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My First Time

Fired!

 Fired!

Fired!

Long before Donald Trump went looking for an apprentice, I've been asking many of the people I interview one simple question: tell me your favorite war story about being fired. Since many of my interview subjects work in the entertainment industry, this isn't a strange question. Even the most successful actor/writer/director has worked on a show that's been cancelled, had a play close out of town, been edited out of a movie before it's opened and so on. Besides, even the biggest hits eventually wind down. So one way or another, they've all been "fired," though not in the legal sense. Here are their stories. If you've got your own humiliating, funny, embarrassing, sad story about being fired, send it along to mgiltz@pipeline.com and maybe it will be included here. All emails become the sole property of Michael Giltz.

ERIC MCCORMACK – EMMY WINNING STAR OF ‘WILL & GRACE’

It was “The Jenny McCarthy Show.” I was the male lead, the romantic lead. Her boss. There were two guy sidekicks but it was me. We did the pilot and then I was in Toronto doing a TV movie when I got the call. It was about a month before I got married and I was paying for the reception. [How did you make do?] Canned goods, mostly.  Of course, as it turns out, thank god they fired me. Warren Littlefield appeared for a taping of ‘Will & Grace’ and he said, ‘Huh? Well? Didn’t we do you a favor?’ [very humbly] Thank you, sir, for firing me.

MARY MCCORMACK – ACTRESS “PRIVATE PARTS,” “ANGELS IN AMERICA”

Mine was a commercial. It was before I had any money. I’d never booked an ad and I was broke. I worked three restaurant jobs at the time. And I got a national Hertz commercial. I took everyone to dinner. It was like literally winning the lottery, because I would count quarters to go to lunch. And all of a sudden, you’re looking at $50,000. It’s a huge win. And for a day’s work. I was literally weeping with joy. The ad was fashioned after that old O.J. [Simpson] ad where he’s running through the airport. The next day O.J. [was embroiled in the double homicide of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman]. Hertz pulled the ad, pulled their advertising, and the whole campaign was never gonna happen. What are the odds of a double murder getting in the way of your career? I couldn’t believe it! Just my luck! No, he didn’t do it! He didn’t do it! I wasn’t actually supposed to run. I was a bridesmaid. It was pathetic. I was a pathetic tangential character in this ad. They pulled all advertising and were hiding for a year.

DONNIE WAHLBERG – ACTOR IN BOOMTOWN, NEW KID ON THE BLOCK

Make sure you get this right. I went in to audition for a film called Out On My Feet. It’s a boxing film about a guy who could have been a world champion but made a lot of mistakes. There’s one scene where he talks about all the mistakes he made and really opens up. He completely breaks down. I went in and did absolutely the greatest audition of my life. I smashed a chair on the floor and I really broke down. It took me ten minutes to stop crying. Then I found out the next day, my brother Mark was offered the role and he didn’t even audition for it. [laughs] There is a happy ending though. Mark dropped out and the movie never got made. The director got with some new producers and he told me he never forgot my audition and now he wants to make the movie with me. At that moment in time, though, it really hurt.

ROBIN LEACH – TV PERSONALITY

My war story is not a horror story. When I was 20 working on the Daily Mail, back in those days in ’62 we had a strange system of junior and senior pay scales. You were a junior until you were 28 and you were a senior when you were 29. I was already at 20 making as much money I could make for the next eight years. There was no way that I could get a pay increase. I asked my news editor if I could take a two year leave of absence, I flipped a coin – heads for America, tails for Australia. You know where it came up. I never went back. It’s not a gruesome story but it’s the story of how I came to the States and gave up on British journalism. The Mail was not Rupert’s thing.

JONATHAN PRINCE – CREATOR OF TV’S “AMERICAN DREAMS”

I’ve been fired a LOT. Aaron Sorkin told me at a party, ‘You know you’re having your most successful year when you’re being threatened to get fired and sued all the time.’ I was an actor on ‘Alice’ way back, with Linda Lavin. They brought me on in 1984 [what would be the last season] to do a year as Danny, a character who was going to run a gym next door to Vic Tayback’s restaurant. That show had been on for a number of years and the last thing those actresses wanted was another person on the show getting more lines. After about literally four days on the set in which people literally weren’t giving me the right feed lines and I was acting and people were not paying attention – I was getting ostracized. You know like in India – I was worse than the untouchables. I was an entire new caste of the unmentionables, the unapproachables, the avoidables. I walked into the producer’s office and said, ‘Look, your actors don’t want me around. It’s okay. It’s so miserable out there.’ The guy said what do you want to do? I said, ‘Maybe I should just do this one episode that I’m doing and then not do anymore.’ Then I called my agent and he said, ‘You idiot! You quit? You could have been fired! If you’re fired, they have to pay you.’ So my one story is that I should have waited to get fired. They just wanted to keep it mailing it in and making their dough.

JANE KACZMAREK – EMMY WINNING STAR OF ‘MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE’

CBS cancels drama “Hometown” -- We were doing “Hometown” and we knew it was getting bad. The order had come in – don’t buy any more wardrobe; craft service [the table of munchies laid out for the cast and crew] got worse and worse. You knew your days were numbered. Morale was going down. And the producers invited us into their offices for lunch, sandwich making. We were all going to make sandwiches and have our lunchtime together. I realized the producers knew the phone call was going to come and they wanted us all together when the phone call came. We’re making sandwiches and I’m putting on tons and tons of mayonnaise, which is what I love more than anything in the world. I love mayonnaise. I’m first up after lunch and the wardrobe people said, “Be careful, we don’t have a double for that shirt. Just be careful during lunch.” I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” So I take a big bite of the sandwich and mayonnaise falls all over this blouse – just ruins it. I’m thinking, “Oh my God.” Then the phone rings and it’s CBS saying, yes, they’ve pulled the plug. And my first reaction was, “Thank God they cancelled the show. Now they won’t yell at me about ruining this blouse.” It wasn’t for a couple hours before I thought, what am I talking about? Our show just got cancelled.

GAIL O’GRADY – EMMY WINNING STAR OF “AMERICAN DREAMS”

Tony Danza fired me from “Who’s the Boss.” It was early on [in my career] and I got the job and went to the table reading. I’d never been to a table reading before and didn’t know you bring the performance in. I thought it was just kind of a read-through. I guess I wasn’t funny at the table and he had me fired. It was absolutely devastating. Now, after ten years, every time I go to a table reading I think I’m going to be fired. And it’s Tony Danza’s fault. It’s left a mark and I’ve always thought, ‘I will get him one day.’ But seriously, I always, always think I’m going to be fired from a table reading. And it’s because of him. I had the role. We were rehearsing to put the show on. I’ve never told somebody that story.

BONNIE HUNT – STAR OF TV’S “LIFE WITH BONNIE”

I was washing hair in a beauty salon in Chicago during high school. I worked part time at Dairy Queen and part time at the hair salon. The ladies that would come into the hair salon would wait two weeks to have their hair washed because they would only have it washed when they had their hair done – the ladies with the blue rinse? So there would be two weeks of hair spray on the hair. I remember the lady had her head back in the sink and I was holding the hose on her hair, spraying her hair and it took like five minutes for it to finally penetrate the hair spray. So I decided I would go underneath her head to put full force [on it] to try and penetrate this. But I had created a hole, a tunnel from the top of the bouffant. So when I did it the spray came out full force and hit the owner who had been walking by right in the face. She started screaming at me in Greek to “Get out! Get out!” I ran out and I didn’t walk on that side of the street on Belmont Avenue for about three years because I was still afraid of her.

TV: I was doing “The Building” for CBS. Their line was, ‘Get rid of three of [the cast members].’ I said, ‘I can’t do that because I can’t see myself making that call.’ [Hunt always casts friends and acquaintances on her shows.] The executive said to me, and I quote, ‘I’ll call them for you.’ I said, ‘That’s really not the point.’ Oh, those are great moments. I didn’t make a mistake because the show was good the way it was. It needed to grow, it needed to find itself more. But the actors weren’t the problem. Really, how am I going to wake up in the morning and say, ‘The show’s been picked up and you guys aren’t coming! But don’t worry, I’ll pick you up when I get famous.’ It wasn’t a specific, ‘This person’s not good.’ It was just [CBS saying] ‘We have people on hold. They did. They had people on hold at the network they wanted to plug in because they were paying them a fortune [to be under contract exclusively to CBS]. When I sensed that, I thought it was time to back up the truck. It was painful but you have to succeed with your integrity because succeeding by somebody else’s standards is a horrible trap that happens in this business. There are a ton of ‘em. I’ve got friends living in Beverly Hills on other people’s standards.

SHAWNEE SMITH -- ACTRESS ON “BECKER”

Character cut from sitcom “The Tom Show” starring Tom Arnold” -- I was in Barneys buying a bathing suit to go to Hawaii for a vacation on the first day of Christmas hiatus. Tom [Arnold] calls me on my cell phone and says, 'Umm, they're not going to have Madison [her character] back after Christmas.’ They'd already cancelled the show and just wanted to save the salary, basically, because it was a sinking ship. They owed Tom Arnold so much money it was easier to do the last four shows instead of just canceling. And I was the easiest character to knock out. I was like, 'Okay, I guess I better put my bathing suit down and cancel the trip. Merry Christmas!' TV is hardcore. When you hit the jackpot, you hit it way above what any normal person should get. But you usually have so many strikeouts. Getting fired from "The Tom Show" is pretty hardcore. [laughing] [Her character just disappeared without a trace -- no explanation.]


Leaves small film early for another job -- It was like this really bad war movie I did.  Called “Dead Men Can't Dance” [1997]. I played Sergeant First Class Addie Cooper. I left in the middle of it and how they wrote me out was after this really big battle scene everybody ends up at the entrance of a foxhole and someone says, 'Where's Cooper?' And
someone else goes, "She died." [laughs] Where's Madison? She died.

MELISSA GEORGE OF “THIEVES”

“Roar” [summer series starring Heath Ledger] – That was the first thing Shaun Cassidy saw me in and he brought me over here and cast me in “Hollyweird,” which was Wes Craven’s pilot that also got picked up and then cancelled. I was in Tavern on the Green celebrating “Hollyweird.” I relocated from Sydney to America. I’m driving around and Shaun Cassidy calls me and says, “Sorry; I’m so sorry. It’s not going to happen.” I went, “This is too much.” I was in the Hollywood Hills looking for a place to live!

JAMES GARNER – STAR OF “THE ROCKFORD FILES”

Oddball western “Nichols” is cancelled – The network called one day and said, ‘You’re cancelled.’ It just broke my heart. It was getting great ratings. They didn’t have a show on the network the next year that had those kind of ratings. But they cancelled it. We’re dealing with network executives here. You might as well go to an insane asylum and deal with those people. You get more sense. Everybody has to have their hand in it and they’re not creative people. If they’d leave the creativity up to the writers and directors and producers and keep the execs out of it, they’d have a lot more successes.

[His character was shot at the end of the season] – I did that on purpose. If they’re going to cancel me; they’re going to shoot me and kill me. It was a wonderful show. It would have gotten better and better. And it was good. It was cancelled by General Motors. When they saw the pilot, one of the bigwig’s wives of Chevrolet said, ‘Well, that’s not “Maverick.” The next day they said, ‘We’ll sponsor half of it if you let us out of the other half.’ And the network went with it. So it was cancelled the first time they saw it. But they had a contract for 24 episodes so we did them.

VICTOR FRESCO – CREATOR “ANDY RICHTER CONTROLS THE UNIVERSE”

“Bagdad Café” was the second show I ever worked on. It wasn’t doing well and it was a difficult show. I was just a baby writer. But the higher level producers did not get along with the actors or the director and there was a lot of fighting. We came into work one day and it was in “Variety” that we’d been cancelled. We knew we weren’t looking good. But the exec producer called the network and said, “What’s the deal? This is in the trades.” They said, “No, it’s not true. We don’t know why they printed that or where they got that idea. It’s just not true.” So we all go back to work, work the day and then at four or five o’clock the network calls and says, “You’re cancelled.” So the reality was that we weren’t cancelled at that time when we called and then they said, “Well, it’s in the trades; I guess we should cancel it.”

MALCOLM JAMAL-WARNER – STAR OF “THE COSBY SHOW,” “JEREMIAH”

Sitcom “Here and Now” is cancelled – It was a really difficult experience for me because from the onset it did not have the support of the network. The network did not think that a show about an after-school center with kids was going to be funny. I had a lot of input on that show. Mr Cosby gave me a lot of leeway with that show. But it was just a show that the network did not support. When we shot the pilot, they came to the taping and the audience loved it but they still didn’t think the show was going to be funny. When they had pilot screening week, my show rated number two out of all of their pilots. For us, the big question was not where are they going to put the show but were they going to put the show at 8 o’clock on Thursdays or 8:30? So we were quite disappointed when they put the show on Saturday night at 8 o’clock. They had “Here and Now” and they had Patti LaBelle’s show. The show that had scored Number One of all the pilots – Rhythm & Blues – failed miserably and they cancelled it after three or four shows. So here we go. They cancelled the Number One show, here’s Number Two. Well, they put Patti LaBelle’s show on Thursday night and kept us on Saturday. So that was really hard. Their complaint was that we weren’t really getting ratings. It did not take a brain surgeon to realize that my audience is not going to be home at 8 o’clock on Saturday night watching television. So that was really hard when they finally…we kept asking to be put on another night and they said there was no other night to put us on. We were of course blaming the ratings on the timeslot and they kept saying, you know, that was not the case. Also, they kept preempting us. Then they decided – I guess to prove their point – they preempted us and ran a “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” in our timeslot. For that week, they did more promotion that “Fresh Prince” was going to be on Saturday at 8 o’clock in that one week than they had ever done for “Here and Now.” “Fresh Prince” aired and had ratings just as bad as ours. So here we go, thinking, alright, here we go, we won the battle. They’re going to put us in a different timeslot. They said there was no place else to put us. I specifically remember coming in to work and we were told that we were cancelled. We had to bring the cast and crew together and let them know they could pack their things and go home. I made the announcement. That hurt because we had been struggling the whole time with the ratings and just getting the show off the ground and getting the proper tone. That was a hard experience. I also took it very personal, not as a personal attack on me but the fact that this was Mr. Cosby’s brain child.  Here’s a man who basically single-handedly saved NBC and they were calling NBC the network of Bill Cosby and I just could not understand how after eight years and all of the wonderful things this man did for this network, how shitty they treated that show. That really burned me. I took that really hard. I might have taken it harder than Mr. C took it. I took it as a personal affront on Mr. Cosby.

DAMON WAYANS – STAR OF “MY WIFE AND KIDS”

“Sweet Surrender.” This was the first pilot I did and I was so insecure. I was just a comic. I didn’t know anything about acting or what to do when they said, “Hit your mark.” Come downstage? I didn’t know where to go. I got fired off of it and I was devastated because everybody told me how funny I was and they stroke you so much you think you’re the greatest thing since pudding. Then I got fired in the middle of the season but they sent me a check for the rest of the shows. I’ve worked at McDonald’s and when you got fired, you didn’t get no more money. I was so happy to get fired. I got $37,000 and I was just like, “This is…fire me! I want to get fired again!” In 1987.

Telling everyone – That’s the hardest part of it. People go, “Hey man, what’s happened?” And you’ve got to tell everybody. And television – everybody sees you. You’re like furniture. You come into people’s house and they see you and they’re happy for you and then when you’ve got to tell them it’s over, you’ve got to tell it not just once, you’ve got to tell it five million times.

MICHAEL CHIKLIS – EMMY WINNING STAR OF “THE SHIELD”

We were doing 22 shares on Saturday night at 10 [with “The Commish”]. Then they moved us to 9 o’clock on Thursday straight up against Seinfeld. We were like, “Why are you canceling our show?” Ted Harbert said, “Look if you do a 14 share against Seinfeld I will personally come up there and polish your shoes.” We did a 16 and we were cancelled. I should have Fed-Exed my shoes to them. We fully expected to get the call for another season. We did far better than any show before.

Daddio – I think the worst was Daddio. Garth Ancier put us on Thursday night at 8:30, the most coveted timeslot on NBC. Talk about riding high in April, shot down in May. “That’s Life” -- Francis Albert Sinatra, it’s the perfect song. We were on Thursday night at 8:30 and we held 95 percent of the audience. We got killed by the critics, largely it didn’t seem anybody had any problem with the work, it was just, how dare you put a family friendly show on Thursday night at 8:30. That seemed to be the common line. And they had problems with the fact that I was chunky and balding. They seemed to all mention that. But we were still a Top 5 show for five or six weeks in a row in the mid-season, the highest rated new comedy that year. The summer comes and I’m hearing grumblings that Garth and the other guys at NBC aren’t getting along. They don’t rerun during the summer; they don’t push it at all. And then they slide it into Monday night at 8, their WORST time slot. From their best time slot to their worst time slot. We got four runs, Garth Ancier gets fired and one hour later they call and say we’ve been pulled. We were the baby in the bathwater. We just got tossed. He brought us there and we got thrown out with him. By the way, it continues. Disney said, no, no, no, we’re going to continue shooting the shows because we’re going to get the show back from NBC and we’re going to put you on ABC. We keep shooting the shows while they negotiate with NBC. Then it became clear NBC wasn’t going to allow us to move because they were afraid it would work and bite them on the ass. So Disney in their infinite wisdom and great imagination, developed a show with the working title “The Dad.” This is now called “According to Jim,” with Belushi. There’s an irony. God love Jim, I’m so thrilled and I hope he has a ten year run in it and makes a ton of money. But everything happens for a reason. I would never be sitting talking to you about “The Shield” if that hadn’t happened and my whole life course would have gone in a different direction. I certainly would have been 30 pounds heavier.

LINDA THOMPSON – ACCLAIMED SINGER-SONGWRITER

I’ve never been fired. But [my son] Teddy has. I don’t know if you know Teddy, but he’s a miserable sod. He can be very up and everything, but he’s very… contained. He went to California when he was 18 to live and he got a job in one of those paint ceramic stores in Santa Monica. He started on Monday and on Wednesday, the guy said, ‘You’re fired.’ He was supposed to smile at people. So Teddy said, ‘Oh, do you want me to leave at the end of the week?’ No. ‘Do you want me to leave when the shop closes tonight?’ No. ‘Do you want me to leave NOW?’ Yes. So that was his firing story. I was only ever a waitress and a singer.

EDWARD HERRMANN – STAR OF “GILMORE GIRLS”

I was never fired from a show, thank God. But I was a temporary Kelly Girl one summer. I was fired from the Udilite Chemical Corporation in Detroit Michigan. I was in the traffic office, making up the labels. All of this stuff was lethal chemicals for chrome plating and things. The EPA would just scream today at the stuff that was going on at this factory. I was there doing preliminary work. There was an old fart that translated, decoded all the stuff out of his book and then wrote the labels and out they’d go. Well, he had a vacation and didn’t tell me anything about his codes, or his books and I was promoted to his…I started writing this crap and it was a complete fiasco. I was sending stuff to Denver and sending the wrong stuff to Atlanta. Finally, the supervisor came…the long walk across the floor and you could just tell, your world implodes. [squeaky voice] “I’m sorry…I didn’t.” {soothing, managerial voice] “No, no. It’s not your fault.” “I didn’t know…” “It’s alright.” “Is this going to be on my record?” “No, no, it’s not going to be on your record.” I was summarily kicked out. Then I was shunted over by Kelly to the GMC truck terminal to inventory truck parts at the old Packard plant on Connor Avenue. I liked that. My brother’s friend had a job there and he taught me right away to bag it. Do nothing.

The TV show “Beacon Hill” was cancelled – I felt badly, but I wasn’t a regular. We’d done the first couple of episodes and we were all very high. This was the return of quality television to the networks and to New York. Blah blah blah. And Fielder Cooke [sic] did the first couple episodes who had done live television and we did do shots like live television where you’d have to run from the one set to another and show up at the door and walk in. Nancy Marchand was an old hand at that live stuff. I went away to do something in California and came back for episode seven and people were just like zombies because there had been this palace revolution. One of the producers, who shall be nameless, a woman, decided to bring one of her friends on who was a soap writer. She got rid of the guy who had dreamed the whole thing up. The scripts went right into the dumper. They were tacky. We had two or three more episodes and then they pulled the plug. I felt badly but I wasn’t as committed as some of the regulars. There’s that eternal, stupid optimism of young actors. Oh something will turn up! There’s absolutely no reason that it should but sometimes if you’re dumb enough it does.

DEBRA MESSING – EMMY WINNING STAR OF ‘WILL & GRACE’

The only time was during “Will and Grace” [sic] which was my first television show. It was during my second season toward the end when we weren’t quite done yet. I believe someone came on and told us we would not be coming back. I remember feeling like, ‘That’s right; that’s how it should be. It felt like we had given it our best shot and that it had run its course and it was time to end.

Me – how long was it before you found out it would be coming back?

It would be? It wasn’t. We were on for two years and that was it.

Me – You mean Ned & Stacey? Because you said Will and Grace.

Did I? Oh I’m sorry. I’m exhausted. I’ve been up since the crack of dawn.

Luckily, I agreed with it. I agreed with that decision. If someone came in tomorrow and said Will & Grace was cancelled, I can’t even fathom what that would be like.

SCOTT PATTERON – ACTOR ON “GILMORE GIRLS,” EX-BASEBALL PLAYER

I guess baseball is the worst firing story. I had two boyhood idols growing up. Brooks Robinson and Sandy Koufax. We thought Sandy Koufax was godlike because he wouldn’t pitch on Yom Kippur and my mother always, always worshipped this guy. So 20 odd years later I ended up ending my career with the Dodgers and the person that befriended me and took me into his confidence and made it an easier transition for me into the non-baseball world, the real world, was Sandy Koufax. He became friend and a mentor. We talked every day and we talked about everything not having to do with baseball. We talked about life. He’s an extraordinary person, a really erudite human being. And he said, “Walk away from it. Have some guts. Go out there and get what you want.” And I did.

DAVID SUTCLIFFE – ACTOR ON “GILMORE GIRLS”

When I was doing “Cold Feet” for NBC, there’s a 1-800 hotline number that gives you the overnight ratings. Our show would air Friday night at ten o’clock and by six am Saturday morning those ratings were available. So I would always be up at six or seven in the morning dialing. [laughs] This is your livelihood and you know what the numbers need to be. The first Saturday we woke up and got the numbers and it was like, “Okay.” Then the second Saturday it got worse and then the third and fourth…there’s this odd experience of having to get up and listen to this automated voice say, “Cold Feet. Six point one. Eleven.” It sounds silly on one level to be a slave to numbers but it was my job and I was making a lot of money and those numbers were going to determine whether that was going to continue or not. I was on my way to go back to Vancouver to the set when I got the call that the show was cancelled. That plane ride back where I thought I was going back to continue to work on the show turned out to be this plane ride to go back to Vancouver to pack up my stuff. And that was a pretty harsh journey. That was not fun.

TONY SHALHOUB – EMMY WINNING STAR OF “MONK”

The first film I ever did I was completely cut out of it. That was devastating because I had told everyone in the world about it. It was Heartburn with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Mike Nichols directed it. I had scenes with her. I think I did the movie in the summer or fall and it was supposed to come out the next summer. In April I was doing a play and I got a card from Mike Nichols, a very sweet card saying, ‘I’m sorry, your work was fine but everything had to go.’ [laughs] By this time I’d told everyone on the planet. So it was devastating. If you look real close you can see my just eyes and forehead on a scene in a plane. He had the decency and kindness to let me know.

DOMINIC PURCELL – STAR OF TV’S “JOHN DOE”

When I left school, I did laboring as a bricklayer. I was terrible at that. I was mixing the cement and I couldn’t do it. I was making a retaining wall and the next day the whole thing had collapsed. My boss came around and I said, ‘I don’t know. I mixed the cement. I must have put baking flour in it or something.’ So I was fired.

Mission Impossible II – I suppose the biggest shock for me was one, being cast in Mission: Impossible II and being told hey, you’re a leading bad guy with Tom Cruise. Then I spent the next eight months in my trailer, head-butting the wall because I was more or less cut out of it and the whole thing had changed dramatically. I suppose that’s my Kevin Costner story. Eight months in my trailer. It did my head in. I was busting to act, busting to do something. Especially because I was cast in this major Hollywood movie. This is it! This is it! This is the one! I told everybody. I’m in Tom Cruise’s new movie. I’m in MIII. And I get to the premiere and I’m fucking not in it. I swear to God the extras got more air time than I did. You see me with this ridiculous big, dyed, black poofie hairstyle in the plane at the very beginning and you see me every now and then poking my head out of car doors and doing the most I can with my eyebrows and my eyes. What, I’m on camera? Milk it, baby, milk it! By the end of that, I had my tail well and true between my legs.

LEEZA GIBBONS – TV PERSONALITY

"The Leeza show" was cancelled. Is that fired? I never thought of it that way. Then I have been fired. It was like they gave me a year’s notice. We’d been protected on NBC for a  long time. Then Paramount wanted to syndicate the show – you know, greedy. I didn’t want to change our format to up our sizzle factor. So they told me ‘Then you’re probably not going to make it.’ I said, ‘Well, we’ll see.’ So a year later, we didn’t make it. But it was a lovely way to be fired because it was with a lot of heartfelt notes and flowers and hugs and nothing really nasty. [how did you find out?] I don’t really remember. I was so ready for it that by the time we had the official face to face conversation, I’d really already started packing up my dressing room. [telling the staff] It was very, very difficult. We had become so close over seven years. And we had this core group of people that was so dedicated. Most of us are still in touch with each other. I know movie people say it a lot, but we had that same kind of connection with each other. We gathered everybody together on the stage and we cried and I read a letter I had written to them expressing my gratitude. We had a big going away party. After that, when we knew we’d been cancelled, most of the shows we did were things I just wanted to do. We did Alzheimer’s shows and breast cancer shows and every other thing that didn’t rate. And we raised money for causes. So we had a few weeks of do-gooder TV and that was a really great way to go out.

PETER GALLAGHER – STAR OF “THE OC” AND “GUYS AND DOLLS”

It was the play “Another Country.” That was such a great experience. That was the American premiere of ‘Another Country.’ And that’s the first time I got notices that gave me real, real hope of having the kind of career I would want. We were scheduled to be transferred to Broadway, to New York. We had one investor who at the last moment when it was too late to change anything, got cold feet and pulled the plug and wouldn’t transfer. It was just heartbreaking because it was certainly the greatest part I’d ever had. And it was a really good production. But it gave me six weeks off before my next Broadway gig, “The Corn is Green” and I got married. I took my bride to Wales and into coal mines so I could learn the dialect while on my honeymoon. My father’s father worked in the coal mine and my father lived in the mines when he was a kid. I’m so impressed my wife didn’t leave me immediately. Finally she said, ‘Could you please take me to the Savoy?’ [weepy] I said, [sharply] ‘What’s the matter with you? These are Welsh people! They speak Welsh! What could be better?’ We literally went down to the middle of the earth with sulfurous winds blasting up form the bowels of the earth. It was amazing actually.

JOHN TARTAGLIA – STAR OF BROADWAY MUSICAL “AVENUE Q”

I was temping when I first moved to the city. [NYC] There’s a reason why people in [the theater] don’t work in other businesses. I was temping in an office. I think it was an advertising company and I was doing the front desk. The guy said, ‘I’ll call you when it’s time for you to go to lunch.’ But he didn’t give me his extension so I had no way of reaching him. I got there at nine and it was like 1. So I said okay, I’ll wait another half hour. 1:30 I hadn’t heard anything. 2 o’clock, I still hadn’t heard anything. Finally, I said forget this, I’m eating. I don’t care. It’s not worth me starving. I went to get a bite to eat by myself. I came back and there’s another temp sitting at the desk and she wouldn’t even look at me. ‘Um, Mr. Whatever his name is wants to talk to you’ and she gave me his extension. Okay, everything’s fine. I called him and he said, ‘What were you thinking?’ and started screaming at me. I didn’t know what to do. Me being an idiot, I said, ‘Well, I was supposed to come in for work tomorrow. Do you still want me to come in?’ He said, ‘I don’t think that will be necessary.’ I called my temp agency and told them the story and I never heard from them again either. I wasn’t verbally fired but I was essentially fired because they never called me again.

RICHARD GREENBERG – TONY-WINNING PLAYWRIGHT OF “TAKE ME OUT”

I would quit before I got fired. I quit a lot but I never got fired. I was at one job, one of those temporary things where we did market research, telephone interviews. They were laying off a lot of people. A bunch of us Ivy League kids were in it to pass the time so we could say we had jobs. Then there were people whose livelihood this was. Some of these people clearly weren’t going to find it easy to get other jobs. They laid off all the people who needed the job and kept those of us who were kind of hoping to get laid off. We were kept. It wasn’t based on seniority. That was hideous, really horrifying. Not only did I not get fired as I hoped to, but there were these people who needed these jobs being laid off. [good at your job?] No! The people who were laid off were MUCH better than we were. There was one form, a 14, which was the hardest one because you had to go forward and back and whenever I got a 14 I would just hide it. I would put it under the pile and take a break. I’d wait for more forms to come. I just wouldn’t even do it.

STEVE LANDESBERG – EMMY WINNING STAR ON “BARNEY MILLER”

They have a board every week that shows you the overnights and “Conrad Bloom” wasn’t doing well from the very beginning. You get a lot of these young writers who say, “Well, the network told us the demographics are good.” I said, “No, no. Look at this. They’re lying to you.” You know it’s a numbers game. “Conrad” was doomed. We were opposite “Monday Night Football” and got killed but also we just never got good numbers. “Conrad” was a phone call I guess. When it’s over, it’s over. That was no big surprise.

BARBARA GAINES – EMMY WINNING EXEC PROD OF “DAVID LETTERMAN”

M: I forget. As soon as it ended, I think they were saying they would do something more with Letterman. Were there a few weeks or a few months where you thought it had ended? That you’d done this great, strange little thing and it was over?
B: I think we thought…obviously they kept Dave on contract so we thought there might be something else. Maybe Dave knew at that time he was going to be back. But I don’t think we…I didn’t know I was going to be back. As far as I knew then, I was out of work. The show was losing affiliates. One day they said, ‘You’re cancelled’ and we still did a month of shows. But we did terrific shows, I thought. After the morning show I worked on “One of The Boys” with Mickey Rooney, Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane and we did 13 of those and I think maybe six aired.
M: Did you know it was cancelled?
B: No, it was a midseason replacement and we just kept cranking them out. We didn’t know what would happen.
M: So wow. It ended and you thought it was over. Did they call everybody into a room?
B: We used to always hear that when your show gets cancelled, the cleaning man finds out before you do. They’ll be like, ‘Oh, I hear someone else is moving in.’ You’re like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ [laughs] I think Dave…this was 20 years ago….I think he came around and said, ‘Hey everybody, it’s over.’ We knew we were in trouble—
M: From the get-go.
B: For a while. And I remember we all got together and took a staff picture giving the finger.

M: What’d you do with it? Just everybody got a copy?
B: We gave it to ourselves.
M: You didn’t commit career suicide—
B: No.
M: And send it to…Tinker?
B: At the time, it was uh, Tartikoff. No I think you’re right. It was Tartikoff and Tinker. And Fred Silverman.
M: He was still there?
B: Yeah, he was the one who brought Letterman over. So maybe Tartikoff and Tinker weren’t the ones. It was Silverman. I have all this stuff in storage.
M: That would have cut you off from “Matlock” if you’d dissed Silverman.
B: [laughs]
M: That must be so hard to be on a show that you know is good.
B: We’d cut it from 90 to 60 and got rid of Mrs. Marv, the Tempe Sisters [sic] and Paul Railey, Private Eye [sic] and we’d really got some of the kinks out. It was a real talk show. We got it to almost where it was at night. And then to be cancelled when we were finally getting there. But at that time, people wanted to watch game shows. Now we’re back at that. It’s all cyclical. [David Letterman began with a morning show that aired for 90 minutes and got great reviews but was cancelled by NBC, which later brought him back in a late-night slot after “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”] Obviously they kept Dave on contract so we thought there might be something else. Maybe Dave knew at that time he was going to be back. But I don’t think we…I didn’t know I was going to be back. As far as I knew then, I was out of work. The [morning] show was losing affiliates. One day they said, ‘You’re cancelled’ and we still did a month of shows. But we did terrific shows, I thought. After the morning show I worked on “One of The Boys” with Mickey Rooney, Dana Carvey and Nathan Lane and we did 13 of those and I think maybe six aired. We used to always hear that when your show gets cancelled, the cleaning man finds out before you do. They’ll be like, ‘Oh, I hear someone else is moving in.’ You’re like, ‘What? What are you talking about?’ [laughs] I think Dave…this was 20 years ago….I think he came around and said, ‘Hey everybody, it’s over.’ We knew we were in trouble for a while. And I remember we all got together and took a staff picture giving the finger.

PETER FACINELLI – STAR OF TV’S “FASTLANE”

I was cut out of that Barbra Streisand movie, “The Mirror Has Two Faces.” I had two scenes with Barbra Streisand – just me and her. I was very proud of that. I was a teaching assistant who hits on her. We had two really nice scenes and it was wonderful to work with her. It was a real scene. It got cut out for time issues. I never got it and I always wanted to see it. I found out when the movie hit the theaters. I still get checks for it once in a while. I get like a $2 check. It was after class and I go up to her and kind of ask her on a date. It’s after she goes through her transformation from the ugly duckling to the beautiful swan.

MARLA SOKOROFF – ACTRESS ON “THE PRACTICE”

Sitcom "Over The Top" is cancelled -- That show was SO FUNNY. We had one more episode and even after we knew it was cancelled, we still had to shoot it. All of us sucked because we knew no one was going to see it. It was a horrible week.  I was traumatized. I'd FINALLY gotten a series. And not only that, it starred Tim Curry and Annie Potts -- two of the nicest people I have ever met in my life.