Randy's Corner Deli Library

24 June 2008

Intimate Memories of George Carlin, Courtesy of Bob Lefsetz

View from the booth in the corner, holding coffee a little unsteadily and with not a little twinge of sadness:

Before anybody gets pissed at me for putting these private recollections up on my blog, let me assure you that the intent is this: Bob Lefsetz sends a letter out when his mood strikes to a lot of people who have some interest in the music business in particular and the entertainment industry in general. I am one of the foregoing. These are priceless, personal memories of people who were touched somehow by George Carlin and which I received from Bob. They do not deserve to be stuck in an "inbox" marked "read". Besides which, my readership is far more selective and therefore smaller than, say, Huffington Post.

George Carlin was not Jewish. He worshipped the G-d of his own truth and told it without regard to any particular organized religion. I think he was born Catholic. Whatever. We listened.

I have to credit, in part, George Carlin for my propensity to tell it like it is. The gentleness, however, with which I (attempt)to do so, however, came with life and associated tragedies within it. Not to mention the joy that finds its way there, too (and which we too often ignore in favor of drama).

I grew up on George Carlin records, everything. (Not to mention Richard Pryor.) Seven Words you don't get to say on TV? That was tame. Really poignant stuff was left on albums and in clubs around the world. And in the rooms of 12 year old boys like me who, it being 1973, liked hearing somebody with long hair giving it to The Man (Richard Nixon, THE man). Truth to Power? It started here. Let us hope that the lessons George gave us in his too-short of a lifetime are not ever lost on thoughtful people who have the integrity to just speak the truth about the world no matter how funny it is to hear. Or, too often times these days, after the laughter wears off, how sad. It's sad to lose someone who was infused with, among other substances, so much integrity for himself and that which was reflected upon the people who cared enough to listen. Like a little boy in a small bedroom with a very rudimentary Pioneer stereo and two speakers that still echo from Rogers Park, Chicago. In 1973.

Randy Shiner

I had just gotten in at my place of employment at the time which was the afternoon / night shift at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip, I was 22 and the year was 1972, while walking over to my section of the store, my section was the comedy section... meaning I had to take records from the under stock and make sure that they were represented in the display up on top, I look and I see one Mr. George Carlin looking through my section. Now George was at the top of his game at the time, he and his manager had just started their own record company called "Little David Records" for which the only other artist on the label at the time was a little known jazz / folk singer named Kenny Rankin..... sorry to say but at that time he wasn't my cup of tea but still I had received a promo of his album and gave it a listen which said a lot because I used to take albums I had no use for directly over to Aaron's Records, for those of you who don't know Aaron's Records was a place on Melrose Ave. here in Los Angeles where you could take your used and new albums and turn them into $$$$$$.... something that was in short supply in those days. Tower Records was never known for paying their employees a lot of money, I think they figured with all the free records, tee shirts, concert and let's not forget the store groupies... you were doing pretty well. I didn't complain I had no bills to pay except for rent.

OK back to George, so I walked up to him and I tell George how I've been listening to his new LP "Class Clown" religiously and playing it in the store until all of the other employees were sick of it, I know how many times can you listen to the same joke over and over again. Sorry but I loved it and for me it was a learning experience. I asked George joking "would you please show me how you do your Ed Sullivan" and much to my surprise he showed me by saying. "By now you know, by now you know, just before the aero photography picture of Kate Smith, Topo Gigio the little faggot mouse will be out here to do his thing". Even thought I'd heard it before on record I laugh so hard that I cried.

So we talked for a while. Lets face it George always was one of us.... just peopl,e none of that movie star crap for him... and that's what we all loved him for.

He had a boxed set (stay with me now, this is where the story gets good) of classical LP's under his arm and asked me "do you have a LP resealer in the back room of the store?".... we were told by Tower management never to mention the LP resealer, it was Tower's dirty little secret and you could get fired for that on the spot, so without so much as thinking twice I said "yeah we have one." He said to me that he was flying to New York tonight and that tomorrow was his friend's birthday and wouldn't it be funny if when his friend opened up the LP he found some drugs inside it instead of LP's. I said "ABSOLUTELY I WOULD", so we proceeded to the back room of Tower Records where we heated up the shrink wrap machine and opened up the box set of LP's that he had and took the albums out of the box and at that point I was thinking maybe he had a little pot to put inside, but George was the big time and there it was.... WOW ... George reaches into his pants and pulls out the biggest bag of cocaine I had ever seen in my life... so we proceeded to put the bag of coke into the box set and as I thought ... "sorry George" it wouldn't fit, no problem he said and he opens up the baggy and puts a big pile of coke on the record sleeve, puts the bag back into the box set and it still wouldn't fit, so George take some more out and we finally get the bag to fit, we send it through the resealer and shrink wrapper until the LP looked just like new. George thanked me very much and I inquired "what about that pile of coke sitting there" he said "no problem, that's for you for your services" You've got to be joking...."no, that's for you" :):):):) I was used to buying small amounts and never had that much for personal use ever...I said "Thanks George !!!!!!" I clean up everything in the back room and walk him out to the front entrance shook his hand and thanked him for everything.... for me a banner day at Tower.

Needless to say I was employee of the month and had this great story to tell all.

In closing I'm not glorifying drug use because as of this month I celebrated my 18th year of being sober and don't care to make any judgment on anybody that still gets high...

THATS YOUR BUSINESS !!!! Enjoy your life. "I hope he did". George Carlin is the true template of comedy for all to follow. R.I.P.

Rock Singer


Had the thrill/privilege of working with George in 1984 when he had the "Carlin On Campus" album (on the Penthouse Records label I ran). He had a nice suite of offices in Brentwood with his older brother Patrick in one office & that (now late) brilliant comic/writer Pat McCormick also based there. He and George were working together.

Among the projects I did with him was a live call-in national radio special for "Rockline" aired on over 100 album rock formatted stations. This was the first (and maybe only) time they had a comedian guest for the entire program and the audience reaction was unbelievable. He was great -- gave autographs, took pix, did station id's and quipped hysterically about everything.
Lastly, among all the tributes and obits, everyone seems to have forgotten that he sub-hosted for Johnny Carson on the Tonight show wearing a T-shirt. Only HE could get away with this & do it with unquestioned class and style along with his absolute brilliance.

Ron Farber


School year 1970-71, myself and three high school friends who were all at UCLA, rented a two-bedroom apartment on Beverly Glen. Who was our next door neighbor, but George Carlin. It was in his transition phase, when he was fired from Las Vegas. He wasn't around much. He liked the Mad Dogs and Englishmen poster I had up in our living room wall, and sometimes we would talk about music. He drove a Trans-Am. Brenda, his wife, seemed lonely. Quite often the apartment door was open. Sometimes after class she would invite me in for a beer, which I thought was strange as I was underage, and to chat. I liked her. Their daughter Kelly was very young, and they had a small dog, Bogie.

Months later I saw him play at the Troubadour, and popped backstage to say hello. When he learned that I didn't have his new album, AM/FM, (unbeknownst to me) he sent Brenda to Tower Records to buy one and gave it to me later that night. I was touched. In addition to being much older than I, he was a hard guy to be friends with because he was on the road so much. I did a few stories on him, including one for the L.A. Times where I traveled to Vegas. It was memorable to me because I came up with the lyrics to "Punk Rock Christmas" while sweating in the summer heat around the hotel pool, jotting them on the Newsweek I was reading. I visited him once more when he lived on Pacific Ave. in Venice.

I spoke with him last in the Nineties. He called me because he had gotten the rights back to his Little David albums and was thinking of manufacturing his catalogue himself, which he did. A few years later, Jeff Gold came to us about wanting to issue comedy compilations to tie in with the new laugh therapy coming from India. Foos thought we needed a spokesperson for such a line and wanted me to call George. He was lukewarm on the project, which we never did.

Harold Bronson


Hi Bob:

George Carlin was one of the nicest people I ever knew. I will miss his humor, and the rare talks we would have over the years about comedy, music, family and life.

I met him in 1983 as he was in the comeback mode after years battling addiction and health issues. He had just released an album called CARLIN ON CAMPUS, and I was the young promotion man working it at radio in the North East and I was about 21 years old.

I remember calling his office, because I had a ton of AOR radio programmers and morning show producers calling me to get a shot at an interview or a live on the air visit to the many stations that were playing his first album on his own label called EARDRUM RECORDS.

Again, I was a kid, a huge fan, and I called his office and this guy answered the phone, and I said something like "Hi, this is Joe Reagoso and I have some radio requests around the new project, and I was calling to see if Mr. Carlin would be available to give us some help.........etc." Then this person who answered the phone said something to the effect of "No problem, Joey.....I will ask Mr. Carlin and get back with you." I gave the fellow my information, and then I asked him his name and he said "This is George Carlin." I almost died. Here is my favorite comedian in life calling me "Joey" and actually speaking with me and clowning around.

We met at Lafeyette University near Allentown PA, in a school locker room after the show, his backstage area.
We talked about the album, radio op's, retail stuff, and then the topics shifted to the likes of Rudy Ray Moore, Redd Foxx, Lord Buckley, and so on...then family, neighborhoods, music, etc. He always wanted to know how the family was. A very family kinda guy for sure.

Since I was a student of comedy recordings, he and I became very good friends over the years, exchanging a lot of material, tapes, cds, etc. He at one time sent me a box of cassettes with some of the raunchiest shit I ever heard, and I couldn't stop laughing. I still have some of them in my IPOD and it will always be a reminder who hipped me to the routines. He collected a lot of this stuff, archived it. He had roasts and early beatnick rap stuff, and comedy from all eras.

For the next three decades, I went to a bunch of his concerts and casino shows. Never using the same material, always a new and fresh presentation, Carlin was a true American original.
He taped all of his shows, he analyzed his material, always striving and creating the best he could do, and it worked, look at the run he had. It never peaked, he was always doing something new and challenging for both himself, but more so for his worldwide audience.

I can cite several shows where even I wanted to shrink and hide, I was so embarrassed. I mean the guy would explore taboos unknown to other comedians or actors. Once he was going into something edgy in Atlantic City, and I was with some family, and I knew it was time to either get the hell out of the place, or just pretend I didn't hear what he just said. I mean the guy knew how to make you laugh, but maybe it wasn't the kind of stuff we should be laughing at....that was the unique quality of his comedy.

He would call me when he was in a city nearby, and we would hook up at the gigs, and I would usually take a friend or someone in the music field with me, and they would just freak out, because I would never tell them that we were going to meet him. One time, I was at a very very lame MCA Records convention in 1999 in Vegas, and I was flying over the town, and I saw a huge sign "CARLIN at the MGM GRAND".

I called him as soon as the plane landed and I said I was in town, and he he asked me how many tickets I needed, and I said "I am at this very lame convention, and I have a staff of about 20 folks", and he said "Great....bring them to the gig and then we'll meet up after the show." Well, it was about 120 degrees that night, I snuck about 20 promotion folks out of the convention, and we walked over to the MGM GRAND. I didn't really tell them what we doing up until the moment we left the convention, and they almost shit.

George, put us all in the first row seating area....and he was doing a very heavy show that night, for a casino, so that made it even more cool, and then as the gig ended, everyone thought we were going back to the convention, but I said, "Hey Guys, we need to walk this way thru the greenroom." So, without telling anyone what was next, we all walked back to the green room area, and George walks out with his usual greeting to me "Hey Joey...You Fuck." The promotion staff went bonkers. They had no idea that I even knew this guy, and here they were now, getting handshakes, autographs, pictures taken with the legend, etc. George was a very nice guy to do things like that, and it wasn't rare. A very nice man indeed.

He actually put my wife and I in one of the final episodes of his George Carlin Show on FOX in the 90's. I will never forget that as long as I live. I called him one time, and asked if he could put me in his show as a bar matron, or whatever, you know...wanting to have something for posterity. Well....we flew into Warner Studios and he brought my wife Karen and I through the whole process. I mean, we were at the production meetings, we saw the writing sessions, the rehearsals, the live audience tapings, the pre-show tapings, etc. The episode featured Tommy Chong, and if you could imagine this shit, George Carlin and Tommy Chong getting a delivery of pot mailed to Carlin's address by mistake....I mean it was a once in a lifetime scripts and t.v. moments. At any rate, he put me and the wife in the bar scene throughout the entire show! Then several transition scenes too, like walking by him on the street and waving hi to us.... It was very heavy for me. I have to be honest with you. I never expected him to give us the royal treatment. I just thought I would be in it for a second or two..... no....you know what George did as well....he put us in the national t.v. commercial announcing the new episode, which ran for a week, and then during the very big Sunday Night Football program on FOX, so everyone I knew in life was calling me in disbelief.

Disbelief, that is the feeling I have today. I got a call from Michael Lessner at Live Nation, missed the call, opened up my email, and then I got the NY TIMES headline and my heart sunk. Shocked somewhat, numb and bummed out, yes. He was a friend for life. He and I had some very amazing conversations over the years that will live on in my heart and memory for the rest of my life. He was a caring guy, took me under his wing, when I was a kid, and never forgot about me, my family, my friends or my label compadres. He loved music, loved comedy, loved his family. If you knew him, he was the same guy you saw on television, he was a funny funny man. No doubt about it.

I remember a year ago, you had seen the HBO special, and you were analyzing it, and I sent it over to George. There was a segment in that show called "Uncle Dave", and before he died, probably the last time I saw him in Long Beach, right when I moved here, I told him that this routine was a very heavy piece of comedy that actually brought some tears to my eyes. It was about how the average guy who gets fucked over his whole life, by his boss, by school mates, by his friends, by ill health, by bad shit all around, and then how it happens when you die that all of the great ones come back like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and all the other "Uncle Daves" finally get their just break. They finally get the pay raise, they finally get recognition, etc. I mean it was like a 45 minute piece in artistry, that I never heard anyone do since or probably never be able to do. I remember telling him how in the beginning, it sounded like a typical funny bit, but then it turns into this serious piece of commentary which takes you to the next level. George stood up for the Uncle Daves in this world. Maybe that is why we all dug the man.

Georgie....I miss you man! God is watching over you now. May God Bless you and your wonderful family. Our prayers are with you.

Your old bub,

Joe Reagoso


Hey Bob,

I wanted to drop you a note about the passing of George Carlin. I remember seeing him on TV during his "short hair" years and loving him then a few years later buying my first comedy LP, "Class Clown." During college, I was almost arrested for playing "Occupation: Foole" while working a mall record store.

In 1990, I was lucky enough to promote two sold out concerts with him up in the Berkshires and spend some quality time getting to know one of my idols. It was the first performances after his heart attack and I had to make sure his chicken for dinner was cooked without the skin. I will never forget the unique, gentle was he described how the heart attack was his wake up call. I don't know what he was personally like before, but when I was with him he was one of the most gentle, polite men - oh he truly felt the anger his routines would bring out in him onstage, but I never heard him complain about anything and he made my crew happy enough to want to work for him for free! He was also one of the most intelligent people I have ever met.




The mid-late 70's. George Carlin opened/shared the bill with me at the Santa Monica Civic.

Everyone was finally gone & I had to tell my roadie something. Speaking briefly with George in the hallway of the dressing rooms I told him my Wife was kinda spooked being alone back there in the dressing rooms area alone & would he so kindly just say hello & keep her company for a minute while I did my thing with my roadie? "You got it, baby", Carlin says.

I do my thing with my roadie & equipment, taking much, much, longer than I thought & feeling concerned about my Wife sitting alone & guilty because maybe Carlin got stuck with her, wanting to go home, just to be a nice guy to me. I am hearing talking in the hallway of the dressing rooms. I stood unseen by the door for a couple of minutes where Carlin was sitting on the couch across from my Wife talking to her in great detail about his Wife & Kids & what He & they were going to do the rest of the weekend etc. & asking Her all about Her life, what did She like in life & what was Her opinions about this & that subject in life. He sat there with Her for a damn half-hour which was only intended to be a couple of fast minutes. He knew He was a Star & Famous etc. by then but sat there for a half-hour talking like a "real person-mench" about regular life stuff & truly interested in my Wife's interests & opinions etc. I stood there and listened for a couple of minutes & then walked in apologizing for my long delay & thanking Him for being so kind.

"No problem, my pleasure man"; He says. "It was a very interesting conversation & She's a very pretty Lady, man"; He concludes. "So what can I do for you Mr. George Carlin?", I asked humorously. "Hey man I'm just a "George" baby! Just a "George!", He says, and walkin away says; "I'm goin home now to "my" pretty Wife (she passed away early in life, devastating, how did he go on?) and you play great, man", he concludes. As well as being grateful elevating my concern about my Wife's safety & comfort, I was blown away & even moved by the humility, warmth, sensitivity, being a real human being & actually not too self-absorbed or narcissistic to actually be honestly interested in another human being who was not "in the business" etc. I asked my Wife about it as we drove home. She said so unaffectedly; "He asked me so many things about me & told me so many things about His Wife & Kids. He's a big star isn't He?" I said, "Yea. The biggest."

(Famous comedian) opened for me for 3 nights in a club in Philly & I eased into his dressing room & stuck out my hand & introduced myself. He never looked up, said anything or shook my hand. I just walked away.

When I heard George passed a few tears rolled down my cheek. For Him, for me, my Wife & for the beautiful era & people who existed & exists in the times we of a similar age bracket lived through. How lucky we have been (& still are) & how lucky a guy by the name of George Carlin was here for a while for us to enjoy & even learn from. I'm sure He would say; "Aw. Learned a lot from all of you guys too, man".

John Klemmer


Funny (or maybe not) that John McCain seems at least 20 years older than George Carlin.

Dave Gorman


Just thought you'd be interested that I forwarded your letter to Sally

Carlin, who's reading it as I write.

My wife Merle is her friend and has been with her all day.

I'm sure she'll have great solace in such a great testimonial.


ps she asked that I send it on George's email, which gave me a shiver

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