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Friday, October 14, 2011


A few weeks after the Boxman delivered us from the land of endless horse-hooey with na’er a pony to be found, we were hunched over our IBM’s, putting the finishing touches on the very first Sten.

We were starting to think about lunch - pastrami on rye and a pitcher of beer at Kenny’s Deli across the street, or a couple of tacos and a pitcher of margaritas at the Mexican joint a couple of blocks down Wilshire?

Chris was humming "Wasting Away Again In Margaritaville" while he worked, so I guessed he’d be voting Mexican. The phone - as it so often does in these misadventures - rang.

Bunch picked up. "Anybody with good news or money?" he inquired. Then a huge smile broke out. "Hot damn," he said to me, "It’s the Lupo."

He punched the speaker button. "Hey, guys," came Frank’s gravelly voice. "What'cha doin'?"

"Finishing up the book," I said.

"No shit," said Frank. "That’s good news, guys. Congratulations."

A New York transplant to La-La land, Lupo was a boy genius who had churned out spec scripts while driving a cab to support his family. Before long, he became one of the town’s rising young producer stars. Besides being a good guy to know, he was a Good Guy, in our book.

"Listen, guys," Frank said, "I’m over at Magnum, now. Think you can squeeze in time for a script?"

"Damn straight," Chris said. Then realized - "Uh, Frank. Isn’t this Magnum thingie another Glen Larson special?"

Another chuckle from Frank. "You got it, Chris But this is a co-creation deal. Glen and a guy named Don Bellisario. After the pilot, Glen’s moved on to his other shows, so it'll just be Don, with me as his number two."

This was sounding better and better.

"Why don't'cha come in, see the pilot, then take a couple days to think up some stories," Frank suggested.

Done and done.

It was over the hill to see the pilot - which, to our surprise, wasn’t half bad, even with Larson sharing writing credit. We figured the good lines came from Bellisario. The series, set in Hawaii, starred a big, good-looking guy named Tom Selleck. Scuttlebutt was that he’d been offered the part of Indiana Jones in the upcoming Spielberg extravaganza, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. But Universal had forced him to turn it down because of his Magnum commitment. So the part went to Harrison Ford and acting history took a sharp turn for both men.

Heartened by the quality of the pilot, we worked hard for several days to come up with a half-a-dozen pitches. I was feeling pretty good about our choices, so the night before the big meet Kathryn (my wife and Chris’ sister) and I set out to show the town what’s what.

Cary Grant & Madam Wu
We dined at Madam Wu’s on Wilshire, the Place To Go for Chinese food in those days, and while polishing off my second rum punch dealie, we struck up a conversation with our waiter, recently arrived from The Great State Of Hawaii. As it turned out, that conversation saved my poi.

Meeting time: we’re ushered into the Magnum office to be greeted by Lupo and the bossman, one Don Bellisario. He had a short artsy-fartsy beard, a sour attitude and had been a producer on Battlestar Galactica, but we were prepared not to hold any of that against him.

He’d also been a Marine during peacetime, which he made much of - not the peacetime bit, but the Marine Corps business. Chris tried to warm him up using the brother in arms ploy, but it only seemed to make more Bellisario jealous, and less brotherly. I suppose it was because Chris had actually been in a shooting war and all Don had to brag about was his Good Conduct Medal - which he did, repeatedly. He also boasted about being such a rebel that when he was in the advertising game he used to defy his boss by throwing push pins into his office ceiling. I mean - Wow, man! What a macho dude!

In short - this was not going well.

We started our pitches. And bam, bam, bam, Don shot them down one by one for no particular reason that Chris and I could fathom. After he passed on the last one, I glanced over at Frank, who usually wore a poker face at meetings. He was frowning, looking up at Don now and again, then down at the floor. Frown deepening.

When we were done, Bellisario seemed a little shocked himself. What the hell, over? What did I just do? I saw him look over Frank, then cut his eyes away, embarrassed.

Before he could bring the meeting to an unprofitable end - for us - I cleared my throat. Don and Frank looked at me, expectant.

"There’s one other story," I said, "but we didn’t pitch it because it’s still kind of a work in progress."

"A work in progress?" Don repeated, his face lighting up in what I took to be relief.

"Yeah, we don’t have the story quite figured out, but it really has us intrigued, so we keep picking at it."

"Let’s hear it," Don said.

"Sure," I said. I could feel Chris’ eyes on me. What the fuck was his partner up to? The Magnum story bucket was empty. And there certainly was no freaking "Work In Progress."

Meanwhile, I was thinking as fast as I could, while bullshitting my heart out. Hawaii, Hawaii, Hawaii, I was thinking. What do I know about frigging Hawaii? Only been there twice and that was in my misspent CIA-brat youth.

"It’s like this," I said, "Uh... Magnum comes... comes... uh... home and finds… uh uh... A middle-aged woman waiting for him."

"An attractive middle-aged woman," Chris puts in, trying to goose up whatever it was I had in my tiny mind and giving me more time to think. "And wealthy. Rich as shit."

"Yeah, an attractive middle-aged woman," I say. "And really wealthy. A big potential fee for our boy. And she, and she... She says... 'You have to help me Magnum. Somebody’s trying to kill my Susie!'"

"That’s right," Chris says, "some son of a bitch is trying to kill her Susie." He gives me a look - who the fuck is Susie?

Don breaks in: "Why doesn’t she just go to the police?"

"Yeah, yeah," I say, "That’s what Magnum wants to know. 'Why don’t you go to the police?'"

"What does she say," Don inquired.

"Tell him, Allan," Chris says.

"Well, she says, 'I did go to the police. But they refused to help me.'"

Don leans forward. He’s getting into this. "How come?" he wants to know. "Why won’t they protect her daughter?"

At that very moment I figure out who Susie is. Sort of. In bits and pieces. Jogged into life by memories of my conversation with the Hawaiian waiter at Madam Wu’s the previous night.

"That’s what Magnum wants to know," I tell Don. "He says, 'Why would the police refuse to protect your daughter?' And the lady looks at him like he's off his coconut for not knowing and says, 'Susie’s not my daughter. She’s my... my... my Dog!'"

I sit back, catching my mental breath. Don is plopped back in his chair, a look of utter amazement on his face.

"Shit! It’s her dog!" He looks at Frank. "Susie’s her god-damned dog."

Frank grins. "What did I tell you about my guys?" he says with some pride.

Then Don turns serious again. "But, Allan, why the hell is somebody trying to kill her dog?"

Chris says, "Yeah, Al. Tell him. Why are they trying to kill Susie the dog?" He looks at Don, winking. "This is gonna be good," he says.

Drawing on my conversation with the waiter I tell them about Hawaii’s very strict laws regarding immigrant dogs. Like all islands, they are scared spitless that rabies might break out. So all incoming dogs have to spend six months at a government-licensed kennel before they can officially enter the state. Don nods knowingly while I talk - he’s familiar with all this. I go on and say that a lot of those kennels cater to rich people like the middle-aged rich lady seeking Magnum’s aid. Very posh Super secure. And so on.

"So that very day Magnum escorts the lady to the kennel to see the dog," I say. "He’s wondering if maybe it is a very rare breed. And that maybe the bad guys want to blackmail the lady into ponying up bucks to save the poor pooch."

Don smiles. "That’s interesting," he says. "Exactly what kind of dog is it?"

Now, I know bupkis from dogs, and I’m at a momentary loss. Then I remember the waiter at Madam Wu’s again. The bit about "poi" dogs.

"Well, that’s the thing," I say. "The damned dog is a mutt. A poi dog, as the Hawaiians put it. And the more that Magnum looks at him, the more worthless the dog seems. Man, this is one ugly dog. Really, really, ugly."

A Poi Dog
I pause, gathering my wits, and say, "In fact, that’s our working title for the story: The Ugliest Dog In Hawaii."

Don plops back in his chair, laughing. "Son of a bitch," he says. "The ugliest dog in Hawaii."

Then he’s all serious again. "So, what gives?" he wants to know. "Why is somebody trying to kill the ugliest dog in Hawaii?"

I shrug, "Beats the shit out me, Don," I say. "Pay us ten thousand dollars and we’ll figure it out."

Bellisario roars laughter. Even Frank allows a chuckle.

Then Bellisario stops laughing long enough to say the four magic words: "Who’s your agent, boys?"

The following night Kathryn and I went to Madam Wu’s again. We got the same waiter. I told him the story and we all laughed and when we were done we left him a very, very big tip.

POSTSCRIPT: After we turned the last draft of the script in Bellisario tried to add his name to the credits. Which would mean he'd get one third of the rerun money forever. Fortunately, the Writers Guild automatically arbitrates such things. And they ruled that the story was 100% ours.

We had nothing to do with the decision, or even know it was under consideration. A panel compared scripts and made a judgment.

Anyway, the day after the ruling Lupo calls us, laughing his head off. He says he just saw Bellisario running down the hallway, cursing a blue streak, and screaming, "Bunch and Cole will never work for me again!"

And we never did.



The MisAdventures began humbly enough - with about 2,000 readers. When it rose to over 50,000 (we're now knocking at the door of 110,000) I started listening to those of you who urged me to collect the stories into a book. Starting at the beginning, I went back and rewrote the essays, adding new detail and events as they came to mind. This book is the result of that effort. However, I'm mindful of the fact, Gentle Reader, that you also enjoy having these little offerings posted every Friday to put a smile on your face for the weekend. So I'll continue running them until it reaches the final Fade Out. Meanwhile, it would please the heart of this ink-stained wretch - as well as tickle whatever that hard black thing is in my banker's chest - if you bought the book. It will make a great gift, don't you think? And if you'd like a personally autographed copy you can get it directly through my (ahem) Merchant's Link at Click here. Buy the book and I will sign it and ship it to you. Break a leg!


Two new companion editions to the international best-selling Sten series. In the first, learn the Emperor's most closely held  cooking secrets. In the other, Sten unleashes his shaggy-dog joke cracking sidekick, Alex Kilgour. Both available as trade paperbacks or in all major e-book flavors. Click here to tickle your funny bone or sizzle your palate.    


Relive the fabulous four-day Stregg-laced celebration.  Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. New recipes from the Eternal Emperor's kitchen. Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever. Sten's thrill-packed exploits at the Emp's castle. How to make your own Stregg. And, did I mention, Alex Kilgour's Worst Joke Ever?


  1. Great story - love the working title for the script, especially since you came up with it on the spot.

  2. Thanks, Janice. You know how it is when you really need the darned job!

  3. Yeah, how dare writers expect full payment for their own work. Thanks to people such as you and Chris, many producers are now down to their last extra home.

  4. I know, I know, Steve. I lay awake nights worrying about all those deprived producers. Q: Know how many producers it takes to screw in a light bulb? A: What, are you kidding? Producers don't screw in light bulbs, they screw in hot tubs.