Ghostbusters Book Graveyard
Here’s a collection of factoids, stories, and rumors I couldn’t squeeze into A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever (on sale now where ever fine books are sold).
— Sigourney Weaver and Meryl Streep both attended the Yale School of Drama in the early ’70s and a blurb in Spy magazine 20 years after the fact claimed these two students had beef; an anonymous source called it “an unspoken feud” but a feud nonetheless because Streep got all the play parts over Weaver; Weaver was apparently iced out for being too tall and too weird (it is said she sewed up her own “elf costumes” to wear around campus); as another source put it, “Sigourney and Meryl have never been friends…Sigourney has always been annoyed by Meryl’s great lady act”
— between 1974 and 1979, Ghostbusters composer Elmer Bernstein had a mail order soundtrack club where he re-recorded other people’s film scores; these re-recordings included Franz Waxman’s The Silver Chalice, Alfred Newman’s Wuthering Heights, and Miklós Rózsa’s The Thief of Baghdad; Bernstein’s son Peter he told me his father lost money on this project but Elmer didn’t care because he was doing it for the love of the music; Film Score Monthly released the entirety of Bernstein’s soundtrack club recordings on CD in 2006
— Walter Peck actor William Atherton used to claim that the philosophical teachings of Aesthetic Realism “cured” him of homosexuality; Atherton performed live testimonials about it around New York City and even went on “Donahue” in 1981 to discuss the “permanent” change he and hundreds of other followers made to heterosexuality (watch the episode here); obviously this was extremely controversial and many derided Aesthetic Realism as a dangerous cult; I’ve heard that Atherton himself eventually felt hoodwinked by the whole thing and disavowed it, which I hope is true; Aesthetic Realism still exists but they stopped promoting a “cure” for being gay decades ago
— in 1983, “Tonight Show” staple David Brenner filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros, Matty Simmons, Harold Ramis, and John Hughes for stealing the idea for National Lampoon’s Vacation from a 1979 script Brenner wrote called Goodbye Grandma; Brenner claimed he submitted his script to “one or more” of the defendants beforehand and he sought nearly $40 million in damages; it’s unclear how this was resolved
— according to Ghostbusters editor Sheldon Kahn, the levitation rig used during Sigourney Weaver’s possession scene belonged to Ivan Reitman’s old pal Doug Henning; I attempted to confirm this with Henning biographer John V. Harrison (author of the awesome book Spellbound: The Wonder-filled Life of Doug Henning) but he wasn’t sure; I also e-mailed Henning’s widow Debby but she never responded
— the hare krishna acolyte seen at the end of Ghostbusters is a guy named Stephen Friedland who had a recording career in the 1960s under the name Brute Force; no less than George Harrison was a fan of Brute and tried to get his quasi-obscene novelty ballad “King of Fuh” out on Capital Records and EMI; when those labels blanched, the Beatles pressed up 2,000 copies of “King of Fuh” on their own label Apple; it is apparently the rarest Apple release in existence
— because every aspect of his life was covered by the press, I can tell you Michael Jackson saw Ghostbusters on July 5th, 1984 with his brothers in Kansas City; the Jacksons were in town to play the first three shows of their Victory Tour at Arrowhead Stadium; considering how much acrimony erupted between the Jacksons during this tour, it’s possible Ghostbusters was the last non-contractual outing they all enjoyed together
— Tracey Ullman was complaining about the scripts she was being offered during a 1985 interview with The Toronto Star when she went on a rant about Ghostbusters, calling it “childish” and “rubbish” and a “who’s got the biggest willie” movie; this culminated in Ullman saying that Harold Ramis was “as funny as anthrax”; in all my years of research, this was the meanest thing I ever saw anyone say about Ramis; comedy is subjective, of course, and I don’t find Tracey Ullman very funny (I like her singing though)
— Mel Brooks asked Ray Parker, Jr. to write some music for Spaceballs but Parker turned Brooks down because he was, and I quote, “too busy fooling around, doing something, chasing girls or waterskiing”; yes, he regrets this
— if you’ve seen the 1988 film Storm Warriors starring Mark Keyloun, Marlise Richards, and Gozer herself Slavitza Jovan, consider yourself lucky because it was never released; in fact, Storm Warriors was axed shortly after the trailer debuted at Cannes; the ad they ran in Variety for the film has me intrigued so let’s hope an unearthing occurs soon
— Ivan Reitman said once or twice that Julia Roberts auditioned for Ghostbusters II when it appeared Sigourney Weaver wouldn’t be coming back; Roberts was 21 at the time, so as a love interest for Bill Murray that was probably a little too Blame it on Rio
— in 1990, Dan Aykroyd had a project with Al Franken and Tom Davis called “Nixon in The Navy,” a five part comedy series about Richard Nixon’s military service; he imagined they’d put it on basic cable
— I wanted to interview the women who wrote the 1995 movie Casper for my book because I had questions about Dan Aykroyd’s cameo as Ray Stantz; they said no, we have nothing to say, it’s just a silly joke people blow out of proportion; that’s not a direct quote because they asked not to be quoted
— Ghostbusters: The Video Game mastermind John Melchior told me a little bit about working on Simpsons: Hit & Run, specifically that Hank Azaria was the easiest “Simpsons” actor to work with and that Harry Shearer threw a fit and walked out mere seconds into his first recording session when he saw a grammatical error in the script
The Cornuzine Interviews: Harry Shearer
I used to do a website called Cornuzine. These are the interviews from it. For more info, read the first three paragraphs of this.
What can you say about Harry Shearer? He co-created Spinal Tap, wrote and performed on “Saturday Night Live,” had a memorable cameo in Wayne’s World 2, appeared in the 1994 Martin Short / Danny Glover comedy Pure Luck, and played Murray Sports in The Fish That Saved Pittsburg. On top of all that, Harry’s been with “The Simpsons” since the show began, giving life to such beloved characters as Mr. Burns, Waylon Smithers, Ned Flanders, Reverend Lovejoy, Principal Skinner, Lenny Leonard, Ranier Wolfcastle, and Kent Brockman.
In short, the man in a legend. So what the hell was Harry Shearer doing talking to me and my small-time waste of bandwidth five years ago?
I have no idea. I guess Harry’s just one of those celebrities you’d call “fan friendly.” That worked out in Cornuzine’s benefit, providing my rinky-dink website with its most prominent interview subject ever. So hats off to Harry Shearer. Hopefully this interview didn’t lead to whispers of slumming or his star fading. Read on to learn about Harry’s musical leanings, what he remembers of his experiences on “Leave It To Beaver” (Shearer played Eddie Haskell in the pilot episode), and who in his opinion was the weirdest “Simpsons” guest star.
HARRY SHEARER: HANDSOME DAN & BEYOND
JAMES GREENE JR: You don’t strike me as the type of guy who particularly enjoys heavy metal. Do you have any appreciation for it (beyond its unintentional ridiculousness) or has it always seemed like a really bad joke to you?
HARRY SHEARER: More of the latter, although it is fun to play.
JG2: Mmm. When I was watching the “Inside The Actors Studio” with the cast of “The Simpsons,” I couldn’t help but notice that Julie Kavner wasn’t around for the second half of the show. Did she get sick or something?
HS: She had a train to catch. The taping ran almost six hours.
JG2: Six hours?!? That’s insane! Did it irk you at all, sitting their for that long talking as Ranier Wolfcastle and the like, or did you enjoy it?
HS: Irked and enjoyed, at different points in the proceedings.
JG2: I was reading on your website that you were banned from the Fox News Channel because of your book It’s The Stupidity, Stupid. I hadn’t heard anything about this. Care to explain just what happened?
HS: It’s a long story, but, in an interview on MSNBC (what was I thinking?), they bumped to commercial with a quote from the book comparing Dick Morris’ proclivity for sucking hookers’ toes (remember that?) to his working for Rupert Murdoch. Either Roger Ailes or his number one flunky saw that, took great offense (although Morris also works for Murdoch’s New York Post), and had my pending appearances to discuss the book on FNC cancelled.
JG2: That’s totally lame. The Dick Morris thing isn’t even that controversial. What a pisser. Moving on – you screen tested for the role of Eddie Haskell. Do you have any idea why they didn’t pick you? You couldn’t have been that bad, because you did end up on one or two episodes of “Leave It To Beaver,” didn’t you?
HS: I don’t think I ever did any episodes of “Beaver,” and I don’t know whether I wasn’t picked or whether my parents, after I shot the pilot, decided it was a bad idea for me to co-star in a show. I know they felt that way, but I don’t know whether they withdrew me from consideration.
JG2: Did they not want you to miss your childhood or get completely warped from being on a t.v. show that young?
HS: They didn’t want me to costar in a show. They were cool with me working occasionally.
JG2: Ah. One of the highlights of Wayne’s World 2 was your appearance as Handsome Dan. I could literally watch that part for hours. I’d go so far as to say that made me laugh harder than any part of This Is Spinal Tap. How does that make you feel? I mean, do people ever tell you that they love Handsome Dan?
HS: Yeah, somebody’s told me about loving virtually everything I’ve done. That one was kind of weird, because it involved reprising, in a slimmed down way, a sketch I’d done years earlier on SNL, and I always feel weird repeating myself that way. I always feel weird repeating myself that way.
JG2: On “The Simpsons,” do you ever record your voice work along side the guest stars? If so, have there been any memorable exchanges between yourself and one of the show’s guests?
HS: Usually the guests show up on their own schedule. Weirdest one to show up with us was, natch, Michael Jackson, who did the speaking part himself, but had an MJ impersonator do the singing in the show. I guess we weren’t paying him enough.
JG2: Of all the people that I’d think would come whenever he pleased…speaking of that business, has anyone ever asked you to call up their kids as Mr. Burns or Ned Flanders for a birthday or anything? Have you ever called someone as a Simpsons character just to screw with their minds?
JG2: Okay! You once stated that you enjoy any bass line Victor Wooten plays. Color me ignorant, but just who is this Victor Wooten? Please, provide me with some quick information on this favorite bass player of yours.
HS: He’s a remarkable player, usually seen with Bela Fleck’s band.
JG2: A Flecktone! You also like the Beatles, don’t you? What do you think of the fact that Paul and Ringo are still out there playing?
HS: Yes, I’m a fan. I think it’s great they’re still playing, what are they supposed to do, write letters to The Times of London?
JG2: Yes, that’s exactly what they’re supposed to do! Finally, was that your real mustache in This Is Spinal Tap?
HS: It was real in the sense that, yes, it was growing on my face at the time.
– Cornuzine.com, 6/3/03
HARRY SHEARER’S TOP FIVE FAVORITE BASS LINES
Relayed to me sometime before the preceding interview for a much smaller, less significant feature:
1. McCartney’s on “Lady Madonna”
2. Whoever played with Robert Kraft on “a song for miles”
3. Horace Silver’s bass player on “Senor Blues”
4. Anything Victor Wooten plays
5. George Porter Jr.’s part on The Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way”
Why? Because, as Harry noted, “they swing.”