One odd Thanksgiving memory. I spent the Thanksgiving of 1974 at Martin Mull’s parents house.
I had just turn 18 and was a freshman at Baldwin-Wallace college in the suburbs of Cleveland. My roommate just happened to be Martin Mull’s cousin. So he invited me to spend Thanksgiving with his uncle and aunt, the Mull family. The thing I most remember as we sat in the living room eating our turkey dinners was Martin Mull’s framed photo on the mantle. A fairly normal thing — to have your son’s photo on the mantel. Only it looked like one of those 8-by-10 glossy Hollywood photos. Martin Mull hadn’t attained major fame or celebrity status at this point — this was before he had gotten into his TV gigs. But I had heard of him. I knew who “Martin Mull” was. He was often mentioned by the rock critics along with songwriters like Randy Newman, who could write witty, clever, satirical songs. And I loved his song “Normal.” “No more dope and no more acid/We’ll spend weekends at Lake Placid/What say you and me get normal for a change.” And now I was hanging out at the same dining room table with Martin Mull’s mother and father. I remember asking them a couple of questions about ole Marty. Because I was legitimately curious. In the back of my mind I had this inkling, this hankering, for a “career in the arts” myself. I remember they said that Martin was frustrated. Because it was a difficult path. And “starving artist” was a well-worn cliche for a reason. Trying to be an “artist” in “show business.” Which is how Ma and Pa Mull described their son’s struggles.
Martin Mull was the first “famous person” I actually had some kind of personal connection to. He was the cousin of my college roommate, and now I knew his parents. Before that I just assumed Famous People were just a breed apart, like an alien species, or gods that lived in Mount Olympus far beyond the realm of normal, un-famous people. Like they were born Famous. Or they were bred on some ranch where the Famous People were created. But now I realized that Famous People were just normal people who somehow turned themselves into Famous People. So that was a revelation.
And I guess a little lightbulb went off in my head. That you could actually do it. That you could write songs, or write whatever, and actually do it like a job.