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Close the Case File: Phil Austin, the Firesign Theatre's "Nick Danger", Dies at 74

The Firesign Theatre
Phil Austin as Nick Danger, Third Eye

A surreal humor icon has left the stage.

The Firesign Theatre's Phil Austin died Friday (6/19/15) at his home on Fox Island. Firesign member Philip Proctor posted on the group's website that Austin succumbed to various forms of cancer, with his wife Oona and their six beloved dogs at his side.

Austin's best known creation is Nick Danger, Third Eye, a satirical version of a film noir hard-boiled detective.

Danger made his first appearance on Firesign's 1969 album, How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. The entire second side of the album is devoted to The Further Adventures of Nick Danger and is done in the style of a 1940s radio drama. Click here for a taste of the zany episode Cut 'Em Off at the Past featuring the classic intro: "Los Angeles. He walks again by night. Out of the fog - into the smog...."

For more on Austin's life, see David Colker's article in the Los Angeles Times.

For a more personal angle, read on.

I didn't realize it at the time, but my career in radio just wasn't complete until Phil Austin walked into the KPLU studios in 2010. He stopped by three times for interviews; the last one was a tribute to Firesign member Peter Bergman, who passed away in 2012.

I'm a fan of many performers and artists, but what I feel about The Firesign Theatre goes beyond that. When I listened to their albums as a teenager, they did more than just make me laugh; they showed me what kind of magic can be made behind a microphone. I wanted to do that! There were plenty of other broadcasters who motivated me along the way, but those "4 or 5 Crazee Guys" sealed the deal.

The last time we got together, I blurted out what he and Firesign meant to me and that they must have inspired countless others to go into broadcasting, comedy, and acting. He nodded, looked me in the eye and said, "You know, I never had any kids. But I guess, in a way, I have."

It was a moment I'll never forget.

Rest in peace, Phil. It's an honor to be one of your radio kids.

Dave Meyer has been anchoring KNKX news shows since 1987. He grew up along the shores of Hood Canal near Belfair and graduated from Washington State University with degrees in communications and psychology.