There aren’t many occasions in life – outside of a family emergency or the potential opportunity to karaoke with Bill Murray – when I would cancel my airplane ticket a mere 48 hours before departure. Alas, one of those instances did rear its head just a few weeks back just days before a trip I planned to head up north, in part, to check out the Lilac City Comicon in Spokane, WA.
When Homer (aka Papa Outlaw) informed me he obtained two VIP passes to watch a live musical recording of the 27th season finale of The Simpsons on the FOX Television Studio lot, I cancelled my upcoming flight faster than you can say, “WooHoo!” No need to worry fellow Outlaws, I didn’t cancel my trip altogether as you can tell from my last post, but I was fortunate enough to push it back a day, even though it meant eating leftovers consisting of emptied Top Romen noodle containers from my complex dumpsters for the next 6 months. Considering the fact my dad lovingly refers to me as “The Boy” and I return the favor in kind by affectionately calling him “Homer”, should reveal all you need to know about what kind of Simpsons fanatics we have been for the past 27 years (and counting).
Throw in my borderline medical obsession with musical scores, and the entire prospect of such an event would have caused me to cancel a flight minutes in advance, let alone days.
My father was afforded the above opportunity thanks to the kindness of Ken Wild, the bass player for The Simpsons orchestra. (Yes, The Simpsons have their own 30+ piece orchestra that meets on a somewhat weekly basis throughout the season to record the actual background music you hear every episode.) Ken happens to know my Homer through a friend of a friend, whose uncle knows someone who used to work with my dad. Little did I realize my Homer knows people in some high, and entertainment-based, places.
Having no idea what we were getting into, I half expected there to be some huge bleacher seating area where hundreds of fellow yellow fans congregated to watch, and listen, to the formal proceedings. Color us surprised when we quickly learned we were only two of roughly a half-dozen guests at the session, the others being family members or significant others. More importantly, there were no bleachers in sight, our seats were of the plush leather variety and were located inside the heart of the recording studio itself.
Oh, and did I mention the session was catered by the well-regarded Porto’s Bakery & Café? Porto’s is largely considered by many to be one of Los Angeles’ top bakeries, and both Homer and I both can thoroughly attest to the claim. Mmmm… free catering… [drool].
Right from the get go, Ken introduced us to the head composer of ceremonies, Alf Clausen. Mr. Clausen has been the lead composer of the series pretty much from the beginning, with the exception of a few episodes composed by Danny Elfman during season one. Meeting the musical maestro behind one of my favorites shows of all-time was akin to a Rock’ n Roll fan getting to hang with Mick Jagger while he recorded some tracks in the studio.
Immediately after, Ken introduced us to the legendary sound editor, Chris Ledesma. Mr. Ledesma has not only been with the entire series on FOX from the very beginning, but he also worked on The Simpsons when it was just a short on The Tracy Ulman show. Upon learning about my comic-con blogging credentials, Mr. Clausen enthusiastically offered up his and Ledesma’s services for a television music panel. No need to threaten me with a good time! (Keep your eyes peel to these pages for more to come on that front.)
Once the introductions were done, Homer and I settled in with our mountainous plate full of doughy pastries, and watched in wonderment at how much scrutiny went into recording musical segments which often times lasted only a matter of seconds. Having the musical intelligence of a desert tortoise, much of the editing conversations flew over my head higher than my originally scheduled flight.
Regardless, the entire session, which included the syncing of video segments to the musical interludes, was much more fascinating to me than I expected. To be fair, those without an affinity for musical scores, or The Simpsons in general (Doh!), might have found the entire experience to be a bit mundane to sit through for an entire 2.5 hours. If one were to visit the sessions on a weekly basis, I could see the luster of the experience wearing thin sooner rather than later.
Speaking of video, take a look at the behind-the-scenes montage I captured in the studio before I get a cease and desist from 20th Century Fox. (D’oh!)
The icing on the proverbial donut however, took place towards the end of the session when none other than the man behind the yellow curtain, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening, walked through the back studio door with his posse of producers to take a gander at how the season finale medleys were coming along. Executive Producer Al Jean was even on hand for the brief listening party among others, and interestingly enough, they had some major say in changing one of the bits live on the spot! Apparently a visit from head-honcho Groening and crew is such a rarity, even composer Alf Clausen had a fanboy moment as he requested a photo with the group.
Never one to let a moment-of-a-lifetime go by unaccounted for, the Outlaw tightened his belt buckle and summoned the courage to ask for a photo with main man Matt before he made like a leaf and left the recording room. Mr. Groening was extremely gracious, even despite my admittance our Simpsons-Ghostbusters crossover t-shirts were unlicensed. (According to Chris Ledesma, he likes some of the unlicensed tee designs as much, if not more than the officially licensed shirts.) Outside of meeting Dan Castellaneta (the voice of Homer Simpson), both my Homer and I felt as if we reached the pinnacle of Simpsons fandom, one that would be hard to top.
Needless to say, I never found out if there were restrooms in the studio seeing as my bladder control was on par with that of a 2-month-old infant thanks to the sheer adrenaline (and sugar from the baked goods) coursing through my system.
After a long hard day of listening to Simpsons music, meeting the creator and composer of the series, eating a week’s worth of pastries in 30 minutes and spending quality time with Homer, there aren’t enough “WooHoo’s” in the world to describe how truly memorable this once-in-a-lifetime experience ended up being. It was without a doubt worth pushing my flight back last minute, which thanks to the increase in airline fees, only cost me one kidney and my first born child. (D’oh!)
(A special thanks again to Ken Wild and my father for making everything above possible.
Your the best Homer a Boy could ever ask for! Now about that loan I need…)
For those that missed the real Homer Simpson answering question Live on Fox a few weeks back, here ya go:
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