With the recent news about Mel Brooks wanting to make “Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money,” I’ve been contemplating (let’s be honest: OBSESSING) how I can work on this potential production. See, ever since I was out of school for two weeks in fifth grade with pneumonia, Mel Brooks has been a huge part of my life. He was my doctor. Laughter is the best medicine, right? So, by the transitive property, Mel Brooks was my doctor.
I already had all of “Spaceballs” memorized when my mom came home with “The Producers” (1967 version), “Young Frankenstein,” “Blazing Saddles,” “The Twelve Chairs,” “Silent Movie,” “High Anxiety,” and, “History of the World: Part I.” After taking this two-week master class, I learned that no topic is off limits if it is done with just the right combination of intelligence and fart jokes. Mel taught me that when you’re making a comedic silent movie, the only person who CAN speak is of course a mime. And he showed me that women can be funny and sexy.
My life, without any hyperbole, was literally turned upside, shaken, stirred, and changed forever. It has since become a steady combination of attaining my goal of working in comedy and stalking Mel Brooks.
In college, I started doing stand-up and became, as Bea Arthur explains it in “The History of the World Part I,” a bullshit artist. When I moved to LA after graduation, one of the first phone calls I made was to Brooksfilms to find out if Mel needed an assistant. I was of course disappointed that the answer was no, but I pressed on.
In 2005, my husband and I met on Myspace (yes, Myspace) when he sent me a message that mentioned his mutual admiration for Mel Brooks. I had to respond. Obviously.
Later that year, I wrote and performed in a one-woman show where I had a segment dedicated to Mel Brooks. And, obtaining some supernatural courage from the man himself, I found myself goose-stepping across the stage, singing, “Springtime for Hitler.” The audience loved it.
Then, in 2006 a friend invited me to the taping of a Mel Brooks and Dick Cavett special. It was good to be the king (or queen) of Mel Brooks’ fans. This was my first time seeing Mr. Brooks in person. And while we didn’t meet, I did sit on the edge of my seat, hanging on every one of Mel’s raspy words.
In 2009, I started writing for the SAG Awards, where I infused puns into my work. A tribute to one of my favorite often used Mel puns, “Walk this way.”
In 2010, I married the man of my dreams, my Lone Starr, my Dr. Frankenstein, my Robin of Locksley. The name of one of our tables at our wedding was “Mel Brooks.”
Two and a half years later, we welcomed our beautiful daughter, Maya Brynn. Yes, subconsciously, Mel Brooks was on our minds.
In 2013, another friend invited me to the AFI Life Achievement tribute to my hero. There was a reception beforehand and I thought for sure this was when Mel and I would meet and creatively fall in love. Unfortunately, we were just VIPs; Mel was a VVIP attending a reception on a whole other blocked off floor.
But this past July, thanks to a fellow Brooks fan, I scored an extra ticket to a tribute to Sid Caesar where Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, and Billy Crystal would be speaking. We got in line early and snagged a second row seat in the 150-seat theater. I could reach out and touch a trio of supermen. I didn’t. I almost did. But I didn’t.
After the panel discussed their love and admiration for the late Caesar, they were swarmed by very aggressive fans for autographs. Wanting to be respectful, I refrained from charging and my chance to meet my man had passed.
Then, on the final day of February of this year, after a tip from yet another friend, I purchased last minute tickets to a double-feature screening celebrating the larger than life, late actor Zero Mostel. The Aero Theater in Santa Monica was playing “The Producers” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and in between screenings, the one and only Brooks (writer/director of the former) would make an appearance. I excitedly invited my mom to be my date. The screening started at 7:30, so naturally we got there at 5 p.m. and weren’t even the first ones in line.
While I would never normally choose to sit right up at the screen, I knew I had to be as close as humanly possible to Mel, and we scored seats smack dab in the middle of the front row. We leaned back, way, way back, in our seats as my favorite Mel Brooks movie started. It was fantastic to see it up on the big screen side-by-side with 400 fans who knew just when to applaud, and of course, when to laugh.
As soon as the film ended, the evening’s moderator announced that Mel would be taking questions from the audience. I shook nervously. As Mel approached the stage, 398 audience members seemed to disappear and it was just my mom and me listening to Mel tell us stories.
The question and answer portion started and my hand shot into the air. When I was called upon I mumbled that I might cry. The tears were welling. Mel looked at me lovingly and shouted, “Speak up!” and I shouted back “OK!” Mel laughed; I relaxed. I’d made my hero laugh.
I then proceed, “Mr. Brooks, I am a lifelong fan and hope that someday we can work together. Is there anyone you haven’t had the opportunity to work with yet but would really like to?” Mel thought for a moment and I filled the silence with, “Other than me of course.” The audience laughed and Mel smiled. He then cupped his hands in front of his chest and with a smirk, talked about wanting to work with Jean Harlow. He then went on to discuss how he originally wanted his co-writer, Richard Pryor to play Bart in, “Blazing Saddles,” but the studio wouldn’t take on the liability with Pryor’s drug problem. He continued to talk about how wonderful Cleavon Little was in the role, but that he still always wished he could have directed Pryor.
The rest of the questions went by in a blur. At the conclusion, the whole front row stood up to attempt to get autographs or take pictures, but security made a blockade. I looked Mel right in the eye and asked if I could shake his hand. He extended his hand towards me, I shook it, and I thanked him…for everything. And he thanked me for my question. HE thanked ME!
It was extremely fitting that I had my first (of what I hope to be many) meeting with Mel while I was with my mom, who was the first to truly introduce us.
I will continue to write and be creative so I can be at the top of my game when Mel and I inevitably write a movie together. And when “Spaceballs 2” goes into production, I hope to report back that I’m working on the film. Even if it’s as someone’s father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate.