RANDOM PIC OF THE WEEK
As I was just going to bed this week, this is the amazing sunrise I saw out my window. Stunning!
At the “Puppet Up!” show, the Henson Studios do a fantastic recreation of the famous “Java” routine that was done back in the early days by Jim Henson and Frank Oz. Obviously that song has been in my head all weekend! Here’s the original by Al Hirt!
Monday the 20th – HACKED FACTS – It was one of those days where I had to be up at the “crack of dawn” (for me, anyway) for another session. I was back at L.A. Studios to do some more work in the animated feature I’ve been working on for several years. The script received another rewrite so the actors were back in recording some new lines. On the way there I called the credit card company that provides my corporate credit card about some Mary Kay cosmetics that inadvertently showed up at my door. Two problems..1) I never have packages delivered to my house, and 2) I don’t use Mary Kay cosmetics. I e-mailed the lady whose name was on the packing slip (the sales rep) and she assured me that the cosmetics were ordered using my credit card. Lucky for me they were sent to the billing address and not the shipping address that somebody provided. So when the un-ordered cosmetics arrived at my house, I knew something was up. Sure enough, the person at the credit card company read down the list of charges that had been made on my card over the past several weeks. Thousands and thousands of dollars-worth of stuff had been ordered from on-line businesses on my card! He also told me that it was used several times on American Airlines (I’m guessing it was used in-flight for drinks and meals, as they never check for ID in-flight). I thought the irony of that was amusing, considering that I’m the voice of American Airlines. So get this, the person who owned the credit card this thief was using illegally, was the same person giving them their safety instructions on the overhead announcements!!! They probably had no idea it was the same person when they were on the flight! The credit card’s fraud department assured me that all the illegal charges would be handled accordingly. When I got to my session at 10:30 I spent the first hour literally napping in the lobby. They were running behind and didn’t need me until about 11:40. I worked until 2:30 and then was on my way over to my pal Jim Ojala’s effects studio to pick up my Tony Clifton silicone mask (the wig was being stitched directly on to the mask) and have him make a slight alteration on my trigger mechanism for the Oscar the Grouch puppet I’m making. Little by little I’m getting this finished. I got home and did some work, had dinner with friends, and then came home to nap. When I got up I wrote out Wally’s Week. I didn’t have any auditions, because Monday was the MLK holiday.
Tuesday the 21st – VAC FACTS! – At noon I met my pal Croix Provence at Jerry’s Famous Deli for lunch. I met her on the recent movie shoot I did, and she’s very interested in Voice Over work. She’s managed several Voice Actors for convention appearances in the past, so I wanted to pick her brain for our upcoming Voices Against Cancer event coming up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on May 27th. As I put together the operating protocols for the event I wanted to pick her brain about ways to accomplish certain things. After our lunch I went to my local UPS store to mail back the Mary Kay cosmetics that were sent to me because of the person who hacked my credit card. On the way into the store, I saw my old pal Michael Reagan; son of President Ronald Reagan. We used to see each other in the hallways at Premiere Radio Network all the time when he was doing his syndicated talk show and I was doing radio comedy. He’s a really nice guy, and the first thing he always asks when he sees me is, “How are the folks?” My parents have met him several times and he really likes them. (But then again, most everybody who has met my parents DO like them!) I drove home and worked all afternoon on the protocols and procedures for the VAC event, and enjoyed the cloudy, gloomy day. I spoke with my pal Dr. Doom back in Sioux Falls, my co-producer on the VAC event, and we chatted about a lot of things. I did some auditions, and then made some spaghetti and watched “The Mod Squad” before bed.
Wednesday the 22nd – A PUPPET REVELATION! – I enjoyed the gorgeous day off by walking over to Panera to meet my pal Edi for lunch. I picked up a few things at CVS, and then walked over to the hardware store to get some tiny nylon washers for my Oscar the Grouch eye mechanism. I went back home and did some more writing for the VAC protocols and procedures, and then took a nap. When I awoke I had a revelation about the Oscar the Grouch eye mechanism I had been working on. The little trigger mechanism I had made, based on a toggle bolt, was going to need a level, even pull on the back to make the eyelids frown. Because of the angle that the trigger mechanism moved from upwards to downwards position, I didn’t think I would be able to achieve a level pull. While I needed a straight “up and down” pull to manipulate the eyelids, this mechanism was back when it was up, and forward when it was down; something that clearly wouldn’t work for my purposes. So the device I had literally spent half four months working on, simply won’t work for my needs. Rats. So I went back to the drawing board to re-invent something new that would work. I had a ton of auditions, so I spent several hours recording those. I drove to Denny’s to get some food to go, and watched another “Mod Squad” before bed.
Thursday the 23rd – MY RING…MY PRECIOUS! – After giving it some careful thought, I realized that the original Oscar mechanism was probably nothing more than a small ring that went around Carroll Spinney’s middle finger so he could raise and lower the eyebrows that way. It’s so beautifully simple! I had spent months overthinking the process, when it was all so simple all this time! Instead of a spring-loaded mechanism like a toggle bolt, the finger ITSELF would work as the spring – manipulating the eyebrow mechanism up and down. EUREKA! Now to find the perfect O ring that could be tied into the wires leading from the back of the eyelids! The hardware store had NOTHING that I needed, so I went to Kit Kraft and found a few things that could work. Then I started thinking about just making a suitable O ring out of wire myself that would work nicely. I haven’t decided how I’m going to do that yet, but I’m giving it some more thought. It was a gorgeous day for a walk, and when I got home I started working on the Oscar eyelids. I put armature wire on the eyelid forms and attached them with strips of leather and Barge glue. I sanded the edges of the eyelids so they would be nice and smooth. I ended up making two pair of Oscar eyes, a “pull-tab” system with wires running through the eye pieces and around the outside front of the pieces, and a “mechanical” system that involved only bolts, nylon washers and nuts to move the eyelid pieces. I may make two Oscar heads (the foam part of the face is the easy part) just to see which one works better. I took Roxy over to Paty’s so we could get a late lunch, and I could go to my mailbox and pick up my sampler books that had come in from Shutterfly. My attorney will be going to Toy Fair this February to discuss my kid’s book and toy project, and I wanted her to have plenty of sampler books to hand out while she was there. As Roxy and I sat on Paty’s patio, I heard the Julian Lennon song “Too Late for Goodbyes” on the overhead sound system. It brought back good memories of when I did a parody of that song for the “Dr. Demento Show” called “Too Late to Get Fries.” During the chorus I quietly sang to myself, “Well it’s much too late to get fries.” I got home and had a lot of work to do. I needed to bring my big ladder up from the garage to dust the top of my video cabinet, fix the antennae on my Ant Man helmet, and replace a bulb in my upstairs lighting system. It was a lot of work, but when it was all done, it was very satisfying. I did a bunch of auditions, and then took a nap. When I got up I dusted my video cabinet and put the ladder back downstairs. I fed the kids, cleaned up for the maids, and hit the hay.
Friday the 24th – LEG PROBLEMS! – My maids were due at noon, so I got up just before then and walked Roxy out in the courtyard of our complex. One of my neighbors said her husband was having trouble standing up and she wasn’t strong enough to help him. She asked if I would assist. I had another neighbor take Roxy back to my house and I went in to help. I got him lifted up into a rolling chair and then headed home to let the maids in. The mail came and my credit card statement arrived. I saw all of the $7,000+ worth of charges that had been charged to my card by the thief who hacked it. $4,000 had already been forgiven by the credit card company, but there were still another $3,000 that had yet to be removed. Later in the afternoon my buddy Nick Simon and his son Henry came over for a tour of Planet Wallywood. Nick is a successful writer and director who also hails from South Dakota originally. When the left I did more work on my puppet eyes. When I got sleepy I took a quick nap on the couch, and then got up later to finish the puppet eyes and their unique mechanisms. I’m still thinking about ways to work the O ring into the system, but that will come later. I did some work around the house, made some hot dogs on the grill, and enjoyed another “Mod Squad” episode before bed.
Saturday the 25th – UP FOR ‘PUPPET UP!’- My pal Tuesday Knight and her mom met me for lunch at Jerry’s Famous Deli so she could offer advice on which of my headshots I should have retouched for agents and managers. Now that I’ve decided to endeavor more into the field of on-camera work, I need to have some good headshots to show around. I stopped over to Rusty’s to get some more supplements for Roxy. Now that she’s 11, she’s experiencing some back leg tremors and muscle weakness. I have an appointment to take her to the vet next week to see if there’s anything we can do for her to prevent that, or if it’s just old age. I went inside and fed the kids and got cleaned up for “Puppet Up!” Every six months or so, The Henson Studios in Hollywood stage an improv comedy show that’s hilarious. For an additional charge you can also get a tour of the legendary studio and meet Brian Henson himself! Each table comes with six chairs, so I bought the entire table for the 9pm show on Saturday the 25th when the tickets went on sale. Fellow Voice Actor Secunda Wood came by at 6 so we could carpool over to the studio in Hollywood with my friends Scott and Vickie Sebring. We would meet our friends Officer Mark and Miss Connie at the studio. We were all very fired up to see the show. It was pure magic being on that lot. It was started by Charlie Chaplin back in 1917, and then owned by Red Skelton, and then sold to A&M Records back in 1962. The recording studio on that lot was responsible for some of the greatest musical acts to come out of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. Peter Frampton, Pablo Cruise, Janet Jackson, Supertramp, The Carpenters, the Police, Captain and Tennille, .38 Special, Styx, The Brothers Johnson, Rita Coolidge, and more – all came out of that studio! Not to mention that the studio played host to the recording of “We Are the World” back in 1985! The Henson Company bought the lot in 1999. We were standing on hallowed ground for the creative spirit! The tours were running late, so by the time our group got the tour they had to rush it a little bit. So while we were able to get a picture with Brian Henson, we were rushed out fairly quickly because the show was about to start. The show was amazing as usual (you never see the same show twice!) and afterwards I saw my pals Drew Massey and Grant Baciocco. Grant had puppeteered in the show we saw, and while Drew performs in the show as well, that night he was there as a spectator. I got the opportunity to show Brian Henson something I thought he’d get a kick out of. Back in 1980 to 1982 I was puppeteering all around Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I had dreamed of being a Muppet Performer since I was in 5th grade, working hard to adopt their puppeteering style and their type of voices, and then later striving to master their building techniques as a young adult. I made several Muppet replicas that I would take around town and perform for kids in hospitals, parks, art shows – virtually anywhere that would have me! At 19 I got the idea to do a video as a class project to send as an audition tape to the Muppet organization called HA! (Henson Associates) in New York. I sent the tape along with several photos of my work to the company, but when an envelope arrived at my house with the bright green HA! logo on it, I thought, “THIS IS IT! MY JOB OFFER!” But what arrived was a Cease and Desist document from a lawyer named Steven M. Weinberg. Apparently they mistook my efforts as a copyright threat, and not an audition tape. Now mind you, I wasn’t making these puppets for any other reason than to hopefully gain a future with Mr. Henson and company. I didn’t make them and sell them. I used them to perform around town for charity events to gain the necessary experience I would need to move to the next level in my desired career. Being a scared 19 year old who didn’t understand what a Cease and Desist was, I didn’t reply. I just kept the documents as a souvenir and wrote off my dream of ever becoming a Muppet Performer. When I briefly explained what I had to Brian Henson, he started to chuckle. I believe he thought it was novel that I had kept it all these years. He looked at it and said, “Who signed it?” He turned it over to see the second page and saw the attorney’s signature and he said, “OH STEVE!” The scary attorney, who frightened a young 19 year old aspiring puppeteer with his scary C&D, was simply known to Brian Henson as “Steve.” Now I was the one chuckling. Oh yeah, Steve! The guy who single-handedly shattered the puppeteering dreams of a young Midwestern boy in the 80’s! Brian signed it for me and our group took off to enjoy pancakes at the local DuPar’s. Since the DuPar’s we used to frequent in the valley has long since closed, it sure was a treat to enjoy those fluffy pancakes again! What a magnificent evening! Reflecting back on the C&D I received, it was a totally different day back then. Today, you see people with their homemade Muppets all over the place on the internet, and sometimes they’re not using them very respectfully. You can easily go on eBay or Facebook and find any number of puppet makers creating Muppet replicas for sale on any given day. But back in 1982, a fuzzy-haired kid from South Dakota was their target. Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be, I guess. EPILOGUE: The funny thing is, while speaking with Grant after the show, we started talking about the great Stan Freberg. He had met Stan several times in his career, and I had worked with Stan many times on “The Garfield Show.” Grant told me that in the early days of the Muppets, Jim Henson and Frank Oz would “puppet sync” to Stan’s comedy records on TV. Stan had to send Jim and Frank and Cease and Desist letter (I wonder if Stan’s lawyer was named Steve too?) to prevent them from using his music and comedy tracks any longer. But Jim invited Stan to the studio for a visit, and after Stan fell in love with Jim and company all was forgiven. I thought that was a great story! Even Jim Henson himself got a Cease and Desist…from my old pal Stan Freberg! So I guess I’m in good company!
Sunday the 26th – I ONLY HAVE EYES FOR YOU! – Mid-afternoon, when I got ready for evening church, I was pretty darned tired. I drove over to pick up my “adopted grandma” Shirley for evening church, and then we went to Barone’s for some delicious food. I went home and went to bed for a nap. I was exhausted! I got up to do a bunch of auditions, and do some more work on my Oscar eyes. I DARE “Steve” to hassle me now with another Cease and Desist. I’d likely countersue on behalf of every cosplayer who ever attended a convention with a tribute costume, prop or puppet. I have more resolve than ever to make the Muppet replicas I want, and perform them anyway I feel. Though I’m too old to become a puppeteer at this stage of my life, building and performing them is a beloved hobby of mine. It always has been, it always will be. I finished up two complete pair of Oscar eyes with very different manipulation procedures. My goal is to make two different heads, and finish the one I like the best. I measured, measured again, cut, and sanded them so they’d be really to implement into the foam heads. I have one foam head that I’ve finished (though I’ll probably have to end up removing the toggle mechanism I built in favor of a simpler “ring” system) and I’m going to make a second one in the coming days. It’s quite easy to make the face portion, so it won’t be very difficult. I’m VERY happy with how this whole thing is coming out, and I hope to have Oscar ready in time for Wondercon in April! But I noticed that my voice was very rough, and I have no upper range. I think I ate before bed too many times last week and the acid reflux probably burned my vocal cords and inflamed them. I try to watch that, but sometimes I get lazy and eat before bed. BAD THING TO DO! You should never eat later than 3 hours before going to bed for this very reason. I guess I need to start being a little more diligent about this again. Whole grain cereals, oatmeal, apples, milk, yogurt, bananas, etc. – are all foods that are OK to eat before bed. But I was eating spaghetti, hot dogs, pizza, etc. last week before bed. No wonder my voice is rough. It will take several days for the inflammation on my vocal cords to completely subside. I have to get serious about this if I’m going to prevent this from happening again.
And how was YOUR week??!!
PIX FROM THE WEEK