Shame And Pride

Thursday March 25th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Whatever problems I might have seem pretty pale in comparison to Rick Finch, former member of KC and The Sunshine Band. He was arrested for having sex with teenage boys in the music studio at his home and apparently he admitted it to police. That’s pretty hard to explain one’s way out of, and I have to believe any kind of a career he has is now over.

Most people don’t even know who he was, but I’ve always been a fan of that band since I was a kid and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They cranked out some mega funky hits back then that still sound good today. They were all about showmanship, and I always love that no matter what the product is. Good entertainment is difficult to produce. I respect them.

The reason I knew who Rick Finch was is that he was the ’other guy’ in the team of two creative people. KC is known for the hits, but Rick Finch co-wrote a lot of them and had a big part in the creative process. Another example would be Meatloaf and Jim Steinman.

Meatloaf only sang the songs that Jim Steinman wrote, but nobody really cares about it other than Jim Steinman. Elton John and Bernie Taupin are another example. Elton sings and writes the tunes and Bernie writes the lyrics. That’s been successful for forty years.

Rick Finch and KC wrote songs in the ‘70s, and then had an ugly split in about 1981. Is it a coincidence the band stopped having hits right around that time? KC continues to tour even now, but they’re an oldies act for sure. Whatever creative magic they had is finished.

I hate to hear stories like that because finding that match is difficult. A comedy example would be Martin and Lewis. They were on top of the world and then they broke up too. In a perfect world it wouldn’t happen, but this never will be a perfect world. I feel worse for the victims. The guy obviously has a problem and I hope it isn’t too late to get some help.

My guess is, he’s going to die miserably in prison. I can’t see a pleasant outcome for the guy who molests teenage boys in his house when he’s supposed to be a mentor figure. It’s not an accident and no matter how rich or famous he used to be, that’s all over with now.

Whatever unpleasant obstacles I’ve had thrown in my life’s path, it wasn’t that. I’ve had my share of other problems, but I’ve never been molested by any scout masters or priests. Maybe I was just too damn ugly, but at least I never had to have those kind of memories.

The story really shocked me when I read it. I totally knew who he was, and it came out of the clear blue unexpectedly. How does anyone put a positive spin on that? What does a publicist or press liason say, especially when he admitted it? It can’t be a pleasant task for his lawyer either. Then of course there will be everyone in the music industry gossiping.

All the articles I’ve had over the years have always been positive. It’s part of coming up the ladder, and they’re used in a publicity package to send out to get more press or send to bookers. I may get some negative press in the future, but it won’t be anything like this.

On a positive note, I had lunch with Vince Carone today. He’s a former student who has a chance to really do something in the business. He’s 27 now but was probably 19 at most when he took the class at Zanies. He was always a nice kid but now he’s really maturing.

When I was coming up in Milwaukee in the ‘80s, my mentor C. Cardell Willis groomed me to be ‘the one’ who would do something in the business. He said that of all the comics in town at that time, I was the one that had the most chance of taking comedy the farthest.

He taught me about the road and how it would be a grind, but that’s how comedy had to be to make a living and not just be a hometown hobbyist. Cardell always told me I would take comedy farther than he’d be able to, and he was right. I did. He didn’t have resources at his disposal to go on the road full time. He had a family to support and he did his duty.

The comedy boom of the ‘80s didn’t have much of a place for Cardell. He wasn’t in the right place at the right time, funny as he was. He was my age now when clubs were in the infant stages, and most of the comics then were twenty somethings. He never had a shot.

Vince is really starting to come into his own and I told him at lunch today I feel exactly the way Cardell did when he told me I’d take it farther than he ever would. Vince will be the one to leave me in the dust, and if it has to be someone I’m glad it’s him. He’s got an amazing work ethic but he’s got a heart too. He also has a business sense. That’s RARE.

I’m proud of all my students, and just as children they’re all individuals. I support them and try to be there when they have a question, but sometimes we drift apart over years and I don’t hear from them for a while. I’m busy bailing water out of my own boat, and I have my own career to mishandle. I’m making dumb new mistakes so I’ll have more to teach.

Vince has always kept in contact and I’m very grateful for that. He’s very classy and it’s going to take him very far. He’s not insincere as many in show business can be, and I will always be in his corner cheering for his success. He gave me his SECOND finished DVD, which for 27 is outstanding. It wasn’t half assed either. Both projects are very impressive.

I was farting around with morning radio at 27, wondering what direction to go. We had no recording capability back then, and if I did my act was so brutal I’m glad there’s not a recording of it I’d have to destroy. Vince did a fine job and I’m happy for him. Not only is it funny, he put a nice package together and twenty years from now he’ll still be proud.

Vince knew what he wanted from the start, just like I thought I did. Even at 19, he was always asking questions and sending me emails and I respected him for that. He was right on the money, and I’m not surprised he’s starting to do well now. He’s only 27, but he’s a veteran of the wars because he started young like I did. He’ll blow me out of the water.

I told him to be careful for what he wished for. All I wanted back then was to be a solid act and kick ass on stage wherever I went. I thought that was all I needed. Well, I got that wish, and was I wrong. There’s a lot more, and Vince is doing it right. Rick Finch isn’t.


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