Stan Freberg has died, at the age of 88. Some will, of course, say, "I thought he was dead already," as he faded from public view in recent decades. I was fortunate to have two personal interactions with the great man, and believe I probably unconsciously stole some lines of his for my radio plays Sam Patch: The Greatest Story Ever Told, So Far, and The New Eugene Oregon Show. My mother told me we listened to Freberg's Sunday night CBS show for the 13 weeks it was on the air in 1957. I was 5, it was the last network radio comedy program.
In 1981, Edwin Diamond hired me to profile Freberg for AdWeek magazine, where he and Clay Felker were toiling at the time. Because of CMP restrictions on freelancing, the article appeared under the byline Gary S. Paul (because Edwin couldn't remember that Gene Paul was my pen name; I guess Gary was Gene's brother). I got to spend a day with the great man, and came away with an autographed manuscript copy of "Take an Indian To Lunch."
Eighteen years later, I was running podcasts at CMP (alas, before the existence of iPods, which made them hard to listen to). I had obtained the services of Ian Shoales (Merle Kessler of Duck's Breath Mystery Theater) at a very reasonable rate. Freberg had just stopped doing syndicated radio commentaries, and no longer had an agent. I still had his home phone from 1981, so I called. He answered himself, and claimed to remember me. I described the job, and offered him $100 a week for 90 second commentaries. His counter proposal was $10,000 a month. "I'm at the stage in life where I don't have to do anything I don't want to," he told me. Apparently, he didn't want to do commentaries for a website with a tiny audience. That was the second and last time I talked to him. He was a gentleman and a wit, and we shan't see his like again.