SIT, UBU, SIT
By: Gary David Goldberg.
Publisher: Harmony, 259 pages, $23.95.
Review: A refreshingly heartwarming memoir about a guy who made it to the top without stepping on or over anyone else.
To judge by his thoroughly enjoyable memoir, "Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went From Brooklyn to Hollywood With the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair," Gary David Goldberg is the luckiest guy in the world: He grew up in a warm and loving family. He found the love of his life and has been with her about 40 years. He discovered a job he loved and made millions of dollars doing it.
Can a life without feuds (well, OK, there was one, but it got patched up), recriminations, neuroses or extramarital sex be worth reading about? It can if it's as heartwarming and as humorously written as this one. If your eyes are rolling at the word "heartwarming," rest assured that in this case, it's not a euphemism for "insipid." It's just that there is something really nice about someone making it to the top without stepping on or over anybody else.
If his is not a household name, it's because Goldberg worked behind the scenes at a couple of the seminal series in television history. He created "Family Ties," the Michael J. Fox comedy that lasted seven seasons and closed shop while still No. 1. He created "Brooklyn Bridge," a story about growing up in New York City in the early 1950s (which was really a televised version of this memoir), and he co-created "Spin City," which reunited him with Fox.
Goldberg's path wasn't always easy. After getting out of high school, he entered and dropped out of two colleges. He was working as a waiter and actor at a Greenwich Village nightspot when he met Diana Meehan, the aforementioned love of his life. After some time on the regional theater circuit and touring Europe with a pregnant Diana and their dog, Ubu (a trip financed by periodic blood donations), the pair settled in California, where Meehan was going to study for a graduate degree.
Goldberg signed up for a general- studies writing class at San Diego State. "It doesn't sound too difficult," he thought to himself. "It might be fun. If nothing else, it'll bring me three units closer to the B.A."
He was fortunate in several respects. The teacher was Nate Monaster, an Academy Award nominee and writing pro, down from L.A. as a visiting writer in residence. He spotted Goldberg's talent and kicked him out of the class. "You have a unique style and I don't want to get in the way," he told him.
Monaster also promised to get him an agent. At the time, Goldberg didn't even own a TV set; he had to buy one. As soon as he started watching, he decided, "I can do that. I can definitely do that." And he did.
After spending some months banging out spec scripts, he eventually landed at "The Bob Newhart Show," worked on other shows and then created "Family Ties." Ironically, Goldberg didn't hit it off with Fox at first and needed to be coaxed to bring him back for a second audition for the role of Alex Keaton. When the late Brandon Tartikoff, head of NBC at the time, said he'd buy the show, but only if another actor replaced Fox, Goldberg told him no -- potentially losing an opportunity to make his mark. Fortunately, Tartikoff blinked.
Not that rain hasn't fallen on Goldberg's parade. His wife grew gravely ill a few years ago, and you can almost feel his anguish as he deals with that chapter of his life.
About that feud: When making "Spin City," Fox felt that Goldberg was still treating him as Keaton the young kid and not as an equal partner in the series. Goldberg left the show and the two didn't talk for a while. But Goldberg called to make up, partly because he realized he may have been wrong. Can you imagine that? A Hollywood big shot admitting he's wrong?
Leo Durocher was wrong: Nice guys don't always finish last. At a time when we've become obsessed with the Hiltons/Lohans/Spearses of the world, "Sit, Ubu, Sit" is a refreshing change.
Curt Schleier of New Jersey is an emergency medical technician and volunteer ambulance driver. He also reviews for the Kansas City Star and Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.