Rita Lakin brings her 25 years of experience working in television — the subject of her memoir, The Only Woman in the Room: Episodes in My Life and Career as a Television Writer—to The ProsenPeople as this week’s Visiting Scribe.
At age fifty my parents made their exodus, leaving the Bronx for Florida, and my aunts and uncles followed. They all moved into the same huge, two-hundred unit condominium in Fort Lauderdale and discovered that 90% of the tenants were also Jewish. They felt as if their entire neighborhood had relocated with them. It was as if they’d never left home — only, the weather was better — and they took to Florida like flamingos to marshes.
I lived three thousand miles away in California, working as a script writer in Hollywood. I decided to take time off and write a novel. What I knew for sure was that I wanted it to be about my mother and Florida. I had visited my family every year throughout my twenty-five years in television, and my memories of their colorful life stayed fresh in my mind.
I went through the list we writers put ourselves through when we commit to perhaps a year or two of work, the process of selecting project that will keep us involved and stimulated.
So, what to write about my mother? She was now 75, and I knew I also wanted to write about the process of aging as a sub text. Decision made; check. What genre? Well, my career in film was writing drama. I wanted a change of pace. Comedy. It wasn’t too far a reach— my mom and my aunts were quite funny, not that they were aware of it. (Me: “Mom, you live five minutes from the beach. Why don’t you ever go there?” Mom: “Are you crazy? And schlepp home sand in my living room?”) Early-bird dinners at 4 PM? My Uncle Hy telling corny off-color jokes about old age? Taking Cane Fu lessons? Cane Fu — in wacky Florida, anything is believable. Plenty of material for funny. Check.
Now, I had to think. Would readers buy that novel? I worked in the very commercial world of television. Out of pride, I wanted the book to sell. Jewish old women? Funny? Funny old Jewish women aging? Not likely. I needed something marketable. I had it: a comedy and a mystery, a “Cozy” in the style of Agatha Christie. I would give my mother, aunts, and their friends a profession as private investigators — the oldest PI’s in the country.
And like that, Gladdy Gold and her girls were created. The novel is called Getting Old Is Murder. It even has a special opening page for translating the Yiddish words for non-Jewish readers.
The books sold like hotcakes. Six more followed: Getting Old Is the Best Revenge; Getting Old is Criminal; Getting Old is to Die For; Getting Old is Tres Dangereux; Getting Old is a Disaster; Getting Old Can Kill You.
If you are so inclined, read them. Their fans laugh and cry and call the girls hilarious. As Gladdy would say, enjoy.
Rita Lakin is the author of The Only Woman in the Room: Episodes in My Life and Career as a Television Writer. She will be blogging here all week as part of the Visiting Scribe series on The ProsenPoeple.
- Being Esther: A Novel by Miriam Karmel
- Reading List on Aging
- I See You Made an Effort: Compliments, Indignities, and Survival Stories from the Edge of 50 by Annabelle Gurwitch
Rita Lakin worked for 25 years in television as a freelance writer, story editor, staff writer, and producer, the subject of her new memoir. She also writes a series of comedy detective novels about a group of eccentric senior women solving crime in Ft. Lauderdale.