GK: Fred Newman is our sound effects man-you know him as the wacky guy who does fire extinguishers (FIRE EXTINGUISHER), or a French ambulance (FRENCH AMBULANCE), or demented dolphins (DOLPHINS) or mutant pterodactyls (PTERODACTYL), That's the New York Fred. The Fred who can swallow swords (SFX) eat fire (SFX) and juggle torches (TORCHES) and wears a red nose (HONK) and can teach you how to fake vomit so it sounds like the real thing (RETCHING). And for this he makes literally hundreds of dollars every single night, which allows him to live a life of opulent splendor on the fashionable upper West Side of Manhattan (CLINK OF CHINA —FN: Do have some more of the rutabaga bisque — it's truly outstanding. I adore the cardamom.)
But there's another side of Fred that not everybody knows (DANGER CHORD). Now that the weather is warmer, after the show Fred goes to the heliport high atop the Pan Am building in midtown Manhattan and he takes the shuttle (HELICOPTER) to his other home, his true home, in Northern Vermont-a giant compound in the woods on 40 wooded acres with a moat around it (DRAWBRIDGE) and guarded by dwarves (EVIL DWARF) where Fred dons a white karate suit and a tiara and is worshipped as a deity by the hundreds of mature women in pilgrim dresses who live there.
FN: I never said I was a deity.
GK: They thought you were divine.
FN: Well, I am, in a way, but I'm not a deity.
GK: There at his compound in Vermont, Fred is the spiritual leader of FOF, Followers of Fred -(BELL RINGING, CHANTING) the followers being these hundreds of women in pilgrim costumes (FN WOMEN) who are big into transcendental meditation and badminton.
FN: You make it sound weird though. It's not weird, it's beautiful-
GK: The first thing Fred does when he gets to the compound is he smudges it with sage (MATCH LIGHTS, FLAMEUP, COUGHING)—and when the energy is clean he goes around feeding all the animals-two parakeets (CHIRPING), a 20-foot-long lizard (HISSING), a couple of cougars (CATS), a miniature alpaca (MINI ALPACA), and two grommets (SFX).
FN: Three grommets (SFX). One of them was pregnant, and we didn't know it.
GK: Oh. Okay. And speaking of that, of course the question on everybody's mind is: what is your relationship to all those women up there?
FN: We're only very good friends.
GK: Very good friends where 450 of them worship the very air you breathe, you walk past and they reach out to touch your garments (FN WOMEN), and you—
(A LONG BEAT)
FN: I provide spiritual guidance—
GK: And you speak in tongues, too—
FN: I do speak in tongues. Like this (SPEAKING IN TONGUES). I don't like to do it in public though because it makes people think we're weird. Which, I don't know. Is it weird? Is love weird? (TONGUES)
GK: And however you answer that question, Fred is happy up there with the miniature alpacas (TINY ALPACA) and the meditation (SITAR) and the energy moving (LASER) and the adoration of mature women in prairie dresses—(FN WOMEN) and then on Saturdays Fred takes off the tiara and he braces against the shame of having to make the sound of vomiting and bass guitar and giant fruit bats and demented dolphins and rotten pumpkins falling on people and —
FN: I'm a spiritual leader now. So. It's hard.
GK: We do have a request for you to do a toilet flush.
FN: No, I don't think so.
FN: I'd rather be a catalyst for peace.
GK: It's a request from a listener.
FN: I want to create beauty in the world. I'm not a trained monkey.
GK: It's a request from the Dalai Lama. He asked to hear a toilet flushing that's clogged with-whatever.
FN: He did not—
GK: He says that it helps him to clear his energy field and get a sense of renewal and regeneration.
FN: Okay.. Here goes.
GK: And he'd like the toilet flushed by a dolphin who drops a pumpkin in it, and in that pumpkin is a stick of lit dynamite.
FN: Okay…(PAUSE, THEN DOLPHIN, BIG SPLASH, BIG TOILET FLUSH)
GK: Fred Newman, ladies and gentlemen...
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).