Most people my age know Phil Hartman as Troy McClure, Lionel Hutz, Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, the Anal Retentive Chef, and the dad that Matt Foley yells at. Well, I guess most people of any age know him as these things.
What made me jump this mild interest in his characters into reading his biography escapes me now, but for a few days this fall I devoted myself to it, and to remembering him. In hindsight maybe I would have been better served by watching greatest hits from his time on The Simpsons and SNL, but it was–if nothing else–a humanizing look at how such a public person can be so private and misunderstood, even by those who loved him.
Among other things that I didn’t know much about, I learned how Phil designed the logo that Crosby, Still, and Nash still use, and the cover design for several popular LPs throughout the 1970s and 80s. I also didn’t realize how instrumental he was in getting Pee-Wee’s Playhouse off the ground, and how Jon Lovitz (!) was chosen over him to make the leap from LA to NYC for SNL.
But the biography, You Might Remember Me, also goes in-depth into Phil’s improv life where among other people he worked with Cassandra Peterson, who most people my age know simply as Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. Speaking of age, she’s now 63 (!) but re-emerged this year on the VHS tape-looking video for Ryan Adams’s “Gimme Something Good.”
The song, crunchy and raw in a polished way, grew on me quickly, especially once I saw the great vid. The rest of the album, though, well, not to much. Fans can usually expect Ryan Adams solo LPs to be slower, quieter, and safer than his work with full bands like The Cardinals. However, this one was written and produced as if it were 1986. It’s yacht rock without the waves. It’s not bad, and with a pair of headphones you can unselfconsciously bite your lower lip and rock your head (though just a little). But online or on a stereo, well, it might be better to listen to as a way to induce an easy slumber, grooving in the golden era of cassette tapes and stonewash. Gimme something good, indeed.