remember when

Remember When

Robert Prescott


We look back fondly on a great number of movies from the 1980s. As latchkey kids who were partly raised by cable television following its revolutionary introduction, we would watch movies over and over and over again until we knew every nook and cranny of the HBO rotation. “Real Genius” was one of those after school mainstays, a comedy that we were probably too young to fully understand, but we embraced it with open arms anyway.

In the film, Robert Prescott plays Kent, an insecure graduate assistant who becomes the most unlikely of cinematic bullies, and apparently, one of the “biggest dicks of Hollywood.” And while he has amassed plenty of credits over the years, including “Bachelor Party” and “Spaceballs,” he remains a part of our pop culture past due to his genius “Real Genius” performance, a role that we continue to quote to this day.

We recently sat down with Prescott to discuss why the film stands out from other 80s teen comedies, a pattern of being cast as preppy conformists, and how volunteering at Ground Zero following the attacks of September 11, 2001 impacted his career forever.

TrunkSpace: As viewers, we take a movie like “Real Genius,” or a movie like “Bachelor Party,” and we attach this nostalgic label to it in our minds. Our relationship with those projects is ultimately different than yours in that we remember the finished product while you probably remember the overall experience. So with that said, what is your relationship to those films?
Prescott: Well, “Bachelor Party” came before “Real Genius,” by about a year, and “Bachelor Party” was actually my second job out of the gate. I was in New York, studying acting, and I got cast for a movie that was shot in Los Angeles, and it was called… well, actually, it was first called “National Lampoon’s Joy of Sex,” but, when National Lampoon saw it, they bought their name back, it was so bad.

TrunkSpace: Interesting. We had no idea that was originally connected to the National Lampoon brand.
Prescott: Yeah. That’s what took me to Los Angeles, and, while I was there, I auditioned for “Bachelor Party,” and I got that, and then I just realized that, “Wow, I might have a career out here.” It sort of happened quickly for me and it was an exciting time. So, I did “Bachelor Party,” and I think with those first jobs, the learning curve is so steep. It’s just incredible. I guess coming out as I did from New York, having no real concept of how careers work, or the business, or any of that, I did not consider that I was going to be like the angry preppy – the angry yuppie guy. It caught me off guard, but, in retrospect, it makes perfect sense, because there was this whole, huge wave of movies right after “Animal House” that were like the anti-heroes, and the preppies and the conformists were the antagonists. It did catch me a little bit off guard, but still, work is work. And when I got cast in “Real Genius,” I thought, “Uh oh, is this a pattern?”

But “Real Genius,” I thought, really had a heart to it, and even the character of Kent had a heart. It was different. It wasn’t quite as exploitative, or a by-the-numbers-teen-comedy, like a rip-off of “Animal House.”

TrunkSpace: And the thing about Kent was, he wasn’t your stereotypical 80s teen villain. He was, in a way, stuck in a tough place himself. He wasn’t the stud or the jock or the one guaranteed success.
Prescott: Right, right. And it was fun. It was a fun character. The first job I did was “Joy of Sex,” directed by Martha Coolidge. She’d just directed a movie called “Valley Girl,” which got her a lot of attention – a low budget movie that made a lot of money, and it had a nice heart to it too. And so, when she got a bigger job with “Real Genius,” she asked me to audition, and I came in and read for a few parts, and wound up with Kent. I hold her, in large part, responsible for that movie having mostly sympathetic characters that you could identify with, instead of just making them run of mill.

TrunkSpace: It was a time when teen characters, or characters in comedies in general, became caricatures in a lot of ways, but that wasn’t the case with “Real Genius.”
Prescott: Not as much, no. No, it really didn’t, and, like I said, I credit her and I credit the last writer who was on set, his name was Pj Torokvei. He’s a Canadian guy, and he was funny, and he was really good for that script. I think he really humanized it.

TrunkSpace: For people of a certain age, that film kind of existed and lived on through HBO. In your opinion, did cable help make that movie more iconic than it would have been?
Prescott: Oh, my God, yeah. It really did, and I remember those days too – you’d turn on cable and see the same movie come up over and over again. I was in my mid 20s then, so I wasn’t coming home from school, hanging out with my buddies, and just flipping on the TV, watching movies over and over again like I would have done in junior high and high school. But, to this day, every now and then, somebody will come up to me, and I’ll realize that they saw that movie like 30 or 40 times, and it means so much to them. And I get that, I totally get that, and it’s amusing and flattering too. I feel good about it, because, like I said, the movie had a real core, a heart to it.

TrunkSpace: With that said, do you feel like you have left your mark on pop culture?
Prescott: Well, I’d like to in a small way, but it’s a small way. It’s funny, a friend of mine, this wasn’t that long ago, he was in a waiting room at his dentist’s office. He calls me up and he says, “Hey, Prescott, you’re in the Top 10 Biggest Dicks of Hollywood.” (Laughter) I was like, “What are you talking about?” “Yeah, you’re one of the biggest dicks in Hollywood.” And I thought, “Wait a minute…”

What’s funny is they did a list of those 80s antagonists, whatever the deal is, and there was the guy who broke Ralph Macchio’s knee in “Karate Kid,” and there were a few others, and I remember I went and found the article, and I thought, “How did this guy get in front of me?” I went from being a little bit insulted that I was one of the biggest dicks of Hollywood, to, in typical actor fashion thinking, “Hey, maybe I should be at the top of this list!” (Laughter)

But to answer your question, no, I recognize that there is a segment of people, who are your age now, who do see certain roles… they saw Kent so often, or the character in “Bachelor Party,” Cole, so often that within a very small segment, there is a, kind of like, iconic aspect to it. I don’t take it… I mean, it’s a small segment, but it’s very amusing to me, and flattering too.

TrunkSpace: “This is God, stop touching yourself,” has been quoted probably far more times than one would think.
Prescott: Exactly. I mean, we didn’t give it any second thought, but when you’re making a movie, it’s almost impossible not to think that you’re doing something really good and special that’s going to stand out, and we did, making that movie, and it was a good group of actors in the set and the crew. Martha Coolidge always made the set… it had a really good spirit, so it’s hard not to feel like you’re doing something that’s going to last a little bit or stand out. As far as those individual scenes and stuff, yeah, some of them were kind of special, like the ice in the hallway, and the popcorn thing was pretty big. It was a fun movie.

Prescott at Ground Zero

TrunkSpace: You started out in theater and then moved into film and television. Is it difficult to start out on the stage and then move to film and TV where it’s less of an actor’s medium and more of a director’s and editor’s medium?
Prescott: I don’t think it’s that difficult. I mean, acting is acting and in stage and television, it is fragmented, and you give it away at the end of the day and leave it up to the director and editor and everyone else. They can mull over your performance, but it’s all the same. It is acting, and you have to have some insight into charting a performance if you’re doing a movie that’s shot out of sequence, and that takes a certain type of insight and awareness, but it’s not that complicated, you just have to have a little bit of common sense. You approach the work, pretty much, the same way. On a movie, between action and cut, it can be very short, but so can a scene in a play. You might run on and run off, so, in a way, it’s the same thing. You prepare, and then do what you set out to do.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like as you’ve gotten older, as you’ve lived more life, it has become easier to find characters because you’ve experienced more?
Prescott: I don’t know. That’s a good question. On the one hand, yes, but I think as I’ve gotten older, you settle into your own skin, and so, sometimes, doing a character who is dramatically different in temperament and personality than myself, can be even more of a challenge, because, when you’re younger, you have a more “I can do anything,” attitude.

TrunkSpace: You stepped away from acting for some time. Can you tell us about that?
Prescott: I did step away from it in 1993, and then, in 2001, I went down to work at Ground Zero as a construction worker, and since then, within a few years or so, I started having health issues. It’s been, for a while now, I’ve been struggling with those, and doing some acting, and recently, I’ve been addressing those issues by doing some radical changes in my diet and living. I feel that, perhaps, that I can get on top of these conditions. I’ve been going to Mount Sinai hospital for 15 years now, as a result of the WTC Health Program, and all these things have affected my life. I still do a little bit of work. I just had a scene in a Denzel Washington movie that’s coming out next month. I still have my foot in it, but not to the same degree. I’ve learned to, and accepted that, my career, such as it is, has been affected by this.

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Remember When

Trevor Lissauer


It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our pop culture past.

This time out we’re chatting with Trevor Lissauer, an actor best known to pop culture aficionados as Miles Goodman from the television series “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” and Zack from “The Skateboard Kid.” When not acting, Lissauer is letting his freak zebra fly as one half of the synth-pop duo Animal Cloud, whose debut full-length album “Beautiful Sky” is available now.

We sat down with Lissauer to discuss his time on “Sabrina,” how Animal Cloud pulls of their live show, and the possibility of winning 20 Oscars in the span of two years.

TrunkSpace: You starred on “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” in the early 2000s. Although in the grand scheme of things that wasn’t that long ago, the industry itself has changed leaps and bounds since. From an acting perspective, where have you seen the biggest change?
Lissauer: After “Sabrina” there was a writer’s strike a few years later and the only thing I noticed was… there seemed to be a lot more opportunities for actors who weren’t necessarily really well known to be in television. And then because the movie productions stopped, because of the writer’s strike… and I’m not blaming anything, I’m just saying that this is what I noticed is that, the film actors decided to start working in television when it wasn’t the norm at the time. So instead of holding an audition to find, like, “Hey, the actor for the new pilot no one has heard of, we’re just going to give it to somebody famous.” So then they started flooding all of the pilots with all of these known actors, so then there were less auditions for actors who weren’t as known as them. And now it has just become the norm, but from what I remember, and I could be totally wrong, but I feel like it’s where it all started.

TrunkSpace: It certainly gives the studios and networks a chance to better hedge their financial bets by having known commodities in their projects.
Lissauer: Exactly. It’s a smart move. I would have done that too. It’s the smart move. I don’t have a problem with any of it. In the 90s, I remember in one pilot season auditioning nonstop… so many freaking pilot auditions. And then after the writer’s strike, it was less and less. It’s just such a random occurrence, auditions. You never know.

TrunkSpace: “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” used the classic sitcom formula, which is one that isn’t as common these days.
Lissauer: They still have that type of sitcomy thing on Nickelodeon and Disney. I did a “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn” last year. I played some aggravated hockey player guy. But, that was total “Sabrina” because there was no audience, but I think they have a laugh track. You rehearse the first two days and then you start filming Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That’s what we did on “Sabrina.” No audience. You have a table read on Monday, then we start rehearsing and you hang out in your trailer when you’re not rehearsing or doing whatever else you want. Tuesday you do it one more time and then you have a run-through for the network execs at the end of the day on Tuesday. And then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday… you just show up on the days that you film. It’s a great job. Couldn’t ask for a better job in terms of a weekly paycheck. It was fun.

TrunkSpace: And when you were on the show, it was airing on The WB. The network itself was still sort of in the infancy stages at that time and finding an audience… certainly not where it is today.
Lissauer: Yeah. I didn’t think a whole lot about that kind of stuff at the time. I was just like, “Oh, I’m on a show. Hey look… I’m on TV! It’s Friday night and there I am.” I didn’t even watch every episode because I would go out and do things on Friday night, but when I was home, before I would go out I’d go, “Oh, there it is.” It’s kind of cool to see that.

TrunkSpace: Your character Miles never really had any arc resolution. He was sort of just written out, correct?
Lissauer: I think he went of to Rabbinical school at the end.

No, I’m kidding. Miles was Jewish and I was raised Jewish, so it wasn’t that far off. I’m not a religious person, but that’s just the home I was raised in. But yeah, he was just gone. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What do you think happened to his character?
Lissauer: Hopefully he did not grow up to be an accountant like his dad because he hated that job in one episode… the idea of that. I don’t know where Miles would be. He had a lot of phobias, that’s for sure. I think he would be good if he went off to work for some paranormal investigation group. I think that would have made him extremely happy.

TrunkSpace: Maybe he went on to do his own “Ghost Hunters” TV show?
Lissauer: Ghost hunters who also investigate the JFK cover-up. I think he would be in heaven. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: A lot of times actors will say that appearing on an established show, particularly sitcoms, can be both a blessing and a curse. Was “Sabrina” that kind of experience for you?
Lissauer: Oh, it was a curse like no other. (Laughter) No. Not at all! It was a job. I don’t think about that stuff. I think people might limit me or put me in a box… I don’t know about it if that’s the case and I don’t care if they do because I usually end up getting all the jobs that I’m meant to get. Maybe it’s an airy-fairy way of looking at it, but I don’t have much control over it, so I just take what comes my way. I guess I audition for characters sometimes that are similar. Maybe they’ve seen me and they’re like, “He plays a neurotic intense guy,” but I’ve played a lot of different types of characters. Like the character on “Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn,” which I think I’m going to be nominated for a Golden Globe for. I’m kidding. That was a really mean jerk hockey player. I mean, I don’t know… why did I get that part? I don’t know. It’s nothing like I am in real life.

Lissauer with the cast of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”

TrunkSpace: Your band Animal Cloud recently released a new album. Is the band your main focus or do you try to keep an even balance between music and acting?
Lissauer: Well, it’s kind of whatever is in front of me. If I have an audition, I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got to work on my audition.” The way we make music… it’s not like this thing that takes up so much of our time. That album, we put it out on Valentine’s Day this year, and we’ve been working on it for two years because we were originally only going to do seven songs and then it turned into 12. The way we write, he’ll (Keith Tenenbaum) send me some music and I’ll put vocals to it and send it back to him. Or I’ll send him some vocals or a very simple melody, like just on a piano, and then he sends me back that melody completely orchestrated and then I redo all my vocals. So, we don’t always have to be together and drive back and forth and do stuff. It’s all digital now. For recording, we just record.

My main focus would be acting because that’s what I’ve been doing for so long. Music is a little more difficult. We’ve had songs on “Nip/Tuck,” “Party of Five,” “Felicity,” and a lot of independent films. That’s just like a little bit of money here and there, but we basically do the music for fun. But, if it turned into something, then yeah, that would be great.

TrunkSpace: You guys take your music to the stage and play out live, which must not be easy to pull off?
Lissauer: We definitely play live and that’s where the whole thing with the animal masks and the little jumpsuits… or not our “little” jumpsuits… our JUMPSUITS came from. The first time we ever played it was just jeans and T-shirts and a little party for fun. And then we went, “If we’re going to play out, how are we going to do this?” So, when we play live, we also have backing tracks. So Keith will have his drum kit and then his keyboard to the left of him and his laptop and everything is run into the house speakers. He’s got backing tracks, he has to wear headphones to hear his metronome playing so that he plays to the time and we all keep in time together, and then he plays keys and drums at the same time while the backing tracks are going. And then I’m playing keys or guitar or just singing and then I have a computer voice that speaks to the audience between each song. It says something funny and it always ends with, “We like you.” Like one of the ridiculous things that I might say is, “Did you know it would take 30 servings of foods high in fiber to match the fiber content of just one Animal Cloud band. We like you.” So, as we’re getting ready for the next song, we’re making them laugh.

TrunkSpace: What were your goals with the album itself?
Lissauer: We just made the album just to do it. We have two EPs that came out earlier on iTunes. We got to work with this guy Brad Smith. He was the bass player and main songwriter of the band Blind Melon and he wrote their big hit “No Rain,” so that was pretty cool. He’s a friend of ours now through almost two years of recordings, so that was fun.

Animal Cloud

TrunkSpace: What a great songwriting springboard to have someone in the room who wrote a song that has had such a lasting impact on pop culture.
Lissauer: It’s always an interesting feeling to even think about it even today right now. It’s that same thing for acting. When I moved out here when I was 18, my very first acting job was a HIGHLY-PRAISED film called “The Skateboard Kid.” That’s a joke, by the way. You should go to YouTube and you should watch the trailer because it’s hysterical. The skateboard is the voice of Dom DeLuise. Tim Busfield played my father and I grew up knowing Tim because he played Poindexter in “Revenge of the Nerds” and I was like, “This guy’s playing my dad now!” I used to watch him on “Trapper John M.D.” But that’s been my whole career… working with people that I grew up watching. It’s always interesting. When I moved out here, my life became very interesting… the nondescript word for, I don’t know what.

TrunkSpace: So what’s the ultimate goal as you look towards the future? What would you like to be talking about if we sat down again in two years?
Lissauer: I won 20 Oscars. 20 Oscars and no less. I’ll be a failure if it’s 19! (Laughter) The goal is to always be happy with whatever I’m doing and feel fulfilled with however big or small the job is or the experience I’m having. That’s my daily goal. I try not to think so much, but, if I had my druthers two years from now, I’ll have a steady gig on a TV show that I myself would enjoy watching and working with some good people. And if I was able to do some films of the same caliber, that would be fantastic.

What are we in right now? April 2017? So by April 2019… I’m on a show, got some movies going on, some cool stuff has happened with the product that Animal Cloud put out, and I got a nice gal at my side. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And don’t forget the 20 Oscars.
Lissauer: And 20 Oscars! All for Production Design. (Laughter)

Purchase Animal Cloud’s “Beautiful Sky” here.

Learn more about Lissauer and Animal Cloud here.

The latest music video from Animal Cloud.

And because Lissauer dared us to watch it, here’s The Skateboard Kid trailer!

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Remember When

Gunnar Nelson


It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our pop culture past.

This time out we’re chatting with Gunnar Nelson, who, along with his brother Matthew, achieved massive success in 1990 with the single “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection.” But, the twin brothers’ musical roots go far beyond their own mainstream accomplishments. Gunnar and Matthew come from a long line of successful entertainers, a lineage that served as a classroom of osmosis to prepare them for the ups and downs of a career in music.

Currently on the road honoring their father’s musical legacy with the Ricky Nelson Remembered tour, we sat down with Gunnar Nelson to discuss the genre shift that brought about grunge, having the ability to rely on his brother regardless of the circumstances and staying on the good side of skinny tie bands.

TrunkSpace: Given your family tree, was there ever any doubt that music would become your path?
Nelson: Well, people ask me that question all of the time… if being related to who we were related to was a help or a hindrance. For me, what was great about it, I never got any pressure at all from my dad for following in his footsteps. Actually, having my father with an acoustic guitar in his hand, writing songs and putting the Stone Canyon Band together in the house when we were growing up was just really great social proof that making music for a living and doing it at the highest levels was possible. It was no more or less unlikely than say, if I came from a long line of plumbers and I wanted to go into the family business. It’s pretty nice to be able to learn from example when you’ve got a master in front of you and you’re able to observe and learn how everything works. And we were able to do that from a very early age.

TrunkSpace: And when people are being creative, most of the times they’re enjoying themselves, so seeing that process with your father may have been different than if your father was a plumber and came home talking about the various “tough” days he had in the business. And by this we mean, you probably saw your father in his element more so than other kids may see their fathers.
Nelson: Yeah. I mean, my grandma Harriet had a great expression. She said, “Some days you work. Some days you play.” I saw both. My dad would come home from a good day or a bad day. It’s like anything you do, you’re going to have that. You’re right. But I think that what actually helps it along is, that being a musician and choosing that, it’s not something that you do. It’s really who you are. It’s really a calling. It’s a plan for life that you actually undertake. In our dad’s case, we got to observe that… there was a point in his life when he actually could have gone down a path of being a fine film actor. He made “Rio Bravo” with John Wayne and of course he had been an actor his whole life being on “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” and doing all of that. He could have gone down that road, which is arguably easier. That’s the road of higher pay and personal assistants and deli trays and set schedules and all of that. And instead, he definitely consciously chose to go down the path of being a rock ‘n’ roller. So, I think from that point on, you’d have to say that he was a guy that, just by his actions, determined that he was a musician who happened to be a good actor and not an actor who happened to be a good musician. Ultimately he wound up living and dying for rock ‘n’ roll.

In Matthew and my case, we started playing when we were six years old. We got our first instruments then. We got our first recording session on our 12th birthday. We started playing the LA clubs professionally that same year. Up until we got our record deal with Geffen, when we were 19, it’s basically all Matthew and I have ever known and all we’ve ever done.

TrunkSpace: Do you recall a moment in your life where music wasn’t a focus for an extended period of time?
Nelson: Well, not intentionally. (Laughter) Our first record came out in 1990 and it was really kind of the end of an era. I mean, shoot, we were the last confidence rock band to happen right before Nirvana was discovered and signed to our label that we were on. We were on Geffen and Geffen actually found Nirvana and started the whole grunge thing. That was a massive paradigm shift in the music industry and there were so many people from my genre of music that found themselves, through no fault of their own, really out of work. MTV wasn’t playing them, overnight. Radio stations weren’t supporting them, overnight. Unless you wore flannel, were into heroin and were from Seattle, they weren’t playing you for like 10 years.

TrunkSpace: And you sort of mentioned it, but it did seem to happen so quickly in terms of that shift.
Nelson: Well, and this is not sour grapes that I’m coming from, this is just years of research and conversation with people in the know. The fact is, that wasn’t organic. At all. That shift wasn’t organic. It was actually engineered. What people don’t know is that there are about, at any given time, six to eight people that run the music business. These are the big, heavy hitter guys. They all know each other very well. They all do each other favors. They’re all billionaires. And the whole illusion of, “Hey, I’m gonna get my musical trip together, I’m gonna write a hit song, I’m gonna get a following from playing shows and I’m gonna get my record deal and have a big video and be a star…” that really, honestly, is nothing but an illusion. A lot of it is really engineered. You’ve got to look back at the death of disco, as an example. That was a time when the biggest acts were demanding lots of money to record. Back in those days, Donna Summer was demanding a million dollars to make a record and in 1970s dollars, man, that’s a lot. So, all of those power guys got together over dinner and they said, “You know what, this has just become completely excessive. The costs are ridiculous. What are we going to do about it?” Some guy came up with the bright idea in that meeting of a new little movement that was happening out of London called punk. They said, “Look, this is great. There’s a little mini scene that’s happening there and we can go there and we can get those guys to record for us and they’ll do it for a dime bag and a Happy Meal.” So if you notice, with the whole death of disco thing, which… look, disco was a BIG thing, and all of a sudden people are breaking records and burning records and “Disco Sucks” and all that stuff. And that one was engineered as well. The same thing happened with the whole grunge thing.

Look, there were a lot of bands that were pretty bad. Like in any movement, every label wants to have their Bon Jovi or something, so they go out and they sign that and there’s a lot of that stuff that’s really not very good. And aside from that creative statement, the finances involved… people were making quarter of a million dollar music videos and spending $750,000 making an album. And there were thousands of bands that were doing that and the industry finally shrugged and said, like the time with the death of disco, “We need a do over.” That is why, to a fan, it seemed like it was so fast. I mean, shoot, on a Monday they were playing “Livin’ on a Prayer.” The next day, they were playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the Gap had Seattle fashion overnight.

TrunkSpace: And you could even see it in the VJs themselves. The look and aesthetic of MTV changed.
Nelson: It was absolutely instant. They basically got together, they talked to MTV, and they said, “Hey, guess what, this Tuesday, all that stuff you used to play you’re not playing anymore and this is the stuff that you’re playing.” And it became a movement and it generated tons of dollars. To a guy like me, it was really confusing because, shoot, I go out on tour for 13 months and I come back and all of my record company guys that I built relationships with over a period of years are all gone, replaced by 19 and 20-year-olds wearing flannel who come from Seattle and all of a sudden they’re record executives and what I do is not what they do. And as a matter of fact, I mean, I’ve become the punchline in jokes through no fault of my own, but it was no different I realized than what my father went through. He had his early career where he was doing the rockabilly thing with all of the other pioneers and then all of a sudden the singer/songwriter thing happened, the Beatles invaded America and everything changed. And the problem for my father was that, everything that represented that whole Eisenhower-era, Sun Records thing… those guys couldn’t get arrested. They couldn’t get any radio airplay. They couldn’t get any work if you didn’t write your own songs. And if you weren’t cool with the kids, you just didn’t get any support. It was no different for what happened to us when everything shifted. So, back to your question… a very long answer to a very short question… did I ever take any time off? My answer would be, not by choice. We were still making records and still fighting the fight and writing the songs and playing out, but it just wasn’t to the success and to the reception that we had when we first came out.

TrunkSpace: So before that turnover happened and “(Can’t Live Without Your) Love And Affection” hit #1, was that creative success a double-edged sword, and by that we mean, did success bring a tidal wave of people and opinions trying to influence who you guys were and what your music should be?
Nelson: Well, success has many parents and failure is an orphan. When you aren’t anything yet, no one cares. When you actually hit and you hit at the level that we did when we did, oh my gosh, it’s amazing. Everybody wants to be involved in your trip and everybody wants their opinion. There’s an art to making those people with the biggest egos in the world feel like it’s their idea when in fact it’s really not. Remember, we were on Geffen Records and we were working with the people that we were working with. The record staff that we were working with were in the habit of sending Aerosmith back into the studio to rerecord entire albums just because they felt like it. So, it was difficult. It really was. Nothing could have prepared us for that kind of success that quickly. I mean, it was ridiculous. It was like New Kids on the Block at its peak, kind of girls in the audience of 20,000 shrieking like a jet engine kind of success. When we’ve spent our young lives playing five nights a week at the LA clubs with the skinny tie bands and stuff and then you take a couple of years off to learn how to write better songs and you come up with your trip and you make it happen, shoot, man, all I know is… I went to the Sherman Oaks Galleria to buy some socks because I had a trip to New York to fill in for Daisy Fuentes on “Dial MTV” and I came back a week later. The only thing that had changed was that Matthew and I had been on MTV as VJs for four days and we closed down that same mall because so many chicks showed up. So the only thing that was different was TV exposure. That was it. We were still the same guys.

TrunkSpace: And that’s the thing, you may change in the perception of others, but you’re still wearing the same socks you bought the week before. You don’t change.
Nelson: Yeah. And I still have the socks! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So, when that happens… when the craziness takes control and swallows you up… how do you maintain yourself in all of that?
Nelson: Well, what keeps you grounded in our situation is that it is something that our family has always done. I mean, this wasn’t new to anybody in the family. Certainly, I wasn’t really truly prepared for it, but the thing that kept my feet on the ground was the fact that I’m just following in my family’s footsteps. It’s what my dad did and it’s what my grandparents did and all of that. As far as the big head side of things is concerned, I never really got a swelled head from the success because I knew it was about as real as the non success and the moments when you’re in-between hits. It’s all about fighting the good fight and doing your best work and some things will hit and some things won’t. It takes a lot of alignment to happen in order for any hit to really pop. No matter what you’re doing in life… no matter what you’re pursuit is… I love the expression that the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You can actually increase either one if you’re really determined. I mean, you can actually be far more prepared, you can get your chops up as a player and as a writer by playing shows and all that stuff, and then in just in networking and putting yourself out there you can get the possibilities that you’ll actually have an opportunity that’s meaningful. You can actually make yourself luckier is my point. And Matt and I spent, pretty much our entire lives, trying to make ourselves lucky so when that first thing happened, it was a big thing. We had no idea that it was going to be as big as it was quickly, and at the same time, we had no idea that we weren’t going to have more than that first record before Nirvana came in and changed the game.

TrunkSpace: Having each other through all of those ups and downs must have been helpful?
Nelson: The expression around my house was always, “Well, don’t worry about the boys… they’ve got each other.” It was really true. I mean, when we were kids we thought that was kind of a cop out, but now in hindsight looking back, we realize that God brought us in as twins because with the path we’ve chosen… man, I don’t know any individual by themselves who could have actually handled the highs and lows that we have had to deal with in our lives. I can’t overstate at all how important it has been to have my twin at my side through this entire journey. It’s really an amazing thing. And the way we work together, that whole twin speak thing and the unspoken knowing when the other one is needed by the first twin thing, there’s really something to it. It really has helped keep us sane. I suppose it’s the reason why we didn’t wind up as a statistic or a Hollywood casualty like so many other people that came from famous families before us. We never went down the drug path. We never went down the alcohol path. We never did any of that stuff. Our passion has really kind of been music, but, I really credit being an identical twin and having my partner with me all the time through the highs and lows of getting record deals, losing record deals, going on tour, losing tours… all that stuff… I wouldn’t have been able to handle it without my twin.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like having each other became the rock of stability in both of your lives.
Nelson: It really is. I wouldn’t want to think about what it would be like without him. When I’m on stage, it’s really comforting to me after all these years… 30 years into it… to be able to look to my left and my twin is there and he’s playing bass and doing his thing and singing and I know he’s got my back no matter what. Another expression is that, if you’re in a band, that band WILL eventually break up. It’s not that way with what Matthew and I do because we came into this world together. Literally, we split from the same cell. We’ll always be brothers. And fortunately in our case, it’s not like the Everlys where it just got the point where those guys wanted separate buses and wouldn’t speak to each other for decades. I mean, I think Matt’s cool and I hallucinate that he thinks I’m cool too and get along great. It might be boring, but it really does work for us.

TrunkSpace: With kids, often the younger ones look up to the older ones. How does it work with twins? Who looks up to who?
Nelson: Well, it depends on what we’re working on. We both have really cool complimentary strengths. Matthew is definitely far more attracted to the live element and going out and doing shows. Matt, to a very large degree, the tedium involved in being in the recording studio would be like going to the dentist for him. He likes to come in and play his parts or sing his vocal and get the hell out as quickly as he can. On the other hand, I absolutely love the recording studio. I am as OCD as Matthew is ADD and it really does work. So, I’m going to be the guy who’s gonna be in the studio for weeks at at time up until 4 or 5 in the morning working on a kick drum sound. I mean, I love that part of it. So, fortunately, since we’re both working on music together, it actually really does compliment the relationship and it makes some really good art, I think.

TrunkSpace: So what was it for you guys that first brought you into music? Was it the instruments? Was the writing the draw? Was it the atmosphere? What was it that peaked your interest?
Nelson: That’s a great question. My first conscious memory was actually sitting on an apple crate at the side of the stage at Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, California and watching my father perform. I made this connection that… this is awesome, it’s loud, and it’s energetic and I was totally enamored by the drummer’s giant drum set. It was the 70s after all. Talk about overkill, man… it was a double bass drum kit for a country rock band, but it was totally cool. And I remember making this distinction that, man, he is out there on stage and he’s enjoying himself and the audience is going nuts and, “I WANT TO DO THAT!” And I talked to my mom about that moment and she goes, “Oh my god. I remembered that and you were TWO. You were two years old.” So, my first memory that I can really recall is that and it was ALL of it. It was all of that. I just knew that that was what I wanted to do.

Now, when we started out, like everybody else who starts out… even though we were six… we were playing along to records. I got a drum set and Matt got a bass and our parents put us in the hay loft above the barn, far away from the house so we could make as much racket as we wanted to. We played along to our KISS records and did what other people do when they’re starting out, usually a little later in life than we were. Our dad would go on the road and he’d come back and sure enough we hadn’t quit. We were still doing it and we kept on doing that and kept on doing that and finally we actually got to be pretty competent at doing what we were doing and by the time we were 11 or 12, we were playing in all of the school productions at our sister’s high school. She was many years older and we were playing in the senior productions and stuff by the time we were 11, which was awkward, but kind of cool. And then we started playing the LA clubs right around the time the scene was really cool. People talk about the whole Sunset Strip thing and the hair band thing, but Matt and I, believe it or not, even though we were the world champion hair farmers of all time, we actually were never a part of that whole Sunset Strip, Gazzarri’s kind of scene. We actually, believe it or not, started out 10 years before then when the scene was a little further south. It was pretty much Wilshire Boulevard and it was at like the Troubadour, Madame Wong’s West and the China Club. There was a different scene when the skinny tie bands were ruling the world. From the time we were 12, we were sharing a stage with bands like The Knack and The Go-Go’s and The Plimsouls and The Cramps and everything with a “The” in front of it, but it was really cool because, from a distance, you would think, “Oh, those are really cute pop bands and isn’t that nice.” But the thing is, it was far more dangerous, believe it or not, to play in that circuit than it ever was doing that whole hair band thing because, from what I heard from my friends years later, the worst that was going to happen if you were in a rival band on the Sunset Strip was that someone would steal your girlfriend. But when we were doing it, with all the skinny tie bands singing love songs, what people would leave out is that, man, it was unbelievably competitive and those bands, funny enough, they’d sing these sappy love songs, but all of them were addicted to heroin and all of them would knife you with a switch blade if you went five minutes over on your set. They were sabotaging you all of the time and that was the scene that Matthew and I grew up in.

Click here for tour dates.

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Remember When

McDonald’s Shamrock Shake


It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our childhood.

But wait! It’s not only people who have staked claim to our nostalgic hearts. Food is one of the greatest triggers of memories, after all, and with St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, TrunkSpace has decided to spotlight something so seasonally nostalgic that it has our retrospective brains salivating: The Shamrock Shake.

The creamy mint-flavored beverage was a yearly pilgrimage for many of us throughout our childhood and adolescence. In fact, one of our very own TrunkSpacers shares a seasonal birthday with the Shamrock Shake and as such, it has been tied to not only his food memories, but to those of family as well. That’s a powerful drink!

We reached out to McDonald’s corporate headquarters to get some additional insight into our favorite St. Patrick’s Day beverage and this is what we learned.

TrunkSpace: How did the Shamrock Shake come to be? Was there a specific person responsible for its creation?
McDonald’s: The Shamrock Shake was introduced in the U.S. in 1970. Hal Rosen, a Connecticut McDonald’s Owner/Operator came up with the idea in 1967 to commemorate St. Patrick’s Day. Since then, the Shake, made with creamy vanilla soft serve blended with Shamrock Shake syrup, has captured the hearts of fans from all over and is now celebrated seasonally across the nation.

TrunkSpace: We had our first Shamrock Shake in the early 80s. Has the recipe changed at all since its initial inception to how it is served today?
McDonald’s: Initially, the individual franchisee determined if the shake was green mint flavored or green vanilla flavored. Today, the famous shake is made with McDonald’s vanilla reduced fat ice cream, Shamrock Shake syrup, and topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

TrunkSpace: Why did McDonald’s choose to focus on a St. Patrick’s Day seasonal item when as a company McDonald’s doesn’t focus on many other holidays when it comes to seasonal items?
McDonald’s: While the Shamrock Shake has an impressive fan following, it also has a heart-warming legacy that has strong ties to St. Patrick’s Day. Beginning in 1974, proceeds from the Shamrock Shake helped raise enough funds to open the first-ever Ronald McDonald House in Philadelphia. It started when Philadelphia Eagles tight end Fred Hill’s 3-year-old daughter, Kim, was being treated for leukemia. During this time, he and his wife, Fran, noticed that many other families had to travel long distances for their children to receive medical treatment and couldn’t afford hotel rooms. The Hills knew there had to be a solution. Fred rallied the support of his teammates to raise funds. Through Jim Murray, the Eagles’ general manager, the team offered its support to Dr. Audrey Evans, head of the pediatric oncology unit at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Evans had long dreamed of a place where families with sick children could stay close to each other and the medical care and resources they needed. Murray called Don Tuckerman, a friend from the local McDonald’s advertising agency. “What’s your next promotion?” he asked. “St Patrick’s Day,” Tuckerman said. “Shamrock Shakes.” It was perfect: The milkshakes were green – the Eagles’ color! With the support of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc and regional manager Ed Rensi, Tuckerman launched a week-long promotion around the Shamrock Shake, with all profits to be donated to the cause. Enough funds were raised to help buy an old four-story, seven-bedroom house Evans had found near the hospital. It opened in 1974 as the first Ronald McDonald House. Now, 42 years later, once again, proceeds from the Shamrock Shake will support RMHC, which serves 7 million children and families around the world each year.

TrunkSpace: There were some great Shamrock Shake television commercials in the 80s, but we don’t recall much in the way of advertising for the Shamrock Shake since then. Has the product become so engrained in the customer base that there is no longer a need to advertise for it?
McDonald’s: We know people love the Shamrock Shake; many have grown up with it! It has such a passionate following and has cemented itself in pop culture that fans look forward to and expect its return every year.

TrunkSpace: McDonald’s has introduced many new products throughout the course of its lifetime. Some find their audience while others do not. As a company, at what point is a new product considered a success? Is the popularity of a new product instantly clear or are they allowed to find an audience? For instance, was the Shamrock Shake considered a success right out of the gates?
McDonald’s: The Shamrock Shake has been around for more than 40 years and has become increasingly popular each season. But, as a restaurant company we are always looking to raise the bar. We continue to listen to our customers and re-evaluate our menu to evolve based on their changing preferences. We know our customers love the combination of chocolate and mint flavors. That was the inspiration this year behind introducing chocolate in four seasonal McCafé beverages that build on the fandom of Shamrock season. The new seasonal beverages line-up includes the Chocolate Shamrock Shake, Shamrock Chocolate Chip Frappé, Shamrock Hot Mocha and Shamrock Hot Chocolate.

TrunkSpace: Is the Shamrock Shake served internationally?
McDonald’s: The beloved Shamrock Shake is served in the U.S. and select stores in Canada and Ireland.

TrunkSpace: As adults, for us, the Shamrock Shake is a bit like the adult version of a Happy Meal. It has that same nostalgic feel to it. Can we assume that the Shamrock Shake isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and that one day when our kids are grown up with kids of their own, the Shamrock Shake will still be available to be their Happy Meal?
McDonald’s: There’s a lot of enthusiasm for the Shamrock Shake each year and we will continue to listen to our customers to evolve our offerings based on their preferences.

TrunkSpace: Some beverages pair well with particular food. What does the Shamrock Shake pair best with from the current McDonald’s menu?
McDonald’s: The Shamrock Shake pairs well with a variety of our menu items. You can pair the seasonal beverage with our improved Chicken McNuggets, our beloved French Fries or with our new Mac sandwich sizes.

For more information on the Ronald McDonald House Charities, visit

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Remember When

Ryan Lambert


It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our childhood. This time out we’re chatting with Ryan Lambert, who as a teenager, starred in the film “The Monster Squad.” Anyone who was growing up in the 80s and was lucky enough to have had paid cable fell in love with the movie, which pitted a group of small town kids against an army of classic monsters, including Dracula. Lambert played Rudy, the resident badass who every young impressionable viewer wanted to be. Shorty after the film was released, Lambert left acting to pursue his music career. He has since rediscovered his passion for acting and returned to the city that gave him his break via the television series “Kids Incorporated” some 30 years ago.

TrunkSpace: After leaving the business to focus on music, you recently returned to Los Angeles to pursue acting again. The industry has changed so much since you stepped away. There are now so many channels and outlets in need of content, so as you return to the business, have you noticed that there are more jobs now than when you were working during the 1980s?
Lambert: It’s weird. It’s kind of a catch-22. You’re absolutely right, there are a billion shows out there to audition for and there’s more content, obviously, but the problem is, using my “Kids Incorporated”/“Monster Squad” has become moot, basically. It was too long ago and I’m a different person now. I can’t use those credits as much as I thought I was going to be able to. There is a little bit of a window because I have experience and I understand what it is to be on set and what that means and that aspect hasn’t changed as much. You’re still on a set. There’s still a second AD. There’s still the gaffers and the grips… they’re all still there. To know where to stand and be professional, that hasn’t changed. So, in that regard I kind of have the one-up on the guy who gets off the bus from Kansas.

TrunkSpace: “The Monster Squad” is a shining example as to why classic makeup and prosthetic-based SFX work. That creature (the Gillman) still looks badass to this day.
Lambert: Yeah. Those suits were amazing. That was Stan Winston and his crew. I was just talking to Tom Woodruff who was in that suit. Everyone loved The Creature suit. It was perfect. It was exactly what it was supposed to be. It did what it was supposed to do and the person inside did what they were supposed to do and then you film it. That’s the way it should be. That’s the way movies are made. I’m not opposed to CGI at all. I just think it’s been overused and I don’t think you need an entire film that’s created out of that.

TrunkSpace: When done right, the classic makeup and prosthetic-based SFX become part of the actor. Sometimes CGI can look great on the big screen, and then you watch it again on your television and it doesn’t carry over as well.
Lambert: Sure. In that day and age, we’re talking like 1986, you work with what you have. There was no CGI. (Laughter) So, there was no choice, so who are you going to go to make sure that this looks as great as it can possibly be? Well, you’re going to go to Stan Winston. You’re going to go to him or Carlo Rambaldi or something and they’re going to do you right and that’s exactly what Fred (Dekker) and company did. They went and got the best and the best came out.

TrunkSpace: The movie was released at the dawn of cable and as such, there wasn’t a constant flow of content available then like there is today. Do you think that helped put “The Monster Squad” in front of so many people from our generation… the fact that channels like HBO played it in such heavy rotation?
Lambert: I think that’s where it lived. That’s where it found the audience. It didn’t find the audience in the theaters. We can blame a lot of things about what happened to it in the box office. I like to blame the marketing team. I don’t think they marketed it correctly. I don’t think there was enough emphasis on what the actual film was trying to represent or what it was about, at least in this country. And then, it slowly but surely found it’s way into people’s lives… unaware to any of us. Once it was released and it kind of tanked, we were done with it. Like, I forgot about it. We all loved it and were proud of it, but the truth of the matter was, it just didn’t happen.

TrunkSpace: So does that make it especially odd to still be talking about it 30 years later?
Lambert: It doesn’t feel that way now because about, almost 10 years ago now, we found out that they were doing a big screening of it in Austin, TX and they invited us to come watch it and do a Q&A before and after the screening. And we were like, “What?” I hadn’t even seen any of these people in years. I mean, I was off doing my own thing. I was in bands in San Francisco and I didn’t know of any of it… I didn’t know it had a cult following. I had absolutely no clue. And we show up and there’s a line around the corner and everyone’s freaking out. (Laughter) Everyone’s got posters and T-shirts and everyone wants us to sign everything. I was like, “Where did you people come from? What has been going on this whole time!” I had no clue that you guys were watching this all these years. So, since then, almost consistently, it’s been nonstop with conventions and screenings and interviews and things here and there. So I’m used to it now. I get it now. I see it now.

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your personal life, at the time of the theatrical release, it sounds like it didn’t really change anything for you?
Lambert: Pretty much zero. I filmed it, I made good friends, and it came out and it bombed and I moved on and did some other projects after that. And then I decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore because my original plan was, when I was about 8, was that I was going to be a musician and I was going to be in bands and be a singer… hence “Kids Incorporated.” I went out on an audition someone had told me about and it was like a musical. “Go be in a rock band on television!” And I was like, “Okay.” And so I went on an audition and I got it and that was my life. I was like a little kid singing horribly on television and that’s what my path was, but the trick to being on a television show is that you need an agent. So I was already on the show and they were like, “Now you have to go get an agent to represent you.” So I went and got an agent and that agent started sending me out on acting roles. So I was like, “Oh, I’m an actor now.” Well that wasn’t what I originally set out to do, so after awhile, everyone kept telling me that I could do both. And at that time in the 80s, I didn’t feel like that was something you could do. I thought that if I was an actor, no one was going to take me seriously as a musician. I thought that you could do it the other way around… like if you were David Bowie and then wanted to be in a movie, you know? But I didn’t think that if you were an actor, you know, like if Jack Wagner on “General Hospital” wanted to make a record, it wasn’t going to be taken seriously. So I thought the only way to make this real is to stop acting, which is what I did. Everyone was really pissed off. My agent. My manager. My parents. Because I was on the verge of something. I was getting in to see great people and I was about to do bigger films. I was getting them and I turned everything down and I decided that that’s not what I wanted to do, so I went and became a rock star. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So why do you think the acting bug came back and bit you?
Lambert: Well, to tell you the truth, I started to get a little discouraged with the music industry and where everything was going and I was a little bit discouraged about the music that I was making. I had been in a bunch of bands, four to be exact, and my last one was… we were having fun but it kind of wasn’t becoming a business. It was just like, “Let’s go down and have fun” but like, “Yeah, but what am I doing with my life?” So, in San Francisco I decided to join a theater company, Shelton Studios, and just see how I felt about something that I was successful in at a period in my life and see if I was even any good at it still. And it turns out, I felt like I was. I was like, “Hmm… this feels good.” I felt great on stage and I felt good with words and I felt good with my body language and I had teachers that backed me up. And I didn’t even tell them about what I did earlier. They had no idea who I was. So, eventually I told them and they were like, “Oh, well that’s it. You’ve done this before. You are seasoned.”

: Which must have been nice for you in terms of getting the current work recognized as opposed to the past work?
Lambert: I feel a lot of people would do that. Like, “I’m so and so and you’ve got to listen to me because I’ve done this and you haven’t done shit.” I didn’t want to approach it that way. I wanted to go in there like a layman. Teach me! Which is what I really actually wanted. I didn’t want to feel superior to anybody, because I wasn’t. I was nobody. I’m nobody. Even when I came back here (LA) and started talking to agents, they’re like, “I can’t resurrect your career.” I said, “I don’t want you to!” I want to be Cop #3 on Law & Order. The thing is, if you talk to any actor, even the biggest actors in the world, all they want to do is work.

TrunkSpace: So do you think your past acting resume actually hurts your future acting resume?
Lambert: I do. I mean, again, the catch-22 thing… look at what I have done. I have the credits to back me up and the footage, but at the same time everyone’s like, “Yeah, but that’s you as a little kid… give me what you’ve got now.” And besides the few short films that I’ve done here and there in this day and age, it’s hard to get in the door. Everyone’s like, “Oh my god… ‘The Monster Squad.’ I love that movie. But, what are you doing now? What can you give me now?” Well, let me show you.

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Remember When

John Pound


Remember When
John Pound

It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our childhood. This time out we’re chatting with John Pound, artist of the legendary Garbage Pail Kids sticker line for Topps. With between 500 and 600 of the characters under his artistic belt, his work has been treasured by kids (and adults) for generations.

TrunkSpace: Garbage Pail Kids transcended trading cards to become a part of pop culture. To this day they remain a symbol of the 1980s, recently being seen as part of set dressings in the ABC television series “The Goldbergs.” What does it feel like to have been a part of something that not only found an audience, but helped define a generation?
Pound: I’m glad people liked them. From working on many obscure projects in comics, I had no idea they’d be so popular. They were just fun to make.

TrunkSpace: For those who aren’t familiar with your story, can you tell us how you got involved with the Garbage Pail Kids line and how many characters you did the art for?
Pound: I started my art career by doing underground comics and heavy-metal style fantasy art prints and book covers. Topps art director Art Spiegelman was also an underground cartoonist. He often hired underground artists to do humor art projects for Topps. (I was in California, and he was in New York.)

He called me up one day in 1984 and asked me to paint a few Wacky Packages parody stickers for Topps. I said sure. I did 9 paintings, from idea sketches they sent me. One, called “Garbage Pail Kids,” was not used, but in a few weeks Topps decided to start a new sticker series using that name. They asked some artists to come up with idea sketches and a color rough example of how they could look. Evidently nothing was working, so they also asked me to do some ideas. Somehow, it was easy, and lots of ideas came. I sent in a pile of notes and sketches. I got the job. Then it was just a matter of painting very fast, a painting a day, for the 44 stickers they needed. When GPK stickers hit the market, sales were great, so Topps asked me to paint more GPKs, for a 2nd series, and so on.

They resumed again in 2003, so all together, I did between 500 and 600 GPK paintings. About half were based on my ideas, and the rest were from ideas other Topps artists came up with. (Mark Newgarden, Jay Lynch, and others.)

TrunkSpace: Many parents and school administrators of the 1980s made Garbage Pail Kids a cultural villain, much in the way they did the heavy metal music of the time. Was that something you were consciously aware of while working on the line… the idea that your artwork was being seen as something that could “poison” the minds of kids? And, was there ever any push-back from Topps to, I guess, purify the line in some ways to appease the parental masses?
Pound: Art Spiegelman’s idea was to make GPKs mean, nasty, gross, and disgusting. And ugly. Use plenty of shock value, which would make them attention-getting. My own idea was that these little paintings also had to feel good to look at. Mix in some pleasure with the pain.

TrunkSpace: In many ways, Garbage Pail Kids are the grandparents of toy lines of today such as The Grossery Gang and The Trash Pack. Some of them have caught that same lighting in the bottle, but none of them have achieved the same level of pop culture crossover as Garbage Pail Kids. Why do you think the GPK line connected with so many people? Was it a matter of the right product at the right time?
Pound: One easy answer, I know it sounds superficial, is that the name “Garbage Pail Kids” sounds like “Cabbage Patch Kids”. Not only does it have an attitude, but it sounds so familiar, and so famous. And when something is familiar, it’s easier to sell.

TrunkSpace: Your designs did not only hit on the gross out factor, but at the same time, there was an accessible cuteness to the characters that sort of humanized them. Was that something you consciously thought about during the creative process of designing new characters?
Pound: Yeah, I like cuteness in cartoons. Since I had to look at these little kids while I painted them, I wanted them to feel good to look at. Plus I thought these little kids I painted secretly enjoyed being weird and misfits and rebels and disgusting. At least, some of them.

TrunkSpace: Were there any characters or designs that you worked on back in those early days that were deemed too disgusting or controversial to move forward with?
Pound: A few were, like a baby in a jar of formaldehyde. And an Abe Lincoln GPK, complete with bullet holes.

TrunkSpace: You have been working on some really innovative and captivating artwork that is based on computer code. Can you tell us how that came to be and how it has developed since you first started working in that style? As technology advances, does the art form advance as well?
Pound: I got a computer when I was working on Garbage Pail Kids, something to play around with. I started looking at all kinds of art made with computers, especially art made by writing code. I liked the painter Harold Cohen’s AARON early experiments with code art. They looked like kids’ drawings, but strangely mechanical.

Which made me wonder, since I was a cartoonist, what kind of comics could a computer program make if it randomly wrote and drew everything? At that point I realized I had to learn a bit about writing code, to make it happen. I bought some programming books and a laser printer. I was stumped at first, there was so much to learn. Months later, I realized all I needed to get started was a really minimal, dumb version of a comics-drawing program. A simple little figure, with a horizon line, and a nonsense word balloon overhead, repeated in panel-boxes, in a grid. Soon, I had instant comics!

I kept playing around with the code, adding more features, details, layouts, color, etc. Over the last couple decades, I adapted my comics-drawing code to make randomly generated art prints and sketchbooks. And now I’m learning how to make code-generated animations, videos, and sounds.

TrunkSpace: For those who aren’t technically savvy, is there a sort of layman’s way of explaining how an idea goes from your head to the final product? 
Pound: Basically, I write words and numbers in one window (for the computer code), and in another window, the art magically appears. (Unless I make a mistake.) My code draws everything as a combination of simple shapes.

Instead of starting with a blank page, I usually copy my previous day’s code, and then make little changes in it, to add new designs, colors, or layouts into the code. I save it and test it, every few changes. If things go wrong, I just use “Undo” to go back a few steps to a version where it was last working okay.

This process makes my code grow longer over time, as I add more stuff it can do. I like to find new ways to combine parts together.

TrunkSpace: What do your code art pieces say? Are they telling a story or are they a transfer of visuals from your brain to the page?

Pound: The code art started as a “fake comics” project, and grew into a fake-art-making process. As the work gets deeper and more intricate and more entertaining, who can say if it’s “real art” or not?

It’s usually not a one-way process of having an image first and transferring it to the page. It’s more like I see things the code has drawn, and get ideas for ways to take it farther, or combine parts in a new way. Like a fake wallpaper, or a fake landscape design, with random parts and figures in it.

It’s like making up a game, to see what happens visually, with certain rules I make up. Sometimes I think the simple cartoony art style allows more room for imagination and relaxation than a heavily-rendered 3D-style image would. More room to breathe, perhaps.

TrunkSpace: We feel like there is a really interesting lesson for kids in your code art. Often times kids are taught that numbers are numbers and they serve a function… one that can get lost on those who think with a creative brain. Here, you’ve used numbers to create beautiful works of art. There’s an old Harry Chapin song called “Flowers Are Red” where a teacher tells a young boy that he has to color a flower the color nature intended and he responds, “There are so many colors in the rainbow/So many colors in the morning sun/So many colors in the flower and I see every one.” The modern day version of that song could be written with your art in mind. Anything can be anything with an open mind and a unique perspective.
Pound: I like to think that most kids can learn to do code art. I was comfortable with basic math and English, but I started with no background in code. I learned a few bits at a time to make code make some marks on paper or on the screen. I like the idea that with just words and numbers, and an imagination, you can make so many things out of nothing.

TrunkSpace: Finally, before you go, John, what can people be on the lookout for this year in terms of your art and what is the best way for people to follow the latest?
Pound: I’m planning a show with And/Or Gallery (Pasadena, CA), with some code art prints and videos. ( ) (Currently scheduled for May 2017.)

My website has both my illustration work and some code art.

My Tumblr blog has hundreds of code artworks, plus some code-generated video experiments.

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Remember When

Scott Nemes


Remember When
Scott Nemes

Scott Nemes, Senior Vice President Programming, Cinemax Photo Credit: HBO

It’s that time again. Let’s sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane with those individuals who inadvertently played a role in our childhood. This time out we’re chatting with Scott Nemes, who as a child, starred in “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and “The Wonder Years” while also making guest spots on memorable series like “Punky Brewster” and in the film “St. Elmo’s Fire.” Currently, Nemes oversees original programming for Cinemax.

TrunkSpace: You have had an incredible career both in front of and behind the camera. Can you tell us a little about that path and how your early acting days shaped your approach in how you do your job now?
Nemes: In terms of the track, I acted until I went to college and then decided my passion was in jobs behind the camera. I really built a career, starting in the feature side for 15 years and then segued into TV about five years ago. I think where my past experience lends itself is that I have a real familiarity with the sets and how they work and how productions work from a different perspective. And I’m able to communicate, having done different jobs in the businesses, in a different way with creators and actors. It just helped me with gaining perspective.

TrunkSpace: So what was it that drew you to those jobs behind the camera? Was it seeing how it worked while you were acting?
Nemes: It was. When I was acting, I would often befriend the director and when I wasn’t in school, sit next to the camera and observe and watch and sit at video village and digest what was going on around me. So, I always had an interest in it, and then when I got to school I produced a couple of short films and really developed a passion for being involved in a project from its inception through getting made, as opposed to just being, albeit sometimes high profile work, for hire in front of the camera.

TrunkSpace: Because you had already established yourself as an actor and because people may have seen you as that, do you feel like you had even more to prove when you started your career in production?
Nemes: No, I never felt that. Although, even though having been an actor, it gave me a unique perspective as I mentioned earlier, I don’t think it ever gave me a leg up either. I don’t think it helped either way, in terms of my trajectory. In fact, my very first job in the business post-college was working for Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall as a PA (production assistant), and Frank produced the very first film I was in when I was seven-years-old, which was “Twilight Zone: The Movie.” So it was a bit of a unique situation being with Frank again. It was a lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: Cable television gets an incredible amount of attention and respect these days, but that wasn’t always the case. Do you ever look at your series “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” as a pioneer when it comes to cable television?
Nemes: Absolutely. I actually think that show, if you ask anybody involved in it, was way ahead of its time. Even though it had a great deal of success, it was nowhere near the mainstream, zeitgeist-y hit that I think it would have been five or 10 years later. And I do think, when I look back on the show and look at the limited cable landscape and how they had the thing called the ACE Awards, which were cable TVs version of the Emmys, and eventually that all went away and it all got merged into one Emmy platform… that seemed to me to be the signal that it was all mainstream.

TrunkSpace: The theme song to “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” is so iconic and infectious. Has that been one of those things that has sort of followed you throughout your life?
Nemes: Sure. It’s such an iconic song and it absolutely follows me around. I love it. It’s great. Alan Zweibel, one of the co-creators of the show, tells the story of how the song came to be written in an elevator up to a meeting in which he and Garry had to have a theme song ready and they didn’t have anything ready. (Laughter) So, it was as simple as that and it was a genius idea.

TrunkSpace: In the show you portrayed Grant Schumaker. Was that the longest time you spent portraying a single character as an actor?
Nemes: Yeah, that was the longest I was on a show. I did it for four seasons. I was on “The Wonder Years” as a recurring role for two seasons and then did a bunch of guest roles in films, but yeah, that character was the longest running character for me.

TrunkSpace: It must be interesting for you now because you can look back and sort of see yourself growing up on film.
Nemes: What’s interesting is showing it to my kids. I’m able to show them what daddy looked like when he was their age, at least with my oldest son. And it’s been fun watching it through their eyes. And while they may not get some of the more adult humor, it’s fun seeing Dad as a kid.

TrunkSpace: Garry Shandling is a legend in the business and in comedy, but at the time, he was still building his legacy. What did you learn from him, either directly or through osmosis of just being on set with him for those four years?
Nemes: What Garry taught me as a performer was, be ready for anything. He would often times go off script in the middle of a taping in front of a live studio audience and you’d have to follow him. I think that really taught me the skill of being flexible and improvising and really helped me as an overall performer.

TrunkSpace: What was so cool about that show, particularly in that time period where television wasn’t as admired as a medium, was that you’d always see big actors doing cameos.
Nemes: Garry had a lot of friends, and Alan Zweibel, haven written on “Saturday Night Live,” had a lot of deep connections like Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd. Folks like that. So, they were able to somehow convince all of their celebrity friends to come do cameos. It was a really amazing group of cameos, but not only in front of the camera, but also behind the camera. The talent assembled on that show, I would venture to assume hasn’t been seen in TV… in terms of the young writing talent behind the camera. The writers are now a who’s who in television and feature comedy.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your work on “The Wonder Years” earlier and we can’t help but think that either before or since, no other series has really portrayed adolescence in such a real and genuine way. Do you think that’s one of the things that made that show such a hit?
Nemes: I think that the biggest strength of that show was in the tone and, how you say, real they made it. It was real. It was funny. And it was emotional all at the same time. I think that’s what grabbed a lot of people and that’s a really difficult thing to pull off in a series or a film. I think “The Goldbergs” is the most current example of something that has attempted a version of “The Wonder Years” and to a lot of success. People really like it, though I think that show is less emotional and more comedic-based than “The Wonder Years” ever was.

TrunkSpace: “The Wonder Years” was also taking place at a time in our country that may have forced the hand of that more serious tone.
Nemes: Absolutely. My oldest son watches “The Wonder Years,” now 20-something years later, and he’s able to relate to Kevin and all of the other characters on the show.

TrunkSpace: Do you ever get the itch to go back in front of the camera again?
Nemes: I don’t. I feel like that was an amazing chapter in my life that I look back on fondly, but I’m really entrenched in my career and love what I’m doing now. Even though I have all of the respect in the world for actors, it’s not something I feel like I want to back to.

TrunkSpace: Can you explain to people a little bit about what you do now in your current position?
Nemes: I am a programming executive at HBO, which owns Cinemax. I am a part of the team that programs original drama series for Cinemax. My current job is to identify, develop, and help oversee our original series slate.

TrunkSpace: What is the approach to creating a slate of shows and giving them the best chance at finding an audience in a day and age where the TV landscape seems to be continuously changing?
Nemes: The TV landscape is changing very rapidly with the addition of steaming platforms and all the different linear entrance into original programing. Our CEO Richard Plepler always says, “play our game.” I think in order to be successful, I think we just need to make the best version of the show that we can. And I think, ultimately, best content wins.

Patrick Fugit as Kyle Barnes in Cinemax’s OUTCAST. Photo Credit: Niko Tavernise/Cinemax

TrunkSpace: Does the popularity of television and advancements in technology make your job easier?
Nemes: I think one of the turning points for television going into it’s “Golden Age” is that TV is now making versions of films that were very successful and critically-adored 10, 20, 30 years ago. We’re able to make shows like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Men” and “The Leftovers”… really thought provoking, interesting, character-driven dramas in a way that are not getting made on the feature landscape. That was one of the things that attracted me to come over to the TV side five years ago… the ability to take the movies that I was always passionate about and be able to make versions of those as series.

TrunkSpace: And for a viewer, particularly on the cable side of things, the shortened seasons help to make these dramatic series feel more like films.
Nemes: The way I envision it is, I don’t look at a series as an episodic structure. I really look at a series, a season for that matter, as one big piece of content and you have to figure out how you dice that piece of content. In the feature world you only have an hour and a half or two hours of a piece of a content and with a cable series it’s about eight to 10 hours per season of content. I think that allows you the depth and the time and the space to really dive deep into characters… into the scenes… and into the distinctive world of the show in a way you can’t accomplish in features.

TrunkSpace: What’s next for Cinemax on the original content side?
Nemes: We will be airing a series from Mike Judge in 2017 called “Mike Judge Presents: Tales from the Tour Bus,” which is a half-hour animated series that looks at iconic country music figures and their dysfunctional lives. That’s one that we’re excited about.

Antony Starr as Lucas Hood in Cinemax’s BANSHEE. Photo Credit: Fred Norris/Cinemax
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