So Myrna and I are visiting Linda Dozoretz, high in the hills of Beverly...
Linda shows Myrna the Google home page with The Flintstones integrated into the Google art celebrating the "50th" Flintstones Birthday. Out flowed from Myrna cathartic (tears/laughter) stories of Ralph Cohn, nephew of Harry Cohn (Columbia Pictures legend) who was entrusted to head up a new division called "Screen Gems".
A bit déclassé, this television stuff. They thought TV was "happening" and they needed content. They had to be a player and get on the air. Columbia created what appeared to be two winners: Rin Tin Tin and something called Circus Boy. (Myrna recalls Jay North, later of Dennis The Menace, starring in it).
A powerhouse lady named Joyce Selznick (who had been a Columbia casting director and "discovered" the recently deceased Tony Curtis) switched from the film world and entered the Screen Gems world. Screen Gems then hires a whiz merchandiser (the guy behind the Howdy Doody merchandising - "Hone$t Ed" Justin) to head up this new department. Bert Schneider (son of Abe Schneider, later chairman of the board of Columbia and a force behind The Monkees) hires young Myrna Masour ($65 per week) as Ed's secretary.
Joyce leaves Screen Gems, goes to the story department at Columbia and starts to work with a guy later celebrated as an author activist named Larry Kramer. Between all of the little side stories and names we all now recognize, Myrna Masour ends up as number two to "Hone$t Ed" Justin because they work well as an Abbott and Costello team having fun and changing the world of merchandising and changing the world (ironically, to this day, viz.: 50 years and counting).
Fortuitously, two young animators (unhappy at MGM) leave the studio and (with a new idea of how to do limited animation for TV) draw up some storyboards which wind up at Screen Gems... without focus groups, strategic planning, charts or projections, but good old entrepreneurial intuition and instincts, Screen Gems says "O.K." How bad could it be...? We need kids' television shows. We need something that could be shown over and over again that we pay for once! Animated drawings don't answer back! They have no egos! They have no agents! They have no renegotiations! We like Bill and Joe They have great reputations. We can play these things over and over again and put them into syndication, into other languages and not worry about the mouths being "in sync". Great. Let's just go ahead and do it."
So out comes all sorts of inventive treasures: Ruff & Reddy, Quick Draw McGraw, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, THe Jetsons, Maggila Gorilla, Augie Doggie, and, of course, The Flintstones... that's Boffo! Socko! Whammo!
Myrna Masour became "Myrna-The-Merchandising-Maven" mentored by "Hone$t Ed". Merchandising became a major profit center and a rebrander, increasing the value of the product by extending it and cross-pollinating the advertising, the marketing and the level of kid awareness whether it was "Flintstones camp grounds" or any other product with their name or likeness or logo stuck on it.
Ed said to Myrna: "Let's go out to the big corporations in America who want to reach our audience, throw out the bait and see if we can reel anyone in." So they set up a lunch with Lionel Weintraub of Ideal Toys... They work hard pitching a new baby boy that Fred and Wilma are planning to have (but so far this is only on a storyboard -- script). Lionel says "Terrific"... but "lose the boy!" "Girl dolls sell better than boy dolls." They come back from lunch, call Joe Barbera and relate Lionel's words. Without missing a beat, Joe said, "O.K. She's a girl". Pebbles became a girl. This was a financial "hardly immaculate" conception of a new baby. Quickly, with commerce in mind... art and commerce meet.
Practical. Pragmatic. And maybe one of the most lucrative decisions a creative individual ever made without ambivalence or doubt.
Pebbles was ultimately sold by Myrna and Hone$t Ed as a breakfast food. The royalty-bearing aspects of Pebbles breakfast cereals has probably never been calculated from its inception and is still selling and is growing because it comes in so many other flavors with so many other characters, sub-choices and changes for the tastes of the world but it's artwork is slapped on those boxes anywhere and everywhere there's a supermarket in the world!
Bill ran the studio and Joe headed up the creative team. They worked in tandem and they worked in synch with Ed and Myrna.
I can't relate the six or so hours of stories and details of each one of the shows and each one of the characters of that era, but I will end by reminding you that the lasting global sociological cultural phenomena which has changed lives for generations in this strange fortuitous constellation of "Hone$t Ed" Justin, Myrna the Maven Merchandiser and the unbelievable Bill and Joe was unquestionably the most successful product in the field of non-prescription medicine ever created: "Flintstones One-Day Vitamins."
You would think that Miles Laboratories would say "well that's a no brainer - let's go for it". But it was a full year of bureaucratic machinations. As fast as Bill and Joe and Ed and Myrna were, that's how slow Miles was. You know what? It paid off in the end. The kids are healthier. Taking their "Flintstones One-Day Vitamins" is not considered punishment and they take them on a global basis and as the world increases in population, more and more kids devour little Flintstone-shaped "poppers," popping and chewing on those pills and generating royalties.
Congratulations Barney, Betty, Wilma, Pebbles, Dino - the whole family Flintstones. Thanks Bill. Thanks Joe. And I'm blessed that I'm married to the prehistoric woman. She was there: "Yabba Dabba Did."
Thank you, Myrna. I loved you long before the royalties came in!
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