Paul Brownstein And Bilko

I have mentioned my friend Paul Brownstein before. He is the one who showed up for my wedding at the last minute wearing a fur coat!

He knows how to make an entrance.

Paul’s in the business end of show business. He produces DVDs which repackage old TV shows. He is especially involved in finding and producing the special features that come on those DVDs. It’s a fun part of his life, which brings him into contact with loads of (mostly older) celebrities.

Among his latest projects is Phil Silvers “You’ll Never Get Rich,” from the mid-50s. It’s a show more commonly known by the name of its title character, “Bilko.”

I remember watching that show when I was a kid. I had a very peripheral connection to Harvey Lembeck, who play Cpl Rocco Barbella. That probably piqued my interest a little. The fact that it was a very funny show didn’t hurt.

Today, Paul was interviewed about “Bilko” on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” What ATC lacks in audience, it makes up in prestige. This was Paul’s classiest interview ever.

He was great. The clips they chose to play were classics. Robert Siegal, the interviewer, was a “Bilko” fan, which made the interview that much more friendly.

I listened to the interview with the pride normally reserved for someone’s father. Paul was great – pithy, witty, and other words ending in ‘y’.

In Hollywood, someone else’s success is often rewarded with jealousy and back stabbing. I live in Connecticut. My friend’s success only shows I have good taste in friends.

Blogger’s note: I can’t link directly to the interview, but if you follow the link above, it’s there. There are also some brief, but very funny, video clips.

Raider Of The Lost Archives

My friend Paul Brownstein and I have been friends for better than 35 years. He was the first of the ‘gang’ to go to Los Angeles. He came to Helaine and my wedding late… not having been fit for his tux… and wearing a fur coat!

Our mutual friend Howard used to say, “Some people go to the seashore. Some go to the mountains. We go to the Hotel Brownstein.”

It was because of this we often referred to Paul simply as, “The Hotel.”.

A trip to Paul and Sue’s teeny little house on Stanley Hill, above Laurel Canyon, would be guaranteed to have a touch of Hollywood. You’d always run into someone you’d heard of. And Paul always had stories to tell.

The house was packed to the gills with memorabilia. In this age of EBay, Paul’s sitting on a fortune.

Just being with Paul was entertaining. I’m not sure how else to explain to. Something was always going on, or seemed to be, even when it wasn’t.

Over time Paul became involved with artists who owned the rights to their own shows. He was pivotal in getting the old Smothers Brothers Show and Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour on “E”.

As DVDs of old TV shows grew in stature, Paul moved there. He is a charming guy – the perfect schmoozer. That made him the perfect person to produce special features for DVDs.

Paul’s the guy who finds old commercials to go with old shows, or gets that classic interview with the stars. He has been dubbed, “Raider of the Lost Archives.” It’s a great name, it fits, and I suspect he enjoys hearing it said by others.

Paul has dropped more names of more actors of the 50s, 60s and 70s than anyone in the world. Why not? He’s been with them and listened as they told their stories (sometimes for the last time).

Recently, Paul has been the guy newspapers and magazines go to for quotes about the DVD business. He is now a respected expert.

In Hollywood, your friend’s success often breeds envy. I live in Connecticut. I don’t need that. My friend’s success breeds pride. I am very proud of what Paul has accomplished.

Now he is profiled in the current issue of United Airlines’ in-flight magazine. Just in case you’re not flying any time soon, here’s the link.

My only regret is, it’s for February – the shortest month. Paul deserves a 31 day month at the very least.

My Friend Paul And The Twilight Zone

I was looking for something to read and so flipped through the Arts and Entertainment section of the Sunday Times. It didn’t take me long to come to an article about the new Twilight Zone DVDs – a project spearheaded by my friend Paul Brownstein.

I’ve written about Paul before, so I won’t labor you with repeated praise. However, the Times article was very flattering about all the parts of this DVD that Paul touched – interviews and commentary, re added original scenes, crisp remastered prints, and old long forgotten extras.

Here’s the article, or if you stumble upon this at some distant date, it’s also included after the ‘jump’ link.

I’ve been waiting for Paul to receive this kind of praise for years.

Continue reading “My Friend Paul And The Twilight Zone”

Raider Of The Lost Archives

My friend Paul, who I’ve known over 35 years, has been a producer in Los Angeles for a long time. As his career evolved he got involved in repackaging older shows to rerun on cable. When the Smothers Brothers went back to E! or Sonny and Cher’s old shows reran, it was Paul who put together the package.

He is called, “Raider of the Lost Archives!” The title fits.

To make these old shows new and attractive, special extra features get added. This is where Paul is a genius.

For each release there is also the pain of getting clearance and making payments to artists and performers who’d worked on these shows decades earlier. Some are tough to find. Some are impossible to find.

Over the past few years Paul has branched out. Now he repackages old shows into DVDs. The medium is different though his work product is similar.

Every few weeks we’ll be on the phone talking and Paul will tell me about some TV star of twenty or thirty years ago who he will be meeting to get guest commentary for a new DVD collection. Usually, these are people who were big stars, but have now retired… or sadly aged out of the roles they used to play.

All this work pays off, because sometimes it’s the special features, the little extras, that make his DVDs so desirable.

I’m not the only one who’s realized that. Just yesterday he scored the top two of the five “Best DVDs” in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Paul lives in Los Angeles where success is often looked upon with envy. Not here. This is my friend and I couldn’t be more proud.

Here are the five best TV series on DVD, based on the legacy of the show and the inclusion of bountiful and substantive extras. They’re sure to take you to another dimension, a journey not only of sight and sound but of mind.

1. “The Dick Van Dyke Show”

Rob and Laura Petrie never had it so good. Each of the five season sets for the classic sitcom includes a giddy wealth of special features, thanks to DVD producer Paul Brownstein’s uncanny ability to dig them up and — more important — secure the rights to use them. Favorites are the cast’s appearance on the game show “Stump the Stars” and Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore’s in-character commercials for products such as dish soap and — gasp! — cigarettes (the latter a hidden feature). (Image, $69.99 per season; $249.99 for the entire five-season run.)

2. “The Twilight Zone”

Brownstein strikes again with the “Definitive Edition” re-releases of Rod Serling’s sci-fi anthology series, which has two seasons to go after the new third-season set. Goodies include commentary, isolated scores, archival audio interviews and fun bits such as the Sci Fi Channel’s promo spots for its annual “TZ” marathon. And the first-season set comes with the best program notes ever included with a DVD, the 466-page “The Twilight Zone Companion.” (Image, $119.99 for first season, $99.99 for others.)

Continue reading “Raider Of The Lost Archives”

Friends Doing Well

Within the past few days two of my friends have had significant career achievements that I wanted to mention.

I wrote about Paul, who I’ve known since 1969, winning a DVD award. Now, I have a photo to prove it. That’s Paul Brownstein with Dick Van Dyke (Paul calls the project the DVD-DVD) whose commentary, along with Carl Reiner’s, had more than a little to do with Paul’s win.

I also heard from Marcia Mule. Before I go on, let me tell you you’re mispronouncing her name. It’s Mar-see Mew-lay. Much better!

Marcia, and her partner, are producing a new series on Bravo, “Celebrity Poker Showdown.” There’s a subject near and dear to my heart. In the first episode, the two best players left early, beaten by a lucky hand. Unfortunately, the two best players were fairly big names, David Schwimmer and Ben Affleck.

Still, the show held my interest, though the poker was far from well played. Alan Pergament wrote a nice article about Marcia and the show in the Buffalo News.

I know Marcia because she was one of our producers at PM Magazine/Buffalo back in the very early 80s. I remember how nice she was then, and how nice her parents were. Back in those days, when I was willing to appear on TV without a shirt (I don’t even shower without a shirt now), Marcia’s family used to let us use their pool as a location. Those shoots were wonderful.

Marcia and I spent too many days in too many Dodge vans in too much Buffalo snow. I am glad that her production company is getting work and hope she’s making huge money and becoming very happy.