Posts Tagged ‘pro wrestling’

The Unenviable Fraternity

July 3, 2014

Sunday June 29th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Since I was already on the far south side of the Chicago area yesterday without a gig, I decided to call some of my friends to see if I could find anybody home. I don’t get that far south as much as I probably should, and I have a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. Why waste the chance?

Tim Slagle was the first to call back, so we got together at his house in Dyer, IN. Tim and I are a lot alike in that we tend to polarize people, and then make it worse by not caring what anybody thinks. We have both burned a few bridges in our time, but that happens with a lot of performers no matter the genre. People with strong opinions who don’t have power tend to become pariahs.

If and when these people happen to catch a break, their past sins are often forgiven because of their newfound success. Everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon then, and that’s just how the game works. Tim and I are two examples of many who made a living, but never hit our jackpot.

Personally, I really like Tim both onstage and off. He is brilliantly funny, and even though his style is completely different than my own I am a huge fan of his work. He’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, and sometimes more than a few. That takes gargantuan testicles, and I respect him.

We are part of the unenviable fraternity of comedians that came through the boom years of the ‘80s but never got a sitcom. It seemed like everyone did – and there were quite a few – but there were a lot more of us that didn’t find our pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and are now in our 50s and 60s wondering how we’re going to pay our bills next month. That’s not the place to be.

At least former athletes have a pension plan if they played long enough. I’ve been around three other genres of the entertainment business in standup comedy, pro wrestling and radio, and none of those three have any kind of financial security. One either makes it big or they starve. Period.

I was trying to figure out the actual number of long time road dog comedians that are now in a similar position, and I would guess it to be maybe three to five thousand. I am not talking about part time weekend warriors, as there are thousands more of those scattered across the continent.

I’m talking about people like Tim and me and all the others that came up during the boom and are now struggling to stay booked every week. That was never a problem before, but times have changed drastically in the last few years and that includes a new generation of wannabe comics.

The newbies of today don’t have the opportunity we did to get out on the road and earn a living at a young age. The work isn’t there for them either, and the whole business is changing. It’s the law of supply and demand in full effect, and unfortunately the demand has gone down while the supply has exploded. There isn’t enough quality work for everybody and there needs to be a cull.

I’m sure this process has happened in other businesses too, but I can’t think of any because this is the one that I have chosen. I was a ring announcer and promoter in wrestling and I’ve seen that business go through changes too. It takes a very specialized set of skills to succeed in that racket. Radio is another business on the slide for many reasons. I guess I just don’t know how to choose a career very well. I’ve had a long run in comedy, but I see the future and know I need a change.

Tim Slagle is a comedian that does comedy for smart people. He's one of my favorites. Check out his hilarious CD 'Europa'. www.timslagle.com.

Tim Slagle does comedy for smart people. He’s one of my all time favorites. Check out his hilarious CD ‘Europa’. It’s a classic! http://www.timslagle.com.

Passing On Football

January 8, 2014

Sunday January 5th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

I’m still floored by the news of my roommate’s health, but unfortunately I have to keep living my own life. Not to be selfish, but this throws a complete change of plans into everything, and I am still fuzzy on what I’ll need to do. According to what I’m hearing from Sheri’s friend Debra, Sheri is going to be in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks. That’s never a pleasant thought.

I don’t know about strokes or what to expect, but I do know that football player Teddy Bruschi suffered a major one but is back working as a TV analyst and appears to have made a comeback. Pro wrestler Bret “The Hitman” Hart also had one, and he has since wrestled again. I hope those are positive signs for Sheri, and she will be able to get most if not all of her quality of life back.

This just stinks so badly on so many levels. Not that I would wish something as horrific as this on anybody, but especially not Sheri. She is as harmless and sweet as anyone I know, and would not harm a flea. She’s a dented can herself, and all she wanted was to have fun. Is that so bad?

The house was eerily silent all day, as nobody was in it but me. Sheri had another room rented to a woman named Tracy, but she just moved out before the end of December. Actually, Sheri let her live rent free because she’d just survived breast cancer surgery and needed a place to recover.

That’s the kind of person Sheri is, and that’s why I’m so saddened by this sour turn of events. I just don’t understand how these things happen to good people, while unscrupulous weasels seem to slide through life problem free. It doesn’t add up, and if there’s a lesson to be learned I for one am failing to see it. It leaves a very sour taste in my mouth, and I’m trying hard to stay positive.

I shut everything else out of my mind and went to work all day. I was invited to several parties to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, but I was not in a mood to watch football – even the Packers. I didn’t need the stress of three hours with a possibility of them losing at the last second – which they eventually did. I’m glad I didn’t see it.

Even if they had won, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it much today. My heart wasn’t in it, and my mind was thinking off much deeper things. I normally love football, but today it seemed boring, trivial and far far away. I was thinking of more spiritual things, and that’s what matters.

How can I give more of myself as a human being, and really make a difference in somebody’s life or lives? That’s all that has any meaning whatsoever, and all I aspire to for as long as I am on this cosmic plane. It may sound corny or sappy, but why would I lie? Football doesn’t come close to scratching this itch, and never will. It’s a fun diversion on occasion, but not where real life is.

What Sheri is going through in that hospital has to be sheer torture. Depending on how clearly she is able to think, it has to be scary beyond words to think of what she may have to face. I can remember when I had my own hospital scare and thought I was going to lose my genitals. That’s a hilarious comedy bit, but it wasn’t funny to think there was a chance of it actually happening.

What can I do to serve my fellow humankind more? I see more than ever how important it is to bring laughter and smiles to as many people as possible. People like Sheri could really use it.

Normally I'd have to watch a playoff game when my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing. Today I didn't, and I didn't miss it. There are a lot deeper things in life than football. Really.

Normally I’d have to watch a playoff game when my beloved Green Bay Packers were playing. Today I didn’t, and I didn’t miss it. There are far deeper things in life than football. Really.

The Funniest Pitbull

November 12, 2013

Friday November 8th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

It’s been far too long since I’ve gotten a chance to enjoy one of my all time favorite comedians Bobby Slayton, but tonight was the night. Nicknamed “The Pitbull of Comedy”, there’s no better example I can think of of someone who is the exact opposite of the persona he portrays onstage.

I noticed the same thing when I used to be a pro wrestling ring announcer in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Without fail, the biggest villains in the ring were always the nicest people outside of it. The good guys were always the ones you had to watch out for. Outside the ring, they were the slimy ones.

Onstage, Bobby fits his persona perfectly. He has a gravelly voice, and he prowls the stage like a pit bull would prowl a junkyard looking for intruders. He has a razor sharp wit, and he pulls no punches as far as language or subject matter goes. He is the quintessential nightclub comedian.

I’ve always been a fan and student of standup comedy, and Bobby brings a lot to the table. His act is a clinic on how to work an audience, and I was hooked the first time I saw him years ago at the Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL. I had heard of him years before that, and he’s one of the very few that lived up to the hype. I was impressed when I first saw his whole set, and was again tonight.

He does so many things well, and always has. He does crowd work like few others I have ever seen, and that’s a craft all by itself. He also is great with callbacks, and he knows how and when to use them. His act is well structured, but there’s also room for going off in different directions.

Bobby is also an accomplished actor, and has had sizable roles in several big movies and TV shows. He’s been at it even longer than I have, and he continues to tour as much as he can. He’s feeling the pinch of the economy like most entertainers are, and we talked about that afterward.

We as comedians are usually too busy working on our craft to have time to plan a career, but it can’t be overlooked. We enjoy doing the shows, but everything else just saps our energy and is a huge pain in the ass. Bobby is very much like me in that he tends not to edit his intimate thoughts, and that has gotten him in trouble just like it has me. He will tell it like it is, and pulls no punches.

Unfortunately, there are some people who are not fond of that personality style. Often those are the ones who are in charge of deciding who gets breaks in the entertainment business and it tends to be a problem more than it doesn’t. Bobby chooses to do a style that doesn’t please everybody.

I think it’s great that he does, and he does it extremely well. There’s an art to pulling off an X rated show, and precious few can do it. That’s why I enjoy watching Bobby work whenever I’m lucky enough to have the chance. He is a master of so many skills, and they all come together at once in his act. I never get sick of watching any true craftsman work, and Bobby was on tonight.

He rocked both audiences as he usually does. Afterward we had a chance to sit around and talk about the state of the business today, and we both agreed it’s rough out there. We have to stay on top of it even more than we’ve already had to for decades. Bobby still loves to perform, and he is among the elite of his peers anywhere. I watched and learned, and realize that there’s still a lot to improve in my own act. That’s what makes it still fun. Enjoy Bobby at http://www.bobbyslayton.com.

Bobby Slayton - onstage he's known as 'The Pitbull of Comedy'.

Bobby Slayton – onstage he’s known as ‘The Pitbull of Comedy’.

Don't tell anyone, but offstage he's a total pussycat. Shhhhh. I don't want to ruin his reputation, but what a sweetheart he is.

Don’t tell anyone, but offstage he’s a total pussycat. Shhhhh. I don’t want to ruin his reputation, but what a sweetheart he is.

His Showtime special is hilarious, but see him in person whenever you can. He's one of the best there is . Period. www.bobbyslayton.com

His Showtime special is hilarious, but see him in person whenever you can. He’s one of the best there is. Period. http://www.bobbyslayton.com

Thank You Randy Kosanke

September 10, 2013

Monday September 9th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

My long time good friend Randy Kosanke in Milwaukee sent out this mass email yesterday:

To all my friends,

I guess I have some bad news. They’ve taken me off chemo as it’s not working anymore. The cancer is spreading too fast. The doctor says I have three to six weeks left. I guess this is kind of shocking news, but please don’t be too upset.

I have been given a great life that I wouldn’t trade with anyone. I have the best family anyone could want, from probably the most perfect wife you could want to two of the greatest kids any man ever had and their wonderful spouses, and now the perfect grandson.

I also have the best friends any man could want who have given me the best times and laughs imaginable. I haven’t missed out on anything.

I truly love all of you and thank God for all our times together. Please don’t worry or mourn for me as I look forward to the next adventure. Please help out Jan as she’s under a lot of stress.

There will be no funeral as I am to be cremated and have my ashes thrown on Racquel Welch’s breasts – which probably sag too much and will spill on the floor. I guess they will dump them in my asshole neighbor’s yard.

It would be impossible to tell each and every one of you what you’ve meant to me, but know that I love you all deeply. Please don’t e-mail or call as I am too tired to respond.

Thank you all and goodbye.

Randy

It stopped me in my tracks, especially since I didn’t even know he was sick. I was stunned to get it, and couldn’t help thinking about it all day. Once again, the message is clear. Life is short.

I’ve known Randy going on thirty years. A rabid fan of comedy and long time active supporter of the local scene in Milwaukee, he was a frequent audience member that loved to hang out with the comedians afterward. He was especially supportive of beginners, and a longtime fan of mine.

One night he told me out of the blue that out of all the Milwaukee comedians of that time, there were only three that he thought had legitimate talent – Chris Barnes, Will Durst and me. Will had already moved to San Francisco years before, but is still a native of Milwaukee and started there. Randy was an authority on the local scene, and closely monitored every act that went on stage.

I agree wholeheartedly on his assessment of Chris and Will. To include me up there with them is as flattering as it gets, and he wouldn’t say it if he didn’t mean it. He and his wife attended my “Schlitz Happened!” show last April, but he didn’t let on that he was sick. I will miss him dearly.

I’ve got story after story of things he did over the years that really meant a lot. Just a few years ago, I was booked to be the first comedian ever at Milwaukee’s German Fest. Throughout much if not all of recorded history, Germans haven’t traditionally been known for frivolity and mirth.

They surely know how to bake a mean strudel and can dance the polka with anyone, but when it comes down to chuckles and yucks they’re severely lacking. Maybe twenty total showed up to see me perform on an outdoor stage that was built to seat several thousand, and it was one of the most embarrassing moments of my life. I gutted it out, and Randy and Jan were there to support

Afterward we drowned my sorrows in a large plate of sausage, and Randy cheered me up when I really needed a lift. He was such a fan of comedy that he wouldn’t let me get down about it. He kept telling me that I did a great job under the circumstances, and that I was blazing a new trail.

The single story that sums up Randy by far the most took place in 1992 when I had purchased a professional wrestling organization for which I had served as ring announcer. I bought a ring and a truck to haul it and put on shows around Southeastern Wisconsin. A unique adventure it was.

There were all kinds of painful aspects of that endeavor, but the hardest was taking proper care of the actual ring. It was heavy and cumbersome, and a total pain in the ass to deal with. I hadn’t considered it when I bought the business, and it turned out to be one of the main reasons I sold it.

The ring was stored at one of the wrestler’s houses who happened to live out in the sticks. He’d leave it set up in the summer, so if guys wanted to go and work out moves they could. It became a nightmare when it rained, and I’d have to make sure it was taken down and stored in the truck.

One day it was scheduled to rain, and I couldn’t get any of the wrestlers to help me move that damn ring. They all had piss poor excuses, but the rain was coming and I needed to take it down or the canvas would get soaked and the plywood underneath would warp. I was in a tight spot.

I had an office then, and Randy happened to wander in to say hello since he lived not far away and often would drop in. I told him of my situation, and without blinking he said he’d be glad to help and that’s exactly what he did. That ring was a bastard to move, but he helped me do it with not one word of complaining. I offered to pay him or buy him dinner, but he wouldn’t hear of it.

THAT is a true friend, and I never forgot him for that. When I was backed into a corner he did not hesitate to help and never asked for a thing. I must have thanked him hundreds of times over the years, and we’d laugh about it every time I brought it up. He’d ask if he could be a wrestler.

All of these memories came flooding back today, and there wasn’t one bad one in the bunch. I don’t have any good ones of my father, but I have a ton of Randy. I know his email instructed us not to write back, but I never listened to anyone until now and I ignored it and wrote anyway.

I thanked him for everything, and told him he was a true winner in life – and he is. He has love from a great family and that’s what I have always wanted. All the fame in the world won’t match what he has, and he realizes it too. Randy Kosanke will hold a special place in my heart forever.

Moon Mysteries

July 21, 2013

Saturday July 20th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Today is the anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing in 1969. I’m of the generation where I don’t necessarily remember that particular one, but I do remember several others. It was a topic of study at school, and more than once I remember us watching something about it on television in class and then discussing it as a group. I loved the subject then, and I still do. It’s fascinating.

   It gets even more fascinating when the rumors come out of whether that first landing was faked or not. I remember how strange that sounded when I’d first heard it, but I felt the same way when I heard pro wrestling was prearranged. After I found out, I ended up liking wrestling even more.

   Wrestling is a well crafted show, and a very good one when executed properly. I felt privileged to be in on the joke, and it didn’t cause me to lose interest when I found out it wasn’t as it at first had appeared. There was still a skill set required, and it kept my attention as to how it was done.

   I’m not sure what the truth is about the first moon landing or the others, but isn’t it at least a bit odd that the United States or anyone else hasn’t made an effort to go back since? There has to be some kind of reason, doesn’t there? I thought we’d have a “Six Flags over the Moon” by now.

   Allegedly from what I’ve read the reason for a faked mission or missions would be for making the Russians believe we had the technology they didn’t, and that would mean we could kick their rotten Rooskie rumps from the moon to Moscow. Whether or not it’s true, I at least can grasp the logic.

   If it isn’t true and they really did go, why did it stop so suddenly? Or did it? This is where all of the real craziness starts, and that’s what I never tire of. There are all kinds of goofy theories from aliens told us to stop coming back to we still are going back but the public doesn’t know about it.

   Who can say what’s real? I can’t, but that includes most of the masses of humanity. Somebody somewhere knows, but they’re not talking. That leaves everything to speculation, and that’s what I thought about a lot today. What really happened, and why isn’t there an NFL moon franchise?

   We are such a small cosmic speck in the grand scheme of the vastness of the universe, but who can help wondering what else is out there? We think going to the moon is a big deal, but it really isn’t when one considers all of the billions, trillions and zillions of planets and moons out there.

   It would seem pretty improbable that if there indeed is a God He or She would only put life on such a minute terrestrial pebble as Earth and nowhere else. That doesn’t make any sense, and I’m not buying it. I would bet there is life everywhere – I just hope it’s not as screwed up as we are.

   We picture aliens landing that have superior intelligence to ours, but what if they’ve got many if not all of the same qualities we do? That would be a cosmic buzz kill, wouldn’t it? Here comes extra terrestrial contact, but they’re just as jealous, petty, warlike, selfish and insecure as we are.

   According to some, ‘they’ are already here among us and have been for thousands of years. To completely poo poo that would be just as insane as buying it hook, line and sinker. I don’t know, and I know I don’t know. I can have theories, but until I’m on the space ship it’s still a mystery.

  If nothing else, it sure is captivating to think about. I’ve always thought about stuff like this, but today’s anniversary of the alleged first landing on the moon reopened the file. What’s the truth?

Happy Birthday Crusher

July 13, 2013

Thursday July 11th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   Some people just have ‘it’ – an abstract and intangible quality that can be extremely difficult to describe by itself, but is instantly recognizable by a possessor. There aren’t many considering the bulk of the population is up over seven billion, but when one comes along they make their mark.

   ‘It’ is a magnetic charisma that emanates from within, and can be a powerful force when taken advantage of properly. Most of the major entertainers have this quality to some degree, and that’s a big reason why they attain success. They have something desirable that not everyone else gets.

   One of those people that happened to be a major influence throughout my entire childhood was one Reggie Lisowski – aka “The Crusher”. He was a professional wrestler who happened to hail from my home town of Milwaukee, and had a legion of loyal fans who followed his every move.

   The Crusher was Milwaukee’s Elvis, and everyone loved him. He was built like a mailbox with a gravelly voice, bleach blonde hair and big eyes that would bug out when telling what he had on the agenda for his next opponent who he would often refer to as a ‘bum’, ‘turkeyneck’ or both.

   Despite the fact that Crusher was in his 50s at the time, his local legend was strong and he was able to jam pack the Milwaukee Arena whenever he wrestled. I was fortunate enough to see him live many times throughout my childhood and teen years, and when he walked down the aisle to make his grand entrance into the ring it was like nothing else I have ever seen before or since.

   He was loaded with ‘it’, and had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand from before he would even step into the ring. There was a feeling of pure electricity before he came out of the dressing room, and by the time he stepped into the ring it was full blown pandemonium. He was a legend.    

   The Crusher was born on this date in 1926, and died on October 22nd, 2005. I remember when I heard he’d passed, and how it seemed so surreal that such a powerful figure that was built up as such an indestructible hero for so many years could now be gone. He was Milwaukee’s favorite.   

   I was performing on New Year’s Eve at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Milwaukee one year, and they have giant glass elevators that can fit a large number of people. I was coming back from my gig and the elevator I was in was full. I could distinctly hear a gravelly voice in the rear of the elevator, and I wondered who had the audacity to do a bad impression of The Crusher.  

   When we got to the lobby, I saw it was the man himself. We were both in tuxedos, and I had to go up and say hello. He was very nice, and thanked me for saying nice things. I meant every one of them, and I’ll never forget the feeling of shaking his hand that felt like rough grade sandpaper.

   The Crusher never made the huge money wrestlers or athletes in general make today, but he’s a  legitimate superstar to more than one generation of not only Milwaukeeans but everywhere that he wrestled. He had that magic charisma that few ever get, and he used it as much as he could.

   According to numerology, those born on the 11th and 22nd tend to be special and influence a lot of people. After I heard this, I noticed how many celebrities happen to have birthdays on an ‘11’ or ‘22’ and think there may be something to it. Rodney Dangerfield has a ‘22′ for a birthday and so does George Clinton – two of my favorites also loaded with ‘it’. My personal supply of ‘it’ is questionable, but I do the best I can. The Crusher was loaded, and I still love him today.

One of my most prized possessions to this day.

One of my most prized possessions to this day!