Saturday, May 03, 2008
GK: And now...(ORGAN The Story of Fred.
GK: Starring sound effects man, Fred Newman. (ORGAN UP AND OUT)
FN: People think I'm a radio sound effects man because that's what I do for a living. My heart is in investment banking. Amortization is a word that sends chills down my spine. Restructuring. Risk management. That's Passion. Sound effects — (HORN) — that's just my day job.
GK: He was born in Georgia, on the Newman plantation, Belle Fromage (BIRDS TWITTERING), where he wore white seersucker suits and taught a pig to play chess (THOUGHTFUL PIG), and raised chickens to do tai chi (CHICKENS IN RHYTHMIC MOVEMENT)-his mother was a distinguished society woman-
SS (SOUTHERN): Fred has been accepted into Harvard, though he's only thirteen. He'll be majoring in business.
GK: And his father was the head of Newman & Newman, a commodities brokerage—
TR (SOUTHERN): All right now, children — let's practice the signals we use on the trading floor. To make an offer we hold up the number of fingers to our chin — like this — and when we want to sell, we hold up our hands and push them out, like that—
FN (CHILD): I love that, Daddy. It's so graceful. And yet manly.
TR (SOUTHERN): Someday, little Fred, you will stand beside me on the floor of the Pig Butt Exchange.
FN (CHILD): That's my dream, Daddy. To make a fortune in pig butts, just as you have. And to get rich and be able to send my children to Harvard University just as you have. (ORGAN)
GK: And so, following in his father's footsteps, Fred went to Harvard Business School, and he dropped his Southern accent in favor of an accent known as "Affluent"—
FN (RICH): Yes, that's amusing. (SMUG LAUGHTER) Pass the chardonnay, will you Bunny? (GLASS CLINK) Mwah.
GK: Fred was an excellent student at Harvard. He read in the library (PAGES TURNING), he organized study groups (MURMURING), he was in an honors program (BUGLE), and then one night the dean of the accounting school, Dean Rhodes, invited him to a party.
TR: I know you despise parties, but this one could change your life, Fred. All the top CEOs of the Fortune 500 will be there.
FN: I do despise parties — the shallowness of the conversations disgusts me, the false bonhomie — but for you, Dean Rhodes, I will do my best. (HUBBUB, PARTY TALK, CLINKING)
GK: Fred attended and he stood off to the side, not sure how to mingle and say the right things and suddenly Mrs. Rhodes ran up—
SS: Fred, Fred!
FN: Gosh, what's wrong?
SS: Fred, our evening entertainment got in a terrible car crash and drove right off a bridge and died and we need someone to sing— can you sing?
FN: Gosh, I don't think so.
FN: You mean, like "I'll Fly Away" or "Will The Circle Be Unbroken"?
SS: No, no, no— something witty and light-hearted and effervescent—
FN: Well, when I was a kid in Georgia, I used to sing like a dog—
SS: Please. Do that. (DINGS ON GLASS, HUBBUB FADES) Friends— young Fred Newman would like to sing a song for you. (MURMURS OF PLEASURE)
FN (SINGS "BEYOND THE SEA" IN DOG VOICE)
Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waiting for me
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin'.
GK: It was an enormous hit.
SS: That was wonderful, young man. Can you also cluck like a chicken?
FN: I'd rather not do that--
SS (RICH): Come, Fred. Don't be a ninny. It's a party. Lighten up. Cluck for us.
(FN CLUCKING EXHIBITION)
SS: Excellent. Very well done. (POLITE CLAPPING)
SS (RICH): Now do a dolphin for me, darling.
SS: Oh yes. Do a dolphin, please.
FN: If I do a dolphin, can I leave afterward?
SS (RICH): But why?
FN: I have a very important test in economics tomorrow.
TR (GREENSPAN): I'm Alan Greenspan, Fred, and I share your interest in economics, but I would love to hear the dolphin and I'd also like to hear an imitation of the wheel in "Wheel of Fortune" which is one of my very favorite TV shows. Would you do that for me?
FN: Okay. (WHEEL SPINNING, SLOWING)
GK: And so Fred Newman did the wheel and then the dolphin (SFX) (SS: Mahvelous) of course they wanted the condor (SFX) and the Concorde taking off (SFX) and a machine gun (SFX) and a fat man getting stuck in a toilet seat (SFX) — (POLITE APPLAUSE)
SS (RICH): It was so much fun. I don't know when I've enjoyed myself so much. Maybe never (SMUG LAUGHTER)
GK: And when Fred graduated, he discovered that being the life of the party is not a required skill set for a career in business.
FN: Businesses do not want to hire someone who can (HORN) or who can (PIG SNORT) . People simply will not trust their money to a man who can screech like a pterodactyl. It's just a fact. If you can screech, it sets off an alarm in people's heads. (ALARM,
FN: DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN. DO NOT TRUST THIS MAN.
GK: Unable to find work, Fred set out with a backpack (TRAIN WHISTLE). He hitchhiked across the country (SEMI HORN BLASTS, PASSING) and slept in barns (COWS) and he got work in a carnival (RICKETY ROLLER COASTER, SCREAMING), where he developed a knife throwing act (THROW AND FLIGHT AND BWANGGGGG) with a chicken named Sara (CHICKEN) — she stood forty feet away in front of the target and Fred threw knives at her and also a hatchet (SFX, CHICKEN REACT) and also an egg (SFX, CHICKEN REACT). They became rather close (CHICKEN) and one night, having a couple beers together, (CHICKEN TALKING, FN REACTS "UH-HUH") she told him — do investment banking for fun, on your own, and do sound effects for a living. It was good advice. (TRAIN WHISTLE) So he hopped a freight back to Georgia and back to Belle Fromage and broke the news to his family.
FN: I've decided to give up investment and go into sound effects.
SS (SOUTHERN): Oh, dahling, it breaks my heart to hear you say it. You— our Harvard boy, standing on stage and making honks and squirts and whirrs and beeps?
FN: And don't forget drips.
TR (SOUTHERN): But why, Fred? You love the world of commodities. Futures. Options. Hedge funds. All of it.
FN: I know, Daddy. But, I can earn more money doing pterodactyls
SS (SOUTHERN): What sort of world do we live in if a grown man can earn more by shrieking like a prehistoric creature than by sitting at a desk and trading in commodities such as lumber and grain and pig butts?
GK: And so Fred was cut out of the family fortune (CHOP), and he had to leave Belle Fromage (DOG BARKING) and go to new York and do commercials-for whipped cream (SFX), and pickup trucks climbing mountains (SFX), and resorts in Hawaii (SFX) and cough syrup for colicky babies (SFX) and he became enormously wealthy and bought a horse farm in Connecticut (HORSE WHINNY) and took up fox hunting (HORN AND HOUNDS) and he raises peacocks (SFX) and loves to give dinner parties with expensive champagne (SFX) at which he plays solo cello (SFX) and demonstrates knife throwing (SFX), a very civilized life made possible by the fact that he does dripping (SFX) and honking (SFX) and naked men sitting down in steam baths (SFX).
FN: It isn't the life I meant to have, with the excitement of high finance, but — I've learned to accept it. The one thing that irks me beyond my limits is the number of little fans who come up after shows and ask me to do a grommet.
GK: That bothers you.
FN: Here I am, I've been doing a show, honking and beeping and whinnying and squirting and blasting, and then I'm done with work and ready to go off and read the Wall Street Journal and some dorky kid wants me to do a grommet. For him.
GK: So what do you do?
FN: What I've done is buy a grommet. A mature male grommet. I keep him in a little cage, and when a kid asks me to do that, I just take Wendell out of his cage and (GROMMET)
GK: Okay. It's The Life of Fred. (ORGAN) Stories of the Stars of Radio, where they came from and how they learned to cope with the frustrations and tragedy of a life in broadcasting.