EXTRA! EXTRA! PASSINGS: Co-Founder of Writers Store in L.A. Connections (#21)

DANIEL DOUMA, 63, who co-founded the Writers Store in Los Angeles to provide software and computer help to screenwriters, died of cancer June 1 in Florence, Ore, said GABRIELE MERINGER, his life partner of 32 years.

Douma and Meringer opened what they called the Writers Computer Store in Los Angeles in 1982.  They transcribed scripts, sold personal computers and expanded into creating software that would allow scriptwriters to use early word processing systems.

The store, now in Westwood and owned by Douma’s son JESSE, offers software and other equipment for screenwriters, filmmakers and other writers.

Born Oct. 6, 1946 in Patterson, N.J., Douma was a singer and songwriter who was an opening act for FLEETWOOD MAC during the group’s Tusk Tour in 1979 and ’80.  He released a solo album in 1979 called “Night Eyes.”  Douma retired to Oregon in 2004.

I stopped by the Writers Store several weeks ago and spoke to Jesse Douma.  I asked about Daniel’s  health and Jesse said all things considered his father was doing OK.  It was common knowledge that Dan had cancer.  I said the next time you see your Dad please say hello for me.  Jesse said he would do that.

Too bad it never happened.  So, I’ll say hello and goodbye now.

The first “hello” happened back in 1982 in a tiny store just off Westwood Blvd., in West L.A.  It was a hole-in-the-wall.  I don’t remember how I found Dan, but I do know the circumstances that lead me to him.

I was desperately in need of a personal computer to use to write a screenplay that could follow the format accepted by Producers and the Studios.  My wife Marcia would re-type my script pages that contained my scribbling: additions, edits, re-arrangements , etc.  It was a bird’s nest of hieroglyphics that only she could figure out.

A few years before that I purchased an exotic word processing machine called the Exon Quik, manufactured believe it or not by the Exon Oil Company. For the life of me I can’t figure out the reason they were screwing around with a machine that had a 16-character display, big floppy disks, and required special schooling at their corporate offices in Century City, CA.  The enviroment and the problems caused by our dependance on Middle-East oil could wait — and wait.  The cumbersome machine set me back $8,000, and I never did learn how to use it to produce a properly formatted script page.

So my next adventure took place at the IBM store.  It was the time of those cute Charlie Chaplin commercials on TV.  I offered a salesman at one store a deal that I thought was too good to refuse.  I took a single page from s script I was working on to the store and said if they could show me a page that faithfully duplicated my sample script page, I would purchase the machine.  A week later I returned to the IBM store and the Salesman sheepishly said the IBM computer could not reproduce my script page.  I left the store very frustrated and with a feeling of overwhelming hopelessness.

I briefly looked at HP computers and even considered purchasing a Silicon Graphics Computer — the SGI Computer would have enabled me to create visual effects for “Terminator,” although formatting a script page by all accounts would have been impossible.

The trail grew cold and I didn’t think about purchasing a computer for a while.  I did purchase a nice used Royal office typewriter and it worked out quite well.  Of course, I realized the days of using a manual typewriters were numbered

Then, that fateful day I went down the steps and entered Dan Douma’s tiny store. He sold me a Televideo computer with 64K memory and programmed it to produced properly formatted screenplays.  The printer was a NEC spinwriter.  He came to my house to make sure everything was working.  Dan helped me enter the modern age.  Thanks, Dan!

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