Firezine News
Winter 1997/98

RHINOPLASTIC: The biggest news coming out of Firesign Land is that The Guys have signed a contract to release, in August or September, 2 CDs with Rhino records, who handled their early 80's product. The first CD will be brand new material that began scripting in early summer. The original working title was "The Mark Of Bozo" suggested by a former comment from Larry Harmon, the original Bozo the Clown. Several other titles have come and gone with the winds of inspiration: "Cool Shades In Hell", "Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death", "Unconscious Village", and "Radio Now", with Rhino favoring the later as a marketing ploy. From what our firespys can sniff up from our dogged snooping around the leaks from our favorite fireplugs is that the story takes place at a radio station with a constantly changing format, Radio Now, on the last day of the millenium. Ray Hamberger and Hal Hiphugger are back as the news anchors with a whole new cast of characters. The USPlus and Unconscious Village ads from the April Fools sessions have taken on an expanded role. The disc itself will be an enhanced CD that you will also be able to run in your computer's CDRom player to get video and graphics. It will also take you to a members-only web site as Peter Bergman's PYST does. When pressed for more details, all Phil Austin would say was, "Watch out for the guys in the eyeball hats."

NICK OF TIME: The second CD that Rhino is going to release is scheduled to be a collection of out-of-print Nick Danger material, tentatively titled "Nick At Night", supposedly drawn from "Case Of The Missing Shoe" and "The 3 Faces Of Al", with maybe a few surprises. A fall tour to support the albums has been planned.

VAULT MAINTENANCE: Speaking of CDs, 2 recent releases contain Firesign recordings not previously available on LP or anywhere else. Sony has put out a new version of "The Notorious Byrd Brothers" (CK 65151) that's been re-mastered with some extra cuts including an alternate take of "Draft Morning" featuring the 4 or 5 providing gunshots. Sundazed Records has a new CD of material also produced and recorded by Gary Usher (of "Waiting For The Electrician") under the guise of the group Sagittarius called "Present Tense" (SC 11053) that includes the Firesign from the Columbia 45 RPM of "Hotel Indiscreet" and a previously unreleased cut featuring Peter Bergman preaching on "Mass #586". This represents some of the first Firesign studio recordings: "Hotel Indiscrete" (5/24/67), "Draft Morning" (8/1/67), and "Mass #586" (11/6/67). Now if only someone would release the Chad and Jeremy album "Of Cabbages and Kings" featuring the guys on "The Progress Suite" we would have further documentation of the group's studio activities in the Summer of Love, leading up to "Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him".

AUSTINTACEOUS: Phil Austin has been very busy this summer. He gave a reading of his detective based material at a Mensa gathering in July. Ah Hell, let's let letters of Phil Austin put it in his own words!

HOLMES ALONE: Austin writes, "Well, the Mensa gig last summer was interesting. The convention attracts a lot of people who think they're smart because of ancient test scores and they're not a solid Firesign Theatre audience by any means. Oona and I drove down to Orange County and appeared before a much bigger audience than I'd expected. Their convention theme was Sherlock Holmes (The Owl of the Baskervilles, they called it) and so I read them pieces from all my detective stuff, Nick Danger especially, Ed Woodpecker, and I went so far as to rewrite the opening of Giant Rat with hindsite at the controls. Everything got a hugely good response. They certainly laughed at all the smart stuff."
     NICK DANGER: 'I took a hard left down Big Tujunga Canyon, then a right down Little Tujunga Canyon, then into Subatomic Tujunga Canyon. Hmm. A lot of cats down here. You couldn't exactly tell if they were alive or dead.'
"Cheap Shroedinger jokes, you get the story. Pushover audience. We had a good time. Thanks to Steve Pastis."

RHINO HORNING: Phil Austin continues, "As to the Rhino albums, there are indeed to be two of them. The Nick Danger album will feature reissues of "Three Faces of Al" and "The Case of the Missing Shoe" - at least I assume that's true, because Rhino is asking for them as part of our contract. We're much farther along on the Original Album, as yet untitled, no matter what you've heard. We'll begin to get in the studio on it in February. So far, so good. The material seems funny to me, but what do I know. Those who have heard of USPlus will be pleased or frightened to know that their octopus-like presence is being impressed on us. We're not in complete control of everything, you know. Help us.
"Both albums were supposed to be released in April (hopefully April Fool's Day), [that's been delayed] and we've heard as well that Sony/Legacy is going to release something from the First Four Albums coincidentally. This means that if we do a national tour we'll have support from two major companies and this is something Firesign Theatre hasn't experienced in well over twenty years."

TV GUIDE: PA says, "Just finished a treatment for a proposed series ala Northern Exposure called "Sinkers" for Frank Marshall here and just started another for a less comedic project in the sci-fi vein with Larry Ferguson at Sony."

YEAR VIEW MIRROR: PA concludes," '97's been an interesting year. Nice year, except for Oona's dad dying. He was ninety-one and had lived a wonderful life, so our feelings are ... we miss him and we're happy he's gone on. You know. Oona and I have been up and down the coast as usual. We camped at Organ Pipe in south Arizona, we camped in the Sierras and out on the far beach above Eureka, just south of the Oregon border. We were on Fox Island for March and some of July and all of August and half September. I built a new woodshed and got a roof on my ancient shake-roof workshop. Oona refurbished our boat, painted the bottom and got our ancient boat trailer painted and derusted. She had a huge Pillsbury muffin job in July up there for a director named Gary Noren, whom she likes a whole lot. (For the Weird Food Stylist Job award of the year 1997, though, get her to tell you about the epic Pork Council [the Movie]).
"As for me, Ed Woodpecker takes up more work than I thought it would originally. It's getting vast. One more chapter to go. It's going to end out on the bridge. Why is everything bridges lately? Oona's dad Barney shot the Galloping Gertie Bridge going down, one of the two or three most famous, most seen, pieces of film ever shot IN HUMAN HISTORY. I often think that the Old Detective is my kind of idealized version of Barney. He was a hell of a guy. I wrote his obituary for the Tacoma News Tribune. He made the front page, the bottom third with a great picture of him holding his old 16mm camera.
"What else? ... Have made huge strides forward lately on my Christmas story that I've been dithering with for two years called "We Three Kings of Tacoma Are", and as well a strange story called the "Tower of All Locations". Working on "Beaver Teeth" as much as I can."

LOS ANGELO MYSTERIOSO: Peter Bergman has been performing his latest one-person show "Survive The Millenium" at various venues and business conventions across the country. (See review). Bergman is enjoying the fruits of his Apple Master appointment, a Powerbook 3400, and he is using it to transcribe the writing sessions for the new Firesign Theatre album. Pete wants you all to hot link over and take a byte out of his new Apple Master's website and read from the tree of knowledge how he feels about Mac machines. Check it out here. Here's a sample:
"I'll tell you why I think I'm funnier with a Mac - it is because the Mac is so fast and easy. It allows me to edit and take all sorts of chances when I word process. I don't have to worry about trying to figure out, 'How am I going to find this file?' If you're an archaeologist or one of those Mensan nerds that just loves difficult puzzles, then Windows is for you because those things come up and really, you might as well be reading Assyrian. In fact, I think Windows was originally coded in Assyrian. That's just my own feeling - I can't prove that.
"In fact, they probably should have sent the PowerBook 3400 to Mars - they probably would have gotten better images back. It is a marvelous device. I must admit, being someone who is predominantly a word processor, I don't put it through everything it is capable of doing. But I love running full-color video on it, along with the fact that I can hot-swap the floppy disk with the CD-ROM. The screen is gorgeous and the ergonomics of the keyboard are superb. I work on it all the time and I have yet to enter the carpal tunnel.
"As a game designer, I have a lot of very large files sent to me by modem. There's a good modem in the 3400 - it means I can bring those things up on the screen and manipulate them at high speed. That to me, in the production or designing of a game, can mean hours and hours that I can waste on other, more useless activities. I can watch the Tour de France, or I can meditate on a hill, or do anything equally interesting instead of having to sit in front of my computer, waiting for the processor to come around."

EVEN MORE PYST: Bergman's CDRomp "PYST" featuring Ossman, Proctor and John Goodman has been very successful, selling over 200,000 copies. Bergman is following this up with a new game. "I'm busy working on "Driven", which is a takeoff on the Miller brothers' "Riven". It will debut soon. I'm also involved with the group producing the new Firesign Theater album, which will also be released as an enhanced CD - it will fit into your regular CD player, but you will also be able to run video and graphics off the disk. It will also take you to a members-only web site. We don't have an agreed title yet. We're close but we're still in discussion. It's not the "Mark Of Bozo", we do know that. We're right in the middle of the last of our writing sessions. We're very interested and involved in New Media. When the Firesign Theater started in 1968, people said, "Gee, you're 20 years ahead of your time." That sounded good to us, except that's quite a gap to live through! And now, indeed, I think we are suffering a Renaissance because what we did then in pure audio is now called 'new media'. There were no pictures, all the movies were in your mind. Now, we have to put the movies on screen. That's what we're doing with the new album."

OSSMANIA: David Ossman has been very busy this summer gracing the Whidbey Island Center For The Arts, in Langley, WA with a full season of plays and appearances on stage and radio waves over station KSER 90.7 FM. All performances were produced by Judith Walcutt for Otherworld Media featuring sound design by Wayne Newitt who also has been developing "Comedy On Hold", a telephone answering machine service featuring Planet Proctor and the satellite Firesigns. For 7/25-26/97 Ossman brought up Phil Proctor and Melinda Peterson to perform in his "George Tirebiter's Radio Follies". The performance was a howling success that was recorded and will be released as a limited edition signed and numbered CD. (See ad) Also on the program was the Ossman written and directed Tirebiter 1954 movie-for-your-mind "New Mexican Overdrive". Following the Saturday performance Ossman DJ'd his continuing Audiola presentations at 10 o'clock across the street at the Five 10 Bar and Grill, celebrating Phil Proctor's birthday. Otherworld presented on 8/22-23/97 a Radio Noir comedy mystery broadcast double bill live on stage, "Food Crimes" written by Judith Walcutt and David Ossman and "The Adventures of Mr. And Mrs. North" recreated from an episode script originally broadcast 1/26/1944 over NBC. Ossman appeared in the latter as Jerry North. 9/12-13/97 saw and heard Ossman adapt and direct "American Shorts" a classic comedy triple-bill featuring Edith Whaton's "Xingu", Ring Lardner's "Haircut", and "Additional Dialogue", Scenes from Hollywood, by F. Scott Fitzgerald and George S. Kaufman, which David also appeared in. Ossman performed with 4 time Emmy Awarded Micheal Learned in the A. R. Gurney play "Love Letters" at the Whidbey Island Center for the Arts 9/25-28/97.

RADIO OSS: Ossman helped conduct a radio theatre workshop in MPLS, MN at the University of MN's Fitzgerald Theater this summer for the Twin Cities Radio Workshop, directing and performing for a 6/21/97 live radio broadcast of George Tirebiter hosting an entire evening program. "George Tirebiter's Radio Follies" was not broadcast but 6 other short plays were, including "High Moon" by Jerry Sterns featuring David as Marvin, a gunfighter style wizard, and "The Collapse Of The 20th Century Was So Gradual" that Ossman directed. He hopes to return this year. For information contact executive producer Jerry Sterns A cassette was released of the broadcast. Your Freditor attended the performance and was allowed to sit-in on one of the workshop sessions. Tune in a future issue for a full report.

NETTED: Otherworld Media also did a World Wide Webcast of Ossman's "New Mexican Overdrive" 7/17/97 from Ruppert's Restaurant in Seattle's Pioneer Square with an all-star local cast.

A DOG'S LIFE: Ossman> also managed to squeeze into his busy schedule a staged reading of the 2 act play written and directed by Richard Evans, "Sliding Dog" featuring a 6 person cast with David as Sidney Baum 9/7/97 at the Bayview Studio Theatre in WA.

TURKAMAN: Ossman's favorite group Little Jack Melody & His Young Turks, who have appeared in several of DO's productions, have released a new CD "My Charmed Life" (31026) on Carpe Diem Records that features his voice on "Samba Ordinaire".

BUGGED: The great Oss has spoken, "I did a third day on "A Bug's Life" for Pixar when I was in Los Angeles. That's all going very nicely. Probably another day on and Phil's group will also be called back in to do some of ADR for it. My part is Cornelius, one of the Ant council who work with the Queen of the Ants, and that's Phyllis Diller. As it develops they've given Phyllis Diller and me a thing. It's all tracked separate times but I thought that was very funny as we've had a couple of associations in the past."

MARKED FOR LIFE: Ossman also made some appearances as Mark Twain. Again, words from the mouth of Dave, "The Mark Twain thing was a job I did in the first week of December and that was a stretch of 11 performances in 4 cities. It was very fast. I was one of 8 Mark Twains touring the country that week for CNA Insurance celebrating their 100th anniversary. Mark Twain arrived and gave them a kind of history of their company down through the century, in his own inevitable way, which of course I didn't write but did ad-lib into a little bit. This was really industrial acting, as industrial as it gets, entirely inside the office buildings. Those who produced the show, which was like a corporate productions company, were really wonderful with everything worked out in great detail. I enjoyed myself and it was not anything stupid. Then I got to play Mark Twain. As a matter of fact I'd gotten the job because I had been able to play Mark Twain before and could send them some tape. I had the white suit, no make-up. Each Mark Twain had his own district. I did Denver, Houston, Dallas, and somewhere else that I can't even remember where I was."

ALBUM NOTES: Mo' fro' DO "Pretty much my time's all been focused on the album. We're pretty close to being 3/4 written. The first half , which is a half hour, I think, in running time, that's done. We'll be back at work, maybe in the studio, later on in the first week of February. So it's going very well. You'll be glad to know that Hal and Ray are back. I always like Hal and Ray to be back, they need the work, after all. The album will be, the structure of it, it's Radio Now, it's the last day of the 20th century on Radio Now with all the Radio Now regulars. There's Bebop Lobo, who's the anchor man, Happy Pandit up there in the traffic helicopter, Danny Vanilla who's the celebrity hog, the paparazzi guy, and Peter is Chump Threads, the sports guy and we have Hal and Ray, Hal Hipphugger and Ray Amberger with the news. So that's the Now news team. So the stories are told through the radio and that's really the world of the album."

PROCTOROLOGY: Phil Proctor has been so busy it's hard to keep up with all his activities, so here's some samplings of what he's been up to since our last issue, in his own words. Let 'er rip. Phil Proctor: "We had a wonderful meeting with Rhino. We're very confident. We're obviously going to get excellent support. We will not be releasing until July or August, and hopefully touring in September, or something like that. All that is getting realistic. We also are committed into going into the studio in the beginning of February for at least 3 days and started the album "from the top" at noon 2/4/98. By 5pm had finished "Unconscious Village" ad opening. Darth Foley was verrry busy, and Uncle Dave found lots of sound stuff in the generous dumpsters in back. Took pictures and electronic snaps. Got to play the theramin!!! Bob Wayne and Sunburst are a great place to work.
"We've got about 10 and a half minutes already, and it's amazing. RadioNow lives! (It's the Millenium, stupid!) On February the 23rd David Ossman arrives for a day of writing and then more studio. Used my daughter Kristin [recently arrived from Norway, auditioning for theatrical school] and Melinda on two pieces, by the way..."

RADIO WAVES: Proctor writes, "I had a lot of fun on Raechel Donahue's "Desert Island Disk" on KCSN Radio; and if you missed the broadcast, check out www.station2000. You'll hear something amazing in the second half of the show. Although we had no idea what was going on in Vegas, I improvised a bulletin that in an extremely bizarre incident, unprecedented in the history of the sport, Tyson had been disqualified in the third (actually between rounds), when he propositioned the Ring Girl. (Wish we'd said "after biting the Ring Girl on the butt!") Nevertheless, it was still a shock when we heard the real news later that evening."

SQUASHED BEATLES: PP continues, "On July 19th, my friend Martin "Portsmith Sinfonia" Lewis, hosted the last Beatles show to be broadcast on the "All Beatles Network" on KGIL-AM here in Los Angeles. It was a fantastic real radio event and I was honored to be included in the star-studded roster of celebrities who paid their homage to the greatest group ever. Naturally, I mentioned the "Marx/Lennon" album in my all too brief remarks. Callers and in-studio guests included, Weird Al Yankovic, Tom Arnold, Slash (from a Las Vegas Pinball convention, laced with uncensored obscenities), Drew Barrymore (who praised the Beatles' sense of humor), Kathy Bates, Martin Landau, Janeane Garofalo, Lynn Redgrave, Bill Maher, Michelle Phillips (calling from her bed) and - Sid Caesar (who named his daughter "Michelle")! What a show! At about 4:57 the live broadcast ended, followed by three minutes of silence before the format of the station changed to - All Broadway and Movie Music!"

FUNKY: Again from Phillip, "We were away performing in two shows as "Funnk and Mundaigne" and others, in "George Tirebiter's Radio Follies", written and directed by David Ossman at the South Whidbey Island Arts Center off the Seattle coast, which were recorded for rebroadcast locally on KSER, 90.7 FM, sometime in the fall, and possible future syndication as part of David and Judith's Otherworld series. By the way, Melinda got the lion's share of the exit applause for her spirited portrayals - but after all, she is a Leo. The weather was perfect, and we stayed at a totally charming B&B called the Pine Cottage, surrounded by towering trees topped by an eagle and overlooking some dazzling strait. Funnk & Mundaigne stayed at the Old Alcohol Plant in Port Hadlock. "

GAME BOY: Phil continues on, "I'm still working on rewrites for the Internet game project pilot and will soon be working on the development and marketing of a wacky "strip" show in the spirit of "J-Men Forever" and "Hot Shorts".

PAGE BOY: ...and on, "Had a great visit with Firezine Publishing Lord Fred Wiebel."

HOLD THE PHONE: ...and on, "David Ossman, Wayne Newitt and I have been developing a pilot to replace MUZAK when you're waiting "on line." It's called "Comedy on Hold" and if you'd like more get info, there's an e-mail Our first ad will be in the September issue of Teleconnect."

COLLARED: ...and on, "You saw nondenominational priest Proctor trying to marry Rod Elcard to Justine Bateman (or someone like her) on "Men Behaving Badly" until Rob Schneider has a change of heart. It was a lot of fun to shoot - Ron and Rod, the director, Michael Zinberg, and the production staff were all surprisingly genuine, creative, professional and kind."

DO NOT PASS 'GO': ...and on, "I've been directing "Go" - a rich character study by fellow Antaen, J.D. Cullum, for a showcase of comic acuity called "I Know You Better than I Know Myself." It stars J.D. and the evening's talented producer, Emily Chase, at the Court Theatre on La Cienega."

TOPPED OFF: ...and on, "I performed the role of the voice of Forgo, the brother to the mad Greek chef Yorgo (played by Second City's Steve Carell) on "Over The Top" starring Tim Curry and Annie Potts. I'll be doing character voices on the "Rugrats Movie", and voice work on Steven Speilberg's Dreamworks film "Amistad". I interviewed for several roles in the "Babylon 5" film and received a call from my agent asking if I could return the next day and "read for a non-speaking part." I was working that day, so I offered to phone it in... I will not be appearing in "Babylon 5, the Movie."

PERIPHERAL VISION: ...and on, "My gig as host of the NewMedia magazine InVision Awards at the beautiful 750-seat Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, was an unbridled success. The international audience was composed of the crumb de la crumb of new media minds, with the Gold Award nominees sharing the stage with me, rising from their tables to receive trophies. I enjoyed improvising throughout the evening and poking gentle fun at the proceedings, while the audience seemed to particularly enjoy a parody of the popular programs of the new millenium, which I read from a futuristic, shiny copy of the DV Guide, noting that on NBD, we still had reruns of "Cyberfeld," on CDS, "Chicago Hoax," where robotic surgeons removed your brain in the privacy of your own entertainment center; and "ER" was still running too, but now it stood for "Erzatz Reality." There was also the "Tech's Files", horrifying stories of how nerds, propellerheads and dweebs were worshipped like gods. And "Clone Improvement" with Tim Alien; Kelsey Avatar in "Phaser", "Un-Cybill" starring Cyber Shepherd and a film on BGN, (the Bill Gates Network), featuring a digitized George Burns downloaded to do a "bit" (I mean as a "byte") in "Oh, God -- Oh, Gates," the story of Mr. Bill's reign as Digital Dictator of the Computerized States of America. On the All Nude Network, there's "Up All Night" with Lara Croft; "Saturday Not Live" is still on, with the original motion-captured cast headed by C.D. Chase; and finally "Monday Night Football" on ABD -- the Greenbay Hackers versus the Palo Alto RAMs. Afterwards, Hal Josephson, Executive Director of this year's three-day festival (and loyal Firesign booster) led us across the way for champagne and a hands-on demonstration of the Bronze, Silver and Gold winners, chosen out of 810 entries. I was particularly intrigued by Dreamworks "Neverhood" which presents a smoothly interactive and comic claymation fantasy and the classy and informative "Les Impressionistes" from France which also won "Best of Show." As my new Ozzie pal and festival judge, Richard Heale pointed out, it was a tough decision. As I said, "How does one choose between "History of the Holcaust" and "Pepsi World...?" Next year, the entire Firesign may perform Shakespeare's long-lost interactive comedy "Anythynge You Want To", at the old same place..."

NURSE ME: ..and on, "Melinda Peterson was the nurse in "My Father's House" at the Seven Angels Theater at the Hamilton Park Pavilion in Waterbury, CT starring James 'These Boots Were Made For Stalking' Farentino."

SHELL GAME: ...and on, "Melinda and I were featured in a radio episode of "Buddy Shell, Metaphysical Private Investigator" with writer/director Terry Miles and meta/co-creator/producer Steve Carlson, recorded for a March broadcast before a very live audience at Borders Bookstore in Thousand Oaks. I played comic villains Harry Gantz and "the King", both of which will later to be unmasked as one bad dude with a helical personality. Harry is "a flaming anus with a bad sinus and is more or less a walking accident. The King is, well, Elvis, as a vampire." Melinda had an hysterical scene as Lavendar Hepburn (played as a Marilyn Monroe clone) selling her soul for a Sundown Records contract and then essayed "Councilwoman Moustakas" - a role for Margot Mundaigne, if there ever was one. Buddy Shell broadcasts regularly at 11:30 pm on KCLU 88.3 fm in Ventura county and 102.4 in Santa Barbara county. It was also videotaped for future broadcast on Falcon, TCI & Com-Cast leased & public access television, covering Malibu, Westlake, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Moorpark & Simi Valley. The folks at Borders were knocked out by the show and are negotiating for more. And if you want more, try:"

MINI SODA: ...and on, "I have also been invited by Jerry Stearns to host the Easter Weekend Minneapolis Regional Science Fiction Minicon (which attracts some 3500 participants from April 10th to the 12th) to present the "Mark Time Award" created by Jerry, David Ossman and Richard Fish for the "Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year" Other events will include the traditional opening night live radio show, which this year is about two inept wizards (played by guess who?); a nostalgic performance of the parody "MidWestSide Story" as produced originally in '74, with Dave and I providing a zany time-travel wraparound; and participation in a panel on "Comedy in Fantasy and Science Fiction." There'll also be a fantasy art show, a costume masquerade, a fantasy shopping mall (called The Hucksters' Room) and many presentations, exhibits, displays, discussions, and autograph sessions. For further info, contact Jerry at"

VOICE OVER AND OUT: The busiest mouth in Hollywood takes a deep breath and exhales, "I'm doing several voices for Disney's "Tarzan" due summer of '99 (Captain, pirates, apes, a major elephant character, etc.) and an opening sequence in "Atlantis" (all in Viking Norwegian) due later. Did voices for "Sphere" soon to be out. I did a funny CBS promo (in Swedish overdub) for Walker Texas Ranger. Also fake Russian for "THREE" new series last week.. Watch for it. Melinda and I are playing roles in a reading of "Puntila and His Man, Matti" by Bertold Brect, a very funny and sardonic play which takes place in Finland, which is part of a week-long Brecht Festival, 2/8, 2pm at the Midnight Special Bookstore on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. I go back to Disney to add some more voice to my drunken monkey for Betty Thomas's "Dr. Doolittle" starring Eddie Murphy. I'm playing a role on "General Hospital" which will air Feb. 27th. I'm rehearsing the role of the Duke in Gilbert and Sullivan's "Patience" for a presentation at the Anteaus Company; while Melinda directs some more early Pulitzer Prize plays, both slated for March. And finally, for now, I worked with Deena Deitrich ("It's not fun to trick Mother Nature") for the Lake Powell tourism radio spot. There's so much happening right now, I'm finding it hard to keep track of it myself!"