Posts Tagged ‘John Pinette’

Social Intercourse

July 15, 2014

Monday July 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I have been feeling more than pretty good of late, and attempting to relax and enjoy the charms of summer. It’s been unbelievably slow on the business side, but jam packed with friends calling and asking to get together. My greatest resource has always been my long list of amazing friends, and that list gets longer and sweeter with time. If I did nothing else in life, I met some nice folks.

To have friends one must be a friend, and that’s where I’m having some issues. I don’t have all the time I’d like to hang out and visit, and that bothers me. I’ve always been one to hang out with someone because I like that person, not for what they can do for me. Unfortunately, that’s not the smart way to do things in a business sense. Social climbing is necessary, at least on some level.

I have always had a hard time hiding my disdain for someone I don’t care for. I realize nobody likes everybody, and there are more than a few that don’t like me either. I have no problem with that, except when those people are friendly to my face but then stab me in the back when I leave.

Why be two faced? Just stay away, and we’ll both be better off. I don’t have time for all of the good friends I have now, so why would I waste even one second with somebody that doesn’t like me? It makes perfect sense to me, but that’s not how business operates. I need to mingle more.

I think we all tend to stay with who is familiar in many areas of our lives, but branching out is absolutely essential in today’s world. Making new contacts can be a job in itself, but maintaining them is even harder. There are only so many lunches in one’s life, and how many times have we all said “Let’s get together soon,” but never do. Even if intentions are sincere, it’s just not easy.

I have been going over my master list of contacts, and I am WAY overdue to get in touch with a lot of people I really like. It could be a phone call or email, but I’d much rather meet up face to face if possible – even though they’re scattered all over the country and beyond. It’s a huge list.

We all have lives to live and I get that, but this year has been extra hard on losing many people I knew but hadn’t contacted in a long time. John Pinette is a prime example. It’s not like we were thick as thieves, but we knew each other well enough that whenever we crossed paths it was fun to see each other. We worked together enough times where we’d built up some positive history.

I’ve got literally hundreds of comedians like that scattered all over the planet, not to mention a ton of friends I made in radio, professional wrestling, trading sports cards and just going through life in general. It’s important to me to stay in contact with as many as I can, even though I can’t come close to keeping current with everyone. Who can? If someone else can do it, major kudos.

I just don’t have enough time, and it’s getting worse. I get up early, work all day, stay up a lot later than I probably should, drop off to sleep and then start it all over again. I make a hell of an effort if I say so myself, but I still fall painfully short. I’m going to have to rearrange yet again.

Idiots and/or scumbags have zero place in my life. Baseball gives three strikes, but I don’t have that kind of patience at this point. I’ll give one strike, and then you’re out. There are far too many good people I want to hang with. I don’t wish the losers harm – I just wish them away from me.

Friendship

Comedian Steve Baird

May 9, 2014

Thursday May 8th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

More sad news of a comedian passing away came today, and I have had about enough already. This has been one of if not the worst years I can ever remember for losing comedians, and today it was another funny nice guy named Steve Baird – yet one more I had worked with in my day.

It’s one thing to hear someone from one’s same city or state dies. It happens every day and that is sad enough, but rare is the case where it’s somebody one knows personally. I can look through the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel obituaries – and I occasionally do – but it’s hardly ever anybody I actually knew. Even when comedians die, it’s not always someone I had ever met one on one.

This year it has been one after another, and I’ve crossed paths with them all. First it was David Brenner, then John Pinette. Then it was ventriloquist Otto Petersen of “Otto and George”, now Steve Baird. I know everyone’s number comes up eventually, but this has been way too many.

The camaraderie between comedians runs shallow and deep at the same time. We often pair up randomly when we are hired to work the same venue anywhere from a night to a weekend to the entire week. Many times we’re thrown together to share an apartment for a week, and that’s how our bonds either form or they don’t. I have always gotten along great with most other comedians.

There are a few turds in the litter box, but that percentage is amazingly low. Most road warriors have a respect for one another because we know how hard it is to hack out a living how we do it, and more often than not a mutual respect develops in a very short time. If someone happens to be the real deal, it shows almost immediately. There’s a vibe there, and a kindred soul recognizes it.

Steve Baird and I weren’t as tight as I am with a lot of comics, but I had nothing but respect for him, and thought he was a funny act. He was from Indianapolis originally, but moved to Florida in recent years and I hadn’t talked to him other than when he’d asked me about teaching his own comedy classes. I had no problem with that as he was more than competent, so I helped him out.

I’d never begrudge someone from making extra money hustling legitimately. He wasn’t taking business from me in Florida when I’m in Chicago so I sent him my lesson plans to look over and wished him well. He thanked me profusely, and I was glad to do it. I respected him as somebody who had paid dues and I liked him as a person as well. He had a dry wit and he made me laugh.

There’s a human side to comedians that the public rarely if ever sees, and I’m not sure if they’d want to. We’re painfully human like everyone else, and our lives are not a constant laugh festival where the party never ends. Quite often our lives are loaded with more problems than anybody.

Jim Bouton wrote about that human side of athletes in his book “Ball Four”, and got himself in a flaming heap of trouble for it. Mickey Mantle was moody and drank a bit. So? He was a human being, but the public wants to see their heroes as being infallible and perfect. It may be different in the internet generation, but it used to be taboo. Comedians were in that off limits category too.

Every Major League ball player isn’t famous for a lifetime, and in fact most aren’t remembered at all outside the towns they played in. Comedy is the same. There are hundreds if not thousands of comedians I’ve crossed paths with that will never be famous to the public but I think the world of as people. They chose a hard profession, and that alone earns my respect. Steve Baird was one in that group, and I am crushed to hear this news. He was funny, friendly and he’s gone too soon.

Another funny comedian has passed away far too soon. Steve Baird and I worked together on several occasions. I'm very saddened to hear of his passing.

Another funny comedian has passed away far too soon. Steve Baird and I worked together on several occasions. I am deeply saddened to hear of his passing.

Tortured Souls

April 9, 2014

Monday April 7th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still feeling sad about John Pinette’s sudden passing. I wish I could say I was surprised, but unfortunately the only surprise was that he lived as long as he did. The man did have his demons, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he was one of the kindest souls I ever remember meeting.

Tim Wilson passed earlier this year, and there was another gentle soul that was a pleasure to be around. I can’t speak for Tim’s personal life, as I didn’t really know him on that level. Most of us as humans have our struggles, but entertainers – comedians especially – are often tortured souls.

Actors and musicians can fall into that category too I suppose. James Dean or Marilyn Monroe would qualify in acting, as would Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain in music. Sometimes their legend grows a lot larger and faster than they do personally, and it leaves them behind as human beings.

Artists, performers and creative types in general are often loaded with quirks, tweaks and deep seeded issues and are an extremely sensitive lot. I know I am, and have never denied it. Life isn’t easy as a rule, but it seems that the more gifted a creative person is the more problems they have.

I can remember being called a genius by some of my teachers in grade school. I’m not trying to brag or flatter myself – I’m just reporting a fact. I had a twelfth grade reading level by about third grade, and I remember my teacher Mrs. Matthews calling my grandparents to tell them I was one of the most creatively gifted students she’d ever taught – and she’d been teaching for fifty years.

At the time I had no idea what any of that meant. It felt like I was getting singled out, and I was uncomfortable about it if anything. I remember my father hearing about it, and he started calling me “The GENIUS” in such a sarcastic way that I learned to hate the word. It’s still embarrassing.

I think creative types often get squelched early, or at least they’re not encouraged to get inside their own head and see what’s under the hood. My grandmother never wanted to see me pursue any kind of creative endeavor. She wanted me to be a clerk typist like my uncle. How torturous that would have been, and had I been forced to do that I would have eaten a bullet lunch by now.

Unfortunately, creative types are human beings as well, and human beings as a rule want to be “normal” – whatever that may be. We just want to fit in, and be part of a family. I know that’s all I ever wanted, but I never had it as a kid. That caused me to stifle a lot of my creativity at certain times, but it runs so deeply that I couldn’t do it very long. It’s just who I am and I can’t help it.

John Pinette was that kind of person too. I’m not sure if he was left handed or not, but he sure had all the attributes. He was brilliantly creative, but unfortunately much of the public only saw him as “that fat guy”. Chris Farley had the same label, but he was a lot more than that as well.

I really could relate to a John Pinette, and I liked the guy a lot. I know what made him tick, and all he wanted was to be happy and see everyone else happy too. He gave his life trying to make it better for others, and I’m trying to do the same. Sometimes it feels like I’m spinning my wheels.

The word 'genius' is often misunderstood.

The definition of ‘genius’ is often extremely misunderstood.

All too often those that are have demons to go with it. It seems to go hand in hand.

All too often those that are have demons to go with it. It seems to go hand in hand.

Speaking of hands, a lot of genius types happen to be left handed. Why? Who knows?

Speaking of hands, a lot of genius types happen to be left handed. Why? Who knows?

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.