|Title: Fernwood2night, Sequel 21 (TV show)
Source: audio and video tape. TAT Communication & Co. Directed by: Marvin Kupfer. Created by: Norman Lear. Hosts: Barth Gimble (Martin Mull) and sidekick Jerry Hubard (Fred Willard). Transcription from tape by "Pieter from Holland" as published on the Tom Waits Library
Date: USA. August 1, 1977
Key words: Martin Mull, Frontal lobotomy
Fernwood2Night, Sequel 21
BG: My first guest, tonight actualli IS a star, and a big star in his own right. He comes to us quite by accident. Literally, his van broke down on a way to a concert in Toledo [laughter from the audience]. So we figured: "Hey!, no use in wasting a visit to Fernwood, why not give him a shot on television!?"
BG: This is a big night for Fernwood2Night. It's almost a thrill for me.
JH: Right. Of course he hasn't any cover charge or minimum for this show either?
BG: No he's not staying at the Apache either!
JH: Oh! Let's not mention names, and say where they're not staying.
BG: Just where they are
JH: That's right.
BG: I haven't even met this gentleman you know. But I know he sells a lot of albums and he makes about a half a million big ones in one year. That's a lot!
JH: Yes it is!
BG: In my book that spells talent. Please welcome the talent of Mr. Tom Waits!
[TW at the piano, balancing a cigarette on his lips. Doing: "The piano has been drinking ". Frequent close ups of a bewildered and surprised BG. Audience laughing all the way through the song. After finishing the song Waits comes over to the couch, puts out the cigarette in an ash-tray and shakes hands with the hosts. He sits down]
JH: How are you! ... wow!
BG: Take a load off your act! [huge laughter from the audience]. Wowie! Hey, that's rotten luck. Car broke down huh? Right up there on the way to Toledo's.
JH: Spend some time up here in the tri-city area?
TW: Well I've been spending a great deal of time over here eh... against my wishes.
BG: After a trip like that, that kind of harrowing experience of having your car break down, which is no picnic. That's really murder. I wish I had something other than this diet soda here.
TW: Aw that's all right ..no sweat.. [takes bottle out of his coat and takes a swig, huge laughter from the audience, BG close up]
JH: No brand names Barth!
BG: No, if I said Harvey's Bristol Cream on the air we would be in big trouble.
JH: I guess if he said Harvey's Bristol Cream on the air they would probably be sending bottles.
BG: Just might take you a little longer.
JH: Tom, where do you hail from professionally? Is it the Big Apple, as they call New York I think? Or is it Hollywood?
TW: I live at Bedlam and Squalor [points over his shoulder]. It's thata way. [laughter]
BG: I think we all lived there at one time. It's kind of strange to have a guy sitting here with a bottle in front of him... Ha, ha, ha...
TW: Well, I'd rather have a bottle in front of me, than a frontal lobotomy. [huge laughter]
BG: While you been here at Fernwood, you had the chance to go in any of the night-spots or any of the restaurants? We got some wonderful places, you might get to like it.
TW: I was out last night. I went to the "Shoes and Socks" restaurant or whatever you call it.
BG: You mean the "Cup and Sup"?
TW: A buck ninety-nine, for all you can stand. It's eh harrowing to say at least.
BG: Yeah, what did you order? They got some awful good dishes at the Cup and Sup?
TW: Oh I had eh.. I don't know. Well Betty, she had the filet of athletic equipment. I didn't know whether to eat mine or give it a ride home.
BG: Well, it wasn't expensive. That's the main part huh?
TW: Hey... well I wanted to mention something about that. Maybe I shouldn't even be mentioning it on the air...
BG: We're friends..
TW: Well, I just need a couple of bucks, that's all ...just until my brother straightens up... I had to leave my four-year-old for a collateral!
BG: Sure! I'm eh.. [checking his pockets]... Jerry, give him 20 dollars.
TW: Hey, that's all right, you know, really...
JH: That's my last.
BG: That's perfect! I guess eh by giving you this money means we'll be seeing you soon?
TW: Well eh, I enjoyed my stay sofar.
BG: I should imagine so. We'll be back in a few moments after this message.
In July 1977 a satire of talk shows "Fernwood2Night" was developed by Norman Lear to fill the summer gap between "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman" and "Forever Fernwood". Set at the studios of Channel 2 in fictional Fernwood/ Ohio. It starred Martin Mull as host Barth Gimble and Fred Willard as his half-witted sidekick Jerry Hubard. Most of the guests on "Fernwood2Night" were purely fictional, but a few celebrities, such as Mr. Waits, played "themselves". "America2Night" was introduced in the spring of 1978 and was similar in format to its predecessor. Mr. Waits appeared on both shows:
- Fernwood2night (SYN), sequel 21: August 1 1977
(Tom Waits on Frontal Lobotomy. "Bud" Prize on using CB radio to bring in tourists)
- America2night, sequel 34: May 25 1978.
(Wedding of Tony Rolletti and Joanie Sherwood, presided over by Rabbi "Shecky" Stein)
The 1977 "Fernwood2night" appearance is famous for Waits' "frontal lobotomy" quote. Check out this site for more info on the Fernwood shows. Questions and responses were probably scripted ahead of time. Everything looks carefully planned, so this TV appearance shouldn't be regarded as a regular interview. Some of his answers might even have been written by the Fernwood writers team. Some of his lines however are definitely his own. Waits is treated like some freak. He's playing the role of the seamy grizzled streetwise raconteur, only doing this show to get some money and food. The hosts are constantly "making fun" of him. There's constant laughter from the audience and Martin Mull (Barth Gimble) is constantly faking incomprehension and disbelief.
NS (2005): "Let me ask you about elixirs for a minute. I don't wanna misquote you but I think I saw you once say something like: "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy." TW: Alright. NS: A very succinct and poetic line. TW: Ehm.. I read that on a bathroom wall. NS: Oh, did you really? TW: Uhu, yeah. NS: But it strikes me it's also somebody, saying that at that time, that maybe drinking was probably pretty important to you at that point. TW: Oh, well I haven't had a drink in like fourteen years. NS: But when you said that, my guess would be that you probably were, unless you were totally playing a character. TW: Oh yeah, I was drinking in those days. Yeah sure." (Source: "Cool Ivories" American Routes radio show (USA), by Nick Spitzer. February 16-22, 2005)
Martin Mull and Tom Waits were close friends with a compatible sense of humor. Both were musicians doing little comedic bits in between songs. Waits appeared on the 1977 Martin Mull album: "I'm everyone I've ever loved "(ABC/MCA AB-997). Mull's first break in television was on "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," which he describes as the "Roseanne of the 70s." Since then he has also done over two dozen feature films. Mull was a teaching fellow and has a Master's degree in art and has since stayed in touch with the medium both through painting or drawing. Check out this site for some artwork by Mull. For more information on Martin Mull, please check out this excellent: Unofficial Martin Mull Homepage
Frontal lobotomy is a very radical procedure that has been used off and on by psychiatrists to prevent destructive behaviour. Severing the connection between the front lobes of the brain makes the personality placid - apparently prevents strong motivation or overreaction from occurring. It is only used as a last resort. Portuguese neurologist, Egas Moniz, came up with the lobotomy idea in the 30's, worked on it a lot, and in 1949 was given the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine for it. It's a striking example of how relief from pain is produced by a treatment affecting only the affective component of pain perception. In the 1940's American patients who underwent frontal lobotomy for the treatment of intractable pain, no longer complained of suffering from their pain, but, when asked, they reported that the pain was just as intense as it was prior to their surgery; it just didn't bother them anymore. For some scientific pictures have a look at these Neuroradiology Image Teaching Files.
In The Words Of Waits
By Steve Packer
ON August 1, 1977, Tom Waits appeared, very much as himself, on the American satirical talk show Fernwood2Night, set in a fictional town in Ohio.
The singer-songwriter, already a cult figure for early 1970s albums such as Closing Time and The Heart of Saturday Night, was to pretend that he'd been driving by "Fernwood" when his car had broken down, stranding him. He had little money - he sponged $20 on the show - and only the boutique op-shop suit he was sitting down in. He faced the hosts, role-playing comedians Martin Mull and Jerry Hubard, with a trademark cigarette burning between his lips and pulled a bottle of booze from under his jacket. The hosts regarded him as some kind of low-life curiosity.
Hubard: Tom, where do you hail from professionally? Is it the Big Apple, as they call New York, or is it Hollywood?
Waits: I live at Bedlam and Squalor. It's thataway (pointing over his shoulder).
Mull: I think we all lived there at one time. It's kind of strange to have a guy sitting here with a bottle in front of him, ha, ha.
Waits: Well, I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.
The line got the night's biggest laugh and earned the show a footnote in television history. It was soon being scrawled on walls and repeated by, and credited to, other people. In Sphere's 1984 Handbook of 20th-Century Quotations, it was "graffito quoted on BBC Radio 4" and expanded, nonsensically, to "I'd rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full-frontal lobotomy". William Gaddis slipped the line into his 1985 novel Carpenter's Gothic (now a Penguin 20th-century Classic) and it is on lists all over the the internet.
Although often credited to Anonymous, its lineage seems secure enough to ensure Waits's name is attached when it appears in future editions of quotation dictionaries, with other great drinking quips such as "I always keep a supply of stimulant handy in case I see a snake - which I also keep handy" (W.C. Fields) and "You are not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on" (Dean Martin).
With dubious originality, Waits has also used the lobotomy-like line, "Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends" and widely gets the credit for it.
Many other certifiable Waits quotes stand a chance of making posterity's cut. In fact, he is sure to end up being one of the most quoted figures in rock music, out-worded perhaps only by Bob Dylan and the Beatles. He may well be remembered less as a musician and songwriter than as a wit and raconteur whose life and art were a seamless creation, in the fashion of quotemeisters Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward.
The comparison might seem flattering but the evidence is stacking up. Like Wilde and Coward, Waits's lines flow from his public conversation and a variety of creative output, and the division is blurring. "The piano has been drinking, not me" and "There ain't no devil, it's just God when he's drunk" will exceed their birthright as lyrics the way "Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun" and "Mad about the boy" did for Coward.
Or consider Coward's "Certain women should be struck regularly like gongs", from the play Private Lives, against the opening of the Waits song-monologue Frank's Wild Years: "Frank settled down in the Valley and hung his wild years on a nail that he drove through his wife's forehead." Which isn't to imply that Waits is a misogynist drunk: it's all part of his loser-sinner schtick.
Inherent in the ruse is a roguishness that has allowed Waits to constantly bend the truth, exaggerate, plagiarise, obscure and reinvent his past. Born Thomas Alan Waits on December 7, 1949, in Pomona, California, he has long claimed he was born in a yellow taxi, with numerous elaborations - "parked in a loading zone"; "with the meter running"; "I shouted 'Times Square, and step on it!"' He has also claimed he was born on the day legendary black American folk musician Leadbelly died, "and I like to think we passed in the hall". In fact, he was born the day after.
For three decades, Waits has cloaked his persona in an Americana that isn't so much nostalgic as peopled by contemporary characters stuck in the past. "Remember me? I ordered the blonde, the Firebird - somebody's made a terrible mistake!" was a line worked into interviews for a while. So was: "I stay in a place called 'Rooms'. There's a whole chain of them." That would be in a place such as Putnam County, where "if somebody gets shot on a Saturday night, the Sunday papers just say they died of natural causes".
His idea of a good time - at least before he got married and rich and moved to rural northern California to rear his three children - was "a Tuesday evening at the Manhattan Club in Tijuana".
In US Vogue, Mick Brown wrote that Waits "trafficked in a particularly American kind of sadness, using his vignettes as platforms for wry and truthful observations about the cavity of desperation and disillusionment beneath the bravura of American life". In British magazine Uncut, Gavin Martin wrote of his "phantasmagorical American dreamscape" of bars, dime stores, carnivals and B-movie scenarios. Film-maker Francis Ford Coppola called him "the prince of melancholy". Critics have compared his work with that of writers such as William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Raymond Carver. At this, Waits might scratch his goatie or wink. More his style is Coward's "Strange how potent cheap music is".
He plays a "common man" for anyone who grew up expecting more out of life than it delivered and might be willing to at least partly blame themselves. His movie roles (in Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, Down By Law, Short Cuts) play the same hand in spades. Asked if he was worried about becoming stereotyped, he has said, "I'm not an actor. I don't care." Making movies was "like working up 50lb of dough to make one biscuit", although he has conceded that "the beauty of show business is that it's the only business you can still have a career in after you're dead".
His fascination with the underdog extends to the underbelly - the misfits, freaks and fringe-dwellers of society. Since his album Swordfishtrombones in 1983, he has been extending his sympathies to rampant eccentricity and genuine weirdness. For a while, he was clanking and bellowing from caverns of suburbia beyond the reach of even a camera-on-shoulder Michael Moore. The likes of Frank's Wild Years, from Swordfishtrombones, and the hilarious circle of paranoia in What's He Building? on the 1999 album Mule Variations, come from deep in Unabomber territory, and the narrator's voice is not that of a visitor. "'Cause there's nothing strange about an axe with bloodstains in the barn/There's always some killing you got to do around the farm", from 1992's Bone Machine, also captures the tone.
The wonder is that Waits has also been able to sustain a rich and philosophical romanticism. It was encapsulated in early lyrics such as, "I lost my St Christopher now that I kissed her" and "How can the angels get to sleep when the devil leaves the porch light on?". It was distilled to its skid-row essentials in a monologue from the 1993 album and theatre production The Black Rider: "Now when I was a boy, my daddy sat me on his knee and he told me many things/And he said, son, there's a lot of things in this world you're gonna have no use for/And when you get blue and you've lost all your dreams/There's nothing like a campfire and a can of beans."
Half the impact is how he says it. Asked on radio how he achieved his unique vocal style, he replied, "I drink my own urine." English singer and comedian Vivian Stanshall said the shock of first hearing Waits was "like being handed a saveloy, blindfolded, at a gay party".
On Late Night With David Letterman a few years ago, the cantankerous TV host asked Waits: "Some of your critics wrote that your new album sounded like something that came out of the belly of a wounded sick animal. Is that what you intended?" Waits: "I'm surprised they caught it."
He has won two Grammys (best alternative album for Bone Machine and best contemporary folk album for Mule Variations), but his nomination for best rock vocal performance of 2003 was an eyebrow-raiser. Just as odd was that it was for his version of the Ramones' The Return of Jackie and Judy on a tribute album.
A decade ago, Waits said: "To be honest, I've always been afraid that I was gonna spend years and years tapping the world on the shoulder, and then everybody was gonna turn around and I'd forget what it was I had to say." He needn't have worried. Not long after, a court was determining what the mere sound of his voice was worth after a corn chip company had someone copy it in radio commercials without his permission. Waits received $US2.4 million.
But it's best the last word goes to Boston singer Eileen Rose, from her song Tom Waits Crooning: "Angel falls in the water, wets his wings/He can't fly for a while, it's one of those things/He spends the downtime singing."
� The Australian