From the Hill to Hollywood
August 01, 2004
"Can you hold?"
Doug McIntyre '79 apologizes for the interruption, but Monday is his only day in the office. He has to line up next week's guests for his talk show - "Red Eye Radio," an overnight program Monday through Friday on KABC 790 AM in Los Angeles - and tomorrow, he's going to pitch a new police drama series to Paramount.
"I get probably 7,000 calls on Mondays," he says, with only slight exaggeration. Who is Doug McIntyre? If you graduated around 1979, you know him as the guy from Long Island, student body president, an actor in countless theater productions and frequenter of Brother Mike's. Weren't on campus then? You still know him - through his work as a writer for "Mike Hammer, P.I.," "Married...With Children" or creator of the acclaimed PBS children's program "Liberty's Kids." Maybe you read his book, Cheap Advice, or caught him on one of his guest appearances on "The Dennis Miller Show:" or "Politically Incorrect."
It's all the same person: Doug McIntyre is a Stonehill graduate and the man from Great Neck, New York, who has made it in the ultra-competitive world of entertainment. How did he do it? The old-fashioned way: equal parts blind luck and plain old hard work.
In the Beginning
As McIntyre recalls, "becoming a comedy writer was always part of my plan. From a very early age, I had clarity about what I wanted to do."
Though McIntyre knew what he wanted to do, "there was no showbiz office where you could go and apply," he laments. He landed at Stonehill after a chance trip to campus and recalls he "was hooked the first time I drove down Rhododendron Drive." He took campus by storm, acting with Stonehill's Greasepaint Players and Stonehill Theater, working at WSHL, the College's radio station, and playing several intramural sports.
"I love Stonehill," McIntyre says of his years on the Hill. "I have a great, deep, eternal affection for the College."
Following his graduation, he was accepted at New York University's graduate theater program; but decided rather than study acting, he wanted to actually do it. He drove a cab and acted whenever and wherever he could. The lure of a steady paycheck, however, eventually lead him to employment with several advertising agencies in New York City and a short stint at a Cape Cod radio station. ("On a good day, you could hear it in the parking lot," he recalls of that gig.)
During the early ‘80s, McIntyre worked two full-time jobs - the ad agency by day, and, at night kept his hand in writing for stand-up comics and doing local live theater while he waited for his big break. "Everybody in the profession needs somebody to roll the dice for them," he explains. For McIntyre, that person was Jack Klugman, comic giant of "The Odd Couple" fame. As luck would have it, in 1985, McIntyre worked on the Canon Copier account while Klugman was the spokesperson. "I did industrial and promotional films for Canon and wrote Klugman's remarks for personal sales appearances," he explains.
The two developed a working relationship, and one day, in December 1985 Klugman mentioned he was working on a new comedy series, "Home to Roost." The enterprising McIntyre quickly worked up a script for an episode and gave it to the veteran showman to review. Klugman liked what he saw and told McIntyre he'd like to see more. That day, McIntyre quit his New York job and moved to California shortly after.
Though "Home to Roost" never materialized, McIntyre ended up working on 26 episodes of another Klugman sitcom, "You Again?" on NBC. "I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, the show lasted long enough for me to figure it out," he recalls. He managed to parlay that experience into 18 years of writing for sitcoms, which eventually progressed into working on movies, composing books and hosting his own radio talk show.
But McIntyre, who is married to actress Penny Peyser, isn't all about the glitz and glitter of Tinsel Town. He's also an accomplished amateur historian and a leading authority on the Wright Brothers and jazz music. "I like to read good history. You can't make it up," he points out. "Good history is inherently dramatic: you have virtue, vice, heroes and villains."
A cover story he penned for American History Illustrated magazine led to an invitation in 2000 to develop a children's program about the Revolutionary War for PBS. "Kevin O'Donnell from DIC entertainment got the idea for the series after travelling to Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., with his kids," says McIntyre. He inherited O'Donnell's pilot idea "Poor Richard's," and was challenged with developing a series that was appealing to kids, historically accurate and would make it by the censors at the buttoned-down Public Broadcasting Company.
"I didn't want to do a politically correct version of the Revolutionary War, and there is no more politically correct organism on the planet than the children's programming division of PBS," recalls McIntyre. "Originally, they didn't want to portray anything having to do with guns or slavery." Several times, the series ground to a halt over those issues. Luckily, for the thousands of five to 10-year-olds who are dedicated to the series, PBS acquiesced and in 2001, "Liberty's Kids" came to be.
"I wrote the bible for that show, the in-house document that lays out all the characters and the basic plot line as well as the pilot and the first 14 episodes," he notes. Because of his commitment to his overnight radio show and PBS' East Coast location, McIntyre had to give up writing for the series after its first year. "I would get home from the radio station at 6 a.m., and PBS needed me at my desk by 10," he explains. "I couldn't keep it up."
Even without an East Coast employer, McIntyre still maintains a grueling work schedule. He's at KABC-AM by 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday for his midnight to 5 a.m. show. Home by 6 a.m., he sleeps until 12:30 and then writes for the rest of the day. On Mondays, he goes to his office to make phone calls and schedule appointments.
"The hours are brutal, but I have no complaints. I'm basically getting paid to do my hobby," he says. "It's fun. There's no other way to explain this profession. There are no rules - no rule as to why one movie gets made and another one doesn't. There are 10,000 irrationalities. You can't do this under any other auspices than entertaining yourself.
In the end, it's the variety that appeals to McIntyre. "It's eclectic. There aren't two days that are the same. Some people may long for the stability and predictability of 9 to 5, but I'm not one of them. I'm just not built that way."
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