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?”
“Ed.”
“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?”
“Yeah.”
“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.

Chucklehead’s Bottle Return Video

This was one of the first videos we shot, very low-tech and guerilla-style. I wrote the script, and we taped it in Jay and Bruce’s tiny apartment on 14th Street. We actually had no paucity of dank, dirty little apartments to tape in. I was very gratified that this one has had 69 views on YouTube, and one review: “This is some funny shit! HAH!!!!” So, some of the material still holds up!

The Worst-Case Scenario by Rob Dinsmoor

FADE IN ON:
TITLE: “ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF EVERY COMEDY WRITER.”
FADE TO:

INT. ASTORIA APARTMENT – NIGHT

The apartment is extremely cramped. The living room has a TV, sofa, and bookshelves on one end, and a huge desk and file cabinet crammed into the other end. Rob is sitting at a keyboard on the desk, typing intently, while Kari lies on the couch, smoking and reading.

KARI
Say, do you know I’ve always thought would make a good Chucklehead skit?

Rob looks up from his typing with a look of nervous anticipation.

KARI
It starts out with this very successful Broadway actor—I think Rick would be great for the part. And he’s eating out, he’s had a few drinks, and he pours his heart out to the waiter. It turns out he didn’t come to New York to be a big Broadway star. What he really wants is to wait tables. Get it?

ROB
(flatly)
Uh huh.

KARI
So, he finally arranges to be a bus boy for this waiter. Works really hard at being a bus boy. Learns the menu by heart, and sets the silverware with precision. Then one night, something happens.

ROB
The waiter breaks—

KARI
The waiter breaks his leg, and the bus boy has to fill in. And the restaurant owner notices him, and eventually he becomes the head waiter! Get it?

ROB
Uh huh.

KARI
It’s an ironic reversal of, you know, that cliché where the guy comes to New York to be a big star, but winds up waiting tables?

ROB
Uh huh.

KARI
And he becomes an understudy to a big star, and one night the star breaks his leg and that’s the understudy’s big break?

ROB
Uh huh.

KARI
What do you think?

ROB
Well, the premise is sort of clever, I guess, but you know it’s—

KARI
(annoyed)
It’s what?

ROB
It’s one-note. Once the audience gets the joke, the joke’s over. Either the premise has to build in unexpected ways, or it has to veer off into a totally different direction.

KARI
You’re just being a pill. If you wrote it, the audience would love it.

FADE TO:

INT. APARTMENT – NIGHT
Rob finishes typing, and then presses the print button. He takes the script out of the printer tray and hands it to Kari. Kari reads it and begins laughing.

KARI
See? This is great! I knew you could take this idea and run with it. Take it into your next meeting, and if they like it, you have to give me partial credit.

ROB
Okay.

FADE TO:
INT. PETER’S APARTMENT – NIGHT

It is a Chucklehead script meeting and everyone looks really, really tired. There are scripts lying all over the place, some empty beer cans, a couple of cigarette butts in some of the beer cans. Rob is just finishing reading the script, really trying to pitch it.

ROB
(singing, to the tune of “New York, New York”)
If I can waiter there, I can waiter anywhere. It’s up to you—New York! New York!

He throws out his hands and bows. There is total silence in the room.

DIRK
Okay. Comments? Someone start.

People’s eyes dance around the room at each other.

PETER
(dejectedly)
I’ll go. Rob, I have to say, this is really a “one note” sketch. I mean, once the audience gets the joke, the skit’s over—or I mean at least it should be.

ROB
Uh huh.

RUSSELL
(rubbing his eyes)
As soon as it started, I knew the waiter was going to break his leg. It was that obvious where that was going. The only question was how long it would take to get there, and the answer was way too long, if you ask me.

ROB
I know. In my next draft, I’ll see if I can find a way to make it build.

PETER
Well, I don’t think it’s really a matter of making it build. I mean, the whole idea–I hate to say it–it’s, well, lame. All you did is take a cliché and switch the traditional actor and waiter roles. So what? What’s your point?

ROB
Yeah.

DIRK
I guess what we’re trying to say, man, is don’t bother with the rewrite. Take the week off!

PETER
What we’re saying is don’t waste your time with this. You’re a creative guy—and this—well—the guy standing next to me on the subway platform could have come up with something better than this.

DIRK
Yeah, man. How many six packs did you down before you wrote this?

ROB
Well, thanks, everybody, for your input. I really appreciate it.

FADE TO BLACK.

Chucklehead’s Roach Razor (aka “Apocalypse Dinsmoor”

That’s me playing Dennis Hopper and Mark (“Cubby”) as Brando playing Kurtz! At the musty third floor of the West Beth Theatre in New York City in 1984.

Chucklehead’s Pinstripe Plaza

This was one of our favorite videos. We shot it in Alphabet City and Spanish Harlem. Pinstripe Plaza is actually based on a real building full of yuppies. One of the show biz people who lived in a building across the street we dubbed “Dogboy Manor” said he wanted to shoot bottle rockets at it. “What’s stopping me is not the loss of human life or prime real estate. It’s the getting raped in the ass after they put me in prison for arson.”