Archive for May, 2013

Auto Correct

May 22, 2013

Sunday May 19th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   In the continuing education program that is called life, I think I can cross off yet another lesson I have learned painfully and in the most difficult way. That seems to be the only way to really get the message, and this time I have certainly gotten it and then some. This one will stay with me.

   I have learned and learned well that there is a big difference between being ‘thrifty’ and being a flat out cheapskate, and also that there is NOTHING ‘free’. I thought I had known that already, but apparently I needed a refresher course from the universe. Hopefully this will be the last one.

   What a humongous mistake it turned out to be to accept the ‘free’ 1994 Nissan Sentra from my friend Richard Caan. Richard is a great guy and only had the best of intentions, but his gesture of friendship turned out to be a painful kick square in my ball joints that kept kicking for months.

   On paper, it looked to be a win/win situation. He had just been paid out a healthy chunk from a fender bender his sister had that wasn’t her fault, but the car was still drivable. They had planned on donating it to charity, but Richard knew I put a lot of miles driving to gigs and thought I could benefit from a low mile Japanese car that had never given his mother a problem while she had it.

   In theory, he was correct. Nissan Sentras are supposed to be notoriously dependable and have a stellar track record from all I heard and read. For whatever reason, I got the exception to that rule and I had nothing but one incredibly painful and ridiculously expensive crisis after the next with that rolling turd for as long as I had it and it sucked both my wallet and my spirit completely dry.

   The body work before I could drive it cost $750 for a replacement hood and right fender. If that would have been it – and Richard and I both thought it was – that would have been a sweetheart deal. The car only had 105,000 miles on it, and by all estimation I could have driven it for years.

   Other than the fact the car was red and the hood and fender I had replaced were blue, it wasn’t a bad looking little roller skate. There was one hubcap missing when I got it, but I replaced it and even with the hillbilly two tone it wasn’t as bad as some of the tin cans I have owned in my life.

   Then, the gates of hell opened wide and everything went wrong. First it was the exhaust system that fell off in Springfield, IL. That cost a ridiculous $825. I still can’t believe the exhaust system for a golf cart like that costs that much, but at the Midas Muffler Shop in Springfield, IL it does.

   I didn’t think the exhaust systems of Air Force One or the Space Shuttle would cost that much, but I thought since I planned on keeping it a while I’d invest and that would be it. HA! That was just the beginning. The brakes were a bit spongy, and that cost $350. I needed a new battery and battery cables, and that cost $125. The right headlight blew out and that was $45. It didn’t stop.

   Then I had a problem with the driver’s door. It wouldn’t stay closed in the dead of winter, and for a while I had to crawl in through the passenger side and get sodomized by my own gear shift. It was $150 to fix that. Then the alternator blew on my way to a gig and that was another $250 – plus a tow.

   I don’t even want to add all that up, because it would just depress me more. I was being flat out cheap rather than thrifty, and it was a big mistake to think I’d be able to get a free car. I really do appreciate Richard’s kind offer, but if I ever get another one from anyone I’m going to run in the opposite direction as fast as I can. I have learned my lesson. NOTHING in this life is ever ‘free’.

Out with the old...

Out with the old…

...in with the next one. This is my 124th vehicle.

…in with the next one. This is my 124th vehicle.

Begging For Boring

May 19, 2013

Saturday May 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   It’s raining…it’s pouring…but life isn’t boring. That’s too bad, as I would gladly welcome a bit of boredom right now. In fact, I’d like more than a bit. Twenty years of steady work for great pay in quality venues sounds fantastic. Sign me up today, and I’ll gladly be bored without complaint.

   In the mean time, I’m trying to figure out how the hell I’m going to make it through these next few months financially – and then the few months after that. I’ve been taking it in the shorts over and over, and it’s cleaning my clock. I can use a windfall from somewhere, and I can use it soon.

   And to take the week’s exploits further into the toilet – literally – I was in and out of the crapper  all day due to something I must have eaten yesterday. I had to stop about an hour after dinner last night, and that was a red flag. Bill Gorgo is a fellow road dog, so he got off the road immediately and found a gas station. Everyone who has done road time has had to find a bathroom in a hurry.

   There’s nothing scarier than being miles away from civilization and feeling ‘the urge’. It comes out of nowhere, but commands full attention when it arrives. Nothing on Earth takes precedence during that intense period, and until the situation gets resolved it becomes one’s complete focus. 

   We did find a gas station, but it was a few miles of hell before we got there. I was pinching my cheeks and praying for strength, and every mile we drove seemed like 100. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold it even ten seconds longer, but we got there and I got my pants down with no time to spare. That’s a hilarious situation when it happens to someone else, but sheer fright when it’s me.

   I could tell there was something wrong by how fast and intensely it had hit me, and it happened again five minutes after I got home. I was up and down all night and several times today, and I’m not 100% positive what it was that caused that reaction. Whatever it was, I hope it’s cleared out.

   I did eat some potato salad, something I don’t have very often. There was mayonnaise in it and some hard boiled eggs, so who knows if that was sitting out for a while? Whatever the case, I put my time in on the throne all day, and it wasn’t expected. Again, some boredom would be a treat.

   It’s not easy to eat right on the road, and even though I’ve been trying I’ve been falling short in my efforts more than I’d like to. If I really go off course, I’ll be dealing with diabetes and all that goes with it and I don’t want to go back down that road. I came as close to that as I ever want to.

   I basically laid around all day, but I needed the rest. I would have loved to be working tonight, but what happened this week happened and it’s too late to undo it. I took another hit, and nothing I can do will make up for it other than buying a lottery ticket – which I did. It’s forced optimism.

   I can either slide into the mental abyss and let myself be miserable, or I can force myself to get back up one more time and keep fighting. I really didn’t feel like fighting, but what other options are there? Giving up is not the answer – even though there are times when that looks like the best option. This is one of those times, but I know that’s exactly why I need to dig in and slug it out.

   In a way it feels like I’m starting all over again, and I kind of am. A performer is only as good as his or her last performance, and right now I’m between stages. That’s always an adventure of epic proportions, and never the same twice. I’d love to be bored with a full calendar and not have to sweat so much if and when a glitch happens as happened this week. Variety can be overrated.

A Wasted Weekend

May 18, 2013

Friday May 17th, 2013 – Sparta, WI/Fox Lake, IL

   Here we go again. Three hideous words I’ve never wanted any part of have showed up to party with me this weekend – ‘worst case scenario’. I’m all too familiar with them, and they’re like the weirdo group of relatives we all have that make us cringe every time they come over for a visit.

   In a nutshell, I cancelled two solid dates of work this weekend to instead work with my friends Bill Gorgo and Jim Wiggins in what was supposed to be a two night booking near Minneapolis. I adore both of those guys, and we were all looking forward to a stellar weekend onstage and off.

   As it happened, the booker of the shows we were allegedly scheduled for didn’t have any hotel rooms for us and was counting on us staying in some sort of one room frat shack or something. If there’s one thing comedians are used to, it’s being put up in a hotel. It may not be the Hilton and it usually isn’t, but we don’t as a rule have to bunk up like cowboys on the range. We get a room.

   One thing apparently led to another, and Jim ended up pulling the plug on the whole thing. I do see why he did it, but it also left a gaping hole in all of our schedules – mine not only for a week but for the month. I was counting on money this weekend, and now not only won’t I make a cent – it cost out of pocket to split gas with Bill. No gig means no chance to sell DVDs or CDs either.

   I’m not so much angry as frustrated and just plain tired of dealing with small time flea bookers where this is even an issue. The three of us combined probably have close to 100 years of service and to have this kind of stuff go on this late into the game is not right. It’s disrespectful to us all.

  That guy would have gotten three solid headliners – two with national TV credits. Jim has done two ‘Tonight Show’ spots and I’ve been on Craig Ferguson. Bill is a solid act, and can headline a club with the best of them. We only took the gig because we wanted to spend time with our good friend Jim who happens to be going through extremely painful chemotherapy for the third time.    

   This whole situation stinks, but there’s nothing I can do about it now. I could have blown up at the booker or even Jim, but what would that prove? I’ve tried that angle more than once, and it’s not the way to handle things. I found that out the hard way, and ended up badly burning bridges.  

   This is no time to be burning bridges with anyone. What it is is time to smarten up and improve my way of doing business. In retrospect, I had gigs booked for this weekend and when Jim asked if I was open I should have politely said no. I love him like few other comedian friends, but I am really in a pickle because of this. We could have come for a visit any one of too many off days.

   We did have some quality face time together as Jim bought us a delicious lunch at a local joint near his house in Sparta WI, but that was the most expensive free lunch I’ve had in years. We all lost out, and no matter how much fun we had hanging out the fact remains our wallets are empty.

   Part of the problem is we as comedians often get used to being treated like whipped puppies by bully club owners, and we choose to accept it rather than make waves and possibly lose work for any reason. Another part is we don’t enjoy the booking part of the business. We’re performers.

   Unfortunately, we’re going to have to change in a hurry or insanity like this will keep popping up out of the blue and making life very unpleasant. I love Bill and Jim, but from now on I’ll have to love them under more stable circumstances. I’m disappointed – and my creditors will be also.

No Leakers

May 17, 2013

Thursday May 16th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   My grandfather told me the hardest challenge of all in life is to be both a success and a quality person. He said successful people often become corrupt and quality people often fail to become a success. It was basically an elongated version of “Nice guys finish last”, but Gramps was correct.

   Only a very special few ever manage to do both – but that’s my goal and always has been. I am well aware I just might fail miserably in the end, and at the moment I appear to be headed in that direction – but the game isn’t over yet, and every day above ground I still have a fighting chance.

   It may only be a teeny weeny chance that’s getting teenier and weenier by the minute, but until there’s a click of my coffin lid I technically still have a shot at the grand prize. I wouldn’t want it if I had to screw someone over to attain it, but many times that’s part of the deal. It can get ugly.

   On the other hand, I don’t want to live the rest of my days like a vagrant either. There has to be some kind of happy medium, doesn’t there? There is a sweet spot located somewhere in between ‘nice guy’ and ‘success’, but it’s kind of like the sweet spot surfers look for inside a huge wave.

   There’s a lot of effort required to find that giant wave in the first place, and then there’s danger thrown into the mix by choosing to maneuver the surf board into that little space so precious few ever reach. One could wipe out in an instant, and it’s all over. But riding that wave is a big thrill.

   I’m not going to lie; I want to ride the big wave. I want to be able to feel that thrill of achieving something rare and special that nobody can ever take away. But I also want to be a generous soul and known for being ethical to the bone. There’s an extra amount of effort required to get there.

   The hardest pill to swallow is nobody really cares. Donald Trump is known for being a success but it doesn’t matter how he got there. He inherited a few million and turned it into a quite a few more, but does it matter if he’s a nice person or not? Not really, and especially not during a deal.

   There are all kinds of nice people that haven’t achieved a damn thing, but nobody thinks less of them for it. They’re known for being generous, and quite often those are the ones that successful people exploit the most. They’re willing to go the extra mile, and they do get taken advantage of.

   I don’t know why any of this matters so much to me, but it totally does. I want to be both good at what I do and a good person on top of that, and I don’t care how much extra effort it takes. I’m not going to be satisfied doing anything less, and even if I fail I think it’s a worthwhile pursuit.

   One of the most important parts of attaining this status is surrounding myself with both decent and successful people and learning from both. There can be a different mindset involved, and it’s easy to get lost in one or the other. Maintaining a healthy balance is the goal, but man is it hard.

   I’m not trying to paint myself as a saint, and I have more faults than anyone. I screw up all the time, and am nowhere near attaining the status I seem to seek so badly. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still on my mind every single day, and it also doesn’t mean I won’t get what I’m going for.

   Every day is another chance to inch closer to where I want to be. I’m getting a lot of good done of late, but I also know I have a lot more to do. Sometimes I think I’m over my head, but I won’t ever lower my standards. I know myself, and if I did that I’d be unfulfilled and miserable. If I’m going to do it, I want to do it on my terms surrounded by the highest quality people. NO leakers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Clearing The Air

May 16, 2013

Wednesday May 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I got up much earlier than I had intended to this morning to do a comedy segment on the ‘Stone and Double T Show’ on WXRX ‘The X’ in Rockford, IL. I really like those guys, and we usually do a weekly call in bit on Monday mornings. We missed this week, so they rescheduled it today.

   I have mixed feelings about doing that show, but it’s fun so if they keep calling I’ll keep doing it. The guys themselves are great, but I’m not sure if anyone who listens to that station likes what I do. It’s really hard edged rock, and that’s just not my audience as a rule. I try to be entertaining, but I’ve never once had anyone come to any show I’ve done saying they’d heard me on ‘The X’.

   Does that mean I should stop doing it? That’s a tough call. It doesn’t hurt to get radio exposure, but it’s not helping either. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years on the wrong radio stations, and I think some of my best work has fallen on deaf ears. It’s discouraging, but that’s how it’s been.

    I still can’t believe I’ve worked for THREE country radio stations. Yikes. I’m not a fan of that genre at all, even though I grew to respect it during my tenure. That’s not my audience either, but those are the stations I was able to get jobs so that’s where I went. It makes me have doubts as to the competence of radio in general if they’d hire me three times at country stations, but they did.

   I’m also experiencing serious doubts about continuing to host ‘The Mothership Connection’ on AM 1050 WLIP in Kenosha, WI. Again, it’s great fun but who’s listening? It’s a small station in Kenosha, WI with a weak night time signal. We do have a certain amount of loyal listeners every week who hear us live and a few more on the net, but is it enough to keep doing it? I’d think not.

   I wish the show came with a paycheck, but it doesn’t. How can I generate one? I don’t have the slightest idea. I have a meeting with John Perry from the station tomorrow and we’ll either come up with a plan to earn some money or I’ll shake his hand and thank him for the fun opportunity.

   The ultimate goal is to get on a station that fits my personality, and find a way to stay on the air and get paid. That’s proven to be a whole lot easier said than done, but unfortunately being taken off the air has not been my fault. If I could manage to put together a nice run somewhere that has a listener base in my wheel house, I’ll be set for life. But I’d also be set for life if I hit the lottery.

   Unfortunately, the odds seem to be about the same. Every time I get on a station that would be a fit, something happens to end it prematurely. ‘The Loop’ in Chicago was a perfect fit, but just as we were starting to get some legs we got fired. Then I was part of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ with Jerry Agar, Ken Sevara and Tim Slagle on both WLS and WGN in Chicago. That was also a winner.

   Had Jerry not been blown out the door, we’d still be on the air and have that coveted following I’ve not been able to attain no matter how hard I’ve tried. For some reason, I just haven’t had the chance to gel at a place that fits. I love being on with Stone and Double T, but they’re not where I’m ever going to get any mass recognition. If they were Bob and Tom, I’d be a national draw.

   I have a hard time figuring out where the radio business is headed as a whole. It’s always been insane, but there was a certain air of mystery about it. Local programming was plentiful and of a high quality. Now everything is pre recorded in another city and it’s very impersonal. I’d love to have a steady job somewhere, but I don’t know of any that exist. The Stone and Double T shows of the world are becoming rarer and rarer, and that’s a shame. Radio’s best days are behind it.

Hail To The Mentors

May 16, 2013

Tuesday May 14th, 2013 – Milwaukee, WI

   Hooray for the mentors of the world. They provide insight and wisdom to those climbing up an invisible and often difficult ladder, and all too often their unselfish efforts go underappreciated or worse yet not appreciated at all. I for one have always been grateful to my mentors, and still am.

   In the radio business, my main mentor when I started was Pat Martin. Pat is a radio lifer who is just as passionate about the business today as he was when I met him in the late ‘80s. He’s spent his life learning his craft like I’ve spent mine in comedy, and he knows what he’s talking about.

   I can’t thank Pat enough for all he’s done for me through the years. He was the first to suggest I give morning radio a shot, as he thought I had the natural ability to do it well. He lent me a tape program he recorded about getting into the radio business, and it was very nice of him to do that.

   We kept in contact, and eventually Pat turned me on to my first job in Lansing, MI at WMMQ in 1990. Another contact of his was Dan Balla. He was the Program Director there who needed a morning show in a hurry after his last guy had some personal problems and needed some rehab.

   Pat was doing us both a favor, and I ended up getting the job. It was shaky to say the least, and then Dan ended up moving on to another gig in Oklahoma City and left me in Lansing in a rotten situation. That station was as dysfunctional as radio gets – and that says a lot. It was an education of the highest order, but after six tumultuous months I’d had enough. I quit to return to comedy.

   I don’t blame Pat for the situation in Lansing, even though I still tease him about it. He wanted to see me get a morning gig, and I did. I didn’t get fired, and in fact they wanted to sign me for a new contract. I didn’t do it, and Pat was my main source for advice at that time. He really helped.

   Through all my roller coaster radio adventures, Pat was the one person I could count on to give me an honest assessment of what was going on. He was always proud of me for landing jobs, and told many people that I was a ‘comedic genius’. Hearing that from a third party is very flattering.

   One year when I was really down and out and between jobs, Pat and his wife Jennifer made it a point to invite me over for Thanksgiving and I’ll never forget it. Pat insisted we watch the movie ‘The Party’ starring Peter Sellers, which remains one of my favorite comedy moves to this day.

   I also have to admit that it was Pat that suggested I use ‘Mr. Lucky’ as my comedy persona. He was always making suggestions, and even though I didn’t always agree I appreciated him taking the time to do it. I knew he was always in my corner, and he was only trying to help me advance.

   Today is Pat’s birthday, and it was this day years ago when the Mr. Lucky incident happened. I took him out for a birthday lunch, and the waitress got my order completely wrong while getting Pat’s order – which was a lot more complicated – absolutely perfect. The more that went wrong, the more Pat laughed. He said “There’s your persona. You’re Mr. Lucky.” I knew he was right.

   I had a ton of other things to do today, but I couldn’t let Pat’s birthday pass without taking him out for another lunch. I drove to Milwaukee to hang out with him, and I was disappointed that he didn’t have a line of his disciples waiting to do the same. I’m by far not the only one he’s helped, but that’s par for the course with great mentors. They’re rarely appreciated enough, even though they’re constantly of a giving nature. If nobody else is grateful for Pat’s kindness, I certainly am.

Facing The Music

May 15, 2013

Monday May 13th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL  

   Here’s another major life’s regret to toss on my ever growing pile: I never made the investment of time and energy to create music. I really wish I would have taken an opportunity at some point to at least learn the basics of music so I could have added it to my repertoire of creative outlets.

   I’m not saying I would have made a career of it or even attempted to, but I really think it would have added all kinds of interesting angles to everything I’ve already done. It would have been the perfect fit for my already ‘out there’ left handed creative mind set, and I think I missed the boat.

   I can’t sing a lick, and I know it. That’s just not in me, but I think playing some instrument and especially writing songs would definitely have been for me. It’s a craft and art form just like joke writing is, and I think a lot of the same brain cells are used to create each. I live for that process.

   I remember reading somewhere that Steve Allen had written thousands of songs throughout his life – even though I can’t think of even one hit. It doesn’t matter I guess, the process is rewarding if nothing else. It can be financially lucrative too, I suppose. Hit songs are what pay royalties for a lifetime. People want to hear them over and over and over again. Who ever wrote a ‘hit joke’?

   The creative side of the music and comedy crafts may be the same, but getting one’s chops are completely different. A comedian has to go up and suffer constant pain in front of live audiences for years until he or she learns the ropes. A musician can haul out the old bassoon or piccolo and practice alone in the privacy of his or her own room. It’s still difficult, but not nearly as public.

   As a kid, I don’t remember being around live music at all. Nobody in my family plays anything but the radio, so it’s not like I was born into the Jackson or Osmond clan and given a tambourine for my first birthday. Plus I’m very Caucasian, so that may have impeded my progress as well.

   My natural inner rhythm may not be there from the start, but I bet I could have learned the craft and fit in on some level had I been offered more of an opportunity. I remember farting around on a cheap used guitar when I was around ten years old, and then my grandfather bought a keyboard organ from Kmart for some reason. I aped around on that too, but never had any formal lessons.

   Being left handed didn’t help with any dreams I may have had of becoming a guitar hero. Left handed guitars are like left handed golf clubs. They’re out there, but really rare. I never did have a chance to even see if I liked it or not. Maybe I would have hated it, or maybe I’d be a star now.

   One thing I would have been is eccentric and eclectic. I’m already that now, but it’s not a bad thing in the creative arts. I adore artistic kooks, and always have. George Clinton is one of those, and I mean it as a sincere compliment. He’s brilliant, but out there. Other names that pop into my head that did or do their own thing are Sun Ra, Frank Zappa, Alice Cooper and Thomas Dolby.

   I bet I would have written some interesting songs by now to say the least. I have a comic style, and I’m sure I’d have a music style as well. I love a well written song, especially one that tells an interesting or unique story. Was (Not Was) writes a lot of songs like that, as does Bernie Taupin.

   I suppose I could start taking some lessons now, but I think it’s way too late to make any noise on a serious level. I’d be just another half baked hack hobbyist, but I don’t need any more speed bumps in my path. I did what I did, now I have to live with it. Comedy keeps me busy enough.

The Unfixable Hole

May 13, 2013

Sunday May 12th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

    Depending on the year, certain holidays hit me in different ways. Christmas can be a source of major pain one year, but not so bad the next two or three. Father’s Day has also drudged up some ugly memories I’d rather forget, but try as I might they still find their way to the top of my head.

    I wasn’t even thinking about Mother’s Day, but I happened to turn on my radio and listened to sports talk radio of all things and heard ball players giving shout outs to their moms and thanking them for all their support through the years. After a few minutes of that I was feeling mighty low.

   It drove the point home again and again that I got cheated out of one of the most basic elements of human life, and I’ve lost out on more than I realize. If my mother was dead I could put closure to the situation, but as far as I know she’s still alive somewhere and the whole situation rots ass.

   I have very few memories of my mother, and those I do have are far from pleasant. She left my father, two older siblings and me when I was five months old, and that’s when I went to live with my paternal grandparents who raised me until age 17. My mother stayed away and it really hurts.

   This is pain I can share with few others. A mother is supposed to be the one who’s there for the tough times – not be the source of them. I’ve tried to push this to the back of my mind since I can remember. Today it came back. There’s a dark empty corner of my soul I don’t know how to fill.

   I wanted to forget about it and ‘just move on’ and ‘get over it’ like so many have told me, even though not one of those self taught know it all back alley aspiring Dr. Phils of the world have felt anywhere close to a crushing blow like that themselves. They think they’ve got all the answers.

   Nobody I know has any of those answers, including me. How does someone deal with such an ugly situation? I wish I knew. My whole life I’ve tried to suck it up and do the best I could with what I have, but that hasn’t been effective. All these years later, I’m still a lost kid. I need a hug.

   If she were to come out of the woodwork again, I’m not sure I’d want to see her. I don’t think I would feel any better, and every other time I’ve seen her in my life it has been nothing but brutal to the psyche and a waste of my time. I’m not going to get what I want, and that’s the way it is.

   I’m writing about all this so openly because I hope I’m able to touch someone who reads it and has something maybe as painful in their life. I don’t know anyone to talk to that I think can relate to what I’m going through, and that makes it worse. Keeping it all quiet just adds to the isolation.

   This is an inner torture I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but I don’t know how to get rid of it. It’s drained me for a lifetime, and continues to be a source of agony. I drove around in a funk all day, and it didn’t help when I wanted to stop for lunch at three of my favorite restaurants and lines were out the door because it was Mother’s Day and people were enjoying their family meal.

   That added gas to the fire, and I was hurting so badly I thought of ways to end my life without leaving a mess for someone else to have to clean up. Why am I even here? No matter how much success I may ever achieve, there will always be this ugly void in my life. It’s the unfixable hole.

   I’ve been far down like this before on Christmases and Father’s Days and even Thanksgivings. I usually move on and keep slugging, but it always sucks a little more out of my soul. If you have loving parents and a family, be grateful. It can’t be bought, and without it life has little meaning.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Viva Tom Wilson!

May 12, 2013

Saturday May 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the briefest words of encouragement can really make a difference. Today I received an email from Tom Wilson, and it really cheered me up. Tom is a hilarious comedian and also an outstanding actor. Unfortunately, most people only know him as ‘Biff Tannen’ of the Back to the Future movies. While that was a tremendous career break, it is by far not all of what Tom does.

   I had a chance to work with him several years ago at Zanies in Chicago, and he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He wasn’t pretentious or aloof or anything other than a fellow comic out there trying to make a living. He was very approachable, and we enjoyed our week together.

   Whenever I’ve been around ‘celebrity types’, I have always gone out of my way to not jump in their face and try to buddy up to them and be their false friend. I’m sure they get that to the point of nausea, so I try to keep my distance and if they want to talk I let them take the lead. I’m sure it isn’t the smartest business move, but to me they’re people first. That’s how I’d like to be treated.

   As the week with Tom went on, I felt we were hitting it off pretty well so I decided to bring up the whole Back to the Future experience. I imagined (correctly as it turns out) that he’s as sick as sick can be of talking about it, so I brought it up very delicately. I politely asked if he would care to talk about it, and if he didn’t want to I would totally understand. He graciously said he would.

   His is a situation that’s very unique. He was a comedian in the ‘80s during the boom years, and landed a hefty role in a movie. Not only that, it was one of the biggest movies not of the year but the decade. Not only that, there were not one but two successful sequels. On paper, it would be a dream come true for any comedian of that era – of which I was one too. In reality, not so much.

   The first thing everyone assumes dead wrongly is that because a person is in a film he or she is automatically rich forever. Not true. Yes, Tom was paid for his role but that money is long gone and there isn’t an endless supply of royalty checks that show up in his mailbox. He was an actor.

   He didn’t write or direct any of the films, and was basically an employee like a ball player is an employee of the team he plays for. They get paid too, but it’s the same thing. When the money is gone – it’s gone. Baseball players from 1985 are not still getting paid for games they played then.

   The other thing Tom has had to deal with is the uniqueness of the iconic character he played. It was a fantastic role and he totally nailed it, but he said every day of his life no matter where he is he has to hear “Hellooo, McFLY” from 99.9% of everyone he meets. After a while it gets to be a pain in the Flux Capacitor, and I totally understand. I can see where it would be a hideous curse.

   To his credit, Tom is such a class guy he says he feels he owes fans of the movie their moment with him so he plays along whenever he can. I consider myself very accommodating to fans that approach me, but Tom is at a whole other level. He gets it every single day of his life and has for decades. No matter how nice anyone is, I can see it becoming pure torture. Tom handles it well.

   If you’ve never seen Tom’s comedy act, I urge you to do so. He has an outstanding way to deal with the whole Biff thing by doing a funny song about it right up front. It explains everything to the audience, and then he’s free to just be funny – which he totally is. www.tomwilsonusa.com is his website and you can follow him on Twitter @TomWilsonUSA. He’s much more than his role as Biff Tannen- even though it was a stellar one. People like Tom make me proud to be a comic.

Financial Insecurity

May 12, 2013

Friday May 10th, 2013 – Caledonia, WI

   Like it or not, I have to knuckle down and make some money. On this cosmic plane, I have not figured out a way to get over the financial hump, and it absolutely stinks. I keep hearing tall tales of how people start with a piece of lint and a gum wrapper and turn it into millions, but I bet nine of ten of those tales aren’t more than fabricated fluff and nothing else. Getting rich is a real bitch.

   Yes people do win the lottery and even businesses hit it big, but more often than not people get in a financial rut and stay there throughout their lives. It’s getting harder to make an honest buck than ever before, and those that do are getting taxed up the poop shoot so why even attempt it?

   One thing I know it’s not is easy. The snake bastards who peddle “no money down” real estate courses on late night TV are oilier than Justin Bieber’s complexion, but the greedy couch maggot masses still get sucked in by the idea of making easy millions without doing anything to earn it.

   I’ve always been willing to earn it, but how? I’ve been so busy focusing on creative endeavors, studying financial fundamentals has been left behind. This is true for millions besides me, and in no way have I ever thought I was alone. The clock ticks, and I need to start socking away cash.

   But it’s so damn difficult without stability. One week or month will go well, but then there will be some fallouts or unexpected bills and before I know it I’m back in the hole deeper than I ever was. If I had more stable income I could plan better, but who does these days? It’s not realistic.

   Then there are those who inherit a hefty wad. Wouldn’t that be sweet? Without a doubt, but too bad for me – everyone in my family tree that could possibly have left me something is now dead and I didn’t get a nickel. I’m not asking for millions, but it would be nice to have a little security.

   It’s no fun floating aimlessly like a dead fish from week to week. Struggling to scrape together a living takes away a lot of creative energy that could be spent on much more meaningful things. I’d much rather be planning a benefit show to help a worthy cause than hoping my rent gets paid.

   I thought for sure I’d be financially secure by now, and by all rights I should be. I was lined up perfectly with my radio job at The Loop in 2004, and that would have been it. I would have had a great run of comedy to go along with the radio and by now I bet I’d have enough saved to retire.

   Woulda, coulda, shoulda. The whole world came crashing down, and it was no fault of my own but I sure am suffering all these years later. Had I been able to get another gig or have time to put another plan together I may be sitting in a different spot altogether. But I didn’t. I had to get back out and start piecing together a living in this cold cruel world where few care about anyone else.

   I thought about all this more than a little today as I loaded a container with trinkets and baubles I’ve been buying at thrift stores and flea markets to take to a person to help me sell on Ebay for a profit. I hope. I don’t have time to fart around with it myself, but I’m trying to start an income so I’m hiring someone to do it for me. It’s a friend of a friend, and I have no idea if it will work out.

  What else can I do but keep slugging? I defy anyone to start from ground zero and get rich with no help from anyone. I’m sure it’s been done and will continue to be done – but it’s about as rare as rappers who say ‘ask’. The odds are stacked against us, even in America. Sorry to say, it’s not the easy cakewalk we’re lead to believe. I’m doing my best, but I could use a break about now.