Saturday, March 05, 2016

The Gary Files # 23: Gary Kurtz

(Taken from this page.)

An explanation: Since the name Gary is going extinct, I thought it incumbent upon me to celebrate more notable Garys than myself.  This is the twenty-third of a series!

Gary Kurtz is, according to the Wikipedia, "an American film producer whose list of credits includes American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), The Dark Crystal (1982), & Return to Oz (1985)."

When did you first become aware of him?  I told you I was a credits reader!  I saw his name in the credits for all the Star Wars movies

Did you know, when you were a kid, what a producer did?  Nope.

Do you now know what a producer does?  I think it depends on the producer, doesn't it?

I don't know.  I don't know what a producer does.  Oh, I thought you were trying to trip me up

Why would I do that?  I don't know, it seems like the sort of thing you'd do.

It is?  It would make the interview more fun, you know, maybe, just to say "aha!" every once in a while.

Oh I'd never do that a friend!  Right, but, you know, it's this interview format.

We're friends, right?  Uh.  I mean, you ask me questions once a week, I answer them.  I think our relationship is more - for lack of a better word - professional.

Oh.  What, did I hurt your feelings?

No, no.  It sounds like I hurt your feelings.

No, I'm fine.  Let's just get on with it.  Was his name really Gary?  Apparently so.

Born in 1940.  Probably named after Gary Cooper?  I would guess so.

I think we covered everything.  Yeah, not a lot to talk about with a producer.  Hm.

Would you like to get a drink or something after this?  Uh - I'm going to dinner with my wife, actually.

I understand.  Sniff.

Oh for fuck's sake.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Self Help Radio 030116: Let's Pretend

(Original image here.)

Pretending to do a radio show is something I did way before someone foolishly let me behind a microphone.  I suspect that that's true for many people.  I used to love to watch WKRP In Cincinnati & daydream of being in that tiny booth spinning records all day long.  I never had two turntables at home - but Dr. Johnny Fever & Venus Flytrap were so unconcerned about their own radio shows that, once they'd started a record & got off the mic, they rarely cued another record up right away, which is generally what deejays do.  How I wish I could be that carefree behind the board!

Guess what?  I don't have to pretend anymore - I am sort of almost kind of a deejay a little.  Now, I've never been paid for this work (& if I had, it's a guarantee that someone would be asking me for their money back), so I am glad to accept the title "amateur."  But it's leaps & bounds away from pretending.

Not to cast aspersions on pretending!  Holy smokes, it's what this entire show is about!

You can listen now at the Self Help Radio website.  Though the songs might've seemed like pretend, they were as real as music can be.  The show is in two parts; what I played in each is listed below.

Maybe the show is more fun if you pretend to listen to it?

(part one)

"Let's Pretend There's A Moon" Fats Waller & His Rhythm _1934-1935_
"The Great Pretender" Stan Freberg _Capitol Collectors Series_
"Pretend" Carl Mann _The Legendary Sun Records_

"Let's Pretend" The Raspberries _Overnight Sensation: The Very Best Of The Raspberries_
"The Great Pretender" Brian Eno _Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy)_
"Just Pretend" Department S _Is Vic There?_
"Let's Pretend" The Cannanes _Frightening Thing_

"Love Is Just The Great Pretender" Animal Nightlife _Love Is Just The Great Pretender_
"Let's Pretend" Cinerama _Disco Volante_
"Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits" The Magnetic Fields _69 Love Songs_
"Pretend" Girlboy Girl _Fresco_

"You Pretend To Be The Moon" Future Bible Heroes _Memories Of Love_

(part two)

"Pretend Not To Care" Crippled Pilgrims _Down Here (Collected Recordings 1983-1985)_
"The Young Pretenders" Red Sleeping Beauty _Soundtrack_
"Just Pretending" My Dad Is Dead _Pet Sounds Volume One - A Benefit For Alter_

"Pretend To Smile" Le Futur Pompiste _Your Stories & Your Thoughts_
"Pretending Part 2" Tiger Baby _Lost In You_
"Trying To Pretend" Vivian Girls _Share The Joy_
"Pretend To Be Brave" BOAT _Pretend To Be Brave_

"Pretend It's Love" The Postelles _...And It Shook Me_
"Pretend & Descend" Magic Bullets _Magic Bullets_
"Pretend That We're Smart" Candyaudioline _Summer Escape_
"Pretend Girlfriend" Spray _Children Of A Laser God_

"Pretending To Be Drunk" Sparks _Pulling Rabbits Out Of A Hat_

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Whither Let's Pretend?

(Original image here, of all places.)

Confession time: I loved to pretend when I was a kid.  My pretending would sometimes involve other people - in fourth grade, for example, I was such a huge comic book nerd that I organized all of the kids who, like me, didn't play soccer (geeks) into different members of the Legion Of Super-Heroes.  But more often my pretending involved me & me alone: I would spend hours with my Star Wars figures, & whatever other fully-posable action figures I had, making elaborate, episodic stories up &, if I had the time & space, using entire rooms to do so.

One fond memory I have was, for some reason, being alone in my mother's boyfriend's apartment, which was full of weird things an unmarried middle-aged man might collect, & bringing all my action figures (& vehicles, & structures, & whatever) over, & spending the afternoon telling an hours-long, star-spanning story.

Though I loved science fiction, I loved super-heroes more, & I hardly ever used any particular action figure as the character it was supposed to be.  More often than not, I'd make a masked character - like a Stormtrooper - the super hero identity of a non-masked character, like a Han Solo.  The Stormtrooper might be a hero called Cloud Man & the Han Solo would be its secret identity. & I would incorporate whatever toys I had around - legos, Fisher Price characters, whatever.

Naturally, I have no idea what the stories I made up were.  I'm sure they were borrowed from whatever comic book I was reading at the time.  But damn did I have fun.

No promises can be made about a Self Help Radio show about pretending, however.  It's on from 4-6pm today on 88.1 fm in Lexington + online at wrfl dot fm.  Lots of music, plus visits from experts of all stripes.

It would be fun if you listened, but given the show's topic, I'd be all right if you just pretended to listen.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Preface To Let's Pretend: A Brief History Of Gary's Acting Career

Pretend is what actors do.  They pretend to be fictional characters, or real people who have existed, or other species, space aliens, gods, demons, even anthropomorphic versions of non-human creatures.  & of course most everyone wants to be an actor.  It seems like such fun!

Certainly I thought I'd be a good actor.  I could memorize stuff!  & I took "Theatre Arts" in the ninth grade.  Despite the fact that the teacher was a terrifyingly rotund basket case who spoke way too much about her personal life, I persevered.  I thought I had it in me.

The school had a thespian group, I don't remember what it was called, & I joined.  An early triumph was an "improv" exercise in which I, just by constantly throwing myself back onto the stage, got allowed to do "improv" at a rival school with two old actors & someone else from my grade.  I was terrible at it.  I wasn't funny & I didn't know what I was doing.  But try telling me that!

Auditions for the first play of the year, which was The Serpent - whether it was the Jean-Claude Van Itallie play or not I couldn't say - were a disappointment, though I stuck it out with the club.  I landed a minor role in the spring play, which was Mother Courage (!).  But the new co-drama teacher planned badly, & we young "actors" were constantly standing around, arriving on nights in which we were scheduled to rehearse to discover that the previous night's rehearsals were still going on.  I lived at the time very far away from the school, & despite having a large family, I often found myself walking home at eight o'clock at night, getting home an hour later, hungry, tired, angry.  I quit.

Looking back, I wish I hadn't.  I was improbably self-important.  But I said goodbye & didn't get involved in the theatre arts at my high school again.*

Until.  My friend Terri, who happened to be the person with whom I did the "improv" stuff three years earlier**, & who stayed the course & starred in many of the school's performances, encouraged me to audition for the fall play of my senior year.  It was The Crucible (the oddball drama teacher who wanted kids to do Brecht having been run off after her second year).  I got a similar role as three years before - about three lines.  Still bizarrely self-important - & perhaps remembering how much time it would suck up - I declined the role.  I think I hurt Terri's feelings - perhaps she went to bat for me with the drama teacher who had other kids who deserved a chance (because, you know, they were in the classes & the group) more than I did.

But Terri's feelings aside, that decision I don't regret as much.  & while I discovered that I couldn't put on the one-act Woody Allen play The Query during the talent show, because each act was limited to five minutes, I did get to play several roles in our senior English project, which was an examination of power using texts we had read that year, using as a framing device a made-up children's program called The Mister Professor Show.  I was the title character, & I wrote most of it, although there was improvising aplenty.  I also played (an incomplete list from what I can remember) Hrothgar from Beowulf, Creon from Oedipus, Joseph the servant & Linton Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, & Lady Macbeth from Macbeth, in which I wore drag, & played her like Blanche in Streetcar.  This performance is actually saved on videotape, although it's not that good.  I know, I've tried to get people to watch it.  Mainly they're freaked out to see me in all my high school whatever-it-is-that's-the-opposite-of-glory.

There was one great bit.  One of the girls in our group - I think her name was Jenny - had a bunny suit she wore as Grendel.  When Beowulf (played by a fellow named Kenny) slays Grendel (off screen), he emerges with the bunny suit, telling the camera that he killed Grendel.  We used the same gag when Macbeth was killed - Macduff (possibly also played by Kenny) comes in with the bunny suit announcing that he had killed Macbeth.  I thought that was pretty funny.

After that - not a lot of acting work for me.  I was involved with a girlfriend's performance art in college, & was in a "trailer" a friend at work made to try to get funding to make a movie, but once I got into radio, that was my performance "outlet."  & if you ponder how terrible I am at that, you can imagine how bad an actor I would be!

Interestingly, the radio would lead me to my last acting opportunity.  A few years back, some kids at WRFL approached me while they were making a film (the finished product would ended up having most of the people at the station at the time), telling me I'd be great as the lead's dad.  It kind of broke my heart to realize that, yes, I was now old enough to be cast as someone's dad.  But I was flattered enough that I said, sure!  I went one night to a disgusting efficiency near the university &, in three hours, filmed a scene that takes up about twenty seconds of screen time.  & I was not good at all.  It was sobering.

The filmmakers didn't edit the movie - it's three hours long - because I think they feared disrespecting all those who contributed by cutting them out - & they haven't "released" it, either - but seriously they could easily cut my part out.  It's dreadful.  The film could then by two hours fifty nine minutes long!

Such is the history of Gary pretending as an "actor."  Ah well.  I can still pretend to be a reasonably good deejay on the radio!

* A fun note: when I went to see the play, I discovered all three of my lines (which I of course had memorized the first night) were not given to anyone else, but were shouted from off-stage.

** We didn't become friends then - I was kind of a dick to her during the "improv" show we did at the other high school.  It would take being involved in something called Whiz Quiz in twelfth grade to make us friends.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Cradle To Grave, Episode Thirteen

Lucky episode thirteen. I'm not in the slightest superstitious (which is remarkable, because I was raised by a woman whose religion is superstition), so I wasn't going into this episode with dread.  In fact, I don't regularly number my radio shows (ie, this is Self Help Radio episode three hundred nine), so it doesn't usually come up.  Why am I number these shows?  I think it might be because I eventually hope to do 365 of these - one for each day of the year!

This week's show was bittersweet for me, because I had to play & talk about two people who are real heroes to me: Leonard Nimoy & Mister Fred Rogers.  I took their deaths pretty hard back into the day.  What's weird is that my heroes the easiest people to program - you know, because I know their work backwards & frontwards.  It would've been nicer, though, if I were celebrating their birthdays - & they were still alive.

The show is available now at Self Help Radio dot Net.  You can listen to it on your birthday.  But maybe not on the day you die.  I think you'll have other things to worry about then.

Here's what's on the show.  Enjoy!


"Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child" Marian Anderson _Softly Awakes My Heart_
"Down Hearted Blues" Mildred Bailey & Her Alley Cats _The Ladies In Blues_
"Love For Sale" Elisabeth Welch _The Ultimate Elisabeth Welch_
"Junk Man" The Spirits Of Rhythm _1933-1945_
"Brown Sugar" Doc Cook & His Dreamland Orchestra _Freddie Keppard: Legend_

"Stack-A-Lee, Part 1" Archibald _The Complete New Orleans Sessions 1950-1952_
"Bon Ton Roula" Clarence Garlow _Let Me Tell You About The Blues: Texas - The Evolution Of Texas Blues_
"(Everytime I Hear) That Mellow Saxophone" Roy Montrell _Mardi Gras Blues_
"Hesitation Boogie" Hardrock Gunter _Hillbilly Boogie: Crazy Bout The Boogie_
"Singing The Blues" Guy Mitchell with Ray Coniff & His Orchestra _The Best Of Guy Mitchell_

"Sugar & Spice" The Cryan Shames _Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era_
"Mony Mony" Tommy James & The Shondells _The Best Of Tommy James & The Shondells_
"Do Something To Me" ? & The Mysterians _Mindrocker: Anthology Of 60s US-Punk Garage Psych, Vol. 11_
"Make Me Smile (Come Up & See Me)" Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel _The Best Years Of Our Lives_
"(Forever) Live & Die" Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark _The Pacific Age_
"Three O'Clock In The Morning" Dexter Gordon _Go_

(death anniversaries)

"Highly Illogical" Leonard Nimoy _Two Sides Of Leonard Nimoy_
"Dr. Ben Basey" Micky Shorr & The Cut-Ups _Dr. Ben Basey_
"Australia" Spike Milligan _The Spike Milligan Collection_
"I Laughed" The Jesters _The Best Of The Jesters_
"I Put The Bomp" Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers _It's Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers! Essential Recordings 1955-1961_

"When I'm In My Tea" Jo Jo Adams _Jump Blue: Rockin' The Jukes_
"Congo Beat" Saka Acquaye & His African Ensemble _Gold Coast Saturday Night_
"Psychedelic Train" The Chosen Few _Don Letts Presents The Mighty Trojan Sound_
"Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)" The Temptations _The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 11B: 1971_
"The Breaks, Pt. 1" Kurtis Blow _Say It Loud! A Celebration Of Black Music In America_

"You Ain't Heard Nothing 'Til You Hear Him Roar" Sons Of The Pioneers _Blue Prairie_
"Tightrope!" George Duning _Television's Greatest Hits, Vol. 4: Black & White Classics_
"Surfin'" The Orlons _Everybody's Goin' Surfin'_
"Girls Don't Count" Section 25 _Always Now_

"Nighttime Sounds/Tree, Tree, Tree" Mister Rogers _Bedtime_