Once upon a time, when I was a much younger man, I spent about three months in and around a mythical place called Anytown USA. I often visited Walter Marcus and his family living at 1223 Embezzlement Drive, avoided their next-door neighbor Colonel Herman von Schmidt, and had my hair cut by Buddy Wimperly at the Vidal Sassoon Salon on Cicero Street. I once had a beer at the Moosejaw Barbershop and Saloon and saw the band Kid Vomit & The Barf Bags play at the Anytown Civic Center the night Kid Vomit OD’d on his homemade wonder-drug “Fred.” (He called it Fred because it was easy to remember…) Then there was the prison break of Butch Dimlight and Buford Lowatt III from the Joseph Stalin Memorial Penitentiary that inadvertently led Chief Inspector Nimrod, with the aid of the identically cloned police officers of the Genetic Division, to arrest the leader of the Fred drug racket: Herman Horton. Horton, a bank employee, stole the money and left his boss Walter Marcus to take the blame. Finally, Horton was murdered at the Anytown General Hospital when someone switched his chart for one Mr. Liebowitz and rewired the suction machine to suck out all of Horton’s internal organs! The resulting confession by the real murderer left Anytown stunned… Perhaps you heard it on the radio?
Normally I’m not much for looking backward, but at times I allow myself a peek back at the things I did in the past and appreciate the impact they had on my life. This is one of those moments. I’d like to share it with you.
“Anytown USA” was a 50-episode comedy series that I co-wrote and co-created with W. Scott Snyder in 1984. Using Dick Orkin’s classic radio comedy series “Chicken Man” as a blueprint, we crafted “Anytown USA” as a soap opera without limits on genre spoofing or, in a few cases, political correctness. Each episode clocked in around three minutes. The original goal was to sell it to radio stations and I came close in 1986 with a St. Louis station. Last year I digitize the shows and edited them down to two-minute shows. Feeling a little blue last week, I decided to pop the CD in my car stereo and I listened to the shows as I drove in LA traffic. I was amazed at how special and funny “Anytown” was. The humor ranged from clever to stupid but was never boring. I suddenly remembered the “Anytown USA” parties we had when I was stationed on Okinawa while in the army. A roomful of GIs drinking and laughing to these silly shows. I had forgotten how much “Anytown USA” meant to me.
The series was written and recorded over the course of about three months. Scott and I would spend the week writing separate storylines and come together on Sunday mornings to record at Fort Ord’s radio station KFO, where Scott worked. There were never story meetings to discuss plot arcs or character development. We just “let it fly”! All the more amazing that the story did have a through-line when it was wrapped up at episode 50.
I voiced 19 characters during the course of the series (that’s including the cloned policemen Everett, Martin, Davidson and Washeleski…). Mainly, I was Walter Marcus, the bank president; Dr. Theodore, the senile chief of staff at the hospital; Kid Vomit, the rock n roll singer whose brush with death led him to become “born again” and change his name to Kid Renaissance; and the ever-present (and non PC) Buddy Wimperly, who was ultimately the hero of the series.
Scott played 15 different parts, from Walter’s teenage son David to the arrogant Dr. Heathcliff Reginald Bentley III, as well as Inspector Nimrod and Walter’s lawyer Robin Locksley who liked to dress as D’Artagnan… He was also the omniscient Narrator who opened each episode with “Welcome to the continuing saga of Anytown… U… S…A… In our la-a-st episode…” The music we chose as the show’s theme was “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Julius Fucik (spelled very carefully, by the way). You’d recognize as clown music at a circus. Apropos, since “Anytown USA” was a bit of a circus to make!
Scott was (and still is, I’m certain) a remarkable talent with humor and comic timing not just in the studio, but also in real life. I had one of the best creative experiences working with him.
Two wonderful young ladies aided us in our cast: Dawn McWalter and Sheri Clark.
Although Dawn mainly played one role, Walter’s wife Marge Marcus, her characterization gave “Anytown” its anchor point. Marge was always the reasonable one who tried her best to hold the family together. In the end, God love her, Marge was just as nuts as the rest of them! Dawn provided much more to the series than she’d ever acknowledge. She also played Marcie’s high school BFF: Bibi.
Sheri Clark was a rare gem of a performer. She had a marvelous vocal range and displayed her comedic talents with both punch lines and “throw-aways” (lines only funny because the performer deftly glides over them as if they don’t matter). She played 5 roles: Marcie (Walter and Marge’s Valley Girl daughter), Nurse Brenda Buxom (a heavy and seductive Hungarian accent), Nurse Maid (her normal voice), Miss Saddlebag (Walter’s 80 year old secretary at the bank) and Little Sara, a precocious 4 year old with a talent for trouble. Sheri was joy to work with and to be around. Sadly, I learned that she passed away a few years ago. I am consoled by the fact that her voice lives on in the recordings of “Anytown USA.”
The top photo shows Dawn, Sheri and Scott rehearsing one of final the episodes in 1984. Me and Scott in the bottom photo.
The great irony is that “Anytown USA” was created for radio broadcast and now, many years later, I guard it as something private and too personal to release. This blog marks the first time I’ve ever written or discussed the show. Why is that? Likely it is because it was created at a time in my life that holds more meaning for me than I’ve ever really explored.
Life is funny that way.
I’m just saying…