He learned fast why no one else wanted to be head writer. "It was a backbreaking job," Brickman says. "The monologue writers just had to turn in a monologue every day at three o'clock. The head writer was responsible for everything else. He had to write the sketches. 'Carnac the Magnificent,' 'The Tea Time Movies.' It was a killer job, and I loved it. Johnny was great to work for, a sweetheart. I miss him."
When Cavett got his own talk show opposite Carson, Brickman jumped ship and joined his good friend. Meanwhile a new friendship with up-and-coming comic Woody Allen led to his collaborating on the scripts of such films as Sleeper, Manhattan and Annie Hall, for which they won screenwriting Oscars. That in turn led to directing movies — even though, Brickman now admits, "I had practically never been on a movie set."
"The musical happened because the movie fell through," says Marshall Brickman.
Jersey Boys Through May 18 at the Fox Theatre, 527 North Grand Boulevard. Tickets are $28 to $75. Call 314-534-1678 or visit www.fabulousfox.com.
The directing gig was short-lived (Simon, Lovesick, The Manhattan Project), in part, Brickman says, because "I was not — and still am not — 'in the club.' It's hard to direct movies out of the gravitational pull of Hollywood. Woody has done it. Marty Scorsese has done it. But I guess I was a little stubborn." To Brickman, stubborn means: "I wanted to do the movies that I wanted to do. The way I see it, every good work of art tells you a little bit about the artist, about the subject and about the medium itself. So a good movie will teach you something about what movies are, about the moviemaker, and maybe you'll come away with something that resonates with you as a person."
Ironically, Jersey Boys was developed in Hollywood's back yard (La Jolla) so as to avoid the gravitational pull of Broadway. "We came in at the end of a season with shows about Johnny Cash, the Beach Boys, Elvis, and they had all crashed," Brickman recalls. "So everybody was skeptical about our show. And I give it to Rocco Landesman [the former St. Louisan, now president of Jujamcyn Theaters] because he gave us a theater when five other shows were desperate to come in. If it weren't for Rocco, I don't know what we would have done."
As the Jersey Boys royalties accrue, and Brickman eyes that next stone in the river, he will be guided by two simple rules. "My philosophy of life is twofold," he says. "The first rule is to always do the opposite of what my father suggested. That is a constant, like a weather vane that points in the opposite direction. The second is to work with people that you look forward to having lunch with. I have had some fabulous lunches."