Posts Tagged ‘entertainer’

Numbers Don’t Lie

April 27, 2014

Friday April 25th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

After all of the painstaking effort I have put in over a lifetime feverishly attempting to create an identity that is moderately recognizable to the largest amount of people possible, it’s laughable at how tiny a number that turns out to be. It isn’t even close to 1/1000th of 1% of people on Earth.

It’s not anywhere near 1/100th of 1% of the United States, nor does it approach 1/10th of 1% of the population of the Chicago metropolitan area where I have been based for the majority of my adult life. How’s that for taking some humble pies to the face? It’s like I’ve never even existed.

I tried to figure out as close to a number of people I have performed live for over my entire life, and the closest number I could come up with is somewhere between around 750,000 and an even million. And that took thirty years of hard work. How many of those would remember my name, even if there were cash and prizes involved? Even at 1% – which it isn’t – I am still an unknown.

Even at a million I am still an unknown, but that’s more than enough to make a fantastic living – provided that million is reachable and relatively in a maintainable service area. If they were all over the globe at random, that would make it difficult to serve them by doing live performances.

The people I have performed for are scattered randomly all over North America, and that’s my biggest problem. Other than the Chicago/Milwaukee corridor, nobody has a clue as to who I am – and it’s not all that much there. I can draw a few dozen, but nothing that will define a career.

Most of my work has been done to groups of about 100-200 on average, and often it’s been far lower than average. How many times have I worked some road house honky-tonk hell hole in an obscure town 1000 miles or more from home in front of 50 or far less? I couldn’t begin to count.

And even if they liked me – which often they did – was I smart enough to ask for an address of any kind to stay in touch so maybe they might come back next time I was in town? Even before email I guess I could have sent post cards, but it would have taken time and money I didn’t have.

The truth is, obtaining top of mind awareness with a large group of people is one of the hardest things imaginable. Even McDonald’s has to keep their name pounded into the public’s head, and who hasn’t heard of McDonald’s? They have worldwide presence and a huge advertising budget. I wander all over the country to entertain random people in comedy clubs. I’m a faceless drifter.

I could live with that if the money was there, but right now it just isn’t. It doesn’t matter what I happen to do on stage unfortunately. I used to think that’s all that meant anything, but that’s just plain wrong. All that matters is if one can put butts in seats, and that’s something I have not ever figured out how to do. Mike Tyson is selling out his one man show. I don’t draw flies to manure.

What any of this means I really can’t say, other than I need to have more people become aware of who I am as quickly as possible. I started a newsletter this year, but that only has around 2000 on the list. And how many of those actually read it? I sure won’t be getting cocky any time soon.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I've been trying for 30 years, and I'm not even close.

Gaining the attention of just 1% of the American public is a lot harder than it sounds. I’ve been trying for 30 years.

My Magnificent Mentor

April 22, 2014

Monday April 21st, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I can’t let this time of year pass without paying true heartfelt tribute to my number one comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis. I’ve had influences and partial mentors along the way, but Cardell was “the man” right from day one. He was a father figure on stage and off, and I’ll love him forever.

For whatever reason, he used to celebrate his birthday on August 3rd. For years, I thought that’s when it was. I’m usually pretty good at remembering people’s birthdays – at least getting it close enough to be respectable. If I don’t hit it the exact day, I’ll usually get it at least within a couple.

This has been a lifetime thing, WAY before Facebook made it so easy for us all. It has always been important to me to acknowledge someone’s birthday whenever I can and at least give them the respect of letting them know I remembered. Birthdays are one’s personal holiday, and I find nothing at all wrong with celebrating one’s existence despite what the Jehovah’s Witnesses say.

My mother apparently joined them shortly after she abandoned our family when I was a baby, and that was the excuse she used the few times I’ve seen her for not sending any birthday cards to any of her three children or even acknowledging our existence. I can’t begin to put into words how painful it is to be ignored by one’s own mother in life, so birthdays are a soft spot with me.

Cardell is far ahead of both my natural parents on my memory list. He did much more good for me than both of them ever did, so I felt a need to honor him out of respect. It wasn’t until the end of his life I found out his real birthday was April 20th. That’s also Hitler’s birthday, so maybe he was embarrassed or something. It doesn’t matter to me what the day is, as long as I pay respect.

In the entertainment business, it’s a common mistake to assume that if someone is famous they are the best at what they do and a good person, but nothing could be further from the truth. Some famous people are all that, but others are flat out scoundrels. Fame and measure of character are not and never have been intermingled. Some total pukes make it through for reasons unknown.

Cardell was never famous – and unbelievably few ever are – but he was absolutely loaded with character. Not only did he make time to mentor a city full of wayward comedians, he also helped inner city kids as a scoutmaster for Boy Scouts for years. I’m sure there are adults now that recall him with the same deep fondness and respect for the kindness he showed them years ago as I do.

What is often the saddest turn of events is that we never get to pay back those that did the most good for us. He always told us to “pay it forward” – and that’s what I have tried to do for as long as I’ve been a full time comedian. There have been literally hundreds of meals bought for young comedians through the years that were a direct result of Cardell’s mentoring. He lives on in me.

Mentorship is a skill by itself, and too often those that are best at it don’t get recognized for the effort it takes. It’s not just a one day thing and that’s it. It’s a constant process over a time period that can range from years to decades to a lifetime. Cardell was with me for decades at a time that I really needed his help. Not only is he still with me, through me his wisdom has been passed on.

It rarely takes much at the time, and there frequently isn’t much fanfare. It’s often just a matter of knowing what to say and when to say it. My grandfather was a terrific mentor also, and he and Cardell shared similar traits. Both knew precisely when and how to say what needed to be said.

The first big deal I can remember as a comedian – which sounds so laughable now – was when I was going to host a show for the first time. I had only been around a short time and was greener than a bag of $20 bills. Why any idiot would trust me to host a comedy show then is beyond me.

Some idiot did, and I was both thrilled and scared to death at the same time. I had no idea what to do, but Cardell sat me down and give me several much needed pointers. He told me what I had to know, and walked me through it in a few minutes. He said he knew I could handle it, and even if that was a fib it was exactly what I needed to hear at that time. His kind words were medicine.

Time and time again he’d cheer me as I climbed steps up the comedy ladder. They seem so tiny now, but back then it felt like I was climbing Mt. Everest each time. Having a friendly face in my corner through those intimidating steps was SO inspiring, and the face I saw continually was his.

What felt even better was hearing second and third hand from others how he thought out of the local comics in Milwaukee at the time I was the one he thought would go the farthest. “That boy is GOING someplace, you watch!” he’d say. “I hope he takes me with him. I might need a job.”

I heard this back from numerous sources through the years – and he eventually told me himself. He said I had the natural gift and the drive it took to get out and take my swings on a bigger field than Milwaukee. Comedy clubs were just starting to explode then, and he was adamant about me getting out and taking my shot. “You’ll never get anywhere staying here. Move on.” And I did.

Milwaukee was my home town and I wanted to prove to some people – mainly my father – that I wasn’t the loser he always told me I would be. Cardell could see that was the raw source of my pain, and tried to get me to focus on building a career. I was an angry kid, and needed guidance.

It’s the classic tale of the old bull and young bull, and looking back he said all the right stuff at all the right times and I love him dearly for it. It didn’t always hit me at the time, but I needed to hear exactly what he said. Youth always thinks it knows better, but wisdom only comes with age.

Probably the sweetest of so many sweet memories was Cardell and his manager Shirley Schaak taking me out for dinner before I went on my first road trip. They were proud of me, and both of them beamed through our meal. Cardell gave me time tested tips on road survival, and at the end of the night they gave me a card with $25 in it “for a flat tire”. I’m weeping in thanks even now.

Kindness like that endures forever – especially for a dented can like me that wasn’t used to that from anybody. Cardell and Shirley were my comedy parents, and I love and appreciate them now more than ever. I never took them for granted, but in hindsight all those good things they did not only for me but for all the comedians in Milwaukee shine even brighter. I try to pass on the love they passed to me, but I always fall so far short. Thank you Cardell! Shirley too! I love you both.

My magnificent mentor in comedy C. Cardell Willis. A kinder soul and more competent mentor has never lived.

My magnificent mentor in comedy C. Cardell Willis. A kinder soul and more competent mentor has never lived. I owe the man SO much.

Just because someone isn't famous doesn't mean they aren't talented. Cardell's reach went WAY past entertainment. He was a life changer for many. What a fantastic human being. It's up to me to help keep his memory alive.

Just because someone isn’t famous doesn’t mean they aren’t talented. Cardell’s reach went WAY past entertainment. He was a life changer for many. What a fantastic human being. I want to keep his memory alive.

Slumped Over

March 25, 2014

Sunday March 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Three months ago, I was riding sky high on top of the world. I was in a groove like I’ve never been in ever before, and life was beyond good. I felt exactly like I had always pictured life to be like in a positive way, and I thought I was finally on my way to where I’ve always wanted to be.

Today, after a couple of rough nights this past week and not a lot of work on the horizon I’m in a big time slump, and I honestly don’t care if I live or die. That’s a pretty big change, and I’m not exactly sure what has happened. Either it’s a normal cycle of life, or I am a crazy bipolar maniac.

At one time I may have bet on the maniac, but I’m not so sure now. I have been satisfied with most of the decisions I have been making in the last couple of years, and it’s not like I’m a slave to booze or drugs or anything like that. For whatever reason, I somehow veered off course again.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really in the dumper right now. I’ve been here plenty of times before, and it’s never fun. I am trying to objectively figure out why I feel this way and/or what has gone on to trigger it and all I can come up with are those two bad shows this week. They scorched me.

Being on stage is by far the only thing that has ever given me any consistent satisfaction in my life. I love to entertain a live audience, and after decades of trial and error I have finally reached a high level of consistency. I know that far more often than not, I’ll be able to get the job done.

In my mind, I see myself working big rooms for big audiences night after night. I know in my heart I can pull it off, as whenever I have found myself in that position I have always been able to deliver at a high level. It excites me to think about it, and after all this time I feel I deserve it.

I guess the cosmos doesn’t agree, as for whatever reason it’s not happening right now. All I am asking for is a payoff for all of my hard work. I sacrificed everything to develop my skill set, and to be in front of 14 people in a sports bar or standing alone on a dance floor at a wedding talking to myself after all these years just crushes my dreams and stomps on my self esteem like an ant.

I don’t think I can try any harder, but apparently I have to. But when I get in these ruts the very last thing I want to do is get out there and start over again. I’ve done thousands of shows for tiny audiences and/or non attentive ones. I’m past that. Going back sucks all the humanity out of me.

One of those nights might have put me in a minor funk, but both of them back to back have put me deep in the mental toilet. I feel like hope is completely gone, and I wish I could just lie down and give my remaining days to anyone who wants them. I feel like I missed my bus, and it hurts.

All I think it would take to turn it around is some tangible hope. The hope of reuniting with my siblings was what gave me the super uptick I had three months ago, and it ended up going really well in the end. That’s great, but they don’t pay my bills. I feel great personally, but professional pain is pain just the same. The stress of the struggle is getting to me, and I feel it. What stinks is I just don’t feel like fighting it anymore. Is anyone else hurting inside this badly? I sure hope not.

Life is a series of ups and downs. I'm in a down. Am I crazy? Probably, but some hope would be nice.

Life is a series of ups and downs. I’m in a down. Am I crazy? Probably, but some hope would be nice.

In Tide, Out Tide

March 23, 2014

Saturday March 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

After being on an extended hot streak with getting bookings for the last three months, the tide has now gone out. That’s how the game works, and it’s a cruel cycle. When the tide is in, I have more than I can handle making sure I get to gigs on time, have clean clothes to wear and all that kind of minutia. I often have to do radio interviews or other promo stuff that sucks up time also.

Everything else gets pushed back, and then when the tide goes out again I’m left with sky high piles of miscellaneous chores that need my attention – but there’s no money to spend on anything because I have no income. The money I earned from all the work I just did is long gone, and here I sit at ground zero waiting for the process to start all over again. This isn’t how I want life to be.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what to do to change it. I need money to survive as everyone does, but when I’m out earning it I don’t have time to concentrate on getting myself out of the cycle of perpetual frustration. I’m going to have to figure it out, as it’s not going to change without effort.

I’ve got all these little poles in the water, hoping to snare a fish that will feed me for a while. It would be a whale if I had my way, but it doesn’t need to be. Just something bigger than a guppy would make life easier. Living hand to mouth like I am is getting more discouraging by the day.

I still have the dream alive to really hit the mother lode, but standup comedy doesn’t have to be the way I hit it. The way it’s looking now, I’m not going to be in the business much longer and it isn’t a bad thing. My needs are different and the business is different, so I’m not going to fight it.

Part of me will be a standup comic forever, and I’m proud of that. I attained a level of skill that very few ever come close to, but it didn’t come without an enormous price. I have earned all that I have, but now it needs to be transferred to another arena for a payoff. That’s where the trick is.

Will I hit it big as a speaker? Maybe, but it won’t be an accident. Will the King of Uranus be a sensation, if even for a short time? That could happen too, and I hope it does. In my mind, that is the kind of thing I was born to do. Struggling to stay afloat like I am just isn’t part of the dream.

Now here comes summer sooner than later, and I am BONE dry for bookings. I have a couple of things between now and June, but not much. Then it’s Death Valley Days after that. I wish my schedule was jammed full of working the top venues for top dollar six or seven nights a week.

It’s not like I couldn’t deliver great shows. I’d blow the roof off a lot of places from theaters to top comedy clubs to auditoriums that never even had comedy shows before. It’s SO frustrating to not be able to pack a room when I know I have the ability. All it would take is one big tour to get my finances in order for life, and then I could really start to do good and help people. I want that.

The tide is out right now, and this is when it’s the hardest to stay positive. I have piles of tasks I can’t stand doing that need doing, and there’s no money to hire anyone to do them. Sometimes I feel I have almost arrived, but others I feel farther away than ever. This is one of the far times.

The tide of life goes in and out. Right now mine is out.

The tide of life goes in and out. Right now mine is out. That’s the hardest time to stay positive.

A Comedian No More

December 9, 2013

Sunday December 8th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

When I started doing comedy in Milwaukee, all I wanted was to be the best comedian in town. I thought if I could achieve that, everything else would take care of itself. I’d eventually achieve my goal after several years of struggle, but it didn’t mean anything. I had been chasing the wind.

Then I moved to Chicago aiming to be one of the top comedians there. I realized it was a much bigger city, and claiming the top spot might not be realistic. Still, I did manage to become one of the top acts in town but it got me even less than it did in Milwaukee. I’d pursued the wrong goal.

I’m very proud of how far I’ve come as a performer, and there is a tremendous personal delight and satisfaction in knowing I have been able to live my original dream. Now I need to establish a new dream and make that one reality. From now on, I aim to be the very best MARKETED act.

Wow, what a difference that will make. I always assumed marketing would take care of itself, and if I was the best comedian around people would just find me. Nothing could be further from the truth, and what a painful realization that was and still is. The good thing is is that it’s fixable.

The first item that needs fixing is my title. ‘Comedian’ is akin to ’witch’, ‘leper’ or ‘pedophile’ when it comes to landing highly paid corporate work. Unfortunately, I clearly see why this is and I get it. The word itself has been forever linked to ‘dirty’ or ‘filthy’, and there’s no going back.

I had nothing to do with this negative association, but it absolutely exists and I need to avoid it like the plague for business purposes. In my heart I’m proud to be a comedian, but that won’t fly with those who hire entertainment. As with ‘gay’, the definition has totally changed over time.

Perception is reality, and I can’t change it. People who have a significant amount of money to spend on comedy related entertainment will gladly hire a ‘humorist’ or ‘humorous speaker’, but shudder at the thought of a ‘comedian’. ‘Comedians’ tell dirty jokes in honky tonks and saloons.

That’s the perception in a business environment, and I’m not going to try to fight it. I’ll let them call me anything they want if it will get me hired, but that’s when I’ll really shine because I have the skills to pull off exactly what they want. I have thirty years experience as a live entertainer.

Whether they know it or not, I’m able to deliver a funny show without swearing once. That’s a daunting task, to which any professional will attest. I was never a ‘dirty act’ in a club setting, but these people don’t know it. From now on, I won’t refer to myself by that term. It’s career-o-cide.

Next on the list of things to fix is finding out who books humorous speakers and getting myself on their radar with a positive association. They don’t know me from Adam but I’m sure there are a lot of mediocre acts in that area just as there are in comedy clubs. Being funny to strangers isn’t easy in any arena, and the supply of quality is always lower than the demand. I have to stand out.

My new ‘pit crew’ Eric Feinendegen is helping me in this area. He’s a speaker himself, and he comes from a corporate environment which will be a huge help. He’s got contacts with people in places I’ve never approached, and that’s exactly what I need. I’m finally chasing the right dream!

"Humorists" and "humorous speakers" get paid on average far more than "comedians".  I am no longer a comedian from this moment forward.

“Humorists” and “humorous speakers” get paid on average far more than “comedians”. I am no longer a comedian from this moment forward.

More Rejection Please!

September 21, 2013

Wednesday September 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

As crazy as it may sound, I need to have more rejection in my life. LOTS more. It’s no secret I haven’t been doing my due diligence as far as handling my bookings goes, and there’s absolutely no reason for it other than I can’t stand that part of the business and have focused on other things.

That’s going to have to change in a hurry, and it has already started. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this is of ultimate importance, and if I ever want to achieve any real success at what I’ve spent so much time and energy on already I’m going to have to learn to like it or hire someone.

Some parts of life just flat out rot, even for the most glamorous of occupations. I’m sure being an astronaut has its fun parts, but crapping in a space suit doesn’t sound like one of them. Life is often a tradeoff, and we have to make sacrifices of things we don’t like to achieve things we do.

I still enjoy being a comedian, and if I want to continue I need to find a way to stay booked on a regular basis where I can make a living. There are more comedians out there looking to get the same bookings I am than ever before, so I’m going to have to step it up a few notches to survive.

The painful truth is, 99.999% of humanity doesn’t know I exist. That’s true for most everyone, but it’s especially bad for politicians and entertainers. If I am ever going to have a career instead of just a job in this business, I need to overhaul my methods and do it right. It’s been a weakness.

Getting rejected is unfortunately a major part of this game, and I’ve had a heaping helping of it for decades onstage and off. Sometimes I’ve handled it well, and other times beyond poorly. The onstage rejection I’ve learned to completely ignore. I have leathery thick skin, and have tanked it so many times it doesn’t affect me at all. Off stage is where I need to improve greatly, and I am.

Nobody likes being told they’re not good enough or worse yet totally blown off altogether, but that’s what happens on a daily basis as we try to procure work from people most of us wouldn’t choose to have personal contact with in any way if we didn’t need what they have. It’s insincere in my opinion, but also necessary. If we want work, we have to be known by those who have it.

I’ve always preferred to work for people I like and respect, but times dictate that is not always possible. Work is harder to come by than ever before, and nobody can afford to blow off possible bookings just because of a personal jag. Fortunately, I’ve already had my fallings out with most of the top flaming weasels in the business, and/or they have excommunicated me from their fold.

My big mouth has gotten me into trouble, and I’m not going to deny it. I tend to say what’s on my mind, and often it hasn’t been popular with the powers that be. It wasn’t necessarily smart to be that way coming up the ranks, although I still find it refreshing to know I had the guts to do it.

Guts are one thing, but smart business practices are another. I could’ve just as easily kept quiet and gotten a lot more bookings over the years than speak out and burn bridges like I did. It’s too late to change those particular situations now, but it isn’t too late to change how I handle myself. There are all kinds of bookers I’ve never worked for before, and I have a totally clean slate with all of them. Most if not all have no idea who I am, and it’s up to me to sell them on my ability.

I’ve said it before and it’s true more than ever – my true profession is now sales and marketing. It always was, I was just too stupid to see it. I was busy trying to be the ‘artiste’, but that’s never where the real money is. Art is fine, but that pesky word “starving” is all too often in front of it.

I’m not a fan of living like a cockroach, even though I’ve grown very accustomed to it over the years. I don’t mind a frugal existence, but I want it on my terms. Ramen noodles and Spam don’t taste that bad, but they’d taste even better if I had a million dollars in the bank. Just knowing that I could have filet mignon any time I wanted would do me fine most of the time. I’d like security.

So, is that “selling out”? I’m sure depending on the person being asked that term would pop up immediately, but so what? I’m sure had I been asked the question twenty years ago it would have made me flip out and go off on a tangent about staying true to one’s artistic vision and all of that.

I’m still very much into artistic vision, but there has to be business acumen along with it or it’s a dead end street with no way out. I know a lot of talented people who have sold themselves far too short – or worse yet not at all. If nobody knows I’m out here, how can I ever expect a career?

This is often a Catch 22 for most performers. Going to New York or L.A. was traditionally the main way to “get seen”, but that’s not where the pay is. Comedians or bands needed to get out on the road to pay the bills, and that’s the trap I fell into at an early age. It’s great to cut one’s chops on the road, but at some point there needs to be a payoff. I am now ready to get in line for mine.

I have been paying extra attention to this part of the process of late, and today I took part in an online seminar talking about marketing skills for entrepreneurs of all kinds. It was a solid hour of interesting tips and hints to make everyone’s online presence better, since that’s so crucial now.

I’ve got Facebook and Twitter accounts for both my comedy and ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I’ve not taken them very seriously quite honestly. The seminar today had three ‘experts’ I never heard of preaching how important it was to grow and maintain relationships with social media contacts.

They made a lot of sense, and that’s just for ‘regular’ people with ‘regular’ businesses. I should be ten times ahead of the curve if I’m in the entertainment business, and that lit a fire in my pants to get out there and DO it. I need to be seen by more people, but that comes with more rejection.

Too bad. I chose to be in this racket, so I’m only cheating myself if I don’t put myself out there to EVERY SINGLE PERSON that could possibly book me for a show, and make myself readily available to get hired when an opening occurs. It’s a numbers game, and if I’m not out there with everyone else how can I ever expect to move ahead? This is a simple truth, but I haven’t done it.

The good news is, I can and will change it immediately. I already have a proven act, now I just need to let more people know it’s available for hire – and at reasonable rates to boot. I’m sure I’ll get rejected a lot in the process, but I’ll also get more work too. I’ll make that trade in a second.

If you aren’t my Twitter friend, would you please connect with me? I’m @dentedcandobie and @schlitzhappened. I also have a King of Uranus @UranusTweets. I’ve got Facebook accounts at http://www.facebook.com/dobiemaxwell and http://www.facebook.com/SchlitzHappened. I do appreciate it.

Sports Munsters

June 14, 2013

Thursday June 13th, 2013 – Geneva, IL

   I attended a Kane County Cougars baseball game tonight with my friend Mark Fenske. Mark is a fellow comedian, and like a lot of comedians he’s a huge sports fan. There’s usually no middle ground with comedians when it comes to being a sports fan. Either we’re rabid or not interested.

   I have been consumed by sports since early childhood, but nobody in my family other than my grandfather followed it even casually. Gramps liked sports, but he didn’t live and die with it like I did other than with his beloved Green Bay Packers. The other sports weren’t on that same level.

   My father, uncle, grandmother and siblings all couldn’t stand sports and would laugh at me for the way I’d follow my teams so closely. My step mother thought it was funny to taunt me when a team I followed lost, and that was another reason I couldn’t stand her on top of the ones I’d had.

   It was a lonely existence growing up the only sports fan in a family of ‘Sports Munsters’ but as I grew up I met a lot of friends who were into it as much as I was. There’s a bond between sports fans, as we’ve all gone through the same emotions with our teams. There’s also an entire field of knowledge we share that takes a lifetime to acquire that can’t be faked. One knows it or doesn’t.

   It becomes especially personal when we happen to have played any particular sport in question. I wanted to play any sport I could, but was always discouraged by my grandparents because they thought I would get hurt. I don’t think it was so much about me, but the affect on their insurance.

   I wanted to be a baseball pitcher more than living life itself. It was all I trained for as a kid, and being left handed was finally an advantage. I still picture my grandmother and stepmother saying to me one day “You don’t think you can be a baseball player and make a real LIVING, do you?”

   Golly jeepers, NO! What was I thinking? A left handed pitcher would never be in any demand in baseball. Why don’t I just mop floors like the rest of the monkeys who live in our family tree? I couldn’t squeak by on several million dollars a year. I’ll be a total loser like the rest of our clan.

   I never listened to the deluded wisdom of the family, but Gramps was already gone so I had no encouragement in my corner. I played in city leagues in Milwaukee, and eventually had a tryout with the Kansas City Royals. They came to all the Major League cities looking for talent and my coach at the time suggested I give it a shot so I did. It was in Milwaukee, not far from my home.

   I got a second look from the scouting crew, but I didn’t get signed. They told me I could come try out again at one of their other camps in the state, but by that time I was 18 and on my own. It would have been impossible to make it to the camp because I had a job. It wasn’t in the cards.

   Not long after that, I got started on the comedy trail. I wish the rest were history. It’s personal history, but that’s about it. Nobody else cares, and that’s fine. Everyone has broken dreams, but the only time anyone else wants to hear about them is when another comes true. Then it’s legend.

   Mark Fenske talked about how his father never supported him either. He wanted to be an actor, and actually had some success in LA in the 70s. He was on Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley and he said his dad told everyone about it then – but never supported him getting there. That’s so typical of an entertainer and we talked about it as we watched the game. How many of those kids will make the big leagues? Not many. Years from now they’ll look at this as their life’s pinnacle.

Sun Ra

May 23, 2013

Wednesday May 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today would have been the 99th birthday of one Herman Poole Blount – aka “Sun Ra”. He was born in Birmingham, AL but claimed to be from the “Angel Race” – not of this planet. That alone makes him one of my all time favorite entertainers, but his showmanship is what I admire most.

   He was the leader of a huge band that he called his ‘arkestra’, and the name of it changed about as frequently as his musical directions. There was the ‘Blue Universe Arkestra’, the ‘Heliocentric Space Arkestra’, the ‘Solar Myth Arkestra’ and many many more. He was an eccentric fellow.

   There’s good weird and bad, and he was very good. By all accounts, he and his band were drug free and upstanding members of the community wherever they happened to be living at any time. They were based for years in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, where Sun Ra died in 1993.

   I never got a chance to see him live, but I’ve seen some very interesting video that puts me in a fun mood every time I see it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o7_JUShK4n8&feature=related is one link. There’s also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AMMWNwVhq5k&feature=related

   Sun Ra was a true original, and those are difficult to find. George Clinton borrowed a little bit from him and also set up shop in ‘outer space’. The whole ‘Mothership Connection’ concept and costume came out of Sun Ra’s shadow and I freely admit that’s where I got The King of Uranus.

   I remember the first time I saw him on TV when I was a kid. I didn’t know what I was seeing, but it captured my undivided attention as I watched it with my grandparents. Gramps looked like he got it, but my German grandma wanted to take a rolling pin to either the TV, Gramps or both.

   Grandma was not very open to anything new, different or artistic. If it wasn’t a Lawrence Welk ditty or a polka, she didn’t want it within five miles of her. Seeing Sun Ra and his ‘arkestra’ sent her farther into outer space than Sun claimed to be from. The greatest ones are loved and hated.

   I loved the fact that he incorporated outer space themes into his music, and that made me want to know more about him as I got older. He was a remarkable personality to say the least, and his claim of being taken by aliens to the planet Saturn made me like him more. He made that claim a long time before UFO abduction stories were popular, and he stuck by that story his entire life.

   I don’t know if he was from Saturn or not, but I do know he was an underappreciated artist and too eclectic for the masses. He was a recording machine, and it is said he’s the the 20th Century’s most prolific musical artist with over 100 full length albums. Wow! That alone is one major feat.

   It’s also notable that he’s a ‘22’. According to numerology, people born on the 11th and 22nd of a month are allegedly the strongest personalities and most influential people. Sun Ra was born on a 22nd, as was George Clinton (7/22). Rodney Dangerfield was too. (11/22) There are all kinds of entertainers, politicians and celebrities born on 11s and 22s so there may be some truth to that.

   I’m not a ‘22’ or an ‘11’ unfortunately. I’m a ‘pi’ (3/14). I don’t know if any of it means a dang thing, but I do know I am a fan of Sun Ra and not nearly enough people know who he was to pay tribute to a unique performer who had the guts to follow his creative vision for decades. That’s at the top of my list for people I admire most, and he’s up there with the very best. He spent his life entertaining this planet – whether he was born here or not. What better way to invest one’s time?

Sun Ra

Sun Ra

The King of Jupiter?

The King of Jupiter?

 

One Cosmic Cat

One Cosmic Cat

A One Day Career

February 9, 2013

Thursday February 7th, 2013 – St. Charles, IL

   The process of being an entertainer is a lot more complex than anyone thinks. Had I known I’d have to work this hard on so many levels I may not have jumped in with both feet and thrown all caution to the wind. There are zero guarantees of a payoff, and circumstances change constantly.

There is less work involved managing a fast food restaurant or driving a forklift, even though it isn’t nearly as exciting and doesn’t have a potential payoff at the end. There is a steady paycheck involved, and this far into the game that sounds REALLY good right now. Too bad I missed that.

My grandfather made me promise him on his death bed I would get a civil service job to insure a steady income. He had one for more than thirty years (and absolutely hated it) as did my father and uncle (who also hated theirs.) I loved my grandfather and respected his wisdom, but I knew I didn’t want to settle for a life of misery like they all had. Still, I was always a man of my word.

I promised him I’d get that civil service job, but my heart was never in it. I ended up having to take an exam, and actually placed quite highly on the list. I eventually got called for the position of ‘Clerk Typist 1’ for the City of Milwaukee. It was third shift at a police station of all places.

The pay at the time was $14,000 a year, and I remember that sounding pretty good. I was about 19, and it would have included benefits and been steady cash flow. It could have been the start of a respectable career, and I could be thinking about retirement now with a nice wad stashed away.

Unfortunately, that just wasn’t me. I ended up lasting ONE DAY. I knew within in the first few minutes I wasn’t going to last, and when all was said and done the only thing I ever typed during my tenure as a ‘Clerk Typist 1’ was my resignation. The cop in charge thought I was completely insane, and told me exactly that as I turned in my exit notice. I nodded, smiled and walked out.

I had fulfilled my promise to Gramps and did indeed get myself a civil service job. But I could see the results of what a lifetime of empty existence looked like with Gramps, my father and my uncle and I wasn’t going to be like that. I made up my mind I was going to chase that big dream.

Well, if nothing else I got my wish. I wasn’t like any of them, but now here I sit all these years later with absolutely no financial security whatsoever living hand to mouth like a glorified hobo. I was too busy chasing those dreams and recovering from disasters to put together a savings plan.

I’m not making excuses, but I sure did make a lot of dumb mistakes that are biting me squarely in the meatiest part of my rump right now and it hurts. Too bad for me, as I was sole chooser and have nobody to blame but myself. I hope I chose the correct path, but sometimes I still wonder.

I’m too far into it now to turn back, so all I can do is plow forward and make the best of what’s happening now. That’s a mammoth undertaking, as there’s a lot going on. I have fun things right around the corner like ‘Schlitz Happened!’, but I also have to pay my bills this month. That takes planning on several levels, and my days are consumed morning to night trying to sort it all out.