Posts Tagged ‘Pall Mall’

Gramps 101

November 19, 2013

Monday November 18th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

Anyone who knows me well knows how immense an influence my grandfather was and still is in my life. Gramps was my father figure, first mentor and number one fan. If it weren’t for all of his well placed wisdom and patience, I have no doubt I’d be dead or in prison. He was my hero.

For as long as I am alive, November 18th will be a personal holiday because it was his birthday. He was born in 1912, and I was able to obtain a Mayoral Proclamation in Milwaukee last year on the 100th anniversary of his birth. He was proud to be a Milwaukeean, and I know he would have been blown away if he knew his personal centennial would be an official day in his home town.

I doubt if it meant anything to anyone but me, but I’m really glad I went through the procedure to make it happen. I have the document in my possession, and it means a lot just like having one created for my comedy mentor C. Cardell Willis. If anyone has ever earned kudos, those two did.

Gramps and Cardell were a lot alike in that they were both students of the game of life and they both had the teaching gene. They went out of their way to acquire knowledge, but then would not be satisfied unless they could pass it on to someone else. I am lucky to have had them both as my mentor precisely at the time I needed them most. It was important to me to honor their memories.

Gramps and Cardell also shared the trait of not sugarcoating anything. They called it like it was and I appreciate them both for that. They are two of the few people I have ever met that were not afraid of stepping on toes. They weren’t looking to offend, but they wouldn’t back down either.

I remember taking long walks with Gramps and getting into these long involved conversations about anything and everything. I could ask him anything, and he’d give me an answer. He would always tell me to think for myself, and not just go along with something because it was popular.

He had some ideas that would be unorthodox today to say the least, but I can’t deny they make perfect sense even now. What I owe Gramps – and anyone smart enough to want to acquire true wisdom – is to compile a book of lessons he taught me. I didn’t realize it then, but he wrote it on my heart all through my childhood. Those long walks were when he etched his lessons into me.

I can’t believe how far ahead of his time Gramps was. He took me on my own personal ‘Scared Straight’ adventure when I was maybe 12. He arranged a personal tour of the Ethan Allen School for Boys juvenile detention center in Delafield, WI. It scared me far more than any lecture could.

“This is about the age your father started acting up,” he said between puffs of his non-filter Pall Mall cigarette. “I could tell you about this place, or I could show it to you. I’m showing it to you so when you think about doing something stupid THIS is where they’ll send you. And if you do get sent here – don’t call me. You’re on your own.” Gramps had a flair for the dramatic, and it worked.

I’ve been without Gramps longer than I had him, and I can’t think of one thing I wouldn’t give to have a single hour with him now. I know he’d have valid insight, and would throw out his raw thoughts on everything. Wow, would I love that right now. I can’t have it, so the best way to pay him back is to put out a book of our experiences together. He dictated it to me years ago.

My grandfather got his college degree at age 52 after years of night school. He taught me far more than any college ever could.

My grandfather got his college degree at age 52 after years of night school. He taught me far more than any college ever could.

Mentor and mentee - aka me.

Mentor and mentee – aka me.


Getting My Schlitz Together

March 5, 2010

Thursday March 4th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI/Ft. Atkinson, WI

It seems like I’m in Milwaukee more now than when I lived there, but that’s where a lot of my business is leading right now. The “Schlitz Happened!” one man show is starting to take shape, but now is when I’m going to have to make some difficult decisions. I need to hash out details and percentages of those I’m working with so there are no ugly surprises.

I’m the first one to admit I have trust issues, and I’m also a pigheaded control freak in a situation where creative control is involved. This is MY baby, and I’m very protective of it – especially right now in it’s infancy. I have a vision of how I see it developing and I’m not going to settle for anything less. I’m not so sure the people on my team see that now.

I had a lunch with Ron Lee, the guy who produced comedy shows in the ‘80s at Teddy’s on Farwell, which is now Shank Hall. I like Ron and we’ve worked together over time on some fun and interesting projects, including a cable TV show and also at 93QFM in 1991.

Ron has booked bands and likes to promote things and we have a history of working on many things together. I wanted to meet face to face and discuss what he saw as his role in this project and if I could meet his expectations. He’s been making some calls and setting up meetings without my approval, and quite honestly it bothers me a little. I’m concerned.

It’s not his fault that I got cleaned out by my last business partner, but that whole fiasco is still a fresh welt on my fanny and that’s just fact. I know everyone needs to get paid for their time, and I’m fine with it – but I’m not so sure I really need any partners right now in a project that hasn’t even gotten off the ground yet. It’s promising, but still only an idea.

I’m going to have final say in this particular project. Period. Meeting with sponsors and potential sponsors is something I’ve never really done before, but I need to get experience sometime and that time is coming soon. I’m a little concerned that things are going ahead with potential sponsors without me having met anyone yet. There’s a fine line to toe here.

I don’t care if it’s Ron Lee or Richard Halasz or Colonel Tom Parker, I’m just a bit wary of people negotiating anything ‘on my behalf’. I just am. Maybe that’s the dented can side of me that will always be there, but it’s there and now is the time to set parameters for the duration of this project. If I establish rules now, I’ll either keep or lose everyone involved.

Now is the time to do that, rather than a year from now when money is involved. I like Ron Lee and I like Richard Halasz too, and both of them are working on promoting some upcoming shows. I just want to make sure we’re all on the same page as to what all of our roles are so nobody is taken aback. Better to talk it out now than have lawyers do it later.

Right now I want to do a few smaller shows and work out the bugs. I have an extremely full cupboard of actual material, now I want to shape it into a dynamite SHOW. It will be a work in progress as long as I do it, but I want to hit the ground running when I begin the bigger shows later in the year. I’ve got a plan of exactly how I see the show developing.

The offstage part is where I’m a little shaky, and I fully admit I’ve never enjoyed doing this part of the business. That’s why I’ve worked with the Ron Lees and the other guy for so long. I let them handle as many unpleasant or uninteresting things as I could so I could focus on what I do best – create things. I think I’m going to have to restructure my M.O.

To their credit, those guys worked with me for free on many occasions. None of us had money, and I’ve never hit any huge jackpots, but I have been able to squeak out a meager living for a quarter of a century. I’ve paid people when I could and what I could, and I’ve always tried to be fair and err on the generous side whenever I could. I’m a softie at heart.

When I got cleaned out it really rocked my world. It still hurts, and it didn’t need to take place at all. If the guy would have asked me, I would have given him the money until he’d be able to pay me back. Now we’re not friends anymore and I’m still out a chunk of cash.

Ron has never stolen money from me, but there really hasn’t been much to steal. After a lot of years of working with me for little or no money, I’d like to see him get a payday for his effort. Maybe I’m too soft, but I want to see all the people around me get their reward.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to give away a percentage of the show though. As much as I like both Ron and Richard, neither of those guys wrote one word of the show or had one ounce of creative input in how it all came together. They can promote shows all they want in as many places as they want, and they should be paid for that. But they’re not owners.

I’M the owner of this concept for now. If I decide to sell it, someone will have to put up cash money on the barrelhead to buy it. Sponsors would be great, but let’s get a hot show set and running first. I also need a synopsis of the concept so those sponsors know what it is so they can either sponsor it or not. I need a few chances to run through to polish it up.

This was a great eye opener today, and I’m glad I drove up. I’m going to go with my gut and my gut tells me to hold this close to my chest and do as much of it myself as possible until I really need to cut anyone else in as far as ownership goes. That’s ringing out loudly in my head and I hear it clearly. No offense to anyone else, but I’ve earned this by now.

I’m in the driver’s seat, and I’m sure it will work how it works. I’m not going to worry about it, and let it sit for a couple of days while I go to Pittsburgh to work in Cranberry at the Funny Bone this weekend. I’ll have plenty of time to think all this through in the car.

Tonight I had a show in Ft. Atkinson, WI at a biker bar that I’ve actually worked before for a comic friend of mine name Dan Still. Steve Sabo books it now, and I didn’t know it was the same place until I got there. They expanded and made it bigger, but it’s still a bar in Ft. Atkinson, WI. I did it for the money, but the people were actually pretty friendly.

Still, these are getting very old. The smoke was thick and my clothes smelled in the car like a non filter Pall Mall cigarette that my grandpa used to smoke. I appreciate the money but I’m hoping to weed these out of my schedule. Soon. I want to work the nicer theaters.