By Danielle C. Malka
Arizona Summer Wildcat
Julie Stein, a 31-year-old UA alum, has recently attracted quite a bit of attention with the release of her first book, "Sheldon & Mrs. Levine," a parody of Nick Bantock's 1991 bestseller, "Griffin & Sabine." Her book, the result of a collaboration with playwright and television writer Sam Bobrick, is a witty, light-hearted and not a little bit sarcastic look at the relationship between a domineering mother and her henpecked son.
Wildcat: Why did you decide to write "Sheldon & Mrs. Levine?"
Stein: Well, we loved "Griffin & Sabine," and over two different holiday seasons we bought a huge quantity of the books for people as gifts because we liked it so much. We thought, "Why don't we do a parody of it?" And I thought, "Oh my God, that's sacrilege!" But we said screw it, it's just a perfect book to parody. But we did it with great respect and admiration.
Wildcat: When did you first read "Griffin & Sabine?"
Stein: November of '92. I'd seen it in the stores and I'd picked it up, but I really didn't know what to make of it. It wasn't until I took a class at UCLA, a publishing class, and everyone kept talking about it, that I ran out and bought the book. We were walking one day and it was during that walk that we came up with the idea. Basically, we wrote the book while we were walking.
Wildcat: How did you meet Sam Bobrick?
Stein: I met Sam in 1988. I was working for him. He's a comedy writer, producer for a lot of T.V. shows. I was working with him on a show, the Dick Van Dyke Show. We've been good friends since.
Wildcat: So, do the characters in the book bear any similarity to the people in your life or Sam's?
Stein: I'd say more Sam's. I mean, Mrs. Levine is a little bit of a lot of people, but it's a lot of his mother!
Wildcat: So no one in your life, then?
Stein: No, you know, my mom is a mother and she's Jewish, but she's nothing like that. But I also grew up in a nutty family. I was the youngest with three older brothers, and I don't know how to describe it, but I just know that laughter and making jokes was a great defense for getting beat up! I was the runt.
Wildcat: Why don't you tell me a little more about your family life and childhood?
Stein: I was born in South Bend, Indiana, but we moved really soon after that to Madison, Wisconsin, which is where I grew up. I went to a year and a half of high school in Tucson, at Canyon Del Oro. We moved there in '78. I graduated early from CDO, in January of '80, and then I took a year off to travel. I went to U of A from '81 to '85.
Wildcat: Do you still keep in touch with anyone from U of A??
Stein: What's funny is that there's a group of people here in L.A. that I went to school with. When I first moved out here, I was a page at NBC. That was the poorest I've ever been. Greg Kinnear, the talk-show host, was in our department [Radio and Television]. I worked with Greg on a show a couple of years ago.
Wildcat: Do you keep up with what's going on here?
Stein: Sometimes through my mother (who lives in Tucson). She tells me what's going on. My dad teaches at the medical school.
Wildcat: So tell me a little about your career as a stand-up comedienne.
Stein: I did it in college in Tucson at a place called Tequila Mockingbird. They had comedy night and I used to do that. When I moved out to L.A., I did it at some places here, but I realized that I'm pretty much a shy person.
Wildcat: In your opinion, what was the most important theme of the book, or is there one?
Stein: I think our purpose was to entertain. The look of the book was very important to us, so what we did with the manuscript, since we don't draw too well, we took rubber stamps and stickers and we bought this really ugly stationery and we cut and pasted this whole presentation, clipped out the text and that's how we delivered our manuscript. Basically, each page was a different set of stickers and rubber stamps, illustrating what we wanted.
Wildcat: What's it like living in L.A.?
Stein: Well, after the big earthquake I started thinking that maybe I'd like to live somewhere where the earth doesn't move quite so much, but we just have such great weather!
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