Anne Beatts Dies: ‘SNL’ Writer, ‘Square Pegs’ Creator Remembered By Sarah Jessica Parker, Laraine Newman, Others – Update
UPDATE, with reactions Anne Beatts, an original Saturday Night Live writer who created some of the show’s earliest breakthrough characters, among them the nerdy high schoolers Todd DiLaMuca and Lisa Loopner, died yesterday. She was 74.
“Struggling to find adequate and appropriate descriptive words to describe her singular self,” tweeted Sarah Jessica Parker, who starred in the Beatts-created 1982 CBS sitcom Square Pegs. “I need time. Cause I’m coming up short. Gosh, she was really something. RIP Anne. Thank you. For memories very few 17/18 yr olds get to make. X, SJ”
Beatts began her career in comedy writing with a stint at National Lampoon magazine, becoming the Harvard Lampoon spin-off’s first female editor. She wrote one of the magazine’s most notorious spoofs – an ad for the Volkswagen Beetle that featured a photograph of the floating automobile with the copy line, “If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen, he’d be President today.” Volkswagen sued, ensuring the parody’s notoriety beyond the magazine’s readership.
While at the Lampoon, she met and began a romantic relationship with writer Michael O’Donoghue, and the two would soon take part in the development of Lorne Michaels’ Saturday Night Live.
Along with her writing partner Rosie Shuster, Beatts, during her five seasons with the show, created such foundational SNL characters as DiLaMuca and Loopner (played by Bill Murray and Gilda Radner), Laraine Newman’s Shirley Temple-like Child Psychiatrist, the lecherous Uncle Roy (Buck Henry) and two of Dan Aykroyd’s greatest hits: the cartoonishly sleazy salesman Irwin Mainway and Fred Garvin, the unlikely, schlubby male prostitute.
As one of SNL‘s first female voices, Beatts often spoke of the challenges and triumphs of those years. She famously clashed with the show’s early breakout star John Belushi, saying in a 2009 TV Academy interview that her early friendship with the volatile comedian soon gave way to resentment on his part.
“I had a complex relationship with Belushi,” she said. “Initially I felt very protective of him and thought of him as this sweet, pussycat guy…” Later, she continued, Belushi got “adversarial” with the women on the show and told “Lorne he should fire the girls and refused to be in pieces that we wrote.” Despite the strained friendship, Beatts said she considered Belushi “a genius.”
In addition to SNL, Beatts created and produced the short-lived but fondly remembered Square Pegs. In the 2009 interview, Beatts said she chose to hire a mostly female writing staff since the sitcom was focused on the friendship of two high school girls (played by Parker and Amy Linker). “They needed to be people who had been girls in high school,” Beatts said, adding that CBS demanded she hire comedy writer Andy Borowitz as “the token guy” on the writing staff.