Steve Lamont

Written by Steve Lamont:
Posted on September 27th, 2009 at 5:29 pm
Go Back to Remembrances

It all started at KCPR.

Okay, that’s not precisely true.

It started at lunch with an acquaintance of mine named John Hadley, probably in late 1968 or 1969.

For some reason or another in conversation, I was prompted to do my Bullwinkle voice (“Well, what do I know? I’m only a moose” was the exact phrase, if memory serves), which broke John up for some reason. Then he said, hey, you know there’s this guy at the campus radio station that does Bullwinkle, too. Maybe you two should meet. John, being an EL student, as I was at the time, had some indirect connection with the station, and told me of a meeting in a couple of days time and suggested that I go.

I wasn’t too thrilled about the idea at first, since I’d listened to the station a few times and remarked that it reminded me of a bunch of thirteen-year-olds with a tape recorder (as I well knew, because I spent many hours one summer with a friend who had such an exotic device as a tape recorder, doing funny voices and generally making a fool of myself as only a thirteen year old can).

I didn’t especially have the “radio bug”. In fact, I’d taken the words of a KSFO jock named Dave Niles to heart. His advice to a young person wanting to get into radio: Don’t. You’ll starve.

But, in any event, out of boredom or avoidance of what laughingly passed for study, a particular source of hilarity in my case, I went to the meeting and came away with a slot for a classical program, the main requirement for which, it would seem, was a personal collection of classical records, which I had, thanks to a lapsed subscription to the Musical Heritage Society, a record company dedicated to making rather uninspired renditions of Mozart and other Baroque period composers (mind you, I learned this later, as, at the time, my knowledge of music was only rivaled by my knowledge of the Fourier transform, that is, a rather vague recognition of the existance of both but only an inchoate realization of why they might actually be important).

But this is about Frank.

I have no idea how or when or under what circumstances I met Frank. He just seemed to be around KCPR and he made the place fun. I took to hanging around the station more and more and around class rooms less and less. I think beyond anything or anyone else Frank was instrumental in hooking me on radio. I know we shared a love for old radio programs and a love for jazz, though his jazz tastes, to my knowledge, tended more toward the Buddy Rich big band style and mine veered in the direction of something toward Cannonball Adderley and early Wes Montgomery. But still. . .

I think my first memory of him was during an early KCPR meeting, back when Alan Holmes (or maybe Jim Steuck?) was station manager. Whomever was running the meeting said something which elicited probably somewhat ironically intended applause. This eventually turned into synchronized clapping and then into a combination conga and chorus line, complete with high kicking, all to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance.

Things like that tended to happen when Frank was around.

Poor Bill Gurzi had to put up with that during his term as Station Manager, as well. Sorry Bill.

Frank and I collaborated on a number of radio projects, including the infamous F. Fester Fletcher send up of then KSLY news director Fred Peterson. Frank did the voice, of course, and I engineered, playing annoying sound effects and generally tried to break him up. I don’t think I ever entirely succeeded. We also did a lot of spots together, some of which I can still remember almost verbatim to this day.

FORSINSKI (Me, doing mediocre Boris Badenov voice): Hoo boy, General, have I gotting bad news for you!

GENERAL (Frank): What’s that, Forsinski, are we running out of vodka?

FORSINSKI: No, is even worse than that!

GENERAL: Is samovar overflowing?

FORSINSKI: No, IBMovitch computerski is on blink again. . .

. . . and then something about getting tutoring help in the Math Lab.

I have to admit that during my rather checkered and eventually rather deservedly short radio career, I “repurposed” a lot of the dialog we co-wrote as commercials at sundry radio stations I bounced to over the next decade. People sometimes thought I was brilliant. Sometimes they thought I was insane.

I stole one we did for the Hobby Garage, several of the Math Lab, and heaven knows what else.

And then there was Suzie Swisscheese, originated by Brad Brown, a fifteen minute or so radio comedy sketch with no discernable social value and an even less discernible plot, done in the style of an old time radio serial. After Brad departed KCPR for parts unknown, I somehow took over the writing duties and managed to bang out a script a week for several months, usually completing them only a few minutes before we went into the studio to record. Frank, of course, did the heavy lifting when it came to voices, as I brought up the rear.

He had one of the most mobile voices of anyone I personally knew, an incredible talent on the par with any of the voice actors on “The Simpsons”. I know that Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badenov on the “Bullwinkle Show”) and Mel Blanc were a couple of his heroes because we talked about them a lot. And more than a voice, he had an ear. He could pick up a lot of the subtleties and nuances which elude the less talented of us.

I often wondered why he didn’t go into professional voice acting. Perhaps, as Ed Zuchelli said of him, he didn’t want to leave the “womb” of SLO. Can’t say as I blame him, if so. I’d like to find a way back if I could.

Working with him, on mike and off, was just a hell of a lot of fun.

I recall a time when we were coming back from somewhere in Avila Beach one rather rainy night. I think Frank was driving his beloved “Old Blue”, an rather elderly and somewhat decrepit International Harvester pickup, and we were bantering back and forth about something. Somehow, we started making up a country song, trading verses back and forth. We were back in town by the time we finished. Memory, of course, fades as to the content and quality of the tune but at the time, it was hilarious.

I also recall an excursion to Walnut Grove, near Sacramento, the site of a large television tower, perhaps during the Christmas holidays in 1970. Somehow, Frank had managed to wangle a tour of the transmitter site and we ended up taking home a couple of very heavy burned out transmitter tubes from the final of KXTV, I believe. Only Frank would think of doing that as a holiday trip, somehow.

Eventually, I ended up at KSLY and then a series of ever more random gigs, Biloxi, Mississippi, then Yuba City, Stockton, back to SLO at KATY, and finally, Salinas, and Monterey, where my radio career came to an appropriately screeching halt after getting fired from an all night gig were I was making exactly the same amount of money that I made when I left KSLY — $600 a month and all the records you could steal.

Somewhere in that litany of stations, when I made that return sojourn in SLO at KATY, we ended up making a video with a woman named Edith Smart. I’m not sure how I got involved. I think I was just tagging along to watch and for some reason or another the person who was going to play one of the leading roles didn’t show up or pulled out at the last minute (a wise man). I ended up with the leading role and an enduring faux hatred for a certain house on Pismo Street.

Things like that tended to happen when Frank was around.

Frank and I eventually lost touch over the years. I think I came down to visit a couple of times in the late 1970s and do a bit of Ramsetting (a Ramset is a piece of construction equipment which drives nails into concrete or anything else using a 22 calibre charge), which I think he did just to humor me.

Ah, Ramset.

If there was anything that Frank claimed to love more than radio, it was construction equipment and grease. He used to call himself “Canagrease”, in fact, and would talk about lubricating bearings with 90 weight. We had a number of running jokes about grease and tools, primary among them was going into a tool store like McCarthy Tank and Steel and me trying to talk him into buying some sort of bizarre piece of gear (“Buy it, Frankie. . . buy it,” I’d whisper).

I think I called him once around 1992 and we talked a bit. I think I also talked to his wife Pam, since I was involved with computers (I now do image processing and scientific visualization research at UCSD, if you care), to which I returned after the radio thing ran its course. We exchanged a few emails, maybe a handful over the past 20 years or so, and I probably squandered a few opportunities to get together with him as I passed through SLO on my way going north or south.

But oddly, over the years, Frank was never too far from my thoughts, even when we were separated by time and distance. I still quote him, doing poor approximations of some of his voices, sometimes to amuse myself and sometimes to annoy my Significant Other.

There’s a lot more but that’s enough.

I personally don’t believe in any sort an afterlife but find the Zen notion of a sort of universal continuum to have a certain amount of appeal. I think Frank made that continuum, if it exists, a happier one.

If I do find myself somehow floating in a cosmic void when my Earthly spark goes out, I hope I’ll find Frank waiting for me there, with “Old Blue” warmed up and ready to take me on an infinite journey. I know I’ve got a few more choruses of that silly country song still in me.

Best regards.

spl


Written by Steve Lamont:
Posted on October 1st, 2009 at 3:44 pm

Filling in a couple of the blanks in Brian Lawler’s Pozo Dam Disaster story, no, I wasn’t present, and only heard about the story somewhat after the fact. At that point in time I was working the evening shift at KSLY (probably 7 to midnight).

The victim of the prank was the all night jock, a fellow named Steve Crummy (his real name, I’m not making it up).

I suspect that he’d only been working there a couple of weeks at the time and was pretty green. I think he was a Poly student but obviously not a KCPR alum or he’d’ve certainly known of Frank’s propensity for doing Peterson.

To Len, I don’t recall the Ramset incident to which you refer but it’s entirely possible. Subtlety and restraint are not my strong points.