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News / Life / Entertainment

Miller moves from TV to ‘Doorman’

By Chris Hewitt, Star Tribune
Published: March 30, 2024, 6:04am

MINNEAPOLIS — Glenn R. Miller thought he would go into retail, then swerved to soap operas and Twin Cities Public Television; and now he’s a doorman. Or rather, the author of “Doorman Wanted.”

A comic novel that doffs its hat to master humorist P.G. Wodehouse with its interest in class differences and its sly, sophisticated wit, “Doorman Wanted” is the first novel for Miller, 64. The Minneapolis writer’s debut has been in the works for more than a decade but he buckled down after retiring, in 2020, from video and production firm MillerHale Associates (in which he partnered with wife Jocelyn Hale, former executive director of the Loft Literary Center).

A 1982 graduate of Carleton College, Miller was lured to suburban Los Angeles by a recruiter who hired him to help manage the finances of soap operas “Santa Barbara” and “Days of Our Lives” and game shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Sale of the Century.”

Shifting gears, Miller obtained a master’s degree in content creation at Northwestern University, then worked as a producer at a Green Bay TV station and Twin Cities Public Television before shifting to independent production.

None of which explains how he came to write about Henry Franken, a Manhattan man who inherits a pile of money. That embarrasses Franken, so under an assumed name, he takes a job as doorman at a building he now owns, L’Hermitage, moving (secretly) into its penthouse.

“I was never a doorman, nor have I ever lived on New York’s Upper East Side, but I’ve been there several times. I grew up in Edina, but actually graduated from high school in New Jersey, near New York City, and would go in all the time in the late ’70s,” said Miller. “I used to wander around all these neighborhoods I had been hearing about all my life.”

What interested Miller was not so much New York but the idea that money and class often lead to incorrect perceptions. Tenants of L’Hermitage make inaccurate assumptions about not just Franken but also at least two building residents who aren’t quite what they seem.

Franken functions both as a protagonist in “Doorman Wanted” and as a droll observer of the many characters in and around L’Hermitage. It’s not until he spends time with unhoused people who wander by his building that he understands they have vibrant lives he couldn’t imagine.

“I remember reading somebody’s obituary, a woman I had known of but did not know — she had been in a memory care unit along with my dad — and I read that she was incredibly accomplished and had had powerful positions in the corporate world and on boards and what-not. I remember thinking that I would see her there in the corner [in the unit] and I wish I had gone up and said ‘Hello,’ ” said Miller. “Time and again, I am struck by how I make incorrect assumptions about people.”

In the book, incorrect assumptions climax in farcical scenes. One is during a party that goes horribly wrong when Franken has to leave deliveries from several caterers in the hands of an incompetent coworker. Another is a rowdy meeting about turning a L’Hermitage space into a gallery that showcases unhoused artists.

Miller isn’t comparing himself to P.G. Wodehouse, who wrote many novels about a valet named Jeeves (including “My Man Jeeves”) but his book is filled with wry asides such as, “I had the good sense to suspect that lion-wrestling was an inadvisable activity at any point in the animal’s development, unless your name is either Siegfried or Roy, and, as fate would have it, maybe not even then.”

“I first discovered Wodehouse probably 25 years ago, kind of late to the game, and once I discovered him, I ate him up,” said Miller, who has taken classes at the Loft. “We have two grown sons and I love reading out loud — just this morning, I finished proofing the Audible recording [of ‘Doorman Wanted’] and I remembered reading Wodehouse out loud to our two boys, who were about 5 and 7, and they were sitting on the end of the bed, howling.”

The hope is that “Doorman Wanted” will lead to some howling, too. Miller wrote it for himself, so he could have a project that only required his approval, rather than the approval of a client. Putting it out in the world has been “scary as hell,” but early reviews from have been encouraging.

“I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to realize, ‘Oh, people are enjoying the story.’ You live with the thing for so long that you lose all perspective. I simply wanted to entertain people. I wanted to amuse them,” Miller said.