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Lit 101

‘Bombastic Bushkin’ Reveals the Man Behind The Tonight Show Curtain

There are so many great anecdotes in A Hard Act to Follow, attorney Henry Bushkin’s February 19 book about his deeply invested professional and personal relationships with Johnny Carson, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But from an LA perspective, here are a few stories to whet the appetite.

Bushkin recalls the night Carson first used the term “Bombastic Bushkin” in a monologue, right after Tonight Show writer Pat McCormick coined it during a Beverly Hills poker game. Although the talk show host made sure to double check that Bushkin would be OK with the gag, the attorney’s mother was aghast, calling within minutes of the joke being delivered on-air to ask her son if he was about to be canned. The next day, Carson insisted on calling mom personally to reassure that all was well.

Then there’s the first major business deal engineered in LA by Bushkin. Together with several other investors, Carson purchased independent Las Vegas area TV station KVVU (now a FOX affiliate) for $1,000,000. Some ten years later, Bushkin says the station was flipped for $25,000,000.

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Bestselling Unbroken Tale Inching Towards the Big Screen

For those of us  who have had the thrilling pleasure of reading Unbroken, author Laura Hillenbrand‘s epic follow-up to Seabiscuit, there is an unending appetite for more info about the book’s remarkable real-life protagonist Louis Zamperini. Today, that desire can be satiated thanks to Daily Breeze reporter Donna Littlejohn.

Torrance native Zamperini, who lives in the Hollywood Hills, celebrated his 96th birthday last weekend and on Tuesday was honored with the dedication of a hometown sign for an airport bearing his name. At the corner of PCH and a street also named after the World War II survivor and one-time Olympian.

The notion of making a movie about Zamperini’s incredible life story has been kicking around Hollywood for more than a half-century, with Tony Curtis initially envisioned for an adaptation of Zamperini’s 1956 autobiography and more recently Nicolas Cage. Now, thanks to Hillenbrand’s pedigree and barn-burning narrative, there’s a new and most unlikely star attached:

Angelina Jolie, who could not be reached for an interview, beat out several others vying for director rights and is said to be passionate about the project.

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Paul Haggis Crashes Church of Scientology’s New Year

In the media this week, there’s something going on in reaction to the release of Lawrence Wright‘s book about Scientology that also occurred last year when Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes divorced, and separately when a Vanity Fair cover story outlined that whole business with Nazanin Boniadi.

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Our good friend Tony Ortega sums it up this way:

For those of us who watch Scientology closely, and have for many years, most of the [Lawrence Wright book-related] articles that have popped up in recent days seem to be gasping over things that have been known or written about for many years…

We would argue that for much of the public, the word [about Scientology] was already out long before today’s publication of Wright’s book. (Look at the reaction, for example, when on Monday The Atlantic magazine ran a paid church advertorial at its website extolling the virtues of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Even though there was nothing really wrong with The Atlantic taking the church’s money for an ad, the public denunciation of the magazine was so swift and loud, The Atlantic caved and took it down.)

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NASA Media Consultant Takes a Wee Break in Scotland

In a delightful detour from the usual Daily Mail fare, the paper has published a long, lilting excerpt from Three Things You Need To Know  About Rockets, a memoir by former LA NASA media consultant Jessica Fox. The book is out now in the UK and will be available in the U.S. July 9.

The chapter is all about her wacky one-month sojourn in a remote part of Scotland. It started with a Google search (“used bookshop Scotland”) and quick email reply from Euan, owner of The Bookshop in Wigtown, who asked for more details about this strange west coast lady offering to work for free in return for room and board.

Fox moved to LA from Boston after a bad break-up and for a brief time, everything was hunky freeway dory:

I embraced the LA lifestyle. I joined a meditation group, I drank my weight in wheatgrass shots and had my chakras realigned.

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Tony Ortega Breaks Down Lawrence Wright Scientology Book Excerpts

The biggest thing from a media perspective about two excerpts published in The Hollywood Reporter from Lawrence Wright‘s upcoming Scientology book is that the author was able to get a familiar behind-the-scenes source to speak on the record. From Tony Ortega‘s blog:

The shorter excerpt is about John Travolta, told through his former [Church] personal assistant, Spanky Taylor. We guess it can be told now that Spanky has helped several of us reporters over the years — our relationship with her goes back over a decade — but Wright is the first to get her to speak on the record, ever. Maybe it was his Alabama charm.

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Ambitious Los Angeles Anthology Looking for a Few Great Writers

Heyday, a non-profit independent publisher based in Berkeley, is gathering together some highly original overviews of our fair city’s history.

Its 2013 book project The Los Angeles Atlas will combine twenty 2,000-to-4,000-word essays with an equal number of illustrative maps. Each contributing writer will be paid $3,000 and is to be selected by locally based editor Patricia Wakida with the help of an advisory committee of “leading Los Angeles writers, scholars and thinkers.” Per the Heyday call for entries:

Our project is deeply inspired by other books that explore and combine literature and landscape, including Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer by Peter Turchi, You Are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination by Katharine Harmon and most importantly, Rebecca Solnit‘s Infinite City, a haunting exploration of San Francisco.

We hope that The Los Angeles Atlas will inspire fresh perceptions of the metropolis, through the lenses of its myriad histories and cultures. In particular, we are interested in representations and perspectives of the city’s history and landscape that time and again, are overlooked or forgotten, in favor of narratives that emphasize LA as a place of glamour, power and their side effects.

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NBC Anchor Turned Mystery Writer Kelly Lange Plotting New Main Character

After three novels featuring fictional LA news anchor and crime solver Maxi Poole, author Kelly Lange tells The Valley Chronicle’s Jenna Hunt ahead of a book signing event this weekend in Hemet that she’s changing things up with her next book. The former NBC LA anchor says her sixth tome will feature a deceased designer trying to solve her murder from the vantage point of the after life. Shades of The Lovely Bones.

Hunt’s feature article provides a wonderful, breezy overview of how Lange successfully segued from conveying the real news to conjuring up some sensational mysteries of her own. Here is how it all began:

The budding writer in Lange grew when she started reading mysteries to relax between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. when her “crazy work hours,” left her feeling wired. She said she decided to start writing her own mysteries in the twilight hours from her Los Angeles home in the early 1990s.

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Best New Twitter Feed: Indie Romance Novel

Tweeting from “Echo Park Slope,” @IndieRomance is a literary spoof that is having fun with both trashy romance novels and the urban hipster. And we’re not ashamed to say, it made us swoon a little. Some highlights:

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Fictitious LA Journo Luc Actar Back for Another Adventure

The protagonist of Melissa M. Garcia’s Luc Actar book series is the product of what may seem like an inverted career progression. Given today’s Fourth Estate economics, it could make more sense for him to have segued from journalism to hot-wiring Hondas, not the other way around.

Be that as it may, Garcia’s second Actar e-book – Chasing Demons – is just out. This time around, a personal loss triggers the investigative narrative:

When detectives arrive to inform Luc of the death of his father, Luc is hesitant to get involved. But once he discovers a powerful leader in the mental health industry is pulling the strings in his father’s investigation, Luc is determined to tear him down. As he chases the demons of his past, Luc unknowingly steps right into the crosshairs of a killer determined to keep his own life from falling apart.

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Sideways Author Rex Pickett Takes His Creative Process to Chile

And he is inviting everyone to follow along via the website

Pickett is officially off this week from Santa Monica to Chile, where he will spend the next three-four months researching the third part of his Sideways trilogy. Even before departure, he’s blogged the first nugget of possible third-novel inspiration:

I did a corporate outing — my first — with a gaggle of guys and women from the adult beverage department of Walgreens (yes, Walgreens sells wine) — up to Sideways ground zero… The writer in me started to envision the opening of Sideways III (Chile). To wit: Miles has been reduced to corporate outings after the success of his novel and the movie that sprang from it. But he needs a change. Events will conspire to take him to Chile. That’s all I have right now.

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