The Michigan Daily-tuesday"June 1t,1961-Page 5
HOLLYWOOD WRITER SPEAKS AT 'U'
Writing for TVand
His first writing job for MCA in AFTER THREE years the team
By PAM FICKINGER Detroit put him "on the road" to New broke up and Belcher got a job in a gas
Daily staff writer York, where his comedy sketches were station before he made the move to
niversity students with television or noticed by Frank Fontaine, the man Hollywood.
scripts gathering dust on their who often portrayed a drunk on the His first job in Hollywood was
ves may soon get the guidance Jackie Gleason Show. managing the apartment building he
needed to open doors in Hollywood.
Jim Belcher, a West Coast writer
whose credits range from the "Jackie
Gleason Show" to "Sanford and Son" to
an academy award-nominated film for
the handicapped, will conduct a
University Extension Service workshop
later this week called "Professional TV
and Film Writing."
A DETROIT native, Belcher's first
experience in the entertainment field
was the organization of the Satigatuck
Jazz Festival, in 1959. He brought big
names like Duke Ellington, Ella Fit-
zgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie to
Michigan in the early 19604.
Belcher said he went through a series
of odd jobs, like selling lingerie and
being assistant press agent for the
Schubert Theatre, before he finally
began to establish himself as a comedy
WHEN THE Gleason Show moved
to Miami, Belcher decided to stay in
New York and did freelance comedy
writing for Jack Carter and Jackie
lived in. At this time he was also looking
for writing jobs. He worked for a little
while on the Joey Bishop Show and
wrote for any job he could find. What he
found was an offer from a producer in
There are more
people out here who
can write than are in
Birth Defects -
This space contributed
by the publisher
Leonard, to name a few. During this
time he would stay up all night with
other comedy writers trying to "get in
with the stars.",
Beside being a comedy writer,
Belcher also wanted to be a comedian.
Since he didn't have the nerve to do a
single act, he formedta team.Belcher
wanted to do something different so he
formed the first black and white
comedy team in America, Haley and
Belcher. He says that when he was
auditioning for a partner he auditioned
Richard Pryor but thought he was
terrible and said he knew he couldn't
work with him.
Haley and Belcher was a "tux act" -
they were sophisticated." Their first
audition was for the Apollo Club and
they knew the crowd would either
"love 'em or hate 'em." As it turned out
the audience "fell on the floor
laughing' and Belcher became the first
white ever to play the Apollo Club.,
Detroit to be the writer for just-landed
accounts with American Motors and
His next break came when he an-
swered an ad for Peterson Publishing
Company back in California. He wrote
the president of the company a letter,
went to meet him, and was offered the
job of vice-president for Peterson
Productions. He was an executive
producer, a "deal-maker." "I couldn't
wait to get rid of my Pinto," remarks
WHILE WORKING for Peterson,
Belcher had to create, package,
present, and sell shows. He did this for
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The adventure continues ...
about five years until he decided he
wanted to be a comedy writer. He star-
ted all over again and was out of work
for seven months.
Finally, Belcher's luck changed. He
landed a job with Tandem Productions
which led to freelance writing for the
Nancy Walker Show, Sanford and Son,
Chico and the Man, and many other
shows. Belcher says he "went around
the mountain to get there."
Belcher also did a film for the han-
dicapped which got him an Academy
Award nomination and calls from Walt
Disney and 20th Century Fox.
IN THE WORKSHOP, Belcher wants
"to tell others like me that are back in
Detroit they can do it. Don't give up
that damn talent no matter what
anybody says. There are more people
out here who can write than are in
He calls himself an "inspirer" who
can't tell people hlow to write but can
provide encouragement. He says that
you've got "to have passion, desire,
ambition," you've got to "shoot for the
star, but if you fall a little short, at least
you're farther than when you started."
Belcher encourages his students to
call him. He says that so far three of his
students have sold scripts, one to
"Laverne and Shirley" and two to
"Love Boat." He also says that the field
for new writers to go into is cable
television, because Hollywood can't
satisfy 100 channels, but cable can.
Belcher says that "showbiz is like a
building with many doors, you have to
try all of them. If you want the highest
apple you have to climb up to get it, it
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