The Last Hollywood Romance

by Beverly Bloomberg

Published by Bridge Works

230 pages, 2000

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Sit Com Confidential

Reviewed by Monica Stark


Beverly Bloomberg knows a thing or two about the world behind the scenes of the modern art form known as the situation comedy. A writer and story editor for eight years, Bloomberg's work in television included writing for such perennial favorites as Happy Days, Welcome Back, Kotter and Chico and the Man. For the past 15 years, Bloomberg has been teaching others about writing for television.

In her debut novel, The Last Hollywood Romance, Bloomberg has made good use of the old maxim: write what you know. She's done it with authenticity, a clear voice and a happy heart. The Last Hollywood Romance is pure pleasure. A snappy love story enlivened by stylish punch lines and well delivered repartee. The story is uncomplicated and light and clips along happily. If books were situation comedies, they'd look pretty much like The Last Hollywood Romance.

Bud is a 40-something sitcom hack who has kept himself well-employed for 16 years by not writing much of anything at all. He's the thrice-married gag writer who can be depended on to come up with a "cup of jokes" when needed.

At 28, Emmaline is the new kid writing for the series and, unbeknownst to her, she's been brought in to irritate the show's star and director: neither of them think women writers are appropriate to the show.

The person behind the machinations is Mike Lanetti, a television mogul who also has cerebral palsy. "It's part of the whole legend," Emmaline tells us near the beginning of the book. "Writer With Handicap Overcomes Adversity to Become Show Business King -- that sort of thing. I figured I could handle it. What the hell, I thought, I can be cool."

The scenes with Lanetti are perfect, hilarious and delightfully politically incorrect. Although, who ever said that everyone with cerebral palsy had to be nice? Lanetti is not. In fact, he's the closest thing to a villain that this particular tale has got.

Other characters are just as sharply drawn. Reek is the "mini-mogul" growing in Lanetti's shadow. The textbook sycophant, Reek walks the walk and talks the talk, preparing for what he hopes will lie ahead. On his way out to lunch with Emmaline:

He picked up his sunglasses and a buttery leather jacket. "I don't think you'll need that," I said, meaning the jacket.

"It's Versace," he said. "I always need it."

Of course, we've been promised a romance and Bloomberg delivers on that score, as well. The ultimately delightful pairing up of the unlikely lovers, Bud and Emmaline, is breezy, natural and quite hilarious as befits a couple of top-ranked comedy writers. More, it seems as though, in an industry filled with bags of insincerity and truckloads of hypocrisy, The Last Hollywood Romance comes from the teaming of the last Hollywood innocents. Both Emmaline and even the slightly world-weary Bud sometimes seem like lambs in the lion's den.

Told alternately and more-or-less chronologically through Bud and Emmaline's eyes, The Last Hollywood Romance isn't. Not really, anyway. Rather, it's a behind-the-scenes peek at all of the insanity we always suspected was just beyond those closed Hollywood doors. Bloomberg brings us there neatly. Bud and Emmaline's romance is just the very hilarious icing on the cake. | September 2000


Monica Stark is a freelance writer and editor.