Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Thank You, George Carlin

George Carlin's perspectives started working their way into my psyche as soon as I first saw him on Carson when I was a kid. He made sense just where I needed it. His humor brought a distinct enjoyability to life that still motivates. He divined the springs of our thinking and the causes of our sense, nonsense and, most important, anti-sense.

When I was twenty, I was a writer for a weekly radio show produced by Drake-Chenault, the fathers of syndicated radio. The head writer knew how I felt about George Carlin so she sent me to interview him when "A Place for My Stuff" was released. I was studied at acting calm, cool, collected, LA, but experiencing the escalation of excitement of being in the room with the man who had legitimized the tiniest crevaces of wonder in my mind completing synapses I never knew had fired - it made me grasp at my thoughts, sometimes missing - for fear of appearing to be in the awe I was in up to my chin.

I had to pause the tape recorder half way through when my pretending calm had driven me all the way to distraction.

I admitted nervousness.

"It's okay, be cool," he said. I shook it off some, gave an apology, "not needed," he said, so a laugh, and I pressed record again to ask about concerts, albums, projects and processes, with a little talk about his recently going public about the coke problem, but without dwelling on it. "It's not news anymore," he said, "I'd rather talk about the new stuff."

George Carlin talked to me like a friend, he and I and our glasses of water in that PR company's office in Beverly Hills that day. At the end of our appointment he let me bring the interview to a close. He got up and walked me to the doorway. I thanked him again for the interview and he held the moment a bit longer and told me syndicated radio had been an early enemy. "They put local radio comics like us out of business."

"They did?" I said.

"Replaced us with automation. Some guy goes in pushes a button - no more small town DJ's. I used to wear a t-shirt in those days, it said," (he spoke the font and moved his hand across his chest to show where the words went), "'F*** BILL DRAKE."

"I never thought about that part..." I said.

And George Carlin said, "Well, now ya know!"

He had met the unwitting envoy of his old nemesis with absolute kindness. The hyperawareness of his persona that had me awestruck fell away, and in that moment I saw him for who he was - same as portrayed on stage and screen - simply a good guy (and clever genius).

"Do you still have the shirt?"

"I'm sure it's somewhere..." he said.

1 comment:

JohnO said...

I knew you would write one about George Carlin. Nice memoir.

By the way, Alligator and Crocodile, coming right up.