(Although it's not the usual fare for this space, we're posting this story about meeting Peter Bergman- who passed away Friday- and Firesign Theater (in "first person" no less) here anyway. It was first posted at a tribute page and on Facebook last night.)
My Breakfast with Peter Bergman (sort of)
Peter Bergman passed away this week. I "met" him once along with the rest of The Firesign Theater at WBAI, the Pacifica Radio Station in New York. It was sometime shortly after the eagerly awaited release of their second album "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All."
The were making an appearance on either Steve Post's Midnight program- or it might have been Bob Fass' "Radio Unnameable"- you know how memory is.
I was a 16-year-old teenage kid, one of the "regulars" at the time who had managed, over the years, to finagle my way into hanging out all night with the "air check" kids in "the back" by the AP and AFP wire machines. Supposedly I was officially there doing my "Community Bulletin Board" program... or so I said if challenged which was ridiculous since it was "on," usually live, at 6 p.m. But no one ever seemed to care except sometimes Post who, due to my bout with psoriasis, used to call me "head cheese"... on the air. Great for 16-year old's self-image
Anyway, I remember the four of them filing in, apparently high as proverbial kites (as were we all- of course everyone was careful to "do that crap outside").
So they do their on-air bits- funnier than hell. And it was seemingly "new material" because, like many kids in those pre-Python days, I had committed the first two albums to memory and this stuff wasn’t that stuff.
Where that air check is is anyone's guess- I've never heard it, not that I'd remember it, missing half from laughing too hard and the other half due to the aforementioned kite flying material.
The thing was that when they took a break and came out of the studio it seemed like they were still "on." Well, I thought, maybe they're rehearsing. But when they went back into the studio they didn't seem to repeat anything they'd done during the break.
Well the show was finally over around 5 a.m. and, as everyone was wont to do, we all adjourned to the "Greasy Spoon"- a Greek Restaurant on 53rd and 3rd that I have often though must have been the model for the "Cheezbugger, Cheezbugger, Pepsi, Pepsi" place from John Belushi's SNL sketch.
And guess what- during the whole walk over and the whole time we stuffed eggs and pancakes down our pie holes they just continued as if they were still on the air.
I finally realized that when these four guys hung out they were just "like that"... all the time. As a kid I just envisioned them being so talented that, when it was time to do a record they just kind of waltzed into the studio and recorded their normal conversation.
And maybe I wasn't too far off.
All throughout breakfast they kept it up, non-stop. I've always thought that if I'd have brought a portable tape machine I would have had my own private Firesign Theater Album.
At 16 you think "magic." Now at 60 I can't think of any word but "genius."