August 13, 2014

Dale McRaven, A Natural Treasure Chest of Creativity

  Born in 1939 on a farm in Southern Illinois near the town of Polasky, Dale was the 5th of 6 children from Raymond and Ella McRaven. At 2 years old the family moved to Chicago and then a few years after to Phoenix, Arizona. Growing up in a large family, get togethers were times when the entertainment’s high point was Raymond and his brothers joking around for hours with loads of family laughter and inspiration for Dale.
Dale’s beginnings in comedy...

GrissyG: "What inspired you as a kid to be a Comedian?"
Dale: "I think a lot of people get their sense of humor as a matter of self defense."

   As a small kid, Dale recognized that bullies seldom hit you when you made them laugh, hence a great self defense tool. The first creative project written and drawn in 7th Grade was a comic strip called Super Stupid, about a dumb super hero who couldn't do anything right, he would break body parts crashing into walls doing stupid stuff. At 14 years old, Dale had his first business card in high school advertising himself as a  magician and comedian, "Entertainment for any Occasion." Together with his best friend, Tom Milstead, they performed at a bunch of birthday parties. Dale’s humor made him known as the local wise ass. With his reputation, he requested to write a column called "McRaven Ravin's" in the Camelback high school newspaper, “The Spartin Blade,” where he was allowed to write down his smart ass comments about high school life. It was a hit with students. Dale was also in the Quill and Scroll, a honorary journalism Society still functioning in high schools today.

   Determined to be a writer, he left with $100 to reach Hollywood in 1957. Before his writing career launched, Dale met his first wife and had two children, David and Renee McRaven, who not only inherited their dad’s last name but also his sarcastic wise-ass humor. Renee made Dale a grandfather first with her son, Justin, who now is proudly inspired by his granddad to be creative in film, writing, acting and more. David later added his son, Mathew, to be Dale’s second grandson.

Hollywood Career

   Dale sold his first script by sneaking onto “The Steve Allen Show,” a big variety show in the 1960’s. Dressed in a coat with a clip board in hand to blend in with the backstage crew, Dale waited until the show was done. He then approached and handed his script to Steve Allen, who was caught by Dale's courage and gave him some cash for the script.

   His First real job at age 24 in show business was on the “The Joey Bishop Show.” He was hired by Garry Marshall who found Dale and partner, Carl Kleinschmidt to be the staff writers. “The Joey Bishop Show” had a reputation for going through writers fast but the two created a writer’s bond writing half hour scripts with complete rewrites daily for the last year and a half of the show. Dale and Carl’s reputation grew because everyone on the studio lot knew how difficult Bishop was to work with.

   At the time all the shows produced at the Desilu Studios were owned by T and L Productions, who were Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard. One day on the street in the studio lot, Leonard grabbed Dale and Carl and said "I want you boys to follow me cause I am going to change your lives." He introduced them to Carl Reiner who wanted them to write for “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The show won a Writer's Guild Award for their first script and earned them 8 more scripts out of 28 shows in the final season of “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” The show’s writers also won an Emmy Award, for Outstanding Written Comedy Series, 1965-1966.

   Together, Dale and Carl continued writing pilots and scripts for “The Odd Couple,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Bill Dana,” “Hey Landlord,” and other hit shows at the time. Dale and Carl shared an office on Sunset Boulevard with 2 other writing teams since “The Joey Bishop Show.” Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson worked together and later on Jim Parker and Arnold Margolin joined them. To this day every 5 years, the writers alive take a picture in front of their old Sunset office.

   Eventually Dale and Carl split up as a writing team and Dale went on to produce “The Partridge Family.” To have control over the material, like certain jokes or situations, it was a necessity for writers to become producers. As a first time producer, Dale went through every script and kept his view focused on the jokes and characters. “The Partridge Family” television show was about creating real life family situations where family members fought but had each other's back, something that was never really done before. The family were also musicians and had several hit songs. 1970-1974 , ABC aired the show for 4 seasons producing 96 episodes and 8 music albums with actors such as Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Danny Bonaduce and Susan Dey.

   Dale sold his first created show, “Texas Wheelers,” to ABC in 1974, a situation comedy about a good for nothing father who returns to take care of his 3 kids after their mother died. As Executive Producer, Dale's choice was to record the show without a laugh track, something not done at the time. The theme song was "Illegal Smile" by John Prine. The show received rave reviews from critics before it aired. With a great cast starring Jack Elam playing the miserable, lazy, get rich quick scheming father, Gary Busey playing responsible big brother and Mark Hamill as little brother. “Texas Wheelers” was Dale’s favorite show of the four shows he created, wrote for and produced. After the show, Busey got the Buddy Holly role in “The Buddy Holly Story” and Mark Hamill went on to act in “Star Wars” as Luke Skywalker.

   Constantly writing and receiving offers to also produce other shows, he first turned down Garry Marshall's offer to write and produce “Mork and Mindy” because as Dale replied, "I don't do martians!" After Garry's coaxing, he finally took the job. Pam Dawber played the earth woman who befriended Mork from Ork, played by Robin Williams. The show aired 1978 to 1982 winning a People's Choice Award in 1979 and Writer's Guild Award Nomination in 1978.

   Dale created another show, “Angie,” then in 1986, “Perfect Strangers” which also became a hit TV sitcom based on the relationship between two distant cousins where one was a foreigner and new to America and the other was a social disaster, it was like watching two stooges. Bronson Pinchot played Balki, the foreigner and Mark Linn-Baker played Larry,  the American cousin. After a couple years, Dale stepped away from the daily production life to sending in notes on every script.  “Perfect Strangers” ran eight seasons, 150 episodes, then it came to an end in 1993.

   Apart from all the above sitcoms written, created and produced by Dale he also wrote movie scripts, a book and other pilots. He decided to retire from the over consuming busy life of TV sitcom producer when he found out he had throat cancer and prostate cancer at the same time.


   Despite all odds Dale came through and aware of his recovery time being months at home, he found out about Photoshop, a computer photo editing program, and thought he would play with it using his photographs. Dale seriously took up photography starting from his early Hollywood days during “The Joey Bishop Show.” A friend encouraged Dale to get a professional camera and learn to use it, especially since Dale loved traveling. Always a nature and animal lover, with his camera, he caught amazing moments in life. He traveled whenever he could, driving alone on any back road he found or with other photographers. Dale photographed wildlife and weather in America's South West and most National Parks throughout the world in Africa, Bali, Indonesia, South Pole, and many other places. His biggest thrill ever was in a tall grass meadow in Congo when a silverback gorilla, caught off guard, charged at the tour guide and Dale. The gorilla knocked over the guide and stood staring down Dale in the face. Since told not to move if an encounter happened, Dale stood still and the angered gorilla left him in one piece. Wanting more control over the colors in his photos, he learned how to develop film in his personal dark room making enlargements of his favorite photos. His animal portraits won two awards in the LA Zoo Photo competition. He is known in his Photography group as the weather man because he looks for stormy weather instead of perfect days to photograph. His landscape photography captures amazing storms filling the environment scene.

Digital Art

   Dale's creative touch naturally continued as he started taking his photos to the computer and Photoshop. A big fan of photographer, Jerry Uelsmann, who was creating Photoshop-like effects all in the darkroom, Dale was curious to see what Photoshop had to offer. He began playing with family portraits and creating abstract painterly compositions. Dale advanced from portraits to elaborate costume dresses and surreal backgrounds built around models. With his Art online at, he felt that his detailed work did not show well online and that lead to several Art series where he did minimal compositions such as “Nudes,” “Pairs,” “Nudes Wearing Masks,” “Stripes,” “Bars” and “Dream Girls.” Growing bored with figures, he progressed to transforming flowers with a sense of mystery in his series, "The Secret Life of Flowers." His love for the Sierras and South West scenery then lead him to create his version of these beautiful landscapes. His last Art series posted online is a 3D anaglyph series where he took Art pieces from his landscape and flowers series to add perceived depth to the layers. It's a mystery to where Dale's Art or his creativity will take him next.

Author’s words

   Writing Dale McRaven's amazing creative journey is a joy because he is the coolest, down to earth, modest and giving person. It is easy to be inspired and in awe of Dale and his accomplishments, from his writings, TV Producer career, amazing photography, wonderful Art, and to his triumphs over the hurdles of his health. These are a few of the gold doubloons from Dale McRaven’s treasure chest of life. I am Dale’s niece, GrissyG, an artist, animator, and author, and have always connected on a creative and personal level with Dale. I have lived with Dale since 1998 when I came from Belize, Central America, to study Art and MultiMedia. I modeled for his digital Art and went on nature photography trips through backroads in the middle of nowhere looking for the next amazing photo. These adventures are a part of my life I will always cherish. In 2004, I married artist, animator and author, Dismas, who has joined us in the creative madness and driving on some of the back roads in Northern California for fantastic photography. Dismas and I, as GrisDismation, produce original Art and Animations that entertain, inspire and fascinate. To see our work visit www.GrisDismation.Biz
   To us, Dale is family, a good friend, and a great mentor who inspires us. It is always a beloved and endless learning experience hanging out with Dale and listening to his encouraging words, learning from his wise or not so wise ways, and his professional constructive critiques. For now he is enjoying his retirement and mentoring our 3 year old daughter and princess, Nefertina. They play pirates with swords from empty wrapping paper cardboard tubing to full out chase through the house. That is Dale and we love him. With Dale, his cool little Yorkie dog named "The Mighty Kong", Nefertina, Dismas, and me, GrissyG, yo­u could say, we all found each other and together we are “Perfect Strangers.”

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