Sunday, October 16, 2016

A final Debate-

I am not sure we need to suffer through another Presidential debate before the election.  Is there anything  left to learn about either candidate?  Don't we know far too much already? If it was an actual debate with a discussion of policy differences, and political perspective then maybe.  However, the last two debates have been nothing more than a presidential episode of Judge Judy.  The debates have turned into a name calling "rank out":  "Your mother is so ugly, she's a model for Halloween masks."  It is the only thing that can be done since the Trump campaign is based upon the "Oh yeah well what are you?" philosophy.  The determination of who "won" the debate is based upon how many zingers a candidate was able to deliver. And, the networks promote the debate like they promote a heavy weight boxing match.
The fact that the electorate is supposed to dismiss the Trump Access Hollywood tape, as just locker room banter, is ridiculous.  The assumption that the women, coming forward stating that it was more than banter, are lying or are seeking publicity, is the Cosby defense.  It was the same counter argument with Cosby. They even brought up the same questions.  Why are these women coming forward now after all these years?  Why didn't they report it at the time it happened?  Why would Cosby, with all his money and have to drug women to have sex? Why would Trump with, all his money and fame, have to grope women he just met? Rich and powerful men use their power, reputation and wealth as a sword against women more than a shield for them. Just look at what a woman has to go through when she does come out with an accusation.   
At least Cosby had the decency not to refute their complaints by saying they were too unattractive to drug and rape.  Trump has used that excuse for two of the women who have come forward so far. Hidden in that excuse is the implication "I only grope beautiful women."  I guess we have to think like a Trump to understand that the more attractive women are the more susceptible they are to assault.  It is in line with every assault and rape case that ever gets adjudicated, "Well, You Honor, the victim was dressed in a very provocative way." (Read... "she had it coming"). 
Trump is not just a narcissist, he is the narcissist mirror itself. Things that are true for him get reflected by his ego to someone else.  In fact he seems to go after people for the same misbehavior he is promoting.  
Questions about the Trump Charity?  Trump: Look at the crooked Clinton foundation.

Trump sniffed his way through two debates, is he on cocaine? Trump: Something is wrong with Hillary, I think we should both take a drug test.
Why won't Trump release his tax returns?  Trump: Why doesn't Hillary release her emails?

 Trump is recorded as saying he likes to grope women, is that true?  Trump: I've heard Bill Clinton say much worse on the golf course, much worse, believe me.

Lots of women are coming out now accusing Trump of sexual assault, are they liars? Trump: My actions are just words, Bill Clinton actually did those things.

Here are ten suggestions for the next and thankfully last Presidential debate.

-Hillary will submit to being drug tested if Trump will release his tax returns.

-No talking about a person who is NOT running for President.  No mention of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush.

-Both candidates will be hooked up to lie detector machines during the debate with results streaming live.

-For this one time only, Hillary Clinton is allowed to hold a press conference with the women who now accuse Trump of sexual assault and they will be allowed to sit in the front row facing Trump.

-Both candidates will be placed in isolation booths.  They will not be allowed to hear the audience so they can't play to their invited cheer leaders, and their microphones turned off when it is not their turn to speak.  They will not be able to interrupt the other candidate because the Microphone will be off until it is their turn.

-There will be no determination of who wins the next debate. The only winning that matters  is who wins the election.

-For three hours after the debate all television stations are required to play re-runs of MASH. There will be no post debate with rabid supporters from each side trying to spin the facts you just heard.
-Both candidates must stick to talk about what they will do for the country, not things they will do to the other candidate if elected.  (Actually, that one is only for Trump... he is the only one in American history who has ever threatened to "lock up" their opponent if elected.)

-Hillary is allowed to say "What the Fuck?" To the most outrageous Tumpism stated at the debate. But for the sake of the kids watching, She can only use that "trump card" once.

-Finally each candidate from the isolation booth will be required to stick to and answer the question asked.  Their microphone will be turned off if they begin to repeat a well rehearsed nugget or begin to ramble.  

If they are not going to make these ten adjustments to the last debate, why have one.  The only alternative would be to put up a hexagonal cage around them and have a brawl with Mixed Marshall Arts rules.  Trump will be allowed to wear a hair net so he won't mess up his hair, and Clinton will be provided with an aluminum bra and crotch protector.  

As for me, if I do end up watching the debate I will play a drinking game.  It is a simple game I just made up.  Chug a beer every time either candidate is asked a question. That way by the end you don't care, but you are relatively happy,  unlike how most of us in the electorate feel now. 
As you were,

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

America Great Again?

 I'm not sure what era Donald Trump wants to go back to when America was "great". I use the word in quotes because I am not sure what the Trump definition of "great' is.  I am assuming he wants to take America back to a time when he personally thought it was "better".  Being the narcissist he is, I assume that means he wants an America that is "great" for Donald Trump.
The Two Faced Apparition. 
I remember a time in the mid-seventies when America was celebrating its bicentennial.  I just moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in show business. America seemed pretty great to me at that time. No cell phones, no personal computers, no twitter, no Facebook, and only a choice of three television networks to watch.  The news was broadcast in the morning and in the evening.  If you missed what was happening  then you would read a newspaper. Information was harder to come by.  To do research you had to use the library.  Before I find myself writing "you kids get off my lawn" I want to make a point.   

At that time in America, a man named Jimmy Carter was running for President of the United States.  In a very controversial interview for Playboy Magazine Mr. Carter admitted that he had sometimes "lusted" for women in his heart.  The Republican party became outraged at his lack of morality and used that quote as often as they could to demean the candidate.  It almost derailed his Presidential bid.  Not unlike the controversy that surrounds Trump with his "star privileged pussy grabbing" comment to Billy Bush. But here is the difference.

Jimmy Carter was using that "lust" comment to say that as a devout Baptist he had fallen short of  Jesus's teachings that said, "if you have lust  after  a woman in your heart you have committed adultery". It was a contrite way to say that he was not perfect in his faith but trying to keep on the straight and narrow path.  To some fundamental religious right wingers Mr. Carter had as much as admitted he was a sinner and an adulterer, and unfit to lead the America.  This was even before the Religious right decided to hijack conservative politics. 

On the other hand, Mr. Trump's comments were not contrite but pompous. He bragged about not only lusting after Nancy O'Dell but attempting to have sex with her, even though he knew she was married. He himself newly married to his third wife.  If the fundamentalist are keeping score that is actually an admission to breaking a couple of commandments in that one statement.  Then, however, in Trump style he doubles down on the statement by saying that he could abuse his "celebrity star power" to take advantage of any woman he wished to "have".   Unlike Carter who was making the statement that as a Christian he was trying to be better, Mr. Trump brags about his conquests and his lack of respect for women.  If we take America back to that time of Greatness, the Trump campaign would be over.  

Two days ago there was a very mean and hateful claim about Hillary Clinton on Facebook. According to this "meme" Mrs. Clinton is a criminal, liar, traitor and unfit to be the President.  The meme originated on a Facebook site called Christians for Donald Trump.  Other propaganda on that FB page says that Christianity is under attack by Hillary Clinton and only Donald Trump can save the Christian faith.   Really? Trump is the Christian cross bearer?  The man who quoted his favorite Bible verse was from, "Two Corinthians?"  Trump? The man who has never been seen entering a church except for participating in his last three weddings. Trump the man who has not just "lusted after women in his heart"  but publicly embraced adultery during two marriages.  The man who openly states that physical qualities of a woman are more important to him than the quality of their character? Trump the man who said he would be dating his daughter Ivanka if she wasn't his daughter.  The Father that agreed with Howard Stern that the same daughter was a "fine piece of ass".  The man who sees people as Mexican rapists, Muslim terrorist, oppressed blacks and refugees as a poisoned bowl of candy?  If his rhetoric of hate, racism and blatant sexism is acceptable to Christians for Donald Trump, I resign.  I disavow my endorsement of Christianity.  In my opinion, Christians who support Trump do not understand the Constitution nor the Bible. 

Maybe we CAN make America great again.  We should start by embracing the idea of separation of Church and State.  It is a two edged obligation, duty and right. It means that America will not impose religion on its people, but neither can Religions impose a government on Americans.  Stop using tax deductible sanctuaries to promote a political addenda. Government should protect all religions and favor none, and  religions should protect any government that keeps the promise of religious freedom for all. 

As you were,

Friday, October 07, 2016

Hold Friends Close

With a week of friends and relatives passing away, I wanted to remember someone who is still here. This post is a reprint from 5 years ago.  I hope Harry reads it again so he will know how much his friendship means to me.Wednesday, August 05, 2009

What's a BFF?
Once in a lifetime you connect with a person who becomes your Best Friend Forever. 

It was a chance meeting at the Circus Circus Reno showroom with a guy who was hired to be my opening act. I don't know what draws a comic magician to a ventriloquist, but it was an instant connection.

I became the "roper" to the "wise guy", the pitchman to the carnival lifestyle of Harry Anderson. Before the two weeks were up at the Reno gig we had hustled the pit bosses, played on the trapeze and cuffed the head of security with his own handcuffs. They closed the showroom after we left and turned it into a Keno parlor.

It was the crest of "Soap" for me, but Harry went on to become the star of "Night Court", "Disney's Absent-Minded Professor" and "Dave's World" as well as several network and cable specials, most of which I participated in either by producing or performing in or both. We co-wrote scripts, acts and I even wrote the introduction to a couple of his books. For a while we were developers for Macintosh software, and even converted a Mac program into an application we sold to Disney. 

But live shows were where we really excelled. We did annual Halloween shows and April Fool's shows and New Year's Eve shows at any venue that would let us do our thing, mostly during the rock and roll days of the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. We would spend more time and energy in producing those shows than we did for NBC or CBS. 

After his series ended Harry moved to a Green and Green mansion in Pasadena. We converted his basement into a "walk through" spook house that took months to construct. For a party of special invitees one Halloween we tricked, amazed and scared a group of friends with every illusion we could come up with at the time. It was special enough that David Copperfield flew in, before we took it apart, for a command performance. After we tried to establish several companies together we realized that having fun together was much more interesting to us than trying to make a buck. My wife says, "Jay and Harry play together very well." It was Harry who coined the phrase that became the title to my Broadway show, "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only."

Harry moved to New Orleans where he opened a magic shop and nightclub called "Oswald's Speakeasy" dedicated to Lee Harvey Oswald. There was a drink called the "single bullet" and a "grassy knoll". The men's room was papered with the Warren Commission report. Harry's act was the main attraction. We made a deal that I would come into the club and do my act several times a year so he could go on vacation. The club was going strong for several months, and I was ready one week end to come down and survey the club for my show. I never made it. That very weekend the airport closed due to something called Katrina. The town was never the same, Harry closed the shop, sold the club and moved to North Carolina.

After 30 years of friendship it is not so surprising that he would fly across the country to celebrate my birthday a couple of week-ends ago. There were other friends there, but we could have had a great time just the two of us. As usual his toast was the highlight of the evening. His funniest line, "You have to remember, I knew Jay Johnson before he was what he no longer is today." 

My Buddhist friends say we are friends now because of our connection in a previous life. I don't know about that, but I hope we find each other in the next one. Harry always says, "Friends are the family you get to choose". I am godfather to his kids and he is godfather to mine, so I guess we made it official. 

I don't know why I feel compelled to write about this in the blog except to say this. Hold your friends dear, friendship is one of the great gifts we humans have been given. Don't let friends slip away even if they move across the country. In today's high tech world distance is no barrier. Make sure you tell the people close to you that you value the gift of their very existence. 

BFF is thrown around on the Internet like it was a :) or "sincerely" attached to a letter. Not to me... if I use it, I want to mean it. In this case it could not be more accurate, to me my BFF is a BFD. 

As you were,

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Uncle Hoppy

I have three uncles on my Mother's side of the family. (the Toler Clan).  The oldest was Marvin, followed by my Mom, Wilma, then there is Robert and the youngest brother Orville.  I know Robert as Uncle Melvin, Orville as Uncle Hoppy and Marvin, well he was just Uncle Marvin.  Growing up my Mom, Wilma, was called Cricket and when she got married, Dad called her Paulene. My Toler Grandmother, Oma Freelove Carpenter Toler, was Mama Toe.  To add to the confusion Robert, my Uncle Melvin, referrs to everyone in the family by both their first and middle names.  He would never call me Jay.  I was always Jay Kent, my brother Leon Don, Uncle Melvin's son was Ken Ray. When the Toler's got together you needed a Playbill to know who the characters were.  It is easy to see why I thought the Toler side of my family tree was double the size it is. When we got together it was constant laughter, stories and music being played. It was a lively, loving crowd filled with two name cousins. 
Uncle Hoppy was the youngest and was always the baby of the family. Because my maternal grandfather died when my Mom was 12 and Hoppy around two years old my Mom became more than just a sister to her younger brothers, she was the nanny, babysitter and caretaker while Mama Toe had to work to support the four of them.  Until I was 14 we lived in the same town as all my Toler Uncles and Mama Toe.  

I was old enough to  participate in my Uncle Hoppy's wedding to Mona Struve.  Today that memory is replaying itself in my mind.
Hoppy came down with Pneumonia the week before the wedding.  There was some talk about rescheduling the ceremony but it became easier to cure disease than change wedding plans.  Since Hoppy was living with Moma Toe, when he got sick, Mom brought Hoppy to our house so she could take care of him personally.  My brother and I gave up our  bedroom gladly for the ailing Hoppy, and our house became Wedding central for a couple of weeks.

Hoppy's buddy from the Army came to be best man for the wedding.  Thackeray was a Mormon from Salt Lake City, Utah.  I didn't even know what that was nor what it meant.  But I got to watch this guy, who was always in a white shirt and tie, very politely refuse the ubiquitous sweet Iced Tea that my family guzzled, as well as the coffee that was alway brewing. He said he had religious reasons.  Thackeray stayed with us for a few days and he could not have been a more charming guy.  I wondered if I were to give up my childhood addiction to that "crack" Ice Tea, would I become as nice as this guy.  Since I still drink iced tea and before I started to write this I had three cups of Expresso, you can see where all that wondering ended up.  
Hoppy recovered enough to attend his own wedding although my brother was the stand in groom for the rehearsal.  At that rehearsal when the Methodist minister was going over the ceremony my Uncle Marvin  (who had a very wicked sense of humor) said, "Listen Reverand, when you get to the part about 'in sickness and in health' you can leave that out cause they already passed that test."  

Hoppy stayed in Abernathy and when my family moved to Dallas, Hoppy and Mona bought the house I grew up in.  They added on to the house so much that I never recognized it as my house anymore.  To take care of his family Hoppy took over the General Hardware store that serviced the farming community of Abernathy. It was a store that offered not only the hardware but ready to wear dry goods. His property on Main street in Abernathy was the virtual heart of Abernathy.  After Walmart and True Hardware moved in to Lubbock, only a 20 drive from Abernathy the store began to lose customers.  Eventually the store front was turned into an antique shop museum and Music Hall serving pizza and offering the latest country western performers on tour.  Hoppy went from retail store owner to show promoter and presenter in his years before retirement.  
I took my first plane ride and did my first "road gig" ever in my career for Hoppy.  After we moved away Uncle Hoppy hired me to fly back to Abernathy and perform for the ladies night of the civil club he had become President of.  It is hard to believe looking at the 3 million miles racked up on American Airlines, that I was 14 years old before I took my first plane ride.  Hoppy did not know what he started.  We lost Mama Toe in 1985.  Marvin the oldest, passed several years ago followed by his wife Hazel a few years later.  
After losing two people in my life this week, my sister called to tell me Uncle Hoppy passed away.  Walking in Rudosa, NM he had a fatal heart attack.  He had no history of any sort of health issues that I was aware of.  But like my friend Paul Osborne he did not linger he died instantly, and as I get closer to it, that is exactly the way I would like to make an exit.  
Hoppy remained in the town he was born, becoming the exfacto historian of Abernathy.  He knew everyone and everyone knew him.  To know Hoppy was to love him.  He was a wonderful man with a kind heart and gentle presence. He leaves his wife, three daughters, three son-in-laws and a number of grandkids I can't even count.  
Rest well Hoppy. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Good Bye Paul

 The tradition is to break a magic wand in half in honor of a magician who dies.  Symbolically it says that his magic will not be done again.  Today it will have to be a Zig-Zag Lady cabinet we break in two, nothing smaller would be appropriate for the loss of my friend and magician Paul Osborne.  
From the Brilliant Mind of
Paul Osborne
Paul Osborne was introduced to me as the college guy who was helping to market a Dallas singing group about the time I graduated from High School.  I saw the hand out materials Paul  had done for the group and they were great. Paul could visualize his ideas with a pen and ink and he could write really good copy as well.  It was easy to think of Paul as a future advertising maven.  
It was only a matter of time before a Dallas magician and a Dallas ventriloquist got booked on the same show. It was a few months later that Paul and I were booked to perform together for a Braniff Airline's Christmas Party,  and...I remember that show very well.  It was in an empty aircraft hanger at Love Field on a riser with a sound system that created an echo effect like we were performing in a stadium.  The guy I thought was just a commercial artist turned out to be a really good Magician. Needless to say an  act that was amazing to watch (Paul's act) went much better than an act you have to listen to (my act). 
I only knew two Dallas magicians. Since one of them went to North Texas and knew Paul, I tried to make conversation about the other magician in town. I only knew his name and saw him perform only once.  I asked if Paul knew Garland Kellogg?  Paul said, "Yes and the next time you see that guy grab him, call me and hold him till I get there.  He owes me money."  I am pretty sure from that moment on Paul and I were friends.

The thing that I remember most about Paul's show even then, were the props.  A magic act is all about the props. Mostly what you saw in Dallas were props purchased at Douglas Magic Land.  They worked fine, but it was not unusual to see a Cowboy magician doing the doll house illusion with a box designed and painted to look like a Chinese pagoda.  Paul made his own props.  They looked different, they fit his act, his illusions looked more like beautiful stage sets than oddly coordinated boxes.  Soon Paul was designing illusions for other magicians.  His Illusion Systems were beautiful draftsmans blue prints that not only were great plans to build it, the plans were works of art themselves.  
With Dallas as a starting line Paul and I continued to cross paths as friends and performers as we both tried to create a career for ourselves.  Theme parks were popping up all over the country and while I was busy performing 10 times a day in the stage show, Paul began producing, directing, art designing, building and staffing theme park shows.  While I was grinding them out day after day, Paul had several shows running in several different theme parks with hired performers... doing the 10 a day.  His eye for the look of a show, his ability to draw, his instinct for advertising and Marketing combined with his sense of humor and magic skills made him unique.  
I remember a story that exemplifies how Paul's mind worked.  At a "rides and attractions" conference Paul happened to be having lunch with a guy who sold large expensive carnival rides.  As the conversation unfolded the guy said he was trying to sell a ride to a client.  It was a stock ride where people stand on the inside of a round spinning cage.  At maximum G- force the wheel would turn on its side so that the riders would be spinning perpendicular to the ground.  The guy said to Paul the client wanted something different. 
Paul asked where that theme park was located.  The salesman said, "In Nevada, near Vegas."  
As they talked, Paul took out a sketch pad and began to draw.  At a point when the sketch was ready Paul slid it across to his friend.  It was a sketch of that stock ride only Paul had drawn it to look like a roulette wheel.  With sketch in tow the salesman went back to the client.  They loved the idea and bought the ride.  The salesman eventually gave Paul a 10% commission on the price of the ride. Not bad for a simple conversation over lunch. Paul could put his imagination down on paper so those less imaginative could see what he saw.  
Over the years if Michelle and Paul were in Los Angeles, or Sandi and I happened to be in Dallas we would have a dinner out together. It was all about friendship, showbiz stories and laughter.  You didn't "catch up" with Paul after being apart for awhile, you tried to hang on and pick up where you left off.  One evening I got to the waiter before he brought the check arrived and paid it.  I told the waiter to say that Garland Kellogg had picked up the check.  It became a call back joke.  The college guy who owed Paul money became a punch line, perfect retribution.  The last time I used that name was three days ago when I replied to an Osborne Facebook post. 
This morning I found out that Paul was gone. I will miss his presence on Earth in ways that highjack my emotions. Since most of our relationship was spent laughing, I smile at the thought of Paul Osborne, then feel a profound sadness that I will never laugh with him again.  
Michelle said he didn't like funerals, nor memorials, maybe he wouldn't even like this tribute to his memory in a blog.  I know he was a regular reader of my blog and we shared the need to rant out loud occasionally.  We had plans to work on a book project together that I was looking forward to very much.  It wasn't about the book, it was about the excuse to creatively hang out with my childhood friend Paul. 
So Paul, it wasn't a very satisfying goodbye. I will always be in awe of your talents, your humor, and your personal magic.  Since you spent your life building magic illusions is doesn't seem right to break a wand in your honor.  So I will just look forward to laughing with you again some day but for now I don't want to think of you as gone.... Magicians never die... they just disappear.  
As you were,

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dub and Mary Frances

 Edward Albee said, "I write to know what I'm thinking about."  Today I am thinking about Dub and Mary Frances Crain.
If I had godparents growing up they would be Dub and Mary Frances, MF to most of her friends. They were my parents best friends and lived next door to us in Abernathy, Texas. Dub was the band director of Abernathy Public school where my Dad was Superintendent.  I remember many times going to sleep in the back of the house with the smell of cigarettes and brewed coffee supporting the conversation between my parents and  Dub and MF in the kitchen.  I loved clandestinely monitoring their stories and laughter. Dub was a Navy guy like my Dad and there were plenty of "Sea Stories" when they got together.  I was too young to understand all the things they talked about, but Dub made my Dad laugh more than anyone else could.  Dub taught me my very first note of music, a love that stays with me even today as I play the very piano that Dub arranged for my parents to buy.   Every tuner that tweaks that piano tells me how great it is even today.  It wasn't just a piano that Dub found for the family, it was a really great piano.  

Mary Frances could not have children so my brother, sister and me became her children until they adopted their first child. Eventually Dub and MF adopted the same family of two boys and a girl. But before they moved away when I was in junior high school, I thought I was one of the Crain's kids. 

I remember with great joy the day that MF came over to the house with hoopla hoops for me and my sister.  It was the hottest toy of the day and on a school administrators salary it was financially out of reach for my family.  But my next door godmother bought them for us.  That hula hoop was only a symbol of the love that I felt for both the Crains.  

The families kept in touch for a long time after Dub left his job as band director and moved from Abernathy. But as geography would have it the connection faded over the years.  Their new family grew as ours did and eventually addresses became out of date and years went by. But for me, I never forgot the adults that loved me when I was a kid. 

Although I have not seen them for more than 60 years, and Dub passed away a couple of years before my own Dad. I found MF on Facebook and developed a FB connection with her over the last few years.  We corresponded with meme's and messages that reminded me of how much those two people meant to me when I was a kid.  It has been far too long since I got a message or a "like" from her. Today I heard that Mary Frances passed away.  

Although my destiny was not to be found in Abernathy, Texas, growing up in that tiny town gave me a sense of protection that I will always be grateful for. To know that living right next door was a couple who would not think twice to help and/or protect me and my family is a priceless gift for a child.  
I am sure I told her in my adulthood how much she and Dub meant to me, and she expressed the same love back in those FB posts, so I don't feel there are any missed chances or unresolved emotions.  And even though we had not been geographically close for a decades she will always have a special place in my heart. 

Today when I play my piano it will be in honor of the godparents/neighbors who introduced me to that gift of music.  Welcome home Mary Frances.  Give Dub and Ferrel Ray a kiss for all of us.
As you were,