Andy Marx, Photographer-Writer-Musician-Episode #202

May 17, 2022 | 0 comments

Andy Marx is an award-winning photographer, writer, and musician, whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Premiere, Movieline, and Cigar Aficionado, among others. His photography has been exhibited throughout the world, including in the U.S., Europe, and Israel.

In 2020, Andy’s first novel, “Royalties,” was published to enthusiastic reviews. The multi-generational, historical romance is based on the lives of his paternal grandfather, the legendary comedian, Groucho Marx, and his maternal grandfather, the renowned songwriter, Gus Kahn, whose hits include “It Had to Be You,” “Makin’ Whoopee,” and “Dream a Little Dream.”

Andy has produced special programming for Sirius/XM’s “Siriusly Sinatra” channel. And he’s currently recording an album of many of his grandfather’s most famous songs. The first single, “Ukulele Lady,” was recently released.

Andy co-founded the popular comedy website, Hollywood & Swine, known for its lampooning of Hollywood. Entertainment Weekly referred to it as “The Onion of the entertainment industry.”

He currently serves as an advisor to Paradox, a technology company dedicated to streamlining the dealmaking process for everyone from writers to distributors.




Read the Podcast Transcript


Length: 1:08:29

Steve Cuden: On today’s StoryBeat…

Andy Marx: Nora Efron once said to me, I interviewed her and one of the things she said to me, I was one of the very first people to interview her, is when that movie came out that she directed, the first one. One of the things that she said to me, which is a piece of advice that she got from her parents who were very famous screenwriters, Phoebe and Henry Efron. I don’t know if they won an Oscar, but what they said to Nora growing up was they said, everything is copy. That was a quote that Nora Efron used throughout her life. So basically, whatever is going on, it’s copy, and you can use it somewhere.

Narrator: This is StoryBeat with Steve Cuden, a podcast for the creative mind. StoryBeat explores how masters of creativity develop and produce brilliant works that people everywhere love and admire. So join us as we discover how talented creators find success in the worlds of imagination and entertainment. Here now is your host, Steve Cuden.

Steve Cuden: Thanks for joining us on StoryBeat. We’re coming to you from the Steel City, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My guest today, Andy Marx, is an award-winning photographer, writer, and musician whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Variety, the Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly Premier, Movie Line, and Cigar Aficionado among others. His photography has been exhibited throughout the world, including in the US, Europe, and Israel. In 2020, Andy’s first novel Royalties was published to enthusiastic reviews. The multi-generational historical romance is based on the lives of his paternal grandfather, the legendary comedian Groucho Marx, and his maternal grandfather, the renowned songwriter Gus Kahn, whose hits include, It Had to Be You, Making Whoopee, and Dream a Little Dream. Andy has produced special programming for siriusXMs, Siriusly Sinatra channel.

He’s currently recording an album of many of his grandfather’s most famous songs. The first single, Ukulele Lady, was recently released. Andy co-founded the popular comedy website, Hollywood, and Swine, known for its lampooning of Hollywood. Entertainment Weekly, referred to it as The Onion of the Entertainment Industry. He currently serves as an advisor to Paradox, a technology company dedicated to streamlining the deal-making process for everyone from writers to distributors. So for all those reasons and many more, I’m truly delighted to have the very talented Andy Marx join me today. Andy, welcome to StoryBeat.

Andy Marx: Oh, thank you. I’m really thrilled to be here.

Steve Cuden: Oh, the thrill is mine, believe me. Let’s go back.

Andy Marx: What’s up? The thrill isn’t gone. All right.

Steve Cuden: Let’s go back in time a little bit. You obviously grew up with lots of creative people in your life, Groucho Marx, Gus Khan, and others. Lots of creative people surrounding you.

Andy Marx: Right.

Steve Cuden: When did you first start to think of yourself as a creative person? At what age?

Andy Marx: I think when I was in junior high, I think I started getting into creative writing. My father was a very well-known sort of TV writer and playwright. So he was pretty encouraging. I don’t know. I wrote short stories and things, and he would kind of help me with them. When I got into high school, I did the journalism thing. In college, then I really kind of started thinking about it, especially later on. But that was mostly writing. But again, growing up, I was in a band. I played keyboards. In college I was in a band. Again, I’ve always sort of felt this sort of torn. On one shoulder I’ve got the writing person, and then the music goes, hey, you should be doing this. No, you should be doing that.

Steve Cuden: We should let the listeners know that your father was Arthur Marx, as you say.

Andy Marx: Yes, he was.

Steve Cuden: He’s a successful writer himself.

Andy Marx: Very, very, I mean, it’s amazing when you go… Well actually, he wrote the Groucho of Life in Review with one of your recent guests, Frank Ferrante, of course, plays my grandfather. Frank’s a very cool guy. I mean, it’s amazing when you go to, I guess my dad’s Wikipedia, or if you go to the IMDB page I think the last show he worked on was the show Alice, the sitcom. I don’t know. He got 40 writing credits. I mean, you don’t see that so much. I mean, I guess he was an executive producer, so I guess it was sort of, he wasn’t the showrunner. But there were producers, and it was mostly written in-house. But that’s a lot. I mean, he had just a ton of credits. He wrote a bunch of Bob Hope movies. He did all the TV shows.

Steve Cuden: Do you think of yourself in terms of all of your different disciplines in the arts? Do you think of yourself primarily as a storyteller?

Andy Marx: Yeah. I mean, I guess I would say that. When I do my photography for instance, that’s telling a story. One of the sorts of, whatever they call that, revenue streams that I have as a photographer is what is euphemistically, they call it street photography. I worked commercially doing posters and models and all kinds of people. But I had this sort of side thing where I just walked around. I took my camera everywhere. This is pre-pandemic. I just shot stuff. Again, I always shot people and it was just, did all. Then I got an art dealer. There’s a guy who has a gallery in West Palm Beach, and he approached me. He does shows all over the country and he has my stuff. So, yeah. I mean, I think when I’m doing that, I think that’s a story. I guess when you’re, when I’m doing music, I guess that’s a story.

Steve Cuden: Do you have training in any of your disciplines?

Andy Marx: Well, I mean, I was a film major at UCLA where you took screenwriting. But to be honest, I think it’s changed now probably for the better. But I think when I was going there, I think it was pretty useless. I mean, basically there was this guy there and he was a fine teacher but didn’t really learn a lot. I mean, there was that one book, the Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri. There weren’t all the millions of screenwriting books. You just kind of had to do it on your own. Sometimes that’s the best way to learn. Well, I mean, I think that’s absolutely true. If you look at many of the great writers that we all kind of love, Billy Wilder and all, they didn’t study screenwriting. Look at Billy Wilder. He was a newspaper reporter.

Steve Cuden: Just did it.

Andy Marx: Right. Not everybody is going to be Billy Wilder. I guess I was trained in that. I was trained in music. I was not really trained in photography. That was just something that I started doing and people said, you seem to have a really good eye for this. It’s funny because my father was a very good sort of amateur photographer. He collected cameras and he had Roloflex and all these great cameras. I remember he had an enlarger in the house, and you would do all this. I think, it’s one of those things, I probably didn’t do much photography because he did it.

Sometimes you don’t do the exact, although I did kind of become a writer, and he was. But I didn’t go near photography. It wasn’t something that really interested me. Then a couple of reasons, I think. I didn’t have the patience before digital to take a lot of pictures and then have to wait two weeks to get them developed.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Andy Marx: Which is one of the things that I love about digital is that you can see it right there.

Steve Cuden: Immediately.

Andy Marx: Which is an advantage and a disadvantage, I think.

Steve Cuden: What’s the disadvantage? I know what the advantage is. That’s obvious. What’s the disadvantage?

Andy Marx: Think about, again, the great photographers that were working before digital. Okay. They didn’t know what they were shooting. When I was a unit publicist, guys would come down, there would be the still photographer on the set, but then they would bring all these guys down to do special photography like Arnold Schwarzenegger or whatever. They would set up. For the poster or something, they would do that, right. Today when you do a photo shoot, like when I do one, especially a commercial one, I mean, you’ve got the art director there and he’s sitting. It’s just like when you make a movie, they’re looking at what you’re shooting right then.

Okay. Those other guys, they didn’t have that advantage. They had to really know what was going on. They could shoot 50 rolls of some actor and all this thing and not really know if it was any good. But in their head, I believe they developed some kind of a thing, and they knew. Now I think, it’s gotten a little, and this is not to take away from photographers, but you can be a little more lazy, I think.

Steve Cuden: Same thing with writing on the computer. You had to type on a typewriter or write long hand. It was much slower. You would make mistakes and you’d have to go back and correct them. But with a computer, it’s very easy.

Andy Marx: Right. The other thing because it’s digital, I mean, you can shoot 10,000 pictures. Again, when I was a unit publicist, I think I was listening to one of your shows with the Eichler. What was his name?

Steve Cuden: Alan Eichler.

Andy Marx: Yeah. That was a great one. He talked about how he had to do the captions for the photos. One of the jobs that I had to do when I was a unit publicist was, I had to work with the still photographer, and the guy would take 8,000 photos over the course of a production, right? I had to caption them all. I had to go through every photo and go, hey, this is Steven Seagal and this, and this and this. They end up using eight photos out of that, right. I used to sort of joke that if you gave a chimp a camera, you could probably get eight decent pictures. Again, not to take away from any of the fine work that these people do. I don’t know. Look at what’s his name when he went to Yosemite to shoot.

Steve Cuden: Ansel Adams.

Andy Marx: Yeah. Ansel Adams. He had one thing that he put in his camera, and he did it, and he got the most beautiful picture. He didn’t have digital where he just got thousands of possibilities.

Steve Cuden: He would spend days or weeks waiting for the light to be a certain way.

Andy Marx: Right, right. Yeah. So he just did it.

Steve Cuden: Now we just bang away at it and hope something comes out.

Andy Marx: Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty true. Now, I did have a little training. What happened was, I have twins that are 22. So they were born in 99. That was kind of when the digital camera thing was really kind of, they had been out a few years, but they weren’t very good. But around that time, they started to get better. So I got myself one of those, and I started shooting them and kind of learning it and everything. I was good and people would say, oh, you’re really good and you have a great eye. I would shoot weird stuff. I liked weird signs on the highway, whatever. I didn’t really know what I was doing. Embarrassingly I’d put it in auto mode, but the composition was good. Right.

People would say, oh God, you have such a great eye. But I didn’t really know what I was doing. So then, I don’t know, I called a friend of mine who had been taking a [11:17 inaudible] and I said, I want to go take a class. I took a class, and then I sort of nailed, and now I know everything about exposure and all that kind of stuff.

Steve Cuden: So don’t you think everybody that picks up an art form doesn’t know what they’re doing?

Andy Marx: Yeah, absolutely. I heard somebody saying, and I don’t remember what band, I don’t know if it was somebody from the Moody Blues or something, but there’s that thing about, what is it, 10,000 hours.

Steve Cuden: 10,000 hours. Malcolm Gladwell.

Andy Marx: Right. It was some podcast, and they were like interviewing, I don’t know if it was the Moody Blues, but it was somebody, and he goes… He was joking about that because he said we had 50 hours of experience when we went in and recorded this album. Half the time that’s kind of what it is when you…

Steve Cuden: Well, there’s also, I think there is a degree of raw energy that happens when someone doesn’t know what they’re doing. There’s no refinement to it so you get that pure energy of somebody just going out and doing it. If you have a natural eye, which it sounds like you do, you just go and it’s just natural to you. This is a composition and so on.

Andy Marx: Yeah. I relate. Sinatra talks about that thing about that music is the only thing that really kind of hits you in the stomach and you know what it is when you hear it. I sort of find that with my photography. It hits me in the stomach, and I know that’s a good shot.

Steve Cuden: It’s interesting. You bring that up and it just dawns on me that your two grandparents being Groucho and Gus Khan. That one was an intellectual, and the jokes had to be intellectual and through the mind, and Gus Khan was pure emotion, which is music. Those two different things, aren’t they?

Andy Marx: Yeah. Yeah. Then I would say for how I learned to be a journalist, because I was a reporter for quite a while. Believe it or not, I think I actually learned that when I was a unit publicist, and you had to do so much writing which was kind of the one thing that I liked about the job. I didn’t like sucking up to the actors. But you had to interview the actors, and you would have to write a press kit and do this whole thing. I had always kind of had a dream that I wanted to work at Variety. I treated it like, I’m going to be like a newspaper reporter and write really good stuff. Lo and behold, one day I ended up working at Variety.

Steve Cuden: How long did you work as a journalist?

Andy Marx: Probably about, maybe 10 years, kind of in the nineties. A lot of my good fortune has been kind of lucky, I think, or some of it at least.

Steve Cuden: I think that a lot of everybody’s good fortune is.

Andy Marx: Yeah. I had been a unit publicist. I really kind of was hating it. I was married. You’re traveling and you’re going to all these crazy places. I was married and I figured I was probably going to have a child, and I didn’t really want to do the traveling anymore. Again, I kind of harbored this dream. I knew I was a decent writer, and I’d harbored this dream of wanting to write for a magazine or something. Lo and behold a friend of mine, I think this is years ago in the nineties, he left the New York Post, he moved to California. This was the New York Post when it was not like it is now. He was the entertainment writer for the New York Post.

He came out here. He knew a guy that was a magazine publisher, and the guy said I want to start a magazine called Hollywood Magazine. So that was around nineties, I guess, or right at 89 or something. I mean, it sounds eons ago. He said to me, he goes, look, I don’t really have any writers. Do you want to come and write for the magazine? I go, really? What can I do? He goes, what do you want to do? I go, well, I’d like to write a humor column. He goes, okay. So he let me start writing a humor column. It was a bimonthly, which meant it came out every other month. So I had two months to come up with a good subject for a thing.

I don’t know what else I was doing. I think I was working music or something. So I started doing that. He was paying me, and I said, hey, I got a great idea for an article or whatever. Remember the old writers and artists building in Beverly Hills? Sure. So I had an office in there, and it had a great history. I said to him, hey, do you know what’d make a great article, the history of the writers and artist building? So wrote that. Then he made me senior editor for no reason. I don’t know why. Then I started, but then what happened was, because I was now getting published, and it wasn’t on the internet, you had real clippings and everything and I was good.

I now could go and get jobs at other magazines. So I started all the movie magazines and movie line and all those and I was doing that. Then I started to do some TV stuff for E and all those places. I would sort of talk about, you’d sit there on one of those when they used to have those shows where you’d talk about the business. Then one day, and again, a bit of luck, somebody called me, and he said, the LA Times is looking for somebody. They used to have a thing called Film Clips, which was little, short items that they had in the calendar section every Sunday. He said, they’re looking for somebody to do that. I go, well, how am I going to get that?

I don’t know anybody there, blah, blah, blah. He gave me a great piece of advice. There was a guy there, I think his name was Shelby Coffee.

Steve Cuden: I think that’s right. I remember Shelby.

Andy Marx: He was the publisher. This is back in the days like FedEx. There was no email, I guess. He said, why don’t you just put a package together and FedEx it to him? Put in a bunch of your clips, write a good letter. I wrote a letter and I said, I think I’d be really good for this job. I listed these things and then I said, lastly, I’m one of the few journalists who was not interested in writing a screenplay. At least at the time, I wasn’t.

So anyway, I got hired. The woman who was in charge of the movie part of the calendar called me up and she said okay, we’re going to let you start doing some stuff. Then they gave me a contract, and I became a weekly contributor. I had to do a certain amount of articles every week. I wasn’t on staff, but I was a regular guy who got paid every week. Then from there, because I was so in kind of on the loop doing the stuff that I would get tips and stuff. Then I started writing and breaking fairly big stories in the Daily and all that. So that happened. Then that’s how I got to Variety.

Then Peter Bart hired me. At that point, I had basically been working since it was once a week at the equivalent of a weekly. So there weren’t the super pressure deadlines. Although I do remember because my day that I had to turn in my stuff to them because you had to turn it in on Wednesday so they could be published on Sunday. It was the Wednesday of the Rodney King, or the riots or whatever, the Rodney King riots. This was just one of the weeks. The people in the LA Times they were barricaded in the building.

It was horrible. So that was a weekly where there was a little bit of deadline. So it’s like, I went from a bi-monthly where I had a lot of time, to monthlies where I had less time, to a weekly where I had even less time. Then I went to Daily Variety where you have no time and you got to write—

Steve Cuden: Did you feel that that progression was helpful when you finally got to having no time to think?

Andy Marx: Yeah. I would not have wanted to be thrown into Variety without having any journalism experience. I mean, I knew that I could write, but Variety is like… It’s kind of different now because the Penske Media basically owns all. So there isn’t really sort of that competition that there used to be because everything is so instant. When I was doing it, if you got beat on a story, I remember when Brandon Tartikoff left Paramount, he actually gave it to a reporter at the LA Times. But you go into Variety, and you realize you got beat on this story and you feel horrible. So you had a day to then sort of advance it. I remember I actually snuck onto the lot. I snuck onto the Paramount lot that day, and I got Brandon Tartikoff, and I actually interviewed him and everything. So I wrote up a pretty decent story for the next day’s edition. But again, it’s so different now because the internet is such a sinkhole, it just churns and churns. It just keeps going.

Steve Cuden: So I feel obliged for the listeners who may be not all that old, to explain who Brandon Tartikoff was. He was legendary.

Andy Marx: He ran NBC during, I think, Hill Street Blues and all of those great shows and huge shows. Then he went to Paramount, and he ran the Paramount Film thing or what, the whole thing.

Steve Cuden: Then he died very young.

Andy Marx: Yeah. He had Hodgkin’s or one of those. He had had it and gone into remission and stuff, but I guess now it was getting to be too much for him. So he left. That’s when Sherry Lansing came in.

Steve Cuden: So from very young in life, you were already writing. You started to write when you were young, and you liked it.

Andy Marx: Yeah.

Steve Cuden: Was there a point where you thought to yourself, I’m really actually pretty good at this? Or was it because you just kept falling into work that you realized you were able to make a living at it or make some money out of it?

Andy Marx: Well, I was trying to write, and of course, I wasn’t really making any money writing screenplays. Okay. So I took a job in PR which is what half the people do. But I basically got the job because I was a good writer. I always got the PR jobs because I was a good writer. A lot of people that go into PR hate writing.

Steve Cuden: My question which is important for this particular show is when did you know you were good at it? At what point did you think to yourself, hey, I’m actually pretty good at this? Was it when you were a kid, or did it take a while for that to develop?

Andy Marx: I guess when I was at UCLA. I worked on the Bruin, and I just sort of felt that I had a pretty good way with words and that I could do stuff.

Steve Cuden: So you had a focus on writing fairly early on? That was one of your earliest gigs whether it was in school or not?

Andy Marx: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I’ve done various different kinds of writing. Even though I’ve done screenwriting and made a living, I’m one of those who’s made a living for quite a while selling pitches and getting hired to write them, but yet nothing was ever made.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Andy Marx: Okay. But I’ve got to tell you that if I was just to say what was my favorite writing, I would say probably journalism.

Steve Cuden: And why?

Andy Marx: I mean, think of the difference between that and screenwriting.

Steve Cuden: It’s huge. Explain why.

Andy Marx: Again, this is before the internet. Again, I know I sound like whatever, but you would have the cover Variety with a headline, and it would say, I used to cover the Academy, right? So I would write the stories on the Academy Awards like when Spielberg won. I wrote that story when he won for Schindler’s List. He’s got that article up on his wall. The Variety thing by Andy Marx. I wrote the one when Clint Eastwood won for the western.

Steve Cuden: Unforgiven.

Andy Marx: Yeah. It was just instantaneous. There was such a thing. Again, it’s different now, but when they would announce the nominations, you’d have to get up at four in the morning and go down to wherever it was and then you’d race back to Variety. You’d have to have a story done. You’d have to write a couple thousand words. It was good. But it does chew you up. It’s really hard. One of my other loves is technology, hence, you know, why I’m working with that company that you mentioned. I’ve always loved technology. I’ve always been one of those nerds. I built all the computers for my family and all that crazy. I just love all that stuff. So when I got to Variety in the early nineties, when you go there, they go, okay, you’re going to cover New Line Paramount and whatever. So I did end up getting a humor column. So I was Hollywood Magazine. At Variety, Peter let me start writing. He let me create a humor column, and it was called Trademarks. T-R-A-D-E. Get it? Trademarks. Got it.

Steve Cuden: Yeah.

Andy Marx: Right. So I did that, and then at the same time, the whole technology thing was starting to take off between Hollywood and Silicon Valley or whatever. So I carved that out. I said, let me start covering that. So then I had a technology column. I ended up leaving Variety to go work for just a pure startup. This thing called Interactive Week. I mean, screenwriting is a weird thing. Again, I’ve made a decent living, again, weirdly, but a lot of people are like me. But it’s hard. I mean, the money’s good, but it’s hard.

Steve Cuden: Let’s explore that for one moment, because I think it’s important for those who are trying to figure out how to have a career period, let alone just even breaking in. One of the things that does happen, and that’s what you’re alluding to, is there are writers in Hollywood who sell pitches and premises and never actually get all the way up to a produced script.

Andy Marx: Right? But you can spend a couple of years. The whole two drafts and a polish and everything. It’s kind of gone away. It’s one draft and if we still like you.

Steve Cuden: The spec market has more or less collapsed.

Andy Marx: Yeah. There’s no spec market, and I don’t think there’s really much of a pitch market. Again, if you’re somebody super big and you go in and pitch something at Netflix, then you probably have a shot. But you might be interested in some of the crazy pitches that I sold.

Steve Cuden: The point being that people actually sometimes make a living out of not being produced.

Andy Marx: My writing partner, we sold three movies in the mid two thousands. Well, actually, I guess two were right before the strike, and then the other one was right after. We sort of got together to start writing right around then and we got lucky. She had had some huge spec sales. Something with Michael Douglas and basically had an unbelievably, really, really good career. I think she finally got a Hallmark movie produced five years ago. But she’s been doing this since the nineties.

Steve Cuden: And finally got something produced.

Andy Marx: Yeah.

Steve Cuden: But she was making money at it all along.

Andy Marx: All along. Here’s the only thing that’s a slight problem. Well, I mean, it didn’t seem to be a problem for her, but people have said to me, if you go years and years selling these pitches, and none of them ever get made, people start to get a little suspicious. But she had a great career. I don’t really know how true that really is.

Steve Cuden: I think like everything else in life, it’s up to the individual whether that works that way or not.

Andy Marx: Yeah. Can I tell you about one pitch that we did?

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Andy Marx: Okay. I want to tell you what all happened with the project and these things happen. A lot of times it’s not the fault of the writer not writing a good script. It’s just the way it goes. So she and I, we had sold something to Bruckheimer, a comedy that we had written.

Steve Cuden: That would be the producer, Jerry Bruckheimer.

Andy Marx: Yes, Jerry, I’m sorry. Yes. We sold a thing to them, not specifically to him. I don’t know. Whoever was running his company bought. It was a comedy, and we said, why is Jerry Bruckheimer buying a comedy from us? Which was so weird. That’s a whole other one that went like sideways. Anyways, during that period in the mid two thousands, I was one of those very serious cyclists who would ride his bike up to Oxnard and back from Beverly Hills and ride a hundred miles a day, and the whole thing, and wear spandex and the whole thing. So I was completely obsessed with it, and I loved it. Of course I said, we need to do a sport cycling movie, right. I mean, here’s the pitch. Will Ferrell in the Tour de France.

Steve Cuden: Okay.

Andy Marx: All right. Again, this is mid two thousand, whoever, Adam Sandler in the Tour de France, whatever. It’s blades of glory in the thing. That’s not the way we pitched it. But we were out to lunch with our manager, and we tell him this idea. He actually was a cyclist, and he said, now, that’s a great idea. He goes back to his office and immediately he sets up a bunch of pitch meetings for us literally like two days away. We put something together very quickly. So we had a pitch on, I don’t know, it was a Thursday night, late afternoon Thursday. It was with the director Tom Shadyac. Tom Shadyac, who did Bruce Almighty. He did the Ace Ventura movies. He was so successful that I think he got maybe Ivan Reitman’s building at Universal. It was like an apartment complex. It was that big.

Steve Cuden: He had a bunch of hits back-to-back.

Andy Marx: He had a bunch of hits. The last hit that he had when we walked in was Bruce Almighty. So they would do anything for him. Tom Shadyac was also an obsessive cyclist. He used to ride his bike from his house in Malibu to Universal.

Steve Cuden: Oh my goodness.

Andy Marx: Then I guess somebody would drive him home or something. I can’t imagine doing that at night. So the manager says, you got to go in. He’s a big cyclist and the whole thing. So of course we go in, and this is typical, as we’re driving into the meeting, my partner and I, because we would get into fights every other week, got into a huge fight, and we almost weren’t even going to go in. So we make up, we go in, and of course, Tom Shadyac is not at the pitch. I mean, I guess we knew that he wasn’t going to be there. So his minions were there listening to the pitch, and they liked it. The movie that he was working on, the follow up to Bruce Almighty, was called Evan Almighty with Steve Carrell, right?

Steve Cuden: Yes. Sure.

Andy Marx: Okay. So we go in there, they go, yeah, we love it, blah, blah. We get home. That night I get home, the manager calls. Yeah. They love it. But you have to go in tomorrow morning with whoever the executive was at Universal. You have to meet her for breakfast. They’re going on a retreat. You have to go in tomorrow morning to have breakfast with her to pitch the movie. Also the manager lined up like another six pitches for later in the day. Right?

Steve Cuden: Yeah.

Andy Marx: Okay. So we go in. We pitch it to the executive and sweetest words I’ve ever heard. She goes, we’re buying it. Before we even got done. We’re not even done with breakfast. She goes, we’re buying it and that was that. This hadn’t been released or anything, so nobody knew. So we call our manager, and we go, do we have to go to the other pitches? He goes, yeah, you got to go. Maybe we will get a bidding war going in the whole thing. Of course, we go to all the other pitches, nobody bites, right. So the first-person bit, and that was it. So we were very happy. It was the most money I had ever gotten for writing a screenplay. It was a lot of money. Again, I think they would do anything for Tom Shadyac because he was like the star, you know, he was the new kind of Ivan Wrightman.

Steve Cuden: Right.

Andy Marx: So lo and behold, and actually, I remember this was kind of funny. They go, hey, now that you’re working for us, come in and see the rough cut of Evan Almighty. We go in and it’s really awful. We look at each other and we go, is this not good? We go, yeah it’s not great. Of course, the movie, they have this huge premiere on the lot and the whole, of course we get invited because now we’re working for them. The movie is a complete flop. Then I guess Tom Shadyac, I don’t know. I guess it was after. So they dropped his deal. So meanwhile, we’re writing this movie for Tom Shadyac, who now no longer has a deal at Universal.

Steve Cuden: Oh boy.

Andy Marx: But we have a contract for two drafts and a polish. Okay.

Steve Cuden: Yeah. At Universal or with Shadyac?

Andy Marx: For Universal.

Steve Cuden: For Universal. Okay.

Andy Marx: I mean, they paid his freight, right?

Steve Cuden: Right.

Andy Marx: He did a documentary. He himself got into some kind of a bicycle crash and really something happened. I don’t know if he wasn’t wearing a helmet or something.

Steve Cuden: Changed his whole life.

Andy Marx: He changed his whole life. The last time I saw him I actually was riding on Pacific Coast Highway many years ago. I saw him in Malibu, and he was teaching at Pepperdine, I guess. He did that documentary. So anyway, we wrote these two drafts. I’m trying to remember if that was after. Then the strike hit. Then the strike happened. So we stopped working, and then the strike ended, and then we finished it, and then he was gone by then. That was the end of it.

Steve Cuden: It went nowhere.

Andy Marx: Right. The comedy that we wrote. Right. Great movie idea. Again, you got to remember, this is back in the two thousands when there were these kind of movies. My partner, we came up with an idea. It was called Squeezed. What was the movie with Matthew Broderick with the Christmas lights where it’s two families and they’re battling over who has the better Christmas decorations?

Steve Cuden: I don’t know what that movie is. You’re not talking about one of the vacation movies, are you?

Andy Marx: No, no. This was an actual movie where they get into a war over the Christmas decorations.

Steve Cuden: Yeah. Stumped me on that.

Andy Marx: All right. So anyway, so we came up with an idea. This was when they were doing those kind of PG movies, like at Disney and stuff. It was called Squeeze. It was basically you had two families that go to war over their two kids’ lemonade stands.

Steve Cuden: Okay.

Andy Marx: All right. Again, that was the kind of movie that people were making back then. So of course, we finished the movie, we turn it in, we do a draft. Then at our first meeting, the guy says, we don’t really like the lemonade stand bit. Can you come up with something else that they would be battling about after we’ve written a draft? Right. So then I think we turned it into a school election. Again, that was another one that went nowhere. But this is what happens.

Steve Cuden: It’s all too common what you’re talking about.

Andy Marx: Well, I mean, think of it. The movie studios are like any place that has R & D. Whether it be, you know Dove soap company. I mean, I’m sure they develop all kinds of weird soaps and rinses and all kinds of stuff. 10% of them get out the door to CVS. Everything else, they’re paying people to do this. That’s what screenwriting is. If you can get in and do that, it’s fine. I don’t know if it’s as easy to do anymore.

Steve Cuden: Okay, so let’s transition that over to Royalties, which is a novel, but based on, is it a Roman à clef?

Andy Marx: Somewhat. I mean it’s based on them. That’s another good piece of advice. Whenever you have an idea, put it down. You never know when you go, I got that idea in 1980, and I ended up writing it in 2000.

Steve Cuden: The ideas is based on your two grandfathers, right?

Andy Marx: Yes. Basically, the idea is, you have to remember that, well, my grandmother who married Gus Khan, her name was Grace Laboy. Grace Laboy, she’s kind of the heroine of the book. It’s like Thornbirds, with kind of the powerful female woman. Grace Laboy, she became Grace Khan. She was 15 years old, wanted to be a songwriter, was living in Chicago. She would take her songs around to various music… Chicago was a fairly big home for music. There was basically Tin Pan Alley in New York and Chicago. That’s where it was happening. She would take her songs around, and she went to a place, I think it was called Remic, which was a very big publisher at the time. The guy heard her songs, and he goes, well, I don’t really like your songs, but you’re a great piano player. At the time, she had been working at Sears & Roebuck. She had 11 or 12 siblings. She was working at Sears & Roebuck in the accounting department making $5 a week. So this guy offered her a job for $15 a week as a song plugger. I will explain that a song plugger back then because there was just sheet music. They went around, they would publish songs, and then they would take the songs to singers, to department stores. Because people back then had pianos and they would buy sheet music, that’s what people bought. They bought sheet music. Instead of records they bought sheet music. So she was a song plugger in Chicago. I believe before she even met Gus Khan, who she would eventually marry, she met the Marx Brothers in Vaudeville because she had gone to some place in Milwaukee or something, where they had been playing in an effort to get the act to do one of the songs that she represented.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Andy Marx: Yeah. The weirdness of how the family came together is kind of astounding. Well, they were still alive then because Groucho died. Groucho died in 78. My grandmother lived to 83. My grandmother had been a widow since Gus Khan died in 41. Groucho had been divorced. Groucho kind of always married these kinds of dumb blonde. He was married three times, and they were always actresses, including my grandmother. They were showgirls. You can’t see the air quotes on audio. But he liked those kinds of women. I mean, it probably had something to do with his mother or whatever. But I always noticed that there was always this great love for my grandmother, Grace Kahn. He kind of respected her because she was smart, and she didn’t take crap from people. He couldn’t get away with sort of the stuff that he could get away with everybody else. I don’t know, I had a thought. I wonder if they were ever involved since she knew him before Gus Khan, and they go back. So I don’t know if they ever were. So that’s how I came up with the book, that it’s two guys. One is a Tin Pan Alley songwriter in Chicago and the other is a vaudevillian. This woman is in both of their lives. Both guys are in love with her, but only one guy’s going to, and that’s it. It goes on for 75 years.

Steve Cuden: You alluded, and I just wanted to briefly mention it. You alluded to your great-grandmother. That would’ve been Mini Marx.

Andy Marx: Mini Marx, yes.

Steve Cuden: There’s a whole show written called Mini’s Boys.

Andy Marx: By Arthur Marx and Bob Fisher. He wrote it. That’s right,

Steve Cuden: Exactly. That sort of goes through their life and career.

Andy Marx: Yeah. She was the pushy stage mother. This is how she pushed them into show business. Her brother was a guy named Al Sheen, and there was Bonneville Gallagher and Sheen, of course, you know this. She saw how successful they were. So she pushed the boys. She herself wanted to be a star, but it never happened. So she pushed the boys into being.

Steve Cuden: So what did you take from your coming up in the world as a young man from your grandfathers then put in the book? Did you take personality? Did you develop character? How did you use what you knew of them in the book?

Andy Marx: Well, I mean, I’ve known that Groucho has always kind of had trouble with women. I mean, he was married three times. All of his wives became alcoholics. So he was probably not a nice person to be married to. So I had kind of a guy, a very sort of insecure and couldn’t sort of commit and had a hard time with love, the Gus Kahn character. I never knew Gus Khan because he died in 41, but I know enough about him from looking at his songs. I mean, I always say, if he just wrote It Had to Be You and Making Whoopee and just retired, that would’ve been a good career, right?

Steve Cuden: Yes.

Andy Marx: But Making Whoopee is probably the funniest wittiest song ever written about getting married, because it basically says the only way you’re going to get laid is you’re going to have to get—obviously this is in the twenties. Whoopee meant having sex.

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Andy Marx: The point of the song was if you want to get laid, you’re going to have to get married and is that really worth it? So he wrote this great song called Making Whoopee. Then he wrote, It Had to Be You, which has to be in the top five of any love song ever written. I mean, might be the greatest love standard ever written. I don’t know.

Steve Cuden: It’s certainly among the top group is for sure.

Andy Marx: Because I kind of studied my grandfather Gus Kahn’s work and perform it and do a lot of stuff. I’m very cognizant of just what a genius he was. I mean, he dropped out of school, he didn’t finish high school. English was not his first language, but yet he was able to write these kinds of lyrics. I mean, it’s unbelievable.

Steve Cuden: Same thing. Go back to Billy Wilder and those folks. They didn’t speak English as their first language at all.

Andy Marx: I know. I know.

Steve Cuden: Also no training. Groucho had no training to be what he did. They did it by doing vaudevillian.

Andy Marx: We were talking about this yesterday. A friend of mine and I were talking about, let’s look at the Gershwin’s for a second. Okay. So if you had a family, and you had two boys, and one was George Gershwin, probably the greatest melody writer, again, of that era, right? The other son turned out to be a plumber. You’d go, okay, one out of two. That’s good. We only expect one to really do well. But here you have one brother who again, in my opinion, greatest melody composer of that stuff ever. Then Ira, his brother is again, I think, one of the greatest lyricists who’s ever lived. So how does that happen?

Then you have the Marx Brothers. You have three guys. Well, four. But I mean, the three main guys who, they didn’t do the same thing. One was the intellectual sort of comedian. Then you had Harpo who was one of the greatest mimes ever. You Bet Your Life story you know Marcel. Marcel was at that lunch. The You Bet Your Life thing. He said your great Uncle Harper is one of the greatest mimes ever. Again, no training. Where did he learn to play the heart? Then you have Chico, again, full on comedy, timing, everything, and incredible piano player.

Steve Cuden: Unbelievable.

Andy Marx: Yeah. So, I mean, he probably took some piano lessons and did whatever.

Steve Cuden: But nobody taught him to play the piano the way he played the piano.

Andy Marx: Nobody. No.

Steve Cuden: Which is completely unique and remains completely unique.

Andy Marx: Yeah. I mean, with the orange, and he would do all this stuff where he’d roll the orange up and down. I mean, just all the crazy stuff. I mean, it’s just, I don’t know. I guess, there’s a God or something.

Steve Cuden: So, we talked about it earlier. Tell the You Bet Your Life story, which I think is just a phenomenal story.

Andy Marx: Yeah. That was, again, another sort of a lucky thing. I graduated from UCLA, I guess this was 73, or going into 74, probably, and NBC. I was having lunch, and it was me, Groucho, Jack Nicholson, Elliot Gould, and Marcel Marceau, who for your audience, Marcel Marceau, again, like we just said, one of the greatest mimes ever. Okay. So we’re having lunch.

Steve Cuden: By the way, I saw Marcel Marceau do his act three times here in Pittsburgh three years in a row when I was in high school.

Andy Marx: What years?

Steve Cuden: So it would’ve been something like 1971 and 2.

Andy Marx: That’s about, yeah. Well, actually, when he was at that lunch, he invited me because he did the show in LA, and I remember seeing it. I mean, it was phenomenal.

Steve Cuden: It was extraordinary. He was an extraordinary mime.

Andy Marx: Right.

Steve Cuden: I’m sorry to interrupt.

Andy Marx: No problem. So it’s Jack Nicholson.

Steve Cuden: What a weird group.

Andy Marx: But you have to remember. I’m trying to think. This might’ve been like early 74. Or I guess it was 73 when the sort of Groucho mania was starting to take hold. Remember the movies were starting to be shown in places and people. It totally went with the whole anti-establishment thing and the whole thing. If I told you I was at a Passover Seder at my grandfather Groucho’s house, and you know who was there.

Steve Cuden: Go on.

Andy Marx: Ron Wood from the Rolling Stones, who was brought to the Seder by Ahmet Ertegun, who ran Atlantic Records.

Steve Cuden: My goodness.

Andy Marx: I believe that Ron Wood in his book writes about it. So, I mean, Alice Cooper used to come. Shep Gordon. I mean, they would just be there. It was great. So we’re having lunch, the phone rings, I pick it up, I go in the bar area, and I pick it up and it’s NBC calling. They said, we have a warehouse full of the You Bet Your Life show and something called The Best of Groucho, which had been turned into a syndicated show. They go, we don’t have any room for it anymore, so we’re going to destroy it. Unless you want it. Oscar Levant had a show called Information Please. That’s all be destroyed.

Steve Cuden: In the fifties, right?

Andy Marx: Yeah, it was on video, and they just erased it all.

Steve Cuden: Unbelievable.

Andy Marx: Whatever they call that. Yeah, I guess it was tape. So anyway, so I go into—

Steve Cuden: Tape or Kinescope? Was it that far back?

Andy Marx: Well, I think it was tape. Kinescope have been erased. They didn’t reuse that.

Steve Cuden: No, you wouldn’t have erased the Kinescope.

Andy Marx: Right. These were some kinds of videotapes. So I go back in, and I go, hey Grandpa Groucho NBC’s on the line. They want to know if you want any of the film, You Bet Your Life. They have cans of this stuff. Do you want it? At that point he was always grumpy. No, what the hell do I need that for? I don’t want it. I go, but they’re going to destroy it. He goes, I don’t care. So, like Nicholson says, well, Groucho, you can’t do that. You can’t let him destroy it. So we call. I mean, we don’t call. I go back in the room, and I pick up the phone and I say, well, okay, what can you do? Can you send this stuff out? They go, yeah, we’ll send it out. Literally about a week later, 10 UPS trucks pulled up. All of them filled to the brim with the cans of film. I mean, there was duplicates of the shows. There’d be like 10 copies. It was like, not just the Masters, but it was like the originals and then the copies that were probably sent to other stations. I mean, it was crazy. Groucho, calls me, and he is really pissed. He goes, you told him to send all this stuff and there’s no room. So I go over there and literally they’re unloading the stuff into Groucho’s house. I think it was 3000 cans of film. It’s literally in every closet. Then I go, well, look, as long as we have this, I said to somebody, I said, why don’t we try to re-syndicate this or something? You’re getting popular now. Let’s try to kind of ride the bandwagon. So we went down to KTLA. I guess it was Channel 5. Yeah. We actually made a deal that they would start running it. So now I got myself a job because I had to go through every can of film. Groucho had a 16-millimeter screening room. I would come over there every day and I got a job. There was this original producer who would produce the original show, and he kind of hired me. I would go there and sit every day. He had sheets printed up that would have the times and where the commercials came in and who was on it and this whole thing. That’s what I did for, I don’t know. We started getting the stuff out for the syndication thing. But I think I managed to wangle a good job for like a year and a half, just doing that.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Andy Marx: Then what was so cool though, was every day, of course, I would have lunch with my grandfather. Sometimes people would be there and sometimes it would just be me and him. Then he would come into the screening room and we would watch a couple, and then he would actually make funny comments and remembered who the people were.

Steve Cuden: That’s amazing.

Andy Marx: I do remember this was during the energy crisis of 74, where they were gas rationing. He said, you can only watch two of these a day because we have to cut back on electricity. Can you imagine?

Steve Cuden: So it took a year and a half to go through all that.

Andy Marx: Pretty much. Yeah. I mean, it was 3000 cans of film.

Steve Cuden: That’s incredible.

Andy Marx: I know. It’s unbelievable. So that show went back into syndication. It coincided with the whole sort of Groucho mania, and he got his honorary Oscar. So it just took off and took off and took off. Again, a lucky thing I happened to be there for lunch. Because if I hadn’t been, I don’t know what would’ve happened.

Steve Cuden: They would’ve destroyed them.

Andy Marx: Yeah, probably. Probably.

Steve Cuden: Because he said he didn’t care, and they would’ve wanted—

Andy Marx: Yeah. They’re on Netflix now or whatever. I can remember you asked, what were these people doing there? I remember one night going to dinner over there, and lo and behold. This was before, no, I guess it was after this. Jack Nicholson is having dinner, and he goes, hey, can we see a night at the opera? I was sort of the projectionist now and so we all sat around. What was the Jack Nicholson movie? The Navy one? Was it Last Detail or Cinderella?

Steve Cuden: Last Detail.

Andy Marx: Right. It was right around that time. So he hadn’t completely exploded at that point, but it was pretty crazy. He’s sitting there watching A Night at the Opera with us.

Steve Cuden: That’s wild. I saw every one of their movies, the Marx Brothers movies, every single one of them in a theater here in Pittsburgh when I was in high school. It would be a Friday night, or a Saturday night and they would show two or three Marx Brothers movies. You’d go and you’d see every one of them repeatedly. It was just phenomenal.

Andy Marx: Well, I remember before I went to UCLA I went to UCSB Santa Barbara. They had a theater in Isla Vista, a revival theater. They were showing Marx Brothers movies. So it’s very easy for me to get dates because I could say to women, I could go, hey, there’s a movie playing, my grandfather’s in it. You want to go see it? Every night it was a different girl and a different movie. I don’t know.

Steve Cuden: Tell us a little bit about Hollywood and Swine. What’s that?

Andy Marx: Oh, Hollywood and Swine was great. But unfortunately, it had a bad ending. But it was good. Hollywood and Swine. I had a writing partner. I’ve always had a bunch of different writing partners because I don’t really like writing movies alone. So I had a writing partner named Will McCardle, who we actually have a couple of things. We actually wrote a Marx Brothers project, sort of a bio Marx Brothers thing that a producer is out with. But those kinds of movies.

Steve Cuden: How would you ever cast it?

Andy Marx: Oh. You get Sasha Baron Cohen to play Groucho. He’d be perfect.

Steve Cuden: Yes, that’s true.

Andy Marx: All right. I don’t know. Who knows. We just did one of those things where it’s like a month in the life in the Marx. It was the period when they went on tour. So it’s basically, that’s the story that we told. Anyway. So Will McCardle and I. I said nobody has done kind of an onion-ish kind of a thing. Again, this is back in 2013 or 12 when you could do kind of parody. You can’t do parody anymore on the internet because it’s considered misinformation or it’s like they clamp. I mean, the really bad misinformation they let go, but for something like this… So I said, we need to do a parody. So we just started. He was so brilliant. He would come up with the funniest, just the funniest. So we did it for about a week and I don’t know, I guess started sending it out to people in my address book. It was basically, we’d do one story a day, like The Onion. It was the same thing. He would come up with a headline and kind of write it. Then I would do sort of a funny photo. We’d Photoshop something and we were doing it for about two weeks.

Then all of a sudden, we did a story, and you’ll appreciate this, the story was Starbucks banned screenwriters from all locations worldwide. Because every time we went into Starbucks, the place would be completely packed. You couldn’t find a seat because everybody was in there writing a screenplay. We would send it out to people on our mailing list. But then we did the thing. Again, you could do this kind of back then where we would start posting it on Facebook. It had a hundred thousand views in a day or something. Of course we thought, oh, this is how it’s going to be every day. It wasn’t. But we built up and we built up. We got approached by people. Then this is kind of the demise of Hollywood and Swine. We did it anonymously because we were trying to write screenplays and we just thought it would probably be better. We had deal. We were writing another movie that never got made. We were writing a movie. I think it was for Paramount. So we thought, well, let’s just do this anonymously. It’ll be more fun.

So eventually Variety approached us. Jay Penske, who I always call—what’s his name. He’s like the modern day, Bruce Wayne. He approached us and he said, we’d like to incorporate Hollywood and Swine into Variety. We go, okay, cool. Again, you got to remember this is 2012, 13. Social media was not like it was now. So basically, we would post the stories on Facebook. Will would put stuff on Reddit and whatever. In certain days it would take off and other days it wouldn’t. So Jay approaches us, and he goes, we want this to become part of Variety. At this point, variety, I guess was a weekly now in a print thing. He goes, we’re going to give you the inside back page. Beautiful thing with Art Direct, the whole bit. They paid us a fairly good amount of money. So we started doing it. Lo and behold, now we’re on the pages. We have the website. But now we’re being printed in Variety. One of the stories we did was… I don’t remember the headline exactly. I don’t know when it was, but there was a Jewel Heist at the Canne Film Festival.

Steve Cuden: Oh yeah, sure.

Andy Marx: In 2015. So the story we wrote was Sharon Stone arrested in Canne film heist. I don’t remember exactly, but the point of the headline was because there’s no other reason that she would be at the Canne Film Festival. Because she’s always at the Canne and never has anything to promote or anything. But she just goes there. It’s like Sharon Stone chief suspect, because police can’t figure out what she was actually doing at the Can Film Festival. Okay. Something like that. Funny story, very funny. So I am at a Bar Mitzvah party with my wife. We’re at a Bar Mitzvah party for a neighbor kid who lives across the street. The parents belong to Hillcrest Country Club in LA, which is kind of a big fancy place. The mother of the Bar Mitzvah kid works for Yahoo, right. I don’t remember what she did. She’s working for Yahoo and I’m at this dinner and I’m there and whatever. Will calls me and he goes, there’s something really, really bad. I can’t figure out what’s going on. But the Sharon Stone thing has really taken off. So as it turns out, Yahoo saw the story in Variety and thought it was real.

Steve Cuden: Oh my goodness.

Andy Marx: Again, we probably wouldn’t even be able to do anything like this now. We could do it then. So anyway. But I mean, can you imagine that somebody was so stupid at Yahoo? I think even Variety it even said on the thing, this is parody. It’s funny. I go to the woman, the mother of the kid and I go what’s going on with Yahoo? So anyway, it caused a complete thing. Everybody was so pissed because they thought it was real. Then, remember Nikki Finke?

Steve Cuden: Oh sure.

Andy Marx: Okay. So Nikki Finke somehow found out who we were, and she outed us.

Steve Cuden: This is Deadline Hollywood, Nikki Finke.

Andy Marx: Yeah. So she outed us and wrote sort of a really mean thing about us. Which was weird because I had always been like friendly with her. I had worked with her when I was… she went super nasty. Then Variety, they got scared and I guess, some of the people at Variety didn’t think it was cool. Remember Mike Fleming?

Steve Cuden: Sure.

Andy Marx: He got involved and he said, why is Variety running parody on the pages? Basically, they paid us off and that was the end of that. We continued doing it, but it kind of petered out. If we were doing it now, we’d be doing TikTok videos and doing stuff. Whatever. It was great. It was a lot of fun. We kept the website even when we did the Variety thing. It was on the pages of Variety. I think Will kind of lost interest. To show you how things have changed, my partner Will, he had one of the first Trump parody accounts. It was absolutely hilarious. Out of all of them, it was the most popular. But then eventually he got kicked off. He got kicked off of Twitter because they don’t really allow you to do parody accounts. So it is just a different kind of a thing now.

Steve Cuden: We’re in very strange times right now.

Andy Marx: Yeah. You think?

Steve Cuden: We’ll eventually come out of it somehow, hopefully for the plus. I hope.

Andy Marx: Please tell me how. Because I don’t know. It’s the one thing I worry about.

Steve Cuden: I wish I had the answer for you, but I don’t. So I’ve been speaking to Andy Marx for a little more than an hour now. We’re going to wind this down a little bit. You’ve already told us these amazing stories. Do you have one more strange, weird, quirky offbeat or just plain funny story you can share?

Andy Marx: One more. I have kind of a funny Elton John story.

Steve Cuden: That’s great. Let’s hear that.

Andy Marx: Alright. I think he sort of hit the scene around, I think it was 1971. I was in a band, and I played keyboards. Up to that point, no bands had had piano players as the front man. I mean, other than Jerry Lee Lewis, there was really nobody. I mean, there was a couple like, yes, I guess. But there was nobody who had a rock and roll band that played piano. So, of course, I totally loved Elton John. I literally wanted to be Elton John. I could play every one of his songs. I could sing them. Every inch of my walls in my bedroom was posters of Elton John. It was unbelievable. So when he came to LA somebody did an article and they mentioned that he had some kind of a party and he wanted to meet a lot of people. One of the people he wanted to meet was Groucho Marx. I thought, oh my God, I can’t believe my grandfather is going over to meet El, he got to meet Elton John. That’s so cool.

So lo and behold, a couple of years later I’m at the Greek theater in LA and Elton John was just in the audience. During the intermission, he’s just standing over by… I mean, now he would be mobbed by 50 million people, but now he’s standing over by the refreshment stand with another guy. I go, oh, this is my chance. I’m going to go up. I’m going to tell him I’m related to Groucho. He’ll talk to me. This will be so cool. So of course I go up to him and I go, hi, my name’s Andy Marx, I’m Groucho’s grandson. He basically looked at me like I was going to kill him. I mean, he gave me the most evil eye and I just sort of skulked off. So that was the end of that.

Years go by and I kind of off now, the Elton John thing. I’m not playing. I sort of turned into a jazz piano player. My wife. I don’t know when the movie came. Probably late nineties. She was head of marketing at DreamWorks. Her name is Terry Press. They had a movie called Road to El Dorado. Elton John, and I think Tim Rice did the music for it. Okay. So the movie’s coming out. They’re going to have a premiere in New York. My wife says to me, look, Elton’s going to come out and do some songs from the movie. They’re having a party after, right. He’s going to do. But if we have a piano there and it’s just sitting there, it’s going to ruin the surprise because they’ll guess that Elton’s going to come out. So we don’t want to ruin the surprise. So she says to me, hey, you’re a good jazz piano player. Can you play for an hour before and people just think you’re the cocktail piano player of the night, right? I go, yeah, great. I’ll do it. Cool. So I go, that’s great, I’m going to do that. Then I get a call from somebody going you have to do a sound check. You have to go over and do the sound check for this thing. I go, okay. So I go over there in the afternoon and I’m sitting down, I’m not kidding, at Elton John’s piano. His big, huge Yamaha midi. This whole incredible piano. I’m playing Elton John’s piano, and all of a sudden all of the songs come back and I’m playing, Take Me to the Pilot and your song and border song, doing the whole thing. I’m not singing. I just want to hear all that sound. Then there’s kind of a deadness in the room and everybody stops. I turn around and he is literally standing behind me. I go, oh God. He must, whatever. Then that was fine and then I left.

Then I did the thing that night and it was really cool, and he was really nice. Then I ended up doing it in LA and I think I did it in San Francisco. So we did it. Then he comes up to me. Now he’s really nice to me. He goes, I didn’t realize this. He goes, somebody just told me that you’re Groucho Marx’s grandson. I’m thinking, yeah, that’s right. I didn’t want to tell him about when I went up and told him that. But he then told me that he has, which I actually saw because he invited my wife and I when we were in France to his house in Nice for lunch. He actually has a poster from the Carnegie Hall concert. The Night with Groucho. An evening with Groucho. Elton John has the poster hanging at his house. Groucho always thought it was amusing that Elton John’s name was Elton. He thought it was funny that his last name was a first name. So on the poster he writes to John Elton from Marx Groucho. I got to see this poster. So I went from Elton John looking at me like I was a crazy stalker and I have a picture and it’s really cool. It’s one of my treasured memories.

Steve Cuden: That is an amazing story.

Andy Marx: Yes.

Steve Cuden: From really different worlds of Groucho and Elton John.

Andy Marx: You have to remember, I mean, Elton was a little bit like he loved all that old Hollywood stuff. He loved Marlena Dietrich. He loved that. It’s kind of an honor.

Steve Cuden: I love it when modern artists know of and respect older generations.

Andy Marx: Well look at Queen doing their albums the Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races. I mean, you can argue that the first one they called the Night at the Opera because of Bohemian Rhapsody, and it was operatic. But on the other hand the next one was called A Day at the Races. So there was somebody in there who knew about the march.

Steve Cuden: They actually came to lunch at the house, Queen did?

Andy Marx: Yeah. I don’t think Freddy was there, but I remember the other guy, may. What’s his name? The guitar player. Something I don’t know. Anyway, they were there because they brought Groucho the gold albums, or platinum or whatever.

Steve Cuden: The Marx Brothers were, from my perspective, the apotheosis of anarchic comedy. It was anarchy and chaos. Yet it was totally contained. I think that you can say, to a certain extent, some of what Queen did was the same way.

Andy Marx: Yeah. You could also say what the Beatles did. I mean, there were a lot of comparisons with the Beatles, like from a hard Day’s Night and stuff. They said the same thing about the Monkeys. That the monkeys really were like the Marx Brothers.

Steve Cuden: Sure. I agree. Indeed. So, last question for you.

Andy Marx: Yeah.

Steve Cuden: We’ve heard lots of very interesting things that I think people can take away lessons from tonight. I’m wondering if you perhaps have a solid piece of advice or a tip for someone who maybe is starting out in the entertainment industry now, or maybe they’re in a little bit and trying to get to some next level. Do you have any thoughts for that piece?

Andy Marx: I can only sort of speak to it as far as writing. But I mean, I think I would say, as much as you might not like what you’re doing at the moment, and I know you’re trying to get to another place. At some point you’re probably going to be able to use whatever it was that you did in some other thing. Can I give you an example?

Steve Cuden: Absolutely.

Andy Marx: Okay. So I worked in publicity, and I couldn’t really make much money writing. I went to work at Rogers and Coen, and I was a publicist and I kind of hated it. Then I did go to work at Warner Brothers in the film thing, which I liked. Then I was a unit publicist on a bunch of like Terminator and Manhunter and a bunch of movies. I knew that it was not what I was going to do. Actually, kind of the first movie that I ever sold. It was called Darkness at Night. The title is based on a movie that they’re making in the movie. Basically the idea was because when I used to be a unit publicist and I would go on these locations, I would see how the towns and everything kind of rolled over for the people making the movie. I thought, wow. That would be a really great way to do a bank robbery if the film crew could do. This idea has been done. I didn’t know this at the time, but there’s an episode of Andy Griffith where somebody writes an article on Andy, and it’s called the Sheriff Without a Gun or something. So Gavin McCleod, he and two others come to Mayberry pretending that they’re going to do a TV show based on Andy Taylor and they’re really there to rob the bank. I had never seen this episode before. So I just always thought, what a great way to ingratiate yourself in a town. So we sold this movie based on that. Darkness at Night was they’re driving to the town, and they get pulled over by a state trooper and the state and they think they’re going to get busted now because they have the bank robbing equipment and everything in the film truck. They think they’re going to get busted. It turns out the state trooper goes, well, this isn’t really my main thing. I actually really want to be a screenwriter. So he says, yeah, I have this script called Darkness at Night. I said, well, we’re a movie production company. Let’s look at that. So that’s how that sort of came about.

Steve Cuden: That came from your being a unit publicist.

Andy Marx: Absolutely. I had another movie idea that I sold. It was a movie called For Immediate Release, which is something that you see at the top of a press release. The idea was the unit publicist is the most hated character on the set. Nobody likes him because he works for the studio, and he is kind of the enemy. Although I ingratiated myself. But the idea is this kind of put down unit publicist on this movie, they’re filming in a prison, and he screws something up and one of the prisoners escapes. So now everybody’s mad. They’re all coming down and they blame it on the unit publicist, and they fire him. They go, this is all your fault. You’re fired. He goes back to his motel room to pack up his stuff, and the escape convict is waiting for him because he had talked to him earlier. Of course the convict says, I’m innocent. It’s like a buddy comedy, and he ends up teaming up with the convict and using his journalism skills or whatever. They figure out that the guy was innocent, and he gets out. But again, that’s two things that came from sort of an experience of stuff that I did that I didn’t love, and I knew I would do something else.

Nora Ephron once said to me… I interviewed her, and one of the things she said to me, I was one of the very first people to interview her, is when that movie came out that she directed the first one. One of the things that she said to me, which is a piece of advice that she got from her parents who were very famous screenwriters, Phoebe and Henry Efron. I don’t know if they won an Oscar, but what they said to Nora growing up was everything is copy. That was a quote that Nora Efron used throughout her life. So basically whatever is going on, it’s copy, and you can use it somewhere and Nora did.

Steve Cuden: That’s an incredibly solid piece of advice, period.

Andy Marx: Yeah. Absolutely.

Steve Cuden: That everything in your life is fair game, I guess, as long as you don’t hurt someone with it.

Andy Marx: Right. Who knows? You could say that she wrote Heartburn. Did that hurt Carl Bernstein? I don’t know. I just thought that was great. Somebody said to me that the first time Nora had ever used that quote was in the piece that I did on her. So I don’t know.

Steve Cuden: Wow.

Andy Marx: I took that to heart. So whatever you’re doing, you might be able to collect something for what you’re going to do later on.

Steve Cuden: Andy Marx, this has just been a terrific, entertaining, fun, fast-paced, hour plus on StoryBeat.

Andy Marx: Thank you.

Steve Cuden: I’m so grateful that you spent a little time with me today.

Andy Marx: I loved it.

Steve Cuden: You’ve had this tremendous… All these experiences in this career and you’ve hobnobbed with a few famous people too, so that’s kind of cool.

Andy Marx: It’s very cool and it’s very cool being here.

Steve Cuden: Well, thank you so much for being on the show. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it.

Andy Marx: Alright, well thank you.

Steve Cuden: So we’ve come to the end of today’s StoryBeat. If you like this podcast, please take a moment to give us a comment, rating, or review on whatever app or platform you are listening to. Your support helps us bring more great StoryBeat episodes to you. Until next time, I’m Steve Cuden. May all your stories be unforgettable.


Executive Producer: Steve Cuden, Producer: Casey Georgi, Announcer: Javier Grajeda
Social Media: Mina Hoffman, Design & Marketing: Holly Reed, Reed Creative Group


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