I was interviewed by Brent Raynes for his on-line magazine about my client John Keel. It was a fun and interesting interview. You might enjoy it. I think you’d enjoy it.
John Keel Memories
The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings. Doubleday Books 1994.
I was John Keel’s agent for a couple of his books. The Complete Guide to Mysterious Beings was my favorite. Since I’d read many of his books over the years and since I sold that book to Doubleday for him, we were good buddies for a long time. He’d come to my office, often on a Thursday and we’d go have lunch at the Edison Hotel–he called it the Polish Tea Room. We went on Thursday because that was the day the magicians all gathered around a big table in the back for lunch and magic-talk. The Edison was an old run-down and tacky hotel. The waitresses had been there from the beginning, it seemed. They were not happy, nor friendly. That suited John perfectly, of course. He always ordered soup.
After a short while of sitting, someone from the magic round table in the back would notice John, call him over. John would break out a big smile –an extremely rare occurrence and walk over to chat. Always starting the conversation by saying, I’m with my literary agent to the mostly older men and they’d all look over at me, inspecting. He did that every time and I never did understand why. Also why one of them didn’t say, “You told us that last time.” Or, “You tell us that every time you come in.”
John was a great story-teller and would regale me with tales of his life.
Once he told this story and I’ve always wondered about it. He said that he and a friend worked for a Hollywood studio as script readers and were also on-call for anything executives who popped into town needed. Their office was at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue, mid-town Manhattan. The same building HBO is in now.
John said they read scripts, laughed at submissions, wrote their own scripts and basically enjoyed their work. They didn’t send many screenplays on to Hollywood, he said.
One script came hand-delivered by a young super enthusiastic guy and it sparked their interest. Mostly, he said, they just liked him. He was sincere, dedicated and determined. And kind of goofy. They decided to help him with his script. They explained how good scripts worked; on page whatever this had to happen, then on page whatever, this had to happen – moving the script along was a formula and they shared their information with the screenwriter.
Every week he’d come and share his additions, deletions and “movement” of the story and every week, they’d give him more advice, more suggestions.
Finally, John said, after about six months of all this back and forth, the screenplay worked. They sent it off to Hollywood. Unfortunately, it wasn’t what the studio they were working for happened to be looking for at the time. They hated to pass along that negative information- and after all the hard work; the screen writer did not take it well.
A few weeks passed and this young guy came by to make one last visit. He said he was off to Hollywood to make his movie. He knew it was a great story and he was determined to get it on screen. Not only that but he was going to star in it.
John said he and his co-worker, stood on the corner of 42nd and 6th Avenue and watched him drive off in an old car, packed to the roof, “Sad, a nice guy, but, we’ll never see him again.”
He called, asking for advice, wanting to hear encouragement and sharing updates over the years for all the near-misses. John said they knew how Hollywood worked and gently tried to prepare him for the worst, but he was the most determined young guy they had worked with and would not be discouraged. He was always so grateful for their help and for their encouragement.
Years passed and against all odds, the young screen writer succeeded getting his script on the big screen. And he was the star.
He invited John and his co-worker, first class all the way to Hollywood for the premier of the movie.
The script was Rocky and the screen writer was Sylvester Stallone.
John Keel, born in Hornell, New York published his first story in a magicians’ magazine when he was only 12 years old. He was a freelance writer by the age of 16 – writing for newspapers, magazines and later a scriptwriter for television. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Later he worked as a foreign radio correspondent in Paris, Berlin, Rome and Egypt.
Jadoo, his first book was published in 1957 and it described his life in Egypt and India. Back in the states, he contributed articles to Flying Saucer Review and focused his investigative abilities on the UFO world. While looking into the strange world of “Forteana” he was also writing scripts for Get Smart, The Monkees, Mack & Myer for Hire and Lost in Space.
“Men in Black” Keel’s signature contribution was published in a Saga- a men’s adventure magazine, titled: “UFO Agents of Terror.” That article was the first place the term, “Men in Black” was ever used. In the 1997 movie, Men in Black, Will Smith was called J and Tommy Lee Jones was K – for John Keel.
John Keel died in 2003 in New York City. He was 79 years old.