Posts Tagged ‘IRS’

Redd Foxx

December 11, 2013

Tuesday December 10th, 2013 – Island Lake, IL

I’m a day late, but I would be remiss if I didn’t remember the birth date of John Elroy Sanford – aka Redd Foxx – who was born on December 9th, 1922. He was influential to comedians of both his own generation and those that followed him, and in my opinion has always been under rated.

I first discovered him like most Americans from his role as Fred Sanford on ‘Sanford and Son’ in the ‘70s, but I later came to realize how important a figure he was in the bigger picture of the 20th century standup comedy scene. He was a groundbreaker and trendsetter with ‘party records’.

Those were recordings of standup comedy shows that were risqué for the time, but pretty tame by today’s standards. Before cable TV and the internet, it was the only source of entertainment at most parties and it filled a void. Redd Foxx realized this, and was smart enough to carve a niche.

I saw an interview with him years ago where he talked about having the reputation of doing X rated material or ‘working blue’, and he said the only reason he did it was that there was no place else for the public to get it at the time. It was strictly a business decision, and it worked for him.

Redd appeared on about 50 of these records, and I remember owning several through the years. I’ve moved so many times I eventually ended up dumping all my vinyl albums, but I do wish I’d held on to an autographed album I bought at a rummage sale for $1. I should have had it framed.

Redd worked the ‘chitlin’ circuit’, which is a nice way of saying he played hell holes sweating to squeak out a living just like I’ve been doing my entire adult life. I can only imagine the glut of horror stories he must have had trying to pry payment out of club owners and living on the road.

He wasn’t paid nearly enough for his record sales, even though it did help make him a name to sell tickets for his live performances. He came along at a time where there wasn’t much recourse but to keep working and squeak out a living. He paid his dues, and deserved his eventual success.

I thought Sanford and Son was a very funny show, and still do. Redd’s character holds up well in my opinion. It was always a highly rated show at the time, and my grandparents both loved it so that says a lot. They had different senses of humor, and as a kid I liked it too. It was universal.

Jerry Dye is a Chicago comedian who was born in Mississippi, and is in the generation before me. I worked with him many years ago, and he told me he used to write for Sanford and Son. He said that Redd was notorious for putting as many of his chitlin’ circuit friends on the show as he could. It might only have been a small speaking role or even an extra, but he took care of them.

I always thought that was classy, and should I ever have the ability to do that I’d absolutely do it too. It would be a thrill to be able to give people national television exposure, especially those who have paid dues and deserved it. Redd shared the wealth, and I loved hearing that from Jerry.

Unfortunately, Redd had some nasty issues with the IRS. Rumor has it he owed millions when he died. He was a performer first and business wasn’t a priority. Boy, can I relate to that mindset. Still, Redd Foxx was a pioneer and I greatly respect all of his work. He’s up there with the best.

Redd Foxx was the undisputed king of 'party records'.

Redd Foxx was the undisputed king of ‘party records’.

His major fame came from his role as Fred G. Sanford - the name of his deceased older brother.

His mainstream fame came from his role as Fred G. Sanford – the name of his deceased older brother.

Boston Crabby

April 17, 2013

Monday April 15th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   I don’t know what happened, but today was a train wreck on many levels. For some mysterious reason, all hell decided to break loose at once and I have no idea why. I have been in a very good groove for the most part over the last several months, feeling as happy as I ever have in my life.

   My daily vibe has been looking up on a consistent basis, and I haven’t had any rough stretches for a long time. Life has actually been great fun – exactly how I pictured it when I was a kid. I am not naïve enough to think there wouldn’t be downswing, but I sure wasn’t looking forward to it.

   Today happened to be ‘one of those days’ from the start, and it finished worse. The first glitch I encountered was the transmission in my car slipping noticeably. That car has given me nothing but trouble since I got it for free, and I’m about ready to set it on fire and watch it burn to a crisp.

   It’s almost time to switch it out for the Toyota Camry I have in storage, but I wanted to stretch as many miles out of it as I could to at least try to get back some of the money I had to pour into it to get it running. The whole idea was a big mistake, and I’m going to lose in the end anyway.

   Then it’s tax day. I don’t know how I managed to mangle that yet again, but I did. I thought I’d solved my problems, but I had to again tell my accountant to file an extension because I couldn’t get all the paperwork to him in time. I’m a lot better than I have been in the past, but still behind.

   What throws me off is that I have to wait for places I worked to send me a 1099 form. They are supposed to do it by January 31st, but there are always those that don’t and that in turn puts me in the trick bag and before I know it it’s April 15th and I’m behind yet again. I always report 100% of whatever I make – cash included – as I don’t need any IRS trouble over my meager earnings.

   I’d much rather have a clear conscience and be up front about every nickel I make, but it’s hard to get every place I work to stay up to date. I need to keep better records myself, and I have been, but I’m still not there yet. I’ll get it done, but I’ve been on the road so much I fell behind – again.

   All this is baby poo compared to what happened in Boston today. There were some explosions at the Boston Marathon that killed a few people and severely wounded a lot more. Whenever this kind of thing happens, it puts me in a foul mood to the point I don’t even want to turn on the TV.

   I can’t figure out what’s wrong with people, and times like this disgust me to the core. I’ve said forever there are all kinds of people I can’t stand, but I never had any intention of killing anyone. I’ve always been a proponent of just living a life out of touch of anyone with whom I can’t stand.

   There’s no reason to get violent with anyone – especially innocent people who have nothing to do with whatever issue there may be. That appears to be the case in Boston, and it makes me feel sick to my stomach. It’s all so unnecessary and I wish it would stop, but I think it’s just starting.

   This is all extremely fishy, much like 9/11. I have a hard time believing it was just one random act, and it’s going to set off another string of events to further put the squeeze on any freedom we as Americans may have left. Somebody somewhere has got an agenda of evil, and innocent folks have to pay with their lives to move it forward. That’s not how life should work, but I don’t have a say in it on a bigger picture but my own life. I was on a major positive upswing – and I guess I still am – but stories like this sure make it hard to stay there. My heart goes out to all the victims.

Fred Sanford Revisited

February 12, 2013

Sunday February 10th, 2013 – Lake County, IL

   I’ve been dipping my toe in the water with the antiques picking game, and I think I’m going to do pretty well for several reasons. I’ve been looking for another source of income that’s flexible, and I think this is it. It won’t be easy, but if I play my cards right I’ll be able to turn a fair profit.

Right now I’m mainly practicing my ability to pick items out of thrift stores. That’s not a huge source of guaranteed income, as all those items have to pass in front of a lot of eyes before even making it to the store shelves. Still, there are often trinkets that do and that’s what I want to find.

It becomes a poker game of deciding what I can get at a lower price and spin for more than my initial investment. There will be expenses of time and money if I choose to sell on Ebay or set up at a flea market, so I have to decide what I can do well enough with to make it worth purchasing.

I’ve scored quite a few smaller items already, and that gives me hope there’s a lot more to pick – especially when rummage sales start in the spring. I’m learning what to look for, and it’s a total switch from what I’ve been buying for the past twenty five years when scouring the thrift stores.

It used to be all I’d look for would be books, CDs, DVDs and maybe cassettes depending upon if I had a cassette player in the particular car I happened to be driving at the time. I’d often score great stuff for a very low price, but I discovered the turnover market wasn’t there. I never bought to turn it over, but after moving several times and having to drag it all with me I’ve restructured.

I have enough books to read for the next forty years, should I be lucky enough to live that long. I am now focusing on baubles and trinkets that can be spun for a profit, and that can include a lot of things from jewelry to glassware to furniture to vinyl records just to name a few. There are all kinds of possibilities, and I have a whole lot to learn about all of them. Right now I’m guessing.

For example, I stopped in Goodwill on my way to a gig a few weeks ago and they had a sale on vinyl records. Albums were a quarter and 45s were three for a quarter. It’d been years since I had any records and I don’t own a turntable on which to play them, but I gambled five bucks on some older stuff from the early ‘60s that was in very nice shape. It was a calculated but affordable risk.

One of the albums was a ‘Bat Masterson’ TV show piece that was dated 1960. It’s in excellent shape, and I saw on Ebay that one had sold for $100. Bingo! I’m not saying I’ll get $100, but if it brings even $40-$50 I’ll be ecstatic. Now I have to find someone who is willing to pay me for it.

There were some other albums in the stack that were listed between $25 and $60, but again that in no way means I’ll get that. Still, I think I made a fantastic buy for my $5 and now I’m going to experiment with ways to turn it all for a profit. It’s all a risk, but I’m into the whole pile for a fin.

This kind of stuff is everywhere and always has been, but I wasn’t looking for it until now. It’s certainly not my goal to become a modern day Fred Sanford, and the last thing I want is to waste my time thinking I’m going to get rich quick. I’m not delusional going into this. It’s a transition.

Hopefully it can help me make a few bucks to keep me off the lower end gigs on the road, and when I am on the road it’s something I can do to productively use my time to make contacts that hopefully I can use to move some of the inventory I do get. I’m learning quickly that winning in this game is about knowing where to sell things BEFORE they’re bought. That takes a network.

I’ve got a few comedy contacts that do this kind of thing either for side income or to earn their actual living. Greg Willet is in Appleton, WI and he’s a full time dealer. Greg has been generous with his time in helping me get started, and he informed me of a pick where an old baseball card that was found in a scrap book brought $92,000 at auction. Big ticket scores are still out there.

Someone wins the lottery every week as well, and I’m totally aware this is a long shot. I don’t expect to make a million dollars tomorrow, but with a little effort and smarts applied to what I’m already doing I think I can use it to make a few extra bucks. I’m not looking to cheat anyone and I am going to report every penny of profit to the IRS – but I will take all my legal deductions too.

Today I ventured out to test the waters at a couple of small flea markets that happen to be near where I live. I just wanted to get a feel for what’s out there these days and see if setting up at one might be in my near future. I wasn’t impressed with either one as a whole, but there were dealers at each one that stood out so I’m glad I went. I ended up learning from them all – good and bad.

One ingredient that was painfully missing from the mix was showmanship. Way more than not, most of those who set up just threw everything in a pile and let it sit. A few of the dealers would say hello as I walked into their domain, but most did not. They sat there knitting or reading their book or whatever they were doing, and it was interesting to monitor how each person behaved.

Signage was another thing that caught my eye. A few of the sellers had eye catching signs that let me know how much their merchandise was, but most others had sloppy hand written stuff that was very unappealing to the eye. If I would set up at a show like this I would handle it differently and I bet I’d do well. My entertainment background would set me light years ahead of the pack.

I could see myself dressed up as The King of Uranus at some big flea market, and attract a long line of people to my booth to buy things. I could do some kind of humorous presentation and sell funny items like joke books or farting dolls or something I can pick up cheap and spin for profit.

All of this is all about the show, and I know it going in. It’s not my goal to spend the rest of my life looking for rare Edsel hubcaps or ‘I Like Ike’ buttons. I want to use those things to help turn a buck, but that’s about it. I enjoy the treasure hunt aspect, but the real buzz comes from a show.

I want it all to tie in together, and I think it can. If comedy fans know I wheel and deal antiques they might sell to me before approaching a stranger – especially if I develop an honest reputation as I intend to. If antique customers know I do comedy, they might become fans. It ties together. I am not taking this lightly, and I know there is work involved in addition to a need to get educated in a lot of areas of expertise so I can make smart choices when buying things. I have work to do.

Deals On Wheels

January 29, 2013

Friday January 25th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Sometimes the right thing to do is to cut one’s losses and move on. That’s something I have not been willing to do as often as I should have in my life, and it’s only brought more heartache upon situations that have already proven to be losing propositions. It’s time to try something different.

This nightmare situation with my ‘free’ car has been a flat out disaster. Well meaning intention or not, I just can’t afford to keep getting kicked in the ball joints like I have been and I need to go in another direction. I’ve painted myself into a financial corner and this couldn’t come at a worse time, but when is a good time for any problem? They show up like bad relatives that won’t leave.

I’ve been keeping my eye out for a different car of late, and I found it. There are no guarantees with any used car unfortunately, but this is a calculated risk I feel I have to take. I need to have a dependable car to get to gigs, and also as a self esteem builder. Driving ratty cars is getting old.

My plan had been to drive the ’94 Nissan for at least a year, and save some money to move up the food chain and buy something at least halfway decent. My credit is so far in the toilet I doubt I’ll be able to get a car loan in this lifetime or the next, but that’s where it sits. I’m in a tight spot.

The car I found is an extra clean 1995 Toyota Camry. It’s only got 95,000 miles on it, and it’s a one owner car from Wisconsin of all places. There are written records of all the maintenance that was performed and the original owner took it to a Toyota dealer exclusively. It’s been cared for.

I’ve had several Toyotas from that era, and loved every one of them. They handle well, and get great gas mileage. The only reason I got rid of any them was that they were hit and totaled out by the insurance company. Had that not occurred, I’d probably still be driving one to this very day.

There’s no guarantee this one won’t get plowed into as well, but I am going to roll the dice and go deep into debt to get it anyway. I’m juicing up my credit card as far as it will go, and I haven’t been one to do that as a rule. I’ve saved it for emergency situations, but this is starting to qualify.

It was getting to the point where I was sticking more into that Nissan than if I’d had a loan on a brand spanking new Cadillac, and I just can’t see that continuing. I’ll send the Nissan through the auction, and that will go to pay off the credit card. I’d prefer not to do it that way, but right now I have no other choice. This is an opportunity I feel I need to jump on, and I’m not going to flinch.

I can’t help but be reminded of the people who owe me money from years ago, and if I had that I could have paid cash for the Toyota and had money left over to throw at my IRS bill which also needs to get paid sooner than later. This is a very painful lesson, but rather than stew in what I’ve blown in the past I need to forge ahead and get myself out from under this mess. It’s a tough test.

In the short run, this is a stressful pain in my differential. The last thing I want to be doing right now is farting around with changing cars – especially in the winter – but in the long run I feel I’m  making the right choice and hopefully it will free me up to keep myself on a good track for 2013.

Ticket Master

January 12, 2013

Thursday January 10th, 2013 – Eau Claire, WI

   Life sure has a coldhearted way of sucking all the wind out of someone’s sail. All that’s needed to let a person know without a doubt who’s in charge and really running the show is an event that pops up out of the blue to wave the cosmic finger of warning. I received one today and it stinks.

I’ve really gone out of my way to put forth a major effort to get myself in a positive mindset of late – especially for the New Year. I’ve been doing all the right things, and felt myself getting on a nice little roll. I’ve been working on my career, my health and my personal life and feeling like I may actually have a shot at living my dreams after all. I really believed 2013 would be my year.

Then, on my way to Eau Claire, WI this afternoon I was pulled over in my rental car and given a speeding ticket for $250 by one of the smuggest cops I ever recall encountering. I could tell by how he cockily strutted from his car to mine that he was going to give me a ticket and that was it.

I don’t know why I knew it, but I could feel that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time for catching any leniency. I’d noticed there were cars getting pulled over all through Wisconsin. I’m sure Illinois plates on my rental car didn’t help, but I was consciously keeping my speed down.

The reason I was speeding was to pass an 18 wheeler so it wouldn’t kick up any stones to crack my windshield. I’ve been a magnet for that through my life, and it was expensive enough to have to rent the car in the first place. I was just looking to keep expenses down, not to break any laws.

Sure enough, Officer Hemorrhoid was on my ass out of nowhere, and looked pleased to be able to write me a $250 ticket. Did I bring up that I put together a benefit fundraiser for an officer that was injured just a few months ago? I didn’t, but that’s not why I did the benefit. I wanted to help a fellow human being who was in a pinch. Now I find myself in a financial one. Who helps ME?

In the big picture of life, does driving a rental car faster than the posted speed limit qualify me as a criminal? I realize it’s just a revenue stream for the state – kind of like winning the anti lotto. Instead of winning a scratch off for $250, I got picked out of the crowd to have to pay it instead.

I’m already in the toilet to pay the IRS for taxes, and I try my hardest to make an honest living providing a service that people need now more than ever before. Laughter is getting scarcer and scarcer with all the insanity going on in the world, and one would think the universe would value it and protect those who provide that service. Instead, it seems like we’re getting blasted hardest.

Most of my comedian friends are really struggling right now, as is most of America. No matter how positive anyone tries to think, times are very tough and getting tougher. Getting this ticket is a killer, as it will cause me to lose money for the trip. I was on a very slim profit margin already.

I’m sure it will make my insurance higher, and probably haunt me for years. Any road warrior knows speeding tickets happen, but this timing is terrible. It stings badly, but life doesn’t care. It could still be a great year, but I fail to see why this was necessary. Universe, bug someone else.

Battle Stations

October 25, 2012

Tuesday October 23rd, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   Battle stations, everyone. Oh, wait a minute – it’s just me. I’m backed against a wall and I can’t count on anyone but myself to slug my way out. I’d love to get a helping hand from someone but it’s still hard for me to trust. I’ve been scorched so many times in life, I can’t help being a cynic.

This has to be the time to develop a new approach and a better attitude. I’ve been stuck in mud too many times to count, and it’s not like this is the worst I’ve ever had it. Yes, I owe a chunk of coin to the IRS but I’m surely not the first person to be in this position. It’s how I choose to deal with it that counts, and I’m choosing to take the high road and handle it with class and dignity.

If nothing else, it will get me to break my current pattern of behavior which hasn’t been giving me the results I really want. I’ve been barely squeaking by, which is not what I think life should be about. I want to surf the big waves, at least for a little while to experience what that feels like.

It really does boil down to a matter of money, and this is the perfect opportunity to improve my life dramatically. I am uneducated and inexperienced when it comes to money matters, and that’s totally my fault. It’s been a constant source of pain and misery, but that has to change in a hurry.

I have made up my mind to not only pay what I owe to the IRS, but completely transform how I handle my finances from now on. I’ve had enough of how I’ve mangled it for so long, and I am frustrated to the point of taking immediate action to insure it doesn’t happen again. I’m not going to sit back and feel sorry for myself, even though sometimes that seems like the easy alternative.

Today I circled my wagons and tried to come up with my smartest plan of action. I’ve got a lot of possibilities, but I can’t be farting around with long shots right now. No more Ralph Kramden or Lucy get rich quick schemes for me – at least not for the next little while. It’s time to bet safe.

I wouldn’t be above getting some kind of a ‘stable’ job for the next year or so, but just doing it to do it will be a guarantee of pure misery. I don’t mind working, I just want to do something I’ll be able to enjoy. A lot of people don’t have that luxury, but I’ve been able to do it for a lifetime.

No matter how many times I get screwed over in entertainment, I still love doing the actual job. Being on stage as a comedian or on the radio or teaching classes are all great fun when it’s going well – which after all these years is more often than not. If I have trouble, it’s with management.

Comedy bookers and radio management can be absolutely maddening to deal with, and I often say what’s on my mind and get myself in trouble. Still, there are others that think I’m one of the easiest people to work with anywhere. Those are the ones I’m going to gravitate to from now on.

I made a list of my best contacts, and I’m going to rattle their cages and let them know I could use some quality work right about now. I’ll do comedy clubs, cruise ships, corporate work, teach classes, do holiday parties or whatever else I can go make some money and rebuild the nest egg I had to fritter away last year when I was laid up. I’m going to find a way to come back and win.

Plus Tax

October 12, 2012

Thursday October 11th, 2012 – Mt. Prospect, IL

   Whew! What a sense of sheer relief it was to bring my box of tax receipts into my accountant’s office this morning. I felt like I just got a clean bill of health after a complicated biopsy and went to the dentist and only needed a cleaning both on the same day. It was like walking on sunshine.

I really worked hard at getting all those records in order, and my accountant looked at what I’d done and nodded in approval which is a major accomplishment as he’s a pretty quiet guy. “Well, you’re getting better,” he said. “Now we just have to work on getting you to do it a little faster.”

He’s totally right, and the good feeling I had standing there knowing I’d done my due diligence really put me in a great space. I know it was right, and I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders as I walked out of his office. I didn’t cheat anyone, and I did the best I could with what I had. I saved my receipts, and he’ll take care of the deductions. If I owe anything, it will be paid.

I don’t know how I’m going to pay, but I’ll do what I need to do and that’s all I can do. At least I got the wheels in motion, and I can’t feel any better about it. I’m not going to make any shallow promises, as I’ve been down that road before. But I know I fully intend to overcome this problem once and for all, and that will start by just being smart and keeping my records more organized.

Why I didn’t do this before is still a mystery, but I don’t want to go over all that painful ground again and again. I want to start completely new, and I told my accountant my goal is to become a model customer and the example he uses to the rest of his clients on how someone can transform. I want the head of the IRS to call me on April 16th and comment on how stellar my return was.

This is an amazingly important part of show business, business in general and American life in general. Like it or not, (and nobody does) income tax is part of our lives. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon and fair or not that’s how it is. Why make it worse by bungling the process yearly?

I remember hearing horror stories from comedians over the years who hadn’t filed their returns in decades, if ever. Two prime examples have now died, and I guess they ‘won’. But I know a lot of entertainers have had big problems with the IRS from Willie Nelson to Redd Foxx to so many others. Wesley Snipes comes to mind and I’m sure there are a lot more. It’s all a needless waste.

Dealing with what isn’t fun is just that – not fun. But it is necessary, and the true greats always find the way to do what’s best in the long run even if it sacrifices pleasure in the short run. I have seen the light after today, and I really do feel like a new man. I believe in my heart I’m changed.

I believed that after I got my diabetes diagnosis and completely changed my life as far as what I ate and how regularly I exercised, and I’ve stuck with it and feel better than I ever have. I don’t see why I can’t do the same and completely transform the way I handle my tax situation as well.

This way, when I do eventually hit that windfall I’ve always dreamed of I’ll handle it correctly and not have to feel that lump in my stomach I’ve felt so often before. This was a breakthrough.

Old Home Weak

August 15, 2010

Tuesday August 10th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

I have a new show business goal. I would like to be the first entertainer in history to get a reputation for having his income tax situation not only clean, but immaculate. For every Wesley Snipes, Willie Nelson, Redd Foxx, Joe Louis and so many others, I’ve personally never heard of anyone who’s on top of it year after year. I’m sure there must be, but who?

For me, it’s been a life long pain in the I.R.- ass. A flair for math has never been one of my talents and my organizational skills are even worse. Saving fifty cent toll road receipts for months in an envelope to add up in April has never crossed my mind as a fun activity.

I know it’s a necessity in life and especially in my own business as an entertainer so it’s to the point now there’s really no excuse at all. I’ve had a lifetime to master this but I feel no closer to having it aced now than I ever have. I was maybe halfway decent for a couple of years, and they weren’t even in a row. Depending on how goes my mood, so do taxes.

This year, I’ve really let it hit the skids. I thought I was ahead of the game and had a big head start, but now I can’t even find my files at all. I’m talking about for 2009, as the IRS is sending me multiple letters telling me they haven’t received my 2008 return, which is a mystery because I paid my accountant to do it as I do every year. Somehow, it’s been lost.

I really didn’t need another stop to make before heading out to sea, but I went to see my accountant to hopefully clear this all up. He showed me my return from 2008, and I don’t owe the government any money. He made a copy, I signed it, and he said he’d send it out.

He’s a very laid back soft spoken guy, and pretty typical of what one would think to be an accountant type. He’s very Jewish, but that’s a good thing. I don’t want an accountant who’s half Swedish and half Jamaican. Give me a Jewish guy to handle my tax situation. I’ve trusted him now for probably ten years or more, and he knows how flighty I can be.

He pointed his finger at me and said “NO false promises this year, Mr. Comedian. Get yourself a better system of keeping records. You know what you have to do – now DO it.” He’s so right. I just wish it was that easy. For some reason I seem to have a mental block. I always say I’m never going to let this happen again, and then it does. I’m embarrassed.

I fly out at 6:20am tomorrow, and I come back next Sunday for two days before doing it all over again. He told me to bring my paperwork in Monday or Tuesday and said it’s not doing anyone any good to keep filing extensions every year. He’s right, but I guess I feel I get a little reprieve from the government or something by doing it, so I do. It‘s a crutch.

Little does he know, when I got home I wasn’t able to find my paperwork for the life of me. I’ve moved everything around countless times recently as I’ve been clearing out all of my sports cards, sorting laundry, whatever. I obviously had to have put them somewhere, but I sure couldn’t find them today, no matter how hard I looked. I’ll find them when I get back, and take them in and get it done like I always do. But I really need a better system.