Gerald Fried was the first composer I ever interviewed, back in 1974. I had been a huge fan of his work on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and he gave me a wonderful half-hour. He went on to collect an Emmy for the landmark miniseries Roots and even greater fame for his iconic Star Trek battle music (and his silly stuff for Gilligan’s Island, which he later confessed to me generated his biggest royalty stream because it reruns constantly everywhere in the world). He was a highly articulate, very witty and super-talented composer who could write in any genre. Here is my obituary, with a detailed look at his career, for Variety.
Great fun last night interviewing English composer Daniel Pemberton after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the new Steve Jobs movie at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn theater in Hollywood. Pemberton was a delight, explaining (with lots of amusing asides) how each of the film’s three distinct acts demanded its own musical approach. He used vintage synthesizers for the 1984 segment, a classical/operatic style for the 1988 “revenge” segment set in the San Francisco Opera House, and a modern synth approach created with Apple technology in his studio for the final act, set in 1998. Pemberton, who is already well-known in the U.K., also wrote a fun score for this year’s Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.
On Saturday, I took part in “The Golden Anniversary Affair,” a celebration of the 1960s spy-series classic The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in Culver City, Calif. I moderated the afternoon music panel, featuring Lalo Schifrin and Gerald Fried (Robert Drasnin was unable to attend), and both produced and hosted a special, one-time-only evening concert of music composed for the series.
I chose 14 tunes (Jerry Goldsmith and Schifrin music from the first season, Fried and Drasnin from the second and third seasons), found most of the original charts from the 1964-66 recording sessions, and worked with six great L.A. jazz musicians in two rehearsals to get the music just right. Their rendition of Goldsmith’s romantic theme, “Meet Mr. Solo,” gave me chills, and their performance of Lalo’s Latin tunes like “Roulette Rhumba” were lively and colorful. Fried’s noirish “Lament for a Trapped Spy” and Drasnin’s cool-jazz number “Basic Black” were other highlights for me. It was an unforgettable night (the audience of 100 dyed-in-the-wool U.N.C.L.E. fans really loved it). My old friend Bob Short prodded me to do this and I’m so glad we did.
The 40-year odyssey to make a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie was the subject of this Variety story, for which I interviewed producer John Davis, original star Robert Vaughn, and Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E. consultant Robert Short. The print version (pictured here) featured lots of fun, colorful sidebar information that somehow didn’t translate well to the Variety website.
My first book was about TV themes, so it was a special honor for the Television Academy to invite me to participate in an evening celebrating that unique art form with some of its greatest practitioners. Earle Hagen (The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show) received a special award “for his pioneering work and enduring contributions,” and part of my job was interviewing Earle onstage, as well as longtime collaborators Mike Post and Steven Bochco about their work on shows like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. Vic Mizzy brought the house down with his amusing anecdotes about scoring The Addams Family and Green Acres. Here’s a story about the evening, and here’s a great BMI photo op with both Post and Hagen.
One of my favorite moments was when Robert Vaughn, introducing the spy-TV segment, was summoned to the podium by his old Man From U.N.C.L.E. pen communicator. Writer Arthur Greenwald, like me, was a great U.N.C.L.E. fan, and he supplied the prop; the audience loved the gag.