Posts Tagged ‘Summerfest’

The Doctor Calls!

November 25, 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a lot to surprise me anymore, but once in a while something happens that does raise my eyebrows. This morning I received a phone call completely out of the blue from Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton! Had I been asked to predict something freakish that might happen today I highly doubt that would be in my top 1000 guesses. It was a pleasant surprise, but unexpected.

Actually it has happened before, and I didn’t expect that either. The band was on the way to do a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2011, and they stopped at the Lake Forest Tollway Oasis on I-94 and George’s manager Carlon Scott saw me listed in the Lake County Visitor’s Guide.

I’ve been a member of Visit Lake County for several years, and it comes with a listing in their annual guide of businesses, attractions and events in Lake County. Carlon happened to pick up a copy and saw my name, and called to say hello. That’s proof positive that advertising does work.

I had just gotten out of the hospital from my diabetes debacle a couple of days before, and was feeling pretty weak. I almost didn’t answer the phone, but I’m thrilled I did. When I told Carlon I had just gotten out of the hospital, she had George call me back a few minutes later. He had been in the hospital around the same time, and was just out himself. He wanted to call to cheer me up.

He certainly did. How many times does anyone get to have an all time personal hero call out of the blue? It’s kind of like a famous athlete visiting a sick kid in the hospital only better. I’m a big fan, but he treated me like a peer. He asked how my shows were going and I asked all about his.

The reason he was calling today was to ask if I knew how to get in touch with artist Pedro Bell. Pedro did quite a few legendary album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s, and happens to be from Chicago. I tracked him down years ago and he did two CD covers for me, and the DVD cover for James Wesley Jackson. It cost me a chunk of change, but I had it at the time and I’m glad I did it.

Not only did I get every penny of my money’s worth, I got to know Pedro through the process and now consider him a friend. He’s a very talented artist, but also a down to earth person. I was very much in awe at first, but he could see I knew of his work so he opened up and we hit it off.

George is coming out with a new project, and wanted to track down Pedro to do some artwork. He knew that I had hired him recently, so he wanted to reconnect. I told him Pedro has been sick lately, and in fact James Wesley Jackson and I had discussed doing some kind of benefit show.

George asked me to keep him posted on the benefit, and I certainly will. James and Pedro have been friends for years, and when I suggested some kind of benefit I knew James would jump on board immediately. With all the other projects I’ve got going now, it has forced me to put that on the back burner for much too long along with James’s DVD. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Hopefully this will set everything in positive forward motion again. As George said on a record years ago “Funk not only moves…it can re-move. Dig?” I’d love to be involved in anything I can do to help Pedro and work with James, but if George happens to be involved it would be a dream come true. If you need a dose of the funk, the real Mothership flies at http://www.georgeclinton.com.

George 'Dr. Funkenstein' Clinton has my number.

George ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ Clinton has my number.

Pedro Bell aka 'Captain Draw'. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

Pedro Bell aka ‘Captain Draw’. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

This is a  bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for "Hard Luck Jollies'.

This is a bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for “Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson's new DVD. It's available at www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Here’s the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson’s new DVD. It’s available at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The first cover Pedro did for me was 'Hard Luck Jollies'.

The first cover Pedro did for me was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the original Funkadelic album 'Hardcore Jollies'.

Here’s the original Funkadelic album ‘Hardcore Jollies’.

My next CD will be 'Comedy Skeletons In The Closet'.

My next CD will be ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’.

Here's the original it was based on - 1986's 'R&B Skeletons In The Closet'.

Here’s the original it was based on – 1986’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’.

Doubt Of The Benefit

June 28, 2010

Saturday June 26th, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

Stage fright has never been part of my world, for whatever reason. I have a healthy dose of other problems to keep me occupied, but not that. Going on stage is something I enjoy, not a source of fear or anxiety like I’ve seen it be with others. It’s the highlight of my day.

What does scare me half to death is the fact that I have no health insurance, and I’m one procedure away from total indigence. I share that with many people, not just other comics or performers. It’s a dark cloud hanging over a lot of heads, and I’m sensitive to it daily.

I was scheduled tonight to perform at a benefit show for a comedian I’ve known a long time named Mark Reedy. He’s originally from Cleveland but lived in Chicago for years. I always got along well with Mark, and I’d heard he was having some severe health issues.

Unfortunately, most comedy benefits are complete disasters. They just are. I’ve tried to run them in the past, and lost my ass. I didn’t even make enough to break even much less raise any money for any causes, and no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, someone had a problem with someone else and there ended up being a fight at some point. What a hassle.

That being said, I was originally off and my heart goes out to Mark and everyone else in his position, including me. I’m not immune to having some big issue that needs a medical solution so I wanted to show my support, even though the chances of raising any real cash to help him were slim. I hope I’m totally wrong, but from past experience I’m totally not.

I was all set to commit to the benefit when I received a phone call telling me there was a last minute fallout at the Northern Lights Theatre at Potawatomi Casino up in Milwaukee. I just got bumped from there with a double booking a few weeks ago, and I sure could use that money right about now. Plus, it would help the booker and I love playing that venue.

I contacted the other comics on the show and said I had to take the Milwaukee gig, even though I had committed to being part of the benefit. Guaranteed money vs. a random shot in the dark is exactly that – guaranteed. I’ll donate part of my check to Mark to support his cause, and I hope he’s ok with that. I meant no disrespect, but situations pop up at times.

This isn’t the greatest week to be booked for any comedy in or around Milwaukee. This is the week of Summerfest, only the largest continuous music festival in the world. It’s an institution in the Milwaukee area and has been since I was a kid. It’s THE draw in town.

Still, there were people at both shows at the casino, and both audiences were absolutely delightful. Those who were there were there to laugh, and it really was a lot of fun. I love to work this venue, and varied a lot from my normal routine. I wanted to riff with them.

Hopefully, everyone wins here. I helped the booker who was in a pinch, but recovered a week that was double booked recently. I will donate some money to Mark Reedy and was also able to work on material for two audiences of nice people. I don’t see any losers here.