Mark Gruenwald Reconsidered Part VI—He Liked Music, Did He Ever

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Memories prompted by pictures but now made slightly more accurate with dates and such. I must once again give a big thank you to my colleague, Creator, Artist, Writer, Carl Potts who went to great lengths to scan Mark’s daily desk calendar. The little story behind the scanning is that I was part of a gang of prior Marvelites who wanted to write a book about our time there. Carl was one, Danny Fingeroth, Tom DeFalco and of all people, Jim Galton (“President Emeritus of Marvel” for all I know!) rounded out the mob—his presence in particular I found more than strange (and a book about his time at Marvel would have been worth it). Alas, the various proposals we sent up were shot down—something about the book publisher believing they had a good idea they could sell, which was not in line with any of our ideas… But, as part of the preparation, we involved Catherine Schuller-Gruenwald who provided the calendar. A wonderful timeline of Mark’s life—and a remarkable document in and of itself.


Mark was a prankster, punster, musically-inclined and quietly, weirdly funny. A dry funny. He thought “Dick Butkis” was the funniest name ever, save for Hillary Rodham… which he would then slowly point out “rod… ham…” One of the names that triggered his politically correct funny bone, was Book Editor Judy Fireman… he forever referred to her as Judy Fireperson. In an earlier post, I took you with us through the dark sin-filled lanes of Frankfurt, Germany to a strip joint and the bright, sin-filled lanes of a First Avenue porn theater… but Mark and I also spent a lot of time in revival movie houses, up near where he lived on the West Side. We took in a lot of women-in-prison movies plus a lot of Roger Corman dogs (there was some overlap!).

He wrote music, which does not get – emotionally– easier to listen to as time goes on. Part of what Mark left to me was his song book, shared here for the first time…
























I can just remember how this tune goes. I’m contemplating singing it if I can get through it without breaking up. Mark had a high-pitched singing voice, which I took to be straining. He didn’t do it much that I knew of, so the strain never showed up as something like stressed larynx, etc.

























I could only read this once, long ago. My poor buddy was indeed waiting for the 90s, alas to die.

























During the recent 20th Anniversary Celebration of Mark’s Life held by brave wife Catherine and daughter Sara, a low-tech audio cassette was turned up by Cath. On it was a “take” of Mark and his first wife Belinda. This was played for the crowd. I had a real hard time taking this in because I am pretty sure I was in their apartment when this was being recorded. I was there for several of the sessions and those memories blend together as some memories do. Thus I cannot be sure but I was around for that one in particular. Of note is that Belinda worked very hard at taking singing lessons for opera! So she had one hell of a good voice.


Speaking of music, it was Mark that got me into Talking Heads, which he listened to a lot. Remember, this was the early days of MTV, so long ago, they played music videos! Some of the David Byrne lyrics became engrained in his every day lingo. Psycho Killer alone could enable us to carry on entire conversations. “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” “Run run run awaaay” “I hate people when they’re not polite” “When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.” And so on! He learned to play the songs on guitar and on several occasions at his apartment we would just start singing.

One thing that he mentioned, that just sticks all these years later, was that the music video to Once In A Lifetime, was the only moving image that captivated his cat, Townsie. If you ever see the vid, you’ll understand. It was a fun experiment with “video noise” and hypnotic enough to us regular humans. “Same as it ever was” was another catch phrase for a while.

A lot of music these days makes me think about Mark. What would he make of all the sampling and truly low-budget music editing (or video for that matter—I have to remind people that the cam-corder I lugged around back then looked more like what broadcast journalists carried! Now every phone takes pretty good video) or synthesizing so widely available? Mark badly wanted a way to record his music and lay in vocal or other musical tracks later. Around the mid-80s there were such small audio cassette recorders with built-in mixers and multi-track recording. But they were way too expensive. By the time he could have afforded them, he really had moved his attention elsewhere. In the thick of Marvel Universe and then, right after, Cheap Laffs.

Songs I can’t listen to without breaking up, specifically thinking about Mark are: Joanna Newsom’s Emily off her Ys album, pretty much anything by Kate Bush (who Mark revered—you know he would’ve been in attendance for her recent one-night show in England!), the last album that I had heard that Mark relished Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins with one stand-out cut Farewell And Goodnight — and now we come to the subject of Peter Pan. Out the same year Mark died, a collection of the “best” versions of all the productions of the musicals from 1904 to 1996 came out. The parallels of my friend and all my comic colleagues to the boy-who-would-not-grow-up Peter Pan and the Lost Boys (girls too, of course!) goes pretty far. This is another bit of music I can’t really get through, I’m Flying from “An Awfully Big Adventure – The Best of Peter Pan 1904-1996”













(ASIN: 5550975122)


End to Part VI—Music Man Gruenie













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