Kenosha vs. Hollywood

Monday March 21st, 2011 – Kenosha, WI

It’s amazing how much of my life has been rooted in Kenosha, WI in the last few years. I never expected it, but I can’t say it’s a bad thing. I like the town and have made a lot of good friends there between having the radio show on WLIP and being part of the crew of director Mark Gumbinger’s film projects. I feel comfortable hanging in town. I enjoy it.

Plus, it’s very easy to get to from where I live and it’s halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago and I have business in both cities. I could easily see myself living there for a long time and not regretting it in the least. It’s centrally located and easy to navigate the town.

I’ve never been one to climb any social ladders. If I like someone, I like them no matter where they live or who they are. That’s not the way it works in Hollywood, which is why I didn’t last out there. I made friends with a lot of people who were struggling like I was, so that wasn’t the way to advance my position. I ran out of money and had to leave town.

In a perfect world, I’d have gone back there and still be there now. I’d have found a way to survive, and maybe even hit on some script idea. It’s hard to say, but I did know people out there and they’re now becoming the next generation of Hollywood. Mark Roberts is a brilliantly creative comic mind and he’s an example of someone doing very well out there.

Mark is a rare breed who can both perform and write. He’s been in all kinds of shows as an actor, and he’s terrific. But, he’s as good or better behind the camera. He’s right where he belongs, and deserves all the success he’s getting. I’m not claiming to be in a league of a Mark Roberts, but he does know me and had I stayed out in L.A. longer, who knows?

Billy Gardell is another example. He’s a great guy and has worked extremely hard to get to where he is, and I’m thrilled for his success. There are quite a few others I’ve met over time who are also doing well like John Riggi, Jimmy Pardo and of course Drew Carey. I’m happy for all of them, and they each made a lot of sacrifices for a long time that paid off.

Quite frankly, I didn’t do that. I chose to leave town when my money ran out and return to Chicago, as that’s where I could earn a living. I gambled on radio several times and got scorched each time. It is what it is, but that’s why I never ended up going back out to L.A. In my mind I always intended to, because I love it out there. I just haven’t had the chance.

Now, I’m in a whole different position. I just want to salvage a good life and have fun at this point. If I went back out to L.A., I’m a different person. I’m not as hungry now, and I don’t want to live like a cockroach all over again. I wouldn’t expect to just show up and have the people I know give me a job. They earned their positions, and I didn’t. True fact.

What I have attained is a spot in the crew of Mark Gumbinger and his network of talent. It might not be big time, but they’re fun people with real talent, and I’m proud to be a part of the mix. Mark called a meeting at his house tonight to brainstorm his next project and it was a lot of fun. Whatever mistakes I made in Hollywood, at least I’m part of this group.

Life eventually becomes a matter of what’s realistic. Hopes and dreams are great, but as time passes the immensity of vision eventually shrinks to fit the circumstances. I never had time to dream as big as I should have, because I was always too busy trying to survive and pay my bills. I know I wasn’t the only one to have had to deal with that, but it was a drag.

Now is not the time to be bitter about it though. I could sit here and dwell on it but that would only fester and rot and do nothing positive whatsoever. That’s how life played out. Tough noogies. Maybe I was a mega star in a past life or a parallel universe, but here I’m a run of the mill schmuck who never really found a stride. I’m still out here slugging away.

The time frame I’m dealing with is a lot smaller now. Who am I kidding? Even if I do hit it in the next little while, I’ve got a lot of hard road miles on my carcass from chasing all of this for so long. And I don’t know how much punishment it can withstand. I need to get in shape and stay there. I’ve pissed away my youth and sooner than later I’ll be paying for it.

I want to do something great in my life and always have. The clock is really ticking hard  and for the first time, I hear it. I used to be that young buck with my whole life in front of me. That isn‘t the case anymore. I woke up one day and all of a sudden I was out of time.

The big question is – what exactly IS this greatness I think I seek? I used to think it was ‘hitting it big’. Well, that definition is different for everyone. In effect, I did hit it big in the radio business when I got hired to do mornings at The Loop in Chicago. That’s a big time station, and radio people were and even still are impressed. Not everyone gets to do that.

My problem was, I didn’t get to STAY doing it. If we were still on the air, I bet I’d have saved a quarter of a million dollars by now. Between the radio salary and comedy gigs and I’m sure I would have kept teaching classes too, I’d be sitting on financial easy street now.

For whatever reason, that’s just not going to be the way it is in this lifetime. Again, I can sit and bitch about it or I can keep slugging and salvage the best I can with the equipment I have left to mine what I can out of the rest of my life and avoid being bitter about what I didn’t get. That’s very easy to do and I’ve seen way too much of that to know it’s a trap.

I’m not going to be Mark Roberts or Billy Gardell or especially Drew Carey. This isn’t a negative statement, it’s simple fact. Those guys went out to L.A. with sky high hopes and dreams and stayed there. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, but I didn’t. I can’t expect to head out there now and catch up for lost time. I chose what I chose for whatever reason, so be it.

That doesn’t mean I can’t have fun though. It also doesn’t mean I can’t build a business right here in the Midwest. I know I can teach people who want to learn about comedy and I’ve proven it hundreds of times. Maybe that’s my way of salvaging some kind of a life.

I’ve got a lot of my plate right now, and it’s time to play it out with careful thought. I’ve pissed away a lot of years, but I have a lot of experience too. This is probably my last shot to really hit anything of note. It’s late in the game and if I’m going to win it, it’ll be soon.


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