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CYBERCULTURE | TECHNICITY / CHARLES FLEISCHER

The Compleat Geek : He Writes, He Acts, He Paints; He's Got a Calcomp Electronic Drawing Slate

June 17, 1996|PAUL KARON | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You may know Charles Fleischer for his voice--or rather, one of his voices: His was the golden throat that spoke for Roger Rabbit in the animated film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Or you may know him for his stand-up comedy--he's a regular at the Improv--or for his old TV role as Carvelli the bully on the classic '70s sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," or even for his regular appearances last year on the Discovery Channel science program "Next Step."

Fleischer is just another of your basic actor/comedian/writer/musician/painter/computer artist/inventors. Not to mention a few other things, such as mathematician and magazine columnist.

In the interest of brevity, if not modesty, Fleischer prefers the term Renaissance man. As it happens, he's also a huge computer geek.

Fleischer, 45, spends much of his time sitting in front of the array of computer equipment that's crammed onto a table in his office, one end of the kitchen of his Los Angeles home. A quick survey of Fleischer's overloaded desktop identifies a Gateway Pentium 100 personal computer, a 20-inch Nanao monitor, an external drive tower with a tape backup and about 8 gigabytes of storage, a scanner, a Hewlett-Packard laser printer and a color inkjet printer.

Also on the desk, for his work as an artist of the electronic canvas, is a Calcomp electronic drawing slate. Over the decade and a half since he bought his first Commodore 64 PC, Fleischer has created thousands of pieces of computer art. These days he's using the software packages Painter 4.0 by Fractal Designs and Kai Power Tools 3.0 to generate the hypnotic, polychromatic pieces. The work might be described as Kandinsky by way of Einstein by way of . . . Fleischer.

"The whole idea is to create things that would be impossible or difficult to do in analog art," Fleischer says. "The computer is another tool and a whole different way of creating work." (Plans are underway for an eventual gallery showing of his computer art, he says.)

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As befits an artist of these digital days, Fleischer has signed a three-disc deal with 7th Level, a CD-ROM label. The first, "The Universe According to Virgil Reality," will be out later this year. It's an interactive CD-ROM that teaches children about science, using music, comedy and animation.

"The goal is to get kids interested in science," Fleischer says. "But if we're going to do that, we've got to show them in a fun way how fascinating it all is." He sings three songs he wrote, one titled "Biology," for the disc.

Fleischer's inventiveness spills over into his love of music as well. He has invented a bizarre-looking 13-string chromatic scale electric guitar, which followed an earlier Fleischer original, an eight-string acoustic guitar. He's got patents pending on both.

Come fall, Fleischer will be starring as an otherworldly high school janitor in a new ABC show called "Bone Chillers," about the supernatural adventures at a haunted high school. He describes the show as comedy-horror-gross: "You know, kids like scary stuff, like bugs, and snot."

Freelance writer Paul Karon can be reached via e-mail at pkaron@netcom.com

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Profile

Name: Charles Fleischer

Profession: Renaissance man

Personal computer: Gateway Pentium 100

Favorite software: Painter 4.0 by Fractal Designs, Kai's Power Tools 3.0

Coolest gadget: 13-string chromatic scale guitar, which he invented himself.

Why technology?: "The whole idea is to create things that would be impossible or difficult to do in analog art."

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