Category Archives: TV Writers

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Not My Kids

by Harry Dunn

The agony and the ecstasy of one man’s experience working in the TV writing biz. 1,449 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


There are many dreaded words a father can hear from their child. “Dad, I wrecked the car.” “Dad, I’m in a Tijuana jail.” 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3“Dad, the pee stick has a plus sign.”

But none of those words could ever compare to the sheer horror of hearing a child of mine say, “Dad, I want to work in showbiz.”

Perhaps I should elaborate…

I am a husband and father of three kids. My career has been spent bouncing back and forth between life as a writer and life producing promos for a TV network. It’s been an occasionally pleasant but also frequently demoralizing. The highs are way too high and the lows are way too low. It’s career crack. Addicting, unhealthy and way too much suffering has to incur before receiving those rare tastes of joy. All those years of stories that started out with, "There’s a producer who seems to like my script…” “A big agent is going to read my script this weekend, I hope…” “The producer said if I give him a free option, he’ll try to sell it…" and then inevitably end with, "I haven’t heard back from him/her yet."

This is a profession I’ve regretted pursuing for a lot of years. And a profession I have adamantly tried to steer my children away from pursuing. You want your children to be both successful and happy, not just getting by and miserable. So I tell them my war stories to make it easy for them to reach their own conclusions.

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Staffing Season 02

Staffing Season

by Adam Scott Weissman

A showrunner’s fired assistant looks for a new job as a writer. Good luck with that. 3,027 words. Illustrations by John Donald Carlucci.

Caleb was glad when the show was canceled. He felt guilty about his schadenfreude for about five minutes. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Now he wouldn’t have to make up a lie about why he wasn’t returning or, worse, tell the truth: that he “hadn’t been invited back,” which was code for being fired.

He had done his best to make amends for his wrap party meltdown – going off on his boss for sleeping with a young female staff writer and not promoting Caleb, dissing the TV community’s push for diversity which meant young white wannabes like himself had a tougher time getting hired. After a few weeks, he’d asked the showrunner Bryan to lunch so they could bury the hatchet. Bryan downgraded the lunch to coffee.

Caleb had worked for Bryan for four years, and that hopefully counted for something now. The showrunner came through. He gave Caleb a signed letter of recommendation and a business card with the number of an agent at CAA. “I sent your writing samples to Terri at the agency. She used to be my agent Bob’s assistant. She just got promoted and she’s hungry for clients. I told her to make you a priority read. And she will. Lord knows I’ve made that company enough money.”

It was a whole lot more than most showrunners in town would have done for an ex-assistant, and Caleb felt pretty grateful.

Caleb didn’t even wait until he got home to call Terri. He texted her from his car. Surprisingly, he got an immediate reply: Will call in 45.

That was at 11 a.m. For the rest of the day, Caleb’s heart skipped a beat every time his cell vibrated.

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A Teaser For The TV Industry

by Jay Abramowitz

A one-time TV comedy writer must clean up classrooms as well as his career. 1,249 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Decades ago, I made an impressive living as a writer and producer of network sitcoms, shows such as Full House 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3and Growing Pains, that were aimed at a kid audience. They were frothy, bouncy entertainments that portrayed family life in the late twentieth century United States through decidedly rose-colored glasses. But even then I had a darker vision of America, one that acknowledges life’s limitless complexities, that embraces the tragic elements of existence as well as the comic. So the original half-hour series I pitched were directed at adults – a Vietnam War comedy, a lesbian laugher, etc.

And because I was pigeonholed as a “children’s sitcom writer,” I was unable to sell any of those ideas. Upon leaving more than one executive’s office, I was certain I could hear, through the slammed door, unrestrained derisive laughter.

In my eighteen years as an elementary school janitor I’ve had abundant opportunity to contemplate my comedy life. So much time squandered on bitterness at an industry I deeply felt had wronged me! But recently, other setbacks – a second divorce, the refusal of my beloved daughter Isabel to answer my phone calls, a minor concussion from a fall in the second-floor girls’ bathroom – have motivated me to take responsibility for my life, to look inward, to ruminate on what choices I might have made to avoid my current professional circumstances.

Pondering my situation yesterday morning while plunging a clogged toilet in that same bathroom, I recalled a quotation from William James: “Invent some manner of realizing your own ideals which will also satisfy the alien demands – that and that only is the path of peace.”

A light went off in my head.

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Three Wishes
Part Two

by Ann Hamilton

The TV writer feels like Benedict Cumberbatch has forsaken her. Or has he? 1,974 words. Part One. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Kaylee wants you to come back,” Alex tells Melanie.

“Come back and do what?” Melanie is pleased. But suspicious.

“Pitch the pilot for Creepy.”

“So they’re giving me the job?”

Silence on the phone. her agent clears his throat. “Not yet.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Melanie says.

“Kaylee likes you. She says you have a feel for the characters. And she was very impressed with your vision.”

“So why don’t they give me the job?”

“Because she has to meet with other people.”

“She doesn’t have to. Alex. Maybe we should move on.”

“I think you’re going to get it, Melanie. She told me the two of you had a connection.”

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Three Wishes
Part One

by Ann Hamilton

A TV writer facing a career crisis finds Benedict Cumberbatch in her kitchen. 2,152 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Melanie forces herself not to be bitter at lunch with her pal Paul when he’s talking about his new job on Mind Your Manners.

“It’s the most amazing staff. Everybody is super nice,” Paul says. “The showrunner, Betsy, is famous for the way she treats writers. No long hours. Catered lunches. She’s already had two parties at her house so we can ‘come together as a team.’”

Melanie loves Paul. She tries to remember how much she loves Paul as he goes on and on about Betsy and the room. The actual room. Sofas and comfy chairs and windows with views of trees and mountains. When is the last time Melanie worked in a room with windows?

Melanie’s agent Alex put her up for Mind Your Manners. She didn’t even get an interview. When she complained to Alex, he told her she should write a new spec.

“But I don’t want to write a new spec.”

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Le Jet Lag
Part Two

by Peter Lefcourt

Craziness continues for a publicist, journalist and producer attending the Cannes Film Festival. Part One. Part Three.  4,208 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Larry Moulds, studio Vice President for Publicity and Marketing, had been there and done that. As a unit publicist, he had accompanied movies and worked his tail off, coming home exhausted, sick, and, worst of all, empty-handed. The Cannes Film Festival was an all-or-nothing deal. No matter how you spun it, if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser.

His boss, studio head Vivian Rakmunis, had threatened to send him but she hadn’t actually sent him. Yet. But if his publicist Erika Marks didn’t produce some buzz soon, his ass was on the plane. He picked up his office phone and dialed the Hotel Carlton. Larry realized that he’d be waking up Erika in the middle of the night in France. Fuck her. It was her job to be on call 24/7.

It took seven rings before Erika picked up the phone.

Oui?”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Larry? It’s…three-thirty in the morning.”

“Vivian isn’t seeing any ink on the picture. You don’t start producing, Vivian is going to send me over there. And you don’t want me there, do you? So what about jury tampering? You invite the Cannes jury president back for a shtupp?

“Larry, I’m not having sex with anyone on the jury. Can I go back to sleep?”

When he hung up, Erika was sitting up in bed, wide awake and furious. The digital bedside clock read 3:40 a.m. She had to be up at seven to flack the studio’s entry Crimea. If Larry arrived, she’d give him the keys to the car, kiss him on both cheeks, take a plane home, and sell real estate. Between the stress and the jet lag, she was not looking forward to the all-important interview with Paris Match for the film’s spoiled star, Hanna Lee Hedson.

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Do You Know Who I Am?

by Stephanie Carlisi

She wants to make it in showbiz. But not by temping for the powers-that-be. 3,386 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I sit at a desk in a poolside cabana at a fairytale Spanish style estate in Bel Air. Platinum record plaques litter the walls, bragging. This cabana is the home office of the assistant to veteran record producer Matthew Vaughn. I am an undercover rock star (like Hannah Montana, only a little longer in the tooth) or so I’d like to believe, but I’m dripping with passionate stage fright. If only I could get on that stage. I could be somebody. Meanwhile, I’m a temporary assistant to the powers-that-be in the entertainment industry, while I “develop my writing and artistry.” That’s my pitch, but it’s getting old. My life is a dichotomy. A nightmarish fantasy. A fantastic nightmare.

This is the second consecutive Monday I am on this particular assignment — a two-day gig that terminates at 6:30 pm. It’s 11:23 am. I wonder what will come out if I write all day as a way to pass the hours. Oh, the hours. Springtime sun rays filter through lush tree foliage over the Spanish tile pool, through French doors, across the desk and glare off my laptop screen. It’s pretty. This place would be heaven if only it were mine. If only I were more than a temporary assistant living a temporary life.

I have been assisting entertainment types for twelve years now. I’ve also written a novel, multiple TV pilots, a feature, endless songs. I’ve come close to success. I’ve tasted it. But it’s never more than a taste on the tip of my tongue. None of my dreams have come true and the only bankable skill I have developed since college is the skill of assisting the powers-that-be in Hollywood. I know how to get them exactly what they want, no matter how ridiculous or seemingly impossible, on the triple. It’s a skill I’ve honed to near perfection, one many people around the world might think they would kill for. But it isn’t feeding my soul anymore.

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Nick By Nick, Forever

by John Bensink

The world loves entertainment. But everybody also wants to get paid for it. 2,078 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“We should just let him in,” Greer said, watching the cop on their CCTV feed.

“Oh, sure,” Hugo replied. “Just bring him right down and show him the whole setup.”

But his tone wasn’t as confident as his words — not nearly. He was her boss but she scared him with her dismissive coldness and chess-move thinking. She didn’t argue it now; she just hit a couple keys. “Officer?” she said into a microphone. “Or is it Detective?”

“Detective Evan Ridge,” the guy said, clearly knowing that it sounded good. “I’m here because a TV writer exited The Farmer’s Market at closing and crossed to a far corner of the parking lot to his silver-metallic Kia Soul. He carried takeout cartons and grocery bags and was jumped by three black-clad men. They beat him, emptied his pockets, took his stuff, stole his car, and left him gashed and bleeding.”

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Rocky, Jack & TV’s Golden Age
Part Two

by John D. Ferguson

The wannabe TV scribe meets the show’s head writer who is arrogance personified. 1,637 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Manhattan – 1954

I set up my new working area right by the only window in the room. The glass pane was so filthy you couldn’t see if it was night or day.

Milky came over to inspect. “It’s so crowded in here, Rocky, that you’re gonna have to lose some weight or park your ass out the window to make room.”

I decided to join in. “Is that a window or am I looking at a large glass of tomato juice?”

Milky thought this over and a little smile came to his face. “Okay, not bad. But take my advice: you’re gonna be dealing with four of the smartest and funniest people in television so you better stay on your toes or you’ll be eaten alive. You know how I know this? You see that Emmy award on the shelf?”

I looked over at the bookshelf that hadn’t seen a dust rag in years and found the Emmy with a bra hanging off one of its wings.

“This ’53 Emmy,” Milky continued, “tells you we are the best comedy writing team in television, at least for last year. And that…”

He stopped in mid-sentence, looking at the bookshelf and then around the room. He went to each desk and looked underneath. He even searched in the wastepaper basket and in the closet. He stopped and rubbed his chin and then threw up his hands. He looked over at Hattie.

“Where the hell is it?”

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Rocky, Jack & TV’s Golden Age
Part One

by John D. Ferguson

A wannabe TV writer starts his dream job amid the stuff and staff of nightmares. 2,220 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Manhattan – 1954

I guess it was the mid-fifties; the only way I can visualize New York in those days was in the leafy fall and the cold gray days of winter. It comes back to me like one of those art house films. Everything seemed painted in white, black and gray.

I was living a great life back then. I’d survived the Korean War and dodged working at my father’s bookkeeping firm by using the G.I. Bill to get into City College. That’s where I graduated with my English Lit degree and decided to practice my new craft in the NBC mailroom. A great job if you have no other ambitions in show business. You make all the right contacts and you have a little gambling book on the side. If you don’t screw up the mail, you’ll have a job for life. It was there I came to know Mort Schumacher, the Head of Programming, and started dumping my scripts into his mail slot.

I did this for three months: banging away at my father’s old Underwood at night and finishing a script every two weeks. The first one I personally handed to Mr. Schumacher and told him how much I wanted to write for television and why it was my life’s ambition to become the Chekhov of the electronic media age, and on and on. After, I’d just leave little notes attached: “Here’s another one! Hope you enjoy… Rocky.” Or, “Cranked this out in forty-eight hours and no sleep and seventeen cups of coffee. If you get the chance, please look it over… Rocky.”

My real name was Lucius Bauderchantz and my family called me Luther and my friends, Lucky. It was in the service — because of my stocky build, curly dark hair and bent nose — that they started to call me Rocky, after Marciano. This confused the hell out of my parents; when people would call the house and ask for Lucky or Rocky, mom and dad weren’t sure if they’d forgotten about another son hidden somewhere.

All of my hard work finally paid off one day when I was summoned to Mort Schumacher’s office on the thirty-eighth floor, all brass fixtures and wood paneling.

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Bill Scheft New Oscar 4

Who Are You Wearing On?

by Bill Scheft

OSCAR FICTION PACKAGE: Politically incorrect Tommy Dash reacts post-Oscars after trying out for Chris Rock’s Academy Awards writing team. 3,175 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


Am I too late to call the 2016 Oscars "Straight Outta Caucasia"? Was I the only one who thought Chris 7B44E679-DD00-4B87-9873-6B80A7AA57E8Rock wore the white tux so at some point some guy in a bomber jacket would walk up to him on stage, hand a key and say, "It’s the red Lexus…" By the way, none of my business, but couldn’t they come up with a more empowering word for black people not showing up than "boycott?" I don’t think they’ll solve Oscars’ diversity problem by next year. But they will come up with the technology so the Teleprompter cannot contain the phrase "Rihanna’s panties." How about that Red Carpet? I haven’t seen this much side boob since Christie stood next to Trump. I’m confused. Before he started Apple, Steve Jobs was the "Sprockets" guy? Abe Vigoda was left out of the "In Memoriam" montage. But, to be fair, he’d been in it for the last 15 years. Forget his message, let me say this about Joe Biden. Clearly, he learned from listening to Jay Leno rattle off upcoming dates at the end of The Tonight Show… You can never have too many plugs. Right about now, Pope Francis’ publicist, Howard Rubenstein, is calling him saying, "Hey, you got mentioned in the acceptance speech for Spotlight!"

This is somebody’s fault, but not necessarily mine.

I thought I was supposed to be here, working on the Oscars.

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The Wrap Party

by Adam Scott Weissman

The flirting and gossiping ends badly for someone on this TV series. 3,759 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


The wrap party was being held at the cheesy cowboy theme bar at Universal CityWalk. Caleb hated t8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3hat development next door to the lot where he worked. Even the name grated on him: “CityWalk.” It was everything that pissed him off about L.A.. The antiseptic tourist trap was so utterly un-urban. He could rattle off at least a half-dozen bars on nearby Ventura that were far superior. But he was just a lowly writer’s assistant so it wasn’t his place to question the chosen location for the wrap party. Actually, he wasn’t surprised. He worked for a cookie cutter network procedural, and the powers-that-be had chosen to end the season in the most uninspired way possible. Little wonder that he always could predict each show’s ending.

As he parked his car, he thought about Nora, the staff writer considered a “diversity hire.” She had once confessed to him that she loved the City Walk. Of course, Nora loved the City Walk. Caleb hated Nora. He didn’t see her talent, or what she offered to the show, or why Bryan gave her two scripts. Caleb was really hoping he’d get to co-write the finale, like Matt Weiner’s writer assistants, but instead Nora got it. Like she needed another credit.  Caleb had read her pilot back when he was Bryan’s assistant. It was fine, the dialogue was cute, but the story was nothing special. Rom-com chick stuff. He’d been working for Bryan for four years, and Nora had never worked on a show, but she was a staff writer and Caleb was the writer’s assistant. Bryan told him it was because of money. The show had spent too much of its budget on upper level writers, and the studio would pay for a “diversity writer.” That was Nora. A Korean girl from Encino… How fucking downtrodden.

While she would never tell any of her fellow writers, Nora loved Universal CityWalk. As a kid growing up in the Valley, it was the closest she ever got to actually walking onto a studio lot. L.A. kids aren’t supposed to get starstruck. But Nora just couldn’t be jaded. She wanted to belong to the business, not merely be adjacent, and write for a real primetime TV show with millions of viewers. Now that she was, Nora still liked to visit CityWalk to remind herself how far she’d come. About once a week, she’d arrive an hour before work, go to Starbucks, drink her latte and think about how she was about to go work in a bungalow on the real lot. Though she questioned whether she deserved to be there. But if she really was nothing more than a token, Bryan wouldn’t have given her two scripts. She knew Caleb resented her and coveted her job. But she was working her ass off, agonizing over every word of procedural exposition instead of scripting for people to ignore while they did their laundry. Nora had long ago learned that hard work was the best remedy for insecurity.

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Recent Fossil Evidence

by Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca

A TV exec hears a comedy pitch from a couple of over-50 showrunners she’s never met. 5,110 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Calling in his last ancient chit, Warren had talked a former junior colleague into issuing a drive-on to get 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3them through the front gate.  The rest would be up to him.

He piloted his old BMW convertible, its torn roof folded down out of view so as not to humiliate its occupants, toward the visitors’ lot. Fifty-eight and no longer an athlete –- he was even done with pick-up basketball, the risk of injury now far outweighing the pleasure he got from playing — Warren wore a sports jacket, faded jeans, and a bright new T-shirt with a hip (his son Clay had assured him) image of an audio cassette above the slight paunch that poked over the top of his seat belt.  After extensive experimentation with hair coloring he’d left the gray specks in his beard, which he’d carefully trimmed to look untrimmed.  Just this morning he’d noticed the beginnings of what he’d assumed were facial warts.  Warren, once a Golden Boy, had begun to believe he’d be an odd-looking old man.

Mitch, four years younger, nearly a foot shorter and more informally unshaven, with hair another former colleague had described as “bozine” after her favorite frizzy-haired TV clown, wore red Converse sneakers and a flowery Hawaiian shirt that most people who’d never known a joke writer would consider antithetical to his dignity. Under the shirt, on his left shoulder, the Charlie Chaplin tattoo he’d treated himself to upon moving to Hollywood decades earlier had aged to look less like Chaplin and more like Hitler.

Mitch glowered at the dashboard clock.  “We’re over an hour early,” Mitch said.  “I told you there’d be no traffic.”

If Warren had told his partner the real reason he’d picked him up at 9 AM for an 11 AM meeting less than half an hour away -– that there was no 11 AM meeting and they were in the midst of a con job that Warren had been meticulously planning for months in an effort to resuscitate their drowned careers -– Mitch’s pride and rage would never have permitted him to get into the car.  “I knew they’d make us park out where the slaves are picking cotton,” said Warren as he drove them farther and farther from their destination on the lot.  “And you have to get into costume.”

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The Writer’s Cut
Part One

by Eric Idle

Book excerpt from the Monty Python legend: a wisecracking, ambitious and horny film/TV comedian goes to a pitch meeting. 4,096 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Los Angeles – January 2003

My name is Stanley Hay and I’m a professional writer. I write movies, I write sitcoms, and I write gags 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3for TV shows. You may have heard some of them. “I believe in the separation of Church and Planet.” That was mine. Caused quite a stir. I don’t mean to cause trouble. It just seems to be what I do best. I make a pretty decent living writing and rewriting, but I have always wanted to write a novel, and this year, in January 2003, I decided it was time.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.” He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it? That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy … After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

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Birthday Party

by Ann Hamilton

A child’s fourth birthday becomes a battlefield for two fathers waging Hollywood’s agency wars. 2,907 words. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Derek is supposed to be listening to his client’s pitch, a mini-series for Syfy, and he knows it’s 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3something about global warming. Or a pandemic. Maybe both (“a contemporary dystopian take on Noah’s Ark”). But instead Derek finds himself looking at a photo of his daughter Sierra taken in Maui on a family trip last spring. Three-year old Sierra stands on the beach looking at a man in a yellow Easter Bunny suit, staring him down. Come on, bunny. Bring it on. He wonders what she’s doing at preschool right now. Gluing nuts to construction paper to spell out her name? Taking a nap?

He wants to yawn, but that would be disrespectful to Tyler, his client. Derek nods and smiles. He hasn’t been paying attention for five minutes which is dangerous in these cutthroat times when, in a blink of an eye, agencies are losing even their unsuccessful showrunners to unscrupulous competitors on the prowl.

Tyler stops and looks down at the pitch pages on his lap. “Albino twins with telekinetic powers? Too much?” says Tyler, making a quick slash with his pen. “Let me tell you about the shipping crate they find filled with Red Trolley Ale. I was thinking product placement.”

Derek nods blankly. He is thinking about the conversation he overheard his wife Kiki having on her cell in line at Starbucks with another mother over the weekend. “Dylan’s birthday isn’t until the 18th, and Sierra’s birthday is the 10th, so the 13th and the 14th are Sierra’s days. It’s the rule. I’ve booked a Bollywood dance teacher. Non-refundable deposit.”

Tyler won’t get in to pitch to Syfy. Derek has already come up with a good excuse. Staffing change. They need to sort things out in Syfy development. Oh, shit. Did he say that last time about Tyler’s canceled Sony meeting? Derek isn’t interested in Tyler anymore. Another agent warned him, pre-signing, “Tyler had one good idea five years ago, always late with drafts, bad in a room,” but Derek enjoyed the challenge of luring Tyler away from a boutique agency. Boutique means bullshit, that was Derek’s pitch. People will take you seriously, Ty. Once you’re with us.

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Heiress Alert!
Part Two

by Anne Goursaud

When the paparazzi princess disobeys the law, her neighbors suffer. 2,170 words. Part One. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Once news of Venice Hyatt’s arrest hit social media, the paparazzi and TV news vans invaded the streets and crowded the driveways throughout Maureen and Paul’s neighborhood. The gold-diggers had arrived; but instead of picks, rakes, and shovels, they had all sorts of cameras and microphones. Because a picture or a word from the scandalous heiress was worth a fortune on the gossip world market.

A neighbor, Craig, contacted Maureen by phone. He lived up the street from Venice and worked as a nurse at the UCLA hospital. He related how coming home one early morning he had to chase a newsman urinating on his doorstep.

“Now that she has been arrested, the circus will only intensify,” Craig griped. “We need to do something.”

Then came another news break: VENICE HYATT RELEASED FROM JAIL.

What happened was the L.A. County Sheriff ignored the judge’s sentence of 23 days and let the celebutante go free after a mere 72 hours. For an “undisclosed medical condition.” She was to be sent home to serve her sentence while wearing an ankle monitor.

The media as well as trolls on Twitter and Facebook questioned what kind of medical condition it could be since, a few hours before being jailed, Venice was photographed at the MTV Movie Awards. Apparently in perfect health.

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