SFX - Tom Keith
Saturday, April 5, 2003
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(GK: Garrison Keillor; SS: Sue Scott; TR: Tim Russell; TK: Tom Keith)

(MUSIC)

Our sound-effects man, Mr. Tom Keith wanted us to come to Bemidji. We could've gone to Palm Beach ... and he insisted on Bemidji.

TK: I don't know anybody in Palm Beach. I know people in Bemidji.

GK: We could introduce you to people in Palm Beach.

TK: Why would I want to meet people from Palm Beach when I already know people in Bemidji?

GK: Why couldn't you know some of each?

TK: What would be the point of it?

GK: So we showed him a video about Palm Beach.

(WEALTH AND LUXURY THEME)

TR (ANNC): Welcome to PALM BEACH---- the glimmering winter playground of America's deserving rich ---- where the mighty Atlantic (SURF) washes the beautiful white sand beaches (SURF, GULLS), sand as fine as non-dairy whitener ---- and those who have plenty of green stuff are waited on hand and foot by minions and serfs. How about a round of golf at the country club?¼. (GOLF SWING, KONK. WHIRR OF BALL IN FLIGHT. OOOHHH OF CROWD) ¼..or there's tennis (TENNIS VOLLEY), or table tennis (PING PONG VOLLEY), or badminton (BADMINTON VOLLEY) or we could (HIS VOICE STARTS SLOWING HERE, ELECTRONIC MALFUNCTION, MUSIC GOES SOUR) go to the Wampum Room and play backgammon.

GK: Something happened to the playback machine.

TK: Here, let me have a look at it. (SHAKES BOX, JUNK RATTLES) Broken. (MUSIC)

GK: So we came to Bemidji. Because Tom's uncle Gunnar lives here. (TR SWEDISH) Not the most thrilling person you'd ever want to meet, but Tom is a loyal guy.

TK: My uncle was the guy who helped me out when I was unemployed after you gave me the old heave-ho that time.

GK: I never gave you the old heave-ho.

TK: The time I couldn't do the bat sound effect.

GK: Oh, right. That time.

TK: It was the last time we did the show in Bemidji. Twenty years ago. They were in the midst of that big Memorial Day blizzard.

GK: In 82?

TK: 82 or 83. Maybe it was 83.

GK: I remember it was snowing hard. (BLIZZARD WIND). I don't recall if it was Memorial Day or Flag Day. Anyway---- we came into town on a snow machine (BIG ENGINE START UP AND TAKE OFF), across open country, (FAST PASS, BIRD FLIES UP IN ALARM) and a lot of wild animals were wandering around looking for shelter, wolves (WOLF HOWL) and bears (SFX) and moose (SFX) and caribou (SFX) and elk (SFX) and the snow was so thick we almost ran into a chicken coop (SNOWMOBILE, CHICKEN FLURRY) and we got to the hall and (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN, CLOSE, RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) it was a big rush to get there on time, we were in a panic (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN, CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPEN. DOG SNARL. CLOSE. WALKING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. ELEPHANT CRY. DOOR CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. MAN: WHY YOU---- (DOOR CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. GUNSHOTS. DOOR CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. MAN: WHY YOU----. (DOOR CLOSE. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. DOOR OPEN. RUNNING FOOTSTEPS. CRY OF PANIC. FALLING. BIG SPLASH.) So we were not our usual calm selves when the show started, and then---- we came to the big script, and Tom blew it----

TK: It was an accident.

GK: It was a scene in a script---- there was a blizzard in the script (BLIZZARD) ---- or was it a typhoon (TYPHOON) ---- I think it was a blizzard (SFX) ---- could it have been a tornado (SFX) ---- anyway, there was a small boy --- TK: Shep? Shep? ---- a small boy looking for his dog, lost in the blizzard---- (BLIZZARD) or the typhoon (TYPHOON)TK: Shep???? ----- and suddenly ---- TK: Oh no! I got my foot caught on the railroad track---- and off in the distance (TRAIN WHISTLE) and the boy tried to get his foot free (TK EFFORT, WHISTLE) but the harder he pulled the tighter it got (PANIC) and meanwhile there was this blizzard (BLIZZARD) ---- actually, I believe it was a thunderstorm (THUNDER, LIGHTNING) and the boy didn't see the giant northern carnivorous bat---- the great white snow bat with a wingspread of six feet ---- that came straight at him out of the blinding whiteness--- the helpless child cowered in terror as the immense creature let loose a horrific blood-curdling shriek-------- at least that's what the script said, but there was no bat shriek, or sound of bat wings ---- in underlined capital letters the script said BAT FLIES-

TK: I didn't have my glasses on.

GK: You didn't have your brains on. BAT FLIES.

TK: I thought it said BAR FLIES.

GK: So he did a tasteless imitation of alcoholics----

TK: (DRUNK) Hey I've fallen down and I can't reach my beer----

GK: And it made no sense whatsoever with little Timmy out there lost ---- TK: Help. Help. ---- and the train racing toward him---- (TRAIN WHISTLE) with wolves approaching (HOWL) and the blizzard around him (BLIZZARD) ----- with thunder and lightning (SFX) ---- to suddenly have a bunch of drunks---- TK: DRUNK ---- how could you do it?

TK: I donno, it made sense to me at the time. People like to have a drink now and then towards the end of winter---- I donno.

GK: And of course the radio listeners reacted with horror and revulsion at us making light of a terrible human affliction, and they wrote us withering letters---- you were supposed to do the horrific shriek of the carnivorous bat----

TK: I'm sorry.

GK: So were we. The sound of the northern carnivorous snow bat ----it's horrific shriek ---- was a sound effect that Tom could do practically better than anybody else.

TK: I lost my place in the script, I couldn't help it.

GK: He couldn't do it.

TK: I knew that Uncle Gunnar in Bemidji was listening. (TR SWEDISH) Uncle Gunnar has a bum ticker. The sound of the carnivorous snow bat could've meant curtains for him. So----

GK: So---- Tom was fired and caught a westbound freight (TRAIN PASSING, WHISTLE, CLACKING ON RAILS) and lived the life of a vagabond and did some heavy drinking (TK DRUNK) and he went to sea on a tramp steamer to Calcutta (BOAT WHISTLE) and drove across the Upper Pradesh peninsula in a Model T (CAR MISSING) and he rode a hot air balloon (TORCH BLAST, THEN RIGGING) westward across the Atlantic and it ran into a blizzard ---- no, it wasn't, it was a thunderstorm (THUNDER, LIGHTNING) and a lightning bolt blew a hole in the side of the balloon and gas came out of it fast (LONG FLUTTER FART) and he was going down and he crashed (CRASH, CRUNCH) in Nova Scotia and he got himself a car, a Chevy Nova, (CAR PULLING AWAY) and he was driving fast (CAR SPEEDING), in northern Michigan, and he came over a hill (CAR, HORN OF TRUCK PASSING, CAR CONTINUE) and almost sideswiped an oncoming semi and he saw flashing blue lights behind him (DISTANT SIREN) and he put his foot down (CAR ACCELERATE) and came around a corner and (SKID) lost control and the car crashed through the barrier (SFX) and rolled end over end over end over end over end over end over end over end down a steep rocky slope (SFX SERIES OF CRASHES) and blew up (SERIES OF EXPLOSIONS) just as Tom flew free and landed in Lake Superior (SWIMMING SFX) and swam to shore, assisted by a dolphin (SFX) and found a motor scooter and took that (MOTOR SCOOTER) to the Duluth airport where he found an old biplane and (PLANE) took off but on an empty tank, so (PLANE MISSING) that didn't last long---- he came down hard, but luckily he hit a snowbank (PLANE CRUNCH) and that's how he knew he was in Bemidji. Snow on the ground on the 4th of July. He knew it was the Fourth because of the fireworks (ROCKETS).

And he made his way in that direction through the woods, or thought he did, but up above him in the tree, a giant wing stretched out, and then another wing, and Tom felt a cold chill on his back and saw out of the corner of his eye the shadow on the snow and felt that cold glittering carnivorous eye and looked up and ---- there was Uncle Gunnar (TR SWEDISH) and he had a gun, but what was he aiming at? The carnivorous snow bat. (SHRIEK OF BAT) (GUNSHOT)

Our sound effects guy, Tom Keith.....

© Garrison Keillor 2003

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

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