I'm the son and heir of Galaxy Science Fiction Magazine's founder & editor, Horace L. Gold. My background is in science fiction, fantasy and book production. I grew up in the entertainment industry and my mother was lead dancer for the Billy Rose Revue and best friends with Gypsy Rose Lee.
Galaxy had 1 million circulation at that time, and was #3 in the Big 3 of sci-fi. My Dad, Horace, was the highest-paid comic book writer on the planet during the 1930s, having written the Jor-el Krypton story and invented several characters, including Green Lama and Lt. Hercules, the basis for the tv series, "Greatest American Hero".
I grew up surrounded by celebrities and soon learned to ignore celeb status. Every celeb I ever knew hated being intimately hailed by total strangers demanding a signature on a torn piece of paper for someone else, it was always for someone else, never for themselves. Now, of course, all autographs are destined to end up on eBay.
Like Harry, I was born in 1941, and sure enough, my Dad also left in '44, but in his case, it was because he was drafted. Harry's dad abandoned the family when he was three, and Harry went to live with his uncle..but more about that later.
During my teens, I was tutored in math by Isaac Asimov, taught magic by Orson Welles and Bruce Elliot, piano by Oscar Levant, guitar by Dave van Ronk, drums by Philly Joe Jones, bass by Milt Hinton, vocals by and my Dad's closest friends were the greats of Science Fiction's Golden Age; Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, who was one of my two godfathers -- the other was "uncle" Ron Hubbard, a fantasy writer for Unknown Worlds at the time who had, during the Great Depression, shared an apartment with my Dad Horace and another writer named Damon Knight; along with Ted Sturgeon, Frank Herbert, Bob Sheckley, Bob Silverberg, Fletcher Pratt, L. Sprague deCamp and so many more I can't possibly list them all here, but we'll get more about this later, because Harry was an intense science fiction fan with a special passion for Galaxy SF Magazine, which featured NO space opera stories of any kind.
My early music teachers were Pete Seeger, Grant Rogers, Ronnie Gilbert, Burl Ives, Malvina Reynolds, Elizabeth Cotton, with whom I spent many a weekend at her home, Woody Guthrie before he became too ill to move, Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, and my personal favorite, Bessie Jones, and many other greats of the folk scene. I went to school (DCS -- Downtown Community School) and summer camps (Camp Kinderland and Camp Woodland) run by Pete Seeger and Bob & Louise deCormier. I have published a book about this famous Norman Studer System school and camp, joining a list of several dozen books on the subject, including the popular bestseller, "Raising Reds". The school was labeled "radical" by the very evil Senator Joe McCarthy, whose ambition resulted in the ruin of thousands of innocent lives through the "American Inquisition" Senate Hearings which became a hysterical communist witch-hunt during the 1950s, resulting in the blacklisting of many hundreds of valuable and contributory people, such as Pete Seeger, who single-handedly cleaned up the Hudson River and made sure that YOU have the freedom to sing anything you want.
Pete arranged visits from many wonderful folk and blues artists of that time; we spent quality class time with the likes of Big Bill Broonzy, Big Mama Thornton, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and so many more, at Downtown Community School. You can see many of our school visitors on youtube vids featuring Pete Seeger. The segments of "Rainbow" were taped in our old schoolroom!
I was introduced to jazz by my girlfriend, Renee Rosenberg; she had five roommates, all of whom had live-in boyfriends at their Chelsea apartment, among whom were Gaby Martin's boyfriend, horn player Donald Byrd, with whom I often shared a toaster at 11:00 o'clock breakfast. Among our friends were JJ Johnson, Plas Johnson (no relation), and it was there that I met Philly Joe Jones, from whom I learned my basic drumming skills, Milt Hinton, who remained among my best friends until his passing, and it was there that Herbie Hancock and I met.
Herbie's girlfriend Annette and my girlfriend Renee swapped us; I ended up with Annette, a wonderful jazz singer, and he ended up with Renee, a wannabe dancer and personal friend of Chita Rivera and Cyd Charisse. In the end, it did her no good to have connections -- she was a passable but unexceptional dancer and I was a lot happier with Annette.
I started to gig on bass, but the huge upright was just too big for anything except a checker cab, but cabs don't typically stop for musicians, who are notably lousy tippers, unless you like getting tipped with a little buzz.
So I switched my bass for a C harp, and that's when I got involved with the blues guys. I led Gary Davis around a while, and have some interesting stories about that, including how I got my Martin D-28, and also had the privilege of working with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and Dave van Ronk, who came here to Grass Valley just before his passing, to say goodbye. Come to think of it, it might not be a great idea to visit me if you plan to live a whole lot longer...
Everyone wants to know the real story behind the strange deaths in Harry's London flat at Number 9 Curzon Place...remember the Beatles, "Number nine, number nine..." ??? Well, this is the story behind the story, and it's here somewhere on my webpages, along with the real lowdown on the Hollywood scene when Harry and I walked among our fellow raptors, allosauri and triceratopsian terpsichoreans.
In New York I gigged around Greenwich Village with the New Lost City Ramblers, Dave van Ronk, Judy Henske, Peter, Paul and Mary (we called them Peter, Paul and Mounds, and I remained close with Mary Travers until her passing), and many more. My best-known performances were with Peter and Antonia Stampfel and the Holy Modal Rounders and doing double-bill with my bud Hugh Romney, now known as "Wavy Gravy".
There's a lot more to tell, and I will ... it will all unfold on these pages over an unspecified period of time. Some folks are wondering why I waited all this time to do this. I am now retired and have the time needed to devote to this project.
Some emails have come in asking if I need help maintaining the site. The answer is, thanks, no. My late wife Morgan Fox and I won $15 million in the California Lottery and ended up giving it away to my parents to make them low-maintenance. I have enough to keep going, and that's all I'll ever want or need.
So...what else can I tell you? I guess you'll want to know how I could possibly dare to call myself an expert on the subject of Harry Nilsson.
From 1967 to 1972 I worked for RCA, with Joe Reisman, Rick Jarrard, Al & Ritchie Schmidt, Dick Bogert, Grelun "Gre" Landon, Bill Graham, Jr. and Harry Nilsson in the A&R Department on the fourth floor of RCA Hollywood on Sunset & Ivar, and remained in close touch with all of them for about half a century. I have several gold records on my wall, and a framed tie from Ringo Starr, a drawing from George Harrison, a pair of glasses from John Lennon and a stack of drawings and handwritten poems from Harry, and have a collection of newspaper clippings related to his circus performing ancestors, if that helps with my credentials.
I was a Tiger Beat and Monkee Spectacular reporter, and the editor of Mod Teen Magazine, going on assignments with Annie Moses and Anne Moore, the GF of my next door neighbor in the Canyon, Jim Morrison. My girlfriend Jon was BFF with Ellen Naomi Cohen, best known as Cass Elliot.
Among my circle of friends were Frank Gorshin, Frank Herbert, Frank Zappa and Frank Sinatra. My stepdad Paul Donner Spencer was Marketing Director at Capitol Records, and we had every major dj in our house for Friday dinners. My "auntie" was Peggy Lee, my "uncle" was George Shearing, both Capitol label artists, both of whom I stayed in touch with until just after their passing.
I knew Johnny Weismuller well, and Gypsy Boots, Jack LaLanne and Wild Bill Tucker, the "greeter" of Hollywood, my childhood friend Herb Khaury ended up as "Tiny Tim", and I worked at Universal Studios, MGM, Paramount, KNXT-TV, KCRA-TV, KCOP-TV, KCET-TV, CBS Television City, Warner, and a variety of radio stations, then went into publicity and promotion, while doing gigs on Sunset Strip (and Hullaballoo when we couldn't get paying gigs) with my band.
I was an animator, inker/painter and audio tech for Bob at Fidelity Films. He later became partners with Grelun Landon.
I worked on a number of successful tv shows including Get Smart, Man From UNCLE, I Dream of Jeannie and others, along with a variety of stage shows including Lou Shaw's MacBird with my friends Phil Bruns, Jill Andre, Bill Lucking and Bob DoQui, who was the subject of a photographic book of mine back in the day. I did "B" films of all kinds, including two with my longtime bud, Chris Lawford and my wonderful director, Max Oseran, who had once worked for Mike Todd and was suddenly out of a job when Mike's plane crashed. I was lucky to get him for my crew.
If you want to get a better handle on my background and what I've been up to, go to http://www.ejgold.com -- In the meantime, suffice it to say that Harry was my Longtime Friend, and his last visit from Christmas to New Year's in 1993 was a treasure for all of us, and for Harry, it was, to quote him: "The Best Christmas Ever!" -- and that's on the video. On that visit, I promised him that I would try to "cross-pollinate" his work with art, theatre, dance and literature, the best way to ensure its survival, as he had asked and, with the development of this website, I honor that pledge to my Best Bud, Harry the Schmil.
Like Harry, my recording buddy Jimmi Accardi came from Bushwick in Brooklyn. We used to sing doo-wop on the way to school, and get beaten up regularly on the way back. Our school was so tough, the school newspaper had an obituary column.
Harry shared the Bushwick connection with at least one other celebrity; Jackie Gleason, "The Great One". Jackie loved Harry, and Harry loved Jackie, who always called him "Pally", which he did with someone he liked. One interesting note here in the Coincidence Department is that Jackie Gleason used to go to Harry's family's bar, and that's the bar that was reconstructed as the Bar Set on the Gleason Show!
I was there when Derek Tayler bought the carton of "Pandemonium Shadow Show" at Wallich's Music City around the corner from RCA because the cheap-shit executives wouldn't front him a carton, even knowing that Derek was the #1 Publicity Man into whose hands they should get the LPs, but they held tight, as they always did.
Had Derek not persisted and gotten the LP into the hands of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, and had they not listened to that album for 28 hours solid on acid, you'd probably never have heard of some sixties songwriter named Harry Nilsson, except that he was a member of the famous aerial team, "The Flying Nelsons" (sometimes spelled "Nilsson" in the promotional flyers, but more often "Nelson".
When the Beatles got to New York and were asked who their favorite group was, Paul said, "Harry Nilsson". When asked their favorite singer, George replied, "Harry Nilsson" and when asked their favorite songwriter, John said "Harry Nilsson".
That's what started the ball rolling for Harry, and I'll be telling more of the insider story of Harry as we go on...stay tuned for more additions. I'm making them every single day at the moment, and I'll have to keep that pace up to stay ahead of the thousands of miles of video and audio footage I should get up on the site.
Harry and I used to knock around Hollywood together, almost every day, for a variety of reasons; we liked each other's company and had the same circle of friends -- Paul Williams, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Southern, Jim Keltner, Glen Campbell, Trullee Fike and others, and there were other equally compelling reasons we ride-shared, sometimes in my Aston-Martin, sometimes in Harry's sister's VW bug, a rather disparate arrangement.
The ride-sharing started when my ex-wife Linda joined Traveler's Insurance as their Western Regional Director. We were living on Los Feliz at the time, and she needed to drive to Wilshire Boulevard to get to work. Meanwhile, Harry's sister Michelle landed a job as assistant branch manager of the Security Pacific Bank right downstairs from Linda's office in the Traveler's Building on Wilshire.
It started as a simple request; Harry wanted to use Michelle's VW bug for a photo shoot, so he could stick his head out the sun roof. He was to be in clownface, so he wanted that circus look, and the VW reminded both of us of several circus midget performance groups that had been around in the forties and fifties. We knew Jerry Eagle, the former director of "Nathan's Midgets" and two little people were among my closest friends, Billy Barty and Michael Dunne who played the bad guy on our show, "Wild, Wild West" produced by Michael Garrison, about whom more later.
That's how it happened that for a couple of years Harry and I zoomed down Sunset and sometimes up along the 405 freeway to the valley, singing doo-wop and barbershop tags for hours at a time. Actually, truth be told, Harry and I were freaks for barbershop and preferred the songs of the 1900s; one example of this personal preference for "that sort of music" is "Freckles", a doggie song. Strangely, Kenny Rogers did a doggie song at about the same time; he'd gone up to Calico, a silver mining town out in the desert on the other side of the San Gabriel Mountains, if you can call them "mountains".
We ran into the gang there while they were doing the basic research for their "Calico" album, the best Kenny ever did in my opinion; the ghost-town of Calico was just a short distance from where I was living at the time, and I often spent weekends in the souvenir-shop plagued town of Calico when trying to clear writer's block; I had three to four script contracts to fulfill every week, and I'm also an avid ghost-hunter -- I invented the quad ghost meter.
Oh, yeah. I should mention right here at the outset that Harry never wanted to be a rock singer, pop star or celebrity. What he really wanted was to write show tunes for great broadway musicals. He came close with "Viva Zapata", and somewhat hit the target with his film scores for Popeye and Midnight Cowboy, but it wasn't the same as the legit stage, and he felt that right to the end.
I have the songs from Zapata, and will post one of them, "Love is the Answer" at the earliest opportunity, so you'll see what his show tunes would have been like, had he had his way about his career, speaking of which...
This is as good a place as any to mention the event that transformed Harry from just another RCA label backlist guy into a millionaire took place in New York, and somewhere on this site, Harry and I, through the magic of videotape, will tell you all about the real story behind the Pussycats Episode.
I hope you enjoy the videos. Harry and I never grew up, and listening to us chat and play with ideas is like hearing us at ten years old, hanging upstairs behind a locked door, smoking a stolen cigarette; Harry and I never lost that sense of wonder, that insatiable desire to take risk, that playful and good-natured desire to poke at the universe to see what it's really made of, working it all out with each other's help, wondering what it's all about ... could it possibly really be the Hokey-Pokey???
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