I was born November 6, 1962 in Whittier, California. In 1963 my family moved to Huntington Beach, and that's where I grew up and learned to crawl, and so forth. Huntington Beach is, of course, the city referred to in the song Surf City by Jan and Dean. Though I didn't surf much while growing up, my brother Steve did. I did, however, spend a lot of my summers hanging out at the beach, and going to Disneyland, which is nearby. Every summer we'd go there two or three times with different sets of relatives.
Throughout grammar school, I was constantly torn between being an intellectual or a clown. I kept up a little of both, so I got good grades, but I was usually in trouble with my teachers. I first took up the habit of imitating accents in grade school, imitating the Irish nuns' accents. I can still get a laugh out of some of my old friends by breaking into a brogue and talking about Nano Nagle or Tom Dooley.
I can recall two major incidents from my grammar school days which influenced my choices ever since. The first was in sixth grade. My brother's high school was doing Mame, and they didn't have anyone young enough looking to play the part of Young Patrick (which is a fairly sizable role). I tried out, and at my singing audition several of the girls there started crying. I thought I must have been terrible, but it turned out to be exactly the opposite. I got the role, had a lot of fun, got great reviews, and got a lot of attention from girls for the first time. Since then I've usually been involved in some form of performing arts all the time.
The second incident was when I was in 8th grade. A friend of mine, Jim Meng, invited me over to his house for the weekend. We spent most of the day swimming in the pool, but then his dad broke out a computer terminal with an acoustic coupler and dialed up to his computer at work and let us play computer games. It was just stupid text-based games like star-trek and stuff, but we had a lot of fun. We told him that one of the games was too hard, so he went in and altered the code to make it easier for us. I didn't really think about it too much at the time, but on later reflection when choosing a career path in high school, he was someone I could remember who had fun at his work. The rest, as they who spew cliches say, is history.
In high school, I continued to straddle the line between intellectual and fool (and a fine line it is). I took plenty of academic college-prep type courses, particularly in Math, but also got heavily involved in theater and choir. Though I had no plans of choosing the arts as a profession, they got the lion's share of my energies during high school. Though I made friends among the Valeditorian types, my main social groups were with people from drama and choir. Many of the friends I made in those years are still close friends today.
In theater, most people stick to either the technical aspects or acting. I did a little of both. I always put in plenty of hours on sets and lighting. I also did lots of acting, but mostly small parts. I think the only lead I ever had was as Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which we did for a children's theater thing in the park. For the drama banquet my senior year, a few friends and I produced my first film, "The Life and Times of Dick Hurtz", which was really thinly veiled ribbing of our Drama Teacher, Steve Schwartz.
Choir went from taking a little of my time my freshman year to taking most of it my Junior and Senior years. This was due to my involvement in Madrigals, and then later in Mariners. The Madrigals was a select group that did primarily classical & chamber music, the Mariners was a show choir. This was both my glory and my humiliation in high school. Guys in Mariners took a lot of flack from the jocks, since we performed in tight Angel's Flight pants and hideous shirts with rhinestones on them. Whenever they started dishing out verbal abuse, I would merely point out that I'd rather be dancing around with some of the prettiest girls in the school than out groping a bunch of guys on the football field. In fact, three of the first four girls I dated were in Mariners at one time or another.
Another benefit of Mariners and Madrigals was that every spring we went on a 3 week tour of Europe. Since I was in for 3 years, and the tours varied every year, I got to see a broad swath of the European continent. What's more, I got to see it with a group of my closest friends each year. During concerts we gave we were a polite, tame group, but the rest of the time we were a bunch of rowdy, randy teenagers who ate, drank, loved, and partied our way across Europe.
My senior year, I started (bio to be continued later)