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Roger Catlin

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The Cult Singer Who Crashed David Geffen's Press Conference

Posted: 07/23/2012 7:07 pm

It happens sometimes: When the biggest stars and moguls appear before the press at the TV Critics summer press tour in California, outsiders can break into the room in hopes of getting their big break.

There was an aspiring actress who befriended some critics a few years back, just so she could sneak into a session where Steven Spielberg was going to be.

This year, a grizzled, fairly familiar looking guy unfamiliar with the customs of the press conference took a front row seat at a session for billionaire entertainment mogul David Geffen, who had flown in from Sardinia to Beverly Hills Sunday to deign to answer questions from the press.

Geffen had agreed to take part in an American Masters profile of himself with interviews after a career of largely keeping to himself. But show producer Susan Lacy said it was tougher to get him to come to press tour.

But once there Sunday afternoon, he was less than expansive.

Asked to describe experiencing film on him, he said, "You watch yourself get old and bald, it's a sobering experience."

Someone asked one of those what did he learn from his upbringing questions and he said, "I would think that everybody's childhood is an influence on what happens in their future, don't you think? Me too."

And when someone asked him what he would do if he were getting into the music industry today, he said "I would kill myself."

Fibbing about his past to get a job at William Morris Agency with the hopes of breaking into the movie industry -- which he would do later as partner in Dreamworks -- he got into music instead. And he scored with the Asylum label by jumping on the burgeoning singer/songwriter era, discovering Laura Nyro, signing Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young (who he later sued for not turning out commercial stuff).

And so, in a session when people brought up his experiences with individual artists, from Bob Dylan to Nirvana, only to get short, clipped answers, it was fairly easy for a stranger to break in with his own question.

"I was just curious if you ever, in your past, have come across an album of astrology songs..." the grizzled guy asked.

"Astrology songs?" Geffen puzzled.

"Yes."

"No."

"OK, thank you."

Lacy asked him why he brought this up.

"I wrote the album," he said. "I wrote the songs. There's a sign for each sign of the Zodiac. It's on YouTube. You can go to 'astrology songs' and see a video clip of your sign. And the reason I asked it is because I was just curious how much penetration I've gotten with it."

Not so much, apparently.

Though it was a room full of entertainment journalists, it seems nobody else had heard of cult artist and fringe folksingers Harvey Sid Fisher, who has been touring around playing his album of "Astrology Songs" for decades.

I hadn't seen him since a gig in Austin that Geffen might have marveled at: a big loud crowd, shouting out their sings, and Harvey Sid responding with the accompanying song, from Taurus ("talkin' bout the Taurus, talkin' about the bully bull bull") to Ares ("I am I am I am the ram").

As he was being talked to sternly by PBS officials after the session, I was the only one to say hello to him. He said he was credentialed by Hollywood Today website, but thought it was worth a shot to attend.

He isn't touring quite as much these days, though he's put out songs about quitting smoking and a suite of songs about couples arguing. But he's still out there hustling for what he believes in, much like the kid at William Morris who lied about his college credentials to get a job in showbiz.

Late at night, he sent me some info as well as links to his crazy videos, that must have been shot 30 years ago, in a tuxedo and with dancers.

See it here, Geffen, and weep:

 

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