My first words on TV…

OfficerDonOnTVFebruary 13, 2014 – My first television work was broadcast in the summer of 1966, when I was all of eight years old. Thanks to The Dick Van Dyke Show and a creatively inspiring third grade teacher, Mrs. Roslyn Hartsell at Briarlake Elementary, I knew I wanted to be a writer even at that very tender age. If playing darts and telling jokes all day was a job―for which Rob, Buddy, and Sally actually got paid―I knew that was for me. I had been writing short stories at school (many of them typed on my father’s old Royal typewriter which I still own), and judging from the response I got from the adults around me, felt as if I’d finally found something I was relatively good at. So I wrote a  story called “How Orville the Green Dragon Turned Green” and sent it to Officer Don, host of the local afternoon kiddie show The Popeye Club. Within days of dropping it into the mail, I found myself suddenly begging my mom to shut off the Electrolux because Officer Don had just opened an envelope “from Mark Perry in Tucker.” As his eyes scanned the first few lines, a brief look of puzzlement flickered across his face before he smiled and said, “Oh, I see. It’s a story.” “About what?” asked Orville the Green Dragon, the convivial policeman’s sidekick hand puppet. “About you!” Officer Don replied. “Me? Well, by all means, let’s hear it!” So with my mother beside me in front of the flickering black and white image on the TV, I watched Officer Don read my entire two page story aloud. As my words came out of the television, I sat shivering and flushed with exhilaration. When it was over, and Officer Don segued into a round of The Ooey Gooey Game, I sat stunned in the aftermath of that life-altering experience, my mother telling me how proud she was. I had been bitten, and there would be no turning back.

In the ensuing years, I continued to write stories and scripts of all kinds, make 8mm monster movies, study film and television production at the University of Georgia, until a series of events brought me to Hollywood where I’ve since been fortunate (blessed, even) to achieve my goal of being a working television writer now celebrating my twenty-fifth year in the business. As a starstruck kid from Georgia with no contacts and zero business savvy, I nevertheless managed to fumble my way into representation by an agent, land my first freelance job that turned into a staff position, and have now written more hours of TV than I care to tabulate.

It’s a long story. Often amusing. Sometimes tragic. But never, ever dull. Next up, How I Got An Agent by Being Completely Ignorant of How to Get an Agent. Stay tuned…

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