Monday, June 23, 2008

GEORGE CARLIN, WE HARDLY KNEW 'YA

George Carlin-A Tribute

George Carlin who was a KCAC and Phoenix favorite early in his post-Ed Sullivan show, comic-in-a-suit career, has died, reportedly of sudden heart failure yesterday in California. He was 71.

George Carlin played to sold out concerts in large part due to KCAC and KDKB program director Bill Compton. Like many of you, I first heard George Carlin's comedy on KCAC (and later on KDKB) on Bill Compton's show. Who knew it would be the last of our stations then that weren't cowed out of having a totally unique radio identity? Thank goodness Phoenix now has Radio Free Phoenix, a gem that honors the KCAC tradition of uninhibited, community based 'real radio' freedom.

Many of us remember Carlin's "hippy dippy weatherman," first from the Valley's beloved, groundbreaking KCAC format (or 'for-not') and soon after when Carlin appeared in the early 1970's at the legendary Buster Bonoff's Celebrity Theatre. At the first George Carlin show I attended, he joked about the revolving stage and thrilled us with unparalled wit. Carlin dared to satirize the absurd power of words, most famously in his biting, uncomfortable and hilarious “Seven Words You Can Never Use on Television.” This American treasure who seemed to revel in making audiences squirm as much as making us laugh, danced himself off the Celebrity stage with an Irish Jig.

Upon learning of Carlin's death a couple of hours ago, I got the same feeling as when decades ago I found out that John Lennon had been brutally murdered. Someone came running into our band practice room to tell us. We insisted that it wasn't true. Sports Announcer Howard Cossell, broadcasting the breaking news of John Lennon's murder with an authentically shocked, somber tone, broke the veil of denial, while we stood in front of the tv, muted, as shock and grief stopped time for a few days.

With the death of George Carlin, who like John Lennon was a visionary friend of our decade, we've again lost a kindred soul, a spokesman of our time. George Carlin is suddenly and inexplicably gone, and many of us will cry our hearts out like we did for John Lennon. But with George Carlin's death, tears seem out of tune with what he was all about. I can picture Carlin shaking his head at millions of fans as we wipe away the tears and imagine him in Heaven, beaming down rational thought laced with humor, something we sometimes seem to be lacking in this decade.

Thanks George! I hope you wound up somewhere besides where the missing socks from the clothes drier go!

6 comments:

joecat said...

George will be missed. He would come to Yuma to fine tune his shows before taking them out on the road..or wherever he took them.
It was good to see him discuss religion and life in a small venue.

Jimmy said...

Nice tribute, Mariah. HBO is replaying lots of his specials this week -you can also find 'em all over YouTube now. He definitely did not mellow with age!

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks Jimmy! I saw an interview from Oct 07 on Countdown on MSNBC this evening, it's worth watching on ther website.

Fran Bennett said...

Unlike Lennon's sudden, wholly unexpected departure, we knew George had been battling heart issues for some time. Also, he was derailed for a while when his first wife of 35 years died back in '97. I can't begin to imagine what that must be like for someone.

I love the machinations of language and George was probably one of the best English teachers I ever had.

Liz Boyle said...

I enjoyed the local spin on this story, Mariah! George Carlin was held in especially high esteem by those of us in repressed Catholic School environments! Nice to see fellow Gerard Redcoat, Joecat on this blog!

Jimmy said...

"A cardial infarction!" Yeah, I remember Carlin joking about his heart attacks since the 80's (when we Phoenix folk saw him at the Celebrity Theater).
Yes, we did know it was coming with Carlin. The gift he gave to us were all the rants against the dying of the light all along the way. His last HBO Special, "It's Bad For Ya," is recommended viewing for all those weighing the "lifetime guarantee" on purchases ("How may years is that? Nah").Carlin's gonna teach me how to be cool until cold.