Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Final Notice

I'm telling you for the last time: Today (Wednesday) at 4 PM Pacific Time, you can hear Gary Owens, Janet Waldo, Frank Buxton, Earl Kress and me on Stu's Show on Shokus Internet Radio. We'll be on for two hours talking about the art and commerce of cartoon voice acting. Read this for more details. Tune in. Call in.

• Posted at 11:41 AM · LINK

Another Blog to Read

Mark Rothman is one of the best writers of situation comedies and screenplays around. He'll tell you some of his other credits when you read his new blog but I first knew of him when he was a writer and sometimes show runner on The Odd Couple, Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

In the seventies when I was a story editor on Welcome Back, Kotter, there was a day when I was up at ABC and a top executive came up to me and started telling me that the opening of last week's episode was kinda slow. It took a few minutes for us to figure out that she had her Marks confused. Despite an utter lack of physical resemblance, she thought I was Rothman and was talking about the previous Tuesday's Happy Days. I said something about how I wished I had his success and/or pay grade.

Anyway, Mark has just launched a weblog. He's a funny guy so it stands to be a funny weblog. Go take a look. And tell him to "Sit on it!"

• Posted at 11:18 AM · LINK

Bernie Zuber, R.I.P.

This is a very belated obit. I just found out that Bernie Zuber died October 14, 2005 at the age of 72. Those who knew him are probably amazed he made it to that age.

Bernie was a sweet little guy who was, by his own admission, often out of his mind. He attempted suicide every now and then, and went through periods of deep depression when he'd willfully destroy every aspect of his life that brought him any joy. When he was sane, he was a talented artist and a major fixture of science-fiction fandom, especially the wing that embraced the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. He was the editor-publisher of The Westmarch Chronicle, the newsletter of the Tolkien Fellowships and also co-authored The Tolkien Quiz Book, a very successful paperback. He hosted many Tolkien fan gatherings and did illustrations for Tolkien fan publications, like his above cover for Mythlore.

Bernie also worked in comic books, though I don't think he ever got his name in one. The Grand Comic Book Database has no listing for him. He was a production artist from approximately 1950-1978 in the Los Angeles office of Western Publishing Company. There, he worked on Dell and Gold Key Comics and survived so many downsizings at the firm that by the time I began working for them in '72, he was the entire production department. Later, as his life and work became unstable, another artist had to be brought in to backstop Bernie and take over many of his responsibilities. (The job of a production artist, by the way, involves lettering corrections, art touch-ups, laying out advertising and other editorial material and generally doing whatever in the office required the services of someone who could draw a little.) He also lettered comics and occasionally assisted other artists by inking backgrounds or doing minor artwork.

In the late seventies, Bernie lost all control of his life, screaming a lot and threatening violence to himself and those around him. All the available avenues of treatment and hospitalization failed. Despite the best efforts of friends and family, his marriage — once an ideal one — ended and he began living in the street or, when panhandling paid off, in flophouse hotels. For a year or two there, this is how he ate: He'd find some restaurant that didn't know him and he'd go in, eat a meal and then casually tell the server and manager than he had no money and they could either arrest him or let him just leave. Some let him just leave. Others detained him, gave him access to a phone and told him to find someone to come pay his bill. I must have received a dozen of those calls but his timing was almost always off. All but one came when I was asleep or out and by the time I heard them on my answering machine, the restaurant had either let him go or called the police.

One time he caught me in and, perhaps unwisely, I drove up to the Ben Frank's coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard to bail him out and, I hoped, take him somewhere for treatment. By the time I arrived, he was gone. The cashier told me he'd begun yelling and smashing things so they threw him out. I muttered something about helping the guy and she said, "Don't waste your time. I've seen people like that. No one can help them until they help themselves."

As it turned out, she was right. Bernie's downward spiral continued and he lost all touch with old friends for a time...but at some point, sure enough, he began to help himself. And then once he'd helped himself, he began to help others. He became a tireless helper of folks with problems like the ones that had cost him so much. This article, which he wrote about his own personal hell, is indicative of the message he spread late in life. I was glad to read it. I don't know that I concur with his views about mental disorders or fandom...but most of it is outside my dubious areas of expertise so I'm hesitant to disagree. I was just glad to see something sane from my old pal Bernie...something that suggested his life had at least a modicum of Happy Ending.

• Posted at 10:53 AM · LINK

Go Read It!

Stephen Sondheim doesn't like theater critics or South Pacific.

• Posted at 1:26 AM · LINK

Today's Video Link

There was a stunning, eye-moistening moment in last Sunday's concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Bruce Springsteen introduced Pete Seeger and together, along with Seeger's grandson, they led the crowd in a rousing rendition of "This Land is Your Land."

I have mixed feelings about Mr. Seeger and some of his politics, but this is a great song and I have a certain respect for anyone who's devoted so much of his life to causes he believes will make the world a better place. I remember being taken to a concert he gave out at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium not long after John F. Kennedy was shot. It was exciting, it was entertaining...and I remember that everything he said and everything he sang was, in one way or another, about the worth of every human being on the planet.

And I have to wonder. Seeger is 89 years old. He was close to half that age when I saw him at the Santa Monica Civic. This was back when they still had segregated schools in parts of the South. I wonder what his response would have been if someone had said to him then, "You'll live long enough to sing that song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial as America inaugurates a black man as President of the United States."

HBO has been having YouTube pull down all the clips of the event but this one, which appears to be from German television, is apparently outside their sphere of influence or something. So enjoy — and don't be afraid to sing along. Especially if you're watching it on a wireless connection at Starbuck's or some other public place...

• Posted at 12:11 AM · LINK

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