November 18, 2001
HOW I SPENT LAST WEEK: Why, voice-directing Squishees, of course! This is a soon-to-be-released animated
feature concocted and produced by my pal Don Oriolo, who otherwise manages the career of Felix the Cat. You all know Felix the Cat? The
wonderful, wonderful cat? Well, whenever he gets in a fix, he reaches into his bag of tricks. Don has a pretty potent bag o' tricks
himself, one of which is this new film which will be out I-dunno-when-or-where but the animation has been completed and this week, we had to dub in
the voice track. Yes, this is the reverse of how the process is usually done.
Squishees is the story of a little girl, her scientist father and a very nasty lady. That's the nasty lady at right in the
red dress. The scientist's experiment opens a portal into another world where the people are multi-colored and tend to squish a lot and when
one of them tumbles into this existence, the nasty lady decides to make a new toy out of him. The result is a cute, fast-paced tale that I
think younger kids will enjoy. You can read more about it — and about Don's current Felix projects — at his website, www.felixthecat.com.
We had a terrific cast which included Mark Hamill, Laura Summer, Ruth Buzzi, Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Anna Garduno and the
always-incredible Frank Welker. I've worked with Frank now since...well, since he appeared in the on-camera cast of a Bobby Vinton Special I
wrote in 1978. He still manages to dazzle me with his ability to instantly come through with the sound of anyone or anything. On one
show, we asked him to make the sound of angry oatmeal cooking...and he did. I'm serious. If I played you the tape and asked you to
identify it, you'd say, "Gee, I know this sounds crazy but that sounds like angry oatmeal cooking!"
You hear Frank incessantly in movies and TV shows, animated and otherwise, and often don't know you're not hearing the person whose
mouth is flapping. Same with the other folks in our cast. You can hear on-line demos of Gregg Berger's and Neil Ross's extensive voice
work at their websites, www.greggberger.com and www.neilrossvo.com.
What a joy to work with all these folks...and to spend time with the absolutely-delightful and very funny Ms. Ruth Buzzi, who voiced
our villainess. When I was a wee lad, taking the bus out to work for Disney in Burbank, I'd sometimes hike over to NBC, just a few blocks away,
and bluff my way in to watch tapings of Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. The show was done in Studio 3 (wherein Leno now lurks) and only for
the first few did they have a formal studio audience. That was because they taped all day, several days a week, and you couldn't keep a live
audience properly ensconced for any meaningful length of time. So they let folks — mostly those there for the otherwise-disappointing NBC
Studio Tour — wander in and fill the bleachers.
I remember thinking that some members of the troupe were very funny on-stage but not off, while others were funny off-stage but not
on. A few managed to do both...and then there was Dan Rowan, who had a pretty good career without ever managing to be either. Ruth Buzzi,
on the other hand, was funny when the cameras were on. Ruth Buzzi was funny when they were off. She was funny going to get a bagel from
the craft services table. She was funny sitting on the sidelines in grotesque make-ups, waiting patiently for hours for them to get to her
sketches, which was how I most often saw her. Cameo guest stars were being hustled in and smooth-talked by the producer, George Schlatter, into
saying lines they feared might be injurious to their careers.
No matter how long, Ruth sat there, being patient, waiting for her moment in front of the camera which was invariably accompanied by
the announcement that they were running late and she'd have to try and get it on the first take. She usually did. And if they allowed her
a second take, she was even funnier.
Watching those old shows, I'm amazed how well they hold up. More that a decade back, someone tried syndicating Laugh-In
reruns that were chopped in half. They attracted few viewers; not even myself, and I really loved that show when it first appeared. I
dunno if it was because they'd been slashed to 30 minutes or if it was just the wrong moment in history to see those shows again but they didn't work
then and they do now. One can also see — and this is true of the Saturday Night Live reruns — why certain cast members kept
working and others did not. This is not true of everyone but it's certainly true of some.
Ruth has worked pretty steadily since those days. To a young generation, she's not "Ruth Buzzi of Laugh-In" but "Ruth
Buzzi of Sesame Street." Or maybe the lady on that soap opera — I forget which one. They hire her because they've learned
what I just learned. She's a wonderful person, relentlessly dedicated to her craft and fun to be around. And boy, is she funny.
IS IT MY IMAGINATION or is John Ashcroft out to break Janet Reno's record of pissing off people of every possible political
stripe? Reno holds a certain advantage because Ashcroft probably can't torch Waco and lock Wen Ho Lee up again. On the other hand, she
occasionally convicted someone...
DESIGNING THIS website has forced me to learn all about a strange and mysterious language called HTML. It is the lingo in
which this and most websites are written. Did you ever get a e-mail that was full of odd markings in brackets like <BR> and <p
align="center">? Well, those are HTML codes and often, someone writes an e-mail message in that language but your e-mail reader will for
some reason read it as a straight text message. That causes you to see all them codes that are supposed to just format your message and then
get out of the way.
I have recently made a number of unseen changes in this website to make it as close to 100% HTML proper as humanly possible. This
means encoding ampersands not as ampersands but by typing this: &
Inserted into the HTML code of a website, that should cause your browser to see an ampersand. This strikes me as an enormous
waste of bandwidth. We are now sending you five characters' worth of data — one of which is an ampersand — instead of just sending
you an ampersand. Leave it to computer scientists to figure out a way to make an abbreviation take longer to write.
In theory, this is supposed to make the text more widely compatible. In truth, different browsers see things different ways and
no matter how I write my code, there's always someone who e-mails and says, "I'm using Schlocko Browser version 7.1a and all your apostrophes look
like pieces of rigatoni." I have finally decided that if you ain't using the latest versions of Internet Explorer or Netscape, I don't care
about you...and maybe not even then.
GAME SHOW NETWORK just skipped over the infamous Michael Larsen episodes in their sequence of rerunning Press Your
Luck. Mr. Larsen was the unemployed air conditioner repairman who figured out how to beat the game board for over $110 thousand smackers,
resulting in one of the most amazing programs I've ever seen on the tube. CBS thereafter preferred to forget about Larsen and, when USA Network
reran PYL a few years back, they steered clear of the two Larsen episodes and all those around the same time. GSN does reportedly have
them in its current package and skipped them, not because they were burying them but because they're saving them for special, promotable
exhibition. Soon as we know when that might be, I'll post it here and fill in some more info I learned about the event. (I investigated
it at the time because I wanted to turn it into a TV-movie. One of the obstacles was that CBS was still sore about it and trying to promote the
notion that, though they'd broadcast it to all of America, it had never really happened. And by the way, to those of you who've written to ask
if I need a tape...thanks but, yes, I have a copy of those episodes. They're on Beta but, yes, I have them. I just want others to see
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