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I grew up in Cranford, New Jersey -- exit 137 on the Garden State Parkway -- twenty-one miles from the Lincoln Tunnel and New York City. My youthful years offered no clues that I was headed for a life in the creative world. I spent no time whatsoever drawing, or writing, or dreaming up stories -- my days were devoted to mastering the lofty pursuits of a dedicated Jersey boy -- stick ball, stoop ball, dodge ball, diners, rock ‘n roll, disrupting class. I excelled in nothing at school save for one "good work" in Social Studies and, a few years earlier, Best Cowboy Outfit. My poor mother, elected to the Board of Education, was brought into the high school Principal’s office and advised, “Don’t expect anything from your son in the future.” For a while those words seemed prescient -- my academic performance at Marietta College hit abysmal lows. I was rarely seen in class -- visible instead at the local pool hall, various bars, and numerous campus protest demonstrations. Years later, when I was invited back to Marietta to receive the Distinguished Alumnus Award, I was informed by an administrator that as a student I'd been one of the colossal reprobates in the history of the school -- hopefully an attempt by the college official to make me feel special. It was in college that I met my future and former first wife. The union led to the birth of two fabulous children -- Crispin, phenom cyber-journalist and uber-Dad to Madeline, and Morgan, registered dietitian, photographer, and beautiful Harper's mom. Serendipitously, my four years in college led to an extended run of commercial writing triumphs. Several sports articles I wrote for the college newspaper led to the position of Sports Editor, which led to a part-time reporting job on the local daily newspaper, which led to a stack of published articles that I brought to New York City after graduation. Broke and jobless I scuffled from a run-down West Side apartment, a transient hotel on 39th, a burned-out tenement on 83rd -- flash forward through the magical powers of fate or dumb luck and there I was at my wonderful house in Southampton, my killer loft in downtown Manhattan, my ludicrously lavish home in the Hollywood Hills.
My first New York writing job was far from glamorous. For two years I wrote newspaper ads for J.J. Newberry Co, a dying five-and-dime department store chain, banging out countless blurbs for everything from men’s underwear to super-savings bed sheets -- thankless work that depressed the hell out of me but kept the kids in diapers. A friend told me that life was better in a big advertising agency -- on weekends I wrote speculative TV commercials, took photographs of friends and family acting out the various parts, pasted them into makeshift storyboards. Lo and behold I landed a copywriter job at the legendary Ogilvy & Mather. I was now in the realm of Princeton graduates wearing Brooks Brothers suits and Oxford shoes -- they stared at me in bewilderment with my long hair, leather jackets, crumpled blue jeans. It appears that I had a knack for writing television commercials -- I spent many a fun month at the Beverly Hills Hotel while shooting commercials for the likes of Nationwide Insurance, Yago Sant’Gria, Kentucky Fried Chicken. Promotions followed -- pay raises -- kudos -- a hop over to Young & Rubicam in New York -- then back to Ogilvy where I was anointed a very young Vice President/Creative Director. Soon my advertising career was over -- Hollywood knocked -- an indirect result of a novel I wrote in my spare time. Noose was signed by an important New York literary agent but never published -- thanks mainly to my lunkhead decision to accept an ill-fated movie offer that pre-empted publication. My fortuitous consolation prize was a script assignment for a new TV show called The White Shadow -- then another for a comedy called Angie, the dramas Fame, Remington Steele, Hotel, a few more comedies, pilots for NBC, ABC, and CBS, two studio movie scripts, and a stage play called Hard Laughs that ran for six months at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Most notably, a six-week try-out for The Cosby Show turned into a five-year endurance marathon during the show’s span of consecutive number one ratings -- I worked on 126 episodes, writing or co-writing 55 Cosby scripts -- even appearing twice in tiny roles. Hyphenated next to my Hollywood scriptwriting titles are various additional job descriptions -- Story Editor, Executive Story Consultant, Co-Producer, Producer, Creative Consultant, Supervising Producer, Executive Producer. On my shelves and walls are numerous accolades -- a Peabody Award, a Writers Guild of America Award, a People’s Choice Award, an NACCP Image Award, a pair of Humanitas nominations, and one Emmy Award nomination.
Anyone who’s read this far can tell that my latest project has been the development of a website, Gary Kott’s Creative Warehouse. My initial goal was simply to assemble under one roof the work I’ve done -- paintings, sculpture, stage plays, books, stories, and screenplays. I also hoped that the website would put me in touch with people from my past that I’d lost touch with -- both missions have been pleasantly accomplished. Along the way, I found myself adding new features to the website -- a book-length story called “The Last Free Man On Earth” -- it’s available on the Storynar page for free in an audio version, or at a nominal cost for the text. Also available on that page are three entertaining stories I wrote and recorded under the banner, “The J. Rockett Darling 19-Minute Mystery Series.” A speech I wrote and delivered to The Palm Springs Writers Guild is available for free under GK Talk -- along with a half-hour television interview I shared with legendary local talk-show host Gloria Greer -- she seemed intrigued that despite my work on hit TV shows and my collection of industry awards, I would give a talk titled, “Hits, Misses, Awards, And Flops -- Professional Writing, A Constant Lesson In Humility.” For bloggers, I have included a series of blogs I wrote covering many subjects including, “How I Saved $37,000 at a NYC Art Gallery.” Under the Blast From The Past Department I dug up an ancient reel of TV commercials that I wrote and produced during my days on Madison Avenue -- the reel had been sitting in a storage box for thirty-five years -- I sent it to a digital transfer service and uploaded the faded images to the website -- also in the storage box was a reel of me in my twenties giving a silly, humiliating presentation at Ogilvy & Mather -- if I had any pride I wouldn’t have uploaded the digital version, but who cares any more about pride. Oh. One more change to the website -- Karen and I are now married nine years, not eight.