by Andy Capp
"Wait, I don't think I heard you right...you want to know where I get all my great Creative ideas?!" Wow, how flattering! I'm sure that question is all part of the daily routine for people like Dick Orkin or Joel Moss, but it was a first for me. I WAS flattered...and stumped. It isn't that I'm not filled with all sorts of trivia about Creativity; I read all the books and can bore you for hours. That expert says this. This expert says that. I know how THEY do it, but when I think back on the 3 or 4 truly creative notions I've had in this career, I don't know how I did it.
One thing I do know, I'm a thief--bits and pieces, odds and ends, this and that. I've sneaked away with it all and hidden it in a place no one else would dare go. Yep, all the loot is there, my Dad playing and singing "Froggy Went a Courtin," the surreal video-before-there-were-videos that the Beatles filmed for Strawberry Fields, Bugs Bunny singing in The Rabbit of Seville right after giving Elmer an extremely close shave, "There, you're nice and clean! Although your face looks as if it had gone through a ma-chine." Nearly every Roadrunner cartoon is there, so is every Batman TV show (sorry Danny, Burgess Meredith is the only Penguin, in my mind). Playing in the left wing is an emotional, teen angst driven 10 minutes of Rod Sterling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, directed by Oral Interp coach Jeanette Horn at Brookings High, 1978/79, plus every film and lecture from Clare Denton's Film Narrative class, circa 1981 South Dakota State University...except for Citizen Kane, which has its own continuous showing in the Orson Wells wine cellar.
There's a big party in the library. Winnie the Pooh and the rest of Christopher Robin's childhood friends are hanging out with Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, along with a Mysterious Stranger from one of Twain's darker offerings. Hamlet and Jack Nickolson compare notes on Shakespeare and King's respective ghosts, while Dracula and Lestat debate the elegance of Vampirism and the pitiful state of mankind. Steve Martin brings down the house with selections from Cruel Shoes, especially the story about smokers which ends with, "...and then his lips fell off." The place is crowded to the shelves with characters brought to life by the words of Poe, Bradbury, Hubbard, Lovecraft, Moliere, Neil Simon, H.G. Wells, Huxley, Steinbeck, and Red Stangland (who wrote a series of "Ole and Lena" joke books).
It's Open Mic Night in the lounge, where Jonathan Winters, Bill Cosby, Martin Mull, Bob Newhart, George Carlin, Firesign Theatre, and the entire Monty Python crew do their best routines over and over. There are also many One-Joke Wonders, favorite bits like Andy Kaufman's Mighty Mouse song, John Belushi dancing ironically on the graves of the original Saturday Night Live cast, Robin Williams...ahh, just breathing.
They've been mentioned earlier, but it bears repeating that if it's Loony, Toony, and from the Dubba-Dubba-WB, it's there, Bugs, Daffy, Pinky, Yakko, Elmer...you get the idea. There's also a certain amount of saving the Universe going on, by the likes of Batman, the X-Men, Thor, Spawn, Space Ghost, the Incredible Hulk, the Tick, and other not always so "comic" book heroes.
Several Jukeboxes are always playing, some with single tunes like The Weight by the Band, Blue for You by Men at Work, Mount Blasta by Critters Buggin, Once in a Lifetime by the Talking Heads, Don't Call on Me by Michael Nesmith and the Monkees, Round Here by Counting Crows, Changes by David Bowie, Crackerbox Palace By George Harrison, Romeo and Juliet by Dire Straits, Little Red Corvette by the Artist Then Known as Prince, Sam by Olivia Newton-John. (Hey, I can have a serious lapse in taste if no one knows about it!) There are also album sides there. Side 1 of the first Aztec Camera album, side 1 of Todd Rundgren's Hermit of Mink Hollow (for Runt fans, "The Easy Side"), side 2 of Rust Never Sleeps by Neil Young (ok, maybe side 1 too), side 1 of the Cars first album (which I've never been lucky enough to own, but lucky enough to have roommates who did), side 1 of Elvis Costello's Imperial Bedroom, and side 1 of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London. Some entire albums get play: Neil Young's Live Rust, Leap of Faith from Kenny Loggins, Abbey Road by the Beatles (heck, ANY Beatles album, I'm not picky), any album from Windham Hill's William Ackerman, The Who's Tommy, Q's Jook Joint from Quincy Jones and friends, Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd (duh!), The Police's Ghost in the Machine, Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, the soundtrack of the musical Godspell, Queen and A Night at the Opera, and any Mozart collection.
Now we pause for a few commercial messages and messengers: the cartoon Tootsie Pop ad in which Mr. Owl "proves" that it only takes 3 licks to get to the center, the Great American Chocolate Bar jingle for Hershey's, all the Little Caesar's TV spots, the print ads for Absolut Vodka.... This could go on for some pages. Let's narrow the spot inventory list to everything I've ever heard (or seen) produced by Dick Orkin, Chuck Blore, Stan Freberg, J.R. Nelson, John Frost, Joel Moss, Klem Daniels, and Robb Davidson.
Let's see, have I left any of my prizes out? Oh yeah, Charlie in the Box (you know, from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?), the billion voices of Mel Blanc and Daws Butler, the birth of all three of my children, the CBS Mystery Theatre my Dad listened to when I was a kid, that Harry Chapin concert I went to just 6 months before his death, the downright stupid Bazooka Joe jokes with every piece of bubble gum, Ron Moody's Fagin in the movie version of Oliver, smashing my hand in the car door a few hours before playing guitar at a friends wedding, the rhymes and reason of Dr. Suess, every Lettermen Top 10 list and every Deep Thought by Jack Handy, Albert Finney's incredible Scrooge, my first kiss, my first heartbreak (both from the same young lady, thank you), zillions of hours of bad TV.
I ripped it all off, and a lot more. It's all stored in that unstable environment where earthquakes are common, and the items are apt to be tossed and mixed, shaken, rattled, and rolled, folded, bent, and mutilated. Great Creative ideas? More like Creative Adaptations, fueled by a mixture of pure Creative theft, with a little real life thrown in for better mileage.
Oh, by the way, I did misunderstand the question. "What's wrong with you?!" Hey, a rose is a rose!