One of the more amazing things about Lucky Ducks is that our title song, was written just for us by the great Paul Williams.


Mar 19, 2010by tracey Comments

Lucky Duck Taylor and Paul Williams
Lucky Duck Taylor and Paul Williams
Paul and Marianna Williams
Paul and Marianna Williams
Paul and a one of the Muppets
Paul and one of the Muppets

One of the more amazing things about Lucky Ducks is that our title song was written just for us by the great Paul Williams. Now, how many small, personally made docs get an Oscar winning songwriter? Not only that but Paul has an Emmy (he was nominated again this year too) a Grammy, a Golden Globe, he’s in the songwriter’s Hall of Fame and is presently the president of ASCAP – as big an honor for a songwriter as any award.  It’s worth buying the DVD just for the song.

But the story is much more magical than just having this iconic figure write a breathtaking song for a small film.

The story starts when I was eleven and I fell in love, total love with Paul Williams. Now, I was a very mature kid, adult even, but not hip in terms of my taste in music, still not. Paul would be the first to say his music does not fall under the “hip” category. He writes love songs and songs for the dreamers. He even has a lyric “The lovers, the dreamers and me.”

So while my peers were listening to who knows what, THE WHO maybe, I was obsessed with Paul.  His were not only love songs, but they were about a profound type of loneliness, that most teens feel, but his was an adult type that I was feeling.

His songs  are always more than the sum of their parts.

And he jokes and says when they write his obit he will be remembered for writing the theme for The Love Boat and playing Little Enis in Smokey and the Bandit.  But he also has a list of hits that go from “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Old Fashioned Love Song” to “Evergreen” and “Rainbow Connection.” Chances are if the Muppets sang it Paul put the words in their little felt mouths–or whatever they are made of.

But his early stuff, the ones that the die-hard PW fans can’t let go of, speak to something else. And those were the ones that really got to me: “Dream away child, let your dreams run wild or a life time of worries could claim you. Dream away child, let your dreams run wild or the years and the tears shed might tame you.” When I was in my early teens this is what got to me and it still does.

Paul’s is the only music I have listened to consistently throughout my entire life.

I think I first became aware of him on TV, where he made regular appearances. I think he and Orson Wells hold some record on The Tonight Show. On TV he was fast and funny; so funny, Paul is one of the smartest, funniest people I know and I got that even at an early age. I wanted to know this person. This person’s very being spoke to me in some huge way. But I was a kid and he was a star, so I just loved the music and went to the concerts and probably like all young girls fantasized.

Then I grew up and I still listened to the music, but by then I had an adult life and endless troublesome relationships with men. When I was about twenty, Paul and his family moved to Santa Barbara, where I am from. Today Santa Barbara is like Malibu north, but back in the late seventies there were only a handful of celebrities.

I have to take a moment here, one of the first stars to live in Santa Barbara and someone I have known since I was very young died yesterday. So I would like to remember Fess Parker, who was a wonderful, big bear of a guy, with a perpetual smile, an extraordinary family man and someone who will be missed by many.  RIP dear Fess.

But thirty-five years ago there were not many. There was Dorothy and Bob Mitchum and a few others. So when Paul moved there, I was really excited.

Crushes tend not to really go away, especially unrealized ones.  So while I had supposedly grown up I was still mad for the music and whatever fantasy person I had attached to it.

I never saw him around town – I later learned why. But one New Year’s the Mitchums were having their annual party and my mother told me that Paul was going to be there.

Now, Paul will not mind me telling this story as he travels the world working as a recovery activist telling far worse ones. But Paul had shall we say a habit, that he broke twenty years ago on March 15th. Sorry Paul, I forgot your sober birthday this year and I always remember. Happy Belated Sober Birthday!

But anyway, so Paul was doing a lot of stuff and I had no idea of this.

I got all dressed up and went to the party and practically sat by the door waiting for his arrival.

Eventually he came in and he made a beeline for Bob as he and Bob had a special relationship, much to Dorothy’s dismay, as Paul was not a good influence on Bob. Had I been Dorothy I would have felt exactly the same way. But again, I wasn’t privy to any to any of this at that time.

So I run up to Bob and say “I have to meet Paul! I’ve been in love with him since I was eleven or twelve.”

And there is Paul in this Andy Gibb jacket (it didn’t say Andy Gibb, but it was one of those 70’s shiny bomber jackets. I have this great photo of us that day, which I could not find this AM, but I will and will post it next week.) Anyway, Bob introduces me to Paul and I’m like twenty and I instantly turn into this teeny-bopper and go “Oh Mr. Williams I love your music, I have been listening to it since I was a kid. It speaks to me like nothing else…” —  total idiotic fan rambling.

And then he tries to focus his eyes on me and says “If it helped you get laid, that’s all that matters.” Then he disappeared outside with Bob.

Talk about crushing a dream.  Forget dreams run wild, dreams smashed to the ground. This is the man who wrote “a lifetime of worries will claim you” ? If I had not been taken for such a loop, the perfect retort would have been “I need no help getting laid, thank you very much. From now on I shall to listen to Neil Diamond.” But I didn’t have the time to say it and was too dumbstruck to even come up with it.

Yet I continued to listen to Paul– and Neil Diamond.

Fast-forward eleven years. I am working at Columbia TV as a show creator.  I’m married. I have a kid. I’m still listening to Paul and clearly have not forgotten him.

I have a great group of veterans I was working with, two I had lunch with last week, my friend Arnold Margolin who created Love American Style and my friend Sheldon Bull who was the co-creator of Coach and a big show runner for decades. I learned the TV ropes from these two men. But that is so another blog.

One day, like always, Sheldon and I were coming up with ideas for shows and possible casts, and I threw out there, what about sticking Paul Williams in whatever the show was. Sheldon said, “If you want to back the cocaine truck up to the set everyday.”

I took that as “Are you crazy? No way!” I had no idea Paul had a problem and that it was so bad I couldn’t even put him in a show. Though what Sheldon didn’t know at that time was Paul had taken himself out of the public eye, gotten beyond sober and was actually a credited drug and alcohol abuse counselor at that point. But it was ixnay on aulPay in our TV show that never gets on the air anyway, we probably never even wrote it.

Fast-forward ten more years. I am now married to Glenn, living in NY, have Lucy, and it is thirtysome odd years since I first became enchanted with Paul. And oddly the only cassette I kept from the days when we had cassettes was his Greatest Hits. It now lives in my safe.

But one night I’m reading The Observer, and there is long article on him and all about his sobriety and the fact he is singing for a month at Feinstein’s in The Regency. I tell Glenn we have to go. Now, as I have stated before Glenn hates all music, but as he has been dragged by me over the years to the Carlyle and Feinstein’s to hear Paul EVERY time he sings, he does like Paul. He likes Paul the person at least; I never talk about music with Glenn. I drag him to see Steve Tyrell and one night Paul, his wonderful wife Marianna and I dragged Glenn to hear Elaine Stritch, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So we go to the show and I cry all the way through it. Every song was a flood of memories and I sang along and I knew every word and Glenn was looking at me like where did this come from?

But what I really wanted to do was go back stage and say, “We met at Dorothy and Bob’s twenty years ago, I want to know you.” I knew he loved Bob.  We all loved Bob and Bob was dead by then.

Yet, I chickened out. Now you may find this hard to imagine but I have a shy side, I do!  And I have spent enough of my life around celebrities that I know they hate being bugged, sometimes. So I opted to do nothing but go home humming.

Though all night I regretted the move and wished I had. Then I thought I could write him a note and leave it at the hotel. But then I thought that would be lame. I didn’t know what to do.

So I did my sign request. I did. I said, if I’m meant to send him a note, send me sign.

That afternoon I was coming out of a nail place on Second Ave and I walk in front of two guys who are mid-conversation. I SWEAR TO GOD the conversation is this…

“You know that songwriter guy, Williams, something Williams? He writes a bunch of stuff for the movies.”


“Yeah, Williams.”



“John, John Williams.”

It may have been the wrong Williams but when you are in the sign reading business you learn to not take everything literally.

So I went home and wrote him a long note about how I had been this lifelong fan, and we had met at the Mitchum’s twentysome odd years before and I was there last night and if he had time maybe we could have a coffee.

And he emailed me back and this started a friendship that is now in it’s seventh year. A truly, close extraordinary friendship and one that I cherish as much as any in my life.

We try and see him and Mariana whenever they come to town. We all see each other in LA.  Glenn and Mariana are secure spouses and they know Paul and I have this special connection so they let  us lunch together alone sometimes. We have the best time, the best e-mails. We go out as couples. I can’t even tell you what it means to me. There are times I look across the table at Paul and think “Oh my god; if you had told me this when I was eleven I would never have believed it.”

So when we were doing Lucky Ducks I needed a song. And I went to Paul, who I could so not afford.  If I couldn’t afford me, how was I going to afford an Academy Award winning songwriter?   And he said, “Of course I will do it for you.”

And he wrote the most gorgeous lyrics and his long time collaborator Chris Caswell did the music and I have an original Paul Williams song written for not only for my film but also it’s about Taylor and me.  Someday I’ll Learn To Be Me. It still makes me cry.

It all goes back to ~Fate Loves The Fearless~

If you are patient enough many of your dreams will come true.

Never give up. If it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.

I don’t even know how to end this as there is so much to say on the whole topic of Paul, his friendship and generosity– not to mention the fact his songs got me through so many difficult times in my life. So I will end with some of my favorite lyrics from his song “Dream Away”:

“If our hearts are strong there will be no long good-byes when it’s time to go.

But the strongest hearts are sometimes broken as the deepest vows aren’t always spoken.

And the greatest wounds we hide inside ourselves where they never show.”

He knew me when I was twelve – yet he didn’t really meet me until I was forty -three. That’s talent. And how could one not love a man who wrote that?