Instead of dropping coins into a jukebox at their booth, a duo who parody Top-40 songs can create their own tunes at a Sherman Oaks '50s-style diner.
" 'Duke of Earl' could be 'Quart of Oil,' " says Gary Kleinman, 36, who looks like a skinny version of actor Ted Danson.
" 'Dream Lover' would be 'No Such Thing,' " says Kleinman's partner in parody, Charles Laszlo, "and 'Chantilly Lace' could be 'I Lost the Race,' for the L.A. Marathon."
Laszlo & Gary, who became known for their parodies in 1985 with "Su-Sushi-O," a takeoff on Phil Collins' "Sussudio," are anticipating another hit during National Secretary's Week, which begins Monday. "My Boss Is Lazy," a parody of the Fine Young Cannibals' song "She Drives Me Crazy," is being considered for morning-drive play on local contemporary and rock music stations such as KQLZ-FM (100.3). The parody already has aired on KLSX-FM's (97.1) "The Dr. Demento Show," as well as that show's nationally syndicated version. Between gulps of a chocolate malt, Laszlo, a 36-year-old Reseda resident with the rapid-fire wit of a teen-age class clown, explains the plight of morning drivers. "People drive and think, 'I've only got 26 years, eight months and three days before retirement, I've got to pay electric bills, etc.' We want people to laugh instead."
"Everyone can identify with this song," adds Gary, who lives in Canoga Park. "I don't care how high up the ladder you are, you think you have a boss that is lazy."
The song features hapless employee Doodlesby, whose voice reminds one of Radar O'Reilly, talking with his employer, Mr. Calhoun. The belligerent boss demands that Doodlesby work out for him as well as fax his briefcase. Lyrics include: "He's a lazy dweeb/ He wrote the book/ He needs two desks/ One for his foot."
Dr. Demento, a.k.a. Barry Hansen, praised the song and its creators. "It's a good song, and the response to it has been good," he said. "I put Laszlo & Gary in the class of professional jobs. I get all kinds of songs sent to me, like people who just sing along with Michael Jackson."
Laszlo & Gary record all parodies from scratch, rather than recording over someone else's music, which is why "My Boss Is Lazy" took about 50 hours instead of about four to produce. They write their pieces together. Laszlo performs the character voices, and Gary handles the music and singing voices. Occasionally, putting together parodies drives them to extremes.
"One Sunday, we were doing a parody and needed the sound of a Mack truck," Gary says. "We needed the sound effect by Monday morning. We followed a Mack truck for 90 minutes down the freeway, trying to get him to blow his horn. He finally did it."
The two got together in 1978 when Detroit-native Laszlo--who majored in radio, TV and film production at Wayne State University--answered an ad Gary placed in a magazine. He moved west to create a radio commercial with Gary, who earned a bachelor's degree in finance from Cal State Northridge in 1974. They wrote radio jingles and performed as stand-up comics until 1985, when they decided to concentrate solely on song parodies. Since radio stations do not pay them for their work, they also have day jobs.
"We won't tell you what they are," Laszlo says. "But we're either waiters or corporate executives."
The key to a successful parody, both agree, is an excessive familiarity with a popular song. "It should be a hit record that stations have played almost too much," Gary says. "Listeners can sing the lyrics, and then you hit them with something funny."
Laszlo & Gary are preparing their first record album, which will combine parodies of popular songs with original creations. "We'd never do an album of all originals," Gary says. "They'd have to be exceptionally funny, since they aren't familiar." Gary says that three small pop/rock/urban record companies are interested in making the album.
One song scheduled to be included, "I'm a Sensitive '90s Guy," a pop takeoff of Christine Lavin's "Sensitive New Age Guys," parodies the touchy-feely crystal age. "I like to cry at weddings/I think Rambo is upsetting," the song broods.
And once they exhaust Top-40 songs and their original ideas, what will Laszlo & Gary parody? "Probably marching bands and sound effects," Gary says.
But his partner has other ideas. "Sports fishermen and parodies with subtitles," says Laszlo.