Clausen, Calderon Feted at RMALA Night

Alf Clausen receives his RMALA Award over drinks and donuts.

Composer Alf Clausen’s 27-year run with the The Simpsons culminated in an outpouring of love and admiration from Los Angeles’ recording musicians at RMALA Night. (Photo: Paula Parisi / MaxTheTrax)

Musicians are focused on 2018 as the year they get included in the state production tax credit, and California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon was on hand to support that effort Sunday at the RMALA Night fundraiser in Pacific Palisades. “I believe in you. I believe in your industry. Don’t forget that you are labor and there is nothing that labor when they work together cannot accomplish, especially here in California,” Calderon told the crowd of about 250 local players at the Bel-Air Bay Club.

The event, hosted by the Recording Musicians Association Los Angeles, honored longtime The Simpsons composer Alf Clausen, who with 570 episode over the course of 27 years, started work on the series when 31-year-old year Calderon — the first millennial elected to the state assembly — was just a tot. Calderon stressed the importance of filmmaking to the state and said he is proud to take a leadership role in advocating for the arts, praising American Federation of Musicians Local 47 president John Acosta, RMA president Marc Sazer and RMALA president Steve Dress for their efforts to advance the cause.

Ian Calderon flashes a movie star smile.

California Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon (Photo: Paula Parisi / MaxTheTrax)

“Navigating Sacramento is like navigating a minefield, you can get blown up, but these guys are doing an amazing job,” Calderon said. “They’re your voices and they’re working with me to help educate assembly members. Next year we’re going to be working on a new iteration of the film tax credit and we need this industry to be properly represented.” The Los Angeles music community, in particular, has taken a huge hit as a result of runaway scoring. The RMA estimates that in 2015, some $18 million in film scoring wages were off-shored. Having missed the Sept. 15 deadline for passage of the AB 1300 bill that would have created a production tax credit for scoring in California, Calderon said in 2018 his focus will be folding the recording musicians into the existing California Production Tax Credit 2.0, a five-year, $1.33 billion initiative that sunsets in 2020.

“We don’t have that film tax credit because the movie studios aren’t making enough money, we have it because of labor — good paying jobs in California. That’s why we allocate the millions of dollars a year in order to have the program exist, but you musicians are not getting your proper share. We’re going to make sure you get it!” the young Democrat from the 57th District said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

Clausen, 76, also brought the crowd to its feet in an outpouring of love and admiration that was on display throughout the evening as guests streamed by his table to share how his music has touched their lives. “Through your music you were as much a character in The Simpsons as Homer and Lisa,” said one guest. “I was a lonely, unhappy child, but your music brought me joy and showed me a score could be fun and have humor,” shared one woodwind player. “When I was struggling to make it as a professional musician you hired me to play and it gave me the self-confidence I lacked,” said a violinist. And the stories went on and on.

The first song my son, who is five, ever sang was one you wrote for ‘The Simpsons,’ called ‘Stop the Planet of the Apes. I Want to Get Off!’,” said Lara Wickes taking to the stage to serenade Clausen. “Three or four years ago I got my dream call, the one where I thought I can retire now — this is it! I got called to play theramin for ‘The Simpsons’.” Wickes was accompanied by keyboardist Alan Steinberger for a rendition of one of Clausen’s compositions — a parody of “Feed the Birds” from “Mary Poppins” that featured Barney the Drunk. “For a drunk, he had an amazingly good singing voice, and he sings ‘Buy me a beer, two bucks a glass. C’mon, help me, I’m freezing my ass. Buy me a brandy, a snifter of wine. Who am I kidding? I’d drink turpentine.”

Wickes is an oboist with the Pasadena Symphony, where Steinberger is also a principal player. “From the Central Avenue jazz of the ‘50s to today’s L.A. Chamber Orchestra and L.A. Opera, Los Angeles has been a magnet for top musical talent, but it’s impossible to make a living from those cultural outlets,” the RMA’s Sazer said, stressing the importance of the tax initiative. “It’s the film and television recording work that keeps us going and allows us to give back to the community.”

Clausen was introduced by trumpeter Gary Grant, a collaborator of 36 years, who summarized the impressive resume: a career that began playing French horn and bass and as an instructor at Berklee leading to a big break arranging and conducting on the Osmonds’ Donny and Marie show in 1977.  Numerous episodes and telefilms led to a 56-episode run as composer for Moonlighting, earning Clausen six Emmy nominations. The Critic and ALF followed, then in 1990 the composer made his  home at The Simpsons, earning two Emmy Awards (in 18 nominations). His nearly three-decade run on that iconic show ended with a Homerian twist; Clausen announced earlier this month that he “was fired” as head music man (the producers have subsequently said they would like him to have his ongoing involvement).

Ever the quipster, Clausen jokingly accepted his crystal trophy from the RMALA’s Dress with the line, “I feel like Elizabeth Taylor’s last husband. I know what to do, I just don’t know if I can make it interesting,” and a simple “thank you.”

Lara Wickes plays theramin with Alan Steinberger on keyboard.

Lara Wickes performs on theramin accompanied by Alan Steinberger on keys. (Photo: Paula Parisi / MaxTheTrax)



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