Scott Carter (’74) was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2008.
I was lucky to get a job at The Wildcat. When I was a freshman, the arts editor, Frank Rizzo, was a graduating senior. At the end of my second semester, I applied for his position. He sent me to review the film “Joe” starring Peter Boyle, after which he recommended to the incoming editor Toby Burgess, who then hired me.
The Wildcat office soon became my hangout. Gone now, it was perfectly positioned at the west end of the Student Union overlooking a courtyard where, it seemed, the whole academic community passed daily.
The staff occupied one big newsroom and, off it to one side, were two small offices: one for the editor-in-chief and the other was for a recently defunct literary magazine. Photo editor Tim Fuller and I “liberated” that room on behalf of our departments, removed the clutter, set up the office like Spade and Archer in “The Maltese Falcon” and also, as I recall, successfully shamed the Student Union into repainting it for us in some hideous combination of colors that we deemed cool. (We even had a closet in which Tim would unload film from his camera and where I often napped in between the classes that I often failed to attend.)
The way in which student journalists worked back then now seems as quaint to me now as the era of candlestick telephones, green eyeshades or fedoras with a PRESS card seemed to us then. We typed. On typewriters. With paper. I don’t even think we had White-Out. We had a whirring AP wire machine that spewed out an ongoing roll of paper. If there was an important story, a bell would ring. (A four-bell story would have been something like the death of LBJ or a California earthquake.)
We also worked from a print shop on 4th Avenue. If I had to write a late review for, say, the opening of a play at the Drama Department, I would have to speed in my car to that sight where I would have all of maybe 10 minutes to write my review without the aid of a copy editor–or Spellcheck–I was left to blunder on my own. (In a hastily written review of “Marco’s Million’s,” I misspelled Eugene O’Neill’s name not only repeatedly in the body of the review but also, loudly, in the headline. My boner gave solace to the actors whom I had panned and negated the impact for what I still believe was an accurate damnation of a production that sucked.)
Looking back now, I think that I got more out of my Wildcat experiences than any of my readers ever did. I wasn’t very adept at features: I often utilized the lazy journalist’s technique of printing an edited transcript of a tape recorded interview rather than taking the time to weave ideas together into a coherent piece. Nor did I do much reporting except to trim press releases and send them to copy editor Merl Reagle. Nor do I think that I was a particularly perceptive critic. Since I didn’t know much about life, my reviews were mostly based on two criteria: 1) raw prejudice (i.e., whatever crazy idea first came into my head) or 2) what favorite classic of mine did the current movie or play I was watching remind me of and how exactly did that new movie or play NOT measure up? (Sometimes, when I now catch a movie on cable that I had first seen when reviewing for the Wildcat, I wince recalling some glib criticism or ham-handed play on words and hope that maybe I’ve learned something in the intervening years about life as well as art.)
My main contribution to the Wildcat was that of an advocate. I lobbied editor Toby Burgess and, later, Jay Parker to expand arts coverage. And my argument always was: the world would be a better place if arts were given as much attention as sports. Eventually, I was able to hire a second writer (and, on more than one occasion, we printed dual reviews of the same movie or play.) I also received a slush fund from which I hired guest reviewers in areas where I knew absolutely nothing such as classical music, food, dance or fine art. Also: I got cartoonist Rand Carlson to design department graphics to change the look of how cultural stories were presented. And I worked with the much-mocked advertising department to produce special supplements. I was an also an advocate for any group that was trying to bring new cultural ideas to our desert community. Among those who got a lot of column space from me were The International Arts Society, The New Loft Cinema and The Gallagher Theatre.
One day a small, dark, mustachioed dude in a long overcoat named Dennia Hacking shuffled into my office. He told me that he and some other Drama Department rebels were forming an original theatre group. Would I review their first production? And so I became the first reviewer of an Invisible Theatre production and, 36 years later, under the marathon leadership of Susan Claausen, it’s still going strong. Like the kid who ran away with the circus, I fell in love with the group and, within a few months, I was writing, performing, directing and producing with them. For the next four years, I did little else. And that experience led me to New York and Los Angeles and into a career first as a stand up and then as a TV writer and producer.
Taking this time to recall my Wildcat days, something I haven’t done in ages, makes realize what a valuable experience it was. It gave me a crash course in getting my thoughts — such as they are — on paper. It gave me a chance to meet celebrities such as Zubin Mehta, Frank Zappa and Marcel Marceau, who helped my mind bridge my ambitions to the real world. The job got me tickets to movies and plays I otherwise would have had to buy. While at the Wildcat, I made life-long friendships with my fellow honoree Merl Reagle and Frank Rizzo, Tim Fuller and John Long (a trio whom I think you should consider honoring in the future). The job also got me a parking pass behind the Student Union and, oh yes, a paycheck.
I see now that I’ve gone on beyond my two paragraphs. Now, can someone get me a copy editor? Merl, where are you?
Scott Carter is executive producer and writer for “Real Time with Bill Maher,” now in its sixth season on HBO. He is also executive producer and writer for the new Comedy Central show “Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil.” Scott produced the first 1,100 episodes of “Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher”, from its 1993 debut on Comedy Central to its 1997 move to ABC where it became that network’s longest-running late-night entertainment show. Scott picked up eight Emmy nominations and three consecutive Cable Ace Awards for Best Talk Series while with “Politically Incorrect.” In 1997 Variety named him one of “50 Creatives to Watch.”
In 2000 Scott joined Oxygen Media where was executive producer for two seasons of “Exhale with Candice Bergen.” He also produced “Conversations From the Edge with Carrie Fisher: George Lucas” and “Oxygen Forum: Al Gore,” a live 90-minute town hall.
Scott Carter began his career in television as a writer for MTV’s “Mouth To Mouth” in 1988. He then served as producer and writer for three other Comedy Central projects produced by HBO Downtown productions: Night After Night with Allen Harvey” (1989-92), “Sports Monster” (1990-91) and “The Olympiacs” (1992).
Scott has performed extensively on his own–over 2,000 stand-up gigs in comedy clubs across the country, including The Comic Strip, the Original Improvisation, Catch a Rising Star, and the Comedy Store. He has also performed autobiographical monologues (“Heavy Breathing” and “Suspension Bridge”) on numerous stages in this country, Scotland and Ireland.