Posts Tagged ‘Railroad Station’

Blatz Off!

March 15, 2010

<Saturday March 13th, 2010 – Saukville, WI

It looks like Schlitz really is starting to happen! I didn’t know exactly what to expect on several levels concerning the initial run through of my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee called “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst”, but the overwhelmingly positive response it got gives me extremely high hopes. This is a winner!

It’s not a finished product yet by a long shot, but what’s there is very useable. I do know how to entertain an audience, and my lifetime of experience gives me a huge advantage of being able to go back into the archives and bring out polished standup bits which allows a freedom to experiment few others have. I can take chances because I have a backup plan.

The show was at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI which wouldn’t have been in the top 50 places I would have chosen to get this started. Richard Halasz had booked a couple of previous shows there with Will Durst, so that’s a thumbs up for me. I like Richard and a reputable comedian like Durst wouldn’t work a place twice if there was anything shady.

I knew I needed to work the show through a few times, so where better than here to get a feel for it? The owners were all very nice people and we drew 146 people which is very respectable for a place that doesn’t do comedy on a regular basis. The club had posters up for a couple of months, but it was Richard that really dug in and didn’t let up on promo.

He mailed flyers and sent email blasts and got me a radio interview in Fond Du Lac and I really give him credit for doing a thorough job in promoting this along with the venue. It isn’t often a comedian does this good a job of behind the scenes detail work but he nailed it and totally followed through. Everyone was happy with the results and it was a big hit.

I brought my friend Russ Martin along, who was kind enough to film the show with his movie quality video camera, even though I don’t need anything that elaborate right now. I just wanted to get it on tape in case I ad libbed something that could be used in the future.

Gary Pansch also came out to support and he lit it up for a few minutes to get the crowd in a good mood. I went up and did an hour and five minutes, trying to squeeze in as many local stories and references as I could. I did some of my regular standup but it still had the local flavor to it. I added in a few things exclusively for this show and they went over too.

Was I thrilled with the show? No, not at all. Was the audience? Absolutely. They loved it, and that was my main concern. I wanted to feel it out a little first since I never worked there before, and didn’t have too much scripted. I wasn’t sure what kind of audience they drew, so trying to force a theater show wasn’t smart. This was more of a bar audience.

The sound system was popping and the stage lights were pretty bad, but other than that it wasn’t horrible at all. The physical layout of the space was nice, even though smoking is still allowed in Wisconsin bars. That was a killer, and my eyes were burning within the first ten minutes. This was a comedy show in a night club, NOT a one man theater show.

Still, the audience was both receptive and very polite. They weren’t pissy drunk and had the courtesy to sit and listen to the show. There were waitresses, but they were also polite and didn’t talk loud while taking orders or distract form the show at all. I was impressed.

I know how to read an audience, and could tell that I had a chance to do well right from the get go. I wanted to get to a lot more subtle and experimental material, but tonight was not the time to try it out. There will be other times, and I’m glad I didn’t force anything.

A few people showed up I hadn’t seen in thirty years or more. Robert Deglau and I went to the Jackie Robinson alternative open classroom school in sixth grade. We were both in the same homeroom and had an interest in radio. We reconnected by email a couple years ago but hadn’t gotten together before tonight. It was great to see him after all these years.

Jeff Phelps and I went to high school together at Messmer High School. He worked for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a photographer for twenty-two years before losing his job last year in a purge that took a lot of other people with him. He is a real pro and takes amazing pictures, and I felt bad he lost his gig. Times are tough for people in many fields.

Jeff and I recalled the story of when Hank Aaron came to Messmer to speak. We loved sports and wanted to get an autograph so we skipped out of class and drove to a sporting goods store and each bought a baseball to get signed. We waited for Hank’s limo to pull up and as soon as we saw it we sprinted out the side door with our fresh white baseballs.

Nobody in the entourage expected us including Hank Aaron, and we politely asked him to sign our baseballs. There wasn’t much he could do but grab the pen and sign. We both had pens with us, and we had our whole plan of attack worked out way before we did it.

After Hank signed for us, someone in his entourage firmly said “Ok, that’s IT. No more autographs.” Jeff and I smiled at each other and went back into school with our prize. We were the envy of the whole school, and we got to meet Hank Aaron before anyone else at school, including the principal. It was the only time I ever skipped out, but it was worth it.

One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my life was selling that ball many years later when I really needed money. Boy, was I stupid. I think I may have gotten $60. Maybe $75 tops. I remember crying when I sold that ball, but at the time I really needed that cash. It’s a huge mistake, but too late to change it. Jeff kept his ball, and I’m glad. I’d love to see it.

This is the end of my fourth solid year of keeping my little diary. It may not be good or even interesting, but at least I’ve been able to keep it consistent. I’ve had experiences all over the board, and hopefully I’ve been able to entertain or inspire at least somebody.

I’m still a dented can, and always will be. I’m improving in many areas, but I still have many more that need a lot of work. Will any of this live on after I’m dead? Who cares? It doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll be dead. Right now, I’m not and I hope whoever reads this at any time gets a laugh or two, or maybe some inspiration. Another year over. What’s next?

Milwaukee Is Calling Me

March 13, 2010

Friday March 12th, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

Tomorrow is my first official dry run of my one man show “Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst” at the Railroad Station in Saukville, WI. I spent today preparing a few home made signs with localized terms on them to flash to the audience.

I’ve got a basic idea as to what I want the show to be, but it’s always going to be a work in progress. I’m going to try things every time I perform, and keep what works best. I love the concept of doing a whole show with one basic theme, but there are a lot of sub themes that can be incorporated in various degrees, so no two shows will ever be exactly alike.

I’ve got enough stage experience to pull off the time, and enough information about the subject that I’ll never be able to get to all of it at any one performance. Still, I have no real defined show pounded out yet, and that’s why I wanted to have a few times to experiment before I hit some bigger places. No offense to Saukville, but it’s not the strip in Vegas.

Richard Halasz booked some comedy shows at The Railroad Station in the past and has had some success as far as both numbers and quality of audience. He said the people who attended those shows were extremely well behaved and listened without any uncalled for incoherent drunken psychobabble added into the mix. That interested me from the start.

I’m not looking to do this show in comedy clubs or bars in general. I want to find some quality theater venues in the area that will have me back at least once a year if not more to entertain audiences who are there to see a show. I’ve grappled verbally with  quite enough incoherent booze monkeys in my life and if I never see another one I’ll survive just fine.

It doesn’t mean I won’t get any in Saukville, but if there are they’d better get some licks in early, because I’ve got a few surprises for them. This is not what I’m looking for, but if it finds me I’ve never been known to shy away from any level of heckler combat so I have a fantastic chance of not only winning, but firing full frontal verbal blasts at close range.

Hopefully, it won’t come anywhere close to that. I just want it to be fun, and I had a lot of it putting the show together. Apart from those signs, I’ve got a lot of directions I’d like to go and I have a great feeling it will fall together quickly. I have all the ingredients for a killer show, now it’s time to work out some bugs and get it ready to take to a nice theatre.

The great advantage I have is that nobody in the audience knows what to expect exactly so I’m not under any pressure to deliver anything specific just yet. If I lose my place with anything I’ve got plenty of standup material to cover me and won’t have any major lulls.

There’s absolutely no pressure on me at all, other than I want to do a good show for not only the audience, but for Richard Halasz too. He put up money out of his pocket to risk a show, and I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I’m glad he wanted to work with me, and in no way will I give anything less than my best effort, even if it is a new work in progress. I will be ready when my name is called tomorrow, and there’s probably a seat left for you.

Email Overwhelm

March 5, 2010

Wednesday March 3rd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

I did it! After putting it off for far too long, I finally got around to clearing out my huge backup of emails. I don’t really care if it impresses anyone else, I’m overjoyed. It doesn’t mean a whole lot in the big picture scheme of life, but what really does? This was for me.

For months I’ve been meaning to get to the pile that was backing up and it was getting a little out of hand. I was up to around 750 emails that I either hadn’t answered or pushed to the side to deal with later, knowing quite often later rarely comes. This time it did. Today.

I woke up at 4:30am and sat down at the computer ready to work. I knew I needed to do this and wasn’t going to allow myself any excuses for not at least putting a dent in such a gigantic pile. I’d blown it off too long, and I knew it. It had gotten to be way out of hand.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I would imagine most people have more than one email address somewhere. Usually there’s a home and a work, and since I work at home I have two basic emails that catch 99% of my mail. One is a trash receptacle that collects all the sweepstakes notices from Nigeria and the stellar deals on off brand male enhancements.

The other one is used for business contacts and bookings mostly, and whenever I want to conduct business, that‘s the one I use. Penis enlargement ads and Mafia Wars requests are at a minimum on that particular address but they still sneak through once in a while.

I started with my trash receptacle address and shrunk that one by 50 emails. Then I’d go to my business one and do the same. Sometimes I’d do it by time, ten or twenty minutes a side. Whatever it took, I was bound and determined to shrink them down and I totally did.

I’ve got 22 left in my trash bin and 55 left in my business one. Considering where I was just a few days ago, that’s a minor miracle. It would be like seeing a picture of Jesus with shoulder length hair one day and then seeing him with a flat top brush cut the next. It’s an unexpected and dramatic switch, and that’s what I feel I’ve done, but it’s a good thing.

This is all clearing the way for the shiny new stuff that’s coming into my life in the next little while. I don’t want to be worrying about unanswered emails from October when my focus should be on TODAY, and slightly looking ahead to the future too. This is my time.

There’s no guarantee I won’t let it get back to where it was before, but seeing how hard it was to clear all of these old ones out, I’m sure going to think about it next time. Email’s impact has been amazing, but there’s also a downside. It’s too difficult to keep up with all of it, at least it is for me. I’ve got to come up with a better system, this one isn’t working.

The good thing about these kinds of purges is that it reconnects with people I may have let drift away a little. I wrote to some comedian friends and already heard back from some of them, and it all feels right. I’ve got some work this week and next week begins the one man show test run in Saukville, WI at The Railroad Station. Things are falling into place.

Catching The Dream

March 3, 2010

Tuesday March 2nd, 2010 – St. Charles, IL/Lake Villa, IL

I’m starting to feel some momentum building with all my projects, and I’m really liking how that feels. It energizes me and makes every waking hour exciting and packed with all kinds of fun things to do. The phone is ringing constantly and I feel like I’m finally doing what I’m supposed to be doing rather than drifting through life like a lost helium balloon.

Everything seems to be coming together at once, and as scary as that is, it’s also a thrill. I’ve waited so long and had so many disappointments that I thought this time would never come. I’ve made a lion’s share of mistakes and can’t promise I won’t make more, but that goes with the territory. I’ve managed to hang in there and positive results are finally here.

What’s great about all of this is I hung in there and didn’t give up when that would have been very easy to do. Maybe I was too stupid to quit or didn’t know what else to do, but it didn’t happen and I’m so glad it didn’t. I feel like I’m really poised for something big and it’s not very far away now. This is the most exciting time of my life and I’m loving it all.

Comedy classes are coming together again even though only three students came out for one at Zanies at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, IL. They agreed to wait until next month, so we’ll start on April 6th and be ready to go. We had several other people inquire, but they didn’t attend for whatever reason. That happens. It’s ok, I‘m still very positive.

Cyndi Nelson is my ace in the hole here and she and I had a great meeting. Cyndi works for the resort as Entertainment Director after being promoted from manager of Zanies and she’s a peach pie to deal with. She’s smart and a sweetheart and she sees the benefits of a comedy class to more than just wannabe comics. She knows it’s good for lots of people.

Business types and sales meetings and public speakers of all kinds can benefit from this and she promised to promote it throughout the resort and I know she will. I wrote her up a press release last week, but it was on very short notice and it only got out today. That’s no way to promote something, but now we’ve got a solid month to get interest up for April.

I’ll have plenty to work on if there are classes both downtown and at Pheasant Run on a regular basis, and it’s not nuts to think we could eventually add a third location in Vernon Hills if needed. I’ve done several classes out there before and they’ve all been successful.

I have to watch myself with time management though. While I really do enjoy teaching, I still have a while to go while I can still perform. That’s my first love, and if I can do that I absolutely will. Teaching is close though. Having two classes at once is enough for now.  That should happen next month, and I’ll work on making those two fill up consistently.

The one man show about Milwaukee is getting some attention too. I can feel that begin to heat up, and I did a radio interview today on a station in Fond Du Lac for my March 13 performance at The Railroad Station in Saukville. Richard Halasz is promoting that show and he’s doing an excellent job of it. We’ve got a great chance to experiment and we are.

That’s what all of this is – one big experiment. It’s a crapshoot. I am guessing as to what will sell, and even though I’ve got a lot of experience there’s still no guarantee that any of this will work, at least not to the extent I might think it will. Still, I feel good about it all.

Richard Halasz has been a comedian longer than me, and has been promoting shows in the area for a while now. He can help me get locations in the area, as can Ron Lee. Ron is also working with me on this project and he’s been meeting with potential sponsors of the show lately and he tells me they’re very interested in the concept. I knew I had a winner.

Now it’s a matter of hashing it all out and making it come to life. I’ll work with Richard and Ron and anyone else who wants to put on shows, but the ultimate control in all of this boils down to me. I’ll have to negotiate percentages and define roles for everyone but it’s ultimately my baby here and whether it sinks or swims boils down to me. I’m in charge.

That’s why it’s so much fun. Whenever I’ve been in control in the past, things have had very positive results. It’s when I have to deal with those who don’t share my vision is the time everything has fallen apart. I don’t think I have to let that happen in these situations.

The ‘Schlitz Happened!’ one man show and the comedy classes are my babies and I call the shots in both. I also have Uranus Factory Outlet ready to launch soon and that project is in my control as well. I thought of it and even though it took way too long to get going, it’s finally ready to blast off in a couple of weeks. Those are three projects I love doing.

That doesn’t include my actual standup comedy career either. I’m still interested in that too, even though all these other things are starting to rumble. I took some time today for a review of my comedy material I’ve been working on lately. I’ve got 120 pages of material I need to either polish, rework or add in to what I’ve already got. That‘ll keep me busy.

All this will keep me busy for the rest of my life, even if I live to be 100. These are very solid projects that will take blood and sweat to develop, but I’m up for the challenge and looking forward to it. Nothing is worthwhile that isn’t worth working for, and all this is.

I’m starting to see a bigger picture on all these things too. I know I won’t be able to get anything done totally by myself so I’m working on my delegation skills. Delegating what I need to do is the best way to assure success, and I never really thought that way before.

Now, I totally think that way. Unless I can get quality people to join me I’ll never make any of this come to life. It’s only as a result of a team effort many times over that will be what puts any of this over the top. I’ve been laying the foundations for all of these things, but now it’s time to find the members of my team. I’m doing that, and it’s working well.

One thing I didn’t mention was radio. I’m still involved with Jerry’s Kidders on WGN in Chicago and The Mothership Connection paranormal show on WLIP in Kenosha every Sunday night from 8-11pm Central Time. Those are two more projects I love doing and it would be even more lovable if I was getting paid for them. Time to shake the money tree.

Back To Milwaukee I Go

January 20, 2010

Tuesday January 19th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Never say never. There was a time when I could not WAIT to escape my home town of Milwaukee, WI. It was my life’s mission. Even as a kid, I knew I didn’t want to live there very long and as soon as I could leave, I hopped on the first Greyhound bus out of town.

I’ll never forget it. I was working at a restaurant called “Rustler Steak House” across the street from the Southgate Mall on South 27th Street in 1982. The Brewers had just lost the World Series and the nasty cold of a Wisconsin December with Christmas coming wasn’t an exciting prospect for happiness so I left my job in mid shift and bought the bus ticket.

I was 19 at the time and not sure what life was about, but I did know I wanted to live it anywhere but Milwaukee. Warm weather was the first target but all I could afford to buy with the money I’d saved was a ticket to Dallas, TX. I don’t know why I picked Dallas of all places, but I did. Maybe it was because I could afford a round trip ticket, which I got.

That trip was one of the best things I ever did. It was the first of countless cross country adventures I’d have over the next almost thirty years and at the time it took a lot of guts to chuck everything and DO something exciting. I thought I’d planned for it but I did a poor job and ended up having to use that return ticket a day after I got there. I wasn’t ready yet.

Coming back to Milwaukee was pure torture. It was cold and everyone I knew made fun of me for ‘failing’ in my bid to start a new life somewhere. I hadn’t failed, I just needed to learn a few more things which I eventually did. But at the time, I was feeling pretty low.

I went back to grovel for my job back at the Rustler Steak House but they wouldn’t give it to me right away. They wanted to ‘teach me a lesson’ and I guess they did. It taught me to rely on myself, which I’ve had to do since. Then I remember getting my job back after a while and then the restaurant closed and went out of business, leaving us all dangling.

I bounced around several other horrific low paying dead end jobs from restaurants to car dealerships as a lot boy to anything else I could do to survive. My grandparents raised me but my grandfather had died and that threw the family into a full scale war by that time.

It was all I could do to support myself then, much less try for college. I was all alone in a cold ugly world, and that world was Milwaukee at the time. I found it to be an alcoholic cesspool of  lowlife dysfunctional idiots who weren’t interested in bettering themselves.

They had no ambition to rise above anything other than their boring no brainer factory jobs, their bowling teams, and their beer. LOTS of beer. Milwaukeeans sure love to suck down their suds, and with most it’s a way of life. I never drank, so I never fit in either.

Over the next few years, I kept struggling to survive but eventually discovered standup comedy as a means to get me out of town. It was a rocky start, but I stayed with it and am SO glad I did. Comedy is what gave me hope and what kept me from swallowing a bullet.

As soon as I was able to leave Milwaukee, I did. I had a horrible family life, didn’t like the whole booze soaked mindset that embraced mediocrity, had no wife and kids to hold me back and knew the entertainment scene was pathetic to the point of embarrassment so I moved to Chicago in the mid ‘80s. I don’t remember the exact year, but it was fantastic.

It’s amazing how 90 miles on a map can be 90 million light years in life. Chicago had a comedy scene and I quickly became part of it and cut my teeth as an entertainer. I learned my craft and enjoyed my life and knew the first week I was there I made the right choice.

Then as life opened up, I took some chances and started in radio and that’s when things started to get all cloudy and convoluted. I ended up back in Milwaukee at 93QFM later on but that ended in total disaster. Still, something inside yearned to be a star there. I wanted to prove to those who doubted that I was worth something after all, especially my father.

It’s a common story in show business and life in general. We all want to gain approval from family, friends, lovers or whomever else we feel we need to impress. I admit that my main focus was on ‘sticking it’ to everyone, but what a waste of time all of that is. I know it now, but I hadn’t learned that then. I wasted a lot of time and caused myself much pain.

Who needs any of that? I’ve survived until now and although I made a ton of mistakes I regret horribly, I’m still in the game and in a much better mindset. I’ve learned a lot and it shows. Supposedly we’re here on Earth to learn lessons. Well, I’ve earned my doctorate.

All that being said, I drove up to Milwaukee today to meet with Richard Halasz. He’s a comedian friend I’ve known over 25 years, and he’s now promoting some shows as well. I told Richard about my one man show about growing up in Milwaukee and he absolutely loved the concept. He’s got me booked in Saukville at the Railroad Station on March 13.

Granted, Saukville is not where I pictured this show to be, but he says the people came out and supported shows he’s done out there with Will Durst and wanted to try something else. I’m willing to give it a shot so we went out there today to look at the room. I looked it over and met one of the owners and everyone seemed like nice people so we’ll let it rip.

If you’d told the clueless angry hurt kid who got on that bus in 1982 he’d be looking to return to Milwaukee to do shows, he’d have flipped you off and walked away. Now, it’s a whole new adventure and I’m really looking forward to it. I know I can pull this off for an audience that grew up in the same place I did. The difference is, I’m able to accept it now.

Milwaukee is what it is, but it sure is unique. After seeing everywhere else in America, I have a whole different perspective now. That time in my life would have been horrible no matter where I lived. It took many years to see that, but I have. I’ve matured greatly.

I doubt if I’ll ever live in Milwaukee again, but I’m close enough to be able to pull this off. I’m going to craft a show about my hometown and share it with others who grew up where I did. I’ll turn a negative into a positive and also make a few bucks for my trouble.