Remember “The Jeffersons,” that “All in the Family” spin-off on CBS?
The show came to Hawaii, some decades ago, and filmed four episodes. One of its writers was David “Kawika” Talisman, then a fledging screenwriter and sometimes musician, who was a writer for the hit series who also became the local man-in-charge of series star Sherman Hemsley.
This is all brought to the present with a hilarious new book called “Honky in the House” (available at amazon.com) about the producing and writing of the series, by Jay Moriarty, who was a senior writer-executive producer and hands-on script writer, for “The Jeffersons,” which aired from 1975 to ’85.
I don’t know Moriarity, but I met Talisman then. Now he’s a bona fide P.I. (private investigator) – and has emerged as a long-time friend.
“He actually mentioned me in the book as one of the writers for the show,” said Talisman. “While I spend my days now as a P.I., I can’t help but look back and fondly remember my time with ‘The Jeffersons,’” said Talisman.
“I’m sure there are still a bunch of folks who are still around Hawaii that appeared on those shows,” Talisman surmised. “Well, we’re moving on up the Eastside,” he said of the famous quote from Norman Lear’s sitcom that ran 11 seasons, often in the No. 1 slot in Nielsen ratings.
“I can tell you about one frightening moment when Sherman Hemsley got dressed up in skin diving gear for a scene on the show,” said Talisman. “While we were videotaping him playing tourist, backing into the ocean by the helipad at the Ilikai Hotel, he totally disappeared from sight. We thought he was just hamming it up but that wasn’t the case.”
Oops, he fell into the ocean, said Talisman, about those frantic moments.
“He didn’t know how to swim! A bunch of people on set jumped in to grab him and luckily, he didn’t drown. Sherman laughed about it later and made a big joke of it. Sherman really loved the local people and endlessly signed autographs.”
After filming wrapped up, Sherman asked Talisman to serve as a bodyguard on a visit to Maui. But life with Hemsley is not complete without laughter.
“He insisted on us going to the top of Mt. Haleakala to see the sunrise,” he said. “Sherman was a music fanatic! OMG, we carried around this ‘ginormous’ boom box on which he insisted playing at full volume The Tubes’ ‘Once In A Lifetime’ all the way up to the top of the mountain at 6:15 a.m. The other tourists started to complain until they realized the noise was coming from Sherman. They’d be screaming ‘Look, it’s George Jefferson!’”
Visitors competed for Hemsley’s autograph and photos together, and natch, he complied.
“That trip turned out to be a real adventure and a lot of fun. God rest Sherman’s soul, who is now in heaven with pretty much the rest of the cast.”
One survivor of the acting ensemble is Marla Gibbs, now 90, who played Florence, the maid to the Jeffersons. Talisman also wrote the theme song for spin-off series, “Checking In,” but it didn’t survive more than four episodes “which left a big dent in my ASCAP check,” he said. …
Open heart surgery for Benoit
Phil Benoit, the Maui-based jazz musician, is recovering from a sextuple open heart surgery.
“That’s right, six way,” said Benoit via email.
He had recurring shortness of breath and some chest pain, signaling potential problems under the hood, so to speak, and following a series of tests, “the red flags flew and they went and saved me. I should have had a heart attack already. I am lucky, I guess.”
He’s on the mend at home and enormously grateful of wife Angela, who is “selfless taking care of me. I love her more than I can express.”
The recovery process has been shaky. “I’ve been up and down and so I haven’t communicated much or accepted visitors,” said Benoit. “I’m feeling much better every day.”
Prayers, calls and communication from pals have mattered. “It counts, it all counts,” he said, so he’s eternally grateful. And now ready to connect with folks.
The Benoits are the gatekeepers of Benoit Jazz Works.
Incredibly, Phil said his brother Dan suffered an emergency appendectomy on the same day of his surgery. “Can you believe it?,” said Phil. “He is healing well and has been a great friend to me.” …
And that’s “Show Biz.” …