Ronald Kidd - July 1, 2022

Dating the Family

I was sort of dating Ann Wilson, but mostly I was dating her family.

We met at a church youth group when I was a junior in high school. She was a sweet, lovely girl with a pretty smile, and I liked her but for some reason wasn’t strongly attracted to her. I don’t think she was strongly attracted to me either. And yet we hovered around each other, circling uneasily, more than friends but not really a couple, for more than two years.

Ann was fine. Her family was great. Looking back on it, they were the ones I was drawn to.

Her father, Wally (shown here), a big, friendly, crewcut fellow, was director of the Pacific Lodge Boys Home, a residence for troubled boys on a tree-lined campus next door to the Wilsons. Her mother, Thelma, served delicious desserts, had a twinkle in her eye, and always made me feel welcome. Her sister, Kathy, had a terrific sense of humor. To this day I can remember her comment about shaving, laughing at the thought of “Daddy’s tiny face and our great big legs.”

I was reminded of the Wilsons recently when I read a new memoir by TV director James Burrows titled, appropriately, Directed by James Burrows. He is famous for his sitcom series The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, Cheers, Friends, Frasier, Will & Grace, and a dozen others.  

In the book, Burrows is likable enough, but the thing that most attracted me was his family, or rather families. First was his biological family, with his father, Abe Burrows, the legendary writer/director of such Broadway hits as Guys and Dolls, How to Succeed in Business, and What Makes Sammy Run? Abe hung out with Danny Kaye, George S. Kaufman, Carol Channing, the Marx Brothers, and Nathan Lane. I hung right along with them.

When James found his way to television, he created more families—for, as he points out, successful sitcoms become families, both behind the camera and in the minds of viewers. Can you think of a more outrageous and engaging family than taxi drivers Alex, Elaine, Louie, and Reverend Jim? Or young Manhattanites Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe? Just the sort of folks I enjoy spending an evening with, as I enjoyed the Wilsons.

I highly recommend this book. You may not want to date James Burrows, but I think you’ll love his family.  

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