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April 10, 2013

Veteran TV writer visits Fraser

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

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Mark Rothman, the former head writer of shows like “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple,” made an appearance on April 3 at the Fraser Public Library.

FRASER — Throughout the 1970s, Mark Rothman was busy working as the head writer and producer for TV comedy shows like “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple,” and as the co-creator of “Laverne and Shirley.”

Now 65 and living with his wife in Farmington Hills, he spends much of his time promoting his books and trying to get his plays and movies to the big stage.

Rothman stopped by the Fraser Public Library on April 3 to answer questions, sell and autograph his books and read comedic excerpts about things like his old Davy Crocket underpants, taken from his aptly titled blog, “Mark Rothman’s Blog.” About a dozen people attended the hour-long event.

Fraser Public Library Program Director Mary DeSantis said the library booked Rothman after he appeared at a previous program at the Chesterfield Public Library.

While Rothman may have earned much of his notoriety writing screenplays, he spoke largely about his first-ever novel, “I’m Not Garbo,” during his Fraser library appearance.

The inspiration for the book came to him, literally, in a dream, he said. One night, he was in a movie theater, watching a movie featuring modern-day actors, but set in 1930s Hollywood.

Rothman has total recall of his dreams, so after he awoke, he wrote down a 50-page screenplay of what he had watched in his dream. But he woke up before the dream movie finished, so he gave it an ending, writing another 50 pages. He later turned the entire result into the novel “I’m Not Garbo.”

Asked whether he prefers screenplays to novels, he responded, “I’m comfortable in either venue. Novels, you’re not answerable to a director. You’re just answerable to yourself and a reader. So I really enjoy doing it, and I would have no problem doing more of them. I could easily turn some of my other screenplays into novels.”

Growing up in the New York City area, Rothman began writing while attending Queens College. It was during that time that he began writing fiction for inter-fraternity competitions.

Rothman attributed his education in sitcom writing to having watched what he called “good television,” like “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and his favorite show of all time, “Sergeant Bilko.”

“I’m influenced by the stuff that I love,” he added. “I think I learned to write sitcoms by osmosis, … by watching good television. And I think just about everything I’ve written is good — and that’s because I’ve had the right influences.”

Rothman wrote about his experiences in autobiographic essay compilations, “Show Runner” and “Show Runner Two,” both available for purchase on the Amazon Kindle store. Two other books also are available on Amazon Kindle: “The Man is Dead,” a compilation taken from his blog, and “Report Cards,” which he described as “my way of writing movie and play reviews.”

Visit “Mark Rothman’s Blog” at markrothmansblog.blogspot.com.

Rothman also will be appearing at Motor City ComicCon, going on May 17-19 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, he said.

To find out more about Fraser Public Library programs at www.facebook.com/FraserPublicLibrary or call the library at (586) 293-2055.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.