Posts Tagged ‘luck’

A Cup Of Coffee

July 28, 2014

Tuesday July 22nd, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Oh, how time flies. Four years ago today my appearance on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” aired. I’d recorded it the previous March, and by the time it ran I honestly thought it would never air. When it did, it was a tremendous experience – at least for people around me.

For whatever reason, that super short four and a half minutes on national television at 1:30am was a whole lot more impressive to people than the lifetime it took to get there. To me it wasn’t that big of a deal, because it was the easy part. All I had to do was walk out there and do a whole lot less time than I’m used to doing. It was like a night off, but that’s what put me over the top.

As far as credibility is concerned, making it to national television even once is proof of having played in the majors. It’s not a guarantee of a lifetime of problem free bliss, but neither is making the majors in any kind of sport or entertainment genre. Lots of people have more problems after they get there than before they started, and I’m sure more than a few wish they had never started.

There is so much involved to “making it big” in any genre of entertainment, but the one factor nobody can ever gain control over is luck. Things happen good and bad, and that’s just how it is. I freely admit that I got very lucky in a good way to have the door open to get on the show, but I also knew what to do with that luck when I got it. I had to play the game for a while, but I did it.

I went back and forth with the talent booker, and then they changed talent bookers. Then they did it again. Then the original person came back, and I started all over again. It took a couple of years to play out, but I got my spot and no matter what else I ever do nobody can take that away.

Several years have gone by now, and I haven’t gotten anything close to that kind of a break in anything I’ve tried. Did I put forth any less effort during that time? NO WAY. In fact, I probably put in more, but I had a few bad breaks health wise and that took me out. Again, it’s all part of it. That was a bad break just like initially getting the call to open for Craig Ferguson was positive.

After living through this process and seeing it with others I know personally, I totally see why there are one hit wonders in music. If it’s this complicated for a comedian, I can’t begin to think what it must be like for a band. Talent isn’t the only thing that puts an act over the top. It’s many things, and everything has to line up at the right place and time for a career to really take root.

None of this is said with bitterness, but I think it’s important to note that there are a number of ingredients needed to bake a cake. I’ll also be the first to admit I’ve shot myself in the foot more than once, but that happens to others too. Michael Vick is one of the most blatant examples of all time, but he still managed to come back and salvage a decent career. Not everyone gets that shot.

It’s hard to say if I will ever catch another break as big as the ones I’ve already had. No matter what happens from now on though, I did manage to get on national television as a comedian and had a job doing mornings at 97.9 ‘The Loop’ in Chicago. In radio, that’s the big leagues as well.

Not many ever make it to one of those much less both, but the key is to stay there and carve out a career. I had a cup of coffee but that was it. So far. Maybe that will be it. Maybe not. We’ll see.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That's harder than it sounds.

Success in show business requires more than just a cup of coffee on TV. One has to make a mark. That’s a lot harder than it sounds.

An Almost Anniversary

March 28, 2013

Thursday March 28th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   I can’t let today pass without mentioning it’s almost the anniversary of a very significant day in my life I thought I’d never forget. It turns out I haven’t forgotten, but it’s getting buried deeper in my memory than I ever thought it would when it took place twenty years and a week ago today.

On the night of March 21st, 1993 I was coming home to Milwaukee from performing a show in Antigo, WI when I flipped my Mustang convertible completely upside down and almost lost my life. I still don’t know how I managed to survive, but I did and every day since has been a bonus.

In what was one of the freakiest chains of events I have ever seen, a drunk driver heading west on Capitol Drive in Milwaukee somehow managed to knock an electric power pole out of socket and it caused live electric power lines to be drawn tight across lanes of traffic on Capitol Drive.

The lines were about two feet off the ground – perfect height to hook underneath the bumper of my Mustang and flip the car upside down. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time, and was in the left hand lane on Capitol Drive headed east at 19th Street. I saw the power lines in front of me but had no way to stop in time and I didn’t even try. Before I knew it I was upside down in pain.

Apparently, the drunk driver had hit the power pole only seconds before I got there. If that isn’t the ultimate Mr. Lucky story I don’t know what is. What are the chances I would be in that exact spot at that exact time? It’s beyond astronomical, but there I was. I heard later had I even been in the right hand lane on Capitol Drive I probably wouldn’t have flipped, but little good that does.

I have often gone over in my mind the details of what caused me to be precisely in that place at that time, and it’s flabbergasting. I had the opportunity to stay in Antigo that night, but I insisted on driving home. I had a girlfriend I really liked then, and we had a lunch date the following day.

We never made our lunch date, and it turns out I ended up never seeing her again. I ended up in St. Michael’s hospital with a twice fractured sternum, a broken jaw and a whole pile of problems I would end up paying for for years. I had six months of recovery time, and it was an ugly mess.

I don’t enjoy going back to that place in my life, and the farther I get from it the better I like it. I can’t believe I survived not only the accident, but all the circumstances that were around me at the time that went along with it. My best friend had robbed a bank he used to work at and I was the only one other than him that knew about it. Then he ended up robbing the same bank again.

There were all kinds of complicated twists and turns, and all kinds of things were going wrong in my life at once. That girlfriend was lucky she bowed out when she did and I wish I could have joined her. It wasn’t fun being me at that time, but who has a choice of the poker hand life deals?

I had more than my hands full, and looking back twenty years later I have no idea how anyone could have done much better under those extreme circumstances. I actually managed to keep my ship above water, at least enough to survive and be able to look back now and assess the damage.

That was an extremely difficult time in my life, and I was still working on recovering from my childhood which wasn’t much smoother. Chaos and disarray have always been main ingredients in my life’s recipe, but I still haven’t acquired a taste for either. I’d like some peace for a change.

There’s no doubt all I’ve gone through has given me a thick callous in some ways. It also helps explain why some people think I’m a bit harsh and rough around the edges. Sure, who wouldn’t have a few scars after going through the worst part of the hurricane? I’m working on it, but I still have a ways to go. I try to be as nice as I can to as many as I can, but I still have a few detractors.

I guess that’s how life works, but I’m not going to change who I am for anybody. I know I’m a good person deep inside, even with my flaws and shortcomings. I can sleep at night knowing I’m trying my best to earn an honest living and not hurt anyone. When I’m wrong I’ll admit it openly and apologize to anyone I need to. If they don’t accept it – and some don’t – what else can I do?

It’s nothing short of a miracle as to how far my life has come in these twenty years and a week since I thought I would be checking out of life as we know it. I was really down and out with not a lot of resources then, and if nothing else I have learned to be grateful for every little thing I get.

I was to the point of eating food from a shelter and having to learn to walk all over again. I had my jaw wired shut for a while and had to suck my supper through a straw. Still, I somehow made it through and here I am twenty years and a week later living a life I’m enjoying and still chasing dreams. There have been a lot of shaky moments in the years since, but all in all I’m doing great.

I’m doing extremely well considering where I’ve come from and what I’ve been through since that fateful night, but as much as I’d like to forget it the more I know I can’t. Who doesn’t have a list of examples of having to overcome obstacles in life? Mine are just more dramatic than most.

I could have easily died in that car accident, and I’m still surprised I didn’t. I clearly recall how people came running out of their houses after hearing the crash and I lay upside down trapped in my Mustang. I couldn’t yell because of my injuries and most of them thought I was dead. In fact I heard some people talking and they said it out loud next to me. “No doubt about it – he’s dead.”

With all my might I tried to holler something out loud to them know I wasn’t dead, but I didn’t have the strength. It’s all so surreal now, but it was very real that day. I knew right then I’d been given some bonus time in life, and from that day forward I would be playing with house money.

I even remember the Milwaukee Police Officer who filled out the accident report coming to my hospital room and telling me how lucky I was to have survived such a horrific crash. He told me he’d been an officer for 15 years and knew a fatality when he saw one. He told me to enjoy life.

I’ll admit that sometimes I still forget to do that, and that’s exactly why I need to remember the almost anniversary of that fateful moment that changed my life forever. It doesn’t matter how my set in Atlanta at Laughing Skull Festival goes tonight. Win or lose, I’m just lucky to be above the dirt still able to draw breath. I’m grateful for each one I have left. NOW I’m in the right mindset.

See Ya Later, Alternator

February 28, 2013

Wednesday February 27th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   What good would being Mr. Lucky be without at least a weekly crisis to perpetuate my legend? Why would I want my life to operate smoothly when I can maintain a constant level of stress and high tension that keeps me wound tighter than Oprah’s underwear the day after Thanksgiving?

I’ve had my fill and then some of these funky tales of woe, but the cosmic dispatcher cares not and sends more whether I want them or not. It’s like a delivery of sand to the desert – I’ve got all I can use for the next 40,000 years, thank you. Put the boxes back on the truck and leave. Please.

As if I didn’t have enough to be concerned with fighting the weather conditions on my way to Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago tonight, I had the extra fun of having my alternator puke on my already overpriced ‘free’ car. I’ve had alternators puke before, but I can’t remember one doing it in such nasty weather conditions and that made for a high stress 50 mile trek through snowy hell.

Anyone who has experienced the death of an alternator knows the symptoms all too well. First, the ‘battery’ light comes on the dash board. That’s a light that usually comes on very briefly only when the car is started, and then goes right back off. When it pops on in traffic, there’s trouble.

I was fighting to get a left turn completed in an unplowed intersection without sliding into a big old pickup truck coming the other way when I noticed the light pop on and I knew I was screwed immediately. The alternator keeps the battery charged, and now I’d be draining it with having to keep all my accessories running like lights, wipers, heat and radio to keep me abreast of traffic.

The light came on as I was still about 45 miles away on a 50 mile trip, and now it became a big race to either find a rental car place that was open or make it as far into Chicago as I could so I’d at least be able to get a bus, train or cab to Old Town to make it to Zanies for my 8:30 show. I am the headliner this week, so I don’t go on until about 9:15, so that was my very latest arrival time.

And if all that still wasn’t enough to rock my world, I had a radio interview scheduled with my friend Evan Ginzburg in New York on his show called ‘Legends Radio’. Evan is a great guy and we share not only a love for professional wrestling, but also funk music. He likes George Clinton and Bootsy Collins like I do, and was also a producer of the ‘The Wrestler’ with Mickey Rourke.

Evan also manages Luscious Johnny Valiant, a wrestler who wants to become a comedian. He’s a guy I used to boo the hell out of when I was a kid, and it’s all surreal that we’ve managed to get connected all these years later. I’ve talked to Johnny and at some point hope to work with him on a comedy show. Evan is up for it too, and we’ve become friends in the last few years. I like him.

It was too late to cancel, so I did the interview to the best of my ability as I plowed through the snow helplessly watching my lights get dimmer the entire way. My wipers slowed down and my radio eventually faded until I finally stalled completely two blocks from Zanies. I had to hang up and push my car to a tow zone, and then pray it wouldn’t be towed as I did my show at Zanies – which actually went very well. The audience had no idea of my troubles, and that’s being a pro.

Ten Cent Triumph!

November 9, 2012

Thursday November 8th, 2012 – Fox Lake, IL

   One of a precious collection of useful things my grandpa told me that still sticks with me today is the difference between good luck and bad luck is good luck isn’t funny. When someone else is mired in a losing streak, those who see it laugh out of sheer tension relief. The only one laughing during a streak of good luck is the one experiencing it. Everyone else is feeling jealous or angry.

I’d much rather be the only one laughing, and today I got my chance. Actually, I have been in a tremendously upbeat mindset of late, and I can’t say it’s bothering me in the least. I’m enjoying a brief respite from being life’s dart board, and quite frankly if I never go back to the other side I’ll be more than fine with it. ‘Mr. Lucky’ is a character that lives onstage, and he needs to say there.

Dobie Maxwell is an entirely separate entity. He’ll take all the breaks he can get – funny or not. Today I caught a nice one, and it piggybacked on a couple of others I’ve had recently. I’d like to gratefully acknowledge them all, and vehemently ask the universe to keep sending them my way.

A couple of weeks ago, I happened to find a $10 bill crunched up on the ground and stuck it in my wallet to decide what to do with it later. A few days after that, I was walking through one of my favorite thrift stores and happened upon a collection of Apollo 12 collectible drinking glasses dated November 19, 1969. There were five of them on the shelf, and they were priced at $1 each.

I bought all five, thinking if nothing else they’d make fun gifts on The Mothership Connection at some point for either guests or listeners. I paid for them with the $10 bill I found, and in return I received a receipt with a red star on it and was told those are lucky winners of a $5 store credit.

Technically, the glasses were free and I still had the $10 I started with. I decided to keep going and see what else I could buy for ten bucks and hopefully spin it for more. I would have to scour the thrift stores, but I do that anyway. It’s a relaxing pastime I’ve always done. I enjoy the hunt.

It’s kind of like my own personal ‘Storage Wars’ or ‘Pawn Stars’ adventure. I’m trying to find something someone else didn’t know the value of when they priced it, and neither did those who looked at it on the shelf before I got there. Chances are low that it happens, but once in a while it absolutely does. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time, and having street smarts.

Today I drove by the same thrift store and was kind of in a hurry but that little voice inside told me to take a quick lap. I almost blew it off, but decided against it as I felt it strongly urging me to do it immediately. Positive things usually happen when I listen to that voice, and they did today.

I walked past a shelf of knick knacks and saw two official National League baseballs in plastic cube holders screaming at me to buy them. One was priced at $2.12 and the other $2.62. I looked closer and saw that one was autographed by Hall of Famer Ernie Banks and the other by some of the 1989 Cubs including Mark Grace, Jerome Walton, Mike Bielecki and Rick Wrona. I couldn’t believe they were priced so low, and I took them right to the checkout and the total was $5.10 for both balls. I gave them my winning receipt and my total was .10! I floated to my car in ecstasy.

So let’s review. I started with ten bucks I found on the ground and bought five collector glasses for $5. With tax, it was around $5.40. I won $5 in store credit, and used that to buy two baseballs in plastic holders – both autographed. The total was $5.10, so my out of pocket cost was a dime.

There’s no way to authenticate the signatures, but I’d bet they are legit. They’re official league balls, and I’ve seen autographed stuff before. These should have no problem selling to somebody in the Chicago area who loves the Cubs, and I can hold out for my price since I have little into it.

All totaled that would mean I’d have five collector glasses, two autographed baseballs plus my left over total of roughly $4.50. That’s a pretty good start, and I think I’ll be able to sell all of it for a healthy profit without gouging anyone and keep the ball rolling. I know how to find stuff.

Selling it has been an issue, and it may continue to be. Where would I sell collector glasses or baseballs? The first thought would be Ebay, but I’ve never sold anything on it before. I bought a ton of stuff over the years, but never sold even one thing. But how hard can it be? I can handle it, but I’m not sure if I want to. I have enough going on without starting some new time demander.

Still, the lure of the treasure hunt is strong. Who doesn’t love looking for the big payoff? I sure do, and I freely admit it. I know every deal isn’t going to be a winner, but I’ve heard tales of big scores through the years and I do believe things like that happen. To win, one has to participate.

I did take a quick lap through Ebay and saw that the glasses weren’t all that rare, and weren’t at all priced consistently. I saw them listed for anywhere from $2 to $20 each, but shipping was the big expense. I’d be thrilled if someone gave me $20 for four of them, and I’d keep one to give to my Mothership Connection co-host Greg DeGuire. He’d enjoy it, and it would be a fun souvenir.

The baseballs should realistically bring somewhere around $100 for both, or at least that’s what I’d look to get out of them. They’re in great shape, and Ernie Banks is a Hall of Famer without a doubt. I know he signed a lot of stuff in his life, but some Cubs fan would love to have that ball.

Say I can manage to score my asking price somehow from someone and walk away with $120 for everything. Couple that with the roughly five bucks I have left from my original $10 and call it an even $125. That’s well over ten times my original stake, and it literally came from nowhere.

I don’t think it’s realistic to expect to keep pulling off ten times my investment on a consistent basis, but doubling my money doesn’t seem out of line in the least. What could I invest $125 into that will bring me at least double in return? The possibilities are endless, and I’d love to give it a shot. I’d get it in cash in smaller bills and have them available to make a buy everywhere I went.

Eventually, $125 becomes $250 becomes $500. Then $1000, then $2000 and on and on. It may take a while, and I’m sure I’ll blow it on occasion and make some less than stellar buys, but on a long term basis I like my chances to be able to build a significant wad of cash I can use to keep a constant flow of more items and cash coming in. It’s been done before, but not by me. I’d love to take it all the way from $10 to enough to walk in and pay cash for a new car. It will be fun to try.