Sunday, October 30, 2011
Bob Lilly's George Carlin Story
It's called Bob Lilly's Comics and Stories. This is one of the storie and it occurred in the fall of 1971 almost forty years ago on the mark. I was on the student newspaper at Concord College in southern West Virginia and it was homecoming week. I knew the George Carlin was going to perform at our school on a Tuesday night and coincidently at the exact time he was supposed to guest star on the Flip Wilson TV show. I wasn't sophisticated to know that the TV show had been tape recorder a couple of weeks earlier.
The student body president, Nick (I don't remember his last name) was going to greet Carlin as he parked his car and he made good on his promise to me to ask George if I could interview him for the Concordian.
A room had been set aside for Carlin and in that room was John Valleau, Photographer Joe (Oxley, I think), and me with a borrowed cassette tape recorder. George was cool with all that we asked of him.
The whole group asked him questions for about fifteen minutes before the floor began to shake with BOOM BOOM BOOM. George jumped up and said it was the audience and they were ready for the show.
We were outside the auditorium and George asked us if we could get him a glass of water. Someone found a largish, reaatively clean looking paper cup on top of something and George said that would do. He rinsed it in the drinking fountain and filled it up.
As George entered the stage door, the rest of us squeezed our way into the audience. George began with walking around in front and making incredibly funny goofy faces at the croud and had us laughing without saying a word. He did pretty much all of the material you can still hear on his records from 1972.
At the halfway point, George asked, " Did you ever notice that a swallow has two parts?" He put the microphone to his throat and picked up the questionable paper cup of water and let us hear what a swallow of water sounds like.
After George performed for an hour or so, he left and so did I. For another forty five minutes I interviewed him while a rock group was performing. I really don't remember which group it was.
Esquire magazine has just published an exerpt of Albert Goldman's book about Lennie Bruce. George told me that he had not only read the entire yet to be published book, but that he had talked to Lennie's Mother and widow about the book.
He told me that he really didn't know for sure what he was going to do before he started a performance but he would have a couple of prepared bits to fall back on when he began to draw a blank. That is what the drink of water was.
He described his bits as a box of paints that he would recombine to make an entirely new painting each show.
George told me that he used to hitchhike a lot in his younger days and he still remembered some amusing town names in West Virginia. Fry, and Man and Pie (which is a piece down the road).
I don't seem to have a copy of the Concordian which ran my interview with George Carlin. He wrote down his home address in Vienna California (with a ball point pen that wrote in purple ink) and asked me to mail him a copy of the paper. Maybe I sent him my copy.
I stilll have only the photo which was taken and developed by Joe (the back of the print has "photo by JWO" written on it. I remember he was from New Jersey byt I am not 100% that his name was Oxley.
I am wer=aring a pair of Harness boots that I bought for around twenty bucks and a Mountaineer Boys State shirt. Boys State was an annual week long camp that had one boy from every high school in West Virginia. It was considered an honor, by some, to go there.
George Carlin is wearing blue denim with embroidery on the bell bottoms. This was the frist time I ever saw him with a beard and never again did I see him without one.
I am sure he would not have performed at a small college in West Virginia unless he needed the money. In his book "FINAL WORDS", I read that he was having a career setback at that time because he grew his hair and beard, etc. Plus drugs and different comedy material than before. This evolution from Al Sleet, the hippy dippy weather man into George Carlin, observational humorist probably enabled his career to continue for a long time.
I treasure the memory of this encounter with George Carlin forty years ago.