Featuring Robert Sakowitz, Oscar Wyatt, Lynn Wyatt, Douglas Wyatt, Steve Wyatt, Bernard & Ann Sakowitz, David Berg, Sarah Ferguson
TO: Aaron Spelling, Aaron Spelling Productions
FROM: Mimi Swartz
Beverly Hills, Schmeverly Hills—I’ve got the summer blockbuster for you! It’s the story of a family—another Texas family, as a matter of fact, but instead of your Ewings of Dallas, I’ve got the Sakowitzes and the Wyatts of Houston. There’s merchant prince Robert Sakowitz; his sister, international socialite Lynn Wyatt; and her husband, Oscar Wyatt, one of the most ruthless oilmen in the world! There are also the Wyatt boys: mild, mysterious Douglas, and his party boy brother Steve. When these folks mix it up in court, you get a miniseries that’s got everything! Greed, power, international intrigue—and haute couture! Love, war, sex—and family dysfunction! British royalty on bad behavior, Saddam Hussein at his best, and jewelry salesmen from another planet! Paris, London, the Middle East! New York, Monaco, and of course, the great state of Texas, on that nasty roller coaster ride from oil boom to oil bust! This is it: Big money! Big oil! Big hair! And best of all, it’s all true!! C’mon! Whaddaya say? Lunch next week?
THE ROMANCE OF WAR
We open in a courtroom, Houston, Texas. Attorney David Berg, a Dustin Hoffman type, paces between the jury box and two tables—one for the plaintiff, one for the defendant. The courtroom is packed. At the plaintiff’s table, surrounded by lawyers, sits Douglas Wyatt. Behind him, his father, Oscar. Mother Lynn is nowhere in sight. At the other table, also surrounded by lawyers, Robert Sakowitz and his beautiful blond second wife, Laura. Behind them sits Robert and Lynn’s mother, Ann, grim-faced. Neither side acknowledges the other, but they’ve all got on great clothes.
The hallway is crammed with photographers and reporters. This is a big story: Houston’s flashiest family at each other’s throats. It started as a will dispute. Douglas is suing his uncle for $8.5 million, claiming Robert blew the money, which was supposed to go into his and his brothers’ trust funds, on the family business—while somehow managing to emerge from the wreckage as a multimillionaire. But behind that charge is a tale of Texas-size dreams and Texas-size wheeling and dealing and Texas-size revenge—the kind that proves the Texas myth did not collapse with the price of oil. Mr. S, it can’t miss!
Back to opening statements. Berg sinks his teeth into the Wyatts right away. “I’ve gone against the federal government and the Ku Klux Klan, but these people,” he says, pointing to Oscar and Douglas, “are powerful beyond belief.” We’re told that Robert is the real victim here—he’s even had to put his own River Oaks Boulevard home up for sale to make ends meet. His family ignored him while he fought to save the family company, and now they blame him for its demise. And when Robert tried to tell his sister what was going on, she was just too busy to listen. “It is very difficult to explain something to someone who is always under a hair dryer,” Berg says.
Douglas’ attorney leaves the fireworks at home. Dignified, old-line Andy Vickery wants to take the high road to victory. Robert, he says, is simply a man who “because of greed, betrayed the trust of his family.”
Who betrayed whom is, of course, the real key to this story—the resonance, maybe the subtext too. Because this is, above all, a family story, in particular, a story of secret bargains and shifting loyalties. To really understand these people, you gotta go back to the beginning.
Flashback to the late forties and early fifties. Robert and Lynn have golden childhoods, but they want more. Maybe it’s because in that era Jews still had to wait on Houston society to be a part of it. Brother and sister are close, but Robert is the one whose destiny is guaranteed. He sells eggs door to door, driven by ambition and the family chauffeur. He marks shirts in the family store for 10 cents an hour. Because Lynn is a girl and this is the fifties, she can’t go into the family business. We see her future in this scene where she stands in front of a mirror while her mother braids her hair. “Mommy, let me do it this way,” she says, as she coils the braid around her head like a crown. Ann is surprised but proud. She sees that Lynn’s way is better.
In East Texas, Oscar Wyatt is growing up too. But while Robert and Lynn are learning about finger bowls and fancy fabrics, Oscar has to fight for everything he gets. Home is no fun because his daddy has a temper. Oscar earns his own way from the age of thirteen; he quits Texas A&M to fight for his country in World War II. His plane goes down, but even with his nose broken, his jaw smashed, his skull fractured, and one eye hanging down his face, Oscar saves all five members of his crew. This guy is tough.
Back to Robert. Newly graduated from Harvard, he lands at Paris’ Galeries Lafayette department store, speaking flawless French to the customers. Cut to Manhattan, where he hits the Macy’s training program. But New York is a pretty big pond, and Robert gets a bad dose of little fish—itis. Just in time, his father, Bernard, makes him a sink-or-swim offer: The Sakowitz junior department could use a hand. Cut to Robert packing his bags for home.
Lynn’s a little slow getting started. She drops out of beatnicky Bennington to marry Robert Lipman, the heir to a New York real estate fortune. He’s got a “Bad News” sign flashing over his head, but she can’t see it. Lipman moves to Houston and goes to work in the family store, but he and Bernard have, um, clashing values (one works, the other doesn’t). The marriage ends in 1960. Lynn moves back home with her two