More About Bonny Dore
This afternoon, I attended the funeral of Bonny Dore, the lady I wrote about here a few days ago. The place was packed with her family and friends…and also my friends. I sat in front of Marty Krofft and near Judy Strangis for what was about as well-organized and comforting a memorial as any I've attended. Part of the reason for that was that Bonny, a producer right to the end, gave some explicit instructions to her wonderful husband Sandy on how the service was to be conducted. She even gave me the last of many writing assignments I got because of her. She told Sandy to call me the minute she died about writing the obituary that would be circulated. I was glad to do it for her and surprised that she didn't find a way to give me notes.
In that piece, a version of which you read here, I didn't tell you a lot about what Bonny meant to me because…well, if I've learned anything in writing as many obit pieces as I have, it's that no matter how involved you were with the person and how much impact they had on our life, it's not about you. So now I can tell you more about Bonny without fear that I'm crowding her out of her own obituary…
As I explained here, I met Bonny in 1978. My agent sent me out one day to meet this lady who was in charge of darn near everything at Krofft Entertainment. I interviewed for a job on a forthcoming Saturday morn series called The Krofft Superstar Hour. The program was to be hosted by an as-yet-unhired musical group and they were in talks with ABBA. That fell through — ABBA spoiled everything by wanting money — and we wound up with the Bay City Rollers.
The Rollers were awfully nice chaps but they were a lot better at making music than they were at standing in front of a camera and welcoming you to the show. The mood on the set was also not helped by the fact that the group was breaking up and certain members of it were threatening to sue other certain members. It all led to a lot of chaos and production problems and very long nights at the studio…and I could only marvel at how Bonny, who had the title of Producer, handled crisis after crisis, usually with a lot more cheer than I could ever have mustered.
Perhaps the first crisis on the show had nothing to do with the Rollers. They hadn't even arrived in America at the time the show's Head Writer went crazy. And I don't mean ha-ha, kind of eccentric crazy. I mean men came and took him gently away to a hospital.
The staff then consisted of this Head Writer and two other writers — myself and a funny Canadian gent named Lorne Frohman. I told Lorne I was going to be Buddy Sorrell and he had to be Sally Rogers. Then came the day when the Head Writer had his breakdown at the office. About an hour later, Bonny called me in and told me I was now Head Writer. Soon after, we filled out the crew with a funny non-Canadian gent named Rowby Goren. Rowby was at the funeral today, too.
I did a lot of other shows with Bonny but while we were doing that one, Bonny did another big favor for me. She got me into animation writing.
Previously, I had been writing live-action TV shows along with comic books. I was, in fact, running the Hanna-Barbera comic book department during much of the time I worked for Sid and Marty Krofft. I was hired for that post (I told how that happened here) and then, completely unconnected to that, Hanna-Barbera brought me in to write a live-action pilot for them.
At H-B, as I would soon learn, they went through cycles on the following topic: Can writers who write live-action TV shows and movies write animation? The answer, obvious to all, is that some can and some can't. For some reason though, there had to be an all-encompassing policy about this. One day, Joe Barbera and his agents and partners would decide that the way to better their shows and sell more of them was to employ prime-time writers who wrote for the top shows and performers. So they'd bring in a bunch of them and some of what they did would be fine and successful and some of it would crash and burn. This of course also happened with the shows penned by veteran cartoon writers.
At some point, Mr. B and his associates would decide that the problem was that live-action writers couldn't write cartoons and they had to get rid of them all. From my vantage point, the problem was that some of the live-action writers they hired weren't very good, just as some of the experienced cartoon writers they hired weren't very good. Still, the studio preferred to classify writers by their past employment. That's a problem sometimes in creative fields: What you've done before is all they'll let you do now.
I wanted to write cartoons and when I met with Joe on that live-action job, I let him know that. I told him I knew Hanna-Barbera's broadcast history better than anyone in the building…and that may have included him. I told him I was writing the comic books of The Flintstones and Yogi Bear and others, and that the Scooby Doo show on Saturday morning had even borrowed storylines from the Scooby Doo comic books I'd written. That all sounded to me like I was qualified at least for a tryout writing cartoons.
Alas, it was one of those "live-action writers can't write cartoons" periods at Hanna-Barbera. I'd come to the studio as a live-action writer with live-action credits and that's what I was to Joe Barbera.
One day sitting in the Krofft offices, I told Bonny about this odd problem I was having. "You want to write cartoons?" she asked. I said yes. She picked up the phone and called Joe Ruby, co-founder of the then-new animation studio, Ruby-Spears Enterprises. She and Joe (and Joe's partner Ken) were close personally…and also geographically. The Ruby-Spears Studio was a couple of blocks from the Krofft Entertainment building.
"Do you need a new writer?" she asked. Joe said that as a matter of fact, he did. They'd just been assigned an ABC Weekend Special to produce for guess-what-network and he was trying to figure out who could do the script. I don't believe Joe even read anything I'd written before I got the assignment. As I recall, Bonny told me to go over to his office right away, I walked five blocks and became an animation writer. That was how much Joe trusted Bonny's judgment.
The lady at ABC who'd taken over Bonny's old job there liked that script and others I subsequently wrote for Ruby-Spears so she told Joe Barbera to get me on some of his shows. The first time I had a meeting with him on one of them, he stared at me and said, "Why didn't you tell me you could write animation?" So as you can see, I owe a lot to Bonny. From the time I told her I couldn't get hired to write a cartoon to the moment when I was assigned the first of what now must be over 700 scripts was about 45 minutes.
Joe Ruby and Ken Spears were also at the funeral today because they owe her, too. So do a lot of other folks who were present and who owed their careers — or at least a giant step in them — to Bonny. The rabbi this afternoon was correct when he pointed out that in a business (i.e., show) sometimes known for arrogance and selfishness, Bonny was a too-rare exception. She was giving and caring and I don't know how the hell she was able to put up with some of that nonsense and still keep smiling and laughing but she did, all the time doing things that did not seem humanly possible. It's a shame when cancer claims anyone but it's really a shame to lose someone like that.