Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

By now everybody has heard that George Carlin has died. I won't say "passed away". I won't say we "lost another great comedic voice". George wasn't like that. He called it like it was. So George Carlin died. I'm not going to rehash the details, they are available all over the net. They are on every TV news program. They are everywhere. I am going to give you a little personal insight into the man whose comedy I virtually worshiped since the first day I ever heard him. I am going to break one of my cardinal rules and tell you a story about a Star I worked with, on the set of a movie. But then, what the hell, George hated rules anyway and I'm sure that if there is a Heaven, or a Hell, he might just be smiling, either down or up, at the telling of it. Okay, hold on. I'm going to have to get just a little toasted in order to tell this right. You know how it is. There are some things you can only remember when you're in the same state of mind you were in when what you want to remember happened. Good thing I just happen to have a little of the Motherlode Mindfuck on hand.

There was a time, when like most of you, I only knew George through his comedy. I didn't know the man himself. I had no idea what he was like when he was off the stage, out of the spotlight. Then I not only got to meet the man, but to come to know him as well. In fact, I got stoned with George. Not just once. But many times.

It was in the summer, a few years ago, and I was hired on a film George had a role in. Most of my regular readers know that I smoke the Noble Weed. I make no bones about it and I refuse to apologize for it. It's my choice as a responsible adult. Hey, you drink your Martini, I'll fire up a bone and we can both be happy. Anyway, the main set was built, dressed and lit. Principal photography had begun. Since the "studio" was actually a huge, empty, warehouse-type building, there were no dressing rooms, so Production had trailers brought in for the Stars. Each Star had his/her own private trailer. There were separate trailers for Hair & Makeup, Costumes, etc. Occasionally, in situations like this, a Star will request that certain modifications be made to their particular trailer and that is where we come in. But that isn't how I met George, although I spent many an afternoon "modifying" his trailer. It happened like this.

I was returning to work after lunch. Many times we are able to take lunch with the shoot crew but sometimes our schedules are too different to allow for this. This was one of those times. As usual, I was a few minutes late returning to the shop so I decided to take a shortcut through the main stage. I had to be careful, though, because they were busy filming there. Carefully opening the side door I peered into the darkened stage. The only lights were the ones on the set itself, so it took me a moment for my eyes to adjust. The Production Assistant stationed at the door quickly put one finger to his lips while twirling his other hand over his head to indicate that they were "rolling" on the set. The microphones used in filming are so sensitive they can pick up a gnat's fart at 500 paces, so I quietly eased myself through the door and gently held it from closing so as not to make a sound. Some shortcut, I thought, now I'm stuck here until they're done with the "take". Fortunately it didn't take long. If you've ever been on a film set, you know what a Production Assistant does. Those stationed at all entrances and exits mimic the Directors orders and ensure that there are no interruptions during the actual filming. So, like I said, it wasn't long before the PA at my door cried "Cut", and signaled to me that it was okay to proceed. As quickly and unobtrusively as I could, I began to make my way across the main stage to the entrance to the shop. It was then that it happened.

Every set has what is known as the Craft Service area. The Craft Service area is basically a mobile delicatessen where cast and crew can grab a bite or get a cup of coffee or tea or a can of juice or soda. Like I said, a mobile deli. In order to get to the door to the shop without going directly through the set I had to pass by the Craft Service area. Okay, picture this. A huge room with a set in the middle of it. Dark, except for the lights on the set. Me hurrying through this, trying hard to be invisible because I'm late, and a darkened, smallish figure holding a cup of something at the Craft Service area. Moving quickly, I kept my eyes on the set waiting for the inevitable commands, "Quiet On The Set! Roll Picture! Picture Is Up! Roll Sound! Rolling! Rolling! Rolling!", which would freeze me in my tracks. Believe me, you don't want to be the person who interrupts a take. Not if you want to keep your job. Sure as hell, just as I reached the Craft Service area, the cry went up, "Rolling!"

I froze. Kinda like a deer in the headlights. Glancing about franticly for a place to hide, my eyes hit on the smallish man at the Carft Service table, holding a cup of something in his hand. And his eyes locked on mine.

George Carlin.

George Carlin was looking right at me, eye to eye. Then he exploded. And charged directly at me.

"Holy Shit! Hoooooly Shit! I can't believe it! I just can't fucking believe it!"

Time stopped. The PA's stopped. Filming stopped. And I was sure my job was gone. With all eyes on us, George ran up to me, then around me, looking me up and down with wonder and surprise on his face, as if I was some alien being, hitherto unknown to mankind. I was shrinking smaller by the second. He continued...

"It'''s you! Ain't it! It is, isn't it? You! I mean, if it ain't you then who the fuck are you?" Circling, poking away at my gut, my arm, my chest, grabbing my ponytail....

"Oh my God! It is you, isn't it?" Grabbing me by the arm and leading me to the table, "Can I have your autograph?"

By now the entire crew was roaring with laughter. George was the Master and I, his foil. The man was clearly enjoying himself. I didn't know whether to shit or go blind. One of my idols was pulling me closer. The entire crew was hysterical at his antics and my discomfort. Then whispering in my ear...

"Hey, kid, you got any weed?"

"W-w-weed?", I stammered.

"Yeah! Weed! You know, pot, grass, leaf, bud, trees, greens, ganja, herb, boo, smoke, joint, reefer, kif, mj, maryjane, mary-wanna, Mary may not wanna but I sure do! Weed."

"What makes you think I might have that?" I remember mumbling.

"Weeeeell, for one thing, ya got a pony tail! For another, Ya stink of it!"

It was then that I remembered that after lunch doobie I had shared with a bud.

Not waiting for an answer, he asked me where I worked. For some reason he was delighted when I told him Set Construction. Letting go of my arm, he winked at me and rather cryptically said,

"See ya later."

I smiled kind of weakly and got the hell out of there as quickly as I could.

It wasn't until two hours later when my boss approached me and told me that Mr. Carlin had requested that I go to his trailer. It seemed he wanted some modifications done and had requested me personally. Why me, my boss wanted to know. I told him about our chance meeting on the set, sans the "weed". Grudgingly he told me to get "my ass over there". He didn't want to keep a Star waiting. I grabbed my tools and split.

Needless to say, I didn't really need my tools. But I took them with me, none-the-less, whenever George requested my assistance with some "modification" or another, which was dam near every time he was on set. My boss never understood what the hell I was "modifying". But I think he finally got the picture when the job was over and George's trailer was returned, with no "modifications" at all.

I know that there are some folks who didn't like George. For some he was too "crude". For others', he spoke the truth and they couldn't handle it. I will tell you that George Carlin was a loving, caring individual who did give a shit about the planet and it's people. He always spoke the truth as he saw it. He tried to point out our foibles to us and to my mind, he did a hell of a job.

I know you're gonna hate me for saying this, George, but God Bless you. (I know, George, I'm wasting my time talking to a dead guy and an invisible man in the sky. Sorry, Bro.)


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