Tuesday, February 14, 2012

RETURN OF THE NATIVE


I'm thrilled to report that after a two-plus year run as Zazu in The Lion King (at the Mandalay Bay Theater in Las Vegas), my friend Patrick's back in town.

I know him best as a dear friend, but Patrick is best known to the world as a deeply talented actor who attended Yale Drama School and has graced stage and screen since. I've seen him do Shakespeare in Santa Cruz, I've seen him in Steve Martin's The Underpants at the Geffen, I've seen him at South Coast Rep. Every time I'm at Ralphs or Starbucks with him, it seeems, people will come up and say...Curb Your Enthusiasm! Or Hannah Montana! or ER!... 

At least as much to the point, Pat's got a huge heart and a wicked sense of humor, and he is also generous, thoughtful, kind, and one hell of a good listener.

So in honor of the fact that L.A. now has back one of its own, I'm thinking to run this piece I wrote years ago when I went to watch the taping of an episode of Frasier:

It's a kick living in and around Hollywood but I'm not exactly in the loop. I don’t know Matthew Perry from Perry Mason, Drew Barrymore from Lionel Barrymore, Paris Hilton from Paris, France. When I first met my friend Patrick I overheard him talking to someone about Frasier. “Frasier,” I piped up. “That’s a TV show isn’t it?” Yy-eah, he replied. I’ve had a guest spot on it for the last eleven years.”

Recently Patrick invited me to the Paramount lot for a taping of the show. I’d brought along a book—Camus’ The Plague--but in no time I was yukking it up with the rest of the studio audience and had forgotten all about my book. There were people from all over: Topeka, Duluth, Perth. A comic, whose very hard job it was to keep us from getting restless, informed us that Cheers had been filmed on this very stage. There were three sets: one of what looked like a radio studio, one of a living room, and a third from which a giant set of digital scales loomed from the shadows. When it was time to begin, a pony-tailed man stepped to center stage and clapped two little striped blocks of wood together, just like in the movies.

As far as I could figure, Frasier worked on some radio advice show and the plot of this particular show was that his crew was having a contest with the crew of a rival radio station to see which could lose the most weight. At home, he had a cranky father, a brother who was phobic about germs, and a Jack Russell terrier named Eddie. The dialogue was smart and engaging, the off-camera crew interacted with split-second precision, and the whole thing was way so absorbing I didn’t once turn to Camus.

Between scenes Patrick kept coming anxiously over with food--cardboard cups of cashews, miniature candy bars--to keep my strength up.

“Boy that brother’s sure good,” I remarked, tucking into a Three Musketeers. “Do people know him?”

“Heather,” Patrick replied. “That’s David Hyde Pierce. He’s won about seven Emmys.” 

“Oh. How about that Roz you have a crush on? Is she a regular character?”  

“That’s Peri Gilpin. She’s been on since the show since it started.”

Of course to me the best part was Patrick himself, who played a Trekker geek named Noel.  He had one scene where he was doubled over with stomach cramps, one where he popped up from a dead faint on the floor, and one at the very end where he snuck back to the site of the weigh-in, grabbed a lock of Roz’s hair and stuffed it down the front of his shirt. This brilliant actor clearly stole the show and I couldn’t restrain myself from turning to the couple beside me to loudly stage-whisper: “That’s my friend!”

“Wow!” I told him the next day. “That was fun. No wonder everyone likes TV!”

When Christmas rolled around that year, Patrick handed me a card. “Awake and sing!” it said on the front. And inside was a year’s subscription to People magazine. 

Welcome home, Patrick. 
If you want to keep up with him, Pat also madly twitters @patiokerr.

IMDb

7 comments:

  1. Oh, of course, Noel! (Hello, Mr Kerr, if you're reading this!) Heather, Frasier was not only a TV show, but for many years it was the TV show. A literate and funny sitcom: Who knew such things were possible?

    As it happened, last night I was at a Chinese restaurant with a dear friend and I was making her laugh hysterically with my Niles Crane (played by David Hyde Pierce) imitations. Oh, goodness, the writing for that show! My heavens. Especially the lines that Niles had:

    "Louis XIV was not fey! Everyone wore garters in the eighteenth century!"

    "My wife was so mortified by the incident that she's added an accent aigu to all her stationery. Her notes now read, 'From the desk of Maris Crané.'"

    "I have a date for the winter ball! Marjorie Nash! The fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt heiress!"

    Maybe in cold (virtual) print, these lines don't seem funny, but in context they were hilarious.

    But yes, what a privilege it must be for you, Heather, to know a fine actor like Mr Kerr, and what a privilege it must be for Mr Kerr to have worked with those wonderful actors and writers!

    I'm going to check Mr Kerr's IMDb page, so I can find him in some of his other roles!

    Have a great morning, Heather!

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  2. Oh.My.Goodness. I was a HUGE fan of Frasier! This is so cool! I still crack up when Frasier, Niles, and Martin made a drinking game out of PBS' "Antiques Roadshow," downing glasses of sherry (Frasier and Niles) or beer (Martin) every time someone said the word "veneer." :)

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  3. Heather, I have a general illiteracy with TV as an adult. Frasier, seinfeld, Friends and the myriad of others all went by without much notice as but for two short lived stints, MB and I haven't had a TV for most of our nearly 30 years together. That's said without pride, just fact. I'm clueless and I know it. We have shelled out for Netflix this year so with that and a computer I am doing my best to get with it, though I don't put as much effort into it as I should. To redeem myself somewhat I confess, I am a movie hound.

    But, what I really came here to acknowledge from reading your charming piece is, indeed, no one is *a minor character* when someone says of them, "That's my friend." Here's to more years of the renewal of that friendship.

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  4. You guys are the best! I so appreciate your faithful readership, and Frasier fans as well! The ONLY reason I don't watch TV is that I know damn well I would instantly become obsessed with every other show which, coupled with the alternate reality I already live though books, would probably not be good...

    Patrick truly is a brilliant actor, though as I said, and I knew you all would get, even better (from my p.o.v.) is that he's a friend...

    We're having coffee this afternoon and he will get a huge kick out of these comments, I'm sure--blessings and prayers to all...

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  5. My parents have hundreds of Frasier episodes, dozens of which I've watched with them - and not a single one has been sub-par. Not a one. How wonderful that a friend of yours was a part of its success.

    David Hyde Pierce spoke at my alma mater, St Francis H.S., a few years ago. He's a good guy.

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  6. well. this is encouraging.
    thanks Heather. i'm so happy to be back in LA. Funny how it has become home. And it's especially nice that home includes you, your humor, your support, your love and wisdom. And thank you so much to your readers for their generosity. They obviously have great taste. After all, they read King.

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  7. Frasier was a brilliantly written and acted show. There are still many episodes I remember; and remember doubling over with laughter.

    It's good to have your friend back. True friends are important.

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