Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Back From The Dead!

June 15, 2014

Saturday June 14th, 2014 – Island Lake, IL

Hey blogosphere, it’s me! I thought I was going to be out of commission a lot longer, but I can’t stay away. Old habits die hard, and after years of writing as a discipline I find I can’t live without it as part of my daily routine. Actually, what I need more of is any kind of routine at all. I’ve been all over the place in the rest of my life and anything but disciplined. Writing has been my constant.

The first thing I am going to do is FINALLY admit to myself that I’m actually a writer. For so long, all I ever pictured myself as was a comedian. No wonder my life is in shambles. That’s like trying to complete a marathon on a pogo stick. It seems fun in theory, but not at all practical.

I still love comedy, and always will. I don’t ever intend to stop doing it altogether, but trying to base my entire living on it is just not going to happen for the long haul. That haul is over and I’ve hauled it to the limit. I squeezed more out of goofing off than anyone I know, but it’s time for an evolution. Hopefully it will be an upgrade. Working the road like a gypsy is a real energy sucker.

What stinks is that I am at my absolute performance peak right now. I can rock a room with the absolute best of them, but the rooms I have been rocking are half full or less and in places where nobody powerful will ever see me. If I want change, I have to get myself seen by a gate keeper.

That ship may or may not have sailed, but if it didn’t I won’t be riding in the honeymoon suite. I will probably have to stow away in the guts of the ship and sleep on a potato pile, but hopefully I will still get myself there. Where “there” is, I’m not really sure – but I know it’s not where I am now. I am at one of if not the lowest point of my adult life, and the next little while is uncertain.

I can handle that, as my whole life has been uncertain. I have been stuck in exactly this kind of predicament before, and quite honestly it doesn’t scare me in the least. I’m not thrilled about the prospect of having to start all over yet again, but I can do it. I’ve done it before, and I survived.

In typical Mr. Lucky fashion, this past month that I have not been making daily diary entries as I have since 2006 has been one of the most fascinating and action filled months of my life. I don’t know where to start, as so many significant events have happened I can’t keep up with them all. It’s never been this crazy.

Mother’s Day really sent me over the edge, and I put out a plea for help with some selected friends. Holidays like that have always been torture, and some years are better than others. This year kicked my ass with steel toed boots, and it took me by surprise. I was feeling very low, and needed to get some help.

The result was a series of events that were so both horrific and yet life affirming that I feel there needs to be an entire book devoted to that subject alone. I won’t get into it here, as I just want to move on and be positive. I’m still sorting it all out, and it’s yet another part of my tangled web.

That was the lowest of lows, but there was also a highest of highs. Last night I had dinner with my sister Tammy and her husband Jake at their home in Racine, WI. That meeting was something I have been wanting since childhood, and I got a lot of closure to a lot of issues that have been eating at me since my earliest memories. It took twenty years of us being apart, but the payoff was SO worth it.

I have also been devoting my entire life to the mission of daily kindness. That’s all that matters in this out of control world, and I have experienced some tremendous examples that I will share as I can by recycling posts I made on Facebook in the last few days. I feel I have been on a writing high.

I make no promises (or threats) that I will make daily posts like I have for so long. I’ve proved to myself I can do it, and that’s enough. I will write whenever I have inspiration, and be eternally grateful to any and all who may read it. I feel like I’m back from the dead, and it feels fantastic!

This is the first picture of me taken when I was dropped off at my grandparents' house. I was initially supposed to be sent to an orphanage, but they ended up raising me. I'm not sure if that was a good choice or not, but that's how it went. I thought it would be a good picture to include as I dust myself off and start my diary again. Thanks for reading, and I hope I can make it worth your effort.

This is the first picture of me taken when I was dropped off at my grandparents’ house. I was initially supposed to be sent to an orphanage, but they ended up raising me. I’m not sure if that was a good choice or not, but that’s how it went. I thought it would be a good picture to include as I dust myself off and start my diary again. Thanks for reading! I’ll try to make it interesting.

Exploring Marketing Options

April 21, 2014

Saturday April 19th, 2014 – McHenry, IL/Volo, IL

Improving my marketing skills from the ground up is my mission not only this year but every other year that I am lucky enough to experience from here on out. It’s something all businesses need to succeed, but especially entertainers. We are our own product, and marketing is a must.

I have been lucky enough to have squeaked by for decades, mostly because I was in the correct place at an opportune time. I rode the wave of the comedy club boom of the 1980s, and was able to make enough to at least survive from late 1985 on. Some years were better than others, but my primary source of income other than a few scattered years doing radio has always been comedy.

That’s good and bad, but most people can’t see the bad. “You make your LIVING standing on a stage telling JOKES. How bad can life be?” Well, in a lot of ways that’s true. I always enjoyed the performing part of it, and I was never motivated by money. If I could squeak by, that was ok.

As it turns out, I could have more than squeaked by and it was my fault for not doing it. By all accounts, I should have had at least one recording a full ten years before I did. I actually thought about it, but nobody else I knew had one and I thought it may appear egotistical. What a dummy. Ego shmego. It would have been some financial security I could have used to further my career.

It probably would have been a cassette, but the form doesn’t matter. Maybe it would have been a vinyl record album. Or both. The point is, I would have been able to sell them every week and even at low numbers I could have hauled in a nice chunk of change over a ten year time window.

I was averaging at least 45 weeks of work then, and quite a few years I worked 50-52. It wasn’t always the best work in the best clubs, but say I could have averaged ten units a week sold over a ten year period. That’s 450-500 units per year at what likely would have been a $10 retail price.

On the conservative side, say that’s $45,000 over ten years minus say $2 per unit to make. That still leaves me $36,000 had I not touched any of that money – and knowing me I would not have. I’d have saved it for some kind of stunt nobody else would have done. It may have been a flop of epic stature, but that’s me as well. I’ve never been afraid to go all in. I have tasted defeat often.

What if I had spent that $36,000 on TV commercials somewhere or a full page ad in one of the trade papers? When was the last time you saw a comedian or performer of any kind spend money on self promotion? It just doesn’t happen – at least not without management or a recording deal.

There are obviously taxes in there too, and I realize that. I would report every last penny, as it’s just not worth trying to screw the government. I’d rather have a clear conscience and just pay my fair share. Whatever was left would have still been a nice bit of cash to use on some promo stunt.

I wasn’t forced to think that way then, as work was plentiful and nobody was selling anything other than their comedy act. We were ‘artistes’, and that’s great on paper but most of us are now certified vagrant caliber broke and wish we would have had our marketing chops on the way up.

Too late now, but it’s not too late to change. One thing I have that the newbies don’t is a whole lot of experience in front of audiences coast to coast, and a backlog of polished material that I am able to use whenever I need it. That’s part of what paying dues is about, and I’ve put in my time.

Now I’m looking to sell what I’ve been able to create, but in other ways than just saying it on a stage somewhere. What else can I do to get paid? I suppose I could write columns, and I’ve been doing that for the past few months in a publication called “Scene Magazine” in Fond du Lac, WI. My friend Silk Casper asked me to do it, and he’s been making sure I get a check every month.

It’s not huge, but it’s been steady and I guess I can say I’m a published author. I think. I’m not anywhere close to being a professional, but it’s a solid start and I am grateful for the opportunity. Branching out and creating a new stream of income for being funny comes in very handy now.

But I know there’s more – a LOT more. There’s both a flea market and an antique mall within an easy drive from where I live, and I took a lap in both today just to check out that scene. I have been going to thrift stores, flea markets and rummage sales for decades, but now I’m seeing them all with fresh eyes. I used to go there looking to score treasures. Now I’m looking to be a seller.

The marketing skills of the sellers at flea markets and antique malls are all over the place. Most are very poor from my experience, and have little to no people skills. Just a friendly hello when I walk past their display should be the bare minimum, but I’d guess maybe 10% or less will do it.

I went today just to observe, and I learned a lot. I went to the flea market first, and looked at all the displays to see which ones I liked and which ones I didn’t. Most of the stuff was thrown in an unorganized pile, and was difficult to look at. It took work to sort through all of the clutter to see if there was anything I’d want to buy. They made it hard for people to spend money. Not smart.

Even little things like business cards were missing. What if I was looking to sell something one of the dealers specialized in? Maybe I had a relative pass away that was a big collector, and I was looking for someone to help me appraise the collection. Whatever the case, 99% of these mutants didn’t even say hello and maybe strike up a conversation that could have led to a business deal.

One guy there had some old toys, and his display was a bit sloppy but still interesting. He had a pair of old Schlitz salt and pepper shakers that I bought for $10 and an old pair of Schlitz patches from the ‘60s or ‘70s that their drivers used to wear. I can use all of that for “Schlitz Happened!”

The antique mall was a little better, but not much. Most of the vendors that were there were not very talkative, and I found that appalling. They didn’t have to pester me like the stereotype of an old time used car salesman, but a friendly smile and a hello would have been nice. I didn’t get it.

I ended up buying a collection of 50 old ‘Fate’ magazines from the ‘50s through the ‘70s for $1 each, and that was a steal. They’re a great read, packed with tales of UFOs and the paranormal of all kinds. I’ll scour them for King of Uranus ideas, and keep exercising my marketing muscles to use in the future. I want to go out past Uranus, and find ways to make money when I’m sleeping.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for my one man show 'Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst" www.schlitzhappened.com.

I found some Schlitz salt and pepper shakers at a flea market today. I will use them for ‘Schlitz Happened! An Old Milwaukee Blatz From The Pabst.” http://www.schlitzhappened.com.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the '60s and '70s.

The same guy sold me two cloth patches Schlitz drivers used to wear in the ’60s.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the '50s through '70s. The cool cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.

I also found some old FATE magazines from the ’50s through ’70s. The cover art alone was worth the $1 each I paid for them all.