Life Enhancing Lessons from Sports
July 8, 2022

S3 E1 “Failures in My Life Are Now My Trophies” feat. Greg Bonann

S3 E1 “Failures in My Life Are Now My Trophies” feat. Greg Bonann

L.A. Lifeguard + Filmmaker = Baywatch Creator


On the Season 3 premiere of SPORTS + LIFE + BALANCE, Greg Bonann shares the tragedy that changed his perspective on lifeguarding and ultimately inspired him to create and produce the first television show to reach one billion viewers worldwide — the entertainment juggernaut called Baywatch.

Greg Bonann is an American lifeguard, television producer, director, writer, and showrunner. He is best known for co-creating the internationally syndicated television series Baywatch, which ran for eleven seasons, and was listed in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most widely viewed TV series.

Watch Baywatch on Amazon Prime:
https://www.amazon.com/Baywatch-Season-1/dp/B07M7TB6KV

Thanks to our episode sponsor, Roka! Use code "SLB" for 20% off your purchase at Roka.
https://www.roka.com/

Transcript

INTRO: 

Welcome to the season three premiere of sports life balance.

Greg Bonann: 

We got an award every year from the United States Coast Guard. I got to speak at their graduation ceremony a number of years because Baywatch was their single biggest piece of recruitment of all the recruiting they did of young men and women in our country. Baywatch was the biggest reason people enlisted. In fact, they they added a box. Why did you why did you want to be a United States Coast Guardman, you know, my father is one I'm a patriot. I want to serve my country. The fourth box was Baywatch.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Greg Bonann is talking about his decades long journey as the creator and producer of the first television show to reach 1 billion viewers worldwide. It's the entertainment juggernaut called Baywatch. I'm John Moffet and welcome to the season three premiere of Sports Life Balance. Greg's love affair with the beaches of Southern California was born from necessity. As a sickly and rather unathletic kid, Greg was drawn to the fresh ocean air to relieve his crippling asthma. Then in high school, his passion for swimming led him to lifeguarding, and it was on his very first rescue a tragedy indelibly changed his perspective about the true meaning of lifeguarding on the beaches of Los Angeles. But you'll hear more about that later. Eventually, Greg settled into guarding on the weekends and producing Olympic documentaries for his day job. But he was still deeply inspired by his days spent on the beach, pitching Baywatch all around Hollywood for 10 years, and then ultimately saving the show from the precipice with a $10 transaction. So enjoy our conversation about the art of always looking around the corner and the fortitude of never giving up, recorded from Greg's oceanfront home nestled along a remote Cove in Malibu, California. You know, we're here in Malibu and I was I'm always struck as basically, as you born and raised in Southern California, and very familiar with Southern California, and you just never get over that drive along the PCH. Looking at everything, looking at the ocean. When I came in here, it was kind of angry. You know, now it's now it's like kind of cooled off, cooled its jets a little bit.

Greg Bonann: 

There's some what I call hotspots, as you're coming from like Pepperdine towards my house here and you come down the hill into Paradise Cove and it is spectacular.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's, it's just spectacular. The whole thing is spectacular. And thank you for having me at your house.

Greg Bonann: 

Oh, come on, my pleasure.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's Beautiful.

Greg Bonann: 

My pleasure

JOHN MOFFET: 

Beautiful place and right here on the cliffs of Malibu overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, so.

Greg Bonann: 

We're 90 feet up

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow makes me want to wish sometimes that we had video but just gonna have to imagine it. So I don't I don't know if you remember this, Greg. But we were introduced by Mike Fraser. Mike Fraser was the chief of lifeguards back in the day.

Greg Bonann: 

He's still a close friend of mine.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh, he's such a great guy. And, and I was euphemistically in between gigs, which is, you know, a term for you're out of work.

Greg Bonann: 

Right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And he said, I have somebody for you to meet. And then you he introduced you and I and that's how we that's how we originally got together and met.

Greg Bonann: 

Fantasea. He's a great friend. And he was one of our best chiefs ever.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well he's great. Yeah. And he's, I were he was lane mates with me early in the morning. Oh, that's right. Yeah. We swam together.

Greg Bonann: 

He was also very key in opening up the lifeguard division to our foundation. Right. He really embraced the concept of of our foundation and having the lifeguards participate.

JOHN MOFFET: 

A chance for children. Yes. So he took our which he knew about as you did, yeah. And gave a lot of his personal time. And he said, you know, we should open this up, I should assign a few guys to this. So you could bring kids down to the beach, and they're safe. That's fantastic.

Greg Bonann: 

So we brought, you know, up to 50 kids to the beach at one time. Right? And he said, you know, do you need some help organizing things? And I said sure. So he assigned five more junior lifeguard instructors who then took non swimming inner city kids, and taught them games that evolved from the sand into the water. So that before the kids realized that they were knee deep and and waist deep and loving the water. And they'd come to the beach that day scared and they'd leave fans. That's that's the water.

JOHN MOFFET: 

That's great. I remember we embarked on a on a little project, a little speck project that I was that I was working on with you and you said something, you know we had a series of meetings and you said something to me that really stuck with me through the years even to this day and you said when you're creating stories, it's not really crafting what the story is about. It's crafting what it means.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, that's kind of that's a personal philosophy that helps me through things, you know, saying what something is. Like, I can't remember a lot of times what people tell me. But I can remember how it made me feel.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh, right.

Greg Bonann: 

Right that I'll leave with the solution that either I felt bad, or I felt really inspired, or I felt really regretful or something. And I in telling stories I tried to cut to find what that is. And for me, it's what the what the situation what it means. And when you write scripts, or you tell stories for a living, I always ask my partner, I asked myself, I asked the writer, before I read the scene, or after I've read the scene and say, what, what is this scene about?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

Don't tell me the scene. Tell me what it's about. Because usually it means something different than what you're writing and the best scenes do. You're talking about something else, that the audience knows, wait a minute, there's something more to that scene that's between the lines. And that's where I like to go as often as I can.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. And I also know you have a philosophy as right what you know.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And, and you were raised in Pacific Palisades. And for those that don't know what, it's the part of Los Angeles that overlooks the bluff south of Malibu, kind of over Santa Monica, you know, so, you know, the Pacific Ocean, Southern California, the beach culture is, in many ways, like literally in your blood.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes, it's been a huge part of my life. And in writing, what you know, is is a key. The best writers get their start that way.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And of course, after a while, after you become more professional and experienced that you have to write what you don't know, and learn, and be open to learning what you don't know. And then putting that to paper, but certainly getting your start. Which was what I think you're going for

JOHN MOFFET: 

Which is Baywatch.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, getting your start you want to write with what you know.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

And I don't think I've shared with you there were two things I knew. One was the Olympics, because I was

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right, right.

Greg Bonann: 

I was an aspiring Olympian. I've never made it to your level bless you, but aspired to make it to your level. And in failure, realize that I really loved the sport, and maybe I could make movies, documentaries, or tell stories about the Olympics. So that's it. I had two things going on.

JOHN MOFFET: 

That was that was a good break. One was I knew a lot about lifeguards. The other was I knew a lot about Olympians. And in my quest to translate from documentaries, into entertainment. I knew I knew two things. It was either going to be a show about Olympians, or it was going to be a show about lifeguards, but because I made documentaries about Olympians if you'd told me then my success might be in lifeguarding I would assume not doesn't make sense because I've got a head start on telling stories about Olympians but my break came with Baywatch. So I rode that out.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So at some point, you you start swimming and and you're extent in the ocean from what I understand you came to the ocean more because it was good for your asthma.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, it was it was a health thing. My, my dad was a doctor, okay, and so blessed there. Because my problem was allergy I was I was almost dead a couple of times when I was really young, had the good Catholic had the last rites twice. Before I was two, I was allergic to basically everything and particles in the air. And my dad was smart enough to know when I had an asthma attack. We always went fishing. And I didn't I just figured asthma. And the cure is fishing. And what I learned was that the the saltwater, that that is in that layer of air that's maybe 50 feet above the water, it weights down all the pollinates and takes them out of the water. And so the air you breathe when you're standing on a boat is really fresh, and that we would spend the day and I would be healthy. So my dad started and my mom started moving closer to the beach. When I was a young kid and he told me early on you're going to end up living as close to this water as you can afford.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wasn't that prophetic?

Greg Bonann: 

Here I am on the bluff right now. But the really the the thing that kept me healthy was I could not play sports that that had dust or grass. So take a look at football, basketball. You know, it was it was basketball, baseball was out, football was out. And my dad suggested swimming and I went what? Really do I have to? He said, Just try it. Yeah, just try it. You don't have to, but you have to stay with it, but give it a try for me. And I met a bunch of great guys. And you know, I was hooked. And I wasn't very good. I was foul. And my coach was my first mentor, my swim coach, and he got my focus off of how badly I was being beaten. And onto my improved personal times.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Okay.

Greg Bonann: 

And it it it made my swimming career blossom because I was getting waxed. I swam at Pally High. Some of the really great swimmers had been age groupers and my first year of swimming I swam behind Randy Bartley and Bob Janice, Bob, I still swim with today. I swam this morning with Bob 55 years we've been swimming together. And I never beat Randy and Bob ever. And Bob and Randy and I ended up in the city finals. And I got third.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

And I realized Oh, no wonder I never won a race. I was swimming behind the two best guys in in the city.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

While I was concentrating on my own times I was really being led to success by these two guys

JOHN MOFFET: 

By by the competition by by that fast competition.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So that served you well, when you decided that you wanted to try out guarding.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Lifeguarding.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Traditionally. Kids start out lifeguarding in high school. Anyone who grew up in Southern California as we did you know that the lifeguard swim test is infamous for being very difficult and cutthroat and very challenging. But you, you decided that you were going to try out for guards. Tell me about that.

Greg Bonann: 

It was so different. It's now I've been a lifeguard now 53 years, and I've been an instructor, Junior Lifeguard instructor for eight. I came late to the instructor side. So I really know now what it's like because I teach the kids and mentor them during the year on how to take the test. It is so much harder now in in to really give it justice in my day. That swim coach that that taught me to focus on myself, right was the same man that said, What are you doing next Saturday? I said nothing. He said you'd going to take the lifeguard test. I said, Okay, where's that? And he said, he told me where it was. And I just showed up and took it. And I had no training. I didn't know anything. And that's how it was in those days. And by the way, it was all men are about 300 of us on the line.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow

Greg Bonann: 

The only guys I recognized were my biggest rivals from every school. So I can still remember their names. It was Sandy Levy at Hollywood, it was Steve Gre iner. At at Westchester, it was Steve sharp at Venice. And these guys just waxed me and next to me on the line. And there they were all all my the guys that had whacked me. So I figured shit, this, this is not going to be a happy ending. And that might my secret was that I had really bad eyes. It was really hard for me to see the wall. But it made my dead reckoning really good. So I could see a buoy and keep my head down, which a lot of kids have a hard time doing keeping their head down and staying on a straight course. Yeah, I could keep my head down, relax. You know how much easier it is to swim head down than head up. And I could hit the buoy and then I could get dead reckoning where the next buoy is dead wreck. And so I didn't know where I was. But I was swimming straight. And I came in and I was I didn't know I was the first guy in and but I was the first guy in. Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Awesome. And it's about a mile, right?

Greg Bonann: 

It's about a mile. Yeah. And my dad was there yelling you know, he knew nothing about swimming. But he was there yelling and I had no idea where I was. And I've and by the way I couldn't let on that I couldn't see. Because vision was a big deal. I had contacts but I wasn't good enough with them at the time to wear him in the water.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So that was an that was an issue.

Greg Bonann: 

It was a big issue. I had to lie. I'm not proud of it. I had to lie on my vision test. And they asked if I had contacts. I said no.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

And I did have context, but they didn't check my eyes. So I passed the vision test.

JOHN MOFFET: 

But partially through that lie but mostly through your ability and your swim performance. You were selected as one of 21 rookie rookies for rookie school which which is back then is it the summer that you're spending in rookie schools.

Greg Bonann: 

It was actually it was weekends in the spring. Where I met my second big mentor Hal Dunagon,

JOHN MOFFET: 

Okay. and how we didn't know anything about Hal he was just the guy standing up in in in the front of the room. And it was our lifeguard test that swim we just talked about was Easter Week. Okay. And so after that a few weeks of administration and selection goes on. And then like in May, you start every weekend for six weekends. So it was 12 days. And, and every Saturday, Sunday for six weeks, I trained with 21 guys in rookie school. All those enemies I had, or competitor friends that I had, they were all in the rookie school. And so the biggest rivals that I did not like, because they all beat me came became my best friends, which was kind of neat. Which is another lesson for sports.

Greg Bonann: 

True.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Just because somebody is your rival in the competition doesn't preclude you from being very good friends.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah. We don't take time to learn when we compete against them. It's a handshake, maybe at the end. And a walk away. When really, you're forced into a class. I call it propinquity closeness. Right? Right, right. It's why you marry the girl you work with. Or you're best friends with a guy you work with. If you weren't next to these guys in class all day, you wouldn't get to know them like, yeah. And it's, it's only with that kind of propinquity that, that we really build relationships and friendships.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And that's where a lot of the good is spread as well, I believe as one on one.

Greg Bonann: 

I do too.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So you made it through rookie school, and you had your first real life. I don't know if it's you, but a big real life rescue when you graduated from rookie school.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Tell, tell me about that.

Greg Bonann: 

We had a big party where we were all recent graduates. And celebration, real celebration, probably a little too much alcohol involved as part of the celebration, but we were like, you're a swimmer. You get it, we were clean as a whistle. And for all those weeks of training, like your swimming season, and then after the big meet, you kind of can go out and do the stuff you didn't you weren't able to do for right prior six months, or in my case, the prior six weeks. And so we were all out there with our brand new friends. All having been recently graduated drinking maybe a little too much, Mike Wittington's in the fire and the lifeguard truck, and he drove up and said, you know, we've got a problem down in the Bologna Creek, which was about a half a mile away said we want you guys all down there to help us with a situation and he drove away and we thought it was kidding. You know, because all of us and we thought he was kidding. And I remember seeing his brake lights go on. And then he backs the truck up and he says I'm not kidding. He says you guys all get down there you're not going to be working.

JOHN MOFFET: 

We'll return to Greg Bonann in just a minute but first I want to tell you about our partners ROKA. Their motto is field tested, athlete approved and listen, I've been a ROKA fan for years and everything they make is the absolute best. Just this month I got a new ROKA wetsuit and I could not be happier. And I just love that new neoprene smell. ROKA also makes the best performance eyeglasses and sunglasses on the planet. I'm wearing a pair right now and my sunnies are in the car. So check out roka.com. That's r-o-k-a .com and enter code SLB as in sports life balance, that's three letters S-L-B, to save 20% on all your purchases. And that's worth anything on their website, have fun.

INTRO: 

And we're back with more Sports Life Balance.

Greg Bonann: 

And he drove away and we thought it was kidding. You know, because it was all of us. And we thought he was kidding. And I remember seeing his brake lights go on. And then he backs the truck up. And he says, I'm not kidding. He says you guys all get down there you're not going to be working. And so we all got up and and we jogged behind his truck. I remember finding his, his wheel tracks and getting in them. And we ran down to Bologna Creek. And when we got there, there was a fire engine with a big light on looking down no one in the water.

JOHN MOFFET: 

He'd had a few drinks

Greg Bonann: 

Had a few drinks. Yeah, had a few drinks enough to be you know, not sober. I don't know how much I had. But I was not sober and the guys with me but not sober. So that took longer than it should have taken for us to realize this is serious business. Yeah, this is people's lives on the line. And there were three people, two women and a man on the top of the bridge, talking to what was a fireman at the time and our lifeguards were around and obviously one guy there was a double date and the guy had jumped off and into the water and he didn't come up and this is like how long does it take to muster all these people there and get every blend there set up. So you know this is probably close to half hour maybe by the time we got down right now we're in the water And we're doing a line search and we just learned a line search. We've just done this in rookie school.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So it's in murky water.

Greg Bonann: 

It's it's a Bologna Creek. It's very murky. Yeah. So we jumped in the water. And we immediately assumed a line search. And we started going out towards the water where the water was definitely flowing, right. And we would dive, and then we would come up and we'd move backwards a little, dive again, move forward, like 10 feet.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And come up, move back five. And so we'd go over every inch a couple of times. And Steve Grainer, my big rival from Westchester.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

I don't know why he did it. But he got out of the water to take a pee. What swimmers of us need to get out of the water to take a pee right, especially in the ocean right

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well in the creek of all places.

Greg Bonann: 

Don't do that, got out of the water to take a pee and I see him peeing right now, Steve, but he's looking at his pee and the bubbles are going the other way.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Tide is coming in.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes, we had all been searching in the wrong direction. Steve with saw his bubbles going that way. He says, hey, we got to go the other way. So we just did an about face and we went the other way. And we found him on our first dive down. And I was on the side. So I found a part of him and Steve found the main part. And the backstory was that he was basically shish-kebab'd on a piece of rebar that had been dumped into that water that day. It turns out we didn't know at the time, but later they had demo'd a building and the guys didn't want to take all the concrete and rebar to the dump. So they dumped it over the bridge. And one of the pieces of rebar was sticking straight up. And so we had to pry him off of that. And that was my first day. I wasn't even hadn't even worked to tower and I had a fatality. And though one of the the wife, or the girlfriend came up to me and said, is he going to be okay? And of course, I did not know what to say he wasn't going to be okay.

JOHN MOFFET: 

You're 17 years old.

Greg Bonann: 

17 years old. He'd been underwater, you know, for probably an hour by now. Yeah. And I said, please go ask the other, the other guy who was you know, in the uniform. He was my boss. Yeah. And he handled that. I wasn't even, you know, smart enough to handle that question.

JOHN MOFFET: 

What but you're 17 That's heavy. That's heavy stuff, Greg.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, true. That was that was day one. That was night one after that was Rookie School night graduation. The next day, I started lifeguarding in a tower.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh my gosh. And I mean, talk about that kind of stuff affects you for the rest of your life.

Greg Bonann: 

Oh, it really did.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Especially especially when it's your vocation.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes, it really did. It brought home everything that I learned in the rookie school plus what I know now 53 years later.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

I didn't know then. And it was it was a I think it was a good tempering thing for me. It was a very sobering experience because you lifeguard differently in the tower, yeah. After a situation like that. Because believe me for the first complete summer. All I envisioned was what could go wrong. I was a really good lifeguard.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Maybe you were on your toes

Greg Bonann: 

On my toes. Yeah. Because I knew one bad one bad choice, you know, jumping off that pier, or that bridge. One bad decision translates into all the bad decisions that that kids are making at the beach and adults are making too

JOHN MOFFET: 

Course.

Greg Bonann: 

At the beach every day. And all I en- all I envisioned was those bad decisions turning worse.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So I was I was the guy. I was the party pooper. No barbecues, no floatation devices, no swimming in a riptide. You're too deep. The kids knee deep, your'e too deep. You know, can't a kid play in the water. Yes, yes. He can. I'm sorry. My bad. But you just over Yeah. I overcompensated Yeah, for a lot of that time.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. Understandably so. You did a lot of guarding, but at a certain point and you mentioned this that you you started being a producer, you started working in production and thankfully, you got to work on the Olympics, something that I'm quite envious of. Because I've been I wanted to all my life tell the story of athletes and haven't been able to really do that until of course Sports + Life + Balance and it's one of the things you know, it's one of my great life's passions is is athletes. But you had you're blessed to be able to go to the 1980 games and that was your first games I believe and you were able to fill the

Greg Bonann: 

That was the first one I worked. I went to 72 tried out for the 72 team didn't make it in in modern pentathlon.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh, okay.

Greg Bonann: 

and did not make it and my mom was the one that said you should just go anyway.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

And I went Munich, Munich, Germany as our coaches. My sport, there were so few qualifiers there were three.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

That they were, you know, they want to encourage some of us younger guys, to at least stay with it, get some experience, you know, feel the vibe I get where they were going, you know, feel the vibe, and maybe this will get you through another four years of training. And, you know, keep your goal alive. They were smart. So they did what they could to help us and I ended up with the men's volleyball team, and they didn't want to be there at all.

JOHN MOFFET: 

What?

Greg Bonann: 

I was stoked to be there then they had missed qualifying and it was a team sport. And you know how that can be. There were a lot of bitter guys that didn't want to be there. You know, there were a lot of great guys too. But the bitter guys were the vocal ones that I heard. And so I had met a guy on day one, he took me to a soccer game. And we saw Germany play US in soccer before the games that started because the soccer tournament takes longer than 16 days, right. So they started early. And Jimmy Langkop became a friend of mine there and his mother was there covering the game. So we ended up in the Olympic Village.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Dorothy, Dorothy,

Greg Bonann: 

Oh my heavens. She's a legend, figure skater.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Dorothy Franey Langkop.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, my another mentor, who was a wonderful, wonderful lady who became a big part of my life. And the reason I'm telling this is that she introduced me to Jack Hennessy, the documentary maker, who then hired me to make documentaries.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Whose the president And he knew I was the Olympic fan, and he knew Dorothy Franey Langkop and he said, Why don't you try and make us an Olympic documentary? And oh, my great, because I love the Olympics. He says, you know, what do you need us I didn't need a sponsor. And so we I dug around and found who the main sponsors weren't went to them. This was kind of the way I did business in those days. I went to the sponsor. At in those days, the Olympic clothing sponsor was Montgomery Ward's, so that was low hanging fruit for me and I already invested. They had people wearing their clothing. So I went to Montgomery Ward's, Bob Gillick was the head of public relations. And I went to Bob and I said, Bob, would you like to sponsor a movie about the Olympic Games and be the official film of the United States Olympic Committee? And we would feature your uniforms and and what you're doing with the games. And he said, Isn't there already an official film? I said, Yes, that's the International Olympic Committee film, right? They covered

Greg Bonann: 

Yes, the executive director everything, every athlete, I'm making the US Olympic Committee's official film, we'll just feature Americans. So whether they get seventeenth, seventh or third, we'll cover them. There'll be wearing your uniform. He said, Can you do that? And I said, yep, I can. Then went to Bob Miller. And I said, Bob, he's the head of the United States Olympic Committee.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Executive Director

Greg Bonann: 

When when the executive director really ran things, right. It's different now the executive director really reports to the President. But in those days, Bob Miller, Colonel Miller, to me, it was was the Iron Fist of the Olympics. And I said, Colonel Miller, if you will allow me to represent a film as your official film, I think I've got the money. So he said, you can do that? And I said, yes, if you will say that this is the official film of the United States Olympic Committee. I can represent that to Warren to Montgomery Ward's, and they'll put the money up. And he said, okay, we'll do it. You can be the official film. And he said, you know, he wanted a few things that we feature certain athletes win or lose. We feature the Olympic Committee that he gets to approve the cut. You know, about all this stuff. And I said yes to everything. Yeah. And that was the first movie we did. And his only requirement was to get me credentials, which we then got in that movie, but in later years in at 84, and 88, we ended up having to make movies without credentials.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So I'm struck by the story for for two reasons. The first reason of course, is the great bone in industrial industriousness of figuring out a problem on a business on the business side. And so clearly, you had a prowess for figuring out putting all the all the parts together to get something made number one, but number two, I also happen to know that your father always gave you advice about

Greg Bonann: 

Good segway

JOHN MOFFET: 

Looking around and what did your father

Greg Bonann: 

Good segway, John. Okay, so my dad was was a great mentor. And he would know nothing about film. And he'd say son did so Montgomery Ward by the way, was not my first pitch. I had gone around town before I realized, you know, I got to look deeper and find a better connection so that that whole thing is born at failure. And only then do you get your pitch better, as you know, yeah. So that I need an official this or I need an official that but it's all born out of failure. And the thing that my dad impressed upon me was that just because you fail, doesn't mean that you give up. Right? It's like step one towards success. And there's all these little, my dad was a visual guy. So he lay stones out, this is your first failure, then he put another stone out. Second failure, the third stone is still in a line heading towards the goal. He says all these failure stones are going to get you to the goal, right? But unless you lay this foundation down, he literally put putting rocks on the dirt, right? He literally be doing this. And I would go okay, I get it really, really? And he would say, well, look what you learned by this last failure, right? He said the guy didn't want to be involved because of what reasons? And I go, well, I'm really not sure of all the reasons. Well, then don't leave the room son, next time until you figure out why he didn't buy it. Right. Because the same reasons he didn't buy it might be the reason the next guy does buy it. Yeah, if you can fix that plug, that hole. So I added the official film idea for the second guy who doesn't want to be part of some official, right. And, and the if that was the only way that could get me the money. Don Miller wanted a movie. He was tired of the International Olympic Committee movies which were always made by the host Committee. So Yuri Ozerov made the Moscow Film and Kon Ichikawa made the Japan film and these were filmed and David Wolper made our film. These weren't Bud Greenspan's films, these were the official film. And when you pick the official filmmaker from the home country, who you're going to get?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

I mean, it all started with Lenny doing the movie for Hitler in 36. He was the first guy to commission a film so you got a propaganda film. Right? And it was Riefenstahl, Leni Riefenstahl made the first Olympic film

JOHN MOFFET: 

Whose a woman by the way

Greg Bonann: 

A woman and developed a lot of things moving first person, much less woman first person ever moved the camera. First person to ever dig a ditch and put a camera down deep and look up at a discus thrower a javelin thrower and make the heroic look right down looking up. We owe to Leni and slow-mo, right? Slow-mo was hers too. By mistake her first time. She's like oh, that looks good.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So oh, by the way, slo mo will take you into Baywatch. I took from sports to montage. I took sport into Baywatch. But back to your point of learning things and father being inspiration and failure leading me on and probably ultimately, the successes that I did have coming out of not giving up. That did lay the track for me failing for 10 years to sell the idea Baywatch, because it did take me 10 literal years.

JOHN MOFFET: 

While you guarded

Greg Bonann: 

While it was lifeguarding and making documentaries. So I made documentaries five days a week, and I then worked on the beach as a lifeguard every weekend.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

I didn't realize it cost me my first marriage. Another failure. But my wife didn't consider her husband working seven days a week to be a marriage.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Balance.

Greg Bonann: 

No balance.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

You're absolutely right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

I was too young. Right. I was in my 20s. I didn't get it. I was doing what I thought was great. Making money as much money as I could. I - The fact that I love lifeguarding probably

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. played a big role in the fact that I was working two days a week, but it was a whole new set of friends that I had there. And it ultimately fed my success for Baywatch. Because I could hear no, all week long. Monday through Friday, I could pitch Baywatch and hear no. And then go out there Saturday and Sunday. And either be a part of a great rescue or hear another guy talk about a great rescue. And by Monday morning, these people were wrong there is there are great stories to tell. And there is some great heroics down there and be refreshed. And I don't think a lot of producers who get constant negative reinforcing stay with the project. It's it's hard. It's hard to stay upbeat.

Greg Bonann: 

It is

JOHN MOFFET: 

When all you hear is no and you know the other the other thing that I'm struck by you would go back to what your dad was saying with the rocks is that unless you take that next step, you don't know what's around the corner. You got to take a peek around that corner.

Greg Bonann: 

Oh boy, you're right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right and, and so the trying again and again and again and again. That's the only way you oftentimes get opportunities.

Greg Bonann: 

on the track, right. And he said that he could always see how badly he was being beaten. Because he was getting trounced in his career, he ran behind Glenn Cunningham at Kansas. And Glenn was always so far ahead of him could hardly see him. And he said, but the difference was, I could see him. And he says, you can't, you can't see where your success is you can't see the finish line, because you're on a track, a round track with a wall, and there's a big wall on your left. If you're running. There's a big wall on your left, and you can't see the John Moffet's, somewhere ahead of you. You can't see how far he is. He could be the goal, the finish line could be right there. And you don't see it. You're going to stop now? Why would you stop now? If you could see the finish line was? Don't we all know. Yeah, but you can just I can make it that far. But I didn't have that then. And you know, if you'd asked me. All my friends thought after nine years of pitching Baywatch, and not finding a home for it, a buyer, anybody else that believed in it. After nine years, isn't that enough? Right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

For most people

Greg Bonann: 

For most people, you might say yes, but I had that constant reinforcement. I remember going to work and Ralph Lee had just come back. I was I was the 10 to 6 and he was the 7 to 3. So he'd been at work three hours before I came to work, and a plane had crashed in front of his tower. He had spent the morning going out diving down, pulling people out. Nobody died. And they were at the time I got there. There was a big tow truck pulling the wreck out of the water. It had crashed that close to his lifeguard tower tower. Temescal Canyon. And and so I'm sitting there with Ralph on the beach with this carcass of this airplane. And he goes Bonann. You missed the best rescue.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Did that end up in Baywatch?

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, course! But it was a few years before I could tell it. But that went in my notebook as a great story. Yeah. And other stuff went into my notebook. The time a crazy guy held the lifeguard with a gun to his head in the tower for four hours. That had to be an episode. Yeah, you know, so you get all this stuff. And before long it was It wasn't that I worked without knowing what the stories could be and how long the show could last. It was getting someone else to buy in and say a story about lifeguards. Was not just pith helmets and whistles and tank tops.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

We didn't wear pith helmets, we didn't blow whistles and we didn't wear tank tops. We were an army. We were an army of boats that we had 11 boats.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

We had hundreds of trucks. We had lifeguards in 153 towers. There was 1000 of us out there. Nobody knew that and nobody envisioned that. And at the time, I was having a hard time talking that through. So I made a sizzle reel what now is known as a sizzle reel.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

But because -

JOHN MOFFET: 

Which is like a three minute video promoting

Greg Bonann: 

A three minute video I just done the Olympic Games of 1980. I'd just done a film I forget which was

JOHN MOFFET: 

It was 88, wasn't it Calgary?

Greg Bonann: 

88 was Calgary.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yes. Thank you.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, I just done 88 and Calgary.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And I came home and doing that movie. I did a lot of slo-mo and Dan Jansen, he was a great story and speedskating right, and our break we write until can you and I both relate to that. But he fell a lot of times and I said you know the fall happens so quick and so early. Let's shoot this super slow mo and really, really get it get the fall and by golly, he fell again. Yeah, but coming home from that I it had occurred to me that maybe telling the story via film. So I could show these people a boat and a helicopter and, and all this stuff. So while we're on the plane, coming back from Calgary and everybody's high, we just made a great movie. Everybody was happy. It was a great games. I said I want to have a favor from all of you guys. I can't afford to pay for this. But I want you to one day, maybe two, in a weekend coming up to come out and shoot for me on the beach. And they all of course said absolutely. Heck yeah, absolutely no problem. But you know, and I said if something ever happens, and this becomes a series, you'll all have a job. And that was our trade off no money in success. So all those camera guys and the editor who cut the Olympic movie, also cut the sizzle reel. All those guys worked on Baywatch all the way through all 12 years.

JOHN MOFFET: 

All those personal connections

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, right through. They were loyal to me. I was loyal to them. And so we ended up shooting the, this this what for the lack of a better word is now known as sizzle reel

JOHN MOFFET: 

Which I guess back then they didn't do those and now standard

Greg Bonann: 

Now their standard

JOHN MOFFET: 

If you don't have a sizzle, you don't have a show

Greg Bonann: 

Correct. And as it turns out, the Writers Guild of America had a strike that year. And my pitch was to a man. That was I'd finally gotten to this really great guy, Grant Tinker.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, but that was it was a rescue that it

Greg Bonann: 

Well, yeah.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wasn't it a rescue that gave you access to that?

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, your memory is better than mine. Yes. So in 1978, I had been working on Father's Day. The beach. I had always had a date with my dad on Father's Day that year, I had recently been married, and we needed the money, and I was doing what I shouldn't be doing right. And I was working every day of the week. So I worked and I rescued two kids, right. Tommy and JC Irwin. And they weren't going to die. They were in a

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. riptide. But their father felt so bad. It was Father's Day. He was recently divorced father, this was his nightmare that the one day he gets his two kids something happens. And he you know, just the fact that they needed to be rescued by the lifeguard was was traumatic for him. So I calmed him down. I said, Sir, I didn't even know his name at the time. I said, Sir, just relax. Your kids were fine. I downplayed it. I said they were just going to be fine. But in a few minutes, when they've calmed down, and you're you feel comfortable, would you come up to the tower? Because I need your name and phone number and address in those times we took a written report. Right, of course, in a notepad.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah. So he came up? And he was charming and thankful

JOHN MOFFET: 

What's that? Right. with $100. Bill, right? Yeah. And I said, you know, what your name and your address, he gave all this information to me and

Greg Bonann: 

But I went back in and he said, you know, this offered me $100 bill, and I said, thank you. This was you know, we can't do that. And rescuing two kids is, you know, really quite the honor. So don't worry about it. But I do recognize your name. Irwin, Stu Irwin, I said, there's an actor named Stu Irwin, on Trouble with Father, which was, he said, that's my dad. Oh, wow. And I said, Oh, fantastic. Are you an actor too? And he said, no, I'm not. He said, I'm a Network Executive said I work for a really big name in the business. isn't this isn't bad. He said, do these things and come back. And I said, what do you do? He said, I worked for a guy named And he would be a constant source for me until 10 years Grant Tinker. I said, what do you do for Grant? I know Grant isn't that Mary Tyler Moore and Lou Grant and Rhoda and Valerie and all those. He says, Yeah, that's us. I said, Isn't that Mary Tyler Moore Productions? He says, Yep, I work for them. I said what do you do for them? He says, I'm their Head of goes by. He had been with Grant all this time.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, extension of what your dad told you. Development. And I said, oh, you know, instead of that 100 bucks,

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Keep going.

Greg Bonann: 

Keep going. I built a relationship. He finally I have the letters in my scrapbook. The letter he wrote me after that first pitch, which said no, in 1978. I have a favor. I have this idea for a show. And could I come

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And the letter in 1987. That said, Yes, to Baywatch.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And Grant Tinker.

Greg Bonann: 

And Grant Tinker will produce it. And so I went pitch to you some time. He says, come in tomorrow morning, uou on my pitches with Grant Tinker. And now we've gone full circle. 10 years later, Grant needed a some way in this writer's strike just saved my kids. So 10 o'clock, the next morning, I'm of 1988 that he could tell the story to Brandon Tartikoff, who he wanted to sell it to at Stu Irwin's office. And I gave him my pitch. And he

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right

Greg Bonann: 

Who could envision this series without reading a script because the writer strike was on even though the script was written. We could not you use it. It could not be stopped me. He stopped me in like five minutes. He says, currency. You couldn't use a written word. In those days. If you were a writer, you could not let anyone use your work because Greg, this is the worst pitch I've ever heard. But it's your we are on strike.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So I made the tape and sizzle reel, and bless David Hagar, who picked the song "The boys for Summer," "Boys of first pitch, isn't it? And I said, yeah, he says, and he gave Summer," by Don Henley. And he said, let's cut this thing to this song. And I cut it together. I went, you know this me fundamentals. He said, what network is this for? You've got from your years of making mill films. I went to Grant with it. to know. CBS, ABC, NBC, they're different network. Yeah. What And he said, I really liked this. I really liked this. I have a few notes. I got my note put, yeah, it was like three what time slot? Is it for? Is it eight o'clock? Nine o'clock. 10 pages of notes. So I called David It was Friday night. I called David. I said, David, can we make these notes over the weekend? Are there a shitload of them? o'clock show? They're all different. It's either kids or

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

He said the place is closed. It's a weekend.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

He said, But meet me there tomorrow morning at adults. You need to know the difference. What's the budget? eight. This is a close friend of mine.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

Right. So we broke in. We broke in to the edit

JOHN MOFFET: 

Editing facility. Wow. Is this huge? Is it not? Is it ensemble cast or star vehicle?

Greg Bonann: 

And we cut all the notes that day and Monday morning at o'dark 30. Guess where I was? Back in Grant's office.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And he not only saw every one of his notes made And I'm madly taking notes. Yeah. And he said, you open your whether I agreed with them or not. Yeah, I made the notes as he wanted them. But I was there Monday morning. He said, how did pitch with that. Yeah. And he coached me says, come back, some you do this? I said, you know, I have some great friends.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So personal contact elbow grease.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes, it was only David and I at that time, but it when you're ready, come back. So you know me, I go home. I'm, I'm was the same extension of all my buddies coming out, helping me shoot, you know, everybody that was helping, pulling on the rope. And that that I guess a spree decor is what got us ready, like in a week. there. And he said, I love it. So he took it to play tennis with Brandon. And Brandon came back and said, I love this. And what are these little musical montages?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh

Greg Bonann: 

So Grant said, can you do those in every episode? And if you'd seen any of my Olympic movies, they were just one montage after the other

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right

Greg Bonann: 

I said not only can I do them, but I love doing them.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And that would be a really cool way to do it. And that way I had to bring in David Hagar the editor. Who had promised the job. So David's got a job.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah All the guys that shot it, they got a job, all the ADs that worked on it, they got a job. So we created a montage unit, which was our step in the door in an otherwise unionized business, because none of these guys were in the union, including me. And we shot the pilot episode of Baywatch, which was Panic at Malibu pier, you can now see it on Prime and on Hulu, right? You can see that movie. In those days they did pilots as movies, so that all the money they spent at least had value as a movie. Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And the movie turned out to be not only great. It aired, it did so well. They thought it was a freak. So they had to air it again.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow

Greg Bonann: 

They aired it again. Six months later, it did even better. So there was no way they couldn't pick the series up.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

But at the time, there was politics going on. They weren't proud of the series. They just weren't proud of the series. Too much women, too much wet girls at the picture trying to get that on the air now. Yeah, that's one of the reboot issues we're dealing with is how to do a modern day Baywatch, with all the pressure in Me too and Women's Rights and all that. And we're conscious and actually respectful of all that. And that's our biggest challenge in the the reboot. And that's why in a way, not that they were not that women's issues were the only thing they just weren't proud of it. And they had a lot of ups, a lot of television that we're proud of. And so they canceled us after one year.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So after 22 episodes, they just their hearts weren't in it. But the ratings were still pretty good.

Greg Bonann: 

They were on the high side of fair, as Grant would tell me that day that we were canceled. And I walked through the offices and they were basically empty, right. I went to him and said can can I chat with you? And he said, Yeah, I'll come right over. He was the kind of Oz in The Wizard of Oz. You know, this office that I rarely went to. And I said where is everybody? And they said this is a business. They all know a show on the cusp. You didn't because this was your dream. You never you never anticipated failure. But they did and they're off on their other jobs. They have families to feed and you know, they they have responsibilities, life responsibilities, so don't hold that against them. They're doing what they had to do. They're gone. This was your show. You're here. You're the captain. You're sinking with the ship. And you're underwater right now and it's over.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. And my, in my experience, I can relate because when shows are dead, they're dead.

Greg Bonann: 

They're dead.

JOHN MOFFET: 

They're they're like they're dead too. Yeah. To use the TV vernacular it was killed.

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah

JOHN MOFFET: 

That's what we say in the business

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah, you're exactly right. It was killed.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So that was May when all the cancellations came down.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And the next milestone was Father's Day, June.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, you went back to lifeguarding, though, right?

Greg Bonann: 

I did.

JOHN MOFFET: 

You had to you had to pay the bills.

Greg Bonann: 

I did, I did. That was I couldn't get a job in another show. That quickly, number one, and number two, I'd only done one show one pilot one year. Yeah. And I had not networked at all, I didn't know what networking was. I didn't know about, you know, all of that stuff. I was just like, all on my own. And so I'm back in the tower. Lifeguarding, and my dream was just ending on the air, there was still episodes unseen episodes on the air, right. And no one knew until I showed up at the beach, and then they all go, what are you doing here? Yes, I hadn't worked in six months

JOHN MOFFET: 

You'd been busy

Greg Bonann: 

Busy. And so I said, the show got canceled. And then what does that mean? And I said, Well, it's over. And they said, holy shit. So you're back here? Why don't you know why aren't you directing or doing something else producing another show? I said, Well, I got no job offers. So that was that was brutal. Right. And then the Baywatch boat drives by and that was brutal. Because that was a real icon.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Of course

Greg Bonann: 

Of the show was the Baywatch boat. And the next thing, the next milestone I can remember was the the Sunday I took off to be with my dad Father's Day. And he spent the whole day trying to convince me to go back and get the show And I spent the whole day explaining to him that back.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. Grant who owned the show, at least as far as I knew he owned the show, that Grant had spend millions of dollars in deficit and could never give me the show back. And by the end of the day, I get in a tie and for father wished him happy Father's Day and kissed to go by and just on my way out the door he says, son, you know what I really want for Father's Day? I said, what? I wants you to ask Grant for the show back. So I said, oh, god, okay. So the next morning, my dad, I had a pretty good relationship. When I told him, I'd do something, I did, I had to do it. So I called Grant. And I said, Grant, it's Greg Bonann. And he said, I know. He said, I said can I can I come in and talk to you? Can I make an appointment, come in and talk to you? Says what are you doing? I said, I'm driving. He says come on over. Oh my god

Greg Bonann: 

That was who Grant was he said, come on over. And when I got there, Stu Irwin, the father of the two kids I'd rescued some 10 years earlier. And Jay Sanrich. Were in the room, in Grant's in -

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow

Greg Bonann: 

In Grant's office. And I walked in, I said, thanks for seeing me. He said, we know why you're here. And I said, you, you you want the show back?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And they were all there to tell me why you couldn't have it back. But because this is your show and so close to you. We wanted to all tell you that we can't give it back to you for you have to pay it's a value, so you have to pay for it.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And there were millions of dollars deficit

Greg Bonann: 

Grant had lost millions of dollars. What I didn't know was that his company was failing. And that was not known anyone in the business or the industry at the time. But his company was failing. He was having a hard time shows were being canceled, like Baywatch.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And he had many of them on the air that had then gone off the air. And he was pissed. He was pissed about all this stuff. So he didn't like this happening. And if there was a kid like me at the time, who wanted the show back, he was going to do everything he could to get the kid the show back. So he said if if, if you can write me a check today, right now, for $10. I will have the paperwork drawn up and give you the show back.

JOHN MOFFET: 

No way.

Greg Bonann: 

And I have my checkbook in my car. Right in my And the other was Sid Tesslar. I'm sorry. The

JOHN MOFFET: 

Okay. glove box I kept my checkbook. So I went down and wrote him a check to GTG Enterprises AIG for $10. And he had the paperwork other was, Paul Thomas, Sid representative Gannett. The drawn up before I left the office. But he said there's two guys you need to square this with. One is Gannett. Who owned other was Paul Talbot, who owns the international distribution Grant Tinker's company. rights. Because this show goes we have commitments all over the world. So I went home and my message light on my phone machine was blinking two messages. Beep. First message This is Sid Tesslar. I just got a call from Grant Tinker that you want to talk. Message two my number is this is Paul Talbot just got a call from Grant Tinker. He said you want to talk. So these were the two key guys without without whom, which I could not really proceed. So I called Sid learn that Grant didn't really own it all himself getting that was behind him. I had to make a deal with Gannett that I talked to Paul Talbott, who was just at the time telling his clients Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Asia, Australia, that there would be no more Baywatch. And he was getting really disappointed responses Because internationally it was doing so

Greg Bonann: 

It was doing well. So he said, can you get on a well plane and come over come to New York, and said pack for about a

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. week we're gonna go to Europe. And I said, sure, of course. He says there's a chance. So we did Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the UK in a week. And he mentored me, I was the son Paul

Greg Bonann: 

And then given to me, whatever Grant told me to Talbot never had. He took me and introduced me to all these buyers, which you don't realize the work that goes into just finding the right buyer in Germany and the right buyer in France and the right buyer in Italy. How do you start? They were already there. They had already bought the show. And were disappointed. So his challenge was getting them to agree to buy the next year done by this kid, without a network without a studio and with no one involved. And would you do that? And for more money than you were paying Grant, because we're now doing this, and what they all wanted in return. Because we work deals with all of them was a voice. Will you will you listen to our audience and our, because before they were just taking American programming, my only voice was Grant or NBC. Yeah, whatever grant or NBC wanted. And usually the notes went to Grant from NBC they go to Grant, Grant would filter them do, I did yeah. So it was do this or that or make this character bigger. We're going to add this cast member we're gonna do this or that I did it. And so they became my my new voice instead of Grant or NBC. Italy, Spain, Germany, France, right would become my new voice or in the day, it was the UK. They took us from a show that was not to my liking. It was more cop-oriented on the first because cops people know cops on on Baywatch. People at the time did not know rescue, there was 911. So it's crime solving. It was crime solving. And that's where the writers came from was from crime. So they want to institute a crime. Well, lifeguards don't do a crime.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

When there's a crime on the beach, we make a phone call and the cops show up right? We're back to watching water. But they didn't know that. Right? Even in the Baywatch pilot, there was a crime story and a rescue story. They didn't trust rescue. I trusted rescue a lot. And so I moved it all to rescue from crime. It happened all it all happened. We we didn't have them as much money as we had with the network. But we didn't have as many people to report to. And it just worked out really well.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And you did things like you were very problem solving oriented. For example, rather than have the overhead of a studio, you rented out your own warehouse basically, which was much cheaper.

Greg Bonann: 

We did. So I had 10 years of making documentaries, right? Where whatever I budget, my money was on the line. My fee would not get paid until the show was delivered and produced. And if there was money left, I got my fee. I went from immediately 10 years of that to going to NBC and watching the waste and and God bless them. Yeah, I know why there's waste. But it was enormous waste. And so when I had basically half the money to do it without network and studio involvement, I saw a tremendous opportunity to cut. One of the biggest was overhead of studio space. You don't need a studio. I could rent the the McCulloch chainsaw building factory. They just moved out a Marina del Rey. I could rent that whole facility for $17,500 a month.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

Where we were paying $300,000 a month on the studio. That's imagine that after over the course of a year the money you're saving. And instead of renting the tank at Warner Brothers, we built our own tank.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right

Greg Bonann: 

And instead of renting lights from a lighting company, we would rent the lights from the lighting technician who owned all his own gear.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right. And who's happy to get a double paycheck for that.

Greg Bonann: 

Who was stoked and you think we had loss and damage on his equipment? Never. Yeah, we had loss and damage all the time on the studio equipped because it wasn't anyones. So we I learned economies like that and my door. My office door was a revolving door of crewmen, who had watched waste their whole career, and finally had a an audience for how to save money and they came in my door. And that first year, I agreed with our with our partners that we would do the show for a certain budget. And if we came in under budget, that money would be distributed to the crew. So winter wardrobe, makeup props, hairdressing, camera, transportation, all the guys, the teamsters that found a way to do a job with fewer trucks than they would have maybe other otherwise done. They did.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

And it was magnificent. And so we we started that way. And we went another 11 years.

JOHN MOFFET: 

First of all, extraordinary. And I of course was following Baywatch from quite a distance I didn't didn't know you during this time. But one thing that I do remember is that it was considered the biggest television show in history at a certain point. And, and so you reached a billion viewers. It was 1996, 1.1 billion viewers across 142 countries and translated into 44 different languages

Greg Bonann: 

As as is typical, much of my success that I get credit for. Thank you. I remember the day I got a call from Paul Talbot. Remember that guy that went? I went through Europe with?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

Well, in about 94. Paul calls me up on the 1994. Paul calls me on the phone and says Greg, it's Paul, I know Hi, Paul, how are you? And he says, I want to how much will it cost? Us. He said, How much will it cost us to translate the show into Mandarin, Cantonese and Chinese? I want to give the show to China.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Give?

Greg Bonann: 

Give. I said well, wait. You said just give me the costs. So I said okay, so I went and researched what it would cost us to do that. And it cost about 100 grand, like 33 grand to show per language. So I called Paul back. I said it's 100 grand Paul, per show. He says, Great. I'll split it with you. I want to give the show to China. So what do you mean, give the show like

JOHN MOFFET: 

So you're 50,000 in the hole

Greg Bonann: 

I'm 50,000 that had to come out of our production budget. He says, will you trust me on this? I said, Of course I'd never denied Paul anything this guy was if I had a godfather, it was Paul. And I said, okay, well, I'll find the money. And so we gave it to China for two years. After the second year. Paul says we're taking the show back from China.

JOHN MOFFET: 

He told the Chinese distributor

Greg Bonann: 

We're taking it back. They said, Wait a minute. No, no, it's a big hit now, which Paul knew, Paul knew all the time. Right. Paul knew this was part of his

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh my gosh

Greg Bonann: 

So as soon as they purchased it. We were the first show to make a real sale in China.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

Bless Paul, in all three languages. When you add those eyeballs, we had become the most watched show in the history of television. So bless Paul Talbott for making us the most watched I'm not saying the most popular show. There were other shows at the time that were Seinfeld, right. It's hugely popular in domestic United States. But if you took a view of Earth from the moon, there was no more popular show worldwide. And no more watched show in languages and no more famous icons than lifeguards than any show in the world. Because I'm sorry, Seinfeld does not translate in a lot of foreign countries. The culture doesn't doesn't appreciate what we do in terms of comedy. And, and that was the birth of how things went.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah. And on a positive note as well. It changed the way the world viewed lifeguards.

Greg Bonann: 

Oh, there's no question we put lifeguarding on a map internationally CPR, huge. We taught it all the time on the show, people learned that anybody could do CPR. You don't have to be a lifeguard to do CPR. We got letters, like you wouldn't believe from fathers who saved their daughters because of what they saw on Baywatch. And you realize the power of the medium. We got an award every year from the United States Coast Guard. I got to speak at their graduation ceremony a number of years because Baywatch was their single biggest piece of recruitment. All the recruiting they did of young men and women in our country. Baywatch was the biggest reason people enlisted. In fact, they, they added a box. Why did you? Why did you want to be a United States Coast Guard man? You know, my father is one, I'm a patriot, I want to serve my country, the fourth box was Baywatch. More people check Baywatch than any other single reason. And I developed a wonderful relationship with the Coast Guard. They never charged us a dime for fuel or for man or whenever they participated. Because they couldn't do it not to their biggest recruiting. And by the way, we had a relationship did we make the coastguard ever look bad? Never.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Of course not.

Greg Bonann: 

Did we tell stories where they were heroes? Yeah, always. You know, that we had those agreements. But Baywatch wasn't that kind of show. It was a hero show. We had no vested interest in making anybody look bad.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And one thing we haven't talked about yet, and that is the eye candy made sure of Baywatch.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And so much of that is conveyed through the cast. There are countless careers that were made. But names like David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, of course, are the you know, some some of the top and there's just so many of them. How did you score again and again and again and again with the casting because the casting is no doubt a big part of Baywatch.

Greg Bonann: 

Thanks. But most of that credit goes to Suzy and Fern, a partnership of two women

JOHN MOFFET: 

Casting, casting directors.

Greg Bonann: 

Partnership of two women, smart in terms of business, but they had an eye for talent that was unbelievable. So Suzy and Fern would constantly bring people in, that they believed in that they had, they had a relationship with who had either not had a break. Or the one thing they knew they could not have a track record, because we couldn't afford a track record.

JOHN MOFFET: 

In television in established television.

Greg Bonann: 

Remember, my budget went away when we had David Hasselhoff on the network and Parker Stevenson and Billy Warlock and all these people from the first season. One of my biggest challenges was going from those that year to our years in syndication was the budget had to come down in every way. So anybody that came on the show got basically Favored Nations because everyone is making scale. There were no

JOHN MOFFET: 

Scale is base pay dollars

Greg Bonann: 

Scale is the base pay now and it's your audience and that dictate your audience may not know how high scale is scales pretty high. But a lot of actors in the in that day, were making 20 $25,000 a week scale was $5,000 a week.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Big difference.

Greg Bonann: 

Tempering my attitude was always the fact that I would go to the beach and work a full day and save people's lives for $100 a day so you're not going to tell me that scale at $5000 a week that time when I'm making 100 a day as a lifeguard on the weekend pulling people's children out is too little money. Bring the next guy in because I'll find them and Susie and Fern bless their heart. Found these people Pamela Anderson worked for scale. Yasmine, bleak for scale. Erika Eleniak for scale. Billy Warlock, David Charvet, a David Chokachi, all these guys for scale. Because let's use Pam as an example. Pam was following Erika Eleniak.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

Erica was our first two years and gorgeous, wonderful girl who quit the show for all the wrong reasons. But I was not the kind of producer that would keep an unhappy woman on the show, right? It's not one of those producers that said, I have a contract and you're going to show up like it or not. And the new girl was coming in Pam, Pam Anderson Who no one knew. And there was an opportunity in

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right Australia to present their Oscars and they wanted Erica and I called down there to Ian Hogg who was their head down there of the network. And I said Hoggy. I need a favor. Now Hoggy was also the buyer of Baywatch Down Under so I knew him well. And he's a wonderful man. I said, Hoggy I need some help. He said Bone. What? What can I do for you? I said, you know you offered a lot of money to Erica to present the awards down there. I said she's just quit the show. I have a new girl who I can't pay. Can you pay her the same money that you were gonna pay Erica to be the presenter? He says Bone, of course. So that was 100 grand for her to go down all expenses paid, first class airfare, hotel per diem, plus $100,000 in her pocket to present the award before she'd ever shot a frame of film. And it was a great promo for the next season.

Greg Bonann: 

It was wonderful for us. We were a huge hit down under our new star was going to basically, you know, Hoggy comes back to me a few weeks later, while we're playing in this. He says Bone, are we the first to see this girl? I said, yeah. He says, can we make a big deal out of it? I said, please. So that's the kind of cooperation yeah, and by the way, that happened for every single actor, man and woman went off and made a ton of money because they were on Baywatch.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Bayatch his continued long after its over. I actually saw a advertisement that David Hasselhoff was in for Sodastream.

Greg Bonann: 

Wow. Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Okay. And they called him best TV lifeguard. And he's okay. So this is 30 years later, when it all began?

Greg Bonann: 

Yeah.

JOHN MOFFET: 

I was curious to find out that Jason Momoa was on one was.

Greg Bonann: 

We found him on Baywatch, Hawaii.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Baywatch, Hawaii. And for the listeners that don't know who Jason Momoa is. First time I took notice of him is when most everybody else probably did. Well, that was when he played Khal Drago on the Game of Thrones. Yes, the great Darth what rocky warrior? You know, he was Aquaman. I mean, it is immense the influence of Baywatch has had not only on the actors. Yeah, but on the world.

Greg Bonann: 

Jason. Jason, when when I took Baywatch from Los Angeles to Hawaii. I was in a surfboard shop and Waikiki browsing around for some board shorts.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Uh huh.

Greg Bonann: 

And this deep voice shows up behind me.

JOHN MOFFET: 

He's like six, four, right?

Greg Bonann: 

He's huge. And, and he says, are you the Baywatch guy. And I turned around a looked up and it was there was a handout my face to shake by and he says my name is Jason. And I want to be an actor. I had had to hire locals anyway. Right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right.

Greg Bonann: 

My my, my task from the governor of Hawaii was a classmate of mine at UCLA, Ben Cayetano. And when I took the show to Hawaii, I got a call from Ben. And I was in Australia, taking the show to Australia. And we had had a class together at UCLA. And we had the same teacher who we loved. And he said you remember our class with Dr. Belt, Virginia Belt? She said it was all about domestic work. He said how can you take number the one of the number one exports of America, which is Baywatch, how can you take that show and produce it in Australia?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Because it was in Australia for

Greg Bonann: 

I was taking it there to cut costs. I said, I said Ben, were a 10th year show ratings are going down where I have to cut costs. I can't do it in LA, the unions. I blame unions a lot of the time. The truth is it was just the fact that our people had been on the same show for 10 years, you cannot have a successful show and not give people raises every year. The budget was just where it couldn't support anymore.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, and viewers get tired too.

Greg Bonann: 

And the ratings were going down. So I knew that ratings equal income. And if ratings or lower income is lower, you can't do it. So I was on my way to Australia. I really was. And that's where we did two episodes down there. And that's why Ben called and said, do not take that show. We will have you here in Hawaii. I said Ben, I cannot afford Hawaii. I said it's too expensive. A milkshake cost me double in Hawaii at Lapert's would it cost here? I said do I have? You can't do it. He said what do you need? I needed 6600 hotel rooms suite nights. I needed 500 round trip first class airfare. I needed 6600 rental car days. I needed a free studio. I needed $6 million in cash. I needed all this stuff. And there was no way Hawaii could do it. And he said what do you mean, there's no way Hawaii could do it? He said will you do a few things for me. I said what if there's a chance? Yeah. He said well, okay, I want you to call it Baywatch, Hawaii. I said done. Right. Yeah, that's done. That's the $6 million in cash.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

He said I want you to hire 60% of your people have to be locals, not Hawaiians. They have to be locals people that live here. I said done. And half of your and a percentage. I forgot what the percentage was but a percentage of your cast a third It has to be local, done. All the people you use here like the airline, I want to be Hawaiian airline, hotel, I want to be a chain here. I said done done and done. He said, okay, then this is a handshake over the phone, get to Sydney, come up here, we'll have you here. And I said, Whatever we agreed to here, you have to agree to for every year, as long as I choose to remain here. So you can't just give me all this for a year. Get me there, build sets, do all that and then say, you know, we can't do it. It has to be if I last 20 years, you have to do this for 20 years. He says done. I said, okay, we'll let our lawyers draw all this up. But you agree to work with me on the stuff we haven't thought of. And I agree to work for you, with you on the stuff you haven't thought of. And we make this work.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

And I said I'm on the next plane, I left Australia, never to go back because they were still dotting the I's and crossing the t's. And so I left. And they were really sorry. And I was sorry, I've made a lot of great friends down there still having. But Hawaii was our home for two years. And we had to deal with Hawaiian Airlines. We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, we used dollar rentacar. You can see I'm still plugging him right. And little did all of these sponsors know that we would end up doing Baywatch remastered on prime and on Hulu and then on Netflix

JOHN MOFFET: 

Oh, right

Greg Bonann: 

All around the world. 30 years later, their logos, their products, their stars, their tags at the end. They're all there for everyone to see in perpetuity how smart was Ben Cayetano to spend that money which he took a hit for. And the purpose of my hiring locals and the reason that I gave Jason Momoa a chance was because I had to. I had to.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Right your you had to have 60%

Greg Bonann: 

I had to live by my word. Yes, you had to live by my word. And by the way, we were the first show there since Magnum PI had left 12 years earlier. They had not one show, not one. And I walked into this into the office that Tom Selleck had. And I was fighting my way through spider webs. And that was our that was what they were giving us for free was the old Hawaiian film studio.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

Which we then made beautiful. But since we left, there has always been at least one primetime show in production in Hawaii, and I'm proud to say some of those people that I gave their first chance to are still working.

JOHN MOFFET: 

We've talked a lot about the legacy, the long lasting legacy of of Baywatch. And you have things in the works. There was a movie, was it about four or five years ago? Yes, there was there was a movie starring The Rock and Zac Efron, by the way.

Greg Bonann: 

Yes.

JOHN MOFFET: 

But one of the things that I know is one of the Baywatch legacies is something that's very close to your heart is a chance for children. And you spoke about that really briefly at the beginning. Tell me a little bit about that and why it's continued for so many years.

Greg Bonann: 

Well, thanks for asking and bringing it up. It's it is close to my heart. And it's something my wife and I, especially my wife, who's it's a it's her soul, and led us to our kids. And the foundation started as Camp Baywatch. It was something I talked about wanting to do.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

For a first couple of years and as you now know, I was busy doing the show.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

I could just talk about what I wanted to do until this young aspiring writer on our show came into my office who's now my wife said, I've heard you talk about this foundation you want to start you've done nothing about it. She says it sounds spectacular. You have all these resources. You have all these lifeguard buddies, you have all this infrastructure here. If you let me do it, I'll set it up and start it up for you.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And it's to help kids who otherwise

Greg Bonann: 

Teach inner city kids how to swim.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

Mostly minorities, Black and Hispanic kids how to swim. And the marvel for me was as a lifeguard, the kids I would rescue all day long on the weekends, were minority kids from the inner city, they only live 20 miles away, they maybe never been to the beach. So they lacked not only the opportunity, but they lacked the knowledge to protect themselves and to swim safely and to guys like you and I who love the water and spend our lives when you see a kid who's afraid of it. You go oh, that's been the water has been the key to my life and let's make you not afraid.

JOHN MOFFET: 

So, so balance. It's something that we all struggle with all throughout life.

Greg Bonann: 

I talked about earlier, I blew it with my first wife and I did not have any balance. I worked seven days a week. I thought that the goal of this balance was mutual. But my wife had more balanced than I did. She wanted days off with me she wanted time. But what I what I know now looking back on it is how uninteresting would life be if we never made mistakes, and just took everything for granted that people smarter than us and more experienced than us took it for granted and did it we would, life would be so boring, we would never make mistakes, because the failures in my life now are my trophies. The I'm willing to bet you wouldn't change much in your life, including your failures.

JOHN MOFFET: 

No

Greg Bonann: 

And you failed famously. And it wasn't really even your fault. It was a breakdown of your body. Right?

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, that's true.

Greg Bonann: 

You probably learned more from that. I hesitate to say it than a gold medal. But you probably learned more from that, over the period of years since then, then a gold medal. And I learned more from the failure of Baywatch in that first year than I learned in all of this success.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, my wife says that we probably wouldn't have gotten married had I won the gold medal because I would have been off

Greg Bonann: 

Life would have been different

JOHN MOFFET: 

Life would have been different, you know that you know how quickly peoples lives change

Greg Bonann: 

Would have been different. I'll tell you

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah, right.

Greg Bonann: 

You would never one of the early things I'm something I've also learned as people see me, and they see the mentoring a lot of kids into the lifeguard job. And the first Baywatch guy with all the success. And I struggle, especially with kids that I mentor of all the failure. thing I asked them, if you don't pass this year, what are you Because it's easy to see the success. But I've had enormous going to do? And the answer I'm looking for is I'm going to be failure over and over again, public, private, whatever, it's been a lot of failure. And if you gotta temper that, as a young person, looking at somebody like me or you with the success that we've had, if you only see that success, you can get discouraged really quick and really easy. And if you know that my road to success was a long road paved in failure stones. back and I'm going to take the test next year. And sure enough, they fail. And a lot of them don't go back and take it the next year.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well majority don't make it.

Greg Bonann: 

Correct, the majority don't make it. You're absolutely right.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So if you're going to quit at that the champions in the room, at a young age might say yay, one less competitor.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah

Greg Bonann: 

Right. When you're young

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yep.

Greg Bonann: 

Now I say bad. Because that instance of making it as a lifeguard, and not making it as a lifeguard and coming back, or learning to swim, as our kids do in the foundation. It's not just learning to swim, it's conquering a fear. And years later, it may be I don't want to ask that girl out, or I don't want to attempt to get this job, I'm just not going to try, I'm just going to fail. No, you learn to swim, you conquer the fear. You can do it with other things. And that's what we try and teach the kids when they learn to swim. Take this feeling of confidence of look, you went on Monday, you were scared of the water, on Wednesday, you're jumping off the diving board, and on Friday you're swimming on on your own. That's life. So if you're going to get discouraged, if you're going to take the lifeguard test at 17, 18 years old, and you're going to lose, and you're going to quit. Don't let that be the pattern for your life. Come back next year, train harder, than you tell the guy that's hiring you in the interview, you say, you know, I was here last year, and I didn't make it. And I might not make it this year. But if I don't make it this year, I'll be here next year for sure. I want that guy who's used to failure which is swimming, which is sport, which is life, which is balance. Nobody wins all the time. Nobody fails, all the time, you're going to have enough of you know, there's more failure than success. You just gotta realize that. But there should never be to lower lows and to high of highs. Everything's got to balance

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well said. You know your life story. And I know it's a cliche to call it this. But it truly is epic, what you've done, what you've been able to accomplish, the influence that you've had on not only those who you've been able to touch personally, but the entire world through Baywatch. And telling the stories of you of like yours is the reason that I do Sports + Life + Balance. So thank you so much

Greg Bonann: 

Oh, please, this was a pleasure.

JOHN MOFFET: 

And and I want you to finish up with something that we talked about at the beginning of our conversation and that was looking at your life and what you've been able to accomplish thus far. What, what does it mean?

Greg Bonann: 

Oh, gosh, you're a good writer, you start, you end where you start. What it all means to me is that it's a constant learning experience, life is learning. When you're done learning, you're probably done. So if you can't learn our new technologies, our new way of doing things, you're not going to succeed, or you're not going to be happy. So, I have learned that what what a career and longevity in life everything means to me is that I'll never stop learning. That I'll never stop giving back because if I'm learning stuff from people, right now, most of my mentors, my mentors are younger.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Wow.

Greg Bonann: 

Right. Because my older mentors have passed away.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

So I think it means to me to keep learning, keep open, keep teaching others keep giving back. And I'll be happy.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Well, thank you for opening up your beautiful home.

Greg Bonann: 

My pleasure

JOHN MOFFET: 

It's amazing chatting with you. And you're

Greg Bonann: 

My pleasure. It's a cloudy day and it's still beautiful.

JOHN MOFFET: 

It is it is it is always beautiful. Whether, whether or not the ocean is grumpy, or whether or not it's happy and placid or angry. It's just like life, right?

Greg Bonann: 

Is it is it's a reminds me of of the comments I used to get when I'm lifeguarding. I was just be sitting there with my feet up on the rail, watching the water, and some person would come up and say to me, you know, you've got the greatest job in the world. And, and they're right, I would always answer right. Why would a TV show about the greatest job in the world not be on TV?

JOHN MOFFET: 

It makes all sense. It all makes sense. Yeah.

Greg Bonann: 

It does, doesn't it? It seems like a no brainer now, why it was so hard for those ten years. But it's been great. And thank you for having me on the show. Not only is it great seeing you again, but I really admire this new venture of yours. You're obviously in the philosophy of learning new things, new things, bringing your old things into new and us learning how to transition those into a new way.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Absolutely. Well, thanks again, Greg.

Greg Bonann: 

My pleasure, John.

JOHN MOFFET: 

Needless to say, I could chat with Greg for hours and hours. A few days ago, he asked me to leave you with this favorite quote that he attributes to Tim Tebow. And it goes like this, Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. And Greg went on to tell me that he learned at a very young age that there were many, many talented people around him, and that if he wanted to distinguish himself from them, that he better work hard. If you'd like to revisit your favorite Baywatch episodes, they're streaming now on Amazon Prime. And while you're there, you might want to check out the Baywatch movie starring The Rock and Zac Efron. I'm John Moffet and thank you for joining us for the season three premiere of Sports + Life + Balance. If you've been inspired like I have, please take a moment and give us your five star review. And do me a favor, share this episode with a friend. Enjoy your week everyone.

INTRO: 

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Greg Bonann Profile Photo

Greg Bonann

Baywatch Creator + LA County Lifeguard

Greg Bonann is an American lifeguard, television producer, director, writer, and showrunner. He is best known for co-creating the internationally syndicated television series Baywatch, which ran for eleven seasons, and was listed in the 2001 Guinness Book of World Records as the world's most widely viewed TV series.