Since the late 1990s comedian Rob Schneider has given around $2 million to music programs in Pacifica, where he played trombone in the school band. Yet a recent career slump has made the actor a little more tight-fisted, and the small coastal town near San Francisco is feeling the effects.
"The last couple of years have been very difficult in Hollywood, in getting movies made, and in getting good-paying positions for Rob," said John Bentley, a consultant for the Rob Schneider Music Foundation, which since the late 1990s provided the main source of funding for Pacifica's middle-school band programs.
In a letter to the foundation, Schneider said "he could not be responsible for the programs any longer," Bentley told SF Weekly.
The school district will take advantage of stimulus money to make up for the loss this year, said Pacifica School District Superintendent Wendy Tukloff.
But after that, there's no money to draw from.
Growing up in the 1970s and 80s, Schneider played trombone in the school band. Bentley, now retired, was his band instructor.
Schneider was a cutup, Bentley recalled. And the teacher took advantage of Schneider's talent by having students play a jazz arrangement by Spike Jones, the comic 1950s bandleader. Schneider was assigned to make the goofy sound effects for a bastardized version of "Cocktails for Two."
"He was a student who had his growing pains getting into adulthood," Bentley recalled. "And now his comedy involves covering up some of those growing pains."
In the late 1980s, budget cuts led the school district to cancel the band. A parents group, which included Schneider's own parents, was established to try to revive it again.
"When Rob became a successful comedian and movie star, his father suggested he fund their group," said Bentley.
So in around 1998, Schneider began donating around $160,000 annually, enough to pay two band teachers.
The school paid about 10 percent
of the band's expenses, with Schneider kicking in the remaining money, creating "probably the best program Pacifica ever had," said Bentley.
The idea was for the band to eventually find money from other sources. But that never happened. Fortunately, for young saxophonists and trumpeters the band program's early period coincided with the success of Schneider vehicles such as "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo," and "The Hot Chick."
Schneider's most recent starring role was in 2007, with the film "Big Stan," which reportedly lost money.
Schneider recently sent a letter to the foundation, which has been run by him, his parents, and siblings, saying he could no longer afford to foot the bill. In spite of his career troubles, he's still contributing what he can.
He emceed a band charity auction last fall, raising more than $50,000. And he recently arranged for the donation of a new Nissan Cube, which the foundation is raffling off to help pay this year's bills.
On Thursday, Schneider's brother, John, who serves as his manager, will meet with foundation supporters to discuss creating a new band-backing non-profit to try and get money from more sources than just the comedian. Bentley encourages anyone with ideas about how to obtain foundation money, or corporate sponsorships, to contact him at email@example.com.
In the meantime, parents and supporters are encouraged to contact the Farrelly Brothers and beg them to cast Schneider in their upcoming comedy "The Three Stooges."
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