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.

Relat­ed Content:

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.

Get­ting Old Can Kill You

Go by the Country