From Tampico to Television

By Amy Forman

Published September 24, 2015, issue of September 24, 2015.
As his semi-autobiographical book is set to become the basis for a new TV show, Marblehead author Dr. Irv Danesh is among the authors to speak at JCCNS’s Jewish Book Month.
As his semi-autobiographical book is set to become the basis for a new TV show, Marblehead author Dr. Irv Danesh is among the authors to speak at JCCNS’s Jewish Book Month.

Even in a life full of unexpected twists and turns, Irv Danesh never thought he would be wondering which actor will portray him on television. But that is a question that he and his wife Fanny have been thinking about as his self-published book, “The Loco Life of Doctor Taco,” moves forward toward becoming the basis for a new television sitcom.

The energetic, engaging and funny 59-year-old has had a colorful career, starting with attending medical school in Tampico, Mexico, in the late 1970’s after he found his grades weren’t good enough to be accepted to medical school in the States. The Brooklyn-bred doctor went on to work as an emergency room physician at Lawrence General Hospital for 23 years, and moved his practice 13 months ago to the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center.

His entrée into the world of entertainment occurred after a chance meeting at a wedding in LA, when an acquaintance asked for help with a screenplay involving the practice of medicine. The affable Danesh agreed. That screenplay turned into USA Network’s successful “Royal Pains” series about a concierge doctor on Long Island. As a producer and consultant for the series, the multi-talented and high energy Danesh provided medical background and learned about the entertainment business behind the scenes, even while he continued his stint as ER doc on weekends.

“With lots of time in the writer’s room, I trained myself with Final Draft, and helped to write segments,” said Danesh, who added that he loved the writing, but appreciates being in the more active environment of the emergency room.

After his role with “Royal Pains” ended, Danesh tried his own hand at writing, starting first with a screenplay about his unusual medical school experience.

“It was a horrible screen play,” said Danesh unabashedly, “and in Hollywood, trying to get your screenplay read as a non-writer is impossible.” So he decided to turn it into a book.

“The story is a fictionalized version of me,” said Danesh. The characters are based on his cadre of friends from medical school, most of whom were Jewish, like himself. There was also one Palestinian student and several Eastern European students. Their escapades were epic, and the humorous book includes episodes involving scamming, smuggling, prostitution, grave robbing, alligator hunting and dealing with drunken professors. He won’t say what is truth and what is fiction. “Writing it was like therapy,” he said with a laugh.

Along his two-year writing process, Danesh had help from local writers Ellen Frankel, Ellen Garfield and the late Michael Palmer.

“It is a fantastic, supportive arts community on the North Shore,” said Danesh, who added that three of his four sons are involved in artistic endeavors. One is a screenwriter, one is an animator and comic book artist and one is an actor. The fourth is a trauma technician at a hospital and plans to apply to medical school.

In response to the ultra-competitive nature of book publishing, Danesh ultimately decided to self-publish his novel in 2014. So when he got a call that Hollywood was interested in his book, his first question was “How did they even hear about it?” The answer? “Goodreads!” said Danesh, explaining that a producer was looking to create a new show based on a “Scrubs” template and searched the popular site for books with a medical theme. The rights to his book have been sold, and Danesh recently got further confirmation that the show is on the way to becoming a reality. Once again, Danesh is poised to serve as producer and medical consultant.

“I am exceedingly excited. It is finally all coming together. This is the best news ever,” he said. “The very thought that the main character [based on me] is going to be played by some actor is cool.”

Dr. Irv Danesh will be among the local writers at one of the Jewish Book Month events sponsored by the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore. See below for a full listing of all of the Jewish Book Month events.

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