Posts Tagged ‘Dallas’

Losing At Schmoozing

September 14, 2013

Thursday September 12th, 2013 – Rosemont, IL

People who don’t know me well are often surprised to find out how quiet and unassuming I am off stage. I have never been one of those painfully annoying comedians who are ‘on’ all the time, and whenever I run across someone that is I can’t wait to get lost in a hurry. That’s not my thing.

All entertainers are attention whores to a certain extent, but I choose to get my fix on stage and that’s enough. Once the show is over, I’m fine with blending in to the woodwork. I don’t need to have around the clock validation from strangers to let me know I’m ok. I’m very much to myself.

As with most quirks, I think it all stems from childhood. I have an older brother and sister and a younger half brother, but was raised by my grandparents without them so it’s like I was an only child. I did visit them occasionally as a kid, but not enough to be considered a full time family.

I got used to spending large amounts of time on my own, and I grew to like it. I was in control of what I wanted to watch on TV, and I liked to read as well. I had plenty to do to keep me busy, and plenty of friends in the neighborhood to play with when I wanted company. I was content.

As I got into comedy, that mindset did me well. Comedians often have long stretches of travel that are done completely alone, and it can be extremely intimidating at first. I remember the first time I went across the country by myself. I was about 19, and I took a Greyhound bus to Dallas.

That was a huge step at the time, as I quit my job as a cook at a steak restaurant in mid shift to chase my adventure. I’d never been out of Milwaukee on my own before that, and it opened up a door that has never closed. I couldn’t begin to count all of the trips I took completely by myself.

I’ve often joked that I could survive prison time, and I still think I could. I hope I never have to test that theory, but my enemies should probably think twice before they try anything stupid. It’s never smart to mess with anyone who isn’t afraid of consequences, but I don’t want to go there.

I want to be a comedian, and I’m already there. I’m not nearly as far as I think I should be, and that’s been my fault mainly because I am such a lone wolf. Schmoozing with others is part of the game, and I’ve been extremely poor at maintaining a facade that I enjoy it – which I never have.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy having fun with other comedians. I absolutely do, but what I’ve never enjoyed was having to hang out for hours watching others get drunk or high, as that’s a huge part of what a majority of people do to be social. I’ve never been a drinker or druggie, and don’t plan on starting any time soon. I prefer to do my show and go home, but that’s not good for business.

Tonight I picked up a last minute gig hosting the show at Zanies in Rosemont, IL. I was glad to have a chance to get paid, even though I just closed the show there last night. Ego doesn’t become an issue when bills are due, and I enjoy working all of the Zanies clubs in Chicago. I’m at home.

If I felt that at home everywhere else, I’d be a lot farther along on my career path. I really need to force myself to find a way to network better. It’s not my nature, but it’s also the only way I’m ever going to get a break. I can be a recluse after I hit a big payday. For now, I need to be seen.

Back To Milwaukee I Go

January 20, 2010

Tuesday January 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Never say never. There was a time when I could not WAIT to escape my home town of Milwaukee, WI. It was my life’s mission. Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want to live there very long and as soon as I could leave, I hopped on the first Greyhound bus out of town.

I’ll never forget it. I was working at a restaurant called “Rustler Steak House” across the street from the Southgate Mall on South 27th Street in 1982. The Brewers had just lost the World Series and the nasty cold of a Wisconsin December with Christmas coming wasn’t an exciting prospect for happiness so I left my job in mid shift and bought the bus ticket.

I was 19 at the time and not sure what life was about, but I did know I wanted to live it anywhere but Milwaukee. Warm weather was the first target but all I could afford to buy with the money I’d saved was a ticket to Dallas, TX. I don’t know why I picked Dallas of all places, but I did. Maybe it was because I could afford a round trip ticket, which I got.

That trip was one of the best things I ever did. It was the first of countless cross country adventures I’d have over the next almost thirty years and at the time it took a lot of guts to chuck everything and DO something exciting. I thought I’d planned for it but I did a poor job and ended up having to use that return ticket a day after I got there. I wasn’t ready yet.

Coming back to Milwaukee was pure torture. It was cold and everyone I knew made fun of me for ‘failing’ in my bid to start a new life somewhere. I hadn’t failed, I just needed to learn a few more things which I eventually did. But at the time, I was feeling pretty low.

I went back to grovel for my job back at the Rustler Steak House but they wouldn’t give it to me right away. They wanted to ‘teach me a lesson’ and I guess they did. It taught me to rely on myself, which I’ve had to do since. Then I remember getting my job back after a while and then the restaurant closed and went out of business, leaving us all dangling.

I bounced around several other horrific low paying dead end jobs from restaurants to car dealerships as a lot boy to anything else I could do to survive. My grandparents raised me but my grandfather had died and that threw the family into a full scale war by that time.

It was all I could do to support myself then, much less try for college. I was all alone in a cold ugly world, and that world was Milwaukee at the time. I found it to be an alcoholic cesspool of  lowlife dysfunctional idiots who weren’t interested in bettering themselves.

They had no ambition to rise above anything other than their boring no brainer factory jobs, their bowling teams, and their beer. LOTS of beer. Milwaukeeans sure love to suck down their suds, and with most it’s a way of life. I never drank, so I never fit in either.

Over the next few years, I kept struggling to survive but eventually discovered standup comedy as a means to get me out of town. It was a rocky start, but I stayed with it and am SO glad I did. Comedy is what gave me hope and what kept me from swallowing a bullet.

As soon as I was able to leave Milwaukee, I did. I had a horrible family life, didn’t like the whole booze soaked mindset that embraced mediocrity, had no wife and kids to hold me back and knew the entertainment scene was pathetic to the point of embarrassment so I moved to Chicago in the mid ‘80s. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was fantastic.

It’s amazing how 90 miles on a map can be 90 million light years in life. Chicago had a comedy scene and I quickly became part of it and cut my teeth as an entertainer. I learned my craft and enjoyed my life and knew the first week I was there I made the right choice.

Then as life opened up, I took some chances and started in radio and that’s when things started to get all cloudy and convoluted. I ended up back in Milwaukee at 93QFM later on but that ended in total disaster. Still, something inside yearned to be a star there. I wanted to prove to those who doubted that I was worth something after all, especially my father.

It’s a common story in show business and life in general. We all want to gain approval from family, friends, lovers or whomever else we feel we need to impress. I admit that my main focus was on ‘sticking it’ to everyone, but what a waste of time all of that is. I know it now, but I hadn’t learned that then. I wasted a lot of time and caused myself much pain.

Who needs any of that? I’ve survived until now and although I made a ton of mistakes I regret horribly, I’m still in the game and in a much better mindset. I’ve learned a lot and it shows. Supposedly we’re here on Earth to learn lessons. Well, I’ve earned my doctorate.

All that being said, I drove up to Milwaukee today to meet with Richard Halasz. He’s a comedian friend I’ve known over 25 years, and he’s now promoting some shows as well. I told Richard about my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and he absolutely loved the concept. He’s got me booked in Saukville at the Railroad Station on March 13.

Granted, Saukville is not where I pictured this show to be, but he says the people came out and supported shows he’s done out there with Will Durst and wanted to try something else. I’m willing to give it a shot so we went out there today to look at the room. I looked it over and met one of the owners and everyone seemed like nice people so we’ll let it rip.

If you’d told the clueless angry hurt kid who got on that bus in 1982 he’d be looking to return to Milwaukee to do shows, he’d have flipped you off and walked away. Now, it’s a whole new adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. I know I can pull this off for an audience that grew up in the same place I did. The difference is, I’m able to accept it now.

Milwaukee is what it is, but it sure is unique. After seeing everywhere else in America, I have a whole different perspective now. That time in my life would have been horrible no matter where I lived. It took many years to see that, but I have. I’ve matured greatly.

I doubt if I’ll ever live in Milwaukee again, but I’m close enough to be able to pull this off. I’m going to craft a show about my hometown and share it with others who grew up where I did. I’ll turn a negative into a positive and also make a few bucks for my trouble.