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I'm the co-host of THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO with Dana & Carl (Sunday nights, 9 to Midnight Eastern, www.westcottradio.org).  As a freelance writer, I contributed to Goldmine magazine from 1986-2006, wrote liner notes for Rhino Records' compilation CD Poptopia!  Power Pop Classics Of The '90s, and for releases by The Flashcubes, The Finkers, Screen Test, 1.4.5., and Jack "Penetrator" Lipton.  I contributed to the books Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth, Shake Some Action, Lost In The Grooves, and MusicHound Rock, and to DISCoveries, Amazing Heroes, The Comics Buyer's Guide, Yeah Yeah Yeah, Comics Collector, The Buffalo News, and The Syracuse New Times.  I also wrote the liner notes for the four THIS IS ROCK 'N' ROLL RADIO compilation CDs, because, well, who could stop me?  My standing offer to write liner notes for a Bay City Rollers compilation has remained criminally ignored.  Still intend to write and sell a Batman story someday.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More High School Humor: A NorthCaster commercial




Following up on yesterday's blog about my final work for my high school literary magazine The NorthCaster, here's an audio commercial I wrote for The NorthCaster around the same time. When a new issue of The NorthCaster came out, I would sometimes write a comedy skit to perform during morning announcements, groveling for sales. (These NorthCaster commercials were where the idea for my Beatles commercial for Meester Taco in Brockport originated.) This was my last NorthCaster commercial (and I regret the stereotyped Arab terrorist Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy, which was an in-joke for NorthCaster staff). Alas, it was too long for morning announcements, so we never performed it.  

PRINCIPAL:  Now we have a special message from The NorthCaster's illustrious editor, Mr. F. Michael Harms. Mr. Harms?

HARMS:  Thank you, Mr. May, and [BRIGHTLY] GOOD MORNING, fellow students! As I'm sure you all know, The NorthCaster will go on sale this week, featuring--as usual--an incredible volume of hilarious humor and profound prose, all for the piddling sum of ten cents. So remember, The NorthCaster will go on sale...

MO:  No it won't, Mr. Harms! The NorthCaster will NOT go on sale--EVER AGAIN!

HARMS:  Who the heck are you?

MO:  I'm the notorious Arab terrorist Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy, and you are both my prisoners!

PRINCIPAL:  What's the big idea?

MO:  You two are an integral part of my BIG MASTER TERRORIST PLAN to undermine the morale of North Syracuse students, first by robbing them of their principal, and then by forever eliminating your beloved NorthCaster!

HARMS:  You fiend!

PRINCIPAL:  Well, I'm not going to stand for it! This is the SECOND time that someone has tried to kidnap me this year, and I'm SICK of it! I'm going to call my secretary, and have her get someone to throw you OUT OF MY OFFICE!

MO:  I think my lovely partner Euphoria will be able to convince you otherwise.

EUPHORIA [seductively]:  Hey there, big boy.

PRINCIPAL: Ms. Secretary! Um...hold all my calls.

NARRATOR:  News of Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy's daring action creates a panic throughout the student population. Stricken with intense depression resulting from the loss of their principal, many students fail to attend classes and spend their time instead over at Williams Shopping Center, drowning their sorrows in Mountain Dew. In other words, business goes on as usual.

Nowhere is the shock of Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy's sinister activities felt more deeply than in the NorthCaster office. Fearing that the loss of The NorthCaster may cause widespread rioting throughout the school, two of The NorthCaster's most fearless representatives--the dynamic assistant editor JOE BOUDREAU and the slightly boring editorial consultant CARL CAFARELLI--are dispatched to Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy's stronghold in an attempt to make a deal with the mad terrorist!

JOE:  Hey Mo, old buddy! How's it goin'?

MO:  Don't get sickening, Boudreau. What's this deal you're offering me?

CARL:  Well, we can't get the paper out without our fearless leader guiding us. So, we figured we'd offer you some sort of trade for Mike Harms.

MO:  Trade? What do you mean?

JOE:  You know, in exchange for Harms, we could give you someone else from our staff. Like, you could give us Harms, and we could give you Debbie Hannay, Steve Richardson, Linda Daino, and two Joan Davieses.

CARL:  TWO? You mean there are TWO of Joan Davies?

JOE:  Well, yeah...she was cloned in her biology class last year.

CARL:  God help us all!

MO:  Well, I don't know....

JOE:  C'mon, Mo ol' pal!  We'll throw in Mr. Malamud, too!

MO:  No, forget it.

JOE:  What do you mean, "forget it?"

MO:  Buzz off. Get lost. No deal.

CARL:  No deal, huh? Okay, Mr. Notorious Arab Terrorist! We gave you your chance, and now I've HAD it, buddy! STAND BACK, Joe, while I thrash this villain!

JOE:  Uh, Carl....

CARL:  You better get ready to be SERIOUSLY INJURED, Mo, 'cause I'M MACHO, and I'm gonna beat you up! HAVE AT YA, ya creep!

JOE:  Carl....

[FIGHT SOUNDS]

CARL [groaning]:  Y'know, maybe violence isn't the answer.

JOE:  He really beat the hell outta YOU.

CARL:  Aw, you don't have to be so SUBTLE about it , Joe--come right out and say what you mean!

MO:  You are both my prisoners! Now that I've captured its executives, THE NORTHCASTER is DOOMED! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!!

NARRATOR:  Is The NorthCaster doomed? Now that Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy has captured Mike Harms, Joe Boudreau, and Carl Cafarelli--not to mention Whatisname, the principal--who can stop him from completing his mad scheme? Have the forces of evil finally triumphed over goodness? God, I don't know. Just buy a NorhCaster already, will ya?

2016 POSTSCRIPT:  Well, it's energetic, at least. And it is indeed way too long to be effective as advertising, or as entertainment.  But energetic?  Yeah, you gotta give it that.

Incidentally, my pal Joe Boudreau evidently managed to escape from the clutches of the nefarious Mo Mahat Ma-Muddy. Joe became a physicist and professor at the University of Pittsburgh, and worked on the Large Hadron Collider and the confirmation of the Higgs Boson, and likely some other things I can't begin to comprehend. See, he was the brains; I was just the muscle. I last saw him about 25 years ago or so, when his sister Maura and her husband Pete--aka the world-renowned coffeehouse pop duo The Kennedys--invited my lovely wife Brenda and me over for dinner after a TV taping in Syracuse. He's a good guy, and a rare combination of left- and right-brain talent; he's a brilliant scientist, and he could write.  Me? I own a hundred pairs of stretch socks.

The real-life fate of Mike Harms still saddens me, even after all these years. Mike was smart, charismatic, talented, and driven; furthermore, his family had the financial resources to help him get as far as he could imagine. He could have made any life he wanted, and you would know his name and his accomplishments if...dammit. Damn it to hell. A stupid, careless, reckless asshole driving the vehicle that hit Mike ended those possibilities in 1981. 

I'm still angry. Sometimes I feel like I'm always angry, about stupid things that just should not be.

After Mike passed, a few of us gathered in Syracuse to visit his grave site. We sat for a while, chatting with Mike, or with Mike's spirit, or with whatever we hoped could connect us to the friend we'd lost. We each left a pebble at Mike's grave, a Jewish tradition (mandated by our pal Beth, who always claimed to be our leader by virtue of the fact that she was the oldest member of the group, and also Jewish). It was odd, and it was sad, and I'm very glad that we did it.

Mike and I weren't especially close, but I liked him. My fondest memory of Mike was attending the ESSPA (Empire State School Press Association) convention in...1977? Probably. In the parking lot outside the convention's hotel, we got into a mock argument in faux Italian, and collapsed with laughter.  

I don't wish to be young again; I really don't. I wouldn't go through those goddamned life lessons again for any measure of renewed spark or vitality. I hated high school. I hated...well, I hated a lot of things, some of which were my own fault. But I don't ever want to forget the moments like that--those scattered, precious fragments of time spent laughing, joking, living--and I always want to remember the people who were my friends in those moments. That's the pebble I leave here, in honor of those I will keep with me forever.

Sometimes in my dreams we still talk to each other
Although in real life, I know we're done with one another
I don't know if I'd want you to return
I'd just feel better if I could learn
What became of you
Because I remember you