Posts Tagged ‘fame’

What Is Success?

July 9, 2014

Tuesday July 8th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

The mystery of the way life works never ceases to fascinate me. On one hand, I’m having all of my dreams come true with my family after a lifetime of utter hopelessness and loneliness. But on the other, I’m seeing my career go absolutely nowhere after a lifetime of unbelievable sacrifice.

Which would I rather have? Why can’t I have both? Does anyone have a tight family bond and career success? I have to believe a lot of people do, and I want to be one of them. But if I have to choose one, I’ll take it exactly how it’s playing out. It’s giving me a power I’ve never had before.

There is a major healing process taking place inside me, and I’ve never felt better. It’s building on itself and creating a steady flow of positive energy, just as it was a constant source of pain and suffering before. Chasing the show business dream was a substitute for this, but it never worked.

It’s like the difference between the best tanning booth there is vs. an actual sunny beach. There is absolutely no comparison. The tanning booth is a substitute for the real thing, and quite often a career in show business serves the same purpose. I know it did for me, but this is so much better.

Would I have jumped head first into the rusty meat grinder of the entertainment business like I did had I had a tight bond with a family? I honestly can’t say. Usually having weak family ties is what keeps a person from turning back when the business gets tough. There are no alternatives.

That was definitely the case with me. I look back at all the dues I paid and the crap I swallowed from bully bar owners and slimy bookers, and had I had a loving family support structure I doubt I’d have lasted close to this long. This can be a brutal business, and I don’t know how I survived.

Now it’s to the point where I’m not surviving, even though that’s not my fault. It’s that way for just about everybody these days, and there are a lot of miserable people out there that have paid a lifetime of dues just like I have. There were never any guarantees anyone would be ‘successful’.

And what exactly is ‘success’? It’s different for everybody, and after a lifetime of thinking I’ve been a lowly bum I totally haven’t. I’ve accomplished a hell of a lot considering the place I came from, and I should be extremely proud of myself. But am I done? I don’t see why I have to be.

I’ll be the first to admit I have made some gargantuan goofs career wise. I’ve managed to piss off some people with power, but only on a certain level. I’m not a bad person, and the minute I’d get any heat whatsoever I know those people would come running to kiss my ass and book me.

I used to really want to please those people and get bookings so I could ‘show’ others – mainly my family – that I was indeed worth something after all. Well, now I don’t need to show anyone anything anymore and that has changed my whole viewpoint on life. Now I’m doing it for all the right reasons, and I have to believe the results will be better. And if they aren’t, that’s fine too.

‘Getting famous’ can be a motivator for a lot of people because they want to use it as a tool for revenge. That never has a happy ending. I want to use it as a tool to help people however I can or to help raise awareness for worthy causes. It’s taken a lifetime, but I’m finally starting to get it.

What is success? Everyone's definition is different.

What is success? Everyone’s definition is different.

I wonder what hers is?

I wonder what hers is?

Reflections On Celebrity

September 24, 2013

Monday September 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

I’m still on a high from hanging out with Bob Uecker yesterday, but I realize I’m a ways away from being the big star he is and still have to worry about paying bills every month. Most people never come close to such an elite level of success, and he is the exception rather than the rule.

One thing that jumped out with Bob and every one of the other celebrities I’ve ever met is that they are still people and have real people problems and concerns. They might be a little different than most, but nobody’s life is without any glitches. Bob Uecker has problems just as we all do.

Everyone in that stadium knows who he is, and in the city too. Milwaukee is his home town as it is mine, and that comes with a lot of pressure most people never have to encounter. I feel it on a much smaller level whenever I work a comedy club. There is an entire staff of managers, wait staff, bartenders, ticket takers, dish washers and who knows who else that all know me by name.

Try as I might, it’s impossible to remember everyone’s name and that can be embarrassing as hell when someone comes up and greets me by name when I haven’t seen them in a year and am working at a new place every week with an entirely new cast of characters. It’s mind boggling.

Bob Uecker or any other truly big time celebrity can’t go anywhere without getting mobbed by strangers whether they want it or not. Everyone has moods, and what if one just doesn’t feel like talking on a given day? Then it gets out the celebrity is hard to deal with and aloof. It isn’t fair.

But who said life was fair? It never has been, and never will be. Most people don’t get a statue built in their home town either. Bob Uecker did, and he was alive to see it. Most times that never happens. What good is it to have a statue erected years after someone is dead? His is a rare case.

Another thing Bob Uecker has going for him is the right personality to be a celebrity. He has a quick wit and easygoing demeanor, but I’m sure there are days when he doesn’t feel like being a jokester. I’ve heard stories of people saying he wasn’t ‘that guy’, but I can see why. He’s human.

I happened to catch him on the right day, and he was absolutely fabulous. I will remember it as long as I live, and I’m sure he’s had moments like that with thousands of others. How many of us have that kind of clout? Not a lot. That’s why they’re celebrities. It’s a different world altogether.

Some are made for that world, and spend their entire lives there even though it’s very rare. Bob Uecker has been there since the 1970s, and has cemented himself into the hearts of America. His place is well deserved, but there aren’t many openings. Everyone else has to fight for the scraps.

Others get to that world, but only for a little while. I bet it isn’t hard to find Vanilla Ice or M.C. Hammer’s home phone numbers these days. They had their respective runs, but they’re over with no signs of returning. Then there are those who never get there at all. That would be most of us.

What hit me today the hardest was that in reality I made this happen. I pictured in my mind that I wanted to meet Bob Uecker, and I did what I needed to do to make it a reality. On a larger scale I should be able to do the same with a legitimate comedy career, right? Why has it been so hard?

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can't either.

How many ever get to be truly world famous? VERY few. Can you name the current leader of China? I can’t either.

Michael Jackson’s Birthday

August 30, 2013

Thursday August 29th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today would have been Michael Jackson’s 55th birthday. What a fascinating character study he was on so many levels. Only a handful of people who ever lived have had a worldwide influence like he did during his run. Like Elvis, he was the right person in the right place at the right time.

   Did he have talent? He was loaded with it, but that doesn’t always guarantee success. There are many things that have to come together for massive success, and both Elvis and Michael Jackson were the proverbial ‘one in a million’. They were one in hundreds of millions, but that in no way insured their lives would be Shangri-La. Their problems were larger than life just like they were.

   From all I’ve read I don’t think Elvis was a dented can but Michael surely was. I don’t think he and his father got along well to say the least, and that’s usually where it starts. Unfortunately, we as children of relationships like that often tend to think fame and fortune will heal those wounds, but it never does. Sooner or later that fact becomes apparent, and it’s a stunning disappointment.

   I can’t comment on Michael Jackson’s personal life, as I wasn’t there. Whether he did what he was accused of or not I don’t feel qualified to talk about. It’s absolutely none of my business and nobody else’s but his and his accusers. Unfortunately, on that level one’s personal life becomes a wide open book to be rummaged through by the public on a whim. That’s the downside of fame.

   I’m just focusing on his career. The success he had with The Jackson Five alone would be a big deal, but that was only the beginning. His star steadily rose, and he took entertainment to heights that had never been seen on a worldwide level ever – including Elvis. He set the world standard.

   He rode the global wave of MTV, and pioneered the way music videos were done. Every other act to come along after Michael Jackson basically used his template of a lead dancer in front with a flock of dancers behind, but few came close to doing it as well as he did. He was the innovator.

   Elvis had his own greatness for his time, but he wasn’t a dancer or writer of songs. He was one of the most charismatic stage performers in history, and that alone is impressive. Michael took it to a whole other level at a different time, and his influence is still being felt today. What a talent.

   I’ve always been especially impressed with the ‘Thriller’ album. That came out the year after I graduated high school, so it’s been a part of my life for decades. I heard the songs played on the radio, and they were a part of my entire life experience just as the Beatles were for a generation before. I hear Beatles songs being played today, but I was never part of that intense culture blast.

   I watched Michael Jackson’s career soar, and it was quite impressive. During the ‘80s it wasn’t easy to turn on a TV or radio without seeing or hearing something about Michael Jackson. It was a true cultural phenomenon, and part of the fabric of life. How many ever reach that level? Him.

   I’m sorry his and Elvis’s lives ended so sadly and quickly. No mortal can sustain that lifestyle for long, but the question is if one could choose would it be the short fast life of a superstar or an ordinary one filled with mediocrity that lasted into old age? That’s a decision most never face.  

Every entertainer would LOVE to have a project like this on the resume - an all time classic.

Every entertainer would LOVE to have a project like this on the resume – an all time classic.


Fame? No Thanks

August 19, 2013

Sunday August 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Should I ever be given a choice as to what torture to inflict upon my worst enemy, I’d seriously have to consider the curse of massive fame. I can’t imagine how anyone could live in peace with having to bear that burden. Some are better suited than others, but it still has to be a constant hell.

   I have a difficult enough time dealing with it on a part time basis. I’m always friendly to people who approach me, and 99% of the time there’s never a problem. They’ll usually say they enjoyed my show, and then maybe ask for an autograph or to have a picture with them. That’s totally ok.

   It happens more often than not at the venue where I’m performing, but once in a while I’ll have someone approach me in public. It’s mostly in small towns, but not always. One time I was with some friends who weren’t comedians when I was in the San Francisco Comedy Competition. We were hanging out in downtown San Francisco and out of the blue someone yelled out my name.

   “Hey, it’s Mr. Lucky! That guy is HILARIOUS!” It made everyone stop and stare, and the guy who yelled it came over and shook my hand and told me he had seen my show the previous night and loved it. That impressed the hell out of my friends, even though I knew it was a lucky fluke.

   A situation like that is an ego stroke more than anything. It was fun, but then it was over. What must it be like to be Michael Jordan or David Letterman or Oprah or anyone that has been known to the public for decades? They couldn’t walk down any street in peace. That’s not what I want.

   There’s a Chinese buffet not far from where I live that I really enjoy. They have a wide variety of good food, and it’s very reasonably priced. Most Chinese buffets tend to serve low grade dog food, but these guys are a definite cut above. I find myself going there often and I went today.

   It’s a giant place, and I’ll bet it seats several hundred. It was a lot fuller today than I’m used to, as I tend to go at off times as a rule. I was led to my seat by my hostess, and then I went up to the buffet to fill my plate. There were a lot of people milling around and I didn’t think anything of it.

   Out of the blue, some guy I didn’t know shouted out loud across the egg drop soup vat “HEY! You’re a COMEDIAN! I’ve seen you. You’re FUNNY!” It stopped traffic, and everyone around the soup vats turned to stare at me. I turned around to pretend I was looking for somebody else.

   The guy wasn’t buying it and pointed his soup ladle at me. “No…YOU! I saw you years ago.” I smiled and said thank you, and then complimented him on his memory. He remembered me from years ago while I barely remember what I had for breakfast. I thought our contact was finished.

    I thought wrong. He came around the soup vats and saddled right up next to me and informed me he’d been heckling the night he saw me and that I’d ripped him apart in front of everyone he knew. Apparently it was a big gathering of some sort, and all his friends and family were there.

   Of course I didn’t remember it in the least, but I played along like I did. After a full ten minute monologue, I knew I was in trouble. There was obviously some mental illness here, and he didn’t get the fact that he’d outstayed his courtesy time and was now in the red zone. I couldn’t escape.

   Finally I told him my soup was getting cold, and thanked him for saying hello. On his way out, he brought his wife to my table and started in again. This was ten more minutes I won’t get back, but I was polite and took it. Dreams of fame and fortune are misinformed. I’ll settle for fortune.

The Fame Game

April 24, 2013

Monday April 22nd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Almost everyone enjoys a pipe dream of becoming famous at least once, but nobody ever has a realistic idea of everything that it entails. It’s fun to imagine the perceived perks that accompany a celebrity’s existence, but like everything else in life it comes attached with a substantial price.

   I have had the opportunity to observe varying degrees of famous people firsthand over multiple decades, and it’s always an education to see how those situations play out. Everyone is different, and that produces different results each time. Some were made for that role, and others weren’t.

   In everyone’s fantasy, being famous is always a pleasant experience. One gets recognized only at the most convenient time, and then only by the most attractive members of society who are all sane and want nothing else but to heap the highest praise and politely request a quick autograph.

   There are never any kooks, detractors or stalkers in said fantasy, and the magic button is able to be turned on and off at will so when it’s not convenient to be recognized one can quickly go right back to enjoying the undervalued freedom of anonymity. Unfortunately, this is far from reality.

   In the real world however, fame is extremely unpredictable. It can come and go without notice, and often does. Just because one achieves it at a certain time in a particular circle doesn’t mean it will be there forever, and while it’s there it comes with a downside nobody ever sees in advance.

   I couldn’t imagine being truly famous on a massive scale like an Elvis or Michael Jackson. It’s usually a recipe for eventual disaster, and few if any ever handle it well for very long. Both Elvis and Michael died young, and by all accounts their final years weren’t pleasant. Who wants that?

   My grandfather had a great saying: “The higher you climb up the flagpole, the more people can see your ass.” Gramps had a way of cutting to the chase, and this made perfect sense even when I was a kid. Still, I am in a business where having name recognition is what puts fannies in seats.

   There’s a gargantuan difference between name recognition on a business level and insane fame though, and I don’t want any part of the fame game. I’m private off stage to the point of boring. I don’t need to be a constant center of focus, and in fact I’m very uncomfortable in that role at all.

   I do what I do on stage, and that gets my ya yas out just fine. When the show is over, I am right back to being myself and I like that just fine. People often come up to say they enjoyed the show, and that’s great. I always try to be accessible and sincerely thank them for coming – and mean it.

   I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about Justin Bieber famous. He’s the latest example of a genuine worldwide sensation, and I can’t see how anyone that age could have a clue as to how to handle it. It’s great for the ego to know you can sleep with anyone you want in a major arena full of hot and horny teenage girls – and their mothers too – but I don’t think it’s a healthy existence.

   I don’t think I’m made to play the fame game, but I do want to get more name recognition for a chance to make more money doing what I’m already doing. I won’t be any funnier if I can fill an arena, but I sure will be richer and I don’t find anything at all wrong with that. I’ve paid my dues for a lifetime to acquire the skill set I have, so what’s wrong with maximizing my income to earn more than the journeyman’s wage I’m bringing home now? Being a worldwide heartthrob might sound fun in theory, but I’d gladly settle for a respectable following of fans to keep my bills paid.