|THE HISTORY of PROCTOR & BERGMAN ON THE ROAD|
|by Peter Bergman|
| How did Proctor and Bergman get underway? I don't remember. I do remember this, in 1973 the Firesign Theatre was in some what disarray. We produced "Not Insane", a kind of marginal album. It was '73 and we'd been together since '66,a long time. So we went to Columbia and we made an individual record deal and turned out our first Proctor & Bergman album called, "TV or Not TV" based on the concept that cable television was coming. Not only was it coming but there was gonna be a vast number of channels. In fact we posited channel 86. Because that was the channel you couldn't reach on your tuners.
It was Fred Flamm portrayed by Phil Proctor and Clark Cable portrayed by Peter Bergman, 2 guys who ran a cable station out of their suitcase at home. It was true pirate cable. And the whole album was various takes from this cable station. And then, not only did we make the record but we created a vast Vaudeville show. We put it out on the stage and went out under the aegis of Northwest Releasing. Dan Bean sent us out and we played about 10 dates with this huge Vaudeville show. We had dogs falling out of the flies. We had Japanese soldiers flying around. We had breakaway bottles.
Proctor and I around this time, doing our various promotions, ended up in a trailer, doing a remote radio broadcast with Wolfman Jack. There we were crowded into this RV with Wolfman Jack. He puts us on the air with this, (W J voice) "Proctor & Bergman, too much, too soon." Which became our motto. And there were people pounding on the window as we were trying to be on the air, "Hey baldy. Hey baldy. Hey Wolfman. Hey baldy." It was 'people's theater'. So Wolfman Jack really caught who Proctor & Bergman were. We were too much, too soon.
I was kind of like the business manager in a sense. Phil took care of the props and costumes. We wrote together and we staged together and performed it together and we kind of shared all the other things. You know that we never, Phil, in the entire time that we were on the road that we never had anything that could be called a real fight?
So we turned out this vast Vaudeville show around "TV Or Not TV". Then we did our second album. And we filmed "TV Or Not TV" in the Fairchild mansion, in Long Island. People loved that show. If we'd gone on at that level we would have been Penn & Teller, today.
It was also over our heads in a sense that we were turning out a show, too much, too soon. The show was bigger than who we were. We didn't come up through the clubs. We went back to the clubs after this. So these things happened. We did a lot of clubs. A lot, a lot of clubs. We got a manager who booked us, sometimes rather creatively. His name was Len Harriman a former linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles.
We found ourselves being booked into the Playboy Club in Great Gorge, in NJ. And we were the lead act. And the woman who opened for us was going through the audience in diaphanous see-through clothing singing and have people join her in, "A doe a deer, a female deer." We knew we were in big trouble. In the audience was the under arm division from Gillette and the Lawn Doctors Association of New Jersey. We were in serious trouble. We came out at the Playboy club to do our college boy act and they booed us and hissed. They hated us! We went back to our room, the carpet went all the way up the wall, and we said, "We've got to re-write the entire act and we cannot appear in public tomorrow, not until we do it." We didn't re-write it, we re-segmented it and improvised. And we did it. We got by. They didn't like us but they didn't hate us. And we actually opened for the woman. We told her "We have to go first. Because after you, there's nothing."
Harriman got us a couple of other creative bookings. He sent us out to open for Sha Na Na. I have to tell you a Phil Proctor bravery story. Here's one of my great Phil Proctor stories. We opened with Sha Na Na in the Ice Rink in MPLS. 5,000 people there to see, not Proctor & Bergman, but Sha Na Na. They had their hair slicked back, they're smoking cigarettes, they're drinking wine coolers and eating pop corn. And we come out to do our high end college boy act. OK? Within 5 minutes of going into our 25 min act, 5,000 people are chanting, "Sha Na Na. Sha Na Na. Sha Na Na."I look at Proctor, I'm almost at a point of defeat, and Proctor looks at me, the Irish Leprechaun and says to me, basically, "Fuck 'em. Let's do the whole thing!" And we finished the 20 minutes of the act. We come off stage, noble but shattered, and there is Joko, the drummer, for Sha Na Na greasing his hair, putting on with his oversized drum sticks, putting on his medallion, looks at us and says, "Not exactly Mierholdian theater."
The high point of Proctor & Bergman was "Hello My Name Is Clark Wintergreen", the story of Clark Wintergreen played by myself and everybody else played by Phil Proctor. Clark is a computer salesman for the Rooter Computer Co., when Roto Rooter and a computer company merge. And he's told by his Australian boss that the new computer's got a great paint job. It looks good there's only one little problem, when you switch on the on button, it doesn't work. I've just sold it for the safety system for the Dead Indian nuclear power plant. So I'm a little worried. That's bad for a salesman to start worrying. So I go home and tell my wife. And in fact when the finger of blame swings around and points at me, I take the fall, my wife and my child, they desert me. My wife played by Phil, my child played by Phil, and I flee to Mexico where I meet Phil, who has been also bounced. My boss has finally gotten bounced and I serve him a turd on a spoon as a way of humiliating him and bring the whole thing full circle. A very Greek play and people loved it. We did it with a few props and one chair and simple costume changes, not major. We're talking about wigs, hats, glasses.
After we did Clark Wintergreen, we did a piece called Americathon. We decided we'd do a 2 man piece which was a telethon to pay off the national debt. We were a little ahead of our time again. And we went out and we presented this show which was to pay off the national debt. And Neil Israel heard about it, saw us in Boston, bought the concept, got us to write the movie, and then fired us. That's very Hollywood. It was my fault that it fell apart. Neil pinned on me. It was Jewish jealousy.
What stopped Proctor & Bergman was July 7th, 1977. We were performing, Proctor & Bergman, we had a new album out on Mercury called, "Give Us A Break", which was a radio album. Including the Starland Vocal Band who sang breaks like, "If the records weren't free, we'd be all news!" We had it down. Proctor and I were at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. We'd performed our show and we were doing quite well. They loved us. We weren't sure who we were or where we were going but we were moving. There was momentum. We worked hard and nobody came away ever feeling like we'd given them any less but 100%.
We went to the Golden Dragon restaurant late that night for a snack with a friend of ours and became victims of the greatest massacre in the history of San Francisco, the Golden Dragon Massacre. A Chinese gang came in with sub-machine guns, shotguns and pistols, killed 5, wounded 12. We were in the midst of it. Someone at our table, our friend got a slug in the leg. I jumped up because I'd been in the Army, I knew the ordinance was empty. I could tell from being on a lot of Army rifle ranges, I jumped and caught a good solid 45 degree angle of the guy going out, and testified and sent him away for life. There were pools of blood, bodies. I ordered the fried prawns and we became scared prones.
What it basically did, was it stopped us dead on the road. Even though we did perform the next day in Boulder. And no one would believe when we told them what had happened the night before.