Cunning linguist and social satirist George Carlin, who had a history of heart and drug problems, died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California shortly after being admitted with chest pains around 6 pm PDT.
Carlin made world news in 1978 when, in the case of FCC vs. Pacifica Foundation the top court ruled that seven words cited in Carlin’s routine were indeed indecent and should be banned when children might be listening. The words came from his routine, “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television.” Carlin received 2 Emmys for his albums “FM&AM” and “Jammin’ in New York.”
The first true bust-out comic of the counter-culture, Carlin knowingly or unknowingly, was an amalgam of two social comic legends: Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. With the death of the former in 1966 and the generation gap wounding the latter, Carlin after re-inventing himself with drugs, a political point of view and a pony tail, had the field of political/social comedy all to himself. By the time his breakthrough album “Class Clown” was recorded live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1972, featuring the previously mentioned “7 Words”, Carlin was a rock star.
According to Carlin, he was conceived at Curley’s Hotel in Rockaway Beach, New York. He was born May 12th, 1937.
He was raised for 25 years at 519 W. 121st Street in upper Manhattan and took in everything the neighborhood had to offer. And it had everything.
Before entering showbiz, Carlin studied the masters. Admitting he got arrested as an underage fan of Lenny Bruce simply to meet his idol, Carlin refused to show the cops who were raiding Bruce’s show, any ID in the hopes of getting arrested and meeting Lenny. His dream came true as he was thrown into a paddy wagon outside the nightclub and was called a “schmuck” by his hero and later spent the night in jail with him.
In May of 1960, the comedy team of Jack Burns and George Carlin began performing stand up at Cosmo Alley – a coffeehouse in Hollywood. After parting with Burns and going out on his own, Carlin made his first solo TV appearance on the Tonight Show with the host, not so oddly enough, Mort Sahl. The date was June 13th, 1962.
In July of 1965, he did his first Mike Douglas Show eventually appearing 22 additional times. It put him on the national map. In March of 1966, Carlin moved to Los Angeles landing his first acting job in an episode of “That Girl” starring Marlo Thomas. In 1968, he lands his first movie role: “With Six You Get Eggroll” as Herbie Fleck a carhop. He hates his life.
In 1969, he is fired from the Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas for saying the word “ass” on stage. In October of that year, he takes LSD for the first time. It changes his life. He grows a beard. June 25th 1971, “FM-AM” is recorded at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C. It goes Gold and wins the Grammy.
Between 1972 and 1975 Carlin does tons of cocaine and becomes massively addicted.
In August 1975 –NYC radio station WBAI appeals the FCC ruling on seven words. On October 11th, 1975 Carlin hosts the very first episode of “Saturday Night Live.” He has been on a massive coke binge and is high on cocaine during the broadcast. On March 5th 1977, he records “On Location: George Carlin at USC” for HBO. It is his first of many specials for the network.
On July 3, 1978 the Supreme Court rules 5-4 in favor of the FCC. Later that year George Carlin has his first heart attack.
On October 12, 1982 he records his third HBO stand-up special, “Carlin at Carnegie Hall.” Many give him credit for putting HBO in America’s living rooms. Later in 1982, he suffers his second heart attack while attending a very tense Dodger/Met game at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Somehow he survives to do “Outrageous Fortune” starring Bette Midler and Shelley Long.
In February of 1989 he appears with Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Kids rediscover him.
On February 14, 1991 has his 3rd heart attack while driving to Las Vegas. After the death of his wife in May of 1997, his drug use really takes off yet he continues to work non-stop publishing “Brain Droppings” in May of 1998.
It stays on the NYTimes bestseller list for 20 weeks.
In March of 1998, Carlin hooks up with Kevin Smith and shoots “Dogma” starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. The movie attracts a lot of media attention as Smith attacks the mother church.
According to Carlin, between 2000 and 2005 he did a lot of drugs, alcohol and mediocre work. In January 2005, he checked himself into drug rehab to deal with his addiction. When he came out he grudgingly became a member of a twelve step program.
He admitted to finally achieving a strong belief in a God of his understanding. He wrestled, publicly and privately, with the concept of a Higher Power his entire life primarily, he said, because of his Catholic school upbringing, but mostly because of his hatred of organized religion.
Now he will finally meet that God of whatever his understanding was and finally have to explain all that talking behind HIS back. God bless him. He was brilliant. He was tormented. He was very funny. He was one of my comedy heroes. He was my friend. I will miss him.
Paul Krassner, the editor of "The Realist" and a legendary social satirist wrote me this email:
He was a sweet man. When I opened for him at a theater in San Pedro, we were hanging around in his dressing room, and I watched as he continued to be truly gracious with every fan who came by. I pointed that out, and he said, "Well, that's the way I would want to be treated." As a performer, he was uncompromising, knowing that his audience trusted him not to be afraid of offending them.
Richard Lewis emailed me this:
I knew I was haunted in bed last night - couldn't f**kin sleep. Must've felt the loss unconsciously. Carlin was my favorite and only Priest taken too soon and the only one I used for confession. He was an iconic wordsmith. He was an American Master.