There's Hope for Teen Idols Yet; One of the Four Preps Grew Up to Produce Battlestar Galactica
I was a big man yesterday, but boy, you ought to see me now.” So Glen Larson wrote and sang back in 1958. His Big Man made the hit parade, but as prophecy, boy, that was only the half of it. As one of the Four Preps, Glen had two other top sellers in the pre-Beatle ’50s. But that was zilch compared to Larson’s present status. At 41, he is the most prolific TV producer at Hollywood’s No. 1 lot, Universal. His credits include one of the season’s major new hits, Battlestar Galactica, plus Quincy, the Hardy Boys, the Sword of Justice and a flood of TV movies.
In the industry Larson’s success is almost unequaled, although detractors charge that his talent is more imitative than creative: 20th Century-Fox is suing Universal, claiming that Glen’s Battlestar Galactica is a rip-off of Star Wars. Larson was previously connected with two earlier series derived from movies: a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid knock-off titled Alias Smith and Jones and the delightful McCloud, which came from Clint Eastwood’s film Coogan’s Bluff. With the Galactica litigation pending, Larson refuses to discuss the subject.
But artful cannibalization is what Hollywood is all about, and Glen is certainly a child of that town. While his divorced mother worked as a waitress, he haunted the NBC studios, picking up discarded scripts and producing the shows for neighbor kids in his garage. While at Hollywood High, where classmates included Yvette Mimieux and Sally Kellerman, he put together the Four Preps. “We were great at Four Lads and Four Aces imitations, and it was a good way to get out of class,” says Larson, with excessive modesty. The first song he and fellow Prep Bruce Belland wrote, Twenty Six Miles (“Santa Catalina is waiting for me…”), made the Top 10. Larson believes that if they hadn’t signed away the rights to some of their songs to Capitol, they might have become millionaires. Even so, they earned $50,000 apiece while still in their teen years.
Larson quit college after two years, but the Preps’ schedule led to a lot of broadening travel. Then the ambitious Glen decided, “Your third time around the world, it gets a bit boring.” So he bought a typewriter and started TV writing. He sold scripts and story ideas to The Fugitive, Run for Your Life and Twelve O’clock High, and soon had a writer-producer contract with Universal. (Though Larson could now probably buy and sell the other three Preps before breakfast, they aren’t exactly living off their scrapbooks either. Belland creates game shows for Ralph Edwards Productions; Marv Ingram teaches school; and Ed Cobb has a successful recording studio in Hollywood.)
Already a wholly owned subsidiary of Universal, the workaholic Larson aspires next to launch a studio of his own. “I have a lovely boat I have no time to use and a house at the beach I seldom see,” he admits. “I am totally absorbed in television.” There’s a Betamax and a TV set in his limo, plus 88 more sets at his Holmby Hills estate. Two of them are built into the canopy above the bed so that Glen and his wife of 17 years, Carol, can watch different programs (she prefers talk shows) at the same time.
A Mormon who tithes his undisclosed but obviously monstrous income, he is now producing a miniseries on the church’s founder, Joseph Smith. Glen has fathered six children, ages 1 to 16, all born in the spring. “You see,” quips Larson, “I’m only home once a year—between TV seasons.”