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RIP: Sound Mixer Larry Scharf, Los Angeles California

 

I would like to announce to the community the extremely sad news of the passing away of sound mixer Larry Scharf. Larry introduced me to the world of sound mixing as a profession, and I feel extremely fortunate to consider him my mentor.

 

Larry built a small video and film rental house in Soho, renting out camera, lighting, and sound packages to 60 Minutes, The BBC, MTV, WGBH, Frontline, Nickelodeon and to other smaller documentarians. His loft at 476 Broome street was a magnet for a dizzying array of eclectic artists, filmmakers and souls of all stripes. He had no gate. All were welcome. His generous giving of time, money and expertise to struggling independent filmmakers was routine. I was still a film school undergrad at Larry’s alma mater NYU in the late 80’s, and I’m pretty sure he only hired me to help run his office because he heard I played guitar. Fortunately, by the time he actually heard me play, it was too late to fire me. That would come later.

 

Larry had an incredibly diverse skillset in many disciplines. He had a strong foundation in electronics, which he brought to his sound game, oftentimes modding components or mics to his own liking with the soldering iron he just happened to have in his coat pocket. Usually it was without the need of a schematic and quite often it was happening while the camera’s were rolling. He was multitasking before it was cool. He was a gifted guitarist and played most musical instruments to an annoying degree of proficiency. The late legendary guitarist Hugh McCracken was a friend who would stop by on occasion. Larry was 1,000 times smarter than me, so it was actually kind of hard for him to explain things to me in a way I could understand. Eventually, I realized learned most by watching him work. I imagine it would be like Willie Mays trying to teach someone to hit a baseball. There isn’t much to say.  Just watch.

 

Larry moved to LA in the 90’s. Unsurprisingly, Larry’s paintings somehow made it into the hands of the Art Department on Pulp Fiction. They’re visible inside Eric Stoltz’s character’s house, as Larry was the Boom Operator for Sound Mixer Ken King. Larry went on to work alongside his good friend, Sound Mixer Lee Orloff on Pirates of the Caribbean, True Lies, and Blade 2 amongst many others.

 

I last saw Larry in the early 2000’s where I visited him in Santa Monica while I was working on a film there. I was able to thank him personally for mentoring me into a profession which has literally taken me around the world. We lost touch shortly after that. His genius was perhaps a mixed blessing, as it possibly created as many problems for him as it solved. Not everyone around him was able to process the ways of the world as he did, and at times, ironically to a forum of professional sound engineers, he struggled and appeared out of sync.

 

Larry, I thank you for all that you shared with me, and for introducing me into the wonderful community of sound for film and television. You will be missed. I wish you peace and serenity.

 

Xoxo,

Sean O'Neil

Brooklyn NYC

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I,  too was one of the many that climbed the steps in SoHo to get gear from Larry.  He was not only a patron of independent production, but was cool in that Soho Loft way - like the kind of characters you'd only see in a movie.  His space was cool, his vibe was cool and his ability to Mcgiver old equipment back to life was cool.  I knew he left NYC, but he sorta kinda fell off my multiverse after that.  I'm heartened to know that Lee brought him along on the journey and that he got to bask in the weatherless world of LA after wrestling the New York lifestyle.

 

He was missed when he left NYC and I'm sure he will be missed by the LA community.  Wherever his spirit might be, I hope he's well grounded, in sync and smiling...

 

dBrooks

still trapped in NYC

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Larry and I went way back together, from when we were a couple of NYC sound guys in our twenties, fresh out of @ 70’s NYU Film School. We shared mixing on a doc on The Clash where we were imbedded with the band 24/7 for weeks. Larry was a incredibly gifted guitarist, and multi-talented artist besides being well known for his wide reaching technical knowledge. I’d sing Larry's praises often and to as many folks as I could. We'd collaborate finding solutions to each other's challenges as they'd would pop up. We'd trade gear and plenty more, I’ve still got an amp of his from the 70's. Every so often, I'll run across a piece Larry had built for me, some are in my kit to this day and are still coming out. Larry was part of my crew on True Lies in the 90’s, did second unit mixing for us on the first Pirates film in the early 2000’s. On the morning of Sept. 11, we were prepping LA shooting for Blade II when the Towers came down. As the studio sent us home and we hurriedly packed the gear onto the truck, all Larry was concerned about was making sure his daughter Rachael, living downtown in Manhattan and going to school blocks away the Trade Towers, was safe. It took take half the day until he received word from the wife of a fellow mixer she was fine. Larry was passionate about his work and cared deeply about it, but as long as I worked with him there was not a single moment he raised his voice. His sister told me, it was nice for her to hear there was that side of him. Larry was preceded in his passing by only three weeks by Emily, his longtime partner and mother of their daughter, Olivia. 
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I too am deeply saddened at the loss of my dear friend Larry. Our paths crossed several years ago here in Los Angeles when he mentioned his love for playing music when we met. I invited him over for a little jam with a bass player I had played with from New York and it set off a continuous relationship of creating and recording Larry's music. Larry sharing his deep knowledge and experience in sound engineering has expanded my understanding and ability to record and hear music in a different way. He would spend much time with mic placement and trying different microphones on my drum kit to try and capture a sound he could hear in his head and knew he could get close to on the kit. After laying down several layers of guitar rhythms and different arrangements we would head into my studio for the editing and mixing, where I could watch him apply some his genius and magic on his tunes. We were very close to having a full 10 songs of his music for all to enjoy when sadly it was cut short.

His understanding of "how things work" was far beyond my scope. If he saw me ready to dispose of a piece of electronics he would insist on opening it up first and removing every component he felt should be in his toolbox for later use. I often had other players bringing their amps or guitars over for Larry to the a look at and see if he could repair them (of course he could and would). He was always willing to go to my gigs and run sound for whatever show he was needed for. 

Most of all Larry was always focused on what he could do for his beloved daughters Rachael and Olivia. A proud father who got great joy in telling stories of his childrens lives, their adventures and accomplishments.

I miss him everyday. Peace and love to you my friend.

 

Rick Swigert  

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you Sean for your thoughtful post about our Larry.   He was an important figure in my early career and I learned a lot from him.  

Lee, it's great to see your post as well;   I'm glad to know that you worked with Larry on some big pictures in LA.   I remember fondly the times when you and I worked with Elliott and others in the mid-80's.  It was a highlight of my life.

 

I'm not a sound person so I knew Larry differently from the sound people here.   I was a young DP without a camera, so Larry was my go-to source for a rental video camera in the late 80's and early 90's.  He only had a few cameras so I had to call him right away when a job came in.  Going to Broome Street for the pickup was always an experience.   If I could get a sound mixer on the shoot, I would ask for Larry.  

Our most memorable shoot was for Dutch TV.   We filmed a bunch of standups and interviews around NY and also had to film amateur night at the Apollo Theater.   That was-  me alone on stage with an Ike 79E on my right shoulder and a Umatic (or Betacam??) deck on my left shoulder with a 26 pin cable coiled up and hanging behind my back.   Larry manned the 79A in the back of the house and recorded sound.

 

During setup for an interview at the Apollo, in the house seats, Larry said "your lighting is pretty unusual.   Not the way most people do it."   I didn't know if he meant that as a complement or a criticism, to be honest, but I guessed he would have coached me if he thought I was getting in trouble.

 

Larry always liked having lunch in Chinatown, where he had a favorite place, and he could get special dishes for people who were with him.   Like, not just the gringo dishes,  he could get us the authentic Chinese dishes.    One of those days on the Dutch TV shoot, we were on the upper west side, and Larry convinced the producers that we should go to his place in Chinatown for lunch.    Not really a great idea in terms of the schedule!   We had a great lunch, it took us about an hour to get to our afternoon location.   They didn't fire us but I don't think they were really happy about that Chinatown lunch.

 

Lastly, one thing Larry liked around his rental shop was a collection of toys.   Mainly RC cars.   There were always RC cars driving around in the loft.   It wasn't CSC, FERCO, Camera Mart or General Camera.   It was Larry Scharf Productions.   They had city film parking permits you could stick in your window (no longer possible!)  Everyone who went there was a friend, a co-traveler in the time capsule that was the independent documentary world in NY in the 1980's.   That was a special, unforgettable time and Larry was a big part of it.  Larry enjoyed all the people and wanted to have fun as well as get the work done.   I send all of his friends and family  condolences.

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  • 6 months later...

While the included video is narrated by none other than one of our favorite historians - it only highlights one of his many talents, on historical subjects ranging far and wide. And, I have found, that - Listening to his particular illustrations is to be one of the most enjoyable experiences, for me personally. May his voice, and choice of enlightening wordplay, forever resonate far into our future. RIP, you elegantly eloquent man.

 

 

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