Tour The Warehouse
From Pen To Paint
I studied art in college but never pursued it until I was well established as a professional scriptwriter in Hollywood. Several factors were responsible for my eventual move from pen to paint, most importantly a stack of eight-foot by ten-foot sheets of plywood found in the basement of a new house I bought. A week before I’d seen a large, expensive painting in a gallery, a bold color field of red and black. Hmm, I thought, these sheets of plywood were exactly the same size. A quick trip to the local art supply store and I had my first color field hanging over my bed, joined soon by eight-foot by ten-foot color fields in the living room and den. In time my artwork expanded into multi-dimensional sculptures made from junk I treasure-hunted in landfills and city dumps. I was delighted to see people enjoy my typewriters made from carriage bolts and ABS pipe, my seven-foot, found-object guitars oozing in reds, blues, and greens. My paintings moved from plywood to canvas, my color-fields from free-flowing drips to tightly controlled stripes.
Though I’d been creating art for thirty years I never had any desire to show my work publicly. After the ups and downs of a mind-bending writing career I’d had my fill of soliciting unsolicited criticism. The only people that saw my artwork were family members visiting our home, dinner guests, and washing-machine repairmen. Things changed when my wife Karyn finally put her foot down after ten years of marriage, “I’m showing your work and that’s that.” Within months my artwork was seen in The Leslie Jean Porter Gallery, the Rancho Mirage Tour of Artists Studios, a two-month solo exhibit at the Cathedral City Chamber of Commerce, a successful show at my workshop/gallery, and an exhibition at Smith Vargas Fine Art.
From Nothing to Pen
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. It was 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 legendary Ogilvy & Mather. I was now in the bosom 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. I hopped over to Young & Rubicam in New York, then back to Ogilvy where I was made 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 seven 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 Hollywood 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.
From Birth to Nothing
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, stickball, stoopball, diners, 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 told “Don’t expect anything from your son in the future.” For a while those words seemed prescient. My academic performance at Marietta College hit near bottom. 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. I left college with an abysmal transcript and a stack of newspaper articles I’d written for the school newspaper. Broke and jobless I scuffled from a run-down apartment off Needle Park to a transient hotel on Thirty-ninth Street to a burned-out tenement on Eighty-third. I don’t remember one person saying about me, “Now there’s a young man that’s going to go far.” Most said, “Now there’s a young man doomed to failure.” I was one of those people who launched a career with nothing but rocket fuel to prove them wrong.
Gary Kott Quick Look
Hollywood career: Writer/Supervising Producer of The Cosby Show during its five consecutive years of number one ratings. Writer of pilots, screenplays, and other TV shows including Fame, Remington Steele, Hotel, The White Shadow. Awards: Peabody Award, Writers Guild of America Award, NAACP Image Award, two Humanitas Prize nominations, one Emmy Award nomination. Previous career: Madison Avenue -- Vice President/Creative Director of Ogilvy & Mather -- copywriter, Young & Rubicam -- wrote and produced national television commercials and print ads. Playwright: Stage plays appeared at the Actors Studio in New York, the Grove Street Playhouse, and the Santa Monica Playhouse. Artwork: Original works of sculpture and paintings. Guest speaker: Museum of Broadcasting in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. Education: B.A. Marietta College -- Distinguished Alumnus Award.
I found a thirty-five-year-old can of film in a storage box and sent it to a digital transfer service -- the reel is all that remains of the many TV commercials I wrote and produced before I left for Hollywood -- luckily, the images survived though the colors didn't -- at one point I had a carton filled with television commercials I created -- but, alas, I lost that carton during a period of pure chaos and bedlam...
Deep down at the bottom of the storage box I found a bunch of print ads I wrote eons ago -- the first batch was a campaign for Arrow Shirts -- my partner was the talented art director John Lucci -- our goal was to make very inexpensive shirts look and sound rich and upscale -- we decided to forgo working with perfect-looking male models in lieu of regular guys with crooked noses and craggy skin -- click the images below for larger views..
At the time, fashion designer Halston was planning to introduce a men's shirt line -- they contacted the bosses at Young & Rubicam and requested the Arrow team to work up a spec campaign -- John Lucci and I picked a movie theme to introduce the shirts -- we decided to feature extreme close-ups of details in order to convey a sense of the highest quality -- I left Y&R soon after and headed to Hollywood -- I have no idea what happened to the campaign after I left, or if Halston ever went ahead and produced men's shirts...
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