Memories of the
is written in my alter-ego of "The Cranky Old Guy." It is not
meant to be litteral...and the language is course. But it does a fine
job of capturing the moment...and my "post Hollywood" emotions.
After months of busting 12-hour days, seven days a week on the studio album for Atlantic, amidst promises money, fame and security, I had all but given up doing anything but working on the record, including putting my advertising clients on hold, and beginning the process of starting and losing a copmany that produced a music production library for broadcasters. By the time we got word that we were nominated for the Emmy award, my family was pretty much destitute, literally holding garage sales from our country home to eat, and having to borrow the money to get down to Hollywood for the Emmy awards ceremony.
On "the big night," the reality of the shallow emptiness that is Hollywood struck me like a bitch slap from $25 hooker (OK…that was a little melodramatic). As part of the "non-televised" Emmy awards (the Freaks and Geeks portion of the Academy), we were all surprised to realize that the location for the event was at a convention center, that when observed with an honest eye, was nothing more than a big warehouse, with exposed HVAC pipes, with some red carpets, tables and a podium.
If you go to http://www.imdb.com/Sections/Awards/Emmy_Awards/1988 …you will find a complete listing of the Emmy Awards for that year.
What you won't see, is the disparity between the televised Emmy Awards and "the rest of the schlubs who aren't worthy of a network television appearance because they are behind the scenes."
The "Freaks and Geeks" awards are for categories like "Outstanding Graphic Design and Title Sequence," "Outstanding Lighting Direction - Variety, Music or Drama Series, Miniseries or Special," and countless special awards for hairstyling and art direction. Even though our show had a higher Nielsen rating than hundreds of Network shows that year, we still did not make it to the "beautiful people show" with such luminaries as Estelle Getty, Patricia Wettig, John Shea, Larry Drake, and John Larroquette. Television was horrible that year…let's face it. The big shows were the simpering, whining "Thirtysomething," and the hideous, loud, androgynous "Golden Girls." But, we were not worthy of a national audience for our award.
Vinton had "sprung" for a limo. So getting there in one large, well-dressed contingent was fun. There were no huge throngs of people on the red carpet, no interviewers, and we almost got lost trying to find the right entrance, but we were there…at the EMMYS! Our table was about 20 feet from the stage, with a clear view of the podium.
The tables looked beautiful, and everyone got a commemorative pin signifying the 40th anniversary of the Emmy Awards. The MC for the night, was the "even prettier in person" Joanna Kerns, the hot MILF from "Growing Pains." She was glowing, and bubbling with effusive energy, and had the kind of "nice girl looks" in a "naughty girl body" that really made you want to know her…in a Biblical as well as "having coffee over a donut" kind of way.
We were the first award of the night. The very first award.
We were up against only two other nominees, A Garfield Christmas Special and the Brave Little Toaster. Come on. It was a shoe-in. We were not even surprised when our name was called. Vinton and Ralph Liddle accepted. I don't remember a damn thing they said, because Joanna Kerns was off to the stage about 5 feet from me, adjusting her dress…smoothing it over her tight, supple… OH DAMN IT! IS IT OVER ALREADY???? It was that quick.
Within 20 more minutes, I realized that this is NOT what I had imagined. The rest of the presenters for the rest of the awards (including a bunch of "lifetime achievement awards for the technology of the vacuum tube, some sort of camera mount and other such stuff) were given out by the cast members of "Hill Street Blues." They all seemed as if they had someplace better to be, which made me feel as if I had someplace better to be.
So, after another hour of this parade of geeks in tuxes, I excused myself, went to the lobby, called my wife to give her the news (trying to sound excited) and then went to a little Mexican lounge across the street. There I found…you guessed it…the presenters from Hill Street Blues, all whining about the fact that they had to give out awards for this group of geeks, and how they were going to give their agents hell for getting them into this stupid gig.
Perfect. The apex of my career subverted by some hack actors that would never be seen again in a serious role, (go ahead, search the database and tell me how many names you recognize other than Dennis Frantz and Charles Haid). But it was a "real moment," that perfectly summed up the situation. I was there in Hollywood, missing my wife, in a rented tux (I couldn't afford) listening to a bunch of conceited asses bitching about having to celebrate my success. If they only knew.
The rest of the night was a spiral of depression that went from bad to worse. Turns out that "Uncle Moneybags," a.k.a. Will Vinton, was not up for paying for a limousine for the way BACK to the Sunset Marquis where were staying. So seven of us had to cram into an aging import driven by an acquaintance of one of the other animators who was able to afford the trip (airfare, food, lodging at the Sunset Marquis and transportation) to get our award. Then, upon finally arriving back at the hotel, we were told that Uncle Moneybags wanted us to come by his chalet for a celebration.
Sounded cool. I left my empty, luxury room, complete with an outdoor Jacuzzi, to party Hollywood style with my fellow artists in a chalet at one of the most notorious "rock and roll" havens in Hollywood (I swear I saw Whitesnake in the lobby). I was stoked.
That is until I found out that Uncle Moneybags' idea of "celebrating" was to buy a case of wine coolers (two bottles each) and try and coerce the only musician in the group (that would be me) to become the performing chimpanzee and entertain everyone with requests. I didn't like it when I actually played piano bars in my youth, and I sure as hell wasn't stoked to do it here, in a rented tux, with a freakin' wine cooler between my legs, without so much as a freakin' tip jar on the top of the Steinway baby grand that was propping up a group of some of the most bewildered looking Emmy award winners in history.
I played three songs…told everyone I was tired…and got the hell out of there.
But the thought of spending the "best night of my life" alone in the hot tub of a skeezy, world-famous hotel, where the sound of gunshots were clearly audible every ten to fifteen minutes from the surrounding Hollywood neighborhood, was just too damn depressing to handle. So I left the room, got in the rental car and drove aimlessly around Hollywood.
I drove past Sunset Sound, one of the most famous studios on the strip. I drove past K-Disc disc mastering, where I had mastered the now defunct "Trax Music Library." I drove past countless hookers, pimps and street thugs on my way down the strip and up into the hills, then circling back to drive past the iconic landmarks of the music that had fueled my youth…The Roxy, the Whiskey, the Rainbow Room, the Capital Records building, and countless other effigies to the horrible faux happiness of the music business. I am certain that I never felt more detached from my real life, and real happiness than at that moment.
I couldn't cry, I couldn't laugh, I could barely breath. I wanted to get drunk, but I knew that would only add to my depression. So, instead, I pulled into a comedy club, and decided to blow $20 of the last $60 I had in my pocket (and probably to my name), on laughing at the world through the eyes of someone else trying to "make it."
I don't remember who performed. I do remember realizing that I still had my stupid rented tuxedo on, and even weirder, nobody seemed to notice or care. That made me laugh. It occurred to me that in Hollywood, there was always some guy, probably loads of guys, standing around in comedy bars and nightclubs in rented tuxedos. I fit right in.
And that was enough of a reason to leave quickly (after pounding down my two-drink minimum) and heading back to my room, eating the chocolate off of the pillow, stripping off my clothes, jumping into bed and ignoring the blinking message light on my phone.
The next day, I retrieved the message. It was Uncle Moneybags wondering if I would reconsider and come back to the party (which I heard broke up a half hour after I left). I packed my carry-on, called my wife and told her about my "night on the strip," and then killed the next four hours before our plane took off for Portland, with a couple of the other "Vintonistas" at the MGM studio tour, and bitching about the "privilege" of working your ass off for a guy who thought wine coolers by the case was a "great deal."
I wish I could say that the Emmy had some huge effect on my life. I guess in some strange way it did. That while I finally finished the record for Atlantic, and actually tried to secure an agent to hustle up some bigger soundtrack jobs ("yes…yes I did get a head-credit in the project…no, I'm not willing to relocate to Hollywood or New York"), I never looked back again. I finished the album, did some incidental music for a couple of other "Raisin Projects" but that was it. I was finished with Hollywood.
Over the years, it has been gratifying to hear some fan of the show (and now even some of the kids of the fans of the show) say that the special is still "their favorite Christmas tradition" when they find out that I did the music. The show aired for five years on CBS, and several times more on Disney. The ironic part of it is that I ended up earning several time more in ASCAP royalties than I actually cleared after my expenses on the original project. I didn't even know I was entitled to the royalties, until I was doing research for royalties for the record project (for which I never received dime-one in royalties…but that is another story).
I had just chalked it up to "one of those chapters in my life."
Until this past Christmas…
It was with guarded excitement that I saw that "The Claymation Christmas Celebration" had been released on DVD, along with a couple of other forgettable holiday Claymation specials. I had decided to buy a bunch of copies of the DVD to give out as Christmas presents in 2005. I ordered in on Amazon, and the copies showed up within a week.
To say that I was disappointed in the sound would be a gross and terrible understatement. In the digital format, I at least expected the sound to be crisp and clear. But alas, as was always the case with the Vinton crew, sound quality was a distant second in importance to the animation. It sounds as if they took the sound from a video copy…a BAD video copy.
But then there was an "added bonus" to this story…
As is the norm with most DVDs these days, there was an option to listen to the "director's comments" as the film played. Now…I get that it was his company. I understand that actually hunting down some of the people who REALLY had the most to do with the production like Liddle, Logue, and some of the other directors of the scenes may have been difficult…but to have to endure 24 minutes of Will Vinton prattling on about his involvement, the history of his success, and countless other unrelated stories about the actual production was almost unbearable.
In typical Vinton form, although the special was at least 75% music, there is not a SINGLE reference about the music until the very end, when the "granddaddy of replaced memory and experience" says, "the music was done by Patric Miller. He has kind of disappeared…If he's listening to this, he should give us a call."
Uhm...Not gonna happen.
Turns out that Vinton lost his company in a big takeover bruhahahahaha…to none other than the Anti-Christ of slave labor, Phil Knight…who basically bought the company ("saved" in his words) for his kid to run. Last I heard Vinton was starting from scratch, broke, and teaching part-time at a Portland Art school.
Next time you have a wine cooler, think of Will.