Harry Shearer, Scott Kelman, Paul Krassner, and Peter Bergman, photographed for "Peter, Paul, and Harry" at MOCA.
This week on Off-Ramp, Hank Rosenfeld interviews counterculture icon Paul Krassner, who sent along this backstory to one of the photos we posted.
During the Iran-Contra hearings, Peter Bergman and I teamed up to do a weekly commentary of KPFK. Since Oliver North and his fellow conspirators used code names -- North was Steel Hammer -- Peter became Commandante Baldie and I became Thunder Heart. Listeners had to identify themselves by their code names when they called -- for example, Slush Fund.
Meanwhile, Scott Kelman, who had produced both Peter's show and mine, thought that "Peter, Paul, and Harry" would be a great title for an evening of political satire at the Museum of Contemporary Art. He asked curator Julie Lazar if she knew of an appropriate performer who happened to be named Harry. She suggested Harry Shearer. Scott called me to ask about Shearer. "He's brilliant," I said. "Let's do it."
And so they co-produced a completely sold-out series. If Shearer had been named after his other grandfather, "Peter, Paul, and Harry" might never have happened.
Each of us prepared to perform in our own particular way. Peter would stare at himself in the mirror and make strange sounds to exercise his vocal chords. Harry would sit in a separate room where his make-up woman had flown in from Iowa to transform him into Derek Smalls from Spinal Tap. And I would be off hiding behind some boxes, toking away on a joint of the marijuana that served as my creative fuel.
Scott was sure that I performed better when I wasn't high, and he was under the impression I was straight when he told me one night, "That was the best show you've ever done." I confessed that I had smoked a giant doobie before I went on stage. The irony was that Scott sold pot to help pay the rent, and that was exactly the stash that got me stoned.