It was great to see Marcy Carsey bright and early this morning at the Oxygen Mentors Walk along the Santa Monica shore. She's a television hero, in my book, having done it (mostly) her way in the biz for so many years as one-half of the wildly successful Carsey-Werner Co.
Carsey looked like her respite of the past two years from the day-to-day agita of running an indie TV production company (purveyor of "The Cosby Show," "Roseanne," "3rd Rock from the Sun," "That '70s Show," among others) was agreeing with her. And judging by the line of greeters that wanted to shake her hand, her legacy is not lost on the younger gen.
Carsey ended her active production endeavors with Tom Werner in late 2005 but remains a partner in Geraldine Laybourne's Oxygen Media. And as Laybourne told the mentors and mentees who gathered for breakfast at the Casa del Mar hotel, it was Carsey who helped inspire the Mentors Walk concept that Oxygen has done in several cities (New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C.) for the past three years.
(Pictured left: Geraldine Laybourne and Marcy Carsey. Pic by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)
When Laybourne was "at a crossroads" and wrestling with her decision to leave the kidvid cabler she'd groomed from infancy, Nickelodeon, she and Carsey took a walk together in the Santa Monica mountains that helped Laybourne make up her mind. (This was a few years before they partnered with Oprah Winfrey on the launch of Oxygen, but not before Carsey introduced Laybourne to the joys of martinis, as Laybourne noted.)
Laybourne continued the walk-and-talk tradition out of her home base in Gotham for the women in the biz who invariably would ask Laybourne for a little time to pick her brain. Laybourne got into the habit of skedding early ayem walks with other women in Central Park. From there, the idea of a Mentors Walk evolved a large-scale event for Oxygen.
On Friday morning, about 60 women in a range of fields were paired in small groups with about 200 women with similar career aspirations. We met at 6:30 a.m. (yes, 6:30) outside Casa del Mar hotel and, well, walked along the shore for about 45 minutes (round trip). We then assembled at the hotel for breakfast and a minimum of speechifying from some of the notables in the room.
Laybourne understandably got a little choked up talking about her experiences during the past decade at Oxygen -- the most successful pure indie outlet in all of cable TV (though buyout rumors persist) with a sub base of 75 million. Carsey looked fabulous in a brown track suit and her indefatigable New England-er spirit, a sunny smile that telegraphs warmth and don't-tread-on-me at the same time. (How many network execs has she terrified over the years with that smile, I wonder?)
Carsey was wonderfully contrarian, as ever, instructing the group that to achieve work/life nirvana, they need to end the vicious cycle of working 24/7. "Tell your boss to go to hell" if he or she expects round the clock devotion to work, Carsey advised. Not the kind of thing most of them expected to hear at a career-oriented event, but words of wisdom nonetheless.
"This country is sick in the way that (we) work," she said. "You have to live a rich and creative life to bring something to the workplace. This silliness of working 24/7 has got to stop with this generation. Just say no!"
Needless to say, heads were nodding. Carsey also gave them the more traditional go-for-it message, which had extra resonance coming from a woman who took out a second mortgage on her house to help fund the pilot for "The Cosby Show" back in an era when the TV biz had decreed that the sitcom was dead.
"Be entrepreneurial. Bet on yourself," Carsey said. "Don't ever be safe....Whether you like it or not, you're going to be 50 some day -- or in my case, 62 -- and you want to look back and say, 'I kicked some ass.'"
(Pictured above, from left: Mentors Walk participants Jamie Lee Curtis, Time Warner Cable's Patricia Rockenwagner, Geraldine Laybourne and actress Nadine Velasquez. Pic by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)