Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice Benefit: The Recap

I flew, I watched, I laughed, I’m back.

Last night my friend and I attended “Good Medicine,” the Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice benefit show in LA. It was her idea to go, and we speak the same rapid pop culture language, so she was the perfect partner in crime for the evening.

I am having trouble staying awake but I promised a recap, so here goes.

PHOTO UPDATE: has just posted great photos here from the actual event!

VIDEO UPDATE: Although it may not be there for long, someone has posted a few minutes of footage from Good Medicine here on YouTube.


  • The pipes. Sara Ramirez (Dr. Callie Torres) and Audra McDonald (Dr. Naomi Bennett)…beautiful, amazing singing voices. Sara received two standing ovations alone. And Gina Taylor-Pickens, real life wife of the chief from Grey’s Anatomy, is an absolutely stunning blues singer as well.
  • The sheer talent of both casts. When they weren’t singing or performing dramatic, hysterical interpretations of fan fiction and mail, they were playing the piano, guitars and harmonica.
  • Surprise musical guest Patty Griffin, who performed “Up To The Mountain” solo acoustic!
  • My hair. Seriously. See above. It behaved. By the way, I do not have a black eye. I was wearing mascara, which I usually only don once a year for our office holiday party. I appear vampiric, but it was just the lighting or lack thereof.


The show itself was great, but the evening was substantially more mellow than I’d anticipated. The audience seemed to consist of crew, producers, writers and their families, along with a smattering of fans (but of course all enjoyed it and were very receptive to the entertainment presented). There was one lowly paparazzo stationed outside, but he got bored and left [clarification: he was front of house, but there were plenty of autograph hounds and rude photographers near the back entrance where the actors had parked and tried to leave after the show].

Even though everyone else was getting away with it, I was asked to stop taking photos. My flash was not on, but I was reprimanded nonetheless. From our vantage point of the stage, the photos weren’t turning out clearly anyway (like this  photo of Eric Dane and Brooke Smith below).


Look, even if I know someone’s entire IMDB history, I tend to avoid bothering celebrities of any level. I am not interested in getting their autograph in person, and unless I have something meaningful to say, I prefer to observe from a distance. So I noticed but didn’t actually chat with any of the following people last night…

  • Marc Cherry: Creator & Executive Producer of Desperate Housewives
  • Paul Dooley: Very recognizable character actor, played Dad in Breaking Away and 16 Candles
  • Winnie Holzman: Dooley’s wife, and Creator of My-So Called Life and The Wonder Years
  • Steven Bailey: Joe from Joe’s Bar on Grey’s Anatomy
  • Sarah Utterback: Nurse Olivia from Grey’s Anatomy
  • Greg Pitts & Tim Griffin: George’s brothers on Grey’s Anatomy

I know that I’m forgetting important details, but we stayed up far past the witching hour and I need to nap it out.  Then I plan to revisit this week’s episode of Lost again and post more theories. And then watch Short Bus and The Nines.

UPDATE: Several people have asked what the actors were wearing. I am not a celebrity gossip hound and do not tend to cover the glamorous/fabulous aspects of the industry, but here is my attempt at a summary….

I did not witness a single fashion faux paus. Sandra Oh looked very pretty in a short black and white dress. Katherine Heigl looked every bit the Old Hollywood Movie Star that she is in a beautiful red dress with her hair swept up. Chandra Wilson had a sassy long and fitted black gown on; very non-Bailey. Amy Brenneman was adorable in her strapless cream and black dress. Audra McDonald wins for best arms; she must be a pilates or yoga girl. McDonald, Sara Ramirez, Ellen Pompeo and Brooke Smith all opted for variations on the little black dress, all with great success.  And the gentlemen were as handsome and charming as expected in their suits and tuxes: Eric Dane, James Pickens, TR Knight, Tim Daly, Taye Diggs, Paul Adelstein and Chris Lowell.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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I’m Going Back to Callie: A Musical Grey for a Day in LA

I am pretending to play it cool, when in fact I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.

In the morning I am flying down to Los Angeles to attend the Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice benefit show (to support the crews from both shows who lost their jobs during the Writers Strike), a one-night-only event tomorrow night.

Kate “Addison” Walsh and Patrick “McDreamy” Dempsey won’t be participating because they’re out of town, but that’s just fine with me. I’m there for Callie, Bailey and George, as well as the entire cast of PP.

I will return on Saturday and report back with a complete recap of the experience and star sightings (if any).

In the meantime, a new episode of Lost will keep me very busy and happy.

See you on Saturday!

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L.A. For a Day: Grey’s Anatomy/Private Practice Benefit Show

Next week I am to flying down to L.A. for less than 24 hours, to attend a one-night-only pop culture experience. The casts of Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice are putting on a musical comedy show to benefit the television crews who lost work during the Writers Strike.

Not only will almost all of the cast members from both shows be performing in some capacity, we will be treated to music by Loretta Devine (the Chief’s wife on Grey’s; she was in Dreamgirls on Broadway for years), Audra McDonald (Naomi on Private Practice; 4 Best Actress Tony Awards), and Sara Ramirez (Callie on Grey’s; Best Actress Tony for Spamalot). Click here to hear a snippet of Sara’s amazing voice (she appears at about the 1:10 mark), and here to watch Audra at last year’s Tonys.

Kid + candy store = me.

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Adopt a Writer: My Interview with Writer/Producer/Director David Leaf

[The following interview also appears on the official Adopt a Writer site.  Even though the Writers Strike has ended, this project will continue to support the WGA by highlighting writers and their experiences; putting faces to the names we see scrolling by in television and film credits.]

As someone who loves and works with music, I was tremendously
honored and excited to be given the opportunity to interview David Leaf for Adopt a Writer. As I prepared
to speak with this amazing music historian and writer, I popped in my Brian Wilson Presents SMiLE CD and
re-read David’s eight page liner note introduction.

David Leaf is the king of pop culture and music
retrospectives. He is one of the Peabody Award-winning writers of the 9/11
telethon “America:
A Tribute to Heroes,” for which he also received an Emmy nomination, and he won
a Writers Guild award in 2003 for “The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of
Performing Arts.”  In addition, David is a
documentary filmmaker: he wrote/directed/produced the Grammy-nominated “Beautiful
Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE,” and co-wrote/co-directed/produced
“The U.S. vs. John Lennon.”

David has been called ‘Brian Wilson’s biographer,’ and he’s authored
the books The Beach Boys and the
California Myth
and The Bee Gees: The
Authorized Autobiography
.  He received
a Grammy nomination for “Best Historical Recording” for writing the books that
accompanied The Pet Sound Sessions
4-CD boxed set, which he also produced.

In addition to the WGAW, David Leaf is a member of the Authors
Guild, The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, ASCAP, The Society
of Professional Journalists and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.  He even gets to vote annually for the Rock
& Roll Hall of Fame.

At what point in your life did you
realize that you wanted to be a writer?

I always told stories. 
I just didn’t start writing them down until I was about 13.  I’m lucky in that I believe I was born with a
certain ability to glibly synthesize information and tell a story.  What my high school history teacher used to
call “BS.”   In junior high, I was writing about sports for
the school paper and was even sports editor of the Latin newspaper. In school, I
was a class clown.  Or at least I thought
I was funny. 

2.       How were you first introduced to Brian Wilson, in what was to become a
lifelong friendship?

For my college newspaper, I had written an article about
Brian.  That was inspired by reading
about his roller coaster of a life in Rolling Stone.  At that time, I was inspired by the work of
Edward R. Murrow, and thought I could be a crusading journalist.  So I decided that I wanted to write a book and
tell the real story of Brian Wilson’s life.   

I met him just after moving to California. 
I was shooting baskets with a friend at a local YMCA in 1976. Brian walked onto the court with his cousin,
who asked us if we wanted to play 2-on-2 with him.  What really makes this story even more unbelievable
is that his cousin was an NBA player.  

Anyway, a few years later, when I wrote and published my biography
of him, we weren’t friends at that point. Thanks to some friends of his, who
wanted me to have a better understanding of what he was really like, I’d gotten
the chance to spend a little time around him while I was writing the book.   Through the 1980s, I continued to see him
around town.  Ironically, given what
inspired your ‘adoption’ of me, it was during the WGA strike in 1988 that I got
a job at Warner Brothers Records that put me into regular contact with
Brian.  So it was around then that we began
to develop a friendship.

Are there any writers who have had
an influence on your careers?  Who are
your mentors in this industry?

For sports writing (which is how I started), Larry Merchant.
For journalism, Pete Hamill.  Both wrote
for the New York Post, which had an amazing, diverse collection of columnists
when I was a kid.

As for authors – Kurt Vonnegut.  To me, his world view was essential, letting
me know it was okay to see things differently than conventional wisdom would
suggest.  And of course, I’m the cliché:  J.D. Salinger. 
In fact, the first chapter of The
Beach Boys and the California Myth
opens with a quote from The Catcher in the Rye.

I guess if I had a mentor, although he would have laughed at
the idea, you could say my comedy writing mentor was Greg Fields. Working with him
was like getting a Masters in comedy writing. He was extremely influential for
me, teaching me how to spend every minute in the office making comedy out of
life, teaching me that nothing was off limits when it came to comedy. He knew
how to make everything funny without being mean. I think he was an extraordinarily
talented comedy writer.

How long have you been a member of
the Writers Guild of America?

For just over twenty years now. I wrote my first spec
features and spec sitcoms in the early/mid-1980s.  Then, I earned my WGA membership in 1987 writing
a Beach Boys anniversary special for ABC television. A year after that, I got
hired as a staff writer on The New Leave
it to Beaver

How did the Writers Strike affect
your current development deals and projects?

Being on strike and picket line felt like being inside a
TiVO and waiting for someone to hit play. Everything was in suspended
animation. It was a frustrating yet unavoidable situation for everybody. I had
spent most of last year writing, developing and pitching, and I guess the way
it affected my current deals was to bring everything to grinding halt.  Now we all hope to reignite the momentum that our
projects had. 

What level of involvement with the
Writers Strike did you have? Were you out on the picket lines? How often were you able to participate? Can you describe that experience?

I was on strike in 1988, but it was different back then in
terms of organization and membership involvement; we only picketed sporadically.
This time, it was very well organized. I was on a specific team with a specific
assignment, 4 days a week for four hours a day.  From my point of view, it was very important
to be on the line every day.  And from
the team I was on, there were about a half dozen regulars who walked together
and became friends. It was like being in a writers’ room, without any deadlines
or scripts to write. It was a very good support system during what were tough
times for everyone.

Unless you’re on staff on a show, you probably don’t spend that
much time with writers. Being on the picket line provided the opportunity to
reconnect with other people trying to do same things you were; writing,
selling, pitching, developing, etc.  We
had some great days out there and were lucky with the terrific weather in California. We’d tell
each other stories, talk about the business and the creative part of writing.
It was a positive part of the strike – the sense of being in it together. 

Another positive thing was that we were able to walk and
talk with some of our own writing heroes; major screenwriters, legendary TV
writers like Allan Burns (Mary Tyler
), Jay Tarses (The Bob Newhart
), Ken Levine (M*A*S*H, Cheers
& Frasier
) and writers from The Simpsons.
It was a community of writers and ideas. 

Unlike the strike in 1988, we felt like we were working
together in battle. We were on strike; that’s where we should have been, out on
the picket lines.  We didn’t start the
fight or pick it, but once we were in it…we were in it for the duration. 

7.       How did you become involved with FremantleMedia, the company
responsible for shows like American Idol?
Can you reveal any details about your future plans with them?

I was approached a few years ago to work on a multi-part History
of Rock and Roll project. We’re still developing it and hope to get it made
sometime soon. They contacted me after Beautiful
appeared on the BBC, and I was flattered to be considered by them for
such a prestigious project.  And there’s
a production from my company that’s “in the works” that they’ll be

Your long list of credits as a
writer/producer of music specials for television is very impressive, from
benefit and live concerts to pop culture icon profiles. You’ve covered artists
and performers as varied as Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Christopher Reeve, Billy
Joel, the Marx Brothers, the Bee Gees, Jonathan Winters and Nat King Cole. Do
you approach an opportunity to write for and about these particular individuals
as an admirer, as a writer, or both?

For me, the idea usually starts in the same place—what is it
about these artists that I love and think is important for others to know about?
 I then figure out how to tell their
story using their work to speak for themselves, which is essential when the
artist is no longer with us.

I don’t ignore sensational aspects of an artist’s life, but
my focus is more on the artist and how they created their art. Naturally, their
private life will come into the story as it affects their work, but it won’t
come into the story unless it’s relevant. In some senses, I’m a fan and
proselytizer, but more than anything else, I consider myself a storyteller. I
ask myself, what is the most important story I can tell about that particular
artist, a story that you as a viewer need to know.  Watching these retrospectives, if you are a
fan, you might get a deeper understanding and love for the artist. If you’re
not a fan, you might become one. Or at least come to respect the artist.  The goal is to experience their art and at
the same time, enhance your appreciation of their work.  I want to keep the focus on where the art came
from, but also get the artists to reveal something about themselves.   Most of all, I make the show I would want to

Besides specials and awards show,
your career as a primetime television writer for series has been sporadic; a
staff writer on The New Leave It to
from 1988-1999 and Party of
and Beverly Hills 90210 retrospectives. Were sitcoms and primetime dramas just
not your cup of tea?

Not at all.  I’ve
always been a big TV addict, I love sitcoms and one-hour dramas. I started as
staff writer on The New Leave it To
in mid-February of 1988, but within three weeks the industry went on
strike. When the strike was over, I did one full season of that show.

That was just about my favorite job of all time, being on
staff on a sitcom. I would love to do it again in the future. You’re paid to reveal
your ‘inner smartass.’ There is nothing more fun that trying to make people
laugh all day long.

10.   Now that the Writers Strike is over, do you look forward to a
normal life of writing and producing again? 
Is there a specific project that you’ve been itching to return to?

don’t know if there is any such thing as normal life for a writer.  The last four months, however, have been very
abnormal.  During this strike, I shut
down for the first time in a very long time. The only writing I did was e-mail.
But the reality is that in the blink of an eye, many of us went from ‘striking
writer’ to ‘unemployed writer.’  It’s
very strange. But we are all pretty excited that we can get back to it.  We’re all going to have to readjust, but we
are all anxious to put this behind us and get back to where we were before the
strike started.


are two projects in particular that I want to reignite ASAP. One is a feature
spec, the first draft of which I finished just before the strike started.  I can’t wait to take that out into the

really proud of it.  I think writers often
feel that ‘this is the best work I’ve ever done.’  But this is a script that really ties
together everything I want to do as a writer, and hopefully someone out there
will see that and also see the movie I see.


other is a feature spec pitch that I sold. I am looking forward to my agent
completing the deal so I can start outlining and writing it.


I’ve learned not to predict what’s next in my writing career, because I certainly
didn’t plan my career to go the way it went. I didn’t plan to become a director
and yet I became one.

didn’t set out to make retrospectives, but I’ve done a lot of them. I didn’t
plan to spend lots of time developing and pitching as a producer, but that is
what I’ve done.


came to L.A. to
write sitcoms and write movies.  Last year,
with the developing/pitching/writing I did, I was back in touch with ‘pure’ writing.
 Even the picketing had that effect.  I feel much more like a writer today than I
did a year ago.

I would like to thank David for participating in this interview,
and for sharing some of his incredible experiences! He was very generous with his time and information, and it was a real pleasure to speak with him at length about writing, television and music.

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Sneak Peak at My Week: An Adoption, A LOST Contest & The Oscars

Later this week, I hope to publish an interview with award-winning writer/producer/director David Leaf, which I conducted on behalf of Adopt A Writer. Even though the Writers Strike has ended, this fantastic project will continue to support the writers by highlighting their careers and many accomplishments.

This week’s Lost blog will be postponed; due to Valentine’s Day, my weekly Thoughts & Theories post will appear on Friday night rather than Thursday after the new episode. In the meantime, be sure to check out a new weekly installment on my other blog called Character Spotlight, as well as a new Lost contest (for a chance to win a season of the show on DVD).

Set your TiVO – Matt Nathanson will be performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live this Friday night (2/15)!  Here is a link to his appearance on Conan a few weeks ago.

I am aiming to blog the Oscars live on Sunday, February 24 in two parts: snarky red carpet commentary, followed by instant reactions to winners, losers and speeches.

Stay tuned!

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Pencils Up, Laptops On: The Writers Strike is Over

The Writers Strike has ended. Scribes will return to their craft, and films and TV shows will resume production.

The only task remaining for members of the Writers Guild is to vote in favor or against the tentative 3-year contract with the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers), which they will do in a few weeks.

Below are excerpts from the official announcement, released by the Presidents of the WGA West and East:

On Tuesday, members of the Writers Guilds East and West voted by a
92.5% margin to lift the restraining order that was invoked on November
5th. The strike is over.
Writing can resume immediately. If you were employed when the strike
began, you should plan to report to work on Wednesday. 

The decision to begin this strike was not taken lightly and was only
made after no other reasonable alternative was possible.  We are
profoundly aware of the economic loss these fourteen weeks have created
not only for our members but so many other colleagues who work in the
television and motion picture industries. Nonetheless, with the
establishment of the WGA jurisdiction over new media and residual
formulas based on distributor’s gross revenue (among other gains) we
are confident that the results are a significant achievement not only
for ourselves but the entire creative community, now and in the future.
We hope to build upon the extraordinary energy, ingenuity, and
solidarity that were generated by your hard work during the strike. 
Over the next weeks and months, we will be in touch with you to discuss
and develop ways we can use our unprecedented unity to make our two
guilds stronger and more effective than ever.
Now that the strike has ended, there remains the vote to ratify the new
Thank you for making it possible.  As ever, we are all in this together.

I am very happy for the writers, and to hear that the strike was resolved on their terms. Without their words, you would be bored and I would have nothing to talk about. They deserve fair compensation for their work, no matter the medium where it appears, and they earn it with every episode and movie that we are fortunate enough to view across many platforms.

So keep the writers in mind after you fall in love with a film, or laugh for days at a line that a character on one of your favorite shows said. Stay through the credits at the movies, and don’t TiVO fast-forward through them at the end of an episode.  Because the ones in front of the camera would be nothing without those behind the scenes.

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