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He's heavy -- and he's definitely not my brother

April 09, 2006|Peter Mehlman | PETER MEHLMAN is a television writer and producer.

AS CONGRESSIONAL election campaigns heat up in lock step with pilot season, I've been getting the same question over and over. So, I am going to say this just once: I am not, and categorically deny ever having been in any way, related to Ken Mehlman.

Making so fervent a public statement may seem rash, but my situation is intolerable. You try selling a new TV pilot to the left-wing networks wearing a post-9/11 security ID tag bearing the same last name as the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

"Are you related to Ken Mehlman?" Network executives ask me in much the same way soccer moms may ask a neighbor, "Are you listed under Megan's Law?"

"No," I say in 12-point bold italics.

Only if my last name were Rumsfeld could my employability be more imperiled. Making matters worse, the other Mehlman and I spell our names in the same quirky way, with that Teutonic "h" thrown in there for no good reason.

Twenty years ago, when I got the same question regarding Larry "Bud" Melman, that Humpty-Dumpty looking doofus from the David Letterman show, at least I could cite the missing "h" in my denials.

But now, there's no distancing myself.

Every time Ken Mehlman publicly ridicules the Democratic Party, I bear the brunt of globally warmed Hollywood's disdain. It's gotten to the point where I have dreams about Chairman Mehlman, and believe me, I hardly ever dream about people to whom I feel superior.

The problem peaked a few months ago when he loudly described Hillary Rodham Clinton as an "angry" liberal. Despite my being on the record as describing Sen. Clinton as "no worse than a miffed centrist," I got a barrage of angry phone calls from TV executives -- one of whom had already expressed such keen interest in my pilot that he'd threatened to read it. Well, so much for that.

Sadly, the more I defend myself against the allegations of being related to that Mehlman, the more I come off sounding defensive, and once you're seen as defensive, it becomes impossible to defend yourself.

Nevertheless, with my genealogist laid up after falling out of a family tree, I did a little of my own research on Mehlman. Actually, more than a little research. The truth is, I Googled him back into the Stone Age. Chairman Mehlman is, according to multiple sources, well-respected, well-groomed, well-dressed, well-educated, well-informed, well-disciplined and well-organized. These traits alone should assure all of Hollywood that my odds of being Mehlman's kin are roughly equal to my odds of sharing blood with a panda.

But I know this problem won't go away. If only Mehlman chaired the Democratic National Committee. I'd get all the benefits of having the same last name while still being able to screen his phone calls asking for money. Admittedly, when the DNC calls now, I shoo them away by saying Ken Mehlman is my uncle. But that's the only upside of my situation.

Hmm. Idea for sitcom pilot. "No Relation": the saga of a crusty but benignly decent man whose life is thrown into disarray because he shares the same last name as a well-dressed pariah.

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