Posts Tagged ‘The Brat Stop’

War Scarred Testicles

June 27, 2013

Wednesday June 26th, 2013 – Kenosha, WI

   My friend Jerry Agar rolled through town today on a cross country motorcycle trip, and we had a chance to sit down and catch up over a delicious lunch at The Brat Stop in Kenosha, WI. We’d originally hoped to have all the members of ‘Jerry’s Kidders’ from WLS and WGN reunite for a party, but we couldn’t hook up everyone’s schedules. People were out of town, so it was just us.

   Jerry and I have been through a lot together, and even more separately. We met in the late ‘80s when he was working at a tiny AM station in St. Charles, IL and I was working for the new club Zanies was starting in the Pheasant Run Resort at the time. It started as a one shot interview, but we kept in touch from that day forward. Today we looked back on all of our tangled adventures.

   Both of us ended up moving all over the country to pursue the radio dream, and that came with a heaping helping of hurt. Rarely have we lived in the same town or even same time zone, but we still managed to stay in touch by phone and email. We’d help each other with various projects or radio bits, and when one of us got fired – again – the first call we’d make would be to the other.

   Jerry had the additional pressure of a family to support, and his wife Ann should easily qualify for first ballot sainthood for all she’s had to endure with this mine field of a business. They have three fantastic kids who I consider to be surrogate nephews and a niece, and every time they had to pack up everything and move one more time Ann would hang in there and keep it all together.

   That’s the kind of family relationship I’ve always wanted – at least the together part. It’s not in the cards, and when I really needed it it was never there. I was always of the mindset it was cruel and unusual punishment to drag a wife much less kids through the treacherous jungle of radio.

   Comedy is no clam bake either, but at least it’s a predictable instability. As a comedian, I know I will be somewhere else each week. In radio, one never knows when the next time bomb will go off – only that it will. Stations get sold, GMs and Program Directors move on, so who can say if a job will be there tomorrow? It’s always been that way from my experience, but now it’s worse.

   Jerry is currently working in Toronto, and he has really made an impact on the market. He does talk radio, and does it extremely well. He’s found his niche, and few can do what he does with as much skill as he does it. One would think that would go hand in hand with total job security – but one could not be more mistaken. The planets could align against him and he’d be out on his arse.

   Jerry told me his station is in the process of getting sold, and my bung hole puckered. That puts everyone at the station on edge, and I’ve gone through it more than once myself.  Two other pals in radio “Stone and Double T” in Rockford, IL are going through the same hell. Their station just got sold as well, and the standard company line is always “We expect there to be NO changes.”

   My war scarred testicles. I wish I had a free lunch for every time I heard that splattering pile of verbal manure emanate from behind the desk of some greasy radio snake – only to get shown the door a short time later. Then to make it worse, they themselves are blown out a short while after that and it was like none of us ever existed in the first place. It’s a vicious never ending cycle.

   It was great to hang out with Jerry, but I can’t help feeling for him and his family. He’s settling in nicely in Toronto, but he was doing the same thing in Chicago before he got axed for reasons I still haven’t been able to figure out. If there is a hell, there’s a whole wing for radio management.

My Film Debut

April 9, 2010

Wednesday April 7th, 2010 – Kenosha, WI

No limousine. No tuxedo. No trophy babe hanging from my arm. Nevertheless, it was a memorable experience to attend my first movie premiere in which I had a part. There was a nice crowd on hand at The Brat Stop, even though it wasn’t sold out. The weather was a problem, as it was rainy and cold, and it was a weeknight too. Still, it was an adventure.

Mark Gumbinger is a good guy and worked very hard putting this whole event together. I know how difficult it is to get people in a room for anything, so it was a rousing success just based on that alone. There were a couple hundred people there, and that took effort to get each one of them. Many were there to see the star, Lou Rugani. This was his vehicle.

The program consisted of me opening the show with thirty minutes of standup comedy, then Dr. Destruction’s band The Dead Leathers played for thirty minutes, then it was time for the actual screening of “Dead Air”. That’s a lot of entertainment for a $7 admission.

It was funny to see the mix of people in one place. Dr. Destruction had a part in the film so he brought his audience, many of them punk rock fans with Mohawks, tattoos, pierced parts that don’t normally get pierced and ripped clothing. Lou Rugani’s fans listen to him on WLIP and are mostly over 50. The looks on their faces at the punk fans were priceless.

Mark hosted the evening and brought me up to do my opening set. There was band gear all over the stage but I worked around it and did my time. They started out a little uptight, but I got them rolling after a while. I kept it clean because that was the right thing to do in a situation like that. I don’t get filthy anyway, but for this event cleaner was appropriate.

After me the band went on and the fans that were there enjoyed them, as did I. Dr. D is a true artist, and even though I’m not a huge punk fan, I thought they were entertaining as hell and a lot of fun. Not all of the older people thought that and many got up and walked around in back trying to escape the loud noise. It was a funny scene, and I soaked it all in.

Then it was time for the movie. Mark brought us up one by one and interviewed us for a minute or two, then he told a couple of stories about what went on behind the scenes that added some depth of insight to the experience. It was exciting to be a part of it all. I sat in the back of the room so I could enjoy not only the movie but the reaction of the audience.

Lou was absolutely amazing. He’s a major talent and it was fun watching him play such a lout of a character when in real life he’s such a great guy. He has a presence that attracts attention much like a Gene Hackman or Morgan Freeman and I thought he jumped off the screen with believability. The other actors did a great job too. The crowd enjoyed it too.

As for my part, I’ve always hated watching or listening to myself. I’m my own harshest critic but everyone said they liked it so whether or not they did doesn’t matter. I wasn’t in it for anything else but fun, and there was plenty of that to go around. Now I can say I was in a movie with a real live speaking part, not just an extra with that hussy Sandra Bullock.