Greetings, fire bugs (in the best sense of the term). My name is Ed Self and I produced "EMERGENCY!" during seasons 3 through 5. It was one of the most fulfilling times in my career, and in fact launched me as a producer. I was 32 when I started and, to the best of my knowledge, the youngest producer of a prime time network series.
I was born into the business. My father William had moved from the Midwest in the 1940s hoping to become a movie star. While he ended up doing some small parts, his real success came later, as a producer and executive. His contacts upon first arriving in Hollywood were established through tennis. He was a wonderful player and sought after as a partner by stars and studio heads. On several Sundays before I was 10 he took me to Spencer Tracys house in the morning and Jack Warners in the afternoon.
I got a BA in Psychology from UCLA in 1965 and then began in the story department at Twentieth Century-Fox, where William Self was head of TV. While embarrassed about the nepotism, I couldnt see myself working for General Motors after my childhood experiences. Five years later I was an associate producer on a comedy series titled "ARNIE". When that was cancelled after two years I moved to NBC as a Manager of Current Programming. This was actually a low paying job where you had to tell people like Rod Serling and Garry Marshall what they were doing wrong with their shows.
One of the series I was assigned to was "EMERGENCY!". This was the shows first full season. The reality of what paramedics did fascinated me (it was new back then), and I spent a great deal of time at fire stations and Harbor General Hospital. Usually network execs just sent critical memos to producers, so Bob Cinader took a liking to me. In fact, we became friends. At the end of that season Bob took me to dinner. When we got back to the studio that night, he parked the car and asked me if I would like to produce the show. He was going to become Executive Producer because he would also be supervision a new series entitled, if I remember correctly, "CHASE."
I remember this conversation vividly, because it was one of the most wonderful moments in my life, a dream come true. Bob said his only concern was that I was half-insane and that Id somehow find a way to alienate the studio and get fired. This didnt happen, but Randy Mantooth once said to Bob about me, "Hes even crazier than I am."
I was very nervous about my new responsibilities, but Mr. Cinader was wonderful about guiding me through the process. He had a somewhat unique view of the television process i.e. that anybody could do it. He gave more people their big breaks (assistant directors to directors, police officers and a studio lawyer to writers), than anyone Ive ever known. God bless him. He told me that the key to producing was taking responsibilities for decisions, so that the people working for you were free to do their jobs without looking over their shoulders. My first "test" arose over the arrival of a new Engine 51. It was a slightly different shade of red and the transportation and art departments were afraid it wouldnt closely enough match Squad 51. Bob took me down to look at the two vehicles; lots of people were standing around holding their chins and shaking their heads. Bob turned to me and said, "Well?" The pressure! The pressure! I looked from the engine to the squad and back again. True, they werent exactly the same color. Would anybody at home notice? I didnt have the faintest idea. Everyone stared at me and after another moment I decreed that the colors were close enough. Everybody smiled and the gathering disbursed. On the way back to the office Bob put his hand on my shoulder and said, "See, thats all there is to it."
But it wasnt always that easy. During the production meeting for that seasons fourth episode we had to decide whether or not to use a live rattlesnake or a rubber one for the scene in which Gage gets bitten. Bob said that we had to use a rubber one (over everyone elses objections.) After the meeting the director and production manager came to my office and begged me for permission to use a live snake. While I agreed that it was the way to go, it would be a direct countermand to Bobs explicit orders. On the other hand, if I didnt give them the okay, I felt certain that they would think of me only as a rubber stamp and go directly to Bob in the future for any major decision. What did I do? Im not going to tell you. Only kidding. I told them we could use a real snake, then went into Bobs office to find out if I still had a job. I informed Bob of what Id done, and he just sat there in silence for a very long time. Finally he said, "Youve put me in a terrible position. Either I have to accept something that I feel is not only wrong but also dangerous, or emasculate you with the crew. Keep the snake, but dont ever do that again." I didnt at least not very often.
I loved Robert Cinader and would like to make something clear. While "EMERGENCY!" was a MARK VII production, and Jack Webb was our boss, I rarely saw Jack. Bob was the heart and soul of the series.
Theres a little kid in all of us, especially firemen (and producers). Ive still got my turnout coat with my name stenciled on the back and my helmet with 51 on it. I wore these when I went out in the field and, I confess, still put them on occasionally (at least I dont make a siren sound). One of my memories of "playing fireman" involves a convention in Anaheim for firefighters from all over the state. This also was during my first season. Bob, Kevin and Randy were Grand Marshals and would leading the parade, which opened the ceremonies in Squad. Engine 51 would be next. Mike Stoker was driving, his girlfriend sat next to him, the son of the president of Ward LeFrance sat next to her, and sitting in the Captains spot (dressed in blazer and tie), was me. Mike Norrell and Marco Lopez were on the tailboard. Behind our rig was the Anaheim Fire Department which had to be in a position to pull out if they got a call (do you see where this is going?) Anaheims equipment, if memory serves, was chartreuse in contrast to our fire engine red. Behind Anaheim were engines and trucks for municipalities large and small, comprising a rainbow of colors.
Shortly after the parade began, Anaheim hit the sirens and started to accelerate past us (Im getting chills even now as I relive this). As they passed the squad ahead of us, I turned to Stoker and said, "Were going with them!" Mike shook his head, explaining that this wasnt under L.A. County jurisdiction and that we could get in a lot of trouble. I replied, "Are you a fireman, or what?" and hit the SIREN. Mike grinned and wheeled us out and around the squad. As we passed them, I could imagine Bob turning to Randy and Kevin and saying, "Whats that idiot doing now?" We stayed right behind Anaheims green rigs, going waved through crowded intersections by cops and honking our air horn importantly. I wondered briefly what would happen if we ran over somebody, but what the heck, firefighting is a dangerous business.
We pulled up in front of a hotel with no sign of fire. Our siren was still winding down when the Anaheim captain in the engine in front of us climbed out and started back our way. More specifically, he was walking toward my side of the engine. Stoker looked as though he were wondering why he hadnt become a plumber, his girlfriend and the bosss son were ashen from our reckless ride, and I was wondering how long Id have to spend in jail. When the captain reached me he said, as if speaking to a fellow professional, "Its a smoke investigation. Well hold here." I gave him a snappy little salute and replied, "Right!" The captain turned to walk back to his rig, but then spun back toward me. Oh, oh! This time he said, "Would you mind turning off your siren?" I gave another little salute, this time with great embarrassment, and Stoker, who had been too traumatized to do it earlier, squelched the siren. Thats when I remembered that Mike and Marco had been on the tailboard. Were they still there, or had they been flung off during one of our precipitous turns? They were. As Stoker turned the engine around, Mike Norrell asked the question that will never be answered. "What in the hell would one off duty fireman, one girl, one child, one producer and two actors have done if thered really been a fire?"
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