Louisville Magazine

AUG 2013

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foreign audiences, for example, because it was so New York-centric and intellectual. "It was pretty ethnic," he says. "I thought it was just another paying-dues show." NBC specifcally disliked the music. "I was number one on the list of things that had to change," Wolf says. "Tey'd say, 'What instrument is that? It's annoying.'" But Larry David wasn't having it. Wolf: "Larry David said, 'Really, it's annoying? You hear that, Jonathan? It's annoying.' And he loved that." Wolf volunteered to change the music, but David forbade it. "He said, 'Don't you dare! Te music stays!'" Glen Padnick, 65, was the head of TV production for Castle Rock Entertainment, Seinfeld's production company. "I do remember that Jerry and Larry were proud of the music, date in 1992. Tey married eight weeks later. "He was more confused and dismayed than interested," Wolf says. 'You just met her. Is she pregnant?'" Seinfeld fipped out more when the Wolfs started to have kids, in 1995. "Jerry really could not relate," he says. "It was as if I'd joined a religious cult or contracted a disfguring disease." As for David, Wolf largely gave him room. "Just like his character on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry liked to stir the pot, create trouble through meaningless arguments. It was not tempting to me," Wolf says. But he couldn't dodge David indefnitely. Once, David asked Wolf to play in a golf foursome. Wolf wasn't a golfer and said no. David took it personally, of course. "'What, you don't want to play with us? You don't want to play with me?'" Wolf recalls David saying. On the job, the musician stood his ground as David fumed. them. Buckley says, "His presence was 24/7. He never went home." D uring the pilot season in '89, Wolf could go four days without sleep. His back had spasms; he once became temporarily blind from stress — his eyeballs had "defated." He never drove for fear he would pass out. Also, he was afraid his popularity couldn't last. Tough he was the favor of the week, he believed such status was temporary. "I saw plenty of colleagues that stayed too long at the fair," he says. Later, in fact, this started to happen to him. By the early 2000s, television had changed. Reality shows were beginning to supplant sitcoms, Wolf's specialty. And today, many hit shows, such as Two and a Half Men, don't use a composer because it's cheaper to pay a fat licensing fee for songs. "I think I used up all my luck," Wolf says. In the episode "The Rye," Wolff created the sound of Elaine's boyfriend struggling to play his jazz saxophone by making loose-mouthed squawks. "I remember thinking, 'Another skill they don't teach in music school,'" Wolff says. because it was so distinctive and diferent," he says. To drum up interest in the new show, Padnick asked Wolf to create a radio spot with the cast: Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia LouisDreyfus and Michael Richards. Tey met at Wolf's studio, and it's no exaggeration to say TV history was made that day. Tey talked about how cool it would be if the show were to survive, Wolf remembers, but no one thought it would. Wolf recalls that Alexander said he just wanted to be likable, as he'd recently played the heavy in the movie Pretty Woman. "Larry David's little beady eyes narrowed, and he said, 'Oh, no!' And from that moment on he had George Costanza do every hateful, despicable thing," Wolf says. "He knew Jason Alexander could pull it of because he wanted to be likable." Tis jaundiced worldview made Seinfeld stand out, and, eventually, fnd its fans. Among Wolf's favorite episodes: Mel Tormé singing "When You're Smiling" to the character Kramer (Tormé thought Kramer was mentally challenged) in the episode "Te Jimmy." In "Te Pez Dispenser," David wasn't happy with Wolf's of-camera piano work for the onscreen mistake-making concert pianist until Wolf hit the keys with his elbows. In "Te Rye," Wolf created the sound of Elaine's boyfriend struggling to play his jazz saxophone by making loose-mouthed squawks. "I remember thinking, 'Another skill they don't teach in music school,'" Wolf says. He worked closely with the Seinfeld creators and actors but didn't schmooze. Te closest interactions he had with Seinfeld came after Wolf met future wife Stephi Shafer (no relation to Letterman's band leader) on a blind 32 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 8.13 "He would pick fghts for fun," Wolf says. "He picked three fghts with me." Wolf was closest with Alexander, who also was starting a family and invited the Wolfs to his synagogue. Mostly, though, Wolf kept business and personal separate. He liked his normal life in Burbank — by this time he had moved into an actual house — and mostly avoided those who sought the spotlight. Seinfeld caught fre in its fourth season, and its popularity allowed Wolf to get more work and expand Music Consultants Group. (Not to get too technical, but in 1993 Wolf composed, edited and mixed music on computers, which was a new approach at the time. Paul Buckley, who worked for Wolf, says the team was likely the frst to embrace the computer mixing program Pro Tools, which later became the industry standard.) At his late-'90s peak, Wolf produced music for 13 shows a week, an unheard-of amount. About a week before the shooting of a Seinfeld episode, each department, such as music, received a script. Sometimes this meant pre-producing music to match, say, a dance scene. Once shooting wrapped, Wolf created music in post-production to be placed into a show. (A keyboard was responsible for most of the music, though some was played on other instruments, and scores were still written for horns and the like.) Te turnaround was fast, with at most one full day between Wolf and Music Consultants Group receiving an episode and delivering the fnished music. Seinfeld was an overnight turnaround. Te company worked in three eight-hour shifts a day, and Wolf would be there for all or part of all of Almost as soon as he met Stephi, the couple talked about leaving Hollywood. As Seinfeld rocketed up the ratings, it became a possibility. He told Stephi to give him 11 years to make as much money as possible, and then they would go. Teir frst plan was to sail around the world, but after the kids came, the goal was simply to move. Seinfeld's frst syndication agreement happened in 1995, the second one in 2000. Wolf knew he'd have enough money to make his retirement happen, and the Wolfs moved here in 2005. When I asked Wolf's 13-year-old son Levi what he made of his dad's career, he told me a math teacher used to make a bunch of weird popping noises to Levi's older sister, Emily. It took her months to realize this was in reference to Seinfeld. Another example: Te Wolfs used to eat at the now-closed deli Joe Davola's (named after the recurring Seinfeld character) on Barret Avenue. Te owner, a fan, always had Seinfeld on the TV, and Wolf gave him one of his Seinfeld posters. Signed it for him, too. In fact, Wolf's kept few showbiz mementos. "Most of the schwag and awards statues were donated to charities in California before we left," he says. But he's held on to some, with no intention of donation: a picture with the Square Pegs cast, a Trek mountain bike Seinfeld gave him, a Will & Grace bomber jacket, and "groovy" Reba bowling shirts. He also has a Tifany class ring that he received at the end of Seinfeld. Wolf notes he was one of only four crew members to work the entire series. He also kept the money, of course. I asked Wolf how much he's earned, and will earn, from Seinfeld. His answer: "Less than Jerry."

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