Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thank You Randy Kosanke

Monday September 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   My long time good friend Randy Kosanke in Milwaukee sent out this mass email yesterday:

   To all my friends,

   I guess I have some bad news. They've taken me off chemo as it's not working anymore. The cancer is spreading too fast. The doctor says I have three to six weeks left. I guess this is kind of shocking news, but please don't be too upset. 

   I have been given a great life that I wouldn't trade with anyone. I have the best family anyone could want, from probably the most perfect wife you could want to two of the greatest kids any man ever had and their wonderful spouses, and now the perfect grandson.

    I also have the best friends any man could want who have given me the best times and laughs imaginable. I haven't missed out on anything.  

   I truly love all of you and thank God for all our times together. Please don't worry or mourn for me as I look forward to the next adventure. Please help out Jan as she's under a lot of stress. 

   There will be no funeral as I am to be cremated and have my ashes thrown on Racquel Welch’s breasts - which probably sag too much and will spill on the floor. I guess they will dump them in my asshole neighbor’s yard.

    It would be impossible to tell each and every one of you what you've meant to me, but know that I love you all deeply. Please don't e-mail or call as I am too tired to respond. 

Thank you all and goodbye.  

   It stopped me in my tracks, especially since I didn’t even know he was sick. I was stunned to get it, and couldn’t help thinking about it all day. Once again, the message is clear. Life is short.

   I’ve known Randy going on thirty years. A rabid fan of comedy and long time active supporter of the local scene in Milwaukee, he was a frequent audience member that loved to hang out with the comedians afterward. He was especially supportive of beginners, and a longtime fan of mine.

   One night he told me out of the blue that out of all the Milwaukee comedians of that time, there were only three that he thought had legitimate talent – Chris Barnes, Will Durst and me. Will had already moved to San Francisco years before, but is still a native of Milwaukee and started there. Randy was an authority on the local scene, and closely monitored every act that went on stage.

   I agree wholeheartedly on his assessment of Chris and Will. To include me up there with them is as flattering as it gets, and he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it. He and his wife attended my “Schlitz Happened!” show last April, but he didn’t let on that he was sick. I will miss him dearly.

   I’ve got story after story of things he did over the years that really meant a lot. Just a few years ago, I was booked to be the first comedian ever at Milwaukee’s German Fest. Throughout much if not all of recorded history, Germans haven’t traditionally been known for frivolity and mirth. 

   They surely know how to bake a mean strudel and can dance the polka with anyone, but when it comes down to chuckles and yucks they’re severely lacking. Maybe twenty total showed up to see me perform on an outdoor stage that was built to seat several thousand, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I gutted it out, and Randy and Jan were there to support.

   Afterward we drowned my sorrows in a large plate of sausage, and Randy cheered me up when I really needed a lift. He was such a fan of comedy that he wouldn’t let me get down about it. He kept telling me that I did a great job under the circumstances, and that I was blazing a new trail.

   The single story that sums up Randy by far the most took place in 1992 when I had purchased a professional wrestling organization for which I had served as ring announcer. I bought a ring and a truck to haul it and put on shows around Southeastern Wisconsin. A unique adventure it was.

   There were all kinds of painful aspects of that endeavor, but the hardest was taking proper care of the actual ring. It was heavy and cumbersome, and a total pain in the ass to deal with. I hadn’t considered it when I bought the business, and it turned out to be one of the main reasons I sold it.

   The ring was stored at one of the wrestler’s houses who happened to live out in the sticks. He’d leave it set up in the summer, so if guys wanted to go and work out moves they could. It became a nightmare when it rained, and I’d have to make sure it was taken down and stored in the truck.

    One day it was scheduled to rain, and I couldn’t get any of the wrestlers to help me move that damn ring. They all had piss poor excuses, but the rain was coming and I needed to take it down or the canvas would get soaked and the plywood underneath would warp. I was in a tight spot.

    I had an office then, and Randy happened to wander in to say hello since he lived not far away and often would drop in. I told him of my situation, and without blinking he said he’d be glad to help and that’s exactly what he did. That ring was a bastard to move, but he helped me do it with not one word of complaining. I offered to pay him or buy him dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

    THAT is a true friend, and I never forgot him for that. When I was backed into a corner he did not hesitate to help and never asked for a thing. I must have thanked him hundreds of times over the years, and we’d laugh about it every time I brought it up. He’d ask if he could be a wrestler.

   All of these memories came flooding back today, and there wasn’t one bad one in the bunch. I don’t have any good ones of my father, but I have a ton of Randy. I know his email instructed us not to write back, but I never listened to anyone until now and I ignored it and wrote anyway.

   I thanked him for everything, and told him he was a true winner in life – and he is. He has love from a great family and that’s what I have always wanted. All the fame in the world won’t match what he has, and he realizes it too. Randy Kosanke will hold a special place in my heart forever.

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