Chapter 26: Krazy Klients
And how about this one? A production unit in the Warner Brothers studio came to me with a more or less finished script on the early life of Santa Claus! Not St. Nicholas, Santa Claus, the paunchy gift-giver with the long white beard, ruddy cheeks, and the "ho-ho-ho" laugh. But this story was about Santa when he was still a sexy teen-ager, a socially positive lad named "Nicholas Jingle." He got that name when a necromancer in touch with the original saint put a tiny bell on a golden chain around baby Nick's neck, and predicted he would be the gift-giver to humanity. The bell jingled, so what else could they name him? Clever? I assumed it was a non-starter, but this was Hollywood money. They flew me out there, and put me up at the Beverly-Wilshire hotel, and laid on some impressive meetings. The best thing about it was that I got to roam around the Warners lot, coming upon the original set of Shangri-la, all overgrown with weeds. Quite symbolic. The production of "Nicholas Jingle" was one of those 99 percenters. I did my best. We produced some beautiful color production sketches, some song demos, and a workable storyboard. There have been more absurd stories that made it, but it wasn't a good Christmas that year for the producers. It was OK for me, as they paid with the enthusiasm that 99% certainty engenders.
The greatest project, the greatest hope, the greatest man, and the greatest failure, came to me towards the end of 1970. While communist Czechoslovakia was plunged into retro "normalization," as the hardliners took full control after the Soviet-led invasion and the expulsion of Dubček, my own spirits were sent soaring with the prospect of the most endearing project ever offered to me: E.B.White's "Charlotte's Web." That will need a chapter all its own.