Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Going Postal....

For several years in my life the Gilbert Chemistry set was "the" Christmas Gift to get from Santa. I never got a Gilbert Chemistry Experiment Lab because Santa seemed to know every year... "A Kid like you with a chemistry set like that would blow himself up."
My parents would tell me that Santa was only thinking of my safety.
Nonetheless, my friend Lindsay a couple of years older than me,who lived just up the street did receive the  Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set for Christmas one year. Before we went back to school  Lindsay allowed me to come over and assist in some "Experiments".
We decided to make gun powder. Yes the ingredients to make gun powder were contained in the Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set. It was not one of the experiments that came with the Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set instruction booklet. However, Lindsay found the formula, at the Library and realized we could actually make black powder.  This was supposed to be a Children's "Educational" Toy, so... making gun powder was a learning experience to me. Fortunately there was a limited amount of chemicals in the  Deluxe Gilbert Chemistry Set  to make an excess of gun powder.  I do remember being shocked at the height to which a Desenex foot powder can flew when propelled by our home made gun powder.    
But that is Christmas past here is a story of Christmas Present.   I love the dual meaning of the word "present":  it is a gift and it is also the moment. Perhaps our greatest gift is the present.
Today was a busy day at the post office. Our Christmas mailing is done, this was a business mailing I had to post. I knew the post office might be busy but,  I thought I would use the automated stamp machine. Unfortunately the machine was out of service, I had to stand in the long line with one envelope.
Several customers ahead of me become upset that there were no more Christmas Stamps.  Finally a Postal Clerk named Dale spoke loudly to the crowd.
"We are out of Christmas stamps. If you are in line for Christmas Stamps we don't have any."
A few people grumbled and left the line behind me.  After a couple more customers Dale once again announces to the crowd,."There are no more Christmas Stamps, we are totally sold out."   Then Dale yells to someone occupying the inner most part of the mail room.  "Janice we need to get a sign out here that lets everyone know we are out of  Christmas stamps."
Janice mumbled back in a way that indicated there would be no sign, it was all up  to Dale alone to deal with the Christmas stamp mob. Once more Dale announced, "There are no more Christmas Theme stamps, we have lots of stamps just no Christmas themes."
I was at the moment thinking how much stress is heaped onto a bunch of days on the calendar. Hanukkah, Christmas,  New Years Eve all crowd the same time of year.  So here is this postal worker trying not to piss people off because they have sold out of Christmas stamps.  The line behind me is now much longer than when I joined.  Dale is dealing with packages that all needed to be somewhere before next week. It is obvious he would need to decompress after this day was over.  Or perhaps he would have to wait until next week for things to return to normal. 
I digress to say my wife believes that my joke radar is not calibrated properly in public situations.  That's to say I am always going for a joke when the situation or the person in real life may not be in the mood for my humor.  Sandi even questions the idea that it is humorous at those times.  That said, it is a fine line that I don't always see clearly.  This was one of those times.
I finally made my way up to Dale. With a 50 yard stare through the place I was standing he mechanically said, "What can I do for you today?" He was in a daze.
I only had a second to think about it and no time to filter what was about to come out of my mouth.
"Got any Christmas stamps?" I said.  
Dale's distant stare was interrupted as he now clearly focused on me and what I had just said.  Fortunately he got it.  He burst out laughing and giggled through the words, "That's a good one you got me." 
My Christmas is complete.  I got a laugh from an over worked,  stressed out postal worker.  Perhaps I even saved lives.
As you were,
Jay 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Ghost of Christmas Present.

I am performing in the Broadmoor Christmas Show this season.  I love the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  The history and the old style elegance are tangible and pervasive. I guess my show biz pedigree stimulates a love for really great hotels. This one makes me feel like a Vanderbilt.   There are plenty of places where I can sit and write while looking at the Rockies framing the lake. Or if I find that sort of view too distracting to concentrate I can find hundreds of other writing carrels from a dark wood Pub bar to a mahogany library.  Currently I am in a large lobby like room with only a few desks. If there were fewer people it would be too much like the "Shining" but for me it is the perfect place to write.
The altitude takes some getting used to.  I was late for a cue on rehearsal night and ran to get on stage.  Bob and I made it but our breath did not reach us for several minutes.  Funny the things we take for granted like breathing during the act.
The Broadmoor is all about history and they have old pictures and artifacts decorating the walls.  I find that particularly fascinating and humbling.  There is a hallway where pictures hang of all the celebrities and performers who have been here over the years.  I get a warmth inside realizing one of my hero performers walked these halls before me.
One of the pictures on this "wall of fame" is Bill Cosby.  Several weeks ago that picture might not have caught my attention among the rest.  I liked Bill Cosby but he was never a hero of mine.  I stood there for a moment wondering.  If the walls of the Broadmoor could talk would they say more than has already been revealed about Cosby?  It is easy to imagine that one of the beautiful bars at the hotel might have been the back drop for something other than Fat Albert jokes.  There is even a rumor that Bill Cosby is soon to return to the Broadmoor for a few performances.  There is no promotion of that event on site and scuttle butt has it that the performance will be cancelled.  As much as I don't want to engage in the discussion of Cosby, it seems impossible to avoid. Like the Boradmoor wall of fame, there are so many places where his image has been given a special place that now flashes like a warning beacon.
The idea that a performer, especially a comic on the road, would have an eye for the women who would want to be "with" an icon like a Bill Cosby is not that unusual.  And I have always heard that Cosby was a horn-dog with women.  But what doesn't make sense is the drugging aspect of the stories.  Why would he have to do that unless it is some weird sort of fettish ritual?
I have no skin in this game. I don't care what happens to Bill Cosby. I have no illusion he is any more than a successful television performer. He is not a role model nor a father figure, to me he is a massively wealthy comic who made it big with an act.  I have known a lot of comics that were not the cute fun loving person they play on stage. If people feel betrayed because they held Cosby to a higher moral standard, the pedestal placers are to blame.  If the allegations are true he should be punished like any other serial rapist.  Unfortunately there will never be a judicial remedy, only gossip in the public forum.  He is a rich man and the justice system operates differently for the rich. But Karma is a great equalizer. He has already been convicted and punishment given. No matter what, he will never be allowed to be Bill Cosby ever again. There will always be an asterisk, next to his name that will recount the revelations of the last couple of months.  I doubt this will be of any comfort to the women who now feel violated and betrayed.  But, perhaps for a narcissistic comic who wanted the world his way, it is cosmic justice.
As for me I am pissed that I allowed the contemplation of Bill Cosby invade this lovely day at the Broadmoor.
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

NOT a Self Promotion....

Brandenburg Gate at Christmas Time
If you are within Wifi of my Facebook, Twitter, Domain site, email or happen to live next door, you know my DVD is now shipping. In fact I am almost getting tired of saying it.
Even though my college Marketing Professor, Dr. McQuarter, said "there is never a time when sales can take the day off," This blog is not about the DVD.
Being dyslexic and a little OCD it is hard for me to concentrate on one thing for very long, like the DVD release.  This "special" condition of mine also has another odd side effect.  Once I make myself concentrate enough to get some "on going task" done, it becomes an obsession. Then I find it difficult NOT to engage in that activity.  Perhaps this conflicted brain is one of the reasons I am able to partition my mind enough to create characters on stage.  As I read this back to myself,  this sounds like some clinical definition of mental illness.
You know my friend Bob Mandan who played Chester Tate, but you may not know him the way I do. He is quite silly and often becomes the "piss elegant" character he played on SOAP for my amusement.  Well,  he was kind enough to attend the Egyptian Theatre Screening of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" last week.
At the end of the screening and the Q and A there was a fan who ran down to talk to me.  He mentioned that he had Asperger's then launched into a litany of every performance I ever did. He had seen them all and kept asking me if I remembered them too.  He was phrasing my resume in a way that sounded like he was telling me something that I had never heard before.  At one point he started talking about SOAP and how revolutionary it was.
As Bob Mandan is coming down the aisle the fan is saying, "And Chester Tate was the womanizing ladies man who was not faithful to Jessica, Chester was played by Robert Mandan... do you remember that?"
This person had not seen Mr. Mandan yet.  I got this idea that I would freak the fan out and say, "Well as a matter of fact this is Bob Mandan right here." As the fan kept talking I locked eyes with Mandan.  He had sized up the situation completely and knew that I was probably going to rope him into the melee.  Mandan simply raised one finger and shook it side to side with a "NO No, you don't" gesture.  I burst out laughing. Fortunately the Autistic Fan thought it was something funny that he himself had said and never knew.
The picture above is from a Christmas a couple of years ago we spent with our son in Berlin.  It was certainly a different Christmas than what we are used to in LA.
Happy Holidays,
As you were,
Jay



Thursday, December 04, 2014

Bang Bang... "Stop or I'll shoot."

Two EMT's are called to see after a man who is sprawled on the sidewalk outside a bar.  When they get there they see that the man is already dead. There is nothing they can do and it is almost time for them to be off work.  One EMT says to the other,
"Let's go have a drink inside before we have to haul this guy to the morgue."
"What do we do with the stiff?"
"We leave him right here.... he ain't going nowhere,"
They go inside the bar and have several drinks.
After awhile a  Cop comes along and sees the man lying there and says, "Hey buddy move it."
The stiff does not comply.
"I told you to get out of here buddy" and he pokes him with his baton.
The stiff doesn't move.
"Don't make me get all up on your ass. Move on."
The stiff is still noncompliant.  With that the officer throws a choke hold on the guy puts his knee on the guys neck and starts to handcuff him.
At this very moment the EMT's walk out of the bar.  They see the Cop wrestling with the corpse. They run up,  pull the Cop off the guy and say, "Officer he's dead."
The Cop says.... "I had to kill him....he pulled a knife."

I used to think that was a funny joke.  Perhaps not so much any more. There is a lot of speculation about how to interact with the police these days. Excessive and lethal force being used against unarmed non threatening people seems to be the rule. I am hearing on the news that I should just "do what the policeman tells me to do" and I won't get shot.  I am not persuaded.  This "compliance" theory is only as good as the trust I have in the Cop telling me what to do.  A Cop's desire to be a control freak does not negate my rights as an American and a human being. What about the cases we know about when officers have made women strip naked for their mug shots.  Or the recent case of deputies sodomizing a detainee with a broom stick.  Are we simply supposed to "comply" to those orders to avoid being beaten or shot? Seeing the underbelly of society so much of the time a Cop can start seeing everyone as a perp. Instead of seeing each encounter with the public as a unique situation, the public becomes objectified as criminals who have not been caught... yet. 
What you hear a lot is: "Well, if you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to be afraid of."  That is the stupidest reasoning ever, and usually comes from people who have had little or no interaction with the police.  Innocent people are the victims of mistaken identity more times than not. To a Cop everyone is a suspect.
The idea that as Americans we are innocent until proven guilty is completely not true.  Every time you go to the airport you have to prove to the TSA that you are not a threat.  You are a terrorist until you submit to invasion of your privacy so they can determine you are an innocent traveler.
It is the same if you are detained by the police.  You are not innocent in his eyes.  You are guilty until he says you can go free. 
Routinely people who are stopped by an officer are handcuffed for "YOUR SAFETY and MINE" says the Cop.  It has nothing to do with YOUR safety.  You are restrained so the officer can control and dominate you until he decides how to proceed. No matter what the reason for the stop, when a policeman detains you there are hundreds of laws he can use to justify your arrest.  There is only one way you will be let go;  the policeman has to determine he has nothing on you that will stick. 
I don't want to be a policeman. I appreciate someone who takes charge of a dangerous situation and has the training to defuse it.  But Cops think they are in the detain and arrest business, when they are actually in the "trust" business. If Cops worked harder to develop our trust in their snap judgements we would be safer, freer and ultimately happier. But until Police know they will face swift and just punishment for their abuse of power the bad apple cops will continue to abuse their badge. 
Rodney King said, during the worst of the LA riots,  "Can't we all just get along?"  Sounds easy enough and simple enough but how can I get along with a Cop who needs to cuff me behind my back before we have a conversation or if I am struggling to say I can not breath under the weight of his boot on my neck?  When Cops are not made accoutable they become a gang of bullies with badges.  "If you have done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear?"  That is never true with bullies.
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Repost - November 22, 2014

Friday, November 15, 2013


Kennedy Connection

I am not an avid reader but I have read almost every book on the subject of the Kennedy Assassination. (I can even spell assassination without looking it up). There have been some completely loony theories, some creative theories and some compelling theories on the subject. I have my own opinion based upon the local coverage from WFAA in Dallas immediately after the shooting.  
I am not a "lone gunman" believer.  I will never be sure exactly how Oswald was involved, but think he was more of a patsy than anything else. Once you open up the possibility that it was a planned operation it gets difficult to follow. It is not so important if the secret service driver of the limo pulled a hand gun and shot the President, or if it was E. Howard Hunt who shot the President from a storm drain below Elm Street. Obviously those are crucial details in the murder but what group is responsible for the plot to kill the President. Three groups are usually thought of as suspects.  They are:

1) The CIA. It is true that Kennedy didn't like the CIA and they didn't like him.  He was supposed to support the CIA Bay of Pigs invasion with air support but he didn't and the operation was a disaster.  Kennedy was quoted as saying he was going to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds". 
Side note: Allen Dulles, head of the CIA was fired by Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs incident. Several of his staff resigned in protest including deputy director Charles Cabell.  Allen Dulles was later appointed to the Warren Commission by Lyndon Johnson.

2)The Mafia.  It is believe that the Mob helped Kennedy get elected in a very close race with Nixon.  There were voting districts in the Chicago area that seem to have been as tainted as any in Florida during the 2000 election.  Sam Giancana, the Chicago boss, was said to have "influenced" the ballot boxes in several districts.  However, once in office JFK unleashes his brother as Attorney General who began to crack down on organized crime with a manic passion.  Carlos Marcello, New Orleans mob boss was dogged by Robert Kennedy and is quoted as saying, "Take the stone from my shoe" meaning get Bobby Kennedy off his back.  Santos Trafficante the Miami/Cuba mob boss said, "If you cut the dogs tail off the head will still bite. If you cut the dogs head off the tail no longer wags." The Traficante idea was, kill the president and his brother will no longer be the Attorney General. After he heard that President Kennedy had been killed, Jimmy Hoffa is quoted as saying "Well, that makes Bobby Kennedy just another lawyer, doesn't it?" (Five years later Bobby was assassinated when it looked like he might become president) 

3)Wealthy Texas Right Wing Radicals.  Dallas hated Kennedy and the day he arrived for the visit there was a full page ad in the Dallas Morning News accusing him of treason and calling for his impeachment.  Months before Adli Stevenson was physically assaulted by a protester when he was visiting Dallas, Texas. Dallas in particular, was a hot bed of hatred toward the Kennedys. Earl Cabell was mayor of Dallas at the time of the assassination. He was the third generation of a Cabell as mayor of Dallas. His Father and Grandfather had both been mayor of Dallas. More importantly Earl Cabell is the brother of Charles Cabell ousted deputy director of the CIA.  The fact that the route of the motorcade through Dallas needed the Mayor's approval has always been a curious connection to the tragedy. 

It is possible to make a case that any one of these three "groups" could have motive to plan and execute the assassination. They were all one in reality.  Here is how they connect.
It is easy to connect the Mafia and the CIA. They were both working together to take Cuba back from Castro. For the CIA it was strategic and for the Mob it was business since all their casinos had been nationalized and then closed by Castro. Frank Angelo Fiorini was in several branches of the United States military, aided Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution of 1958, and worked as an undercover operative for the CIA. When Castro won the revolution he appointed Frank Fiorini as "head of national gaming" for Cuba. Fiorini was the contact between Castro and the Mafia operations of the casinos for a year after the revolution.  Fiorini left Cuba when Castro closed the mafia hotels. It is obvious he continued in the employ of the CIA. Frank Fiorini later changed his name to Frank Sturgis and was arrested in the Watergate Break in. He alone proves the link between the CIA, Cuba and the Mafia. 
It is also easy to connect rich Texas Right Wing radicals with the CIA at the time.  In the early late 50's early 60's George H.W. Bush owned the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling in Houston Texas. Although Mr. Bush would later become head of the CIA, Vice-President and eventually President there is no proof that he was CIA during his oil company days. However, two of the ships used in the Bay of Pigs invasion (provided by a wealthy un-named Texas oil man) were named the "Zapata" and the "Barbara" two names closely associated with George H.W. Bush. In the Warren commission it states that private citizen George H. W. Bush was "briefed" on the assassination investigation by the government the day after the event.  This was before Mr. Bush was part of the official government. He was one of the only private citizens to receive an official briefing.  I am not implying that "George the first" had anything to so with the assassination of John Kennedy. I simply point out that the over lap between the prime suspects in this case is more than coincidental. 
So there you have it 50 years later and it is still a mystery.  I suggest it will always be.  There is no smoking gun proof of anything including the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I am pretty sure the Warren Commission got it wrong, but it will be the only story that will survive ultimately.  Twenty-five years from now we will find an empty file that will lead to more mystery.
As you were,
Jay   

Friday, November 21, 2014

To Post or not to Post... that is the question....

Don't you just wonder how many twitter followers William Sheakspear would have if he were writing today? How could he come up with all that literature not having a bunch of "likes" and half a dozen reposts, retweets and shares?  How did he know he was popular, and how did he get people to come and see his plays without creating a Facebook event?
Not only that but we will never know what "William" had for lunch as he was writing "Twelveth Night". We don't know if it took him more than twelve nights to write it if there was no "time line". Would there be selfies of author and cast as the Globe? I would love to see a post like this:

"Bill ...saw Mid Sum Nite Drm yesterday... LOL"     or

"OMG William that clip of Hamlet and the Skull went viral"  or

"Juliette and Romeo both die at the end?????.... WTF"

Likes, Thumbs up, pokes, friends, followers and feeds are just numbers.  The time it takes to click or touch a word on a computer screen is in direct proportion to the depth of sincerity in the act.  It always makes me chuckle at the irony of clicking "like" on a post about the death of a relative or family pet.   "My Father passed away this morning suddenly"....  LIKE!  It has become so thoughtless that Like and Friend have lost all traditional meaning.  Friend has even become a verb.  "I friended him the other day."  of  "I had to unfriend that douche bag."   Like now means... I "clicked".
Why are these "numbers" so important and when did they become so?  I'm asking because I don't know.
What I do know is that in today's world the question asked at Call Back auditions to get an acting part is: "How may Twitter followers and Facebook friends do you have?" When two actors are equal in all other aspects of being right for the part... the one with the most "followers" gets the job. As if these numbers translate into viewers or ticket buyers. In the words of sage and bald Texan Dr. Phil... "How is that working out for you?" Why not skip that acting class or dance school and spend the time working on increasing your "social media" numbers?
There are reasons why this is on my mind today.  Within moments of the Presidents speech last night my Facebook "home" feed displayed some very hateful things about our duly elected Commander in Chief.  I'm okay with differing points of view and civil debate, but this was hateful, ignorant, racist jingoism.  All of these awful things were posted by Facebook Friends.  It was then I realized I don't hang around with people like that in real life and they would certainly not ever be a friend with those feelings.  Every time I saw one of those race bating rants I went to that person's page and unfriended them.  It's not that I only want to associate with people who feel exactly the way I do, No. I am not in total agreement with all the people I know and love, politically, religiously or sometimes even philosophically. But we can enjoy our differences in civil discourse, and lively debate. Friends don't act like yelling screaming political talk show hosts.

As John Cleese and Michael Palin said in a Monty Python sketch...
Michael: "An argument is not the back and forth name calling and repetitive yelling of the words yes and no"
John: "Yes it is"
Michael: "No it's not"

In my younger days I had great admiration for politicians who sat across the aisle from each other with totally different points of view but could work together on a compromise that was generally better than either side could come up with on their own.  Was Sen. Everett Durksen a Republican?  Was Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn a Democrat?  I would have to look it up.  Back then it was just a party affiliation not a lock step group of ignorant followers.  Back then we at least pretended there was respect and democracy. America is not Red or Blue, the Constitution says a true American is colorless.

Today respect has been assassinated and democracy means "we are in charge now" so fuck off.
And it is true from both sides of the aisle.  If our standing in the world has been lowered it is due to the fact that our enemies only have to repeat the hateful things our leaders say about each other. What ugly things could an enemy say about our President that has not already been said about him on the Senate and Congressional floor.
Hey ISIS... If you are looking for people to recruit that spew hate toward our leaders,  hand out some flyer's when the House of Representatives is in session.
I'll quit ranting now so you can go to my page and unfriend me.  However, I am making a conscious effort not to post, print, write, tweet, share, blog or acknowledge hate and his friend fear in my life.
As you were,
Jay

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols

When I was old enough to be aware of what Comedy "is" my first crush was on Nichols and May.  Not just because they were a comedy team (like I wanted to be as a ventriloquist) but because of what kind of Comedy they performed.
Most of the comedy going around the Sullivan show at the time was borsch belt brand humor. The routines were mainly set up jokes and stories. Make believe situations with stereo typical characters.  There were a lot of mother-in-law jokes and one liners like "Take my wife.. please".  I did not think these comics were so much funny as goofy.  Even comedy teams like Martin and Lewis did goofy humor. Martin the suave Italian singer and Lewis a frenetic chimp interrupting the song with stupid.  Allen and Rossi, Steve Rossi an Italian singer Mary Allen a wild haired troll with a lobotomy.
They say a comedian says funny things and a clown says things funny.  Then there was Nichols and May. They didn't look funny.  They weren't clowns. They didn't do funny ethnic accents. They did real characters in real situations that became hysterically funny as the situation drove the humor. Things like: The mounting frustration of a man who wants to get his dime back from a pay phone operator.  A funeral director who offers a cheap funeral while adding on "extras" like a casket and driver for the hearse.  They gave us a satirical look at how our everyday lives can spiral into a comedy of errors from just trying to communicate.  The jokes came out of the frustrating situations we all find ourselves in from time to time.  They were the sirens for the fogged out beatnik generation that was morphing into a society of consciousness seeking hippies.  Put on one of their albums, close your eyes and let them take you on a journey not that different from your own life only funny.
At the height of their career  Nichols and May were hired to write and perform the voices for cartoon characters to sell Jax Beer.  Jax was a New Orleans beer company that was more a regional brand than national.  The commercials were hysterical and sometimes better than the shows they were sponsoring.
For example:  A funny looking lady walks into a bar.  She has a funny little voice and orders a Jax beer.  The bartender gives her the beer and says "Here you go, Jax beer" in the same funny little voice. Lady says, "Are you making fun of my voice?"  In the same voice the bartender says "No. absolutely not. Ma'am" At this point a man come up and orders a Jax beer in a very normal voice.  In a regular normal voice the bartender says "Here you go my friend a Jax beer." The man walks away and the lady, a little pissed off, says to the bartender, "I thought you said you were not making fun of my voice." in the same funny voice the bartender says, "I wasn't making fun of your voice... I was making fun of his."
The commercials were extremely successful to the point I still remember that one to this day.  However, after one cycle the commercials were discontinued.  Not because they were not popular but because even though the commercials were great the Beer remained awful.  The commercials became more popular than the beer.
I was destroyed when Nichols and May broke up.  It wasn't a drama like Martin and Lewis, I guess Elaine and Mike decided they had done all they could together. I felt like the most popular kid at school had just moved away.  I was going to miss their talents just as I was trying to find my own.
Elaine May went into writing and acting.  She was hysterically funny as the ditzy millionaire opposite Walter Mathau in "A New Leaf" and other projects.  Mike Nichols became a Broadway director.  and a Film director  (check out those credits) and one of the few people to become an EGOT ( winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.. EGOT) AND he married Diane Sawyer.  He was a genius of real comedy, funny and real.  I was never fortunate enough to meet him but will always be a huge fan.
Nichols and May made it possible for comics like Bill Cosby to become stars doing real life situational humor and not just jokes.  Perhaps that is the very reason why Mike Nichols decided to move on after 83 incredibly creative years on earth. He didn't want to see what he started in the hands of a comic that  now seems so unworthy. Mike Nichols was the real deal and from what I have heard a wonderful person.  He will be missed in so many ways.
As you were,
Jay