Posts Tagged ‘Frank Sinatra’

Dirty Diapers

July 28, 2014

Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I want to talk more about the whole game of getting on television. Ultimately, it’s what makes or breaks a true career in the entertainment business and everyone that succeeds needs to master it and find their outlet. Some may have a different platform than others, but television is the key.

It used to be that once a comedian – and I’m sure singers, dancers, magicians, ventriloquists as well – got on a big show like Ed Sullivan or Johnny Carson, they were as good as set. They’d get all the agents that were anyone fighting over them, and usually end up with a guaranteed income.

There were a few that flamed out, but for the most part those shows were the showcase for the very best of the best in any field of entertainment. If one was lucky enough to get on a show like that, literally MILLIONS would see them in one shot. It’s not like that anymore, and never will be. The days of the world wide mega star entertainer are over thanks to one reason – the internet.

There will be a few that slip through, but it won’t be like it was. Everybody in society had seen Bob Hope when he was popular, but not everybody has seen Justin Timberlake or Beyonce. The fan bases of those people tend to be in their own generation, and it’s not necessarily a negative.

It sure allows for more specialized serving of one’s audience, and also gives more entertainers a taste of the enormous success that used to be reserved for only the elite marquee names like an Elvis or Frank Sinatra before him. The Beatles were huge too, as was Michael Jackson. Now we have a ton of acts carving out their own smaller empires, with most of the world oblivious to it.

Getting on television is still important, but not nearly as important as knowing how to manage the internet. The game has changed completely now in that schmuckos like me and everyone else with a computer can technically throw our hats in the ring and start making our own appearances on “television”. It’s not network television, but the possibility does exist for it to be seen all over.

I’m not just talking national television, I’m talking WORLD WIDE. “Going viral” is possible, even though it’s not likely just like buying a lottery ticket doesn’t make you likely to win. What it does is gives one a chance to win, and today’s entertainer needs to come up with a battle plan.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen made over and over is people putting things out there too soon. I hear the newbies talking about how they have six videos and four CDs and “did an hour” at some toilet club somewhere that was recorded and is now a “one hour special”. I hear this constantly.

The trick is to make a special truly special. Years of hard work and polish can’t be avoided if a comedian or any other act wants to break through the crowd. These are things nobody gets told at the beginning, and it’s wrongly assumed everything they do needs to be recorded and thrown out there for the universe to see. I equate this with dirty diapers. Should those be displayed openly?

Of course not. They should be changed in private and thrown out. Eventually the baby will not need to wear one anymore, and it’s a non issue. The same is true for entertainers. Don’t show us your dirty diapers on You Tube or anywhere else. It’s a whole new game, and I need to master it like everyone else. It’s a good thing I have a lifetime of experience. I am really going to need it.

Dirty diapers are NOT for public display. Too many newbie comedians seem to think every bad set they do needs to be on You Tube. WRONG.

Dirty diapers are NOT for public display. Too many newbie comedians seem to think every brutal set they do needs to be on You Tube.


John Pinette

April 7, 2014

Sunday April 6th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

As if I wasn’t feeling low enough already, I got a phone call from a friend asking if I had heard John Pinette was found dead in his hotel room today. I hadn’t, and it struck a painful nerve in my heart. I have known, liked and respected John for many years, and while I won’t lie and try to claim we were close friends he was a comedy peer and we shared a stage on many occasions.

What freaked me out deeply was that I had just thought of him yesterday. I was between shows in the green room at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago last night, and happened to run across one of John’s DVDs laying around. John was a regular at Zanies, and that’s how we hooked up years ago. The owner of Zanies Rick Uchwat acted as John’s manager, and they were extremely close.

I’m not sure exactly what their professional relationship was, but John and Rick were a hell of a team. Both were loaded with natural charisma, and they could always be seen together when he worked at Zanies – which was often. I loved them both, and always looked forward to when they would both be around. John was a world class comedian, and I never met a kinder human being.

John had a March birthday like I do, and I tried to at least contact him on his birthday if I’d not seen him in a while. Rick had a March birthday too. I’d accidentally overlooked John’s birthday this year, and seeing that DVD last night jarred my memory. I made a mental note to get in touch.

Unfortunately, now I’ve missed my chance forever and I feel horrible. John was a super gentle soul, but did have some vicious demons. I could see he was in pain, and we talked about it often. It was hard not to like the guy, and I felt very sad for him when he’d tell me about his life story.

He was from Boston originally, and totally a dented can. Like me, he was a big time giver and those are the people that get screwed over the hardest. He told me of many instances where he’d gotten the shaft, and I know it hurt him. It should have, because he had a mammoth heart of gold.

Whenever he would play a Zanies, he was famous for buying food for everyone from comics to staff and even fans. One time I saw him spend $100 at Taco Bell, and that’s not easy to do. There was a lot of pain inside him, but he always tried to make others happy instead of wallowing in it.

I hadn’t seen John a lot in the last few years, but the last time we did cross paths I thought he’d looked as good as I’d ever seen him. He had an operation to keep his weight down and it worked. He was in great spirits, and we had a lot of laughs. I always felt relaxed and at home around him.

He possessed an off the charts level of likeability onstage and off that few if any ever begin to approach. He had ‘it’, and then some. He even opened for Frank Sinatra for a while, and that’s a powerhouse credit all by itself. He was an amazing talent, and I am lucky to have crossed paths.

His main credit was being the guy that was car jacked on the final episode of “Seinfeld”, but he was so much more than that. I salute his life and accomplishments, and I hope he is finally at peace. If anyone deserves it, it’s him. He had a heart bigger than he was, and everyone that ever met him adored him. I know I did – and still do.

There has never been a funnier - or kinder - comedian than John Pinette. He was beloved by all who knew him. I am one. SO sad to hear of his passing today.

There has never been a funnier – or kinder – comedian than John Pinette. He was beloved by all who knew him, and I am one. He was a giant talent with an even bigger heart.

Tom Dreesen = Class Act

October 4, 2012

Wednesday October 3rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Talk about your pleasant surprises! I received an email last night from Tom Dreesen asking me to call him this morning, which I did. He had heard about the Joshua Albert fundraiser show I am putting together and wanted to offer his help. Anyone who knows Tom would not be surprised.

If there is a classier human being not only in standup comedy but in the entertainment business in general than Tom Dreesen, I have yet to meet or even hear of that person. Tom personifies the term ‘consummate professional’, and he sets the standard when it comes to conducting business.

I remember first seeing Tom on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He is originally from Harvey, IL and always talked about it in his act. Growing up in Milwaukee, I had no clue where comedians came from and assumed none would come from anywhere near me. He inspired me.

As I got into the business myself and ended up moving to Chicago, Tom’s name was spoken of with reverence and his reputation of helping younger and especially Chicago area comedians was legendary. It was many years before I met him myself, but when I did he lived up to his billing.

One of the most fun things I’ve ever gotten to do was share the air on WGN radio with Tom as he sat in with ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ a couple of years ago. Ken Sevara knows him well, and Tom was gracious to sit in with us. Not only that, he treated us to lunch at the Billy Goat Tavern afterward.

Watching how Tom carries himself is a clinic in how to be in show business. He’s never off his game, and always has a positive attitude. He just has the demeanor for it, and not everyone does. I know I don’t. I’m a kooky bastard, and I freely admit it. I’m one of those offbeat ‘artiste’ types. I’m trying to get better, but my nature is to follow my creative urges. Tom is smarter than that.

Tom played the business game of show business, and played to win. Win he did, and that gives him the freedom to do what he wants creatively. Smart formula! Why didn’t I think of that? I did think of it I guess, I just didn’t execute it. Tom Dreesen did, and that’s why he has my admiration and respect. Having him contact me about helping not only this time but in the future was huge.

Tom has some unbelievable credits to his name. He was part of the first (and only) black/white comedy team of all time with Tim Reid who played Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinnati. That alone is a remarkable accomplishment, but he’s probably most well known for being the opening act for Frank Sinatra for 14 years. He’s also been a tireless charity worker for numerous causes.

This is the kind of person I aspire to be myself. If I can build half the reputation Tom did for all the charity work alone he’s done, then I’ll have been a huge success. He’s known for showing up and pitching in, and that’s how I want to be known also. Hearing from him was an absolute thrill.

Tom has a one man show he wrote called ‘An Evening of Laughter and Stories of Sinatra’ he is now doing around the country. He said if I can secure a venue in Milwaukee he’d gladly come in and help the cause. I’ll do this event first, but what a kind offer that is.

Travels Unravel

July 23, 2010

Wednesday July 21st, 2010 – Grand Cayman/Miami, FL/Chicago, IL

Long day today, mostly travel. I had to report to where I checked in on the ship at 11am and get my paperwork filled out before being taken to the airport in Grand Cayman with a van load of other entertainers including Jim Brick, a pair of jugglers and Christopher Alan Graves. He’s the Sinatra/Sammy Davis Jr. tribute singer we saw perform live last night.

What a life he has. He has that big production show running on two different ships, and he alternates doing it once each week. He flies in the night before, does the show and flies out the next morning. He lives in Ft. Lauderdale, and flies to wherever the particular ship is that might have his show, which he told me has been running for ten solid years now.

That seems like a lot of flying, but he didn’t seem to mind. He’s got two separate sets of costumes he keeps on each ship and works with two separate ten piece bands. None of the stress I have as a pissy little standup can come close to what he must go through but that’s part of the deal. He accepts it and deals with it. I totally respect the guy. He’s a true pro.

Jim Brick was also a consummate professional the whole trip. He really was nice about showing me around and giving me tips, and I know management likes him and I was told he said some very nice things about me to a few of the higher ups already. I help as many people as I can, so when it comes back I’m very flattered and grateful. Jim’s been super.

There were no mean people on this whole trip at all to speak of. Not one. No supervisor head case types, no boozed up hecklers babbling incoherently, nothing like that. I know if I did enough of these that kind of stuff would pop up, but ever so rarely. This isn’t a club.

Jim and I were talking about that in the Grand Cayman airport, which really isn’t grand at all. It looks like a mini beat up version of the Grand Forks airport, but what do I know? I do know I got a snack of potato chips and a Pepsi and it cost me $5.70 American. Ouch.

I know, I had a Pepsi, but I didn’t have one all week on the ship and in fact I thought my diet was very good despite the constant temptation. I ate a lot of salads, fruits, vegetables, and grain bread while staying away from massive amounts of sweets or red meat. I had an occasional naughty nosh but by far not out of control. Plus, I did walk every day as well.

What a hassle it was to get off the ship though. They put us all on a tiny ferry boat kind of thing and that took us to the main Grand Cayman Island so we could give our passports to some government woman who had an American accent suspiciously. She clogged up a time toilet for all of us as we had to wait and get our paperwork as a group before leaving.

The good thing is, that Latino babe from the ship came with us to help make sure it was all done correctly. She smelled like a cross between coconut cream pie and sexy perfume and I wanted to dive on her in the boat, but that might have gotten me some prison time in Grand Cayman and that would have pissed everyone else off because we were all in a big rush to make our plane at the airport. She did ask when I was coming back, so that’s nice.

It probably would have been easier had I just stayed. By the time we cleared everything with customs and passports, we had to hurry to get to the airport. We were only in Grand Cayman for about an hour, but they still made us go through all that anyway. Go figure.

The flight to Miami was only about an hour too – but then they made us go through it all AGAIN. I was pretty frustrated but I’ve learned not to cop an attitude with anyone who is a border patrol agent for any country. I shut my mouth, gave up my documents and waited along with everyone else. It was totally stupid to do it once much less twice, but we did.

The flight from Miami to Chicago was a total nightmare. First, the plane was late about an hour because of a mechanical delay. There was no air conditioning as we waited and it was like a sauna until they fixed whatever needed fixing. There were a pair of babies with the lung capacity and stamina of Pavarotti who were hitting solos left and right and also a yelping dog that everyone wanted to toss off the back of the plane. We were all on edge.

I had a window seat this time and in the middle seat was a very attractive woman with a stuck up snooty attitude I really wasn’t into after hearing two screaming waterheads and a pissed off pooch for a solid hour. She was dressed business sexy though, and looked very good all dolled up in her corporate monkey suit. She had a computer, blackberry and ipod and wouldn’t stop fidgeting with any of them to the point of being extremely annoying.

At first I tried flirting a little because she was good looking, but she made it very clear I was not on her radar, and her sour attitude erased any surface sex appeal there might have been so I took it upon myself to try to annoy her as much as she annoyed me. I know how badly I snore, so I happily nodded off knowing I’d buzz saw her until her eyelids rattled.

I noticed she had her ipod in when I woke up, so I made it a point to go to the bathroom three times just to piss her off. She tried to go to sleep after that and I took out my laptop and started pecking on my ‘Schlitz Happened!’ press release. I know my typing kept her awake, and there was something selfishly satisfying about needling such an uppity bitch.

Here I just spent a week on a cruise ship with HUNDREDS of hot women of all colors, races, social status and income levels, and here’s one with a perpetual period on a packed plane that fate had to put next to me, not to mention the bellowing babies and loud pooch. Sorry, not today. I just wasn’t up for it, and it actually gave me something to fill my time.

The plane landed and I knew she wanted to get away from me as quickly as possible but she couldn’t pry her bag out of the top compartment so I helped her with a smile in front of the other passengers, which really pissed her off. She grabbed her bag without saying a word and I blew her a kiss in front of everyone and said “You’re welcome, sweetie pie!”

A few of the people on the plane laughed, and that’s good enough for me. Maybe she’d had a bad day, blah blah blah. The older I get, the more I realize there’s really nothing that serious anymore. I’d rather be ugly and comfortable in my own skin than a hottie with her piss poor demeanor. This was a long week, and travel makes it longer. I earned my pay.