Episode 161: "Things That Demonstrate Physics"
April 4, 2014
Origin of the episode title
The kind of sketches Merrill was working on.
Gang! Behind every genius, there's another genius with a vagina. This week's guest is the legendary MERRILL MARKOE, friend to dogs, hilarious novelist and essayist, and the woman who created so many important television comedy things, it's overwhelming. Listen as Julie chats with Merrill about her contributions to the original LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, her new dog Wally, Laugh-In 2, and many more wonderful things you will delight to hearing about from somebody as intelligent as Markoe. Hooray for her!
Also! Julie went on the HELTER SKELTER death tour while she was still in LA, and she has a very long, extensive story about it. Sorry. A lot of the monologue is just that. But there is also talk about Jim Henson's Creature Challenge on SyFy, Dave Barry's daughter and his desire for her to never be made love to, the latest dumb prop in HOUSE OF CARDS season 2, and how weird it is to get used to not hearing the Doors playing all the time now that Julie is back in NYC.
Transcription by Amy
Singing: I am back with Jimmy Jazz. How I missed my Jimmy Jazz. I ‘m back with Jimmy Jazz, back with Jimmy Jazz.
Hello. Hello. Hi everybody it’s Julie Klausner back for another episode of HWYW.
We just heard Back in Baby’s Arms the parody version. Do you remember when they used that song in Natural Born Killers? I do. Hey guys, how’s everybody? It’s April. I am back in New York. As Elton John would say, the bitch is back in New York. It’s exciting to be here. I’ve heard at least one New Yorker say, not to brag, “You brought the good weather with you.” Thank you very much. I like that reputation, the reputation of sorcery. I am back with Jimmy Jazz. I know some of you don’t have pets or don’t like animals. That’s just no life. That’s no life to have, a life without pets. If you don’t have a pet what’s the point of coming home? It’s hard being away from your pet. I am glad I did it. I am glad that he was here while I was elsewhere because home I came back on Monday night he acted like I had gone to the store. He was happy to see me but it was also like, “I’m fine.” Nothing is different. Leave your cats at home with loving Auntie Renate is what I am getting at, and Uncle Hotlips.
Hotlips by the way, for this week and next, is staying in my former Hollywood apartment above the pawn shop and the liquor store. It is a nice apartment. Hotlips will be operating out of HWYW West Headquarters for the next couple of weeks. That’s catchy right? He will be going to Disneyland as well. He’ll also be smoking a lot of Purple Thunderfuck. SO forgive him if he accidently replaces the bed music with White Rabbit. Being out of Los Angeles for less than a week and I am already having a hard time adjusting to not hearing the Doors playing everywhere. That smog in Los Angeles is made up of Doors songs. Even if you don’t listen to the radio, even if you don’t get into your car and put the radio on and hear (sings muffled version of LA Woman) if you don’t hear that on the radio you are going to hear that at the grocery store, at a light you’ll hear it from other cars. You will hear the Doors everyday of your life in Los Angeles. I lived across the street from a building that had Doors lyrics literally a top of a portrait of Jim Morrison. It was one of those stupid lyrics, ‘If they say I never loved you, you know they are a liar’ Ugh! Someone wrote that out on a building! Do you know why? They couldn’t think of anything else.
The building didn’t look that good in the first place. They said I have an idea for a mural. What? Marilyn Monroe. Fine, also you know what? Actually Jim Morrison. Fine. They painted Jim Morrison and put those lyrics on top of it. The piece wasn’t done, it was still missing something. He’s shirtless. He’s staring the camera down. Jim Morrison gave a lot of face. There’s something missing. It’s not quite translating to Jim Morrison and the vibe of his music and the way he would sing songs. I want people to hear his voice when they see this mural. “Why don’t you paint some of his lyrics over the mural?” That’s it! That’s it! Morrie, you are a genius. His friend’s name is Morrie and it is not spelled like Povich! It is spelled like Tuesdays with. You cannot escape the Doors in Los Angeles. There's a lot I want to talk about. Most of it has to do with a tour I took last Saturday before I left Los Angeles I went to the magic castle which I talked about last week. I also went on the Charles Manson Death Tour of Los Angeles. I will talk about that in a minute. But before I do I want to mention that I have been watching but will now cease to watching, it's an incredibly clunky unyielding name for a show, Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. It's the Jim Henson show featuring puppeteers that want to make creatures that are Henson-ish. They work at the creature shop. The creature shop is in the Muppet Area on LaBrea.
The great thing about this show, which is a real show on Syfy on after Face Off. It's like Face Off but the contestants are less Gothy and Kat Von D-ish. They are more like the kids that did tech for Guys and Dolls in high school. The dork factor is so much higher, satisfyingly so, or it was before they kicked off Tina who was my favorite contestant. The fist week they had to come up with creatures that had lived under the sea. This week they had to come up with bird creatures called Skeksis. They also refer to Jim Henson's later work. I don't think they have the rights to the Muppets because they don't show any Muppets on the show. They had Jim Henson Jr. who looks like his dad except he wears an odd necklace. I wouldn't be surprised if he was a devotee of Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand, Ayn Rand…
The host look like if Amy Schumer's mom had smoked while she was pregnant and like she's from South Africa or Australia it doesn't matter. She's a presenter. It does matter. Australians if you are listening you know that I like you more than South Africans. They don't show the Muppets but they show a lot of Jim Henson's work from the 80s. They show a lot of Dark Crystal and other things he did. IT's not my thing. I respect it. There are people I know that love it. It has never been my thing. David Bowing in Labyrinth has never, there are some girls who think oh David Bowie, I never… One time someone was showing it on a TV with a cart and the VCR was below it. Meh. No thanks.
They show a lot of Jim Henson's 80s stuff which I think is the only stuff they have the rights to. OK you can have access to this catalogue-only stuff from the Dark Crystal--We'll take it! So this woman Tina was mostly bird. She was very thin and wore the kind of eyeglasses that people usually tell you to get rid of when you are going into 4th grade because that transition between 3rd and 4th is really tough. You had dot get rid of those. She held on to them, bravely. She was really intense. She had black hair tied back. She wore a cross not a Christian cross. It was like Tina got it in a catalogue; you know the catalogues that have Stevie Nicks-ish robes. Tina has some robes. Tina has worn fishnets with boots. Tina is not cool. Tina has never been cool. Tina is jittery. If Tina were a food she'd be a yogurt to go. Tina is very nervous, high strung, and not very good at making creatures.
She was in charge of making the puppets' eyes move this week. She attached wires to the wrong wires. Oops. She got kicked off which is bullshit. I wanted to watch her become a woman and now I can't. Our friend, friend of the show Dickie Dibella tweeted me when it first came out the Jim Henson Creature Hour on Syfy, Dickie tweeted and said please tell me you are watching this. What Face Off is to those models at the end they put make up on who sometimes act out a little because they can't use their words. They wiggle their fingers as if they are scary. What Face Off is to models this show is to out-of-breath middle age puppeteers? I said, "I'm in." Sure enough, if you can find the first episode of this Jim Henson creature show wherever you find such things I strongly recommend you watch it and get introduced to Tina. These people make the creatures. They don't necessarily puppeteer them. Duh! That has to be the weirdest union in the world, the union that covers creature operators. You know they have specific ailments. There has to be physical therapy stuff with their shoulders. Also mentally, what does that cover? Essentially how much Cymbalta can you fit on the head of a pin? Puppeteers
Can you breathe in that thing? Then you take off the head and there is a straight up old guy panting. There are not enough people on TV who are old and out of breath in my opinion. I was pleased to see it. Was it good television? Probably not. Then another thing Dickie pointed out these are not skills that are useful in films and television. When was the last time you saw a move with a creature sculpted out of foam and felt? That's all CGI now. Whoa! My mind busted open like it was full of Purple Thunderfuck which is an indica hybrid. See? I learned things in LA!
I challenge you to find Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. I gave up on Face Off this season. Glenn Hetrick was slowly getting wider and our friend John Mulaney has a theory that Glenn Hetrick is slowly turning his hands and feet into flippers or hooves. Glenn Hetrick is secretly altering his body in ways we would find disgusting if we knew about them. I couldn't agree more. It’s an observation that resonates. I stopped watching Face Off a couple of weeks ago when they had a mutant challenge. Face off is Top Chef but for special effects make up. It is like suicide girls and fat guys with bad facial hair competing to put make up on a face. It is what it is. They had a mutant challenge and Mackenzie Westmore who has more charisma than anybody that has ever breathed said, "We are going to give yoga quality and you are going to make a creature based on this quality." One idiot says, "Yes!" You go first. ‘Magnetism’. So he makes a thing out of forks. I remember watching it and all of these dorky goofy guys and gals are there. Mackenzie Westmore, at the end goes, "Welcome to the results of the mutant challenge." Every challenge is the mutant challenge with this motley crew.
I went on a Charles Manson death tour. In LA there is a podcast establishment/factory called Earwolf. They are on Sunset and Seward across the street from the Scientology death and psychiatry murder museum. Next to Earwolf is a little store front for a tour company called Dearly Departed Death Tours. I passed it only way to do a show. I do a couple of Earwolf shows now and then, I'll do a Sklarbro Country or County. I passé fit and remember seeing a sticker in the window that said Death Hag, and a pamphlet for the Helter Skelter Tour. I remember thinking it was interesting and also ghoulish. I had mixed feelings about it. Jake Fogelnest went on the Helter Skelter tour at 9 in the morning on a Saturday and then I did the same thing. When Jake did it alone, he was with a bachelorette part. When I did it alone, this was my last Saturday in Los Angeles. I woke up earlier, the night before I remember talking to, not to drop names, Scharpling on the phone telling him I didn't know if I was going to go. I was supposed to go with Jake but Jake had to shoot a video with the Flaming Lips all day. I didn't know if I was going to go alone. Tom said, "You have to go. You are in too deep. You have to."He was right.
I woke up early and I went. It was the best day of my life. It was amazing. Fuck Disneyland, fuck everything but this. You get onto a bus, a van that has Dearly Departed Death Tours written on its side so that everybody looking at you knows that you are a ghoul. I was not the only person alone. There was a guy across the aisle from me who did not say a word just held up his camera phone and videotaped everything. There was a fat Asian couple behind me. I just say this not as judgment but so you can have a mental image, mind pictures are important. They were heavy and Asian. They were behind me; also they were just deeply stupid. I am making a judgment upon them. The woman in front of me was wearing more make up… she looked like Devine with really bad acne. There was a Goth couple from England. There were people in the front too. The tour guide was Scott. He was awesome. He was a beefy guy with tattoos and a goatee. Once we were all in the van bright and chipper, he asked, "Everybody in?" As he sets the car into motion he goes, "Welcome to 1969," and you hear, " Stop hey what's that sound everybody look what's going.." I know it sounds cheesy but it did it of me. Holy shit! What are we in for? This is wow! Wow! Wow!
He has a TV and presses play. There are clips of Charles Manson things and there are some crime scene photos which are tasteful. He shows clips of a documentary that he made. The documentary does not look like an award winning Errol Morris joint, but he would play the audio of the Manson family members talking about what they had done, their testimony, "…then I stabbed Lena LaBianca 6 times with a fork…" They play that audio while you are parked across the street from the LaBianca house, which is the first stop on the tour.
You go to Los Feliz. After he has driven around and tells you that the Manson murders didn't exactly end the 60s, Martin Luther King getting shot had something to do with it as well. He told the story in a way that was, since he's told it so many times, he says, Susan Atkins had a big mouth. The Leno and Rosemary LaBianca house was the first stop. We pulled up next to it. He showed us a photo that was taken around the time of the murders. You can see that the hedge is still there. You look back and forth. I thought that it was so cool. I know this is what bad people do. This is a bad person thing. But I was having the time of my life. I have had kind of mixed feelings about LA and this tour was my Valentine's Day between me and Los Angeles.
We went to the Leno LaBianca house and then there were a lot of minor sights like Jay Sebring's Hair Salon. We watched clips of Jay Sebring on the old Batman TV show where he played a hair dresser named Jay Oceanbring with Julie Newmar as cat woman. Guys can we filter a little? The tour guide Scott is a great guy. He's interesting and smart and he knows a lot of stuff but he doth protest too much in the I'm not a ghoul department. He said, a few too many times, "This tour is meant to be respectful. Some of the money you give goes to the victim's families. We are not driving around saying Charles Manson was awesome. This is more educational. Some people could say that it is exploitative but it is not." You don't say that unless you are doing something that is completely exploitative. He's also aware of it. He said that a few too many times. I don't even know if he was conflicted. What time is it Dave? Whatever time it is I am not a pedophile--that kind of thing.
Any time he stopped talking and asked if there were any questions, I always had a question. I was very chatty, not chatty but I was an A+ student. I asked him if he had ever had any hardcore Manson fans on the tour. He said, "Yep. I try not to be as nasty about Charles Manson when I have those guys on the tour." He did play Charles Manson's music in the van. It was so clearly trying to be chilling, you'd hear the Manson Girls. The Ronettes they were not. I know it was trying to be chilling, but it was so stupid. AT one point Scott said, "Manson was a musician. He wasn't good. He wasn't bad." Excuse me; can we go to exhibit B for Garbage Dump? He did not play Garbage Dump on the tour.
We went to the LaBianca house, Jay Sebring's salon, to El Coyote the restaurant where Sharon Tate and Jay Sebring, who was her hair dresser and former lovair and Abigail Folger and what's his name, the one with the Polish name that I can't pronounce (RIP) had their final meal at El Coyote. Scott said, "The food's ok, great margaritas. They'll get you in and out quickly. On the anniversary there are some real weirdos there." What are you doing there on the anniversary dude? How are you not in the context of weird ones? "You should see this place on the anniversary, a bunch of creeps, a bunch of ghouls."Doctor heal thyself.
After we tour this and that and drive past the Paramount lot for the Robert Evans connection, he talked about how a lot of the Paramount Lot is built over the bodies in the Hollywood Cemetery which explains the X Men. I don't even know…I don't know what entertainment is like. Is Mixology a show? There are a couple of bathroom breaks. We stopped at the Farmer's Market; I got an ice cream cone. I was having the best day and celebrated with an ice cream cone. The second half of the tour was the slow steep path up Cielo Drive where Sharon Tate and the gang were murdered in August of 1969. I will say this, when we got up that hill and looked off in to the distance of where the house used to be, it was torn down, now it is a different house, I got chills! The hairs on my, none of your business where my hairs are, but they stood up. That was creepy. That was the part where I was genuinely rattled.
When we were up there gawking, I did mention we were in a van that said Death Tours right? I asked him at one point how people who currently live in these houses feel when you drive past them. "I don't know." He said there was no way they would necessarily know that the Labiancas had lived there because unless it has happened in the last two years no one is required to tell you when they sell you a house. Google it everybody. Google your new address. Otherwise you'll have Scott and the death van outside of your house at 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday. We were looking off in the distance where the Sharon Tate house used to be and he asked if there were questions. Didn't Trent Reznor… "I am getting to that." OK.
Before he tells us about Trent Reznor recording the downward facing dog spiral, we look off in the distance. There are only 5 houses on Cielo Drive. In a house two doors down from the original address is a guy standing in the window waving at us. One of the other people on the tour says, “He’s waving at us.” Scott says, “Oh yeah that’s David Oman. You can wave back. He’s a nice guy.” Scott reveal more about David Oman, that he goes on ghost hunters and goes on TV shows saying that his house is haunted by the murders, which is feasible, he’s close enough. But Scott’s disdain for David’s media whore-ness is really funny. He said Scotts a really nice guy but don’t get him started, he’ll run your ear off. He’s got all of these stories. This is from a man who leads a four hour tour and didn’t stop talking once. David goes on TV and says that at night he sees ghosts and one is a woman, guess who that one is? He means Sharon Tate. There is a lot of tension between Scott and David.
That is the subject of my next book. No…Cielo Drive, what else? Then he drove us around Laurel Canyon. Here’s where Mama Cass used to live and now Beverly D’Angelo lives here. Oh! Then we drove past Frank Zappa’s house. Scott told us that his widow still lives here. I thought leave Gail alone what is she doing eating bagels at this hour? Then we were in the B-side. This is where they threw the gun off the cliff. This is where the little kid who found the gun lived. This is where Patricia Krenwinkel and her clothes-whoa, whoa, whoa! People are standing in the spot thinking about what their point of view was, there is more audio playing and they are passing binders around with the crime scene photos. Around 11:30 I was fully Mansoned-out. We got back and were given souvenirs in zip-log baggies that were pieces of the fireplace from the Sharon Tate/Roman Polanski home. It says this is authentic because Scott visited when they were knocking it down and he went to the construction site at night and took them. He sells them. If you want to go to Dearly Departed’s store front next to Earwolf Factory on Sunset you can buy a piece of Sharon Tate’s fireplace. You can also look at the suitcase that was in Jane Mansfield’s trunk the night she was killed in a car. You can also see the door that was on the hotel room of Divine when Divine died. There is a little sort of shrine to him as well.
It was incredibly fun. I love being driven around and spoken to by people who know things. I cannot recommend it enough. I also want to say that Charles Manson is a dirt bag and his music stinks. I mentioned those dumb people behind me and you probably think it was a racial slur. It’s not. They kept saying, “What? No. Ew!” They had unnecessary reactions. We drove past Terry Melcher’s house, Doris Day’s son, who wouldn’t give Charles Manson a record contract. He ruined everything. Terry Melcher died of skin cancer a few years back. He was a good California boy. The guy behind goes, “Wear sunbock.” Thank you sir.
I moved out of my apartment in LA on Monday. I packed up all of my stuff. I had four or five suitcases. One was really big and I needed help getting them into the trunk of my car to get to the airport. There is a person who sits at the desk at my Hollywood apartment who is in a security guard position. There are people who work in the rental office. One is a nice lady named Chelsea who shows a lot of leg. If I had those legs I would show them though I can’t believe she walks around in those shoes. The other is a person so dumb, I’ll call him Tom-I will change a vowel in the middle of his name. He is so stupid.
Then there is the concierge. No one every explained to me what the concierge did or does. Just the fact that she looks and dresses like a Thai hooker, it never occurred to me that a woman can present herself in that way and not be a Thai hooker. She is very friendly. When I was moving out it was the most I had ever spoken to her. I expressed my need for a cart or a human to take my bags to the car. She said, "I can help you. I can help you take your bags down." I thought actually I might need someone a little stronger who is not wearing stiletto heels and a stretchy shirt. She said that the maintenance guy Tony would come down too. Great. It was me, Tony, and this hooker concierge. We were wheeling my suitcases, with wheels and handles because they are modern suitcases not from Mad Men times, into the elevator. As she is pushing the suitcases she says, "I feel like I am a flight attendant. I feel like I am a stewardess with these bags." "Yep." "Are you going on vacation?" "No I am not, I am actually going home.""Where are you going?" "To New York." "On vacation?" "No, I only lived here for three months. I had a three month lease and now I am going back home to where I live, New York." "Oh." We got to the parking garage and they helped my load up my bags in the car, which was very kind. I said, "Thank you so much guys." She said, "See you in three months." "Well, actually…" "I know probably sooner. LA I already miss you and your proudly ignorant people. "I don't know anything! But I have so much confidence. I found my voice."
Once again I have been snubbed by Paper Magazine as One of the Most Beautiful People in New York. I guess it was because I was away for three months. I can't think of another excuse. I have also been snubbed once again by Reboot. Reboot is a Jewish summer camp for adults, Jewish professionals invite other Jewish professionals to go somewhere, on the west coast--I don't know where. They exchange secrets, burn an owl effigy and maybe put the blood of baby boys into their Matzoh crackers. I have not been invited. At this point, it's not that I don't want to be invited because I do, I don't want to go. Apparently I have been referred by at least five other Jewish people who have been at Reboot, so I know that they are not inviting me because I am complaining about it vocally and publically. How public is this podcast? You’d be surprised. A lot of people listen to this podcast. Not a lot a lot, enough that if I said something really stupid it would hurt me. It would get back to me. I’d regret it. I have been snubbed by Reboot. I have been snubbed by Paper Magazine. I was not snubbed by Jezebel which said something so nice about me—Julie Klausner should replace David Letterman. That is so charming, and cute, and kind. The next straight white guy with a late night talk show is going to come around somewhere by hook or by crook. I think David Letterman retiring is important.
David Letterman is a genius. I actually stopped watching his show after the intern scandal because I couldn’t help but see it/him in a certain light. I did intern for him back in the day. I wasn’t his type. I think his influence not only in comedy but in pop culture is yet to be determined.
On that note I am also excited to bring to you our guest Merrill Markoe. SO much about what is brilliant in David Letterman’s show comes from Merrill Markoe. She has written for him. She started Late Night with David Letterman with him and started with him. We talk a little bit about that. Her voice is something that people don’t realize is coming out of Dave’s mouth. The structure of the show, what she came up with and who she is and what she later went on to do is completely remarkable. I am excited we have her on the show. Merrill Markoe is as important to Dave’s legacy as anyone else. She has a huge stake in his being the legendary broadcaster and comedian that he is. I am excited about that.
I am still watching House of Cards and it somehow got stupider, spoiler, spoiler spoiler, skip over this part if you like. Freddy had a BBQ chain that fell through. Robin Wright Penn had her photo taken by her lovair while she was sleeping. The lovair is now conflicted. He lives in a cool Tribecca loft. I actually did a screen shot of. He has a framed piece of artwork leaning up against his window and it just has neighborhoods of Brooklyn listed in cool type. He is an artist-get it? He is a photographer and lives in a cool artist’s loft. Obviously that includes having a print of something that says, Park Slope, Flatbush, Brooklyn. That’s really a cool and hip detail.
I saw a copy of Dave Barry’s new book in the airport called You can Date Boys When You are Forty. Isn’t it universal and charming when a man who has a daughter is panicked about her having any sexual pleasure? Isn’t that fun? What a nice idea that father’s are terrified of their daughters becoming human beings with needs. Everybody loves that right? She can’t date boys yet, if they are anything like me they are going to rape and kill her. What is with dads who are afraid of girls dating? Do they remember what they were like at that age? What were they sociopaths that wanted to cut up girls and do things to their holes? What was going on? Otherwise it is just the idea that my little girl is such a precious princess that she can’t… no, no, no, no chastity belt. No holes. At a certain point it is creepy like you ordered a real doll and when it came and had a tongue in its mouth you didn’t want it. That didn’t make any sense. I acknowledge that. This allergy medication is making me woozy. There was no excuse for that metaphor. I apologize.
I don’t like it when father’s are afraid and don’t want their daughters to have sex. Sex is natural. Sex is fun. Sex is best done one on one.
Coming off of my experience in LA and gratitude about being back in New York, I have been thinking about having this outlet, being able to connect to people and being appreciated for what I have to say. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is, the human need to be heard is so essential, I think about that a lot. It is almost as important of a human need as eating or sleeping because when you are heard you are connected. It is a right for every person to be listened to. On top of that it is a privilege to be understood and appreciated. It is a privilege to find someone, for whom you resonate, be it an audience, a partner. I have been blessed by having both in this audience, in my life, with my friends. I have found people who hear me, understand me, and appreciate me. It is something I am not taking for granted right now. I have been thinking about that and wanted to share.
Because there are so damn many of you, I am going to need your money you motherfuckers, honestly. If you don’t tip Hotlips we are going to have to take ads from AdamandEve.com. If we do that I am going to make up ads for AdamandSteve.com because it is irresistible. Like if I don’t say turkey baster after you say David Crosby, I am legally dead that is going to take up time. Time I could be spending talking about cats and dogs.
We have one guest…