SCTV For Christmas!

December 22nd, 2009 by Max Allan Collins

SCTV ReunionJoe Flaherty as Guy Caballero, moments before rising from his wheelchair to acknowledge his standing ovation.

Let’s start off by wishing you and your family happy holidays. We are expecting Nate home for Christmas, with our cheerfully insane “granddog” Toaster, a Blue Australian Heeler named for the robots on BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. And Crusin’ has a gig on New Year’s Eve at the West Liberty, Iowa, country club, where a lot of my old high school friends are members. Really looking forward to that. We have snow here and things are looking suitably scenic. Last night, Barb and I watched two Perry Mason shows from the latest DVD boxed set (one an Erle Stanley Gardner based show, “The Case of the Duplicate Daughter,” and those are the really good ones) and had cups of cocoa courtesy of Jane Spillane. Watching Perry Mason with cocoa and marshmallows provided by Mike Hammer’s creator’s widow reveals that even my dullest evenings are surrealistic.

I was pleased to see a really nice, insightful ROAD TO PARADISE review pop up from Brian Drake — a little after the fact, but with RETURN TO PERDITION under way, good to see.

Ed Gorman asked me to do a new interview for his site; I did one not long ago, but took him up on it anyway. I had to respond to some of the comments on the piece. My son gets uncomfortable when I do that, but I feel comments are different from reviews (writers really shouldn’t respond to reviews, and I’ve only broken that rule a handful of times).

I also commented on comments at a Cinema Styles, where a wonderful, smart review of THE LAST LULLABY appeared. But a couple of the comments were beyond the pale, and I just couldn’t let them ride.

I am working on the third Mike Hammer Spillane/Collins collaborative novel, KISS HER GOODBYE. Really just getting started, but it’s an interesting challenge. Mickey had taken two runs at this story, with very different plot elements; so I have around 100 pages of one version, 50 or so of another version, plus notes on both. Weaving these together will be a fun challenge. Elements of this story became BLACK ALLEY, the last Hammer published during Mickey’s lifetime; but about all that is left are a few names, the notion of Mike Hammer coming back to the city after recovering from gun shot wounds (a common start to Mickey’s later Hammer stories, both published and unfinished), and the notion of the mob moving into the era of computers.

Barb and I spent much of the week shellshocked from the incredible double-feature experience of the SCTV reunion at Second City in Chicago (see the photos courtesy of a wonderful audience member from Vancouver, who will remain anonymous, as these were largely sneaked during the performance). It’s hard for me to express how much this experience meant to us, but we’ll probably share our own photos next week, some of which reveal me in a state of crazed bliss. We are talking about an evening that began with Guy Caballero (Joe Flaherty) recognizing his standing ovation by bolting up out of his wheelchair and grinning goofily.

The other half of the double-feature was the day we spent (Monday December 14) with Chicago sportscaster Mike North, his lovely wife Bebe, and producer Carl Amari. It was a long, incredible day. Whether it will lead to the movie project we are all hoping for remains to be seen, but I found North — a working class guy made very good — an unaffected, affable, hilarious, gifted man. He invited me onto his Comcast sports show, “Monsters in the Morning,” and we talked PERDITION and movies with his co-host Dan Jiggets (also a great guy). I think Mike and Dan (and Carl, on the sidelines) were surprised by how at ease I am on camera, plus what a wise-ass I am willing to be in public. We followed Mike on a tour of his Rogers Park roots (which included lots of bars being pointed out) and spent some time at Norte Dame high school, where he coaches basketball for no pay and big personal rewards. I hope this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Carl gave me a box of the finished CDs of THE NEW ADVENTURES OF MIKE HAMMER VOL. 2: THE LITTLE DEATH. We listened to one on the way home to Muscatine — we had only heard a rough mix before. If you haven’t ordered this yet, you are at the wrong website. I am very, very proud of this, and will be sending some review copies out soon, so I hope that before long some web attention will be shared with you here.

Again, happy holidays. Hug your family. Give gifts. And most important, watch the original MIRACLE ON 34th STREET and Alistair Sim’s CHRISTMAS CAROL…otherwise it isn’t an official Christmas.


SCTV Reunion
Barb Collins, right, and audience member Jen Ritchies, left, before the SCTV reunion show.

SCTV Reunion
Harold Ramis as Moe Green, Eugene Levy as Bobby Bittman and Flaherty as Sammy Maudlin.

SCTV Reunion
Ramis, Levy, Catherine O’Hara as Lola Heatherton, Flaherty on “The Sammy Maudlin Show”

SCTV Reunion
Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas as Edna and (the late) Tex Boyle (“Those little piggies are greasy”).

SCTV Reunion
Thomas and Martin Short in a classic Second City sketch.

SCTV Reunion
O’Hara and Martin (Pirini Scleroso). A rare Second City sketch that became an SCTV classic.

SCTV Reunion
Barb, Al and audience member Lisa Lecuyer.

SCTV Reunion
Cast (and their producer, unidentified) take a bow.

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3 Responses to “SCTV For Christmas!”

  1. mike doran says:

    Ah, there you are, Max. Been a while since you were at C&S, the only times I get to see you and Barb anymore.

    I haven’t really got anything to add to the post, aside from major-league envy. One of the disadvantages of being a lifelong non-driver is an ingrained reluctance to go out at night, thereby leaving my fate in the hands of the CTA. If the SCTV fete had gone anywhere past 9 pm, I would have faced a twenty block walk home around midnight; this happened to me once, and I don’t care to repeat the experience. Probably just as well, since I most likely couldn’t have afforded to get in anyway, but I’m happy that you could. Hope your photo album turns into your very own coffee-table book.

    Glad to see someone else is a Perry Mason dweeb. MEtoo (digital ch 26.3 here in Chicago) is running Mason five mornings a week at 9am, five nights a week at 10:30 pm, Saturday eves at 7, and Sunday afternoons at 4. (Think they might be overdoing it?) Big fun for character-actor buffs, spot-the-futire-star freaks, and over-the-hill adolescents looking at the babes gone by. Being in all three groups, I rest content. (“Duplicate Daughter” was the one with Anne Helm, right?)

    Anyway, it’s good to be reading you on a weekly basis. See you and Barb next time you’re at Augie’s.

  2. Brian_Drake says:

    Hi, Max. Thank you for the link to my “other” blog, which shares the same posts as my regular one. I’m a pimp for exposure. I read somewhere (either from you or somebody else) that the ROAD stories were going to continue, so I figured I’d do my review of “Paradise” which I truly did enjoy despite the sarcasm of my review. Can you tell us more about the “Return” book (and do we learn the fate of Michael’s son?) or is it too early to talk about? And you’re killing me with all this Mike Hammer stuff–I cannot wait to see the new material you put together.

  3. Mike is referring to the great Centuries and Sleuths bookstore in Chicago. I’m sure we’ll make a stop there next year. Mike has been a loyal fan of both Barb and me for many years, and we’re always delighted to see him turn up at a Chicago area signing (or a Bouchercon). Yes, Mike, that’s the Anne Helm episode. The first couple years of PERRY MASON were almost entirely derived from Gardner novels, and they are wonderful. After that, the show basically did the new novels as they came out (a few actually were published after the show went off the air). PERRY MASON is always fun, but its finest hours are the Gardner ones. Gardner is easily in my top ten mystery writers, and maybe top five.

    RETURN TO PERDITION is the last story chronologically in the PERDITION, and is a rather direct sequel to the prose novel ROAD TO PARADISE. There is a chance I will do a prequel, title as yet undetermined, and there’s always a chance I’ll do more stories about the father and son during their six months on the road. The intention originally had been to do a sweeping saga of at least 900 pages of graphic novel. Interestingly, editor Andy Helfers and I disagreed about how PERDITION would continue — I wanted father and son on the road for 900 pages, he wanted me to follow the son through his adulthood and possibly another generation. I have wound up doing both, more or less.