“Naked Postal Zone” was written by Margot and taped by Doug. Margie’s writing is typically other-wordly and Doug did a good job of capturing a film noir quality. He later added the scratch marks to make it look aged.

Chucklehead’s “Octopus Tart” Sketch

This vi

This sketch was one of the earliest we did, by Margot Sheehan, and it made a comeback when we were at La Mama. Margot’s skits were all twisted in a sort of whimsical way. This is like a Mary Poppins song on acid. Whenever the actors got bored with a script, they would add an edge to it. (When Michael got bored, she would play the characters as drunks, just for the hell of it.) Here, Mark (Cubby) Sarto appears to be getting increasingly frustrated with the rube played by the late, great Steve Salter that he seems ready to tear his arms off!

Marketing “Tales”

It started with a message on my answering machine. The voice sounded like that of an Indian woman, and the only syllables I could understand were “Tale o’ de Troupe,” which were repeated several times. The next time the person called, I picked up. I immediately explained that I couldn’t understand a thing that was being said, and offered up my e-mail address.

It was a book marketing company based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but I’m convinced they do a lot of outsourcing. I asked about that in an e-mail and got no response. When I finally got copies of the e-mail ad (allegedly sent to one million recipients) and the media release, I was interested in the very idiomatic English. For example, the title of the press release was “Bumping with This Tricky World’s Unexpected Twists.” In paragraph one, it says “People have their respective roles and characters to play; these characters are just beginning to learn who they are. There’s nothing in the world that lasts so everyone is responsible for making his own life precious by letting go of expectations and enjoying the joy that life brings.” These were ideas that I shared with the company, but their phrasing was quite different. I decided to go with the weird wording just for the hell of it.

My friend Helen shared an image of some woman in Nairobi, holding the phone in one hand and holding an infant to her breast in the other—and being the breadwinner for dozens of family members. I didn’t make a single sale from these peoples’ efforts.

One day in January, however, I got an e-mail from someone who had bought the book off his Website but it hadn’t arrived. I promptly looked at Paypal and, sure enough, this person had ordered a copy. I sent it to her immediately. It turns out she was someone I was drinking with at the local pub, The Black Cow, during last year’s blackout, with whom I discussed my books. So, I’ve decided that drinking at the Cow is a good marketing strategy and I plan to do it often.

Alan Hale Junior’s Seafood Sauce Commercial by Chucklehead

I was deeply touched when fellow Chucklehead writer Anne said she liked this ad, because I’m pretty sure I wrote it. It was part of our last show, called “Stocks and Prawns,” a mish-mash of weird story lines barely glued together. My goal was to make the most disgusting commercial imaginable, starting with “What’s that smell? It’s shrimpy the shrimp!” and “Can I lick the bag?” Steve, as the voice of Shrimpy, added a speech impediment, and Cubby and Rose played really repulsive little kids with seafood sauce all over their faces. You can read the whole story of shooting “Stocks and Prawns” in my Tale, “Requiem for Sea Captain Frank.”

Chucklehead and “Crazy Eddie” Song

I have no idea when this was taped. It was forwarded to me by Anne, who was one of the Chucklehead writers. Jay, Michael, Ronnie, and Mark are all in it. To earn some scratch, the Chucklehead performers performed in all kinds of ads for Crazy Eddie, which was a discount purveyor of electronics. The spokesguy used to end every commercial with “His prices are INSANE!!!” Can’t wait to get to the bottom of this one.

Chuckle Triplex by Chucklehead

We used the Chucklehead Multiplex format to run three quick movie parodies. I was not around for these particular shoots. I’m guessing Cubby made the car–and got plenty of funny looks while “driving” it down the street. Since our short-lived director during that time, Randy Kovitz, was a professional fight director, it was inevitable that we would have some fight scenes, as in “Singles of Fury,” and Chandler Sante and Michael Huston had actually practiced karate. Randy didn’t last long as director only because the troupe was too large and unruly for him. I’m guessing “Sambo,” in which Steve Salter played the title role, was shot in Central Park.

The Hot Dog Boys of Summer by Chucklehead

This is another of our infamous guerilla shoots in New York City–somewhere near the West End Highway by the looks of it. Matt and Mark already had done some acting together, so their improv was very well done. It takes true genius to pull off stupid so well. One of the writers, Anne, played the nice lady who gives them money. I’m not sure what the hot dog guy thought was going on.

Matt disappeared from the troupe fairly early on. What I remember most about him was that he was constantly getting hit on the head. Once we presented him with a birthday cake, and as he was cutting it, a flat fell on his head. (It was almost as if we set him up but we didn’t.) Another time, at a pool in New Jersey, an ambulance showed up. I asked Mark was the problem was, and he just said, “Matt,” shaking his head. Matt had somehow sustained a head wound.

Anyway, we amused ourselves . . .

Chucklehead’s The Legend of Craggy John

This was meant to be a much longer piece but, much like Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo” and Terry Gilliam’s doomed “Man of La Mancha,” it was hit with obstacles of epic proportions. Much of it was shot on Super-8 in New Jersey and Central Park, but then the Super-8 camera got stolen.

I have only vague memories of shooting this. Having a guy bring a suitcase on a hike was a nice touch, and I believe it was Jay’s idea. As for Craggy John’s hawk friend Mojave flying, there was a lot of conjecture on how it was done? Built-in remote-control airplane? Stop-action animation? A matte shot? The simple truth is that Mohave’s right wing was on a stick. I believe Mark Sarto, who played Craggy John, actually assembled Mojave, as he was the silly propmeister for the troupe.

I don’t know whether it’s clear from this footage, but the original premise was that Craggy John put the campers in harm’s way so that he could save their lives. But, over the course of it all, he became more and more injured. And so he sent Mojave off to attack them out of revenge. At least, that’s the way I remember it.

Note the severed hand. Whenever things got slow, we’d have Mark cut off his hand. My favorite was when he was playing a nerd taking a class in making sushi in “The Learning Hut.” Distracted by a beautiful nerdette played by Ronnie, he lets the knife slip and, well, you get the picture.

My Life in Porn by Rob Dinsmoor: Another “Tale” that never made it into the book.

A disco rendition of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” was blasting over the loudspeakers as spotlights zig-zagged across the dance floor. “Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for the lady who made this all possible, Ms. Gloria Leonard!” Standing at the edge of the dance floor, I watched four muscle-bound men in loin cloths enter carrying a throne. On it was seated a 50-something-year-old woman in a G-string, who had a killer body and a striking face, but perhaps a little too much make-up. The four men carried her up to the small stage where the microphone was, and simultaneously lifted her onto the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all for cumming!” she said, to thunderous applause.
A wave of surreality hit me. What was I doing here?
Pat had handed out the free invitation at the end of one of our script meetings. “What is this, Pat?” I asked.
“An invitation to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Gent magazine. It should be quite interesting. There’ll be porn stars there.”
Rose graciously accepted the invitation with an intense smile and cooed, “Ohhhhhh, you shouldn’t have!” before crumpling it and tossing it into the wastebasket.
“Surely you ladies wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to schmooze with some of the finest performers on the big screen?” Pat said.
“I have to wash my pubic hair that night,’ Angela said.

My foray into porn began the night I arrived early for dinner at Dog Boy Manor, Boy Manor, which was the nickname of the entire floor of an apartment building up on 96th Street shared by Spanky and five of his closest marginally employed male actor friends. These included the perpetually giggling Ron, who had leather straps stitched to his mattress and, legend had it, once strapped a naked actress to it and then took off for the afternoon; Randy, who choreographed fight scenes for a living; and Dave, who wrote plays full of despicable characters and put away half a case of beer a night. I wasn’t really sure whether those guys actually called themselves Dog Boys. All I knew was that their residence was called Dog Boy Manor.
“Come on in!” Spanky said with an ingratiating boyish laugh, which he always did when he wasn’t a hundred percent comfortable socially. He already had a nice garlicky sauce going and was cutting up sausages to put in.
I took my six pack out of my bag and put it in the fridge. In the spirit of the evening, I had also brought a bottle of Merlot. I put it down on his kitchen counter, on which I discovered a personal computer. Immediately I thought, what’s wrong with this picture?
Spanky rarely had more than a few nickels to scrape together at a time and I had never known him to hold down anything remotely resembling a job. In fact, I was blissfully ignorant of how he managed to pay his rent. The last thing I could imagine him doing was sitting down at a computer to do spreadsheets or analyze data or something.
“That’s my L-o-v-e Computer,” he said in a gravelly voice and his laugh, consciously or unconsciously, was that of Popeye the Sailor Man.
“Your what?”
“It’s on loan from Marlin Communications,” Spanky began, and then his buzzer interrupted. It was Dirk downstairs. Spanky pressed the buzzer to unlock the front door.
“What’s Marlin Communications?” I asked.
“It’s this gig Pat got me. I hook the computer up to a modem and trade dirty e-mails with various guys around the country, except I’m pretending to be this girl Susie. They pay me fifty bucks an hour to do it. I also help record phone sex tapes,” he explained.
“Phone sex tapes? What are you talking about?”
“They have these 900 numbers where guys call and they get these recorded one-minute phone messages where the girls talk dirty to them: ‘Fill me up with your love pump,’ that kind of thing.”
Dirk let himself in, brandishing a bottle of wine. “Uh oh, Spanky’s been at the L-o-o-o-v-e Computer again!” he said.
“You know about the Love Computer?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said dismissively. “Hey, Spanky, I haven’t been paid yet for the last three scripts I wrote. Who should I talk to?”
“Scripts? Scripts? What are you talking about?” I asked.
“I doubt you’d be interested,” Dirk said.
“It’s for the phone sex tapes,” Spanky explained. “It’s really cheesy stuff.”
“How much does it pay? “ I asked.
“Fifty dollars for a one-minute script. They usually take about twenty minutes to a half hour to write.”
One hundred to one hundred fifty dollars an hour. “That’s good money!” I said.
“Oh boy. Here we go,” Dirk said. “Now everyone wants in on it.”
“Talk to Pat,” Spanky said. “He’s the Golden Boy over there. If anyone can get you a gig, he can.”
Next Monday morning I found myself poring over a manuscript about the advisability (or lack thereof) of mixing insulin and oral agents in people with diabetes, while keeping tabs out the window at a prostitute who was trying to make her way down the street toward the Queensborough Bridge subway station. She (or possibly he, because there were a lot of transvestite hookers in the neighborhood) was apparently strung out on something and kept falling asleep by the curb. I was poised to call 911 if necessary, but eventually she (or he) managed to right him or herself, and I decided to take a break from my editing.
I called Pat’s apartment in Brooklyn. When he answered, I said, “Pat, it’s Rob. I was at Spanky’s for dinner and he mentioned that you were—“
“I’m glad you called, Rob. Marlin needs scripts and lots of them, and I’m sure you could bring a certain flare to them.” Pat gave me the 1-900 number to call so that I could get a feel for what the scripts were supposed to sound like. “Try writing a half dozen of them or so and bring them to me at Marlin on Wednesday I’ll show you around the place—that is, if they let you out of your cubicle over there.”
“Corner office,” I corrected. “Where do I have to go—Times Square or something?”
“This isn’t a peep show, it’s a lush communications office on East Fifty-Second.” He gave me the address and told me to meet him there at 12:30 on Wednesday.
I called up the 1-900 number and listened to a seductive-sounding Valley Girl coo about what she’d like to do to my love piston and ultimately what she would like me to do with it. Then she moaned and groaned and squealed with delight from an apparent orgasm, told me how much she loved it, and invited me to call back. I didn’t know any Valley Girls but there was something vaguely familiar about the sound of her voice. Some waitress at a restaurant I frequented, perhaps? I pictured someone tan with long, blonde hair.
I kept calling the number, as the scripts changed about every six to eight hours or so. I never did hear the Valley Girl again. Meanwhile, I started banging out one-minute scripts involving flight attendants, dental hygienists, and feisty secretaries.
I left the office in Long Island City around noon on Wednesday, explaining that I was hand-delivering galley proofs to the typesetter—which the V.P. always loved because it saved him the cost of a messenger—and took the N train to 57th Street. Marlin Communications, on East 52nd Street, was located in a very respectable-looking building. Pat, dressed in jeans and a khaki shirt, was waiting for me in the lobby.
As we rode the elevator up, I asked Pat, “How long has Marlin been around?”
“Just a couple of years, but it’s going like gangbusters. “
“How long have you been working for it?”
“About six months. I heard about it from some other writers at Gent magazine.”
The elevator opened to a carpeted reception area. Behind the reception desk, with its young and well-dressed receptionist, was a huge logo with a giant MC and “Marlin Communications” in lettering underneath. In the waiting area were two very attractive young women in business suits, whom I assumed to be actresses, sitting there nervously with envelopes that probably contained their head shots.
“Hi, Pat! Go on in!” the receptionist said, pressing a buzzer that allowed us to enter through the glass doors.
There, Pat introduced me around. At one point, we went into the soundstage where the tapes were made. I saw a familiar face, Spanky, who waved us in with a sheepish grin. We exchange pleasantries.
Apparently he was in the middle of taping one of the phone sex monologues. I could hear some valley girl over the speaker: “I want to wrap by tongue around your love piston until you fill me up with your sweet, sweet spunk!”
It was my extremely arousing Valley Girl. Would I get a chance to meet her?
“Cut!” Spanky called out to the sound booth. M Valley Girl’s voice suddenly morphed into something manly, as she/he said, “Aw fuck, man! What did I do now?”
The voice was now so incredibly familiar that I stared out the window in disbelief. It was our Fearless Leader, Dirk.
As it turned out, none of my half-dozen scripts sold. Pat said they lacked originality. And so my career in porn was over before it began.
After Gloria Leonard delivered her welcoming speech, I ambled back to the bar and ordered a Beck’s. As I was there, a fat but mischievous-looking girl in her mid twenties was coming on to the bartender, who didn’t seem to be all that interested. “I’m really good,” she said to him.
“A good what?”
“A good girl,” she teased.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to see a fifty-something balding man with a goatee. “Hey, kid. Is this your first time at something like this?”
“I can tell by your wide eyes. Let me tell you something right off—you won’t get anything here.” I just stared at him, wondering what he’d say next. “I’ve been in this business a long time. I’m a photographer covering this for Screw Magazine, and I’ve met dozens of these porn stars. These porn stars, it’s just an act. Most of them have spouses and families. It’s a fantasy. Understand what I’m saying?”
I nodded and took another gulp of my drink. “You know, when you’re around this stuff as long as I’ve been, it kind of loses its mystique—you know what I mean?” Suddenly he looked off in the distance and said, “If you want, I’ll introduce you to some of the porn stars that I know. I don’t see any of ‘em right now. Mona Venus is supposed to be giving some guy a golden shower, and I need to get a shot of that. You know what a golden shower is?”
I shook my head. “That’s where she pisses on a guy. I’m not into it myself, but some guys are. I’m getting a picture of it for Screw Magazine.”
He got up and started moving toward a crowd that was forming in the corner. “What, are you coming or not?” he asked.
I shook my head. I had a beer to finish. And I did. And walked out. I have visited that world from time to time but made the decision at that moment not to live in it.

Chucklehead’s People Prod

This video, taped in 1985 and plugged between live skits, was something of a standby for a while. As always, taping on the streets of New York was fun because innocent bystanders had no idea what was going on.) Videos like these allowed we writers to get into the act. (That’s me, looking for a handout in the first scene, and bums became my trademark role. Among those playing Trivial Pursuit in the second scene are writers Bruce Handy (with the People Prod), Margot Sheehan, and Robert Leighton (asleep).

This followed on the heels of another product called Lazee Blaze, essentially a fire alarm with a “Snooze” option.