Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Monday, December 27, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Friday, December 24, 2010
Pulling an all nighter isn’t nearly as easy as it used to be. I used to be able to do a show, drive like a maniac all night to do radio the next morning in a town far away, then stay up all day and do the show the following night. And I managed to do it without any cocaine.
Those days are long gone, but I did one today for old times sake because I had to. I had a lot of things to make sure were caught up before I left since I’ll be gone two whole weeks without a trip home this time. I wanted to grab a nap but the phone kept ringing and I kept discovering other things I had to get done so I ended up putting in a full day’s hard work.
Marc Schultz and his wife Audrey drove me to the airport, but I’d never ask them to get up at 3am. Jim McHugh does it, but he’s more used to doing stuff like that because he’s a fellow comic. Sometimes we have to get up at all kinds of odd hours to make travel work, and that’s the kind of stuff they pay us for. The actual gigs are only a small part of it all.
Marc and Audrey dropped me off at about 1:15am, but I wasn’t able to check in until 3 at the very earliest. There’s a Starbucks on the lower level by the baggage claim, and even though I’m not a coffee person I went down there because there are tables and chairs there to set up my computer and get some work done. I bought a juice and went right to work.
About 2am one of the scariest looking humans I’ve ever seen wandered up to where the clerk was standing and just stared at her for a few seconds. Then he walked away and she glanced at me with a look of ‘Please help me.’ I was the only one who saw it all transpire but if he would have done anything crazy I don’t know how much help I could have been.
I debated whether to see if I could find any security people when he wandered back over again, this time talking to himself in a heated conversation peppered with filthy language and sound effects of what sounded like a kid playing with imaginary guns. I didn’t know what I should do, but I knew it wasn’t right to leave that clerk stranded there by herself.
I wasn’t sure if she had a phone or emergency button to push or any means of protection at all. My guess was she didn’t, and after about three or four passes by the guy I really felt uncomfortable. I’ve learned not to look people like that in the eye whenever possible, as it can set off any number of mental minefields. I pretended to stay working, but I couldn’t.
The guy was obviously mentally ill, but he was also dressed in the odd combination of a mercenary and a bum. His boots weren’t tied and it looked like he had a military jacket of some sort on. I tried not to gawk too long or hard, but at 2am in the airport where most of the others were sound asleep, I realized immediately that nobody is really safe anywhere.
The guy could have pulled out a gun or a bomb or a knife or any one of a million things. That Starbucks clerk would have had no defense, and I really didn’t either. I only had my computer and carry on bag with me. At best, I could have squirted shaving cream right in his eye. I’m sure that would have saved the day. This was an extremely scary situation.
The cops showed up maybe ten minutes later, and hauled him off with a struggle. When they started asking him questions he became irate, and looked over at me with two of the most evil looking eyes I’ve seen in quite a while. There was a whole lot of ugliness going on inside that head, and I have to believe a few more minutes would have triggered it all.
Where was TSA when we needed them? THIS is the kind of maniac we need to protect people from, but he walked right into O’Hare at 2am without a second look. He could’ve had a bazooka and blown that Starbucks clerk and me away in less than five seconds. But I have to get my lower colon probed with a cattle prod because I just might be a terrorist.
By the time it all quieted down, I sure wasn’t able to get any sleep. I stayed up until my check-in time and had an even bigger disdain for airport security as they once again were talking down to everyone as they rudely barked out instructions to take belts and shoes off before going through the scanner. I clenched my teeth and got it over with one more time.
The flight to Houston was a lot better this time because I didn’t have to squeeze next to any freakishly large mammals, and when I got there the connecting gate was the next one over. That never happens. Usually I’m running through the airport like O.J. Simpson used to, barely getting to my plane as it’s about to leave. Today I walked from gate K1 to K2.
The flight to Belize was packed, but I nodded out before we took off and woke up right as the plane landed. Now THAT’S a good flight. Perfect timing. I could have easily been talking in my sleep, snoring, farting or any combination of the three but that wasn’t any of my concern. I was able to get some much needed sleep and I got off the plane refreshed.
What felt even better was the blast of pure tropical sunshine on my pale Caucasian puss as I walked down the stairs to the gate. The Belize airport doesn’t have gates like the ones in the States and we have to walk to the terminal from the plane. Today it felt like heaven, as it was about 10 degrees in Chicago when I left. THIS is the way to spend a Christmas.
Customs went pretty smoothly today, even though there was a long line. Some days are a nightmre all the way through, but today turned out to be a good one for a change. There were no major hassles or glitches, and if I knew how to keep this kind of a vibe I’d do it.
I’m back on the Carnival Legend this week, the last ship I was on two weeks ago. I got the same cabin I was in then, and when I walked in the door I was thrilled to see my keys sitting on the shelf I’d left them. I couldn’t believe it, and threw them in the air in ecstasy.
It doesn’t mean I won’t lose them, my phone or wallet again, but at least this time I did catch a break and I’m grateful. I’m going to leave them where they are, because that’s the place I left them last time. I just forgot to pick them up when I left. I’ll do better this time.
All of this puts me in a really good mood, and I haven’t even stepped on stage yet. I’ve heard Christmas week shows can be rough on ships. We’ll see. I’m going to do my best at all times, and whoever shows up will get my best effort. What more can anyone ask for?
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Unexpected good news today. I’m back in touch with Pedro Bell, the legendary artist of Funkadelic album cover fame I hired to do the artwork for my latest CD. We’d lost touch for a while after an assistant of his ripped him off, but he said he’d be back in touch when he could and make things right. I never doubted he would, and he did. It’s perfect timing.
His new associate is totally professional, and we’re on the same page. I’d never gotten a finished colorized version of the work I paid for, and that’s the first thing he corrected. I’d only had a low resolution black and white version to send him, but he colorized it quickly and got it back to me. I was impressed with how fast he did it and can tell we’ll be fine.
I’d eventually like to get some color prints signed by Pedro and sell them on my site. He has a large following from his work on all the Funkadelic and George Clinton solo album covers, and his style is so unique that it’s recognizable at a glance. I don’t know anything about art, but I know I’m lucky to have a chance to hire Pedro to work with me so I did.
My current CD is mostly black and white, but it does stand out. I only did a first run of 1000, so that’s not the end of the world. I’ll give most of them away as promo pieces and sell the rest, then I’ll use the money to have the colorized version reprinted for the second run. Those will really jump out and catch people’s eye just as the Funkadelic albums did.
Pedro called me on the phone this afternoon and he seemed to be in much better spirits than he was last time we spoke. It’s none of my business, but I heard he’d been feeling ill. I told him I’d love to hire him again to do another project, and he said he was up for it.
I absolutely can’t pass up this opportunity. Even if it means nothing to anybody else but me, I’m going to find a way to make it work. I’ve got a supply of cash at the moment so it won’t kill me, and it will be tax deductible as part of the expense of a product I can resell.
The last project he did was based on the Funkadelic album called “Hardcore Jollies” It’s visually striking, and I saw it on a list of the top 50 rock album covers of all time. I hadn’t known it was on that list, I just liked it and thought “Hard Luck Jollies” would fit together perfectly with my Mr. Lucky persona even if someone had no idea who Funkadelic was.
Pedro and I agreed that this next one will be based on the George Clinton solo album of 1986 called “R&B Skeletons In The Closet”. I like the design and it turns out it was voted top album cover of the year when it came out. I have no idea who voted it that, but Pedro said it was one of his most popular works. I guess I have better taste in art than I thought.
I chose it because I thought it stood out, and it does. We’ll call it “Comedy Skeletons In The Closet” and that will allow me to put anything I want on it. I’ve got some old out take recordings of shows from my first CD and other stuff that’s never seen the light of day. It won’t be a problem to cut and paste and come up with enough material to fill a CD. I may also put on some bonus features, like Sixty Second Soapbox bits from my time in radio.
It doesn’t really matter what‘s on it. I’ll find something to fill it up. What matters is I’ll have another product to sell, and it will come in a quality package. It’ll have eye appeal to strangers, and that’s important as far as marketing goes. It may help sell a few units if I’m able to get it in stores, or help people decide to check it out if I can get in more libraries.
My friend Rick Piccolo said he’s been watching the CD he gave to his local library get checked out and said it’s apparently been in demand. That’s a great way to acquire a core group of fans, and eventually the goal is to get them to come see me live. I’m not upset if they don’t pay for the CD up front. It’s a sampler to turn them on to my style of comedy.
This is all marketing, and I should have been doing it years ago. Maybe I wasn’t able to pull it off then, but I totally am ready for it now. I have the ability and experience, and I’ll develop my own fans thank you. Depending on some low rent booker or worse yet his kid to make my living is total insanity. Nobody can promote me better than me, and it’s time.
Frank Zappa cranked out tons of product, and it came from necessity. He had to make a living, and that’s where I am now. Do I have enough new material for a CD right now? In my old way of thinking, no. Now, I’ve got TONS of material just waiting to be divided up and put on a CD release. I’m finally starting to see things from a marketing perspective.
Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx both had several album releases which helped spread the legend and create a fan base. From what I heard they got ripped off with royalties from all those recordings, but if I’m smart I don’t have to have it happen to me. I can be in charge.
As a kid I remember really enjoying new Funkadelic albums not only for the music, but for Pedro’s intricate artwork on the covers. He’d have eye candy to enjoy on the front and back covers and on the inside foldout too. Granted, albums were a lot bigger than a CD to look at, but CD art is still attractive. I want to create quality products in a quality package.
There’s a whole new world of marketing I need to take advantage of, and it’s not only a matter of releasing audio recordings. They are an important part of the mix though, so I’m going to crank out as many as I can ala Frank Zappa and try to build my legend with fans.
It’s all part of the game, and I’m fine with playing it. I used to think being funny alone was enough, but that’s SO wrong. The rest is marketing and showmanship, and I have an eye for what works in that department because I’m a student of the game. George Clinton did too, and that’s why he knew packaging was so important. He’s a master showman.
I want to be a master showman too. I spent a quarter of a century polishing up the stage part of my show, now it’s time to distribute it to more than just 40 people at a time in an out of the way booze joint in some itty bitty town. That’s not the way to spend one’s days.
I’m thrilled to be back in touch with Pedro, and I never doubted it would happen when it was the right time. Now it’s up to me to make the most of it. I’ve got the money so it’s an investment for the future. Plus, it’s cool because I’m such a big fan. Good enough for me.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
I went up to the sports card show at Gonzaga Hall in West Allis, WI to meet up with my good friend Richard today. He’s been helping me sell my mountain of sports cards for the last few months and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me unload them.
Richard has an Ebay business and sells high end cards. My stuff was mostly mid-grade, which is always hardest to sell. I knew that when I bought them, but I wasn’t planning on selling them as quickly as I’ve had to. It was a mistake, and now I’m trying to recover.
There was a big card show in Chicago in November and Rich took a bunch of my stuff to shop around on my behalf. He didn’t have to do that, but he’s a good friend and wanted to help me get the best price, or at least a lump of cash rather than boxes of old cardboard.
It’s not easy to eat mistakes and move on, but that’s the best thing to do right now. I can always buy more cards, but my time in the sun as a comedian is getting shorter by the day so clearing everything else out and going for it is the right decision, even if I lose a chunk of money in the short run. Richard has really helped me make the best of this ugly mess.
He set up at his table with my stuff today, and ended up selling a couple hundred bucks worth of it. I paid the table fee, but it was totally worth it. He also gave me a nice stack of cash he got for some of my other stuff in Chicago and I wanted to hug him immediately.
That money will be able to give me even more of a financial cushion and allow myself a little leeway to work on projects in the new year. And, it allowed me to remove the pile of heavy boxes from where I was living just in time to avoid me having to move it to storage and spend money letting it rot. I took action, and Richard kept it going. He’s a true friend.
After a lifetime of farting around with sports cards, I think I’m finally finished for good. I had a blast with them from childhood on, but I drifted in and out of them and never had the constant focus required to be a big time dealer. I made a few bucks, lost a lot more but I have to admit the chase was a lot of fun. I’ve finally outgrown it now, but that’s okay.
I’ve got some scraps left, and Richard said he’d do his best to help me get as much cash back as possible. Again, he didn’t have to do that and I totally appreciate it. I love to hang out with him and some of the other card guys I’ve known, but as far as collecting or being a dealer myself that’s over with. I’ve learned my lesson and won’t consider that anymore.
This is all part of the lessons of life. Try something, tweak it, adjust it, see if it fits. This was a fun hobby for a lifetime, but now it’s over. Even though I ended up losing my ass in it, the money that’s coming in now is much appreciated. I’m living and learning. So be it.
If we’re all here on this cosmic plane to learn, I’m sure getting my share of education. If I knew life was going to be this difficult, I might not have signed up. Too late. It’s a never ending constantly evolving classroom, and I’m a perpetual student. I wonder if I’ll pass?
Tonight it was back to AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI for The Mothership Connection radio show. The crew all got together for a Christmas dinner beforehand, and I’m glad the show has been able to stay on the air in my absence on the ships. Everyone has pitched in.
The show has always been fun, and still is. We had some excellent guests and callers to keep it moving, and four hours ended up flying by as it usually does. I hadn’t been on the air in a while, and it felt good to get back in the saddle. The energy all around was good.
But, like with sports cards, it may be time to get out of this racket too. It’s been a lot of fun for a long time, but where is it leading? With everything else going on, it’s hard to be focusing on projects that don’t make money. If I had a bigger cushion to fall back on, I’d be able to do this without any question. But. is this the smartest way to invest my time?
That can only be answered if we’re able to get paid. How can that happen? I’m a fan of Coast To Coast AM with George Noory, and that’s the big dog of shows like this. If we’d get a chance to fill in on weekends or something that would be worth it just for the big ray of exposure it would give. But would it pay? And, would they let the crew stay together?
Part of what makes it all so fun is the crew of people involved. It’s a blast going into the studio with Shelley Maas-Hernandez, Greg DeGuire, Gary Pansch and whomever else we can get to show up and join us. It’s a cross between a morning show and Coast To Coast.
In a perfect world, we’d be able to get a syndication deal which would put us on nightly to open for Coast To Coast. It would be a perfect lead in, but are the radio powers that be even interested in something like that? I don’t have any idea who to even talk to about it.
Kipper McGee knows the show exists, and if anyone can give me pointers, it’s him. He would help me sell it if there were any openings, but he’s got his own career to maintain. He’s got an impressive resume, but no job right now. That’s common in the radio game.
Virtually everyone I know in that business is scrambling, and I’ve had my share of that too. Playing that game is a cross between musical chairs and whack-a-mole. There’s a lot of carnage with no real reason for it, so why tempt the meat grinder? The other people on the show are all bright eyed and bushy tailed, and that’s fine. They haven’t been scorched.
I’d be fine with letting them take over the show, and maybe showing up once a month or so to hang out on air if they’d let me. I’m sure they would, but putting maximum effort into it just isn’t the best way to spend my time now. This is the time to create whatever is possible to go into some kind of retirement fund. I’m not going to have it willed to me.
I don’t regret any of this, and it’s a sign I’m still growing in a positive way. Playing the sports card game and having a radio talk show are both great fun, but I have to think a big wad of cash socked away wouldn’t suck either. That’s just where my instincts take me at this time. Making hay while the sun shines is the right thing to do, and hopefully clearing out the time suckers from my life will open up new avenues I’ll be able to make use of.
Monday, December 20, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Change of travel plans. No use complaining, I’ll just have to roll with it. I was supposed to fly home from Belize today, but with all the rough weather this week everything is on a different schedule. Today we stopped in Roatan, Honduras instead. It’s not easy to fly out of here, I’ve done it before. It requires a puddle jumper shuttle flight to the main airport.
The ‘main’ airport has a total of maybe a dozen planes if they‘re lucky, and I’ll bet half of those are only there for parts. I’d rather wait the day and fly out of Belize. That isn’t an international show piece major airport either, but it’s better than Honduras. And, it keeps me out of the cold for another day. I don’t have a heavy jacket and it’s going to slap me.
The down side is, I’m scheduled for a week at Zanies Comedy Club in Vernon Hills, IL that starts on Thursday. I had to cancel the Thursday show because the flight would cut it way to close, and having to spend an entire day with a puckered bung hole is not my style.
SO many things could go wrong, and I’d hate to have to cancel at the last minute. I told them the situation and they’ve always been great about stuff like that, but I still hate to be cancelling shows. I like working Vernon Hills, and that’s one of the few places people do come out to see me. It’s close to both Milwaukee and Chicago and convenient for many.
I heard late today that there’s still no guarantee we’ll make it out of Belize. The weather is still an issue apparently, and Belize is what’s called a ‘tendered port’. That means it’s a shuttle boat ride from where the ship anchors out at sea to the actual port, and apparently they don’t run when the weather is rough. I’ll have to see in the morning what transpires.
I’m not going to worry about it, but it does concern me more than a little. Missing a gig for a whole week is not the kind of reputation I need to be building right now. I’ve always been known for being reliable, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to work on the road as long as I have. Bookers know I don’t drink or do drugs, and they can count on me.
I’ve got a show booked in Dubuque, IA December 22nd, and I’m worried that will be the next nail biter situation. I fly out again at 5am on the 23rd, and there are all kinds of snares that could pop up from car trouble to bad weather. I can’t cancel now, but I’ll sure be a lot more careful of what I book around the ship gigs, if indeed I get any more. I have no idea.
This next run is the last one I’ve got. I haven’t heard back from the booking person, but I know she’s got WAY too much going on to bother her right now. If they want me back, I’ll get an email asking for my available dates. If not, I’ll be grateful for what I did get and move on. I sure gained some experience, and it helped get my finances back above water.
The money alone was worth it. That changes everything. Having even a little cushion is the difference between saying yes or no to some one night hell hole. I’ve got to make my run at whatever I’m going to run at, and a Wednesday night in some small town biker bar is not it. I had an extra day to get some work done, and I did. Time to freeze for a week.
Monday, December 13, 2010
Saturday, December 11, 2010
A sea day off. That means there are no shows to do and no ports to get off and explore. The ship heads back to Tampa and tomorrow this batch of passengers gets off and a new one gets on and the whole process starts over again. These days can be the most lonely.
There isn’t much to do except sit around and kill the time. I chose to work on upgrading and improving my act for 2011, and even though I worked on it for three hours I still had a lot of time left over. The human attention span is only so long, and I maxed mine out.
I took a walk around the ship to get some exercise, and then came back to my cabin to discover an interesting documentary on TV I’d been meaning to watch about a guy named Marcus Dupree. He was a football phenom back in the early ‘80s. I remember him well.
He was supposed to be the next big thing in football - a guaranteed can’t miss superstar. I remember he went to Oklahoma for a year, and then faded out of sight completely. Then he came back and signed with the USFL, and eventually had a very short run in the NFL.
Allegedly he was one of the most gifted athletes ever, but he never came close to living up to his potential. Herschel Walker was another highly touted superstar, but he played in the NFL for several years and had a respectable career. Marcus Dupree quickly fizzled.
I’d never seen him interviewed before, but they showed him today and he’s handled his situation a lot better than most others would have - myself included. He’s not bitter about anything, and accepts how his life worked out. He’s now driving a truck and works hard making an honest living. The guy has a fantastic attitude and I have total respect for him.
He’s right around my age, and part of my generation. Every athlete from our generation is now finished, and we’re all old men longing for the past. Michael Jordan was born the same year I was, as was Charles Barkley. They’re now ‘old school’. It makes me wince.
Bo Jackson was also born the same year I was. He was huge in his day, but now isn’t at the top of anyone’s mind anymore. Those guys are all has beens, while myself and almost every other person from our generation are a never was. Brett Favre is looked at now as a senior citizen, but he’s six years younger than me. My athletic days are LONG behind me.
Marcus Dupree’s heyday was in his late teens and early 20s. He admits he made a lot of bad choices, but who doesn’t at that age? Hell, I still make them now. I felt bad for him as he told the old story of how a ‘friend’ mismanaged his money and a knee injury ended his career in one play, and before he knew it he was out of football and completely broke.
There are a lot of athletes like that, but it really hits home when it’s a guy from my own generation. It reminds me I’m getting older too. I’m still waiting for my tiptoe through the tulips of glory, but it sure won’t be as an athlete. Not unless I join a senior bowling league or tiddlywinks tournament. I’m just a dung beetle comedian trying to earn an honest buck.