RANDOM PIC OF THE WEEK
A person I met recently at Siouxpercon showed me this shot his mom took of Adam West in costume as Batman. It was when I took him to Sioux Falls, South Dakota back in October of 1988 for an in-store appearance. The curly-headed guy in the gray suit is me, and the guy in the Navy blue jacket is my pal Dave. The lady standing next to Adam is my mom, and the little girl is my daughter Lacey. What a day that was!!! (The best thing about it? NO CELL PHONES!)
When I heard that Carroll Spinney, Muppet performer famous for bringing Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on “Sesame Street,” had passed away – I immediately thought of this famous scene from the movie “Follow That Bird.” I’ve been humming it (with a lump in my throat) all week.
Monday the 2nd – A WALK BEFORE THE STORM! – Mid-day I put on my walking shoes and exercise clothes and took a brisk walk down to the bank to make my final deposits for the year. It was a gorgeous day! Hard to believe it’s going to rain like crazy in a few days. But I wanted to get out and get some exercise before the weather had us all cooped up inside. I got some fried rice at Chin Chin and then headed home to enjoy a late lunch. I made some calls, answered some e-mails, grabbed a shower and then later in the evening, I napped in my bed for a short while. I got up around 9 to write Wally’s Week, do my nightly auditions, make a Chef Boy Ardee pizza-in-a-box, watch another episode of “Police Woman.” I’m looking forward to finishing the first season of “Police Woman” and then moving on to season 2 of “The Mod Squad.” The police force, as portrayed in “Police Woman,” is fairly inept. And more than once the lead characters have lost a suspect they’ve been tailing, which has ended up in the death of someone they’ve cared about. It’s hard to believe that they’re THAT incompetent! I also don’t like the flow of the show. There seems to be a fair amount of stretched-out filler during the show, but then the last few minutes of the episode seems so rushed; sometimes ending rather abruptly. I’ve found the show’s episodes to be poorly written, clumsily constructed, and sometimes very embarrassingly acted. There is no chemistry among the cast, even though the producers obviously tried to force it. It just seems very contrived. And I’m sorry, but the weak link seems to be the lead character in all the aforementioned ways. I won’t be getting the subsequent seasons, as I’m just not engaged in this show at all. And there are TERRIFIC guest stars. In this particular episode it featured Patty Duke and John Astin! Can’t go wrong there! But compared to shows like “Starsky & Hutch,” “Baretta,” “Mannix,” and others, “Police Woman” is mostly a misfire. It’s one of those rare instances when I’m watching a season of a show, and I really can’t wait until it’s over and done with. Very often this show has literally made me angry. Not good.
Tuesday the 3rd – PASSING OF A FRIEND! – The first part of the day I drove to Pure Imagination to do some more voice work on an animated Lego adventure. Lots of fun! Then I drove to a special effects shop in Burbank called Alex in Wonderland to pick up my Oscar puppet. My intention was to finish building the head now that an eyebrow mechanism had been attached to it by their staff. I stopped by my box to pick up a new floor lamp I ordered from Amazon and then headed home. I got a text that my friend Dorothy “D.C.” Fontana had passed away. She was one of the best sci-fi writers of all time, and she held the mantle of being the BEST female sci-fi writer ever (if you’re one who subscribes to attaching gender to accomplishments such as that). She and her husband Dennis had been to my house many times, and they were occasional guests at my Saturday night movie nights. I knew that she hadn’t been well for a while, but it’s still never easy to hear that a friend has passed away. My thoughts immediately went out to her husband Denny who had to be hurting badly. I started planning some ideas for commemorating our friendship at this Saturday’s movie night. I enjoyed some “Christmas Nappies” on “The Most Comfortable Couch in the Universe,” and got up later to do some auditions.
Wednesday the 4th – EVERYTHING FALLS APART…! – At noon I met with my pal Ron Chaney (as I call him – grandson of the Wolfman, and great-grandson of The Phantom of the Opera!) to talk about some exciting ideas we’re putting together for the upcoming Monsterpalooza in May! Since our group had just watched “The Man of A Thousand Faces” starring James Cagney a few Saturdays ago at movie night, I asked him a lot of questions about what was fact and what was fallacy in the screenplay. He told me things about the Chaney family that I had never heard before and it was fascinating! But just as luck would have it, as I was wrapping up with Ron, I looked out the window and saw Dorothy Fontana’s husband Dennis walking into the restaurant. I gave him a hug and told him how sorry I was to hear about Dorothy. I told him to call on me if he needed anything. I drove over to Foam Mart to get some more foam rubber to finish my Oscar the Grouch puppet, and then I went back to Alex In Wonderland to have something repaired on the eyebrow mechanism. The little finger loop that was attached to the metal trigger had come unglued. But as we sat and talked about the puppet, I realized that we were still fairly off base from where I wanted it to bed. So I think we’re going to go back to the drawing board and do some redesigning before we continue on it more. I’d like to come up with a way to make the trigger for the eyebrow mechanism a little more comfortable for my hand. The way we had it designed now wasn’t very practical. I went to my box and picked up a few packages, and I took my lamp in to have it shipped back to Amazon. As I was assembling the supports the night before, a metal bracket snapped off. Since it was one of the metal brackets that are used to anchor the support pieces together with a screw, there wasn’t much point in keeping it. It was virtually “un-assembleable!” But Amazon is sending me a replacement soon. I went to the vet to get some more food for Spook, and then I went home to do an hour-long phone interview for a podcast. Over the past month I’ve been transferring personal log audio files to my computer in real time, due to a corrupt memory in my digital audio recorder, and I finally finished up with the last of the 95 files I had to transfer! Whew! It was a long, hard road. I’m starting to get a complex! A lot of things that come into my life seem to fall apart or break. The corrupt memory on my recorder, the finger loop on my puppet mech, the metal bracket on my lamp…Sheesh! Is it me???!! I had a headshot session scheduled for Thursday afternoon with my pal Scott Sebring, so I spent a good couple of hours going through my closets picking appropriate clothes. Now that I’ve decided to expand my ambitions into the on-camera world, I need to start with a good set of new headshots. As a Voice Actor exclusively, there was never much need for typical headshots. The last batch I took was back in 2009 for my website. But it’s time to update the pictures. I assembled a small kit of utilities I would need for the shoot; hairspray, comb, lint roller, etc. – and ironed and steamed some of my clothes to get the wrinkles out of them. I also sat down on the internet and started pulling good pictures of Oscar the Grouch that we could reference during out redesign process. I want to make a replica so good that it looks like it came off the “Sesame Street” set. With luck I’ll have him ready for the next comic convention. After a long day, I finally hit the hay.
Thursday the 5th – SHOTS OF MY HEAD! – The beginning of the day involved doing a few last-minute auditions before I started the prep for my headshot session. I got my hair styled, threw my wardrobe changes in the backseat of the Mustang, and headed off to MUD (the Make-Up Designory) in Burbank where my pal Scott would be taking the shots in their photo studio. I’ve had many headshots taken in my career and it’s amazing how some protocols have changed over the years (they used to be black and white and printed on paper – now they’re color and only sent digitally). In the “early days” they were just shots of your head – no other parts of your body were shown. But now they’re more relaxed with that, and it’s acceptable to show your shoulders, arms, torso…even hands! After shooting close to 300 images, we called it a day. I think we got some good stuff. Another difference with taking headshots today versus yesteryear, is that you can see how they look immediately on a computer monitor! Back in the day you shot on film and didn’t see your results for several weeks; after they came back from the film processor. I went home and fed the pets, and then went to Jerry’s Famous Deli to meet my pal Sara for dinner. I got home and showered and grabbed a quick session of “Christmas Nappies” on the couch. When I got up I did my auditions, did some work around the house, went to Denny’s to get some food to go, and watched another episode of “Police Woman.”
Friday the 6th – RAIN RETURNS & REINVENTION! – Though the skies were cloudy around noon it hadn’t yet started raining again. I met with my agent Brittney for lunch at Vito’s Pizza in Los Angeles. I gave her a thumb drive with all of my headshots on them, and we enjoyed chatting on the patio as it started to pour rain. What a nice day! Though it was raining like crazy, it was still a fairly warm day. On the way home I got some groceries, and then went home to put them away. I also started sketching ideas for a reimagined Oscar the Grouch eyebrow mechanism. I’m starting completely from scratch, and while the main idea is sound, I feel we got too far away from the original concept. But I’m in no hurry to get him done, so I’ll take all the time I need to get it right. I took some “Christmas Nappies,” got up later to do some organizing around the house, and then went to bed for good around 7am Saturday morning.
Saturday the 7th – SEASONS SCREAMINGS! – At a candy store called Sweet! in Hollywood they were doing a one-day Dark Christmas pop-up market that I wanted to see. Since going into Hollywood can be challenging, especially on a Saturday during the Christmas season, I decided to just take the subway in and check it out. It was a lot of fun, and it seems that a lot of people like having a “fright” Christmas. I came back home and did some work around the house to prepare for movie night. We’d be running an episode of the original “Star Trek” written by our friend Dorothy Fontana that set in stone the canon for Spock’s parents and upbringing. It’s a masterful work, and hard to believe she wrote that when she was only 28! We all signed a card for her husband Dennis, and then watched a movie called “A Dog Named Christmas.” After everyone left I grabbed a nap on the couch, got up to feed the pets, and then crashed on the couch again until early Sunday morning. Then I got up and went to bed. I needed the sleepathon!
Sunday the 8th – SAD, SAD SUNDAY! – When I awoke I got the word that Carroll Spinney had passed away. Though he wasn’t a friend per se, I considered him one because of his work as Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. EVERYONE who grew up on “Sesame Street” considered him a friend. It’s odd that I had been studying pictures of he and Oscar intensely for the past few weeks now in my quest for creating an Oscar replica. I had met him several times at various autograph shows and found him to be as delightful as one would imagine. In my late teen years I collected one-sheet movie posters, which I could buy at my local movie theater for a buck. Even though money was tight at the time, I knew that their value would only increase throughout the years. Since I loved the movie “Follow That Bird,” I bought the two remaining one-sheets the theater had in stock. I brought both of them to Carroll’s table to have him sign them. As I unfolded the first one to have him sign his eyes lit up. “OH! The studio was going to send me one of these but they never did!” he said. Without hesitation I said, “Well I have two of them, so it would be my honor to give you one.” He said he couldn’t accept it, but I insisted. Seriously, of all the places that one-sheet could have gone to live, it definitely belonged in the home of the movie’s star! He thanked me profusely and said, “Leave me your address, I’ll send you a little something.” I left him my card but never expected to hear anything further. I was totally shocked a few months later when an autographed and personalized postcard arrived thanking me for the poster, along with a little cartoon Carroll did. He was true to his word! Before I headed to church, I remembered that I had a few bags of yellow feathers from about 40 years ago when I attempted to make a replica Big Bird head and neck. I went down to my storage and found them! I quickly sewed a single yellow feather to my Kermit the Frog cap and headed out. I decided as a memorial to Carroll, that I would wear a yellow feather each day for a week. Wouldn’t it be cool if the whole country had “Yellow Feather Day” in commemoration of his amazing work? After church my ‘adopted grandma’ Shirley, Roxy and I went to have dinner on the patio at Paty’s. Roxy loves going there because she always gets some grilled chicken as a treat. On the way to take Shirley home I grabbed a few more grocery items, dropped Shirley off, and then headed home to do a few auditions. I fed and walked Roxy, made some stew, and then hit the hay to be up early for a session on Monday.
Despite being a fairly sad week, it was a pretty good one. And how was YOUR week??!!
PIX FROM THE WEEK