"Well, we start off the Rose Parade this year with the Marching Mutants of Ollie North Junior High," said that 34-year-old smart-aleck veteran of the Los Angeles airwaves, Frazer Smith. "This year's theme is 'World of Blunders'."
In what has become a New Year's tradition, Smith and a crew of comic sidekicks will lampoon Pasadena's most sacred cow with an irreverent broadcast, beginning at 8:30 a.m. over KLSX-FM (97.1).
As in past years at other radio stations, Smith and company will substitute a bizarre alternative to the staid kind of parade commentary that is normally delivered over local television.
In the Frazer Smith version, for example, Tournament Grand Marshal Pele overeats, undergoes a sex-change operation and becomes the Oprah Winfrey float. Another float, dedicated to Smith, will be made up entirely of white buck shoes, glued together to form a single shoe with Pat Boone waving from the tongue.
"It will actually be walking down Colorado Boulevard," said Smith. "I understand Denny Terrio is very jealous."
The Smith version of the parade features newscaster/equestrian George Putnam winning the coveted Claude Akins denture award, a man-on-the-street interview with horse droppings and all of Frazer Smith's ex-wives forming the Rose Queen's court on the queen's float.
"They'll wave alimony checks as they go by," Smith explained. "They'll be followed by the Marching Mutants marching south on Orange Grove instead of north. We have Gene Hasenfus as drum major this year and Sam Hall will be decked out as a baton twirler, complete with skirt and tassels. And, as you probably know, Ed Zschau will be out there, getting all the band members to form a giant ZSSSS- CHAU ! . . . right there in the middle of Colorado Boulevard."
The Fraze self-confident moxie is a little restrained these days.
The wiseacre material is a little threadbare at times.
When he does comedy club dates, he wears a suit and tie, just like a grown-up, and he comes on stage well-rehearsed with a healthy respect for the manners and minds of his audience. The stand-up routine sometimes sounds a little too much like a stand-up routine, but it's obvious to anyone who has followed his wunderkind Los Angeles comedy career that it is not standard Fraze shoot-from-the-hip ad-libbing.
"The buzz is back," he said. "It's like, we did the office Christmas party last night at the station and the Wolfman (Jack) came up to me and said, 'Wow, man! The thing is back!"
For a time, even Smith admits he had real worries that the thing was gone. Ten years of being fired and hired all over the FM band on Los Angeles radio has given the patented Frazer Smith whine a special seasoning that only the rigors of rising and falling in show biz seems to be able to bestow.
When he breezed into Los Angeles from his native Michigan 10 years ago, Frazer Smith took the town by storm. He did a mix of shtick and new wave music over KROQ-FM (106.7) called "Hollywood Night Shift" that was fresh and funny. It didn't take Smith long to decide he'd break into movies with his own original screenplay--a comedy called "Cool Patrol."
There was a guest shot as a hip young deejay on the old "White Shadow" television series and similar offers from all directions. The snowball was rolling.
Then it slowed and, for a while, it stopped.
"It's funny when your actual career resembles your material," Smith told The Times. "I'm not trying to be just a smart aleck anymore. I'm trying to do a Jack Benny kind of repertory thing, like in the old days of radio. You know? Where Benny was the hero and he surrounded himself with Mary Livingston and Rochester and Don Wilson? You play off of people, but everything focuses back on me. That's kind of what we're doing."
There's no shortage of ego, to be sure.
Whether he's hosting a Rose Parade satire or overseeing his repertory group on his new Saturday-night show on KLSX-FM, Smith makes sure he is the Jack Benny figure. The only permanent cast member who has consistently upstaged him on his weekly 7 to 11 p.m. comedy and rock program, "Saturday Night Fraze," is his mother.
"It's really my mom," he said. "Mrs. Jean Smith, calling me from my home back in Michigan. She's gotten so hip, she wants me to get her an agent now and everything."
Her weekly scolding of her son has turned out so well that Smith is planning to bring his father on as a regular on the show. Both his parents will guest briefly in today's Rose Parade broadcast.
But his mother and father are not his only supporting cast. Smith has learned to temper his rampant ego enough to meet with half a dozen regular foils who do running characters on "Saturday Night Fraze" and help with the writing and rehearsing chores before they actually go on the air. They include:
--Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory comedy club in Hollywood and publisher of a monthly magazine of the same name. Masada portrays a hapless Latino character named Buddy Buddy.
--Daly Pike, a stand-up comic and writer who briefly hosted and produced a comedy variety series for an Orange County television station. Pike portrays gruff, dumb Buck Pike, among other characters.
--Susan Moore, an actress who calls in as one of Frazer Smith's ex-wives.
--Brent Moore, a television actor who portrays a street tough "Mr. T" type of character.
--Bob Zany, a veteran of Smith's old morning deejay days at KLOS-FM (95.5), who portrays a demented fat man.
The "Saturday Night Fraze" regulars will participate in today's Rose Parade satire, but they, too, no longer are allowed to "wing it" the way Smith himself once did. There is a prepared script and there is discipline.
Each Thursday, the cast of "Saturday Night Fraze" gathers at the Laugh Factory and goes over the week's script, usually co-written by Smith and Pike. There is a weekly theme and, lately, there have been regular guests. Last week, rock star Dave Mason explained to "Saturday Night Fraze" listeners how Stevie Winwood became confused and believed for several years that he was, in fact, Stevie Wonder.
Next week, Smith said he will have "Wheel of Fortune's" Vanna White on the program.
"No, really ! She's really going to be on! Really! " he said.
Two weeks ago he broadcast the show live from a Christmas tree lot in Encino that had caged live reindeer to lure customers. Smith interviewed reindeer, trees and listeners during the show.
He plans to reunite the surviving cast of "Leave It to Beaver" for an upcoming program he will entitle "Leave It to Fraze."
Finally, funny Frazer Smith insists, he is back on a roll. The difference is that he now understands that comedians are rarely a barrel of laughs all by themselves. It takes a dedicated crew, a lot of work and a public forum like the Saturday evening radio show.
"Now at this station, everything is flying right with these guys," said Smith. "They seem really supportive."
Of course, he's said that before at both KLOS and, later, during a similar Saturday-night radio show he hosted a year ago on KMET-FM (94.7). He ran out of good will and gusto at both stations.
What will make the difference this time?
"I think the radio people in town are ready to go with something different," Smith said. "I think the audience is ready for this kind of comedy. I think we're hot."
Everybody involved in this year's Rose Parade is Australian, Smith says.
"Rick Dees, Pete Ellis, Jerry Mathers, Ed Zschau . . . all Australian," he proclaims.
He figures there will be a Pretty Vacant theme float in which the Sex Pistols will reunite for a Colorado Boulevard punk concert and there also will be an Iranian bondage float in honor of the latest presidential scandal.
"Now, Lee Meriwether got mad at me last year and knocked me out of the booth and I landed in Mayor Bradley's lap. Pia Zadora was there when I landed and I want to know why," he said.
Thurston Hall III, the character portrayed by Jim Backus on the old "Gilligan's Island" comedy series, has purchased the entire parade this year, Smith insists.
"It's now his own personal parade and Lovey, Ginger and all the rest will be on his float."
Smith is ad-libbing now. During the interview, he's running on adrenalin and making it up as he goes along. It's funny. It's fresh.
But he won't go on the air today with just his funny, fresh, extemporaneous delivery.
No. He's learned his lesson.
At 34, there's still time to be an overnight success in Hollywood. He's sure of it.
But you don't do it by yourself and you don't do it impromptu.
"You know, when my mom asked me about getting her an agent, you know what she said? She said, 'Don't get me your agent!' Is that hip? I think I'll use that."