I bribed the night nurse to sneak me my BlackBerry. She hid it under the medications tray, thank goodness I get coverage down here. I don't know how long I will have batteries, so I will be quick.
I heard from the Smithsonian Institution before I "was sent" here to the "Center". The renovations on the Museum are complete and Bob will be on display at the Popular Culture gallery starting November 21, 2008. That is very exciting. Mr. Bowers also said they are publishing a book on the puppet in the Smithsonian collection and Bob will be featured in the "television puppets" section. That is very exciting. So if you happen to be in Washington after Nov. 21st stop by the "Music, Sports and Entertainment section of the renovated Smithsonian and say hello to Bob Campbell.
Opps. The floor guard just spotted me with my BB. More later. I will continue to sneak hand written letters. As you were, Jay
Sent from captivity by my wireless Verizon Blackberry
Note From: Dr. Theodore Stethenmetz, Director NEW BEGINNINGS REALITY CENTER
To whom it may concern: Mr. Johnson will not be writing a blog for a few days as he is not allowed Internet access here at the "center". We are not sure how long he will stay with us, it is hard to gage his condition. With a person like Mr. Johnson who has made a living for so long as a functioning schizophrenic it is difficult to come to a concise diagnosis.
His physical health is good and he seems to interact well with the other patients. He has permission to roam the grounds and has taken to digging up dandelions. Unfortunately the dandelions are the prized garden of patient #7684 who has been traumatized by the event.
I will be keeping you posted on his progress, and if he shows advanced signs of improvement in his condition, we may allow him limited use of the computer.
Edgar Bergen's act with an Irish newspaper boy puppet named Charlie McCarthy was featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. After touring all over the country with the show, it finally came to New York City for a Broadway opening.
When the show arrived in New York it was running too long. Shows were timed to coordinate with the train schedule and performances that ran late were not as well attended as those that didn't. Ziegfeld needed to cut eight minutes out of the show. Most of the numbers were expensive extravaganzas with lots of costumed show girls. These production numbers would be expensive to eliminate because of the investment in costumes and sets. As he looked at the show's running order the act of Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy was running exactly eight minutes long. It was a single act performed in front of a curtain. They could trim the show to the right time by firing Edgar Bergen, which they did.
Bergen found himself stranded in New York with no job. His friend Noel Coward recommended him as an entertainer for the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. It was a sophisticated supper club where the gentlemen dressed in tails, and Mr. Bergen decided that Charlie wouldn't look right dressed as a newsboy. So he dressed Charlie in top hat and tails. In his white tie and top hat Bergen thought Charlie looked like Eskie Esquire the monocled mascot of Esquire Magazine. He added a monocle to Charlie's outfit for that extra element of sophistication and Charlie McCarty the Artdeco icon was born.
At the Rainbow Room Elsa Maxwell, the party host of New York, came to the show and was so impressed she invited Edgar and Charlie to perform at one of her parties. The Maxwell parties were well known as the social event of the elite. Radio and recording star Rudy Vallée was one of the guests at this particular party. He happened to be a fan of ventriloquism, and even had a McElroy vent figure of his own. He hired Mr. Bergen to perform on his highly rated radio show the next week. From two or three guest appearances on the Rudy Vallée show Mr. Bergen was given his own Radio show which ran from 1937 until 1956. The rest, as they say, is history.
Mr. Bergen died thirty years ago at Ceasar's Palace opening for Andy Williams. Mr. Bergen had announced his retirement a few weeks before, but Andy persuaded him to make this Vegas appearance as a farewell. Bergen ended his show with by saying "all vaudevillians know when it is time to leave the stage, so I wish you good night and good bye." Andy came on stage and sang "September Song" as Mr. Bergen took his bows. He died sometime in his sleep that night. He was 75 years old.
It seems like the more time that passes by the faster it goes. Is that some quantum rule? All I know is, things I did 30 years ago don't really seem like the ancient history my children seem to believe.
Thirty-five years ago I bought a 1930s Effanbee Charlie McCarthy doll from a collector. It was in perfect shape, mint condition as the collectors used to say. It was more money than I should have spent on "eye candy", but it really was beautiful and for many years occupied a place of honor at our house in Sherman Oaks.
Then the 1993 Northridge Quake hit. The plexiglass case Charlie was displayed in shattered, but it prevented Charlie from being mangled. In fact it survived perfectly safe. We moved to our current digs a few months after that. I put off having a new case made, so it was packed away with some other valuables.
While going through my prop storage this week end I rediscovered Charlie. I still haven't had a case made for him and the place where I would display him in this house is now occupied by a Tony Award and an Ovation Award Trophy. I am thinking, instead of sitting in a box in my prop closet Charlie needs a new home. I also don't want the responsibility any more. This doll is 70 years old, and I am told rare in the fact that it still has the original top hat, monocle and coat buttons. Evidently those are the things that get lost quickly over the decades.
When I bought him Charlie's mouth was closed. His mouth opened the first week of October 1978. The reason I can be that specific is because Edgar Bergen died on Sept. 30, 1978. I thought it was an amazing coincidence that the rubber band on the dolls mouth gave way the very week Mr. Bergen died. The 30th anniversary of his death was only a couple of weeks ago.
Perhaps that is what led me to find the Charlie Doll again.
I still think it is a beautiful piece of work. As you can see from the picture. It goes back to the idea of what the value of Art is. The one thing I know is that Art should be seen and not hidden in a closet. I have never been an avid collector of vent memorabilia, and I know this would be a prized collection to the right person. So I am putting the word out to some of my collector friends and I hope we can find the right home.
Over the weekend I performed at the dance studio of a friend of mine. It was a benefit show for the school mainly comprised of dance numbers. I was there in the same capacity that started my show business life: as comic relief while the dancers were off stage changing clothes for their next number.
It's how I met my wife many years ago. She was the first dancer to go on after I exited from the stage at an Astroworld Show. I wouldn't let her go on until I was sure the applause for my act had crested, in those 20 second intervals I fell in love and the rest is by now ancient legend.
So, at this dance show benefit I was un-billed, meaning no one knew I was going to be there, and I was not introduced, I just got up on stage when it was time for my routine. I would love to think that I am famous enough to be recognized when I walk on stage, but that is not the case. I did a little stand up and then introduced Bob, who came out of his box to help me finish my set. It was a good audience and the reaction was what I expected for the size.
After the show, a man came up to me and said, "When I saw that case and you said you were a ventriloquist, I thought to myself Oh, NO, not a f----ing ventriloquist. But I enjoyed it. I had never seen a ventriloquist up close and it was mind bending and funny." I think I said "Thank you." with the implied asshole tense of the verb.
It is not the first time someone has said something like that to me. It seems to some the mere word ventriloquism conjures up such distain as to invoke curse words at the very thought of having to sit though such a routine. I don't get it. There aren't that many vent acts around, and although they differ in style, most professionals I have seen are good. At least if the act gets any exposure nationally it is usually good. The vent weeks on Letterman were some of his most successful shows.
There were singers performing on the benefit show as well. Did this same guy see a person standing at the crook of a piano and say, "OH, NO, not a f---ing singer?" No. Pre-judgement seems to be reserved for us ventriloquist. I don't get it.
I have seen many more bad singers than ventriloquists. The first few weeks of the American Idol contest practically celebrates bad singers. So why does this guy give a singer the benefit of the doubt and condemn a ventriloquist before either have performed? I will never understand why ventriloquism gets such a bad rap.
As the years go by I get less and less tolerant toward that judgement. I mean, what does a guy have to do to raise the consciousness and legitimize this art form... go to Broadway and win an American Theatre Wing Tony Award?
Please excuse Jay from writing a blog today since he has absolutely nothing to say. I know this is hard to understand since he is rarely at a loss for words at anytime. However, for reasons that would be both odious, tedious, and melancholy he will not be writing today.
The smell of smoke is in the air, ashe covers the ground, and the sky is brown , it must be fire season in Southern California. In some places fall means the leaves on the trees turn beautiful colors. Out here they bust into flames. Several freeways are closed and it looks like many people will not make it to work today. Several schools in the Northern San Ferndando Valley have closed. There are some people who will be fighting to keep their homes from burning down today.
Friday I did a show with Bill Medley, the last remaining member of the Righteous Brothers. Their 1965 hit, "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin' " is the most frequently played song in history topping the Beatles "Yesterday". When I told my son who I was going to work with he did not recognize the name until I sang three bars of "You've Lost that Lovin' Feelin' ".
Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield teamed up in the late 50's. Originally they called the act "The Paramours". After singing a soulful song a black audience member yelled out, "That's righteous, Brothers". They changed their name for the next show, and coined a new term, "blue-eyed soul". The two remained great friends and partners until Bobby's death in 2003. Just before his death the Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame.
I worked with them years ago when Bobby was still alive. I have always been a fan of their music, and they were great performers. Bobby was especially a nice guy, very friendly and inclusive. As I was watching Bill from backstage I started thinking about how difficult it must be to do the show without his partner. One of the band members provides the missing vocal parts, but Bill Medley is out there on his own. Using video and a track Bill actually sings a song with Bobby Hatfield. I noticed a little bit of a shift in gears when Medley was sharing stage with Hatfield even though it was only a technical paring. I just can't imagine the emotions that fill Medley as he does the same songs that he recorded with his friend.
I guess that is not a feeling I will ever know. I will always be on stage with my partner, no matter what form he takes.
Edward Albee said: "I write to know what I am thinking about." Well, after reading yesterday's blog I still don't know what I am thinking about. However, with 24 hours and a re-read, it sounds as if I was mounting a rationale for not doing a DVD of "The Two and Only". That really isn't the case. I am trying to find the right package at the right time to film the show, somehow.
The blog was supposed to be an essay on Art vs. Show Business and Theatre vs. Media. Dave I guess it was directed at you only to the degree that your comment was the catalyst for the thought. It was really not meant to be argumentative.
I guess what I am trying to figure out, artistically, by writing out loud, is the point of view. As you guessed by now one of my hero's is Spalding Gray. There was a great deal of thought that went into filming "Swimming to Cambodia". Here is the guy who created minimalist theatre, so how do you create a film of a guy sitting in a chair talking for an hour and a half. How much do you give to the medium to make it flow as a film without ruining the stark simplicity? Somehow it works, but they did more than just put a camera in the audience and film his stage monologue.
This is where I am. There is part of me that wants to retain the theatricality of the Two and Only and just put a camera in the audience and film it. But I know that idea will not work, for most of the reasons that were on my mind yesterday. How much do I have to change it so that it becomes a film rather than a stage show filmed? That answer has still not come to me. I have had several friends, even a well known film director, weigh in; nothing feels exactly right yet. I just have to keep thinking about it and waiting for the right idea.
In "Terrors of Pleasure" Spalding Gray bemoans the fact that he didn't get a film part. He says, "Don't you think I would rather have done the film than do a monologue about it over and over?" There is something appealing about doing the show on film and letting it reach more places than I can travel too. But then, I don't get to be there and enjoy that moment, that audience and that Art.
Jindra, Dave thanks for hanging in there. At least I will make three copies one for each of us. As you were, Jay
Thanks for the comments and encouragement on producing a Two and Only DVD. While it is a business and financial decision, at its core it is an artistic decision. When one contemplates art the game changes radically. Ultimately I think I want to make good artistic decisions. Money comes and goes but art has its own value.
There is a Buddhist saying that a finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. In the same context a DVD of a show is not the show. The fact that it looks "live" or has the feeling of a live show only means it has employed a higher degree of trickery. Having spent countless hours in and editing bay as a producer I can tell you that the live audience shots seen on film are almost never the actual reactions of the moment. When you need a cut away you find a shot of the audience that seems to fit that moment. It could be a shot of the audience from the day before.
A movie is meant to be a movie, it is all illusion, it never happened. Directors film things out of order and use special effects to create things that are not there when the actors say their lines. A film creates a manufactured energy. A camera is a microscope and that perspective on life changes the perception.
A live show is not a film. Live theatre must create its own energy, live as it happens. I am talking about the life of the show as much as the perception of the audience. A show has a life of its own and every time it is performed it is different. Every aspect of a show is impacted by the experience of the immediate environment, and every part of that experience is the life of the show. You can cut off a rose bud and seal it in plastic and it might look like a rose in the garden, but you will forever be looking at a dead rose. Same with a show.
I guess I ultimately would rather grow a rose that is beautifully alive. If there is not an audience there to see it, it does not change the power of that moment nor the life of the flower.
I know... Jeff Dunham has released DVD's. I think that proves my point. They are merchandise that feeds the Jeff machine, like little Walter dolls, to be sold after the concert. Jeff is very successful and good for him, but that is to Art as the a yellow smiley face is to the Mona Lisa.
That's just a difference in perception I guess. Most artists die poor, but every one dies and no one takes their check book. As the stock market falls and the money market freezes, the idea of art for its own sake now seems civilized and invaluable.
Spaulding Gray used to say that he "could not make up the lie that tells the truth". He was talking about his writing. He couldn't make up fictional stories. If something happened to him he could write about that, but he couldn't make up something that sounded like it was real life. He hated deadlines because he didn't know what would happen that he could write about or didn't know if anything interesting would happen at all. I sometimes feel I know what he meant.
Recently I haven't been traveling much and since I don't want to write about politics or the economy it seems that my scope is too limited to have anything interesting to say.
I have been trying to figure out what my next career step is. The Two and Only is on hold while I figure out what to do with it. I want to film it as either a special or just as a DVD to sell or if nothing else, just to have as an archive. To film it means to mount it and that waits on the right theater or new tour. Everything seems to lean on the next in some sort of house of cards arrangement where misplacement of one seems to put the rest in jeopardy.
I really wanted to do this show for a long time to come, but I just don't know. Maybe it is time to move on. Art is sometimes of the moment and to sustain it is to perhaps kill it. And perhaps to film it is to take away its soul. The wonderful thing about a live performance is just that, it is live. The experience is of the moment, never to be repeated. The life of a show is maybe of a season as well. If you could see a shooting star every time you looked into the sky, what would be wondrous about the event? And how could you recreate it? In astronomy there is something called a "singularity". That means it only happened once and never again. Those events are the special ones.
I am being asked a lot about my next show. I don't know what the "next show" is going to be, or even if there is "another show". I feel like I am expected to come up with one, but "I can't make up the lie that tells the truth". When the next show happens to me I can write about that I guess. Spaulding Gray, I miss you.
I am not an economist, nor do I want to be. I was also not the best math student at RHS, but here is some simple math for those who are kicking around $700 billion dollars like it is pocket change. A billion seconds is 31.7 years. So if you were to make a dollar a second starting now, you could make $700 billion in roughly 22,140 years.
Of course in 22, 140 years you would have to adjust for inflation and the constant change in the value of money. You might figure on 25,000 years just to be safe.
To state our national debt, you have to figure the math in trillions. A trillion seconds is 31,546 years. The current bailout plan calls for us to increase the National debt to 11 trillion. So, to pay for that by earning a dollar a second, well, you could pay for it roughly in the 318,006 years.
If you could make a dollar a second you would be making $604,800 a week or $86,400 a day.
Run and hide, monkeys are in charge of the bank. As you were, Jay
Other than the fact that the crime for which OJ was just convicted occurred on Sept 13, 2007 - adding one more number 13 to the incidence , here it is Monday and I got nothing.
I'm frustrated about most everything right now. It seems to be the fog that is hanging over the whole world right now. The financial ills of the US are spreading to Europe this week, and the campaign for the Presidency is getting nastier. Caribou Barbie seems to have actually become the pit bull in lipstick we were warned about. The only news seems to be the same story retold by different info-pushers. It is probably good that my television went out yesterday.
I feel sorry for whomever wins the Presidency. The next President inherits a recession, two wars, an energy crisis and world disrespect for the country. Everyone will expect him to fix it all immediately but it just can't be done quickly. This fast food nation will not have the patience's for that and will sour on the new leader quickly. Maybe not. Maybe just a leader that can lead will be enough to lift the fog. Officials keep talking about the confidence in the economy, it is hard to have confidence in any economy that allows the village idiot to be in charge. I think I have said too much. The idiot and his patriot act have eyes and ears everywhere.
I was hooked on watching the first OJ Simpson trial. It became sort of a Los Angeles life style. The trial would start about 9 am and usually end by lunch. Afternoons of the trial was taken up with side bars and hearings which were never very interesting. You could watch the trial and then go to lunch with friends, discuss it and work for the rest of the day. At the time I was producing a show and had an office on the CBS lot. Show biz sort of set its hours around the court schedule.
I was convinced that Simpson was guilty of murder. The whole police conspiracy and frame up was a defensive hail Mary. I think the prosecutors were totally incompetent. The way I figured it, at the crime scene there were three samples of DNA, two belonged to the victims and the other to OJ Simpson. Assuming the police planted all the DNA evidence from OJ like the defense alleged, that would mean there should have been four sets of DNA at the crime scene. The real killer would have left something, a hair, a finger print a fiber, something. But there was only three samples, two victims and the killer.
The latest Simpson trial held no interest for me at all. I read the facts and thought it sounded like he was guilty, but figured he would dodge another bullet because the guys testifying against him were a pretty nefarious bunch. I guess I was shocked when they convicted him on all 12 counts; he is really into some serious jail time for this stunt.
I comment on this Simpson verdict for only one reason. He was convicted 13 years to the day of his murder trial acquittal and the jury deliberated 13 hours. Ronald Goldman has 13 letters in his name, Orenthal James has 13 letters and he was convicted on October 3rd, 10/3 which adds up to 13. He won the Heisman Trophy which has 13 letters. Simpson's career record for rushing yardage is 11,236 which adds up to 13. The crime was committed at a Las Vegas Hotel, 13 letters, named the Palace Station which, you guessed it, contains 13 letters.
The number 13 has always been associated with bad luck, and the 13th card in a Tarot deck is Death. I find that all very interesting.
Side effects may include:unhappiness, depression, disgust, suicide, moodiness, melancholy, dizziness, drowsiness, blackouts, headache, backache, stomach ache, foot ache, toe ache, arm ache, leg ache, tooth ache, body ache, neuritis, neuralgia. In rare cases it has been known to cause impotence, and irreversible coma in all people over 16 years of age.
This pill should not be taken by humans . Not recommended for people under the age of 16 nor is it recommended for human consumption. Tell your Doctor if you have ever had feelings of sadness, happiness, or frustration in your life or if you have ever disagreed with anyone at any time. Tell him if you dislike the IRS or if you have ever had feelings of racism, sexism, lesbianism, plagiarism, vulgarism, astigmatism, Methodism, baptism or cynicism. This pill should not be taken before meals, after meals, during meals, while consuming a beverage, after seeing a concert, going to a movie, attending a play, driving a car, riding a bike, during sex, after sex or if you ever plan on having sex in the future and never take the prescription while relaxing or during exercise. Some people have noticed no improvement after taking Hap-E and studies show that when compared to a placebo there was no noticeable difference. Pregnant women and especially pregnant men should not take Hap-E as this may cause a temporary rash that has been linked to a deadly form of flesh eating bacteria. Never drive, operate machinery, walk, skip, jump, crawl, slither, scoot, limp, drag, do any physical activity or drink alcohol while taking Hap-E. The active ingredients in Hap-E can be used as a polish for black or brown shoes, car wax, antifreeze, heavy lubricant, lighter fluid, weed killer, growth stimulate and especially works well as a rodent deterrent. As with all medication, keep out of the reach of children.
The rule is you can advertise any drug on television as long as you list the possible side affect, and yet... we still take them.
I want to know who is inventing the new words people keep using. Is there some guy in the back room of the New York Times, sitting next to the crossword puzzle creator who just thinks up new words to use? It's easy to understand when a brand name becomes part of the lexicon, like cellophane, jacuzzi, refrigerator or Google which is also used as a verb. These are just product names and because of their wide spread use for a single product became a generic noun. But there are some words that just suddenly show up.
The latest one is "illiquid". The pundits are using it to describe bad debts. Although no official definition is offered, I assume "Illiquid assets" are those you can't cash, no one wants or you can't get rid of. The antonym is a liquid asset, something you can sell or get rid of easily. Cash is the most liquid of all assets.
I have a business degree from college and both my Father and Brother are investment bankers but I never heard the term until a few days ago. Before that you had "liquid assets" and "non- liquid assets", there was no "illiquid" in the business vocabulary. I like it in reference to this crisis, "ill" is a good prefix for today's times. Maybe the Ill-Money Market is a good description. The "Ill-Street Bailout", or an "Ill-Congressional Bill". I think professionals keep using new words so they can support the Dictionary publishers. If there were no new words then a 1963 Websters Dictionary would never need to be revised.
Who is behind this conspiracy? Who is artificially inflating the need for new Dictionary's? When was the last time you bought a dictionary? Well if it was later than last week, it is out of date. Your dictionary might contain the newest verb "Google", but you are out of luck to find "illiquid". I have one of those thousand page Unabridged Dictionaries. You know the ones that are so thick you can actually use them as a step-stool to reach the books on your topmost shelf. I bought it years ago because I wanted to make sure I could find any word I heard in the future. Well that investment was a waste. What is the use of having a language we can understand if we keep inventing new words that no one knows the definition to. If it isn't in the dictionary how do I know a person is using a word correctly? Are we allowed to just create our own words. "Wow she is a real zorp". "I think I will go outside and vistibalebiate." "Mommy, Mommy he called me a piskatile" I think communication would completely break down....
Here is my suggestion. Lets form a committee of our most eloquent people with the best vocabulary and let them come up with, say, a thousand new words. Whatever words they want. After they invent the new words, let's define them and put them in a "new addition" Dictionary. No one will be allowed to use the new words until the Dictionary is published and the meaning standardized. Then lets call a moratorium on new words for the next 50 years. No more new words, we'll have enough after that. Let's use the ones we have. If we don't use the words we already have, some may become "illiquid". That would be zitrantifigeritvely mongerital.
Two Ants are walking across a golf course. As they maneuver around a large white ball, a club swings down from the sky. It misses the ball and almost hits the Ants. They run to the other side of the ball for safety just as the club swings past them, once again missing the ball but gouging a rut in the grass in front of them. Scared and confused one Ant says to the other, "We better get on the ball or we are going to get the hell knocked out of us."
No. This is not a joke. It is a Congressional cautionary tale.
It is very hard to think funny right now. I've only heard stories from my folks and grandparents about the "great depression". None of the stories are very pleasant. To actually witness the stock market drop by an historic number in hours this week was an ominous slice of perspective. What I have been told by relatives who work in the financial world is this: we really didn't recover from the "great depression" until we entered World War II. But wait, aren't we in two wars now? How does that figure into economic recovery?
I would love to rant on about the current economic/political situation. I can usually turn a rant into a comedy piece. However, the only thing it would accomplish is to alienate at least half of my readers, and add fuel to a fire that now burns out of control.
The problem is everyone is talking about it and no one is doing anything but talking about it. It is the equivalent of firefighters standing around a house fire debating whether it started in the den or the kitchen. Just put out the fire.
The problem is, there is no one in government we can trust. We just assume no one is telling the truth. In fact, as a country we may have lost the concept of truth entirely. Truth has become a partisan plank in a party platform. In the words from Tommy Smothers Emmy acceptance speech last week , "The truth is what ever we can get you to believe." I was always taught to believe the truth was an absolute, a principle that contains no red or blue. Are bad sub prime mortgages just the WMD's of seven years ago? Who knows? The boy who cried wolf was eventually eaten by the wolf. Are we the boy, the wolf or the town's people who assumed the call was a lie? I fear that most of us are the sheep the boy was supposed to protect.
In the words of Forrest Gump, "And that is all I have to say about that."