Harvey Sid Fisher Speaks
Harvey Sid Fisher is a man of many facets: actor, model, clotheshorse, golfer. But it is as an entertainer that he has made his greatest mark. Had he retired after penning the twelve Astrology Songs that make up his debut video and album, we would consider ourselves fortunate to obtain an interview with him. But there’s much more to Harvey Sid than just the bully-bull-bull and “sign of the crab, handle with love.” His recent duets for fighting couples and “Bloodlines” (unofficial anthem of the city of Los Angeles) suggest that there are many more surprises in store from this vibrant and unique artist.
Harvey Sid was recently interviewed by his friend Doug Miller in a noisy macrobiotic restaurant in L.A. We are also pleased to bring you the reminiscences of Gregg Turkington, the visionary who first shared Harvey Sid’s work with a wider audience when he released Astrology Songs on his Amarillo label in 1995.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: a great entertainer and a great humanitarian, Harvey Sid Fisher!
Scram: Hello Harvey.
Harvey Sid: Hello machine.
Scram: You first burst on the scene in 1989 or so, when the Astrology Songs video came on public access. What were you doing up until that point?
Harvey Sid: Well, I wrote the Astrology Songs about ‘86 or so, and in ‘87 I wanted to record them. I don’t know if I want to paint a sad picture of how I couldn’t get any backing or any breaks, or nobody wanted to record it, nobody thought it was any good. Astrology Songs! And I’m trying to tell ‘em, “Hey, it’s the world’s largest religion! How can it go wrong?” So nobody gave me any money, and I didn’t have any money. But I lucked out. I got a TV commercial for Continental—
Scram: Is that acting?
Harvey Sid: Yeah, acting in a Lincoln Continental commercial, and it paid for me to record the album. I went into recording studios and musicians’ garages and kitchens at $15 an hour and got the album done for around $3000. And recently I just put back-up vocals on it, which I’ve always wanted to do, ‘cause my voice has been so alone for all these years on Astrology Songs, and I love back-up singing.
Scram: I’d like to hear that. What had you been doing musically up until that point?
Harvey Sid: Up until Astrology Songs, I’d been playing the radio. And singing in nursing homes, cover songs like “Hava Nagila.”
Scram: When did you make it to Los Angeles?
Harvey Sid: 1969. I’m from New York originally, so I’m AC/PC—that’s bicoastal.
Scram: (sounding baffled) And that stands for...?
Harvey Sid: Atlantic Coast/ Pacific Coast.
Scram: Very clever. So had you joined in on the East Village music scene when you were in New York? Were you a folk troubadour?
Harvey Sid: Only later, maybe in the 1970s or something. I dabbled a little bit there.
Scram: Any good memories?
Harvey Sid: Memories... yeah, I played places where the old incense was still permeating through the atmosphere. Clubs. Light places, dark places.
Scram: Do you feel that you picked up any of Mr. Zimmerman’s energy?
Harvey Sid: Well, I’ve been—back in the early sixties I used to write songs in tin pan alley. And they used to say, “Harvey, you oughtta listen to this guy Bob Dylan. He’s a lot like you” or “He does songs kinda like you do,” or something like that. So, I dunno, because of my voice maybe—I’m not that great a singer. Also I’m not a great guitar player, but I tell the audience, “I’m the only guy that knows the words to these songs; that’s what I’m doing up here.”
Scram: True. I met your brother once, at Canter’s. He was out here from the East coast, I guess. Are any of your other family members musically inclined?
Harvey Sid: My brother used to sing in places. He had a nice voice, but unfortunately he never took the trouble to learn one complete song. It was a problem for a singing career.
Scram: There’s been a lot of interest in the dancers in the video. Have you kept in touch with them? Have their careers benefited from being in the Harvey Sid Fisher Astrology Songs video?
Harvey Sid: The answer is no, and maybe, I don’t know. I don’t keep in touch with them. I know where they are and I can get in touch with them, and I’m hoping that I could score some successful amount of money, where I could say thank you to the girls financially. As a bonus. It’s not like I owe them anything, but—
Scram: So until then we’ll keep out of touch with them?
Harvey Sid: Yeah. I’ve had people ask me, they call me from the country or the mountains, or the south. I had one call, “could you come to the Blue Mountains and play at my wedding—and could you bring the dancing girls with you?” I said, “Lady, if you’ve got the money, you can have anything you want.” She never called me back.
Scram: So your back-up singers [Lena Marie and Caroline Avgeris]—do you conduct them with an iron hand, or do they manage to get loose sometimes? Is there some competition with them at all for the limelight?
Harvey Sid: Oh yeah, they are definitely individuals. Each one is a star, and I just give them a lot of rein. I don’t control them at all. I used to try and keep them from taking over the show, but it’s hopeless. They’re just too... (long pause) outgoing. And I wonder sometimes when I sing if anybody’s looking at me. Not only are they back-up singing, but they also have dance moves that are very magnetic. People kind of can’t take their eyes off them. And they love doing these dance moves which I have nothing to do with. They go and have these secret get togethers—
Scram: They work out their own choreography?
Harvey Sid: Yeah, and it’s great fun.
Scram: So you’ve had the opportunity to do some touring in the last year or two. Can you tell us about some of the tours you’ve been on?
Harvey Sid: Well, I’ve been in San Francisco, New York. I have a band in Boston that plays with me when I’m in New York, and we go up to Boston and play up there. I’m gonna do a wedding in Santa Fe in August. That should be a big event. There’s a band there that’s gonna play with me, and back-up singers.
Scram: Do you find that East coast or West coast audiences are more receptive?
Harvey Sid: Well, they say a man is not a prophet in his own home. L.A. is a very difficult town to get an audience in, to watch, to listen. They say there’s more bands in L.A. than there are traffic lights. But San Francisco has been very good. I get good crowds there and they sing along with me, they dance to my songs. They throw underwear at me! And that’s just the guys. (chuckles)
Harvey Sid: New York is very good also. Boston, I have fans there. And I keep getting people from all over the country who order videos, and they always ask me when am I gonna come to their little town and I play. And I tell ‘em, “Set something up. Have guitar, will travel, y’know?” Just get me a gig! I would like to find a booking agent or a manager or agent or a lawyer or—I’ll take a same-day cleaner! Somebody who’s gonna get me out of the hole for the rest of my life.
Scram: You always do look very sharp, especially in that white tuxedo. Can you recommend a good dry cleaner?
Harvey Sid: No, I’m not a—there’s certain people in this world who know the best pizza, they know the best Chinese food, the best dry cleaner. It doesn’t matter to me. It all looks good to me, wherever I go.
Scram: You have a song called “I Want My Mommy.” Was that song ever played in the presence of your mother? And if so, what was her reaction?
Harvey Sid: No, and none. My mother was not alive to hear “Mommy.” But I’m sure if she were, she’d get a kick out of it.
Scram: Now here we are at a microbiotic restaurant. I know microbioticism means a great deal to you, Harvey—
Harvey Sid: Macro.
Scram: Did I say micro? Macro. Can you tell us a little about macrobioticism? Sell the Scram readers on it, if you could.
Harvey Sid: Macrobiotics has been very good to me. I started around seventeen years ago. I had some aches and pains. I went to some macro meals; they tasted good. Went to some lectures; they made sense to me. And I pursued it. My aches and pains to my surprise went away, so I’m a big believer in the good this diet can do. Seventeen years ago people were laughing at me, that I was eating stuff that resembled dog food, or whatever, brown rice. And y’know, over the years, the standard American diet—SAD, sad diet—has kind of been backing up into macrobiotics. Y’know, how we have rice cakes, rice milk. And Reagan, when he had trouble with his back, his doctors, front page, said “he can’t be eating steaks and hamburgers for a while.”
Scram: Who woulda thought that Reagan would get the macrobiotic ball rolling?
Harvey Sid: Well, we never really know how we serve. We never know our true value, and the true good we’ve done. And sometimes we never will. I talk to one person about macrobiotics and they give me a blank stare, and someone behind me is listening in, grabs me by the collar, taps me on the shoulder and says, “Excuse me, can I talk to you?” So, you never know where your good is going.
Scram: Check. Can you fill us in on your career as an actor and model?
Harvey Sid: My career as an actor has had its ups and downs. One day I’m on bread and water, next day nothing.
Harvey Sid: I’ve gone from relative obscurity in show business to total anonymity. Modeling has been pretty good to me in that it’s paid for a few golf balls and kept me alive. I used to be one of L.A.’s top 10,000 photographic models; now as I age I become maybe one of L.A.’s top 10,000,000 photographic models.
Scram: Have you ever modeled shoes?
Harvey Sid: I’ve modeled everything, shoes, pants, shirts, underwear, boots, booze and babes.
Scram: Okay. On the acting front—or just being on stage in general—would you consider yourself a ham?
Harvey Sid: I’m a restricted ham. I’m more of a cerebral ham. But on tour you get some drugs or booze in me, I’m sure I would probably go a little crazier. The problem is I don’t do drugs or booze. So I’m kinda a conservative ham.
Scram: You love to entertain.
Harvey Sid: I love entertaining people; I love making them laugh. I say to an audience, “If I could just make one person smile in this room... then I’m in deep shit, I’m bombing, I’m in trouble!”
Scram: (strangled laugh) I’m not going to ask you about your discography, since that’s all online.
Harvey Sid: I’m also a screenwriter; I’ve written six screenplays, and have not sold one yet. I’m kind of at the crossroads of my life right now. I’m at a stage where I’m starting to think of what else, or what, to do, or if there’s anything more I can do. I may write another screenplay I had an idea for, or also I might do some street singing, busking.
Scram: Do you have a particular corner in mind?
Harvey Sid: No, no. But I know wherever I play I will make friends, and maybe sell a CD here or there.
Scram: You told me someone was talking about making a documentary about you. What’s the story on that?
Harvey Sid: It’s a couple of film people, young guys, who find me interesting. So we’re going to be meeting again maybe in a few days to throw around a few ideas of how to do this. They want to shoot it and maybe enter it into film festivals.
Scram: Follow you around playing golf, doing auditions? Play a few gigs, tell a few jokes?
Harvey Sid: Yeah, but no bathroom, no shaving, nothing like that.
Scram: Okay, I have one more question. Maybe the most important Harvey Sid Fisher composition is “Bloodlines,” a very socially conscious, wonderful song. And seeing as this is going to appear in Scram magazine—who is it in that song who “boldly told you scram?”
Harvey Sid: Everybody.
Scram: (laughing) Okay, thanks Harvey!
Although Doug had been strictly instructed to keep his interview under twenty minutes in length, because the editrix was unwilling to transcribe anything longer, Harvey Sid became inspired as he finished his macrobiotic meal, and insisted that the tape recorded be switched on again.
Harvey Sid: I want to talk about things that are important, things of value to me, or to people out there who are looking for answers.
Scram: Beyond what your Astrology Songs can tell them?
Harvey Sid: Yeah, answers to terrestrial questions. It’s not an easy—I haven’t thought it out yet, how to present it. Maybe I might present my thoughts in a screenplay. But a lot of my thoughts are in my songs. I don’t write these “baby baby baby” love songs. “My heart is aching, my heart is breaking, I’m dying, I’m crying.” These people don’t need love, they need an ambulance!
Scram: So are there thoughts in your songs that you have not yet conveyed? The tape’s rolling here, Harvey.
Harvey Sid: Well, I can’t—I don’t know if I want to open up this can of thoughts yet, at this point. I’d love to talk about life and solutions and things that could help people. If only I knew anything, I would talk about it.
Scram: You’re too modest. Now you have a song for a movie coming out.
Harvey Sid: Yeah, I’m at present working on this movie that I’m performing in. There might be a bit part for me and some stand-in work, and it’s called Double Take. It’s written by the guy who wrote Midnight Run. He’s also directing. He’s a friend of mine that plays golf with me. So there was a possibility of there being a second song in the movie, that I wrote for it. It has to be a real dumb country song. “The dumbest country song in the world,” were the requirements. So I wrote a song called “Take Your Love and Shove It Up Your Heart.” But they won’t be using the second song, so I’ll just be doing it at my gigs, and maybe record it someday. I’ve been pretty busy the last two weeks with this movie.
Scram: You’ll be on camera?
Harvey Sid: No, it’s stand in work and extra work, it’s not acting. But they may find a bit part for me to play. It’s got Fernando Jones and Eddie Griffin starring, two very funny guys. It’s a story about mistaken identity, action-comedy.
Scram: Right on.
Harvey Sid: Y’know, I was thinking the other day, how bad you start feeling when—for instance, I thought Astrology Songs would make me a billion dollars. And you start to think about where you should be and where you’re not and where you are. And it’s not even close. But then I think, if you take away what you want, remove what you want, and you look at what you have, it’s not so bad. Life is not so bad. I have an awful lot. Good golf game, friends, talent, health. Live in a good country. I can do anything I want. I don’t have to answer to a dictator. Or a mean wife. So don’t think about what you want, and what you have is quite a lot.
Scram: Anything else?
Harvey Sid: One of the things that’s going on is I have a contract with a new website that’s coming online. They’re going to use my video of Astrology Songs. It’s called Voxxy.com. Vox means voice, and the two x’es are for the female chromosome. It’s going to be for young girls, and Jennifer Aniston is going to be the spokesperson for it. It’s not up yet, but you’ll be able to punch in an astrology sign and see my video for your astrology song. It’s coming up sometime this summer. And I’m going to be at Taix Restaurant June 17 at 11:15 PM, which is 1911 Sunset Blvd., near Alvarado.
Scram: You’re there about once a month.
Harvey Sid: Yeah, I’ve been doing that for about a year or so. And I may be doing it at Silver Lake Lounge; I’m waiting for word on that. So that’s what’s going on with me. There’s nothing else going on, but my confidence is high. My confidence is in-de-fat-igable! I don’t know why, but I guess I’m human and I’ve fallen apart where weaker men would have crumbled. I’m on a compilation CD coming out of Connecticut. The song that I contributed was “F-word.” I used to scream “f-word” on the golf course instead of the four letter word, when I’d miss a two-foot put, and I thought, wait a minute, this would be a good song. People come to my gigs and ask me to sing it. Perhaps one day some of my other songs will be more popular than my Astrology Songs.•
A selection of Harvey Sid Fisher recordings and videos are available on his website, where you can also find dates for upcoming performances.
GREGG TURKINGTON REMEMBERS
Dealing with Harvey Sid Fisher was a great experience. After being thoroughly fascinated for a couple of years with a 5000th-generation copy of the Astrology Songs video sent in to the offices of Breakfast Without Meat by a fan, I approached Harvey about the possibility of releasing some of his music. Though years of being hoodwinked in Hollywood and New York made Harvey a bit wary at first, I was eventually able to gain Harvey’s trust and proceed with the first-ever vinyl and CD issues of his classic Astrology Songs. While we at Amarillo Records did not have the resources to sell a million copies of the thing as Harvey had hoped, I am glad we were able to help increase the public’s awareness of Harvey and his unique and entertaining vision. It should go without saying that Harvey is a colorful character in person as well as on stage—I remember eating breakfast with him at a Beverly Hills restaurant when a well-known actor walked in the door, wearing dark sunglasses. Harvey asked me who he was, not remembering his name, and I told him: it was James Woods. As Woods passed by our table, Harvey leapt up, grabbed his hand, and said “Jimmy! Jimmy! How are you! Harvey Fisher!” To my surprise, James Woods greeted Harvey warmly and with familiarity and they chatted briefly, after which Harvey told me that they were old friends and had studied acting together... True Harvey Sid Fisher fans are no doubt familiar with his dogwalking scene in Lethal Weapon 2 and his featured role as a doomed senator in the obscure film Time Bomb, but I hope in this interview you can procure more information from him about his earlier acting credits on TV shows such as Marcus Welby M.D. and Kojak, or how he financed the Astrology Songs recording with royalties he made appearing on a luxury car commercial. Singer, songwriter, golfer, actor, model, devout macrobiotic, and authentic Hollywood personality—Harvey Sid Fisher is the real thing! The man deserves a star on Hollywood Boulevard—or at least a permanent spot on The New Hollywood Squares. And if you have a chance to see Harvey Sid Fisher live in concert—don’t miss it!