Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler Says:
Posted on September 30th, 2009 at 7:07 am
Go Back to Remembrances

OK, here goes:

Steve Lamont’s entry reminded me of the nutty voices and imitations that Frank could do so well.

Occasionally, when we are snow-bound here in San Luis Obispo, sitting by the fire in the night and talking to friends, I will regale my captives with the story of the Pozo Dam Disaster. I remember it well. It was a dark and stormy night…

I was there for part of the evening of the Pozo Dam Disaster, and I think that Steve was also (though I have no facility for remembering those details). I left before the final chapter, so it remains for Woody to deliver the tape recording to add credibility to my story.

It began with Fred Peterson, local radio newsman. He was a vertically-challenged man with little to no hair. He drove a 1964 Ambassador with a prominent sign in the back window saying, “Pearl Harbor Survivor.”

Peterson was the newsman (he read news from other news services, the local paper, press releases, and more) on the rock station KSLY, which was pronounced in Wolfman-style Kay-SLY. Peterson was decades older than anyone else at KSLY, and he lived downtown, so we would see him walking to work and back quite often. He was an odd man with a unique voice.

Peterson obviously admired Paul Harvey, and he tried not too successfully to imitate the trademark voice of the Chicago radio personality. Peterson’s approach was to put pregnant pauses between words as Paul Harvey did. But Peterson put pauses in that were not pregnant, they were delivery room. He would open his news show with:

“This is PETERSON… (two second pause)… AND… (two second pause) the NEWS, brought to you by La Casa de (which he pronounced with a French “duh” sound)… (two-second pause)… WIGS”

He rolled the R in “brrrrought to you” with such brrrravado that you would have thought he was Castillian. Listening to Peterson was a hoot.

Frank could imitate Fred Peterson’s voice with perfection. No one would have been able to tell Frank’s impersonation from the real thing.

So, there we were in the KCPR studios (I was the production manager of the Mustang Daily at the time) and Frank started doing Fred Peterson… and… the news. We laughed ourselves silly.

And we invented the Pozo Dam Disaster.

The late-night DJ at KSLY was spinning the disks on the turntables when his phone rang. It was Frank, pretending to be Fred Peterson. The young man was quite impressed that Fred Peterson would be calling at so late an hour.

Frank/Fred told him that there was a story in-the-making. The Pozo Dam was about to fail, and all the people downstream from the dam were imperiled.

The young man was quite excited.

Frank/Fred continued by admonishing him NOT to go on the air with the story, because he (Frank/Fred) had to get some additional facts.

And, Frank elaborated a bit, explaining how desperate the situation was.

There is no dam in Pozo.

Frank/Fred promised to call back with more details, and he reminded the young DJ not to announce the disaster until he called back and gave him the go-ahead.

Frank made one or two more calls to the station, filling-in details of the Pozo Dam Disaster, and getting the DJ pretty excited.

And, then the young man went on the air with the story, explaining to his public that the Pozo Dam was about to fail, and that all who lived downstream would be lost if they didn’t respond immediately.

About this time I had to go do something responsible, like print the Mustang, so I left the studios, laughing.

Later, Frank and Steve (and maybe others?) came into the pressroom, laughing about the young DJ and the fact that he had aired the “news.”

When Frank/Fred called the last time, he said, “This is PETERSON…” with the usual flair, and the young man said something like this:

“It is NOT Fred Peterson. I just talked to Fred Peterson. In fact I just woke him up. You are not Fred Peterson, and there is no Pozo Dam.”

…and the prank ended.

I think the episode is recorded at the KCPR site mentioned up near the top in Woody’s entry.

It was one of the funniest things I have ever witnessed.

There were others, about which I will write later.

Frank was a man of many talents, not the least of which was his amazing ability to imitate voices. He did Rocky and Bullwinkle (as Steve mentioned) flawlessly, and he always made us laugh.

His greatest talent, though, was to be a friend to all. He was helpful, thoughtful, generous and funny. I never knew him to say no, a skill I am also very poor at practicing.

We will all miss him and his delightful personality.

This is Brian Lawler… and the news…
San Luis Obispo

Written by Brian Lawler:
Posted on September 30th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

(in response to Rick DeBruhl):

Are you talking about the blue International Harvester pick-up?

If so, the answer is that I bought it from Frank when he went on active duty in the Navy. I paid him $2.00 for it (and I think I forgot to actually give him the money).

I fixed the exhaust manifold several times. It had a slant-four engine that was troublesome.

A year or so later I sold it for $4.00 to my friend Tom, who used it for a year or two, but he had trouble with the exhaust manifold.

Tom gave it to a friend who took it to Mendocino County to use as a utility vehicle on a farm.

Several years later I got a call from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Dept. asking about “my” International Harvester pick-up. It was being used on a marijuana plantation. Seems that no one after me ever registered it, and they wanted to know my connection to the truck. I told them I didn’t know what had happened to it after I sold it.

They never called back.


Written by Brian Lawler:
Posted on October 2nd, 2009 at 5:55 am

I was handed a box of 35mm slides last years by a fellow GrC teacher, who said, “I thought you’d be interested in these.”

I was indeed. There among them was a photo of Frank operating a punch-tape machine, preparing copy for the Mustang Daily. Look – he had hair!!