Posts Tagged ‘Chuck Norris’

Right Place Right Time

July 13, 2014

Friday July 11th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

One of the few standout highlights of my childhood that has successfully stood the test of time is my extreme love of professional wrestling. It wasn’t so much the actual wrestling itself as the dynamic personalities and charisma of the wrestlers. I was fortunate to have seen some greats.

Wrestling was a regional attraction for much of the 20th century until Vince McMahon Jr. took over his father’s promotion on the east coast and graduated it to a national and then international stage. Like it or not – and none of the old school promoters did – McMahon changed the game.

The star attraction he used to build his empire was Hulk Hogan, and together they created a big splash not only in the wrestling world but in mainstream American culture of the ‘80s. Hogan is the only professional wrestler to date to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated and that says a lot.

Hulk Hogan became a household name during that time, and Vince McMahon became wealthy beyond belief. Most casual fans of wrestling accept as fact that Hogan was the greatest of his era, but in fact he just happened to be in the right place at the right time. That’s the recipe for success.

Hogan’s wrestling abilities have never been stellar, but that doesn’t matter. His look combined with his persona and charisma were exactly what the public was buying at that time. He nailed it. It was just like the Colonel finding Elvis. That was another example of right place and right time.

For every Hogan or Elvis that hit pay dirt there are countless others that never find the winning combo and are destined to languish in either relative or total obscurity. One of those in wrestling was my childhood super hero and fellow Milwaukeean Reggie Lisowski – aka “The Crusher”.

The Crusher was the Midwest Hulk Hogan, even though Hogan got his first big push working for Verne Gagne’s AWA based out of Minneapolis. That was a major promotion in that era, and all kinds of great talent came through there – and through my little black and white television set.

Wrestling on TV then was basically a one hour commercial for live matches, and it worked. It got me to spend my money, and I loved every minute of it. The Crusher was my favorite, and the favorite of everyone else in Milwaukee. He was the original bad ass, way before Chuck Norris.

The Crusher was born on this day in 1926, and was nearing the end of his illustrious run just as Vince McMahon was starting his. Crusher and so many others that earned it never got to taste the mainstream adulation that Hogan and many that came after him did. That’s just luck of the draw.

The Crusher wasn’t born at the right time, and there’s nothing anyone can do about that. It’s an unfair world, and some things are beyond our control. Another great that got screwed in that way was “Superstar” Billy Graham. I used to watch him as a kid, and he turned wrestling on its ear.

Vince McMahon Jr. admits that if he were in charge instead of his father that Superstar would have been Hulk Hogan ten years earlier. But he wasn’t. And now Superstar Graham lives alone in obscurity, wondering what could have – and should have – been. Life is what it is, and trying to figure it out only causes frustration. The Crusher and Superstar are still big stars in my book.

The Crusher flexing one of his '100 megaton biceps'. He was a classic, but never made the big money. What a shame.

The Crusher flexing one of his ‘100 megaton biceps’. He was THE attraction in wrestling when I was a kid. “How ’bout dat?”.

"Superstar" Billy Graham was ahead of his time, and even Vince McMahon admits it. Read Superstar's autobiography "Tangled Ropes". He was Hulk Hogan before Hulk Hogan.

“Superstar” Billy Graham was ahead of his time, and even Vince McMahon admits it. Read Superstar’s autobiography “Tangled Ropes”. He was Hulk Hogan way before Hulk Hogan, but never got paid like it.

Acting Like An Actor

January 15, 2010

Thursday January 14th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

With all the over the top, underfinanced, whacked out, half baked crazy schemes I have been involved in so far in my life, it’s a wonder I don’t have more acting experience. I’ve tried standup comedy, radio, pro wrestling promotion, sports card dealing and other goofy stunts that would have made Lucy and Ralph Kramden wince, but I’ve left acting alone.

Part of the reason is that I respect it as a craft. Anyone has to devote a lifetime to it to be truly skilled, just as in any other craft. Acting is no different than comedy or music or any other craft in that regard, and I was lucky enough to discover comedy early enough on so I devoted my energy to that. It scratched my creative itch and I never needed to be an actor.

That being said, I’ve filmed a part in a movie and am appearing in a play all in the same week. How strange. Up until now my acting experience has been painfully low. Last year I was in a short scene in a film that was directed by my high school friend Bob Richards’ son Kyle, but that was a last minute thing. He did me a favor and allowed me to do a part.

Before that, I was an extra in the movie “While You Were Sleeping”. I was in an actual scene with Sandra Bullock, and I played a mailman of all things. It didn’t take any acting talent to dress in a postal uniform and push a mail cart down the street. The real challenge was not trying to hit on Sandra Bullock as we stood around almost an hour, ten feet apart.

They told us as extras we weren’t supposed to approach the stars for any reason. I guess I can see that, but in my case it was ridiculous. It was filmed in winter and it was about as cold as I can ever remember, and in fact too cold to snow. They needed snow in the scene so they brought in a fake snow machine to fill in the set, and that took just over an hour.

There we were, Sandra Bullock and me, just feet apart. She stood there and for the life of me, I could NOT get her to look my way and say hello. She looked up, around, over at the snow machine, everywhere but in my direction. After a few minutes it got to be funny.

Usually I’m a pretty good schmoozer and can strike up small talk with most anyone, but not this time. Sandra was not a huge star then, but I love brunettes and I would have loved to at least be able to test my flirting skills on a cold day when there was nothing else to do but stand there and hope my testicles would return by spring. She never even said hello.

I’ve heard since that she’s a very nice person and who knows why she didn’t say hi to a lowly extra, but all these years later I haven’t forgotten it. That pretty much ended dreams I may have had to be in movies, but I really never did. All I ever wanted to be was a solid funny comedian. That’s all that mattered to me. I couldn’t care less if I was a good actor.

Now, it’s a little different. I had fun doing Kyle Richards’ movie and even more doing a few scenes with my friend Lou Rugani in “Dead Air” yesterday. Plus, there was an actress named Tierza Scaccia who was not only really good looking and talented, she actually did speak to me both on camera and off. What a great name that is, too. I hope she hits it big.
I’d love nothing more than to show up at the Oscars with Tierza on my arm and moon Sandra Bullock. Thoughts like this are probably why I’m not only not an actor, but still a single comedian in my 40s. I’ve always been prone to doing things on the maverick side, and the masses just aren’t ready for that yet. Sandra Bullock did things right, good for her.

Actually, I’m glad I chose standup comedy over acting. I suppose I could have done the ‘actor/comedian’ route, but that usually means ‘neither/nor’. No matter how many breaks that didn’t go my way, the fact remains that I have paid my dues and am a solid comedian and NOBODY can ever buy that. It has to be earned, just like the skills of a master actor.

My problem with acting is, I have to be someone else all the time. I guess that’s fun for some people, but I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin. It never appealed to me to have to create a new persona over and over again as it takes to be a successful actor. I was fine with shining up the one I had doing comedy onstage. It’s a personal choice for all of us.

Many famous actors kind of just play themselves over and over. Adam Sandler is pretty much the same guy in all his movies as is Martin Lawrence or Eddie Murphy or a flock of other people who didn’t start out as standups. Does Chuck Norris have stage chops? What about Stallone or Arnold? None of these people are what I’d call craftsman. Would you?

Writing is another craft that looks easy and lots of people aspire to become. That takes a lot of discipline and effort too, but who’s willing to put it in? Not many. Those that do are quite rare, and even rarer are those who put in the effort and have real talent to go with it.

I’ve never considered myself a writer either, BUT – I’ve managed to produce an entry in this diary every single day since March 14th, 2006. Does that mean I’m a GOOD one? No, but it does mean I’m a writer to some degree just because I’ve kept cranking out the pages day after day after day. I may still stink, but I stink less now just because I kept doing it.

Acting is the same way. I bet there are ten times as many unknown mediocre Caucasian wannabes in Hollywood and all over who want to be actors, just as I’ve wanted to get into comedy. I paid my dues and chased the dream my whole life, just as I would’ve done had I chose to be an actor. The hard work requirement doesn’t change no matter the craft.

It was a lot of fun to be in the movie yesterday, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking I’m some hidden gem that Hollywood is waiting for. If I really want to pursue it I need to be around it and study it. Acting classes wouldn’t hurt, and probably a few books as well. I don’t have time for all that right now, nor do I want to get involved in a whole new gig.

I love comedy, even though it’s an insane business. What, and acting isn’t? It’s a crazy world all around, so I’m glad I chose what I did. Comedy is the best there is, but that’s my opinion. Too bad, as that’s the only one I care about. No offense to actors, comedy is best.

Still, we’re going to have fun with “You’re On The Air” at The Beverly Arts Center this weekend. We had a dress rehearsal today and I had to act like an actor. I hope I fool them.