Back in the late 80's, I was hooked on the program Wiseguy.
In fact, there were about 6 of us at work that were such big fans of the show that we felt had the right to call it 'Wiseass'. As in, 'You watch the Wiseass last night?' Our company's productivity took noticeable dips every Thursday morning as most of us would spend 2 or 3 hours dissecting the plot and character development of the previous nights episode.
I mention this as the first season of Wiseguy
is now available on DVD, and NPR's The Treatment
discussed the series with writer Eric Blakeney today. (http://www.kcrw.com/cgi-bin/db/kcrw.pl
) [Here's a more direct link: http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/tt/tt031015eric_blakeney
. If anybody listens to this, would you please let me know? I keep recommending it to people, but I don't think anyone has listened to it.]
So, I thought I might offer my own Wiseguy
story. During the first season of Wiseguy,
the late Ray Sharkey played an extremely memorable character named Sonny Steelgrave. Sharkey , by the way, was originally cast as David Addison on Moonlighting,
before being replaced by Bruce Willis. On Wiseguy,
Steelgrave was the mob boss who undercover federal agent Vinnie Terranova, played by Ken Wahl, was trying to bring down.
So, after discussing how much we liked Steelgrave at work, I decided to call Sharkey. I called the offices of Stephen J. Cannell and got the name and number for Sharkey's agent. I called the agent and did the only thing I could think of that might work; I lied.
I told Sharkey's agent that I was writing a story for the Sunday magazine of the Columbus Dispatch
and wanted to interview Sharkey. The agent's main question was whether this was going to be a cover story. 'Of course it is!' I told him. So, he takes my home number down and says he will talk to Sharkey and see if he wants to do it.
A couple of days later, I answer the phone and it's none other than Ray Sharkey! I tried to ask him some questions that I thought a writer might ask, but eventually I was just asking the silly questions that a fan would ask. After about 10 minutes I think Sharkey started to catch on. Mainly because he said 'This isn't for an article, is it?"
'Oh, no. I lied about that. I just really like you on Wiseguy
and wanted to talk to you.' I said.
There was dead silence for about 10 seconds, and then Sharkey broke out into laughter. He was awfully nice about things and talked to me for a few more minutes before saying he had to go.
Sharkey died of aids in 1993, and a lot of negative stories came out about him after his death. Whether they are true or not, I don't know, but I'll always remember the conversation we had.
- posted by Keith Berry
[I cannot recommend strongly enough listening to that interview with Eric Blakeney. He seems to have worked closely with Ray, and has a lot of interesting things to say. --carose59]