For the past 13 years, Ashland High School graduate Shirley (Jackson) Johnoff knew that her husband's stories as a youth probation officer were worth telling, and Hollywood seems to agree. Carl Johnoff's self-published book "The Powder Blue Negligee," which contains fictionalized vignettes of Carl's experiences as a youth probation officer, so impressed an executive at CBS, that he had an agent seek the Johnoffs out to work on developing a pilot series.
Just before the Ashland Public library doors opened on Monday, Shirley and Carl Johnoff surprised the Ashland Public Library with a copy of "The Powder Blue Negligee." For branch manager Amy Blossom, the timing couldn't have been better. Later that day, the library hosted a presentation with Rhoda Maxwell on how to self-publish books, and Blossom was able to share the Johnoffs' story with local writers.
"We had 35 people, and they were just thrilled," Blossom said.
"It was so timely because they came in that morning," Blossom said, "I had no idea they were coming in, so it was exciting."
"She's the actual reason all of this happened," Carl Johnoff said about his wife, "It's not possible for me to say 'no' to Shirley."
The book is a combined effort for the Arizona couple. Although the book tells Carl Johnoff's stories, Shirley helped Carl write the book by typing his handwritten notes and made sure everything in the manuscript was consistent and well organized. She was also a major source of encouragement throughout the process, Carl Johnoff said.
"My wife, who is the absolute dead-center of the universe for me, said, 'Look, those are neat stories,'" Carl Johnoff said.
The Johnoffs published the book in 2008, and in May the couple received a call from Richie Kern of the talent agency William Morris Endeavor explaining that a CBS television executive had read his book and the network was interested in developing a television series based on "The Powder Blue Negligee." According to Carl Johnoff, CBS had spent years searching for material to use for a series on probation and parole without luck. Executives have also given the book to producer Shawn Hayes, better known for his acting role as Jack McFarland in the TV series "Will & Grace."
"He's going to be the producer of my series," Carl Johnoff said about Hayes.
While producers in Hollywood rush the pilot's development for a planned fall premiere, the Johnoffs enjoyed a visit to Ashland to attended Shirley's daughter's wedding in Lithia Park.
The couple stayed with Shirley Johnoff's lifelong best friend Mary Morris at her Valley View home.
"We both graduated from Ashland High School." Shirley Johnoff said, "Our mothers were both friends in high school, and they graduated in 1941, and we graduated in 1965."
Shirley Johnoff's father owned three service stations in the Ashland area from the 1960s through the 1980s. Her father's first station was what is now the Astro 76, later he purchased the Shell station on Lithia Way, and finally he purchased what is now the Texaco station with the car wash.
Shirley Johnoff admits the Ashland she grew up in has changed. She remembered playing in an open field near her childhood home on Normal Street, and tried unsuccessfully to find it during this latest visit.
"It's nice that Ashland's grown, but we miss the local farmlands," Shirley Johnoff said. "Nothing looks the same."
There's much Shirley Johnoff still loves about Ashland, and she was glad to see many old buildings from her childhood.
"The Mark Anthony is still there," Shirley Johnoff said, referring to the Ashland Springs Hotel, and she was also happy to see that the Varsity Theatre was still around, but overall she was impressed that Ashland remains a beautiful place.
"It is beautiful," Shirley Johnoff said. "Even though it's very crowded compared to what I grew up with, it's gorgeous, gorgeous!"
The trip was the second visit for Carl Johnoff. The wedding took him to Lithia Park for the first time, but he says it won't be the last.
"We're going to buy a small motor home and visit quite a bit," said Carl Johnoff. "This whole area is just totally incredible."