We Love L.A. (Saturday, January 19, 1991)

Our trip to L.A. was about as all-expenses-paid and full-on guided as anyone could want. We were looked after by our publicist, Valerie Scott, who did a great job shepherding a large group with as many kids as adults (and putting up with the three of us always shrugging when she asked what we wanted to do, a move that she eventually started calling the Waynesboro Shrug).

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Valerie and Tim, our guides to the wonders of Los Angeles.

Our driver, Tim, got us wherever we needed to be, though he quickly got a reputation for getting lost and having to get on his radio to get turned around again. (I seem to remember we once heard the person on the other end say, “Now where are you again?”) To this day, I don’t know if he really did have a bad sense of direction or secretly just knew every obscure shortcut in the greater Los Angeles area, but he always got us from point A to point B with a great sense of humor.

As far as expenses went, it truly was all expenses paid — the flight, hotel, and attractions, of course, but even more. Most of the time Valerie or someone else was with us to pay for our meals, but each family was also given $600 to cover any meals or other expenses when there wasn’t someone around to pay for us. There were some snacks and drinks we bought out of that, but most of it wound up paying for souvenirs for ourselves and friends and family back home. As far as I recall, we didn’t spend any of our own money during the entire trip.

Saturday we went to Six Flags Magic Mountain. (I remember reporters before the trip asking if we were going to go to Disneyland. Seriously?)

We never had to wait in line for rides; instead, they took us through the exits. (I mean, the others never had to wait in line — I’ve never been big on amusement park rides myself.) The photographer even went on one roller coaster with Amy and Sarah (and he, of course, had to ride backwards to take pictures).

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Me with Daffy at Magic Mountain.
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By this time, we were used to having photographers around. (Yep, that’s me in the Bugs Bunny ears.)

We also went to Venice Beach. Now, if you want to talk about the ultimate in tourist culture shock, drop a group from rural Virginia at Venice Beach. Along with the street musicians, the Skateboarding Granny, the roller skaters who almost ran us over, and the general randomness of humanity, we were particularly amused by the guy hawking laundry bags at the top of his lungs. Said laundry bags, as he repeated over and over, were both super jumbo and all-nylon. It sounded like a quality item.

As Thirteen put it:

To mostly summarize, Venice Beach had a lot of weird people there.

Of course, we also walked down to the actual beach, and Amy decided she wanted to take a bit of the Pacific Ocean home with her. Back then we were into those Life Saver Holes candy bits that came in little plastic flip-top cylinders. We had one with us that was nearly empty, so we polished off the rest of the Holes and she filled the container from an incoming wave. (Oh, for the days before airport liquid restrictions.)

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At Venice Beach.

For dinner that night, we were picked up by two limos (one for us and our moms, the second for the rest of the group) and taken to Ed Debevic’s, which Google tells me originated in Chicago (and is now closed even there), but at that time there was a location in L.A.

Google also tells me that Ed’s had a reputation for deliberately rude service, which isn’t exactly the way I remember things. As I recall, the campy ’50s-style diner was raucous and loud but also just plain fun, with servers offering up good-natured pranks and wisecracks along with the food. (Or maybe they were just going easy on us — we were a family table, of course.) Thirteen made special note of the fact that our waitress had a beehive hairdo accessorized with fake bees, and even went so far as to deem it one of the few restaurants where she wouldn’t have minded having “Happy Birthday” sung to her (high praise for the atmosphere, since that’s something Forty still tries to avoid).

After that, we headed back to the hotel. I was still dealing with that stupid cold, so on the way back, Dad had their limo driver stop at a convenience store to get some cold medicine for me, plus some soda and chips to have in the room.

I have this hilarious picture in my mind of the limo pulling up, and everyone around wondering what big star’s in there, and then my dad steps out.

Where are the paparazzi when you need them?

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Me, Amy, and Sarah, out for a night on the town.
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Our group photo.
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In the Spotlight (Part Two)

Probably the most extensive print article done about us was the cover feature for USA Weekend, a magazine distributed in many Sunday papers at the time (though our local ones carried Parade instead).

The article was good, but we didn’t care for the pictures they ran with it

Okay, we hated those pictures. Especially that cover photo, which we loathed with a passion that only teenage girls can muster for lousy photos of themselves.

Thirteen’s commentary:

Amy’s hair was, like, standing up and Sarah’s hair was blown around, and mine looked all stringy. Besides, Amy had her mouth wide open, and the sun was, like, glinting off my forehead . . . And then, in the black-and-white one showing us at lunch, you couldn’t even see Sarah, I looked like Kathy Bates from Misery, and all you could see of Amy was her hair (from the back, of course).

(Granted, just the day before she’d written…)

We’ve gotten used to seeing pictures of us and stuff. Before, we would have cringed to even glance at a photo of us. But now we’re used to it. Same with seeing ourselves on TV, hearing our voices, and seeing our names and stuff about us in print. It’s kind of fun, really. (not)

USA Weekend cover feature

Three other newspaper articles from the second wave of publicity, leading up to the episode’s premiere in November 1991:

The Sunday News Leader (Staunton, VA)

Daily Press (Hampton Roads, VA)

Roanoke Times & World-News (Roanoke, VA)

 

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

(We’re back! New posts will be scheduled for the 10th and 25th of the month, with occasional bonuses in between. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you can subscribe using the “Follow Blog via Email” widget in the right sidebar of the website, or follow our Twitter account for notifications of new posts. As a reminder, or for those just joining us, the quotes in these posts are taken from the journal I kept in 1991 at age 13.)

 

Since other kids at school kept reading this stack of notebook paper and saying “You should send that somewhere,” or “You should send that to Spielberg,” we finally figured hey, why not, if we can find somewhere to send it…

Amy ended up finding the address for the Fox network in a magazine. It was one of those teen magazines where it gives celebrity addresses. I think it was there if you wanted to write to somebody on that show “21 Jump Street.”

I have a feeling that “somebody” was probably Johnny Depp. (Hey, Thirteen was pretty lousy at being a typical 13-year-old.) Therefore, let it be known that were it not for Johnny Depp, “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian” might never have become an episode. Um… sort of.

Of course, we had no clue that Tiny Toons was a syndicated show (at that time, at least; it later went to Fox exclusively). The only thing we could think of was to send it in care of the Fox network where we watched the show, so that’s what we did.

By this time, it cost almost three dollars to mail it.

*waxes nostalgic about 1991 postage rates*

We never made another copy of it. We were going to, but Xeroxing it would’ve cost too much change, and we didn’t want to take the time to make another handwritten copy. We just figured that if it got lost in the mail, then it did. So we didn’t worry about it.

(We didn’t number the pages, either, so a few of them were missing when WB graciously sent us a copy.)

In a way, the story did end up getting lost in the mail — or at least, it took a winding path to its intended destination.

Our story was sent to Fox in Burbank. Jean [MacCurdy, executive producer] said that, under usual circumstances, it never would have gotten past Fox. It would have been stamped “Return to Sender” and sent back.

I think you’ve caught on by now that nothing about the next several months is going to involve “usual circumstances.” Bear in mind that sending an unsolicited story or script to a television show sets off a whole host of alarms from a legal standpoint — for example, if they were to inadvertently do a similar script in the future, we might claim they stole our story and sue — so nothing’s supposed to be opened or read.

However, the people at Fox opened the envelope. They took our story (and the letter that we enclosed) and put it in one of their envelopes. Then they sent it on to Steven Spielberg. Steven’s secretary sent it on ahead to Warner Bros. Jean said that the secretary probably figured if it got this far, it must be okay. She said that it was basically sent to people who didn’t really know what they were doing.

*polite cough* Which is not, of course, to imply that Steven Spielberg’s secretary was incompetent…

This was all told to us second- and third-hand and maybe some other hands besides, so it’s possible the timeline isn’t 100% accurate. The point, though, is that our package looked legit when it got where it was going, which eventually was the desk of Jean MacCurdy, the executive producer of Tiny Toons and, at that time, president of Warner Bros. Animation.

And she picked up the phone…

Up next: Out of the blue

Nostalgia Critic interview

No, this blog has not been abandoned; it’s just been a temporary casualty of real life/the day job. To start the resurrection, here’s an interview I did recently with the Nostalgia Critic webseries.

By the way, since there’s apparently been some confusion on this point (even from my husband, no less): In that graphic below showing the three of us as cartoon characters, I’m the one on the far right, in green. Just to set the record straight. XD (You’ll also notice that toon-me is wearing a watch on her left wrist. I don’t remember all the details now, but somehow someone or other took notice that I was wearing my Bugs Bunny wristwatch when we were meeting with the writers/staff of the show, and it wound up getting a nod in my character design.)

Boredom + creativity + serendipity = ?

Anyway, I became hooked on the show. And then one day I told Amy and Sarah — that’s Amy Crosby and Sarah Creef — about it. Then, all of a sudden, all of us — Amy and Sarah and Heather and Amy P. — were watching the show. (Of course, now the whole school, almost, is watching it, but I’m still ahead of myself.)

I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t drawing, and I barely remember a time when I wasn’t reading and making up stories to write and illustrate. Besides coming up with my own characters, I was always trying to draw the ones I loved from movies and TV: Brain from Inspector Gadget, My Little Pony characters, Thumper and Bambi, Roger Rabbit.

Now I had new characters to draw, and the first ones I chose were my favorites, Buster and Babs. As always, most of my drawings were on notebook paper with a #2 pencil — not because I didn’t have tons of sketch pads and things at home, but because it was easier to draw (read: get away with drawing during class) at school when you were using something you always had in your bookbag anyway.

This time it was at lunch, sitting at our table in the cafeteria.

I started drawing this picture of Babs and Buster. It was supposed to look like Babs was dancing, but by the time I was finished, Heather noted that it looked like Babs was dancing the hula, and so I jokingly added a grass skirt for Babs and a Hawaiian shirt for Buster. Then I added sunglasses and leis, as well as a beach towel and sand. Finally, I added a title to the picture: “Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian.”

Which wound up looking like this:

Yeah, I don't know what's going on with that blanket either.
Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with that blanket either.

And where did I come up with that title? Well, I didn’t realize it at the time, but that went back to 1988 and one of my favorite characters then:

DSC00650Yep, “Garfield Goes Hawaiian,” the Garfield and Friends episode where Garfield contracts the Hawaiian Cat Flu. (My husband and I actually owned this original title card for a while but sold it on eBay a few years ago when we winnowed our animation art collection.)

Somehow or another, I got the idea to write a story about Babs and Buster taking a vacation to Hawaii. Very needless to say, everything would go wrong on their trip.

Hey, Thirteen — you’re going to need a lot more notebook paper.

Up next: So what do we do with this thing?

First Impressions

January 13, 1991

California, here we come!

Great. The very first page and already I’m ahead of myself. So give me a moment to explain.

So where do I start. At the beginning. Let me see here.

Okay, here’s the beginning:

Picture it. The Kate Collins School library. I was in 7th grade…

Thanks, Thirteen. I’ll take it from here.

(That “picture it” part? That’s a Golden Girls reference, in case you didn’t catch that. Sophia was awesome.)

First off, Thirty-Eight just wants to say that with a few bright exceptions here and there, seventh grade royally sucked. I mean, I doubt it’s a great time for most people — middle school/junior high is one of those horrendous transition periods of life, and nobody tells you that (especially if you’re a girl), hey, you know all those great friends you had in elementary school? Half of them are probably going to turn against you for no apparent reason, because you’re all trying to figure yourselves out in relation to everybody else in your social circle, and you’re going to spend way too much of your time trying to figure out what’s the mature cool thing to like and what’s the babyish kiddie thing to like that’s going to make you an outcast, and the rules are constantly changing and you can’t win, and it’s all sort of a massive waste of time anyway, and sometimes the best thing that happens is that you survive it, but nothing much is really going to make it better while it’s happening.

So. Yeah.

Looking back, I’m actually pretty grateful that I can say I had mostly one bad year in my school life. For some people, the bad years stretch on a lot longer and contain things infinitely worse than what I went through, so don’t get me wrong here — I’m not claiming any medals just for surviving basic adolescence. That’s just a setup to the fact that some of things I liked weren’t exactly considered trendy and cool.

Like cartoons.

Back to the school library. I ran into a friend there while I was looking for a magazine article for my research paper.

As I begin looking for a certain article, she says, “You mean you’re actually working on that?” She hands me a magazine. “Here,” she adds, “look at this.”

I look at what she is handing me. It’s an article about something called Tiny Toon Adventures. Intrigued, I read on.

The article was part of a insert celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 50th birthday. Years later I found a commemorative magazine that also included the same piece. Here it is from that source (click to enlarge).

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As I look back, I wonder what I saw in the show. Maybe it was because the characters were cute. Maybe it was because I’ve always loved cartoons — Looney Tunes especially. Maybe it was because I’m weird.

(I can’t decide, now, if I meant that last line in a joking, self-deprecating way, or if I was actually remembering that year and being sarcastic. I think it was the former, but either is entirely possible.)

Later on, I saw an ad in TV Guide for the show’s premiere, which the Internet helpfully tells me would have been September 14, 1990. I watched the first episode, I loved it, and I had no idea how much that show was going to influence the next few years of my life.

Yeah, eighth grade was going to be a whole lot better.

 

(Up next: A drawing on notebook paper provides the spark.)