Biography


Greg started his career in the public eye on the very day of his birth: he was among sixteen baby boys born consecutively at Maynard Hospital in Seattle within a 24-hour period, on the sixteenth day of May, 1947. This startling coincidence garnered a photo with headline in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. For Greg it was just the first in a lifetime of news stories about, or by, him.



[1] Greg as a child clown

[2] Young Harvard
Greg was raised on Mercer Island, near Seattle, in a conventionally suburban upper-middle-class way. But both his parents had had artistic leanings, which they surely passed on to Greg. [1] Each had majored in music at the University of Washington. His father Harvard [2] worked his way through school singing in churches and at radio stations: with his Varsity Quartet colleagues, he performed Seattle radio's first singing commercial. (To the tune of Solomon Levi: "Have you a suit or overcoat you'd like to give away? The Lundquist Lilly Old Clothes Plan provides an easy way. You buy yourself a brand new suit or snappy overcoat, and for the old clothes you're allowed a crisp five dollar note!"). He eventually gave up aspirations for a professional singing career and, according to a music

[3] Norwester Skit
school friend, fell in with "the wrong crowd" (that is, the lawyers). Greg's mother Gertrude wrote an unpublished novel and poems, two of which were published in Cats magazine (entitled Plumb Perfect: "The dog, I'm sure, is man's best friend/His qualities are without end/He's patient, true, responsive, kind/His master's always on his mind./But as his mistress, I declare/With all his virtues fine and rare/This paragon cannot combat/The bathroom habits of the cat."). And Greg was much loved by his maternal grandmother, May, and step-grandfather, Linden Mander, a professor of political science at the University of Washington. Following a lectureship in Ankara, these paragons of grandparenthood volunteered to escort a twelve-year-old Greg and his older brother Pete for three months throughout Europe--every detail of which trip Greg remembered for his entire life. Another happy influence was The Henderson Camps (now Camp Nor'wester), then on Lopez Island. Greg was a camper for only one year but a staff member, first as "harbor boy," then as counselor, for three. He wrote his first comic sketches for performance around the campfire, where he also developed a taste for Gilbert & Sullivan. [3]

Greg went all the way through Mercer Island schools, from what was then called nursery school [4] through high school, where he edited the newspaper and performed in school plays, most notably, as a senior, as Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream. [5] He had had an early start as an actor: in second grade, when his class was housed in the same building as the high school, he was tapped to play Page Mason in the seniors' production of We Shook the Family Tree. In a junior-high-school essay Greg described the character as a "seven year old pest who injures a girl's popularity with her parents by passing out their old love letters." Before leaving high school, and the Island, he also cooked burgers at the Samoa Drive-In--the setting for his last book, Cheese Deluxe.


[4] MI Nursery School

[5] MND cast

[6] Time Remembered

[7] Potlatch
In the fall of 1965 Greg pursued his interest in acting at the University of Washington, where his roles included The Ice Cream Man in Time Remembered [6] and Captain Brazen in The Recruiting Officer. During the summer of 1967 he played three roles in melodramas at the Potlatch Playhouse on Bainbridge Island [7]; at the same venue, in the summer of 1968, he wrote and directed Betsy Green the Cannery Queen--and played a cameo as an Irish cop--but then suspended the production when the Potlatch revealed that it wouldn't be paying the actors, after all. At about the same time Greg was also losing interest in a drama degree, when the Drama department split into the professional training program and "the rest of us spear-carriers." Lessons for a life in the theatre.

Greg and Cathy Crosetto, who first met when they were toddlers, married in June 1968; they had eyed each other through years of carpools from Mercer Island to the Eastshore Unitarian Church in Bellevue, and finally fell in love as high school seniors. The week after their wedding Greg had left the university and begun work at Boeing, in a job arranged by his father-in-law.


[8] KRAB Staff
Failing to find his life's passion as a "configuration control analyst" (clerk), Greg turned to broadcasting, having started writing sketch comedy in the intervals between checking off the airplane overhaul manuals that engineers in his unit completed. He had begun volunteering for KRAB-FM, Lorenzo Milam's "alternative" station, which was broadcasting from a cramped, ramshackle building, formerly a doughnut shop, up near the reservoir on Roosevelt. [8] He assembled a small group of comedy writers, calling itself the "Roachdale Radio Network," to produce Sunday, broadcast every other Saturday night, starting in November 1968. Sylvia Lewis, of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [December 17, 1968], called the show "almost indescribable" and "universally iconoclastic," with debts to "such forbears as Fred Allen, Jack Armstrong and the incomparable BBC Goon Show" in its mixture of "gags, satirical sketches, cliff-hanger plots, 1930-ish music."



[9] Peabody
Medallion
In 1972, after a stint as manager of KRAB, Greg and Cathy spent six months in London, where they had a grand time living on her $275-a-month fellowship and he filed radio reports for KBOO-FM, KRAB's sister station in Portland. He returned from London to host a weekday talk show on KTW 1250, which went by the slogan "2 way talk radio." He hosted six two-hour talk shows a week, to which he introduced what radio columnist Vic Stredicke of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [September 29, 1974] called "studied extraneities." These in turn evolved into The Palmer Report, "brief commentaries on topical events--always overstated, usually over-simplified, frequently sardonic"--and heard on the station up to seven times a day. Eventually station management permitted production of The Hit and Run Players, short bits of editorial commentary and satire in place of The Palmer Report two days a week. Greg wrote and voiced (other roles were voiced by any staff member he could press into service); production managers Dave Corry and Jim Cissell provided music and sound effects. Total cost: $8, for a recording of Renaissance music to open and close the show. In March 1975, the University of Georgia announced that KTW's The Hit and Run Players was among 25 winners for the past year of broadcasting's highest honor, The George Foster Peabody Award. A Peabody for radio humor had been awarded only twice before--to Garrison Keillor and to George Burns. That KTW had stopped broadcasting two months before news of the award was released seemed, at the time, just part of the satire. Greg was 27 years old. [9]

Greg and his boss at KTW, Dave Newton, then formed an advertising group, United Airworks; UA merged with Grant Jensen's agency to create Jensen/Newton/Palmer. In 1976, Jensen/Newton/Palmer won Seattle Art Directors Awards for radio and television advertising and for "best in show." In 1977 Greg joined KING Television as its Arts & Entertainment Editor, eventually "graduating" to a position as signature feature reporter for Top Story, the 6:30 newscast. He reveled in being at KING during this golden age, when management actively fostered eccentric talent. [10] During a 13-year on-air run, his reviews, features, documentaries, and broadcast versions of his plays won thirteen regional Emmy awards, the Ohio State Award for Children's Television, and other accolades. Although he was best known for his short humorous pieces, he also took great pride in the documentaries he produced for KING, including D Day: The Last Wave, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy, and Bellingham Ski to Sea, coverage of a multi-sport race he coordinated with multiple photographers (Iris Award for Sports Reporting).


[10] KING Greg In River

[11] Dwarf Family

[12] Greg with Falcon
During the same period, he continued writing plays. Seattle Children's Theatre commissioned three adaptations in the mid-1980s: Puss In Boots (English panto-style), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, [11] and Hunchback of Notre Dame; the first two were also filmed for KING. Another English panto-style script, The Big Bad Wolf and How He Got That Way, with music by John Engerman, was commissioned by Empty Space Theatre in 1989. In 1990 ACT in Seattle commissioned The Falcon, an adaptation of a Russian folktale, as its contribution to the Goodwill Games Arts Festival. With photographer Bill Fenster, Greg first shot the tale on location in then-Soviet Georgia with a half-Georgian, half-Seattle cast; the Georgians then came to Seattle to participate in the stage version presented at ACT. For this televised film, broadcast across the Soviet Union on May Day 1990 to an estimated audience of 200 million viewers, Greg and Bill were named Official Heroes of the People's Republic of Georgia. [12]

From 1990 Greg worked as an independent writer and producer of documentaries for public broadcasting. Death: The Trip of a Lifetime (1993) took him around the world examining how different cultures cope with death [13]; Inside Passage (2006) looked at the cultures and history of our local waterway. Other documentary subjects included video games, magic, the Alaska highway, and local public television history. Vaudeville was a subject close to Greg's heart: it first aired in November 1999 and was named by People Magazine the best variety special of the year. [14] In both 2007 and 2008 Greg did a presentation about vaudeville for the performers at Seattle's Moisture Festival, discussing the full acts from which the documentary could show only brief clips. He was most proud of his participation in The Perilous Fight: America's World War Two in Color (2003), a four-part series produced by Martin Smith, for which Greg wrote and produced Part Three, Wrath: D Day to VE Day. [15]


[15] Perilous Fight Cover

[14] Vaudeville Video Cover

[13] Death Video Cover
Greg also continued writing plays: during the final year of the Seattle Fringe Theatre Festival, in 2003, he performed his one-man show, Figures of Authority, presented by The Just One Old White Guy Company. His last play, CityPlay, conceived and written with Duwamish Tribal member James Rasmussen, was a dramatic work for voices about the first European settlers of Seattle and the support they received from the Duwamish and Suquamish. It was presented in fall 2006 at MOHAI, and has since been used in local classrooms studying early Seattle history.



[16] Adventures in the Mainstream
The subjects of Greg's books were similarly varied. He wrote Death: The Trip of a Lifetime (HarperCollins, 1993; 2nd edition Bennett & Hastings Publishing, 2013) after completing the PBS series of the same name, and gave talks for several years following the series' broadcast to groups of funeral directors (and Unitarians) around the country. The GI's Rabbi: World War II Letters of David Max Eichhorn (University Press of Kansas, 2004), which he co-edited with Eichhorn's descendant, Mark Zaid, grew from his work on The Perilous Fight. It collects previously undiscovered letters home from the rabbi who accompanied American liberators into Dachau. Adventures in the Mainstream: Coming of Age with Down Syndrome (Woodbine Press, 2005; 2nd edition Bennett & Hastings Publishing, 2012) tells of son Ned's graduation from high school and tentative steps into adulthood. His final book, Cheese Deluxe (Bennett & Hastings Publishing, 2008; revised edition, 2013), he was able to see into print shortly before his death, with the help of sister-in-law, Maralyn Crosetto. A memoir about a group of teens who gathered at Mercer Island's Samoa Drive-In in 1965, it drew a raucous reception from a crowd of classmates and friends at a first reading at Island Books in December 2008.


Greg was a ferociously devoted son, husband, and father, to Ira and Ned, as well as a loyal friend, hilarious companion, and generous mentor to many younger broadcasters. A friend has said, accurately, "There aren't many who leave behind so much of themselves." Another: "Greg was one half of some of the best conversations I've ever had." And also: "He was a smashing guy." Truly, he was.