Remembering Hollywood icon Aaron Spelling

by Jim Longworth

I only spent a couple of days interviewing Aaron Spelling, but somehow he made me feel like we had always been good buddies. That was his gift. He also kept me in stitches, and that should have come as no surprise since he played so many comic foils during his early days as an actor (including a cameo on ‘“I Love Lucy’”). One funny moment came when I asked him why he didn’t just retire. After all, he was wealthy beyond means, was the most successful TV producer in Hollywood and lived in the largest mansion in California. His comic response?

‘“’Cause I’m like a hooker on Saturday night. I just want one more.’”

Spelling always wanted just one more, and his audiences always demanded it. Along the way, he has produced more hours of television than anyone in history, and he has done it across six consecutive decades. His hit shows have included ‘“Charlie’s Angles,’” ‘“Starsky & Hutch,’” ‘“Dynasty,’” ‘“Hart to Hart,’” ‘”The Love Boat,’” ‘“Beverly Hills, 90210,’” and ‘“7th Heaven.’”

More importantly, Spelling was an agent for social change and a champion for diversity.

His programs and TV movies broke new ground with discussions of everything from the dangers of atomic power to prejudices against AIDS. And he won six NAACP Image Awards, more than any other producer. Yes, he used his productions to advance social causes, but he did so in an unassuming manner.

‘“Don’t preach, teach,’” he told me.

Well, Aaron Spelling taught us a lot, and he did it in a way that was entertaining. That’s what made him so successful.

‘“He was the PT Barnum of television,’” ‘“Dynasty’” star Joan Collins once remarked.’  And Aaron’s own litmus test for programs was simple, ‘“I give audiences what they want, not what I love.’”

‘ I always thought that Aaron Spelling, that dirt-poor, skinny little Jewish kid from Texas, would live forever because, to me, he was always larger than life. I always figured that on my deathbed in the year 2040 I would be reading a story in Variety about Aaron celebrating his 112th birthday with a new TV show about teenagers solving crimes in cyberspace. But this past Friday I realized that he was mortal after all, and I mourn his loss.

Toward the end of our interview, Spelling told me that we shared something in common. He said that I, too, was like the hooker on Saturday night, and he was right.’  Aaron is gone, and while I can continue to watch his greatest hits on TV and DVD, I still just want one more.

(You can read Jim Longworth’s exclusive interview with Aaron Spelling in TV Creators II from Syracuse University Press.)

Jim Longworth is host of ‘“Triad Today’” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on UPN 48 (cable channel 14).