier, I didn't even know. I did some magic tricks for Paul Simon. I think that impressed Lorne. After that he took me down on the dock and asked me if I wanted to be his assistant on this new show. Oh man, I think my bag was already packed. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I was nineteen when I first came on the show - the youngest person on the staff. I just watched the whole thing come together with all these famous people slowly gravitating toward the show. I slept on Lorne's couch for a couple of weeks, long before the show ever started, and one day I came in and Mick Jagger was sitting there - in Lorne's apartment, on the couch. I don't know how Lorne knew Mick Jagger, because at that point he wasn't even "Lorne Michaels." But people were drawn to him.

ROBERT KLEIN: Some time had passed between when I met Lorne and the formation of this show. Next thing I know, I was immediately sought out as the host. Lorne came down to see me with Chevy Chase, who'd been in Lemmings, and checked me out at the Bitter End on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. And I remember Lorne suggesting - he was no longer humble - that I should be more "vulnerable" in my act. He said this not directly to me, but through my manager, Jack Rollins. Anyway, it was definitely agreed that I had too big a reputation already to be, quote, "one of the kids," but that I should host the show.

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