It was the late '70s / early '80s, and Marty and I wrote TV comedy – he on the staff of such shows as "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley" and "Chico and The Man," me selling the odd script here and there (a few of them very odd). We acquired a sweet little summer cottage with gambrel roof-lines and pale blue shutters on the shores of East Chop Drive in Oak Bluffs. Even though we had entered our early 30s, we had no kids, only two cats: squished-faced white Persians named Sebastian and Viola.
But not so fast! Who wanted to call “Sebastian! Viola!” to dinner? What other kitty names were available for elegant Iranian cats? We kicked around ideas with friends. At long last, Sebastian and Viola gave way to Butch and Kissy.
So a kid? Back in LA, we had a condo on the beach, but the place was the size of a potting shed.
Marty suggested, “We could have a child, but what if the hospital calls, ‘Mr. Nadler, it’s been two months, and we’ve still got your baby.’ ‘I know,’ I’ll say, ‘but there’s no space for a crib. . . How are the colleges around there?’”
The years crawled by: 1980 was tied up with a Screen Actors Guild strike, all production was shut down, so we certainly weren’t about to put a baby into development, as they say in The Biz. ’81 and ’82, well, we were still weighing our child-bearing options with friends and both of our agents. Then in ’83, on the beach at Jeff Kramer’s mom’s house on West Chop, we aired the baby thing some more with visiting pals, including Kathy Cronkite, serenely nursing her own infant at the edge of our blanket. Another afternoon, as we strolled towards the wharves on Main Street in Edgartown, Bob Carroll called out from his rolling Caddy, “Anything in the oven yet?”
One day Marty popped in on Michael Jacobs, MD, to have his weight-loss regimen evaluated and his blood pressure checked. He’d dropped .5 pounds. Yes that’s point 5 as in 8 ounces.
“Your blood pressure is normal,” said the doc with a measure of surprise.
“That half a pound was all it took!” cried Nadler.
“Anything else I can do for you?” asked Dr. Jacobs.
Marty explained about the persistent question of the baby: It wasn’t that we wouldn’t love a baby, but look at all the famine in the world! Look at all the famine in show biz! And what if we had to live in LA the rest of our lives? Was that any place to raise a kid? And what if we couldn’t get him or her into a good nursery school? What if he or she demanded siblings? That could take another 87 years to ponder!
Dr. Jacobs nodded sagely, as if people as nerve-wracked as Marty Nadler came in all the time. He lent his patient a copy of a book called A Baby? . . . Maybe.
“It gives you all the pros and cons,” he said.
At that very moment, on another part of the Island, I was browsing in the heavenly stacks of the Book Den East. I came across an intriguing title, A Baby? . . . Maybe.
Back at home, Marty showed me his. Shocked, I showed him mine. Synchronicity was tightening up the screws.
Later in the afternoon, I wandered upstairs, all the windows open to admit rosa-rugosa-laden breezes. Across East Chop Drive, Marty was stretched out on the graveled sands when a tour bus pulled up.
The wonderful and wacky Michael Wild presided at the wheel.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he declared into the microphone, “to your left, an island slacker is reclined on his beach chair. Sir, could you kindly share your summer reading with these nice folks?”
Well, Nadler wasn’t about to have his chain pulled by Michael Wild. He rose and approached with the paperback in his hands. He held up A Baby? . . . Maybe and laid out the most torturous decision in world history since the U.N. deliberated over control of the Gaza Strip.
Michael Wild said, “Let’s put it to a vote! Ladies and gentlemen, all in favor of this couple having a baby, raise your hand!”
After a glance around the bus, Michael announced, “It’s unanimous! Sir, you have our blessings to go forth and multiply!”
Marty slapped the book closed. “That’s good enough for me!” He crossed the road towards our house.
Upstairs, I too made up my mind: When it gets to the point that the folks on a tourist bus exercise their voting rights about whether or not you should at least try to have a baby, the die is cast for you.
On July 11, 1984, Charlie Nadler, seven pounds, eleven ounces, was born at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, just down the road apiece from our cottage.
It only took us eight-and-a-half months to come up with a name – for a while we punted with Noodle. We eliminated a lot of the fuss by dispensing with a middle name. Charlie is free to workshop one for himself.
Any ideas yet, Chuck?
The nickname Chuck was awarded by the tennis team.