http://snlafterparty.fm/extras/2017/1/4/article-patrick-weathersToo often, the icons define history. Or, at least in the silly world of pop culture, the stories we remember get written about the legendary Big Names, the ones who’ve gone to Hollywood and stayed there. In the case of Saturday Night Live, whether it’s the “uncensored” oral history of Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller’s Live from New York, Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, or SNL40 – the same people pop up consistently. Bill Murray. Eddie Murphy. John Belushi. Will Ferrell. Lorne.
They tell the story. Or at least drive them.
While their superstar legacies are indisputable, the constant repetition of the same familiar stories and faces beg: Was it always so preordained?
Across our continental divide, there are pockets of people who worked at Studio 8H, living in the same writers rooms under the same rigorous working conditions we hear about incessantly. The stuff of lore. But these contemporaries of SNL’s Mount Rushmore are rarely acknowledged beyond a footnote.
Call it comedy Stillwater.
Last fall, I went down to the heart of the French Quarter on a mission. A special expedition. I found Patrick Weathers in a bar connected to the famous Antoine’s. Patrick is straight New Orleans, southern comfort – the living human embodiment of Foghorn J. Leghorn. He’s had an incredible career, leapfrogging through a series of moments and scenes: from folk music, to funk bands, to Studio 54, the birth of hip hop and – finally – his brief time on SNL. Today Patrick is as eclectic as ever. He runs Vincent Mann Gallery on Royal Street in New Orleans, and still carries a passion for music (as well as robotics). You can peruse his discography here.
Below you will find excerpts from my conversation with Patrick. If you’d like to listen to our conversation in its entirety, my friends over at the Saturday Night Live Afterparty podcast have made the full, unabridged audio available to stream or download from their homepage. I highly recommend their podcast to all fans of SNL. You can find my full interview with SNL alumnus Robin Duke there as well.
Because the interview was conducted in pieces (over drinks) and we bounced back and forth between topics, I’ve deleted/compressed certain sections that were redundant:
Andy Hoglund: ...So I read online you’re from outside Laurel, Mississippi?
Patrick Weathers: I’m from – I was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. But I went to junior high and high school in Laurel. My mother is from Laurel. My father is from Hattiesburg.
PW: This is actually where the Sazerac originated.
AH: Oh, it’s not the Roosevelt? That changed hands?
PW: Antoine’s been here since 1840. So both of them, like the Hurricane – which was originally like a glass of chilled rum – all these New Orleans-type drinks originated here… I’m kind of pals with Roy Alciatore, his great great grandfather was Antoine Alciatore…It’s got a bit of history to it… all the presidents have eaten here since – well, I’d have to ask. Maybe Tyler…
AH: I think Tyler was president in 1840.
PW: Was it Andrew Jackson? He didn’t eat here.
AH: We went to Napoleon House. And the Old Absinthe House, which has his name on a stone there.
PW: Exactly. Well that’s where he – in theory/mythology – met with the Pirate Jean Lafitte where they laid out the battle of New Orleans.
AH: So you grew up in Mississippi. Did you always come down to New Orleans? When did you permanently move down here?
PW: I moved down here after college. I was working with the Meters, like the Beatles of New Orleans. The Beatles of Funk. Did shows with Professor Longhair, he’s not still around. They were his backup band. They’d been on tour with the Rolling Stones... They actually, among other people, helped me get my brief stint on Saturday Night Live.
AH: In terms of your early upbringing of comedy, were you always drawn to it? Did you do standup, improv?
PW: I was an only child. I entertained myself a lot. I was entertaining my friends too. So I played guitar when I was kid and I would do impressions. Elvis, or Hank Williams, or whoever it was. And to get their attention, I would make it funny – a little spoof. So I was always a bit of a ham. You’re either funny or you’re not.
AH: How did you decide to take that natural talent and apply it to professional-
PW: I didn’t. I really wanted to be a singer-songwriter and I had a degree in theater arts. With an emphasis on stage performance. I’d taken some film courses. I went to New York to be a singer-songwriter and the rage at the time was disco. The industry was changing. You didn’t have the new wave coming in, the British stuff. The funk stuff was old hat. And you had this new thing coming up called hip hop. And I didn’t really fit into any of those genres. But I did write the first, I think, hip hop parody that I performed at the Mudd Club I think in the fall of 1980.
AH: So “The Breaks” had just come out. You’re starting to see that first iteration of really classic rap songs.
PW: Yeah, I was doing a lot of shows around town with Run DMC. Those guys were like teenagers. We were in the clubs together. So I knew those guys a little bit. I did the “Wall Street Rapper.” I came out in this kind of a Brooks Brothers suit, briefcase –
AH: (motions to shirt) This is Brooks Brothers, actually.
PW: -and long glasses, and I’d swing the briefcase. (begins rapping) “In the United States/ we have got what is known as Spencerism/survivor of the fittest, yeah...” I did crazy things like that.
AH: What did Reverend Run think about that?
PW: Loved it.
PW: The [NYC music scene] climate was really not conducive to the kind of songwriting that I was doing at the time. Probably would have been better in Nashville. So I was working at Studio 54, so I started writing a little book about my experiences and got an agent. They said: “Patrick, you want to be a singer-songwriter, that’s a million and one shot. You’re a really funny guy; here’s another million and one shot. They’re coming up with a replacement cast for Saturday Night Live and we think you’d be perfect. We’ll get you an audition.”
AH: So your agent got you an audition with the show?
PW: No, they didn’t. They called me up. They said: you really aren’t signed with us, we really can’t go to bat for you. Here’s what you do: you call up there and don’t take no for an answer. So I called and spoke with one of the casting coordinators, associate producer. Audrey Peart Dickman, she’s since passed away. She told me it’d been cast, and the auditions were closed, blah blah.
AH: This is fall 1980, summer 1980?
PW: Summer of 1980. So I didn’t take no for an answer. I started doing impressions over the phone (perfect Brando) I started sounding like Stanley Kowalski from Streetcar. (puts on southern Belle) And I’d also do Blanche. Back and forth: (perfect Clark Gable) Rhett Butler from Gone with the Wind. Back and Forth, Beatles (John Lennon voice). Little Elvis Presley. Little Johnny Cash. Bob Dylan. So I start going back and forth while talking to her on the phone. And she said: could you be here at 4:30 this afternoon? So I came down and took my guitar, and blew them away. But at the same time I was little bit more avant garde, more performance art than the regular run of the mill (Joe Piscopo voice) “Hey are you from Jersey? Have you been on that turnpike?” So they were kind of looking toward those guys that didn’t have the same edge as the original cast members. And I was often told I did. I just was in the wrong cast.
AH: That was such a weird period for the show.
PW: Well, they wanted to play it safe. They tried to hire to clone that (first) show and play it safe. They ended up really with a writing staff that were Northeastern elitists, yuppies.
AH: Harvard Lampoon, couple blocks from my apartment by the way.
PW: They were not the National Lampoon, they were the Harvard Lampoon. There’s a difference. Because Michael Simmons – whose father is Matty Simmons, who started Lampoon – is one of my dearest friends. And I was with Lampoon for years.
AH: Was that when PJ O’Rourke was the editor?
PW: Love PJ. I knew them all. I knew Michael O’Donoghue. He was problematic. I knew all those crazy guys.
AH: So you called up SNL…
PW: Went and did the audition. Brought everyone in to look at me. so they put me in with 21 finalists. So they had the old David Letterman set from his morning show. Because they were revamping the show to do his nighttime show. And you had to go out on that stage and do an eight minute improv, which I was very well versed at. I’d been very good friends with Robin Williams, when he came to town during Mork & Mindy. His mother was from Mississippi. I think his great grandfather or grandfather was Governor. Governor McLaurin. He was Robin McLaurin Williams. He spent his summers in Mississippi, and had kind of the same experience that I did. Which tied in, I guess, with San Francisco.
AH: So you went from working the Bourbon Street circuit to New York?
PW: I didn’t play Bourbon Street. I played other clubs. There was big club uptown called Jed’s... We played a lot of different places all around the region, the South… Baton Rogue… so I have worked in front of a whole variety of audiences ranging from National Guardsman in Mississippi to completely black audiences in New Orleans. Always did well with both. And the Meters were very big fans. So before they hired me, they called Jed’s. And Jed was kind of a notorious asshole. A lovable asshole, but nonetheless an asshole.
AH: The best kind of asshole.
PW: Yeah. And he was not politically correct. He said: “I don’t know anything about him. He was in here, I’ll go ask the band.” He came in and told them I was the funniest white man east of the Mississippi. They took that as a good reference. Because The Meters were friends with Garrett Morris, and they had been one of the most popular guests they’d had on the show in previous years.
AH: So you’re at Studio 54, you get the audition and go in. Is that when you met Jean Doumanian directly?
PW: I met first with, as I said, Audrey Peart Dickman. There were other casting coordinators: Neil Levy and Liz Welch. Liz was from Texas. She knew a whole slew of artists that I knew, painters. Primarily Dan Rizzie… That was pretty much it. I did a really good final audition. Jean, without anyone knowing it, had gone to University of Chicago with Woody Allen. And Dick Cavett, who was married to a girl from Mississippi, Carrie Nye. So they had a little bit of an immersion in Mississippi culture apart from the stereotypification of Mississippi through the Civil Rights movement, it never recovered from that. Everybody had this idea which was just more bullshit.
So Woody Allen. This is what Neil Levy told me. Woody Allen handpicked me for the cast above everyone else, the 21 finalists. So he is really responsible for me being in it.
AH: So he was involved in that sixth season?
PW: He was involved but not officially. He was involved as a friend and advisor. He wasn’t paid.
AH: I know had Jean later on produced for him. And I heard rumors he wasn’t writing, but giving some direction to the show. Was that anything you saw firsthand?
PW: I heard about it later. I didn’t even know he was there. Apparently he was there with a hat on, trench coat, sunglasses. Watched my audition. I know Paul Reubens and I, Pee Wee Herman, same agency… Paul just froze up during the improv part.
AH: Was Woody Allen there during the audition?
PW: He was there! We didn’t know it. But as I said, this was at the David Letterman set/studio. He was somewhere seated in the back, in a row, along with whoever else. Jean. So Woody was watching but nobody knew he was there. Neil Levy told me about that later.
AH: Did you audition the same time with Eddie Murphy or no?
PW: Eddie was called in later. But I knew Eddie before he ever auditioned.
AH: Oh really, how did that work?
PW: Well my agent from APA said you got to see this guy. They were having a hard time casting, I know they’re NBC. But they were concerned because they’d had problems with Garrett Morris’ drug use. I didn’t say that; they said that.
AH: I think it’s well documented the issues with the first cast.
PW: So they were being snails. They had these guys at auditions – they may have been good actors, but they weren’t funny.
AH: I heard Robert Townsend might’ve been in the mix?
PW: Well, whatever. I don’t remember him. But I‘m just saying the guys I saw weren’t funny. They weren’t funny. A lot of the people I saw there weren’t funny. But Eddie was 19 years old and he was playing… he was in town. I think it was the Improv. And so the lady, who by hook and by crook who ended up my agent/APA rep, was Donna Deeds. And she said “Patrick, they’re looking at a guy named Eddie Murphy. A young guy, I think you might like him. Let’s go see him.” So we went in, there’s like five people in there, and Eddie’s doing his shtick. So we met each other and hit it off.
AH: Had you already auditioned?
PW: I had already auditioned, I was already at the 21 finalists thing. I was waiting to hear,,, But Eddie and I just clicked right off the bat. He wasn’t cast, he hadn’t even auditioned yet.
But they called me up and I got the part. But you’re going to be a featured player. Can you come down and meet Jean and everything? So when I showed up, there’s Eddie. And they hired him as a featured player too. So we were right there at the beginning. Me, Eddie and Matthew Laurance.
AH: So what was it like on a day to day level? Starting with Eddie Murphy?
PW: Very frustrating. Oh, now well, Eddie wasn’t frustrating – Eddie was frustrated. Because here we are – we got to be in Sheffield sketch. But we were not really allowed to perform. And they hired a guy to play the part that Eddie could’ve done so well, and he ended up sitting on the couch. And we’re sitting on the couch as extras, because we weren’t allowed to perform yet as featured players. Eddie kept nudging me, going like “so this is what it’s like being a featured player, sit on a couch…” It was frustrating.
AH: What was that like working along somebody, sharing a dressing room with somebody who later…
PW: I loved Eddie. Let me tell you something: I saw it coming. All the stars were lined up. He was replacing, no offense to anyone, the weakest link in the original cast. And he was the biggest link in this one – by far. Eddie was funny – he was 19 years old. He wasn’t into politics, he didn’t give a shit. And he wasn’t afraid of anything. Just flat out funny.
...It’s been a great journey. Looking back on it I don’t have any regrets. I feel pretty vindicated. I’m not like: “ahhh, I could be like Eddie, floating around. In a space suit. In the Klumps.” That was a funny movie though. I remember Eddie in that fat suit – I didn’t recognize him. I was walking across the set and he was making these faces. And I thought: “god, this big guy is hitting on me.”Who is he? And they were like: “that’s Eddie.” He was so funny – I love Eddie. And Clint, Charlie. I knew Charlie a little bit. Charlie kind of looks like Eddie, you know? I knew his mom – I knew his step dad. I went out and visited with them [in Roosevelt]… this was all before he was really famous. So Eddie trusts because he knows I’m not just hanging at him because he was the best thing at Saturday Night Live. Nobody wrote for him! David and I wrote for him. So that’s how that started.
Writing and working on SNL
AH: So then you began preparing for the show. What was that process like? Were you involved in the writing?
PW: Well I had a friend down South, who was a very good writer I thought. We used to spit things off each other in college – he was in graduate school, both theater majors. I just thought he was brilliantly funny. He wrote brilliant things. I said David send up some scripts and I’ll present them to the producer. And I did, and they looked at them. And they ended up hiring him.
And I said: First of all you’re from the South, Mississippi, so they’re going to stigmatize you right away. Because we’re all in competition – they’re from Harvard and they’re going to call you a racist. So just go ahead and knock it out of the park. So we wrote just the funniest sketch and Eddie loved it.
AH: Which writer was this?
PW: David Sheffield. He became head writer under the Dick Ebersol regime.
AH: And he came in through you?
PW: Yes. He was really Eddie Murphy’s writer, and wrote Eddie’s movies. So I’m responsible for putting all that together.
AH: He wrote Gumby, all the great sketches.
PW: He wrote all that. Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood, Little Richard Simmons. He wrote all of it. I’ll tell you, Eddie and I were sharing a dressing room – with Matthew- so we were locked all in the same dressing room. (laughs) And they had made Yvonne Hudson, she was a former receptionist, they had made her a featured player. But she was really like an extra.
AH: She was an extra during the first era, as well.
PW: Yeah, they just kind of gave her a title. A link maybe to the original cast. The other link was Don Pardo. And of course the band! You had Bones Malone, they never sounded better.
AH: And Brian Doyle Murray?
PW: Yeah, Brian Doyle. He was a really good friend. He’d been a writer a Lampoon and the original Saturday Night Live. So when Bill got hired they were all like “ahh, he just got hired because he was Brian’s little brother.” You know? He was one of my supporters. I didn’t have many. The music guys, I had Hal Willner , who was the music guy, Jean the producer, she was on my side.
AH: So you and Jean got along?
PW: Yeah. I brought in the guy that wrote the cold opening for the very first show, and about half of the very first show. Which pissed off a lot of wannabe writers.
AH: It sounds like you were very active in shaping the direction. How did that translate into pitching character ideas?
PW: Oh yeah. It translated, and everybody got mad and wanted to get me out of the way. These guys come out on the 12th hour, from Mississippi of all places and were taking over the show.
AH: Matthew Laurance is very diplomatic, but he seemed to suggest it was very sectional, like there were teams during that era.
PW: Let’s put it this way: I didn’t survive it. But David Sheffield did, and he became Dick Ebersol’s head writer. With Jean Doumanian’s discovery, Eddie Murphy, as the star of the show. And that was put together by me. So I was on that team.
AH: Do you have remembrances or observations about your time on air? I know you did your Bob Dylan impression.
PW: Well, that was a classic sketch.
AH: Especially now Bob Dylan is such an icon.
PW: He was an icon then! I’m saying the Bob Dylan sketch is really well done, and it should have been brought back. It should have been a regular thing. You didn’t have to be just historically accurate and have Woody Guthrie in the hospital bed doing Dylan lyrics that he’s ripping off. You could talk to anyone!
AH: Especially since they had Prince coming back as a character.
PW: Exactly. You could have Larry Hagman on from Dallas and JR with Dylan that he’s ripping off. It’s funny. There’s an element of reality to it and that’s what makes it funny. I think they did an excellent job as far as art direction, the set that we had, our costumes. Everything.
I know was Ann Risley was very reluctant, and verbally pissed off that she was playing a supporting role to a Featured Player. But I remember when it was all over… Brian Doyle Murray, David Carradine, who was the host, David Sheffield
AH: Did you write it?
PW: I wrote it! With David. And Brian Doyle contributed some. As did David Carradine, the host. So they all checked in with her.
PW: …I never had the Dale Carnegie course. I felt like I was there by happenstance. And I had issues with network television.
AH: On a philosophical or political level?
PW: Yes, philosophical and political. Because I didn’t appreciate the stereotypification of southerners.
AH: As hicks, racists?
PW: Rednecks, ignorant, inbred, they’re racist, they’re barefoot. And today you can say something about anyone [without] “why you racist!” But if you call someone a redneck, inbred… it’s: “yes, I agree!” Didn’t Hillary Clinton just do that in a major speech a couple weeks ago that has her plummeting in the polls?
AH: There’s a weird double standard, I agree.
PW: Nobody is supporting Donald Trump because of his stance on the border or building a wall. They’re supporting him because he’s hurling bricks for freedom of speech and at political correctness…
AH: Can you take me through – you joined in December, then Ebersol took over. Were you a close ally to Jean? How did that work?
PW: I’ll tell you this. At that time I was very good friends with Amy Wilson by that point – a fan and a supporter. Her father was Irv Wilson, he was the president of NBC. Now I have to tell you a funny story …with Bill Murray, he had just done the show as host. A week before Jean was canned!
AH: Great opening sketch.
PW: I was not included in, by the way?
AH: Why was that?
PW: Just trying to nudge me out.
AH: So the Murrays.
PW: Bill came on, that’s really when I first met him. And we went down to the bar downstairs. That day before the pitch meeting. (laughs) And we just shot some tequila. So Bill was a pretty bad cutup at the pitch meeting. Any rate, I was in the Nick Rivers sketch, kind of buried in the background there – maybe one line or something. It was really odd.. Brian couldn’t figure it out the timing of dismissing Jean right after we had this greatly successful show.
AH: Did you guys know that was coming?
PW: Had a feeling something was coming. The truth is this: they can say what they want to about that year. I think the very first show that we did was very funny. They were laying in wait to take this woman down. A lot of it was really chauvinistic. And a lot of it was really sexist. It was really just misogynistic. They were waiting: this woman could not possibly be funnier than Lorne Michaels. Or Dick Ebersol. His name is very fitting by the way.
AH: Well that was Al Franken’s whole thing. Dick doesn’t know dick.
PW: He doesn’t. But he always took credit for everything! (laughs)
AH: Sure – he invented SNL!
PW: “I invented it.” And the truth is this: Lorne went to Matty Simmons’ show. The Lampoon show. He had Chevy in the cast: he had Danny, he had John, he had Laraine. Ripped off the whole show. Took it to NBC, pitched it to Ebersol. Ebersol had been doing the Midnight Special. No brainer – bring great rock acts on. There’s no slot there, nothing to compete with- reruns and old movies…
PW: I did a movie later with Dan Aykroyd… Will Ferrell… The Campaign.
AH: How’d you get in that?
PW: I auditioned for it. They loved me: they knew I was funny!
AH: It wasn’t a Southern bond thing with Galifianakis?
PW: No, I didn’t even know who he was. I got to know him on the show. He’s hysterical. What we have a bond with: his father had run for office. He was great – I love those guys. Will is the funniest xxx you’ve ever seen. With improv, we had a great time. But he was telling me about his father out of a dry cleaners and all this in the south. But what we had an affinity for was red miatas. As a comedy: he had a whole shtick on miatas he would do. I said: you got to leave that in. I’ve got an old shtick I wrote with David Sheffield, of all people. After Saturday Night Live.
AH: So you stayed in contact with David?
PW: He’s like family. David, Eddie, Cynthia… Eddie loves me to this day.
AH: have you talked to Eddie recently?
PW: Oh yeah – not recently. In recent years. I ran into Joe Piscopo.
AH: You get along with Joe Piscopo?
PW: I got along with him, yeah. I did a thing with him – it wasn’t as funny as the Dylan sketch. And now they always talk about: “well he was in brown face!” Because I played Ravi Shankar.
AH: Did you ever know Lorne by the way?
PW: Yeah, sure! Of course! I did another show for Lorne called the New Show. Which lasted about six episodes! It was the same thing! I was the feature player on that show but it didn’t last long enough for me to get a shot at being on air.
AH: Before Kids in the Hall! What does that feel like by the way?
PW: Like – SHIT!
AH: -Lorne does SNL. You come on SNL right after. Then New Show…
PW: Look, everything works out the way it should be. I’m still working – a lot of them aren’t. I’m not dead. A lot of them are. Ya know, I’m some place in between. I’m a musician – a songwriter. I have three records. You can explore them if you like... I had a little health issue, a few years ago, and that was when the tour would have occurred to support the album. I just decided at that point: just piss on it. I want to make money, and enjoy capitalism. And support, I sell fine art, I have an art gallery...I want to do another record. A little bout of skin cancer took the wind out of my sails. Why bother anymore? Just wasn’t inspired – lost the desire to entertain people, to perform. And the bit of movie and TV work [Treme, Roots] I’ve been getting filled out a little bit – every now and then thing – is fine… but I had this – I really miss playing. I’ve been playing guitar since I was three years old. Literally… ukulele cords first... it’s something that’s been a constant with me. I’ve never really laid it down completely – but I did the last three years.
AH: Have you ever felt that the fact you were on SNL, but not during the Lorne era, has been a hindrance?
PW: It’s been an annoyance. When people ask me to do interviews about it…
AH: Sorry about that. (looks down sheepishly)
PW: Nah, that’s okay! Nah, not really. I don’t think so. It didn’t do anything for me – it didn’t do anything against me. But I think politically they might’ve tried to do some things against me. But it didn’t work.
AH: How so?
PW: For instance, a show – like, I bounced back – I was starring on Broadway, like right after that. Rock & Rock the First 5,000 Years. Playing Bob Dylan and Elvis and Levon Helm & the Band and Lou Reed and Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones. Just everything. That was quite a vehicle for me. I remember one time I went out with John Simon, he produced all of Simon & Garfunkel, Janis Joplin; he produced the Band, you know, their records. He was a musical icon. He had lunch, he said: “Some of the people there said you a premadonna. But you’re not.” That’s what somebody from there had said about me… and it created a little bit of trepidation. “But now that you’re here, and we’ve worked with you, you’re not.”
AH: Do you think that was blowback with Jean…?
PW: Dick Ebersol… I had done some comedy on Dick Ebersol in front of Lorne Michaels when I auditioned for the New Show that Lorne found – they were rolling on the floor. Because they knew it was all true.
AH: So I wanted to ask you about your role in Wall Street. Because Oliver Stone is a different world…
PW: I actually just needed extra money. Someone said: why don’t you do extra work? I said: I’ve never done that before. I didn’t have an agent at that point. Well, I did – I had APA. But they weren’t involved in representing you as an extra. So I went to some cattle call, and they put me in a suit. And Oliver Stone just picked me out – he liked me. And he had some speaking lines that he’d come up with that he’d written in. And he put me in it! And I got my SAG card; I already had my – at the time you had different one, I had my Actor one, which was television – now I had my movie one.
AH: Did you write for Lampoon first, or was SNL first?
PW: Afterwards – they had a house clearing there. And Michael [Simmons] became editor. Then "Ratso" Sloman. They’re still like brothers.
AH: How did National Lampoon come together?
PW: I’d met Michael Simmons and we played music together. It revolved around music. That was through Kinky Friedman, I was friends with Kinky and met Michael. We just started singing together one night, we had this great chemistry musically. And he was Matty Simmons’ son. Naturally he knew I was funny…
AH: So you just pitched ideas?
PW: You went in just like Saturday Night Live – pitched your ideas. Editor would handpick whatever you did for Lampoon… I did a lot of stuff – photo funnies, articles. We did a really funny thing one day for a short story. A lot of things I did were regional, set in the South. They’d done a hilarious version of the southern version of Easy Rider. I don’t know if you remember that, from the original Lampoon? It was from the point of view of southerners. “You’ve terrorized the south long enough.” So we did some really funny things.
AH: Southerners killed Jack Nicholson in that, if I remember.
PW: Yes – in the southern version of that he deserved to die.
AH: (laughs) “They hated what he stood for.” So what years were you contributing to Lampoon?
PW: I don’t know, ’83, ’84 through maybe like ’88. Couple different editors – Ratso was editor. Then Matty sold the magazine, I don’t remember when exactly it was. By then I was on tour with Elvis in America musical and Cherie Fortis was producing a movie that I was writing with Sid, Sidney Jackson Bartholomew Jr… Cherie Fortis had been Lorne Michaels’ assistant all through the years on the original Saturday Night Live. There’s a whole family that’s borne out of this so just because you weren’t able to do Waterboy, you had a network in place that comes out of it.
AH: Were you invited to SNL40? Did you go?
PW: I wasn’t invited – I was shunned… did they invite any featured players? They invited Eddie…
AH: Yeah, he had that little moment.
PW: Kind of a weird moment. But you know Eddie was going to host the Oscars that year and just didn’t want to do it.
AH: He’s at an interesting place in his career.
PW: He’s just bored. He’s done it.
AH: He came out with a couple albums…
PW: Eddie’s brilliant. He can do without he wants to do. Or be bored and not want to mess with it. Up to Eddie at this point… Eddie’s Eddie… He’s not limited whatsoever. Just a matter of does he want to do it anymore? He’s got kids…
AH: Do you stay in touch with Joe Piscopo anymore, or anyone?
PW: Not really, no. I saw Joe down here. I stay in touch with some of the music people. Bones Malone. Hal Willner. Some of those guys. But I was a Featured Player. Unless you were a Featured Player that was part of the cast and became a major star, you weren’t included. So I mean, I didn’t care. I didn’t expect to be.
John Lennon, Music and Tom Snyder
PW: One of the most eventful times, a couple weeks before John Lennon was murdered, we had Malcolm McDowell on the show. He was really doing the show to basically get his green card. But he’d married Mary Steenburgen. So he was big into the South, but grew up in Liverpool with the Beatles. And one of the big things was trying to get John Lennon to get a record out to host the show. And he’d talked about coming on, if he could host and Yoko could be the music act. That was kind of his term.
And the music was happening that year. The music had never been better. So sometimes they’d have two music acts. And the week John Lennon was murdered was around the time I did the Dylan sketch. I was up there and all the news was coming in. It was doom and gloom over New York. It was like the Kennedy assassination. There was a supporter of mine, who happened to be the casting coordinator of the Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. He was one of the jokes for the sketch David Sheffield and I wrote: “What about Tom Snyder, he doesn’t do drugs does he?” “He snorts coke all the time, how do you think he stays up so late!” It was a funny sketch… “oh it was terrible: a drug joke!” And it was all directed at the original cast. I told Jean: “God knows, if they were here, they’d bring us to their knees. May as well shoot for it – don’t try to be politically correct.
So anyway, another supporter of mine was the casting coordinator for the Tomorrow Show. And he brought John Lennon on… his name was Luc Leclair… when Dennis Considine was made head of late night programming, when the coup was going on to take Jean on. I didn’t know that was going on. But because of Amy Wilson – who was dating me, and was the president of the network’s daughter – he was bringing me up and talking to me. “What would you do if you had the show?” “What would you do if you were the producer?” So they had a lot of considerations going on. And I’m just sitting there with the guys – the team that manages Woody Allen. Mort Sahl was there with me. They’re talking to us like a job audition all at once, all of us. I’m with these comedy giants.
AH: It’s such a fascinating alternate history to the show. I don’t think that narrative has really gotten out before.
PW: Never has.
The restaurant Nirvana was across the street from the Dakota. John Lennon had been murdered Monday. We had just done a show Saturday, so the after party was at Nirvana. As usual, I’m hanging out with the musicians. So I’m sitting there talking with the guys from Cheap Trick. James Brown’s at the next table. Al Sharpton was his road manager, hairstylist and everything… James had left, he was a little older. The guys at Cheap Trick were all hanging out with me. And Luc Leclair walks over to the table. He said: “Patrick, we’re trying to get Marlene Wiener on the air to do an interview with Tom. She was John and Yoko’s psychic, who advised them on their life choices, all their business decisions and even doing a new record. They bought her an apartment and she lives in the basement of the Dakota building. I’m going to go over there in a little bit: would you like to go?” And I said: hell yeah.
...There was a subterranean staircase in the back of the Dakota building. We went down that with a lightbulb, and there was a little stairwell… she buzzed him in. And in sitting inside there was this 100 year woman who was very large – Jabba the Hutt large. She had a pair of old golden labs at each side of her… as soon as I stepped inside this subterranean apartment in the Dakota, she pointed to me. And said something I’ve never forgotten: “She said, “Keep John’s guitar. You’re going to use it.” All these years later now, 36 years later, it’s all flashing back to me. At the time I thought: what does that mean? Does it mean I’m going to be in Beatlemania? (laughs) I had no clue what it meant - it was a mystery. Because I was a musician; I was a guitar player. I had no clue what she was talking about. All these years later, I feel like it was almost a spiritual directive. And I wanted to solve that.
AH: So that’s the inspiration-
PW: For the new record.