Friday morning I drove my daughter and her friends to school for an early club meeting. Somehow the conversation turned to old television shows and they began singing the old 1960s Batman theme song. They were moving chromatically up-then-down instead of down-then-up, so I had to correct that. Then I used my phone to share with them another great theme song from one of the truly great superhero shows of the late 1970s: Wonder Woman. Take a listen to remember how ridiculously full of funky awesome it was. (You can’t view it embedded here, but you can watch it directly on YouTube by clicking on the image.)
This theme song has energy and humor, it’s fun, it’s exciting, and when I got to the end, it reminded me of something I had nearly forgotten. At the 1:25 mark, up pops a graphic that says “Developed for Television by Stanley Ralph Ross.”
Stanley Ralph Ross was an actor, writer, composer, producer, and teacher with deep expertise in television. He wrote for Batman, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Monkees, and All in the Family. Notably, he also wrote this immortal opening narration: “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!”
I worked with Stanley during the Maine production of the musical Love Is Spoken Here, which he co-wrote with Jacquelyn Reinach. I was a music direction intern for that show, working as a rehearsal pianist, scribe, rewriter and transposer, and general grunt worker for anything related to the music side of the production.
At the same time, I was also writing an original song (“Where Are the Words?”) for the show the intern staff was putting together. One day Stanley came in as I sat at the piano. He listened to my work, gave me some really encouraging feedback about my piano/vocal work and my composition, and helped me with some of the lyrics. It was just one moment among so many that I spent with Stanley that summer, but it’s one that sticks out because we were alone and sitting at the keyboard, just two guys putting together a song. Stanley didn’t have to do that.
Or maybe he did.
Stanley had an amazing combination of skills and interests and was passionate about exploring and using them. He acted, wrote, produced, and helped other people transform their rough ideas into fully developed entertainment projects. He loved doing all of it, as his varied and prolific career attests. I wonder… when he strolled down the hall where I was working in the rehearsal room, was he as free to walk past as we might think? I think he may have felt absolutely obligated to go see what was going on in there. In a way, I think he was practically trapped by his curiosity and talent and drive and desire to see the creative process succeed.
Are you passionate about your talent or expertise to the degree that sometimes it almost takes over your will? There are times I am almost too tired to move, but if the right question is asked, or the right song is played, or the right illusion is performed, then I am not only energized but practically compelled to pay attention and participate to the appropriate degree. It’s not about barging in and taking over… it’s about looking for the ways that a combination of encouragement and suggestion can help the creative process succeed. Of all the credits he ever had, I think the one I saw Friday morning may have been his most inspiring: Developer. He was a developer of ideas and people. Not just his own ideas, and not just himself… although that inevitably happened as he worked with others.
Stanley passed away in 2000. I hadn’t thought about him in a long time, and it was Wonder Woman who brought him back to life for me last Friday. And as a result, I’ve been left to ponder the same question I’ll leave for you:
Other than yourself, who is it that your talent is compelling you to “develop for production” right now?