Posts Tagged ‘Catch A Rising Star’

Reno A-1-1

December 31, 2012

Sunday December 30th, 2012 – Reno, NV  

    My week in Reno comes to a close, and I’m bittersweet about it. I have a lot of great friends in town, and I had a lot of fun seeing and hearing from all of them. I even made a few new ones for when I come back – and I sincerely hope I do. For whatever reason, I mesh well with this place.

I often wonder how my life would have turned out had my radio job stuck in 1996. Bill Schulz is still here, and he’s a local media fixture. Maybe I could have had that status too, or maybe I’d have moved to the Bay Area since it’s so close. I’m sure at the very least I’d be working more of the comedy scene there, in addition to Sacramento and probably the Pacific Northwest as well.

The mountains are stunningly beautiful, and I have always done well comedy wise out this way. For whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be and I folded up my tent and moved on after only nine short months. Or was it ten? It wasn’t a whole year, I do know that – but I still have friends here.

Bill Schulz is at the top of the list for many reasons, and it was great to see him again and be on his morning show. We also got together with a group to take in some football this afternoon, and even though our mutually beloved Packers lost a last second heartbreaker, we had fun anyway.

I hadn’t watched a game since the Packers were embarrassed by the Colts months ago, and I’ve spent those three hour chunks doing all kinds of other things. I wouldn’t have watched any of the game today if I hadn’t been invited. I went for the friendship, and that’s a good thing because the sting of a bitter defeat in the last second usually puts me in a foul mood. Today, I barely noticed.

I was having too much fun hanging out with Bill and the rest of our group. Rick D’Elia showed up, and he’s another one of my favorite people and comedians as is Dave Mencarelli. They aren’t Packer fans, so we hung out and talked about a lot of things from life to comedy to other sports.

One of my new friends this week is Mike Healey. His title at Catch A Rising Star is ‘Executive Host’ and he’s great at it. He takes the headliner to the radio show, and oversees things in general when needed at the club and he’s a super interesting guy. He’s a former marine and also a former highway patrolman and he’s got some riveting stories that kept me entertained the whole week.

Someone I didn’t get to see in person but called me tonight was Marty Beimer. Marty formerly worked with Bill Schulz doing mornings on the oldies station KODS when I was here. Marty is a curmudgeonly sour pussed, cynical complainer – and I mean that with nothing but love. I would have LOVED to have him as a partner, as we would have stirred up the monkeys and then some. When I lived here, he always went out of his way to be kind and I appreciated it then and still do.

Marty went through some excruciating back surgery a while back, and was in a coma for three months. He knows what pain is, and I completely respect him for his immense talent on the radio and what he’s been through with his health issues. He’s super intelligent and can make me laugh out loud, and not many people who aren’t full time comedians can do that consistently. Having a group of such spectacular friends in one town doesn’t happen often, and I loved this whole week.

A Delightful Catch

December 28, 2012

Friday December 28th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   Now that I’ve survived the hassles of actually getting here, this is an easy gig. Most casino gigs are, and I love the perks that come with them most other bookings don’t have. The hotel situation is usually far superior, and meals are often comped. That’s the case here, and it makes life easier.

My room is on the 32nd floor, away from the elevator and maid station so it’s very quiet. I’m an exceptionally sound sleeper and always have been, but comedians are usually relegated back into the bowels of the hotel in the noisiest room possible and it’s nice to not have to worry about that.

The food deal is a winner too. They give us comp tickets for a delicious buffet that’s exactly in between my room and the club, and once I get off the elevator it’s about a 30 second walk. It’s a self contained complex and I don’t have to step outside one time all week if I don’t feel like it.

The audiences are transient in gigs like this – much like the audiences on cruise ships. I’m very familiar with how to work audiences like this, and my experience does me well. I have worked in 99% of the places the people are from, so I know how to personalize it and they always love that.

Another perk here is how nice the staff is. They’re competent too, and that makes for a week of comedic bliss. Half of the staff works for the Silver Legacy Casino and the other half are paid by Catch A Rising Star. Most of them have been here for years, and they all seem to get along great.

I felt a warmth when I walked in the door on the first night, and it’s continued each night since. There’s always a feeling out period when a new headliner works at a club for the first time, and it happens on both sides. The staff watches to see how the comic treats them and the comic that has experience can usually sense pretty quickly the kind of week it will be by the vibe from the staff.

Another perk this week is the house emcee Gary Rafanelli. He’s a veteran lounge entertainer of the highest order, and that’s no insult by any means. He’s a fantastic musician, and warms up the crowd with a few songs on the piano. He really gets them going, and it sets the mood splendidly.

He’s an outstanding entertainer, and it gets the crowd focused on the stage. He’s also part of an ABBA tribute band, and apparently they do very well. He’s been great to work with, as is my old friend Dave Mencarelli who got me in here in the first place. All around, this is a wonderful gig.

Again, the problem remains how to keep getting them every single week. Gary was saying how it’s the same for musicians, as the amount of lounge work has gone way down as well. He’s great at what he does, and he’s been in the Reno market since 1976 so I’m sure he gets the gravy gigs.

It’s a big numbers game. For what I’m doing, the number of venues is shrinking by the minute while the number of those who can do the job is increasing. I know I am lucky to be booked this week, but I’m also very qualified to do the job. Now I need to keep getting into more venues like this in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and anywhere else there’s live entertainment. This was worth my effort, even though the travel back and forth is a constant pain. Unemployment hurts even more.

The Silver Legacy - a fantastic hotel and casino.

The Silver Legacy – a fantastic hotel and casino.

Catch A Rising Star  - Reno's BEST comedy club!

Catch A Rising Star – Reno’s BEST comedy club!

Gary Rafanelli - what a talent!

Gary Rafanelli – what a talent!

Breathing Easier

December 27, 2012

Wednesday December 26th, 2012 – Reno, NV

   I always breathe a little easier on December 26th, knowing another Christmas is finally OVER. Some years are better than others, but for some reason this one was a nasty bastard. I would love nothing more than to ‘get over it’ or ‘turn the frown upside down’ like a lot of well meaning but completely clueless people like to say, but it’s just not that easy. If it were, I would have done it.

It’s like Superman being bound and gagged and lowered into an Olympic sized swimming pool full of kryptonite, and then people wondering why he can’t get out. Everyone has their weakness, and this is mine. It’s also a big hurdle for most dented cans. Family pain haunts us for a lifetime.

I wish I could ‘fix it’, but it’s beyond my capability. I’m too busy out there slugging it out on a daily basis trying to keep the bills paid. Who’s got extra money to see a doctor and get some help when every penny I’m making is going to pay rent, keep my car running, feed myself and get my IRS debt shrunk down? I couldn’t support a family right now if I wanted to – but I really want to.

Had life worked like it looked like it was going to, I’d be sitting pretty working at The Loop in Chicago doing the morning show with my good friends Spike Manton and Max Bumgardner. We would be making a great living, and having a blast doing it. I’d be known around Chicago and an absolute champion for charitable causes across the board. It was right in our grasp, and then not.

I still can’t figure out why it went down like it did – but it did and the last several years haven’t been a shadow of what they could have been. An opportunity like that doesn’t come often, and it came at a time when we were all ready for it. We would have been great in that role, but it’s out of our hands now and that’s another reason the holidays stink. We were fired on December 17th.

My whole life would have been better on so many levels, but it isn’t and here I sit by myself in Reno trying to pay bills for another week. It’s hard as hell not to be bitter or depressed about the way things worked out, but I’m trying my best to hang in there and keep fighting. It’s a struggle.

I realize I’m not the only one in a rough spot, but sometimes that doesn’t help. My own issues seem insurmountable, and I feel like I’m Superman in that pool of kryptonite. Once I get out I’m confident I’ll be able to get my super powers back, but while I’m down it feels like it’s hopeless.

This week in Reno at Catch A Rising Star will be fun. The first show tonight was solid and the club is beautiful. The staff is all friendly, and they’ve been working there for years so they have a grip on how to do things correctly. I could tell in the first two minutes I was going to like it here, and I have no doubt shows will go well all week. Tonight’s show was a great way to kick it off.

Working in places like this every week for decent pay would help relieve a lot of pressure and make life a lot more relaxed. If I knew I was booked out for a year or even six months, I’d have a little breathing room and be able to get caught up and get my head together. I can ace the shows, it’s having to hunt down the bookings every week that’s the hassle. For this week, I’ll be alright. Christmas is over, and so is my dream gig at The Loop. It’s time to get myself back in a groove.

Too Tight Travel

December 24, 2012

Sunday December 23rd, 2012 – Kenosha, WI

   I’m going to have my hands full and then some schedule wise this next week or so, and I’m not thrilled about it. The constant nerve wracking pressure of having to get somewhere on a deadline puts me on edge, but that’s part of being an entertainer. If I don’t get to the gig, I don’t get paid.

I’m working in Reno this week at Catch A Rising Star in the Silver Legacy hotel. I’m happy to be working there, as I’ll bet I have been trying to get in there for at least ten years. I had a contact with the former booker there, but we just never hooked up on a week that worked for both of us.

Dave Mencarelli is a comedian who also manages the club. He was just starting out when I had a radio job there in 1996, and apparently I was nice to him. I’m glad I was, since he’s been trying to get me in there since he got the gig. That’s how it works, and I’m very grateful for his efforts.

This was the week the booker offered, and I have little choice but to take it. I know I’ll rock the room, and that’s not bragging. I lived in Reno and am comfortable there, and I’m at the tippy top of my game comedy wise. All I needed was a push to get me in there, and Dave did that for me.

The difficult part is going to be getting there and back on a busy holiday week. I have to do my Mothership Connection radio show tonight from 8pm to midnight, and then get to the airport for an 8am flight to Reno. Unfortunately, I’m flying out of Midway Airport instead of Milwaukee or O’Hare. Midway is the least convenient airport from where I live, but that’s how it worked out.

To make it even more tenuous, I picked up a fallout at Zanies in Rosemont, IL for New Year’s Eve. Rosemont is close to O’Hare Field, and if my flight was out of there I’d be golden. But it’s not. So I’m going to be cutting it close because the earliest return flight I could get was at 4pm.

Do I park my car at Midway and incur the expense or take my friend Jim McHugh’s kind offer and park at his house in Hoffman Estates, IL and take a train to downtown Chicago and make the transfer to another one which gets me to Midway for $2.50? That sounds good in theory, but Jim is going to be working New Year’s Eve and won’t be able to pick me up from the train station.

This is a one man sequel to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but I’ve got to work it all out for a chance to keep working. I’ve also got to do it as cheaply as possible so I make at least some kind of a profit or it’s not even worth going in the first place. It’s a lot of effort with a minimal payoff, not to mention there are all kinds of unforeseen pitfalls that could jump up and bite me in the ass.

Weather could be an issue at some point, and that could delay either my flight or my trip to get from the airport to my car or Zanies. I’ll have minimal time to shower, shave and get ready to do shows on New Year’s Eve, which can be hectic enough as it is. This is not the option I’d choose.

Too bad I don’t have any say in the matter. This is how it’s working this time, and I’m going to shut my mouth and do my best to be where I need to be when they call my name. If I don’t, I will not get paid. If I do, I will have earned every penny I get. This showbiz thing can wear a guy out.