Russell: Alright, so tell us about the show. Because I’ve never seen a live Al show. You were saying…?
Al: So we show some kind of clip on a big screen, while we do a quick change. For example, when we do James Brown, the whole band would change into tuxedos. And I would change into the, the James Brown…
Russell: Do you do the hair thing too?
Al: Yeah, we do wigs, the whole bit.
Russell: So, those are all just wigs, even the ‘Ricky” thing?
AI: Ricky was a wig, yeah. I mean, sometimes it’s my real hair. Like, ah, “Bedrock Anthem” with the dreadlocks. That was my real hair. For the Crash Test Dummies…
Russell: We gotta get to “Bedrock Anthem” ’cause that’s another one that just blows me away.
Al: Even when we do the “Fat” video, when I have the whole latex makeup and a chin piece and the whole fat suit. We try to make the live shows as theatrical as we can. Sometimes we have the videos playing in synch with the band playing.
Russell: So when we come to see the shows, you’re going to be doing ‘Fat” live, and you’re gong to be all fat?
Al: Mmm hmm.
Russell: Oh man, that’s the greatest show on earth!
Mike: See, you say that lederhosen are uncomfortable? (laughter) What about the fat suit!?
Russell: Lederhosen just don’t turn on the girls as much, I guess.
Mike: Do you ever rock the lederhosen just in a social setting? For a lunch or a date or something?
Al: No. I haven’t. But, that’s actually, you know, polka wear, I think is gonna really come back as a look this year.
Mike: I’m telling you, this summer, ’96. Mark my words.
Al: I’m gonna rock the lederhosen.
Russell: So, what’s up with the Hawaiian shirts?
Al: Uhm, I’m not really sure how that started. I just happen to wear them a lot in my own personal life and then on one tour, that was on the contract rider. My manger asked for one gaudy-looking Hawaiian shirt for every show that I did. That was my version of no brown M&Ms. And I just wound up with a whole closet full of Hawaiian shirts.
Russell: Okay, so speaking of closets full of stuff, I saw the Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous episode that you were on with Robin Leach and it’s the only time I’ve…no one else has seen, except for her (Jenna). We saw it together.
Mike: Is that how you guys got together?
Russiell: Yeah, we actually consummated over that show. Now, you got your Vans on right now.
Al: Mmm hmm.
Russell: There was a closet full of Vans.
Al: The shoe closet.
Russell: Now first, tell us a little bit about your encounter with Robin Leach. What was that like?
Al: Oh, it was a brief encounter. Most of the interview, well, actually it was with someone else. It was one of those things where somebody else does the interview and Robin shows up two weeks after the interview and says “We talked to Al…”
Russell: So, he’s not really there? He’s not as much on the scene as it seems?
Al: Not as much. No.
Russell: So, if I remember correctly, you were just going off about all your shoes. I wish I could see…could we get a copy of that? I would love to get a copy of that. Do you know anyone who has a copy of that?
AI: I, I…
Russell: You don’t care, but that’s like…
Al: No, I probably have a VHS copy somewhere. But. ah…
Russell: No, it was just really funny. I’m a very big fan of that show, anyway.
Mike: But, how was it hosting Robin Leach for the brief moment that you did?
Al: He seemed like a cool guy. We talked about Zsa Zsa Gabor because I was at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house for the shoot and she was a bit upset because the camera crew was late or something and she had broken one of her own vases and she was trying to blame it on the camera crew. Some kind of insanity going on there.
Russell: Some kind of insanity going on at Zsa Zsa Gabor’s house?
Al: Imagine that.
Russell: Let’s finish with your wardrobe here, ’cause I know all the girls out there are crazy to know about this. Now, you always wear the pants.
Al (laughs): When I’m public, yeah.
Russell: No, (laughing) but these kind of pants. They’re sort of tight, a little bit tight. And then you always have the Vans on and the crazy socks.
AI: They’re just kind of generic pants. I mean, they’re just jeans.
Russell: Yeah, okay. Generic jeans.
Al: I’m wearing kinda the crazy socks today. These I got in Berkeley. The tie-dye vibe.
Russell: Can we get a picture of that? Where’s our photographer? (Mike laughs) He’s gone.
Jenna: I have one.
Russell: Can we get a picture of Al showing us his sock. Do you mind?
Russell: Yeah, she’s got a camera.
Jenne: Color. (pause as Jenna focuses on Al, contorting like a yoga master to show off his socks)
Russell: Hurry up!
Jenna: Hold on. It’s hard.
Russell: You ever wear any of the new Vans?
Al: Well, every couple of years I just go down to the warehouse and say “Hey Steve (Van Doren), I need some more shoes,” and get the wheelbarrow and like (laughs) get a couple more.
Mike: Do you use their fabric or do you get them custom made?
Al: No. I know you can do that but every pair of Vans I have is off the rack. We made some sequin versions of them for The Compleat Al a few years ago. They had some kind of gag shot where they show the shoes…
Al: Yeah. But yeah, most of them are just straight off the rack.
Russell: What’s…what do you think of Billy Corgan… (long pause as Al bites into a piece of bread) now that he’s bald?
Al (laughing): I think Billy’s pretty cool, actually.
Russell: Did you ever want to do anything of his?
Al: Well, actually that’s a good example of—
Russell: —Oh oh.
SPIKE INTERRUPTS AGAIN, THIS TIME FOR AN AUTOGRAPH AND MORE EXTREMELY NERVOUS CONVERSATION, WHICH HE IS UNABLE TO COMPLETE
Spike: My brother said I should get your autograph while you’re here.
Al: Okay. For your brother?
Spike: No, for me, actually.
Al: Do you do everything your brother tells you to do?
Spike: Oh, no. I just didn’t want you to think I did it on my own.
AI: Ah. Wouldn’t wanna think that. How do you spell your name again?
Spike: Tamra, T-A-M-R-A.
Spike: Yeah. Yasoo. Y-A-S-O.
Spike: Yeah. That’s nice handwriting.
Spike: Did you do that in school, too?
Al: Uhhmm, what? Write your name? (Russell cracks up)
Russell: Write your name? Go Al…
Spike: I meant, in that handwriting?
Al: Yes. This is how I write everything. Is that correct?
Spike: It’s pretty.
Al (sarcastically): Thank you.
Spike: I was just gonna ask you a quick question. I’ve watched all your videos and… (Spike starts to laugh)
Al: Yes, Tamara? (Spike is trying to catch his breath, laughing harder)
Russell (laughing): It’s outta control now.
Spike (laughing so hard now he’s moaning): Oh…
Russell (laughing): What?! Spit it out, Tamara. (Spike runs away from the table with tears in his eyes)
Jenna: It’s so mean to laugh at him.
Mike: That was the funniest thing I’ve seen in… (laughing)
Al: Now, what were we talking about?
Russell: Billy Corgan. You never wanted to do any of their new songs, the ‘Zero”, or…
Al: I was thinking about doing “Bullet”. I was gonna do “Despite my old age, I am still making minimum wage.” (everyone laughs)
Russell: See, you know what? I came up with that one too (laughs). I’m gonna get my lawyer on the phone…
Mike: No, actually, those were the original words that Billy wrote and he changed the lyric. (laughs)
Russell: What’s your take on rap and hip-hop? Do you like all that stuff? I know you did Coolio. That’s kind of a very commercial record.
Al: Yeah. I like it but I don’t know if I could…I mean, I like to mix it up with other kinds of music.
Russell: Are you into East coast or West coast rap?
Al: Hey, I don’t take sides, man. We’re all one community here.
Russell: Alright, Al.
Mike: What about Wu Tang Clan? Have you ever thought of, ah, collaborating?
Russell: ‘Cause if Coolio’s after you and you fuck around with the Wu Tang Clan, that’ll get really serious (laughter).
Mike: Wu Tang Clan ain’t nothing to fuck with.
Russell: Wu Tang Clan would do more than threaten you.
Al: Thanks for the warning.
Russell: We’ve already asked you if you’re obsequious, right?
Russell: And you said…
Al: I…I…did I give you an answer to that one? Am I obsequious? I am rarely obsequious.
Russell: Okay. You were just very obsequious in the Michael Jackson…that moment. That was cool, I understand. If I was in front of Michael Jackson…I really love when the monkey hits you in the face.
Al: That was a high point in my life, too. Russell: So did you ever hang out with Joan Jett, or was that also just like, business?
Al: I’ve never really hung out with her. I’ve met her like once or twice, briefly, at some award show.
Russell: Just ’cause I met her and I jammed with her once, and she was great. She’s great. She’s really funny. She smoked a lot of pot (AI laughs) which we probably shouldn’t talk about, but it is Grand Royal, after all. We incriminate everybody in this magazine. Let’s talk about some old stuff. We wanna talk about Wendy Carlos.
Mike: Yeah. “Peter And The Wolf’. ‘Cause we’re also doing a thing in this issue on the Moog and on some of the great Moog players and we’re interested to know how that collaboration came to be, and…
Al: That was ’87 or ’88, something like that. It was awhile ago. That was basically CBS Masterworks, which is the classical division at CBS. They put us together. They wanted me to do “Peter And The Wolf” and they thought Wendy would be a good match. They wanted to do really all sorts of far out things that they thought a more standard, traditional kind of conductor-slash-composer wouldn’t be interested in. Wendy was great. She had a terrific sense of humor and obviously, ah, was just an amazing synthesizer player.
Russell: Did you talk at all about her life?
Al: Not too much. I mean, it was just…I didn’t want to go there, you know?
Russell: I understand.
Mike: Yeah but he’s played on so many great records too, as a session player.
Mike: Did you ask her about that?
Al: Mmmm. We didn’t talk much about that. I was a fan of hers back when she was Walter. In fact I think she had all her old gold records changed. She had the plaques changed from Walter to Wendy.
Al: Did she do Clockwork Orange? I think she worked with Kubrick a lot.
Russell: Yeah, she worked with Kubrick—
(UNBEKNOWNST TO AL, RUSSELL HAS ARRANGED FOR YOKO ONO AND SEAN LENNON TO PASS BY THE TABLE AT THE EXACT MOMENT THAT AL EXPLAINS HIS ATTEMPTS TO PARODY THE BEATLES. THE PLAN WAS TO SEE HOW COOLY AL REACTED WHEN THINGS REALLY GOT WEIRD. THE INSTANT AFTER THE SUBJECT OF KUBRICK COMES UP, RUSSELL SIGHTS SEAN LENNON MAKING HIS WAY TOWARD THEM AND KNOWS YOKO CAN’T BE FAR BEHIND. RUSSELL GIVES SEAN THE SUBTLE NOD WHILE NOT-SO-SUBTLY STEERING THE CONVERSATION TO THE BEATLES. KEEP IN MIND ALL OF THIS HAPPENS IN AN INSTANT)
Russell: —Oh! “Free As A Bird”, actually. Did you want to do “Free As A Bird”?
Al: Yes I did. (astounded pause) Did anybody tell you about this? You’re just guessing?
Russell: What happened?
Al: I figured we’d have a good shot at it because I knew that Paul McCartney actually liked me. Like, 1984, I met Paul McCartney and he was, “So when you gonna do one of my songs?” So I kept that in the back of my mind and years later when Guns n’ Roses had a hit with “Live And Let Die”, I called Paul and said I wanted to do a parody called “Chicken Pot Pie”. And Paul said, “Well, if there’s anything else, I’d love for you to do it, but Linda and I are such vegetarians that we don’t want to condone the eating of animal flesh.”
Mike: Is this before…
Russell (casually): Hey, isn’t that Yoko Ono over there? Speaking of “Free As A Bird.”
ACROSS THE ROOM, YOKO ONO GLIDES BY LOOKING MAJESTIC AND ALOOF. AT FIRST AL MERELY GLANCES IN THAT DIRECTION, ASSUMING IT’S MERELY A WOMAN WHO BEARS A PASSING RESEMBLANCE TO THE LEGENDARY SINGER. AFTER A MARTY FELDMAN-ESQE EYE-POPPING DOUBLETAKE, AL REALIZES IT IS YOKO. YOU CAN HEAR THE SOUND OF BOTH OF AL’S KNEES BANGING THE TABLE AS HE LEAPS UP TO OFFER HIS HAND TO HER AND INTRODUCES HIMSELF IN A VOICE THAT HAS RISEN BY SEVERAL OCTAVES…
Yoko: How are you?
Russell: Yoko, hey.
Al: Pleasuretomeetyou. Al Yankovic. (something muttered)
(Yoko keeps moving toward the pool outside)
Al (astonished): Did you know that when you were asking me that question? (laughing, trying to compose himself) Okay, okay, okay…
Russell: Hey look, it’s Sean Lennon! (laughter)
Al: (laughing in disbelief, offers his hand) Sean, how are you?
Sean: Good. Good to see you.
Sean: What’s up?
Al: We’re just—
Sean: —I was going to the Crystal Ball room.
Mike: Have a good time over there.
Russell: Alright, see you guys later. (laughter) I feel sort of…l freaked out Al Yankovic. I can die now. (laughter) Uhm, should we spill the beans?
Mike: About how you knew about “Free As A Bird?”
Russell: Yeah. Well, actually. I’m touring with Yoko Ono.
Al: Oh, really.
Russell: Yeah, I’m playing drums with them.
Al: Oh, I didn’t know that. So tell me what she said.
Russell: I liked the way you go like this (does something which starts them laughing again).
Al: So what did she say? What did she say?
Russell: Nothing, I just was guessing. No really, they just mentioned that you wanted to do “Free As A Bird”.
Al: Yeah, “Gee I’m A Nerd” or whatever.
Russell: Yeah, but they didn’t want to do it (laughing). He’s still coming down from that one.
Al (laughing): I was thinking, yeah she does kinda look like…IT IS HER! (Russell. laughing and clapping) Ahhh, that was too…yeah, you definitely freaked me out there.
Russell: So, ah.
Al: That one didn’t make it to the album.
Russell: That was a great idea. So go ahead, keep telling us the story.
Al: Well, there’s not that much more to it. I mean—
Russell: —Now wait, isn’t that John Lennon? (everyone bursts into laughter. Al laughs so long and hard, he starts choking)
Mike: Does anyone here know how to practice the Heimlich maneuver?
Russell: There’s a thing, on, we can talk about Doctor Demento and he was one of your heroes and you sent him old tapes and stuff. Was the “My Bologna” first version of that, was that actually done in a bathroom?
Al: Yeah, the very first version of that was done across the hall from my campus radio station. I did the Weird Show on KCPR (San Luis Obispo’s radio station -ed.).
Russell: Which is where you got the name, right?
AI: Yeah. It was done over the summer, on the college campus and we ran lines from the production room, across the hall, into the bathroom of the graphic arts building. Because they had very nice, warm, reverb sound in there. And, ah, put up a microphone, sat down in a chair with my accordion and did “My Bologna”. That was what started it all.
Russell: There you go. There you go. Do you still, is Doctor Demento still alive?
Al (defensive and embarrassed): Oh jeez! Yeah (laughs). He’s still on the air every week. I don’t know how many markets he’s in…
Russell: No, I know I know I know…I was just kidding.
Editor’s note: I laughed so hard that I was crying at “That’s nice handwriting.” As you were.