HACKENSACK TO HOLLYWOOD: MY TWO SHOW BUSINESS CAREERS by Gordon Whitey Mitchell
Gordon "Whitey" Mitchell was at the heart of show business as a top jazz musician/studio player. In a mid-life career change, he found success as a screenwriter of theatrical films, television pilots, and hundreds of classic American tv sitcoms, such as Get Smart, All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Mork & Mindy, and others. He laughed, scratched, and stumbled his way through both careers and rubbed shoulders with the biggest names in the business—and managed to remain completely anonymous.
Take a fast paced trip through his childhood, college, and the US Army, and then ride a roller coaster through the world of professional music, recording sessions, and bebop gigs with the world’s greatest jazz musicians. Ride broadcast waves back into the 1970s and his creation of 24-minute tv episode scripts under the constraints of higher ups and their whims of misjudgment.
"I'd have to say this is a very entertaining book, even if he didn't mention my name fourteen times." –Norman Lear, producer-writer
"Whitey Mitchell is a fine bass player. He plays in tune, keeps immaculate time and knows the bridge to ‘Sophisticated Lady.’ He is also a writer who tells his stories with wit and style. His book is a pleasure to read." –Andre Previn, composer-conductor-pianist
"Whitey Mitchell is an extraordinary musician and a brilliant writer. But what he doesn't realize is that he's a magician. His life is magic. I read [the book] in one engrossing night. Couldn't put it down." –Mort Lachman, producer-writer for Bob Hope
"If I'd known that Whitey Mitchell was this funny, I would have given him more scripts to write." –Bill Asher, producer-director of I Love Lucy and Bewitched
“Mitchell knows everybody, tells all, makes it fun to remember the “Good Times” in our collective TV memory. - Jeff Barr, L.A. Jazz
Gordon Mitchell, known to jazz fans as “Whitey”, to distinguish himself from his late brother “Red” Mitchell, became an outstanding jazz bassist in New York, in the early ‘50s, and continued a multifaceted career in jazz music for many years. But, heading West to see “Red” in the early ‘70s, Whitey found another calling, Hollywood Screen Writer! He contributed scripts to many hit shows, rose to supervisor of production, and became a top level television writer for such shows as “Mork and Mindy”, “The Jeffersons”, “Get Smart” and “The Bob Hope Show,” to name but a few.
This book is a stimulating read, full of laughs and insights into the world on and behind the bandstand, and what used to be called “the small screen”. Mitchell takes the reader on a fast paced trip through his childhood through college and the army, and into professional music, the world of record sessions and bebop gigs with the world’s greatest jazz musicians, with plenty of insights into what makes up the characters of jazzmen. Particular amusement can be gained from the author’s experiences playing for the country club sets in the orchestra(s) of Lester Lanin, whom Mitchell playfully refers to as “Julius Martinet”.
The book spends at least half its 250 + pages (with lots of great photos), about the life of Gordon Mitchell, the television writer-producer. The reader learns a great deal about what goes into those 24 minute scripts, that were so popular in the ‘70s. What fascinates most is the exposure of the hierarchy of TV production, in all its crass, populist glory; who makes the decision to dump a great joke, or how a “suit” in the higher ups, can diminish the carefully crafted role of a character in a script, on a whim of misjudgment.
Mitchell knows everybody, tells all, makes it fun to remember the “Good Times” in our collective TV memory.
- Jeff Barr, L.A. Jazz Newspaper
Whitey's credit list