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Dolly Parton’s SNL Rescue!



I landed a dream internship at Saturday Night Live in 1989…and nearly lost it.


Dolly Parton was host the week of April 10th.


Wednesdays were long days: last minute touches to newly written sketches, afternoon read-throughs with the entire cast and crew, and a late night meeting of the braintrust choosing which sketches to produce for that Saturday’s show, kicking everything into production.


There we were at 30 Rockefeller Plaza--30 Rock, we called it. 17th floor.


After 8PM, NBC’s main elevator bank would close, and all were relegated to a small elevator area down the hall.


It’s 9PM, and I’m at this back hallway elevator raving to Brett King from the film unit, about my buddy’s band, Edge Park, from our school, Ithaca College:


“They’re gonna be comin’ down from Ithaca this Friday to to play CBGB’s! You gotta check ‘em out—they’re awesome!”


Brett King, eventual former VP Creative Programming, Diversity & Inclusion at Sony Pictures


My back faced the hallway, and suddenly Brett’s eyes lit up as he gazed over my shoulder. You guessed it--right in the middle of my effervescent invitation, who should walk up, but legendary SNL creator and producer, Lorne Michaels, with that week’s host and musical guest, Dolly Parton.


Now, I was raised to not be rude, and in my then neurotic 20 year old brain, Lorne and Dolly clearly must have heard my gushing invite. Thus, it stood to reason that polite society’s sense of common etiquette dictates said invite must be duly extended to present unexpected company, no matter their stature to mine. Right??


Without thinking about who I was talking to, I turned and waxed lyrical all over the legendary newcomers, leading with, “Oh, I was just telling Brett…”.


Lorne’s eyes were static daggers fixed on my prescribed demise, but due to my adrenaline escutcheon, I blathered unfazed.


Dolly, bless her heart, burst forth, “Sure! I’ll even jump up on stage and sing with them if they want!”, meeting my youthful exuberance with her own brand of Southern ebulliencial glee.


At that very moment, Ding!, a chime signifying the elevator’s arrival, like a ringside bell at a lopsided Championship fight, and with it, this intense round’s conclusion.


Brett and I got on, Dolly and Lorne stayed behind—I naïvely pondered, “maybe they’d forgotten something”.


As we landed on the ground floor of 30 Rock, Brett silently nodded as we went our separate ways into the night.


The next morning, as soon as I’d arrived to the 17th floor, Brett solemnly approached me, and confidently uttered, “Minor faux pas last night”.


I was so poorly read that I was unfamiliar with the expression—Faux pas, was that a bakery??


Playing it cool, I said, “Uh huh…”, as he emphasized his point:


“…We don’t talk to Lorne.”


Brett was the Enola Gay, and his remark the “Little Boy”. He’d dropped his payload and strode away, mission complete.


But, it suddenly dawned on me that I was more of a one man Hiroshima of self-destruction. I wore a mushroom cloud the rest of the day, waiting impatiently for a call to Patton’s office for certain brig-sentencing, if not an outright dishonorable discharge.


All day long I beat myself up, thinking, “What did I DO??”, as I have many times before and since.


I slinked over and told my pal, Tom Schiller, the first writer hired for the original SNL years, who was there as a filmmaker and who’d graciously taken me under his wing. He thought it was hi-larious, and insisted I not worry.



Tom Schiller: Writer, Director, Actor, Filmmaker and all around great guy


Turns out he was right, and nothing else came of it.


I’d like to think it was Dolly’s down to earth, good natured response that saved me, so just

want to say thank you to Dolly for graciously, naturally and good-naturedly matching my velocity. Also, special thanks to Lorne for turning the other cheek, to Brett for setting me straight and teaching me French, and Tom for employing the fun brand of humor and support he’s always embodied—the original spirit of SNL, relieving me of my self obsessed Dave Jay-sized torture chamber.


Then writer Conan O'Brien with then bolo tie wearer, yours truly, circa May 1989


I’ve been around some famous folks over the years, so if you want to hear more about my odd experiences with them, please let me know.


Thank you.



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