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October 15, 1993 - Image 115

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-10-15

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The Arts

os Angeles



In the "Guinness
Book of World Records," Aaron
Spelling has a niche as the most
prolific — and arguably the rich-
est — television producer of all
time. Over 35 years, he has pro-
uced a staggering 2,800
hours of TV programming,
and if some masochist were
to try and watch the entire out-
put consecutively, 24 hours a day,
it would take close to four months.
The hypothetical viewer ■
would absorb a major part of
American television history,
ranging from such series as
"Dynasty," "The Colbys," "Ho-
tel," "Hart to Hart," Charlie's
Angels," "Fantasy Island,"
"Family," "Starsky and Hutch"
and "The Love Boat" to "T.J.
Hooker," "Matt Houston,"
"Vega$," "The Mod Squad,"
"The Rookies" and "Nightin-
gales." Current first-run
shows are "Beverly Hills
90210" and its spinoff, "Melrose
Place," and Mr. Spelling has eight
more series in development.
For all but the most reclusive
of hermits, it is almost impossible
to escape a Spelling production on
the small screen, if only in reruns
or syndication. His shows are dis-
tributed to 97 countries and one
of his happier moments, he says,

The cast of "Beverly Hills 90210," a current Aaron Spelling hit.

is to walk down a street in a for-
eign country and hear the theme
music from one of his programs.
With success has come con-
temptuous criticism of his "trash-
and-flash," "glitz-and-glamor'' and
"jiggle-and-wiggle" shows, pro-
fessional envy and immense
Spelling's wife Candy has been
known to wear $4 million worth
of jewelry to a lunch meeting,

plenty of room left over.
Mr. Spelling will occasionally
admit, and amateur psychologists
concur, that his extraordinary
drive for riches and recognition is
rooted in a poverty-stricken and
often unhappy childhood. Some
years ago, Mr. Spelling granted
that "my background indelibly
stayed in my mind. I think that's
why I work so hard. I still have
the feeling that one day it will all
be taken away."
Both his mother and father
came to the United States from
Russia, but while most Jewish im-
migrants stayed in New York and
other East Coast cities, the par-
ents settled in Dallas. "When he
came to America, my father knew
two words in English, 'Texas' and
`cowboy,' so they sent him to Dal-
las, where I was born 68 years
ago," says Mr. Spelling.
The new immigrant found that
even in America, the streets were
prompting one guest to observe not paved with gold. "My father,
that "all I want are the mineral alav hasholom, was a tailor and
rights to Candy's arm."
never made more than $45 a
The most visible expression of week in his life," recalls Mr.
Mr. Spelling's rank and standing Spelling. To make life more mis-
is the immense chateau he built erable for Aaron, the family was
in the mid-'80s on Mapleton Drive the only Jewish one in a working,
in Holmby Hills, a wealthy en- "dirty-collar" neighborhood, and
clave between Beverly Hills and the skinny kid with big, staring
Bel Air. After paying $10 million eyes was often set upon by school
bullies with cries
of "Jew baby."
Then as now a
constant worrier,
the young Aaron
had a nervous
breakdown when
he was 9, stayed
in bed for over a
year and refused
to go to school.
There are some
happier memories
Aaron Spelling and wife Candy.
of his youth. Ear-
lier this year, the
in cash to buy croon- American Friends of the Hebrew
er Bing Crosby's University conferred the Scopus
43,000-square-foot Award on the producer and an-
house, Mr. Spelling nounced establishment of the
tore it down and re- Aaron Spelling Family Founda-
placed it with a 123- tion for the Performing Arts on
room, 56,000 square the Jerusalem campus. In his
foot mansion, which brief response, Mr. Spelling
could easily house dwelled almost entirely on his
the Taj Mahal, with continues on next page

mother and her blue and white
pushke, to which each family.
member contributed a few cents
each week to plant trees in Israel.
Mr. Spelling got his first taste
of show business in the unlikely
environment of the U.S. Army
during the Second World War
when he was assigned to tour
with Alfred Lunt and Lynn
Fontaine in their production of "0
Mistress Mine."
As a post-war student at South-
ern Methodist University, he
spent most of his time directing
student productions and by 1953
he felt he was ready for Holly-
The feeling was not reciprocal
and for a while he eked out a liv-
ing as a waiter and then as an air-
line reservation clerk. When he
did break into show biz, it was as
an actor, appearing 123 times on
"Dragnet" episodes.
From acting, Mr. Spelling
turned to writing, and undis-
couraged by the rejection of his
first 12 TV scripts, was hired
eventually by actor Dick Powell
to write westerns and then pro-
duce segments for the "Zane Grey
Theatre." In 1963, in partnership
with comedian Danny Thomas,
Mr. Spelling launched the hippie-
cop series "The Mod Squad," and
the rest, as they say, is history.
During the '70s and early '80s,
he reigned as the undisputed king
of prime time TV series. Under a
lucrative contract, all his pro-
grams were shown exclusively on
the ABC network, leading some
wags to rename it Aaron's Broad-
casting Company. In as volatile a
medium as television, it couldn't
last and it didn't. By the end of the
'80s, ABC-TV changed hands and,
worse, so did public taste, turning
from Mr. Spelling's escapist fan- co
tasies and action-adventures to C)
the more reality-oriented "Hill
Street Blues," "L.A. Law" and
Mr. Spelling's flagship "Dy-
nasty" was cancelled, his new pro-
jects were turned down, and the
press pronounced the producer as
finished. "It is rare that a man
falls so far so fast, to the delight


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