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The Men Behind the Screens

These TV Executives Show that Not All Cigar-Smoking media Moguls Are in Film
Susan Karlin
From the Print Edition:
Chuck Norris, Jul/Aug 98

(continued from page 2)

With apologies to Ernest Hemingway, Fontana does not find cigar smoking conducive to writing. "I get up at 5:30 every morning to write, so it's not really a good time to smoke a cigar," he says. "I see this as a relaxation thing. I smoke two a day--before and after dinner. I'm a Bourbon, Wild Turkey kind of guy, although it's probably not the best thing to drink with a cigar. I know some people who like to dunk the end of the cigar--the tip you smoke--into brandy, which adds a whole other flavor."

Certainly none as intriguing as Fontana's original use for cigars.

"My ex-wife was in town," he says. "She walked into what was formerly our apartment and said, 'Oh, you're smoking cigars in the house. I can smell them.' "

Did she kick him out of the house to smoke?

"No, she used to smoke in bed with me," he says with a laugh. "That's how I knew to marry her." So, does she still smoke? He pauses a moment to consider whether his marriage barometer worked in reverse, then says with a grin, "No, I don't think so."

DICK WOLF
Don't Tread on Me
Dick Wolf is a tough guy. If he wasn't making TV shows about cops and lawyers, he'd probably be one of them. Take salary squabbles, for example. Two summers ago, the six stars of "Friends" successfully banded together to renegotiate their salaries--big salaries. It gave other actors the same idea, like the two leads on the recently cancelled "New York Undercover," the drama Wolf co-created for Fox. The show couldn't carry on without them, they surmised. After all, they were the stars. So they boycotted the set.

Big mistake.

See, Wolf is also the creator of the Emmy Award-winning "Law & Order," which has survived the airways for eight years without relying upon the original cast members. Wolf's counterpunch was formidable. "We're holding auditions for replacements," he told the press. "If the guys don't show up Monday morning, we've got a new script in place. And it starts with a double funeral." The boys returned to the set.

"The escalation of fees has gotten so out of control on a lot of these new shows," says the Los Angeles-based Wolf. "Stars are getting huge money for acting and producing. It's fee on top of fee, until the show is carrying a huge deficit."

In television, networks pay a license fee for the right to broadcast a show. But it only covers a portion of the show's cost. The majority is borne by the production studio, which recaps its deficit in syndication and/or foreign distribution. But to do that, the show has to be on for a number of years, which is getting tougher with the proliferation of channels.


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