Two Weeks Til Tribute


Sunday April 8th, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   Just two short weeks to go and counting until the big C. Cardell Willis tribute at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, and I have no idea if anyone is going to show up. I’ve been doing my best to get the message out for several months now, but I won’t know for sure what will happen until that night.

I’d like to have some kind of concrete guarantee other than “Well – I will TRY to make it out,” but that’s all I’ve got at the moment. My ugliest fear is that nobody will show, and I’ll be there in that big room by myself with some other comedians and have hall rental to pay out of my pocket.

Sad to say, that has happened before – and in the very same room no less. I tried to do a benefit for the homeless there in 1991, and I lost my ass and almost became one myself. I’d just lost my job at 93QFM but had already made a commitment to do the show. I couldn’t plug it on the radio so to add insult to injury I had to pay money out of my pocket for ads in some local newspapers.

Nobody showed up, and it was the longest night of my life. Well, that’s not true. A few people did show up – just barely enough to make us have to do a show and prolong the agony. Had there been actual zero, we could have at least saved our dignity and left with only our wallets empty.

That entire situation was an absolute nightmare, and the stench still reeks on twenty years later. I don’t know if it was anyone’s fault, but it happened and I was the one left holding the giant bag of flaming horse apples. All I wanted to do was help out a good cause, but it blew up in my face.

I’ve done that so many times in my life, I’ve lost count. I keep saying it’s the last time until the next event for charity comes around, and then it happens again. I can’t guarantee it won’t happen this time too, but the reason I’m doing it makes it worth the risk. This event has meaning to me.

The others did too, but this one is extra special. Cardell Willis was a kind soul, and in my book of all time personal heroes and mentors he’s right up there with Gramps and precious few others. Cardell never got his due when he was here, just like I don’t think Gramps did. I know I’m not in charge of right and wrong in the world, but it seemed like the right thing to do to pay this tribute.

It’s a respect thing. Gratitude too. Will anyone pay tribute to me several years after I’ve left the planet? That remains to be seen. I do know there seems to be a growing faction of those who will enthusiastically celebrate, but that’s up to them. I’m not trying to do anything other than my best with the cards I was dealt in life, and Cardell helped me at a time when I really needed a mentor.

There are a lot of others in Milwaukee’s comedy history that know what a quality human being Cardell was, and they’ll join me two weeks from tonight to take a little time out from the insanity of this out of control planet we’re trapped on to say thanks to a special friend who cared for us.

He’s gone physically, but his memory and influence live on. The event will be at Shank Hall in Milwaukee on April 22nd, 2012 at 8:00. Donation at the door is $11 to honor a joke Cardell used to do about being broke. “I’m down to $11 – two ones.”  Get more info at www.shankhall.com.

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