Posts Tagged ‘Visit Lake County’

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’.

Buddha, Confucius And Me

June 2, 2013

Friday May 31st, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

   “Out of chaos, one must create order.” – Dobie Maxwell, Low Rent Philosopher – 2013

   That sounds like something Buddha or Confucius might have uttered, and for all I know one or both of them did. Maybe one ad libbed it during an after dinner speech at a golf outing or awards banquet and the other stole and claimed it since they died only four years apart. (I looked it up.)

   I don’t know how either of their financial situations were, but mine is about as solid as Lindsay Lohan’s career future. In a word, that would be shaky. OH, is it shaky. Shaky like an earthquake. If I don’t do something about it in the very near future, I’m going to be sleeping in a state park.

   I have chosen to attempt to fix it in a way I haven’t attempted in a while – by having a plan and actually working it. That sounds like the easy answer, but for me it never is. I’ve managed to find ways to lose money that should have been in the bank like nobody I’ve ever seen. It’s uncanny.

   I’m out several grand in the last year or so for either gigs that fell out at the last minute or cash I am owed for various reasons – most directly connected to my generous nature (read: stupidity) and kind heart. When I’ve had money I’ve always been generous to a fault, and that has to end.

   I always gave until it hurt, and thought it would ‘come back around’. Well, it’s not coming and I’m really missing it. Also, I was able to get bookings without much effort because I have proven myself to be dependable, booze and drug free and a rock solid act. I was never worried about it.

   Things are changing now, and I need to follow suit. I’m not worried yet, but I am concerned as to how I’m going to make it through the summer months. I’m still a quality act, and I’ll get work again – but it goes in cycles. I just finished up several runs, and I am between booking blocks.

   The right thing to do is find more booking blocks, and contact people farther out. Most bookers of comedy clubs and even corporate work don’t just book one event or venue. I need to rattle the cages of everyone I’ve ever worked for that might book me back, and find a few more to acquire.

   In a perfect world – which it never is – one should be booking about six months out. That’s not always the way many bookers have done it lately, and with work falling out left and right there is more of a last minute feel than I’ve ever seen. I’m used to living that way, but I’ve never liked it.

   I’ve made a career on being available for last minute bookings, and there are always fallouts all over the country. I was always willing to drive from Albuquerque to Cincinnati on short notice if that’s what it took, but with gas prices and my time in the business I’m over it. I need to evolve.

   I had lunch today with Jayne Nordstrom from a group called ‘Visit Lake County’. It used to be called The Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and I’ve been a member for years now. I get a few gigs a year, and the people there are easy to deal with. My membership includes help with networking other clients, and Jayne gave me some leads to contact for possible future work.

   Now is the time to start throwing out feelers for holiday parties, and in the past I have not made the effort to land any. I just took what came. Some years were better than others, but I’m in show BUSINESS and I have to get that through my thick skull. I have a bunch of leads to follow up on but they’re handpicked fellow members. Someone has to need my services for a holiday party or awards banquet, right? Chaos is not my preference. I have a sales career, and the product is me.

Close To Home

May 26, 2013

Friday May 24th, 2013 – Gurnee, IL

   In the best of all worlds, I’d be able to live in a place I’m comfortable but still perform enough to keep my chops and make a decent living. That’s a much more difficult challenge than it might sound, but I’ve been trying to arrange it for the past few years. In theory, it should be attainable.

   In reality, there are still some glitches that need to be worked out. Tonight was a good example as I did a show at the Heather Ridge Golf Course in Gurnee, IL. I am a member of a group called “Visit Lake County” which used to be called the Lake County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

   Heather Ridge is a member too, and there’s a really good guy named Matt Nordigan who came to me and asked if I’d be interested in trying a comedy show in their clubhouse facility. They’ve got a cozy little room that seats about 85 people, and again in theory it would be a decent room.

   I booked a show for him probably a year or two ago that I wasn’t able to be on because I must have been on the road or something. Maybe I was on a cruise ship, who knows? It all gets lost in a big blur after a while, but that show went well enough to have him ask me to book another one.

   It was supposed to be last Friday, but I backed out because of the request by Jim Wiggins to do the shows that never happened in Minnesota. My wallet still hurts from that disaster, but Matt is flexible and agreed to delay it a week. It was nice of him to do that, but attendance was very thin.

   I’d guess there were 35 people tops, but every one of them had a great time. I closed the show, but I brought Kay Cammon to open along with Dan Morris and Mark Fenske. They all did really well, and for a sparse turnout it was a fun experience. Still, I feel bad when a venue loses money.

   I don’t know the exact numbers, but I know Matt was disappointed. I hope he was at least able to come close to breaking even, but I seriously doubt it. I didn’t get paid a ton, and I had to shell out for Kay, Dan and Mark out of that budget. Basically, I got some gas money to hang out with friends. As fun as it was – and it was – this is not what I need to be doing this late in the game.

   I really like Matt, and he really likes comedy. There are probably 2000 residents in the Heather Ridge community, and he pumped the show in their monthly newsletter which not many of them read obviously. Again, in theory the place should have been standing room only – but it was not.

   In reality, filling a room with people for any reason is flat out DIFFICULT. It might not appear to be that tough to get 100 people to show up for something, but I encourage anyone to try it and tell me how it goes. People today have too much going on and are getting deluged with messages on Facebook to the point where everything blends together and nobody can keep it sorted out.

   The redeeming factor is that it was close to home. Heather Ridge is only 15 miles from where I live, and there’s no traffic. I don’t even have to get on any freeways, which is rare. I’d love more shows this close to home, and I believe they’re there. There’s no ‘circuit’ per se, and it’ll require some hustling on my part and the part of people like Matt who are willing to try something new.

   Is this the way to build a career? No, it really isn’t. It’s a stop gap measure to pay some bills for a while as I continue to develop shows like ‘Schlitz Happened!’ and work on getting a few more corporate bookings. It saves me those hellaciously long drives I’ve been making most of my life, and now that gas is approaching $4.50 a gallon it’s allowing me to survive when others are not.

Versatility Pays Peanuts

May 8, 2013

Tuesday May 7th, 2013 – Lake Zurich, IL

   Versatility in the entertainment business can be a two edged sword. On one hand, it can allow a performer to have the luxury of more than one option to receive a paycheck. On the other, there’s a “jack of all trades, master of none” stigma that tends to go with it and that can cause confusion.

   Those known for ONE thing and one thing only have a much better chance at mass recognition – IF they happen to find that right thing. Mel Kiper Jr. is a perfect example. What the hell has he ever done except claim to know about the NFL draft? He’s got the title of ‘draft expert’, but what does that mean? Can anyone truly say he is or isn’t? It doesn’t matter. He’s carved out his niche.

   Rachel Ray is another. She has books and videos and is always on TV whipping up some kind of miracle meal, but again what else has she done? People like that just appear on television one day and become part of popular culture, and everyone knows who they are for that single reason.

   Dr. Phil bitches at people. That’s it. Nobody knows anything else about him. Does he have any knowledge about the NFL draft? It doesn’t matter if he does or he doesn’t? Can he make himself breakfast? That’s not important either. All that matters with the public is that one source of fame.

   A few select people have been able to parlay fame into more areas, but more often than not it’s one thing and one thing only that anyone becomes truly known for. Rush Limbaugh was hired to do NFL pregame commentary on the basis of his radio show, but he’ll always be known as being a radio host. Howard Stern is the same thing. He did a couple of movies, but he’s a shock jock.

   I’ve never been known for exclusively one thing, and part of that reason is I’ve been able to be versatile for many years. I’ve done standup comedy and radio, and also was a ring announcer for professional wrestling in addition to promoting live shows. None are easy, but I need to pick one.

   Rodney Dangerfield never did radio, and Vince McMahon never did standup comedy. They are both icons in their field, and although Rodney did movies that’s a logical progression in what the comedy business entails. Rodney was known as a comedian. Period. Vince McMahon has tried a few other pursuits, but he’s known as the king of modern day professional wrestling promoters.

   Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but not many. Most people who ‘make it’ become known for one thing, and that’s enough to sustain them for a lifetime. J.K. Rowling doesn’t have to do another thing in her life and she’ll be known after she’s dead for bringing us Harry Potter.

   I’m still looking for my ‘thing’. I don’t think I’ll ever be known for my standup comedy, as it’s not that radical unfortunately. I can rip it up with the best of them, but I’ve never had the massive appeal of a Carrot Top or Adam Sandler or someone else who’s a crowd pleaser. I have my style and a lot of people like it, but I haven’t been able to carve out a niche in all these years of trying.

   Tonight I had a show for 50 church group seniors in Lake Zurich, IL. They were part of a tour group and were all from Wisconsin. Visit Lake County is a group I’m a member of, and they are the ones who set up this gig. It went really well and it was fun, but it won’t make me a big star.

   As I was performing (without a microphone) for this group who was loving it, I tried to picture Rodney or Carlin or anyone else in this situation and I couldn’t. I bet there aren’t five comedians on earth that could have pulled this off, but who cares? Versatility does pay – but it’s in peanuts.