For TV show fans who grew up loving the clashes between uber-conservative Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) and his hippie parents Steven and Elyse Keaton on "Family Ties," the sad news of "Ties" creator Gary David Goldberg's death probably also brought back one very happy memory: "Sit, Ubu, sit!"
Actually, the full quote was "Sit, Ubu, sit … good dog!" followed by Ubu's bark, as Goldberg used the sign-off tag on his productions to give a shout out to his Labrador retriever, Ubu Roi, who had not only accompanied Goldberg on his college adventures, but who had globetrotted with his future Emmy-winning owner.
Make that, the future Emmy winner and his then-pregnant wife, Diana. Goldberg and his spouse, two self-proclaimed hippies who bought one-way tickets to Europe after becoming disillusioned with their home country when Richard Nixon was elected President, traveled throughout Europe with Ubu, a typically sweet-natured Lab who also proved to be a goodwill ambassador for the couple.
"As far as hitchhiking goes, most people who pick us up, pick us up because of Ubu," Goldberg wrote in his wonderful 2008 memoir, "Sit, Ubu, Sit: How I Went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair." "Sometimes, they put us in the back and ask Ubu to sit up front with them. Those are his favorite rides. And I have to admit, he does know his role in those situations. He will give a paw when asked. Give a kiss. And on a long ride in a comfortable car he will put head in lap and allow himself to be adored and loved, complimented on the softness of his fur and the beauty of his eyes. Behavior I would come to recognize later in certain television stars I'd get to work with."
The photo of Ubu with the Frisbee hanging from his mouth — the iconic image we all remember from that Ubu Productions kicker — was taken near the Louvre in Paris, just before Gary and Diana decided to head back to the United States. And it's Goldberg's voice uttering the "Sit, Ubu, sit" catchphrase.
"I just thought, you know, I want very little distance between who I was that day, and who I am now," Goldberg said in a 2007 interview with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. "I just don’t want a lot of distance there. So it was really nice to have that logo to always remind you who you are."
Ubu, sadly, died in 1984, two years after "Family Ties" premiered on NBC, but he lives on at the end of every Ubu Productions series, including "The Brooklyn Bridge" and "Spin City."Oh, and yes, Gary and Diana were the hippie, Nixon-despising inspirations for Steven and Elyse. And, when their daughter, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, became an executive producer on "Friends," Goldberg wrote in his memoir, he would serve as inspiration for some of the "erratic behavior" of Jack Geller, Ross and Monica's dad, played by Elliott Gould.
A look at the "Family Ties" cast then and now:
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- Ubu Roi
- Ubu Productions