Posts Tagged ‘Ron Lee’

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.


Proper Perspective

February 13, 2010

Friday February 12th, 2010 – Elkhorn, WI/Milwaukee, WI

What a busy day, but it was all in proper perspective. Jim McHugh called me early with news that George Clinton was appearing on WGN’s morning TV news. That was kind of a surprise, as I didn’t think it would be a match. Still, I will always be a fan of George, so I tuned in to see it. I don’t think I’ve ever seen George appear on a morning show before.

He’s been in the news lately for several reasons, none of them pleasant. His mother died a few months ago, and apparently he didn’t have enough money to pay for a funeral. That was a shocker when I first heard it, but it really isn’t. Show business can be brutal with all the lopsided deals people sign, hoping to get ahead. George deserves better. He‘s an icon.

Then, his oldest son passed away just recently. Apparently, he was found at home a few days after he died, and that has to be devastating to a parent. On top of that, a member of one of George’s girl groups ‘Parlet’ named Mallia Franklin passed away from a stroke.

All this has happened in the very recent past, but when George came on TV he was in a very upbeat mood and played along with the interviewer, who brought a box of props and wigs and tried to match George’s hairstyle. I can’t say I’d be as patient as George was, but he played along and made the bit work. I thought he was great and was glad he got a plug.

George and the band played at The Cubby Bear in Chicago tonight and I’d love to have been there. I’ve seen him there several times before, and he didn’t disappoint. Rarely does he, and it‘s hard to believe he‘s still out doing smaller clubs at age 68. Granted, a lot of it is because he has to earn a living, but he sure isn’t taking the easy way. He really earns it.

A casual fan watching that TV show this morning would have NO idea about all the sad events that have happened to him recently. He came out and entertained. Period. That’s a consummate pro, and I respect him even more after seeing it. I don’t know if I could hide it as well as he does. My problems seemed pretty tiny in perspective so I shut my mouth.

After seeing George I had to attend traffic court in Elkhorn, WI. The sheriff issued me a citation after my accident in December and I needed to fight it for many reasons. It would have taken four points from my driver’s license and the fine was $213. That’s too much.

I don’t know why I got a fine at all, other than they milk the hell out of everybody when they get the chance to raise revenue. They cited me with ‘too fast for conditions’, but how did they know how fast I was going? It was icy, and I had slowed WAY down. Nobody in the courtroom was at the scene except me. How could anyone prove I was going too fast?

There was a sheriff hearing people’s stories and offering deals before a trial. I told him what happened, and apparently a few other people in that accident had already been there. He knew of it, and said I wasn’t the only car in the pileup to get a ticket. Still, I think it’s a total scam and I tried to tell him that politely. He wasn’t a bad guy, and I tried to reason with him like an adult. I thought, and still do, that I shouldn’t have gotten any ticket at all.

Obviously, that wasn’t his idea of a ‘deal’, so he ended up knocking the points violation off and making it a non moving violation. He lowered the fine from $213 to $170 and I’ll have thirty days to pay it. I could see it was probably all I was going to get, so I said yes.

I suppose I could have made a scene and asked for a jury trial or called a lawyer, but the cost or aggravation of all that just isn’t worth it to me. I know the court knows that too, so they get people to pay their fine and make it go away. They had an opportunity to make a quick $170 and they took it. Too fast for conditions, my ass. They just want their money.

Again, I tried to look at it with perspective. I could have easily died in that crash, and if not I could have easily had some horrible injuries. If staying alive and being able to see or walk or anything else most people take for granted (including me) cost $170, it would be a fantastic bargain. I’m sure people in wheelchairs would gladly pay $170 to get out of it.

I wasn’t bitter as I walked to my car with no limp. I’ll pay my fine in thirty days and just move on. It could have been a LOT worse, and bitching about a fine won’t change my life for the better. I felt good about myself for thinking like this. In the past I haven’t done it.

After court I drove to Milwaukee to meet up with Ron Lee to scout out potential places to perform the one man show. Ron has been doing some leg work and we’ve been staying in contact about a lot of the things necessary to bring this project together. There are a lot of things to put in place before an actual show, but we knew it. This is all from scratch.

We looked at a few spaces, and it was a very productive process. We talked to people in charge and asked about availabilities and all kinds of stuff I really haven’t done too much in all my past experience. Most shows I’ve done are preset and all I have to do is show up and go up. This is completely different, but it’s already been a great learning experience.

We’re going to pull this off. I feel it. It’s a quality product and I’m doing things exactly how I’m supposed to be doing them. I’m not disrespecting anyone going in, and I will not look to do it in the future either. I want this to come together through hard work, planning with a dash of showmanship thrown in. No, more than a dash. I’ll need a ladle full of that.

Our last stop was at the Milwaukee Visitors Bureau. I plan on registering with them like I did with the Lake County Convention And Visitors Bureau in Illinois, but they’ll have a challenge to outwork a consummate pro like Jayne Nordstrom and all the competent staff.

This was a pretty busy work day, but I had a show at Zanies in Vernon Hills, IL tonight. There was only one because they brought in some soap opera star who drew tons of horny women who all thought he was going to sleep with them. It was funny to see them run out of the showroom hoping to bed their TV stud master, but see me waiting around instead.

I got some animated dramatic looks of severe disappointment, but I’ve gotten that quite a few times in life so I just laughed and blew kisses to all the ladies. The Zanies staff was laughing, as they saw the position I was in. It could have been worse. It’s all perspective.

Old Friends Are Best

February 6, 2010

Friday February 5th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Up to Milwaukee today to jump start the one man show idea. I want to do this correctly so I set up meetings with old friends who can help. Ron Lee used to produce shows when I first started and wants to do it again. He loves this idea and has some contacts for places he thinks it could work. Ron and I met up with my old friend Mark Krueger to discuss it.

Mark is an icon in Milwaukee and I bet he knows more people than the mayor. He has a lot to contribute to this project because not only is he well connected, he’s hilarious and a savant when it comes to local references. He could probably do a show like this himself.

We sat around firing off ideas and came up with some good ones. Ron and Mark can do a lot of favors for me and they will. I’ve known them both forever and if they were doing a project like this, they know they could count on me to help. It pays to have old friends.

After our productive brainstorming lunch I went to visit another valuable asset in Drew Olson. He’s another good friend I’ve known forever and knows everyone in Milwaukee’s hierarchy who’s anyone. Between Mark and Drew, that covers everyone I need to know.

Drew had some great ideas too as he always does, but one in particular was outstanding. He knows John McGivern, the Milwaukee actor who does one man shows that have been very successful. I’ve never met the guy but I keep hearing how well known he is in town.

I have nothing but respect for the guy, and am not looking to ‘compete’ or anything like that. When I’ve told some people about my idea for a one man show about Milwaukee the first thing they say is “John McGivern does that.” That’s fine, but why can’t I do one too?

I congratulate John for cracking the Milwaukee market. That’s no easy task. He came at it from a different angle than I did in standup, and he found the secret. Kudos. He proved an audience does exist for local entertainment, but it sure wasn’t in clubs where I started.

Drew suggested I contact John and offered to make it happen. That’s a brilliant idea. I’ll gladly tell him what I’m doing, and hopefully we can team up and make more work for us both. He probably turns down work I’d love to have, and if we’re on the same team I’ll be able to not only get those gigs, but work my way up the ladder and pay him back as well.

I’ve often done shows for groups who’ve asked me to suggest other comedians for their shows in the future. I’ve gotten a lot of shows that way too. John is way ahead of me with this and doesn’t need my ‘help’, but at some point I’m sure we’d be able to trade leads for shows and both end up getting more work out of it. That’s how I’d like to see it play out.

I look at it as healthy. Coke and Pepsi might not like each other, but they make the other one better. Also, how many gospels are there? Four. Is one better than the other? Who can say? They’re different, but it’s the same story. This is similar. John McGivern has his take on growing up in Milwaukee and so do I. We’re different people. I think we can coexist.

It was very nice of Drew to make the gesture and I appreciate it. No matter how it turns out, I will treat everyone with the utmost respect. This is like that scene in the Godfather where Marlon Brando says “Good luck in your new business.” He put a disclaimer in the mix saying something like “As long as it doesn’t interfere with ours,” or however it went.

In theory, I don’t need to ask anybody’s permission to do a one man show or any other show I want to do. I just want to show respect. John McGivern has earned it by making a name for himself doing something nobody before him was able to do. I know how hard it is to put butts in seats anywhere, much less Milwaukee. I don’t want any hard feelings.

I’m trying to follow the Golden Rule too. When I started comedy classes in Chicago, it was something I started from scratch. Then my ex business partner pulled his embezzling stunt and went behind my back and started trying to do it in the same town, and it turned ugly rather quickly. Then a bunch of other ‘classes’ started up and it spun out of control.

Had someone come to me and asked, I could have helped them get started, and we may have been able to grow a business together rather than be rivals. That didn’t happen, and now it’s everyone for himself. I don’t want to have a similar situation in Milwaukee. I’ve been on the other side of it and seen it blow up. Hopefully, that won‘t happen this time.

It’s out of my hands now. Drew sent an email to John, and I’ll either hear from him or I won’t. If I do, I’ll approach it with the attitude that he’s in charge. If I don’t, I’ll do what I do and see how it goes. In my mind, there’s plenty of room for everyone. I’ll make it go.

I had dinner tonight with my old friend Greg Chadwell and his girlfriend Nancy. Greg is a true friend, and I’ve known him since 1982. We worked together cooking at a restaurant called Rustler Steak House on the south side of Milwaukee, and have been friends since.

Greg is a dented can, but never EVER complained. He’s one of the hardest working and most honest people I know, and no matter what life does to him, he just keeps going. I am a whiner and complainer and I admit it, even though sometimes it can be funny when I go off on something that pops my cork. Greg has the right attitude. He shuts up and works.

I needed a place to live in 1984 and Greg turned me on to a room for rent by his former father in law. I ended up staying there for a couple of years, and those people were so nice to me I still consider them the family I never had. They had me over for Christmases even after I moved out, and in fact I’m even a godfather to one of Greg’s kids. I love them all.

He works at a bank now as a loan officer, but he sold cars for many years after escaping from the restaurant business. Greg helped me get a loan approved for my first brand new car in 1988 and I’ll always appreciate him for that alone. Greg Chadwell is a great friend.

People like him make America great. He works hard and doesn’t bitch about wanting to get a bailout from the government or anyone else. The least I could do was buy dinner for a guy like that. I owe him a lot more though. Old time friends are the best. I have several.