Article published in Dropline.biz on April 3, 2006
‘80 Rock Journalist Turned Television Writer
By Laurie Morton (co-authored by Dino M. Zaffina)
Ethlie Ann Vare is an accomplished radio DJ, journalist, television writer, playwright, novelist, and television host. About the only thing that she has not done is run the country. Many people who know her say that would not be too far fetched.
She was given the name of Ethlie by her mother who wanted to honor her older sister, Ethel, who died while saving a child from drowning shortly before Ethlie’s birth. “Ethlie” was meant to be sort of “little Ethel.” She spent years spelling her name for people, and when she was younger, she used to pretend that her name was “Susie,” just to be normal. After all of her success, Ethlie no longer needs to spell her name.
Ethlie has been a successful television writer since 1996, writing for Renegade and Silk Stalkings, and a television producer since 2001, producing Andromeda for the USA Network. Her network break came when she was sought after by CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation to write an episode of women in prison. This particular episode was considered for an Emmy Award.
She is currently writing for Jane Doe, starring Lea Thompson, one of the Hallmark Channel Mystery Movies. The Hallmark Mystery Weekend includes Jane Doe, Mystery Woman, starring Kelli Martin and Clarence Williams III, and McBride, starring John Larroquette.
The two hour mystery movies based on the Columbo and McMillian & Wife series were created by Dean Hargrove, the dean of the T.V. mysteries. “He is a wonderful man who is still writing his butt off,” says Ethlie. “I get to write some of them with Brian Clemens who goes back to the original Avengers. Brian is 75 years old and still writes his ass off.”
Writing came easy for Ethlie because she started out as a radio disc jockey, so for her the writing was essentially putting conversation in print. Her style is very conversational, whether she is writing prose or dialogue. Ethlie is well known for her dialogue. She is the dialogue gal. She said, “I have had show runners take someone else’s script and give it to me and say just Ethlie-ize it a little bit.”
Recently, Ethlie visited a dark part of her past. She co-wrote a one and a half woman play with Claudine “Playful” Guerrero. The play entitled These Women Will F**k You Up ran for a three night run this past October 7, 8, and 9 at the Actors Circle Theater in West Hollywood. Ethlie said, “I am very happy that I did this play. We got a very nice DVD record of it. I am hoping to get it staged in a larger venue. A number of people are interested in bringing it forward to a larger venue, but you know how time consuming these things can be.” She further stated, “If not, possibly it will be used as a basis for a series or a T.V. movie. It is currently being pitched around town where there is again a great deal of interest, but these things always take more time than you would think.” In the meantime, Claudine is being booked at penitentiaries to perform the play as a one woman show. She has been booked into Snake River Federal Penitentiary in Oregon. (See Clip for the play).
Ethlie created a series entitled Upstate which has a lot of characters from These Women Will F**k You Up as part of the nucleus of the show. Upstate almost made it to air in the 2005-2006 season. There is still a chance that audiences will be able to see it during the 2006-2007 season.
The play was hard at first for Ethlie to begin to put pen to paper because she had tried very hard to forget a certain couple of years in her early adult life. She is an ex-con as a result of a felony drug conviction. Ethlie was arrested and convicted for “Possession with Intent to Sell.” She was caught with a kilo of Hash that was mailed to her from England. The mailman was followed by sniffing dogs and the cops which were led right to her residence. Fortunately, after 10 years of good behavior the felony conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, so she doesn’t have to declare a felony record.
Ethlie explained her time of incarceration, “When it happened back in the ‘70s the procedure then for first time offenders was to send the convicted felon to the penitentiary for an observation period (3-months). They watched the convict to see if they were a recidivist or a harden criminal. With first timers they could not know what you are or if this is the first time you’ve been caught. Afterwards, they have a sentencing review. At that time they decide whether they are going to sentence you to hard time, or send you to jail, or give you probation.”
They put Ethlie in prison for three-months and the remainder of the year of her time was served out in jail at Los Angeles’ Sybil Brand Institute which has since been shut down due to inhumane conditions. She served a little more than a year over a two year period. Ethlie said, “It was definitely a long time when you are 21 years old.”
“People have so often said that I should write about that experience,” Ethlie said. “It is the one thing that I never wanted to write about because I did not want to go back there. These Women Will F**k You Up was the first time that I ever spoke about it and it is very little. During the play, Claudine is telling her stories and slowly eking out of me a little bit of my own.”
Ethlie hated her time in prison, like most inmates, but Claudine reveled in the prison environment. She was the godmother in there; she thrived in that culture, whereas Ethlie was just terrified. The extremely differing experience is part of the theme of the play.
Claudine did four years on a seven year sentence for carjacking and attempted murder. She was a bad ass gang banger who came out of prison wanting to do good for women in the prison system. Ethlie and Claudine met by a series of remarkable coincidences. They met while Claudine was sitting in the library looking over the Internet, trying to get people to help her learn to write so that she could tell her story. She had no idea of who Ethlie was, she had never heard of her. She was actually looking for someone else when she ran across Ethlie’s webpage. When Claudine first contacted Ethlie, she had no idea that she too had served hard time. All Claudine had noticed was that Ethlie was an experienced writer and realized that she had seen some of her work. Claudine wrote about 100 people and Ethlie was the only one that sent her a reply. The two women did have some things in common, they both spent time in prison and they were both incarcerated on their 21st birthday, but approximately 25 years apart.
After her stint as a radio DJ, Ethlie began working as a journalist writing a syndicated newspaper column from ‘80 to ‘88 called Rock On for Rock Magazine and from ’84 to ‘87 she wrote for Billboard. “Being a Rock and Roll journalist during the ‘80s was great fun, doing the greenroom, backstage, rock concert thing,” Ethlie said. “I had such a fun time hanging out with all the top musicians and bands of the ‘80s, Billy Idol, Scorpions, Berlin, Duran, Duran, Blondie, Motels, Mötley Crüe and many others.”
In the late ‘90s, Ethlie tried her hand in front of the camera hosting E! Entertainment’s popular Gossip show. Ethlie was an on-camera gossip reporter for approximately 2 1/2 years with Ted Casablanca and Rex Reed. “It was fun for me because it was taking that old DJ persona and putting her on T.V.,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to have their face on T.V. and be recognized when they go into restaurants? It turned out to have a down side though because people would come up to me and start gossiping. I also never felt like I could go out with no make-up on or my hair in a mess.”
For more information on Ethlie Ann Vare visit her official website at: www.ethlieannvare.com.
Articles Written or Co-Authored by Dino M. Zaffina
© 2019 Dino M. Zaffina. All rights reserved.