FOR ERNIE - FROM BILL

“Stop worrying, Bill, It’s gonna work like Gangbusters.”


From OUR HOUSE to PROMISED LAND – “It’s gonna work like gangbusters” is what Ernie would always tell me when I had serious reservations about one of his ideas.


Let me share a “gangbuster” moment with you.


We were shooting FLIPPER in Australia. We were three weeks from production and still searching for an idea for our season opening two-parter.


It was approaching midnight when I said to him, “what if Flipper gets kidnapped?”


He crossed his legs, folded his arms, lowered his chin – what he would always do when giving an idea serious consideration –


And then he reached for the phone.


Ernie, it’s midnight, who are you calling?


He says, “I’m calling Tony Soprano, I’d rather have you kidnapped than Flipper.”


So, I say a few things to him – mostly in Australian...


And I stormed out and went back to my hotel room.


Three o’clock in the morning, the phone rings. I recognized the ring...so I don’t pick up.


But the phone keeps ringing and ringing and I figure I better get it or Ernie’s going to be banging on the door in his underwear.


What do you want?


Are you ready, he says, I got the idea.


Go ahead.


Flipper gets kidnapped.


ERNIE, I scream...as only a Jew can scream at a Mormon at three o’clock in the morning.


Wait, he says, I got more.


Flipper gets kidnapped and taken to Cuba to live in Castro’s new aquarium.


Bill, it’s gonna work like gangbusters.


But Ernie, we’re in Australia. They don’t have Cubans here. They don’t have Mexicans or Spanish. All they got here is a lotta white people.


That’s not my problem, he said.


Flipper’s going to Cuba. Adios Amigo and he hangs up the phone.

 

I'm not sad that Ernie escaped from his earthly prison.  I never want to remember him stuck to the wheelchair or using his computer to speak, even though he was inspiring and courageous in how he handled it every step of the way.


I want to remember Ernie the way I knew him over the last twenty years.  He was funny and exasperating -- usually at exactly the same time. 


He was fiercely loyal and exasperating.  He had a horrible temper and a huge heart.  Did I say he was exasperating? 


We broke stories together and we fought.  We wrote scripts together and we fought.  We played hoops and I lost.  We drove tens of thousands of miles together -- listening to the Rolling Stones and terrifying each other with our personal driving techniques...


And we went scuba diving around the world...usually breaking the rules, going deeper and staying longer than we should.  But I never really worried about it because I was with Ernie and Ernie wouldn't ever let anything bad happen to me. 


No, it wasn't that Ernie cared that much about me...it's that he cared that much about everybody.  If he could help, he would.  It was in his nature. Except for whistling.  It would drive him crazy when I'd whistle, especially in elevators.


I know Ernie's found a nice comfortable spot in heaven with a computer at his side.  He's busy taking it apart right now.  And we all shouldn't be too surprised if good things start happening here on earth -- like curing ALS or coming up with a solution for global warming.   Ernie will be hard at work (okay, maybe not hard at work) but he'll be noodling, writing a program and he won't be shy about passing it along for the big guy's approval. And Ernie, I have no doubt -- it'll work like gangbusters.


See you around pal. I’ll be whistling for you.