“Doctober” Trip to Los Angeles: Sturdy and Austin in the Can.

Gary Austin

pictured: Gary Austin

This month we’ve made a lot of progress: we located and secured an amazing trove of rare Committee-related photos and just this weekend wrapped up two more interviews, with Howard Hesseman aka Don Sturdy and Gary Austin.

Howard, of course, was an important member of The Committee’s ensemble – his work was captured both in The Committee’s feature A Session With The Committee and in numerous late night television appearances, from Dick Cavett to The Midnight Special. With a limited window of time available to us (many thanks to IO West for allowing us the use of the Del Close Theater on short notice), Howard was concise, comprehensive, and hilarious. We discussed Howard’s introduction to The Committee, the birth of “Don Sturdy”, seminal Committee sketches such as “Acid” and “20,000 Came Home”, the ABC/”Music Scene” deal and its fallout on the company, and the influence The Committee’s cast played on “WKRP in Cincinnati”.

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Pictured: Justin Chin (DP), Sam Shaw (Co-Writer, Co-Director), Howard Hesseman, Jamie Wright (Co-Writer, Co-Director)

On Sunday we met with Gary Austin, Committee castmember and founder of the The Groundlings. The Committee introduced Gary to improvisation and the pioneering work of Viola Spolin, and he carried this influence through The Groundlings to help shape generations of performers, scores of whom have swelled the ranks of Saturday Night Live.

Gary traced for us the path he took from Committee stage manager to performer, and helped us paint a picture of Committee performer Chris Ross, an improvisational genius who died from a drug overdose at the age of 25.

While we plan on another trip to LA in early 2016, we’re starting the winter in┬áthe editing room. Stay tuned.

Prophetic Scribbling

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Sent to us by Julie Payne, this pic is of the back of The Committee’s first album, inscribed by Del Close to actress Rochelle Richelieu. It is in fact, a collector’s item these days – copies of The Committee’s first album are exceedingly hard to find on the open market.

Note: Rochelle Richelieu appeared on Laverne & Shirley in the 1976 episode “A Nun’s Story”, directed by Committee founding director Alan Myerson (he directed a dozen of the series’ episodes). According to IMDB, her only other film or TV appearance was in 2008 – credited as Rochelle Winter in Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino.

Digging Deep.

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We’re grateful to Jeremy Paz, John Brent’s son, who lent us a number of audiotapes that feature interviews with several Committee members, many of whom are no longer with us. We thought this one might be a nice tease. The labels are a little hard to read, but the tapes read, from top to bottom, “Garry”, “Mimi Farina Interview”, and “Committee Weekend”. There are several more. Thanks, Jeremy, for entrusting these valuables with us. They are being stored under armed guard in a climate-controlled former salt mine near Area 51.

Ruth

Ruth

Ruth Silveira: She trained in theater at Stanford and Cal, came to The Committee via “America Hurrah” at the Montgomery Street theater. Her scene with Julie Payne – “Cold Tea” – is widely heralded as one of The Committee’s best scenes. We had a great visit with her this summer, with amazing stories and a nice scrapbook encounter. Thanks Ruth!

Frank Rosenberg

Rosenberg

Frank Rosenberg was The Committee’s business manager from ’65-67. He hosted us in his Marin County home to discuss the early days of The Committee, The Committee’s bar scene, and the difference between Michael Brown’s cuisine at the Committee Theater on Montgomery (really great) and Roland Pitschel’s french bread pizzas at The Committee’s Broadway space (not so great). We’re going for a full 360 degree view of The Committee, so it’s great to get the perspective of someone who worked in the front of the house. Thanks Frank!