Tag Archives: Andrew Davie

“Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

Papio cynocephalus – Gelber Babuin, 1927

From our Spring 2018 issue, Andrew Davie‘s “Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” recounts the adventurous & litigious life of an unorthodox TV producer.

{ X }

JACK O’BRIEN, CREATOR OF SOME OF THE MOST PROVOCATIVE SHOWS ON TELEVISION from 1974-1983, died Friday. He was 87. The cause is reported to be complications from diabetes.

Born Hyman Lipshitz, O’Brien started out as a page for Warner Bros. He transitioned to the mailroom before becoming a staff writer and eventually a supervising producer for the hit show Knuckle Sandwich. Former middleweight champion Dwight Franklin played “Slip-Slap” Jenkins, a boxer who moonlights as a short order cook for an orphanage who uses his purse money to provide better meals for the children. (O’Brien later unsuccessfully sued the producers of Nacho Libre, but lost during Writer’s Guild Arbitration — see “Lipshitz v. Hess/Black&White Productions.”)  The show’s theme song “Slip-Slapping Away” broke the top ten on the charts in 1975. (O’Brien was successfully sued by Paul Simon, who claimed the theme song plagiarized “Slip Sliding Away.” O’Brien was unable to argue parody as a defense — see “Slip-Slap-Slide-Same; judge votes in favor of Simon.”)

O’Brien helped develop Marlboro Jones starring T.J. Burnell about a private investigator in an iron lung who solves crimes from his apartment. Former Oakland Raider John “Killer” Katoogan played Marlboro’s partner Dan “Slade” Anderson. A fundamental reworking of Nero Wolfe, Anderson would do field work and report back to Jones who would figure out the culprit while incapacitated from battling the effects of botulism. The episode entitled “Just the Tip of the Spear” would win O’Brien the coveted EGAG that year (an Emmy, Golden Globe, AVN award, and Grammy).

This was followed by a show O’Brien developed, The Shankbone Redemption, about an incarcerated Orthodox Jewish prisoner who must remain observant while trying to negotiate the pitfalls of prison life. A memorable episode involved everybody’s favorite inmate Moshe Horowitz digging a tunnel but being unable to use it until sundown. Another fan favorite included the episode where Moshe made kosher “Pruno” in his toilet. T-shirts with Moshe giving the throat slashing gesture and depicting the words “Give ‘em a Hebrew haircut” were a best-selling item in 1981.

A spinoff of Shankbone followed: A Spoonful of Pruno Makes the Heroin Go Down, a musical about the heroin trade in a maximum security prison. This generated the hit songs “Balloons & Mules,” “Cavity Searches (No Fun for Anyone),” and “ABC, Easy as GED.”

Toward the end of his career, O’Brien found a resurgence with a remake of the British show Spousal Privilege, about hitman Llewelyn Headstrong-Jones who tries to marry a witness who saw him carry out a murder.

In 1982, after suffering from exhaustion and a possible drug addiction – see “O’Brien and O’Caine; substantiated reports of Hollywood drug addiction” — O’Brien joined the French Foreign Legion under the nom de guerre “Ironbar Bassey.” He was later sued for defamation by Gary “Angry” Anderson who played said character in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, and for licensing rights by George Miller — see “Anderson/Kennedy Miller Productions v. Lipshitz.”

During this period, O’Brien participated in the Chadian-Libyan conflict for two years before disappearing into the Democratic Republic of Congo. There he released a memoir, Dread Medicine, in which he purported to carry out covert military operations for the CIA; he was later sued by Chuck Barris and settled out of court — see “Chuck Barris Enterprises v. Lipshitz.”  Continue reading “Prolific: The Obituary of Jack O’Brien” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

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“The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie

“The Monster Study” is Andrew Davie‘s nightmarish short story from our Spring 2017 issue.

{ 2014 }

DURING HIS TRIAL AT THE EXTRAORDINARY CHAMBERS in the Courts of Cambodia, Number 2 was asked how he could perpetrate such vile actions against fellow human beings? Silence followed as he stared blankly, a former party leader turned pariah.

The ceiling fans did little to cool the room, which had now housed the attendees for almost seven hours. Pressed shirts, which still reeked of moth balls and chemicals, now shone like they had been rubbed down with ham.

When he failed to respond, his crimes were repeated by one of the co-prosecutors. It took fifteen minutes to go through each particular count and subset. Spectators in the audience often had to leave the proceedings; their wailing could be heard just outside the room, piercing lamentations. One person fainted, and another became sick.

Number 2, as he was referred to during his leadership, looked somewhat annoyed now, a frail elderly man whose accused crimes took place nearly forty years prior. The co-prosecutor wiped sweat from her brow, and continued, stating these crimes had been corroborated by Numbers 3 and 4, whose testimony had been heard mere days before this particular trial started. She appealed to his vanity. She made bold declarations, systematically destroying everything he supposedly held dear: his patriotism, his leadership. She stated how his admission of guilt might save him from a death sentence. When she finished her remarks, she looked drained, aged, like she’d recently been paroled and released from the grips of a fever.

Throughout it all, he did not betray his inscrutable countenance.

{ 1981 }

Wes Craven sits at his desk staring at his typewriter. He is forty-four years old, and already the director of two films, which will become cult classics, noted for their graphic and sexual violence. However, he’s still mulling over what he regards as a failure with his first studio picture, Swamp Thing.

What makes matters worse, his friend and occasional collaborator, Sean Cunningham, has borne a successful series with his Friday the 13th films. Originally dubbed a failure, the third movie, now boasting a hockey mask-wearing villain, recently displaced Poltergeist as the number one movie at the box office.

Craven continues to stare. The ideas are not coming, and the frustration builds.

An avid birder, he grabs his binoculars and walks the winding path near his house out into the sunshine. The woman jogging by has no concept, no idea; this man is responsible for some of the most deplorable cinematic scenes released in the last few years. Their ignorance always pleases him; how he resembles some corn-fed Midwesterner but lurking right beneath the surface the capability for such atrocity. Flaubert once wrote, “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” This mantra epitomizes Wes Craven. Returning to his house, he goes out onto the porch with yesterday’s newspaper. He begins skipping around from byline to byline until something grabs his attention: Cambodian refugees who die in their sleep.

Craven’s heart beats a little faster.

He skims over technical jargon about cardiac arrhythmia, or Brugada Syndrome, as possible causes of death and reads an interview with an assistant medical examiner who had treated six who had died.

As Craven reads the examiner’s words, the idea begins to form in his mind.

There are no bullet wounds, no puncture or stab wounds, no signs of any trauma or foul play, the examiner says: “I’ve been searching through medical journals for the last few days, and the only thing I can tell you is those people were literally scared to death.”

Relatives of the deceased believe the deaths to be the work of Khmout Sukkhot, a demon of Asian folklore who kills you while you sleep. Continue reading “The Monster Study” – Fiction by Andrew Davie