Pioneering sitcom writer, Susan Silver, thrived climbing over obstacles and breaking down barriers throughout her life. Her often glamorous career began in the sixties when professional opportunities for women were limited to those of secretary or telephone operator. However, with luck and tenacity, Susan landed the job of casting director for Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.
Doggedly, in the Mad Men-esque environment of Hollywood, Susan eventually became a writer for the iconic shows The Partridge Family, Maude, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and others.
Within her memoir, Hot Pants in Hollywood – Sex, Secrets & Sitcoms, Susan recounts the fascinating, star-studded ups and downs of her life. As a seasoned writer, she grabs your attention by opening her book with an amusing ‘vibrator girl’ story. She goes on to name A-list celebrities whom she turned down and even describes a frightening encounter she had with a young Bill Cosby.
I recently interviewed Susan Silver about her intriguing professional and personal experiences and her tell-all book.
Jen Monks: One of your first big breaks came when you were hired as casting director on Laugh-In. Were you intimidated by the famous people you were supposed to recruit for the show?
Susan Silver: No. I don’t understand why, but nobody intimidated me. I guess I was just too young to know any better. And I could spot a star a million miles away. If I saw somebody famous, I would run after them. I even did that on my honeymoon.
JM: When you failed to book a well-known entertainer, your boss intimated you should have offered the actor an inappropriate favor. How did you handle this request at the time?
SS: Sadly, that’s just the way it was back then. I decided not to play into it. You had to ignore it or laugh at it. I thought he was joking and said, “No way!” Then I walked out of his office.
In retrospect, it was kind of disgusting, but at the time I probably went home and complained to my husband. Then I moved on.
JM: How did such a young, inexperienced person find work on the most successful sitcoms of the seventies?
SS: Garry Marshall, Penny Marshall’s (Laverne & Shirley) brother, was my mentor and manager. He was a great guy and a dear friend.
I saw The Mary Tyler Moore Show and told him I wanted to work for them, and he got me on board. They wanted women writers on that show which was unheard of in those days. I loved that experience. It was the best job with the best people. Everyone worked well together and got along.