Monday, August 31, 2009

Theatre Ghost
In the lobby of the Cape Playhouse there are many pictures of the celebrities who have performed here. Along with Shirley Booth's Oscar Statuette and Humphrey Bogart's autographed picture there is a small corner of an old piece of paper displayed in a black 8 x 10 frame. You might miss it if you weren't looking for it. Last night when I attended the final performance of "Moon Over Buffalo" at the Playhouse I was definitely looking for it.

The Cape Playhouse was built in 1836 and added onto in 1923. It is the oldest, continuously running, professional theatre in America. Gertrude Lawrence played here many times and at one point was "associated" with the Artistic Director. She died suddenly in 1952 at the age of 54 while performing her Tony Winning role of Anna in "The King and I" on Broadway. They say she still hangs around the Playhouse in ghostly form to make sure everything runs smoothly.

In 2004 the current Artistic Director, Evans Haile, was discussing the Gertrude Lawrence haunting with a young usher. The usher did not know who Gertrude Lawrence was and did not necessarily believe in ghosts. As they are talking a piece of paper fluttered down from the rafters of the theatre and wafted onto the floor of the auditorium. It was large enough to capture the attention of both the usher and the artistic director . When the paper was retrieved it read "Miss Gertrude Lawrence, 1943" an autograph from the specter herself. She was making her presence known to the young disbeliever. Evans took the yellowed paper, framed it and hung it in the lobby for all to see. He told me this story the first night of my arrival and I couldn't wait to see it for myself.

As you know I am very fond of ghosts, particularly theatre ghosts. I had many associations with the ghosts at the Helen Hayes. I think it is great to have someone on that side of the ether looking out for my show. I have decided to occupy "Gertie's" dressing room for my run here at the Cape Playhouse. I found out that she likes blue hydrangeas which will definitely decorate the room while I am here.

We open tonight and although there is limited access to the Internet, I will try to keep posting over the course of the run. I can already tell that this is going to be a really wonderful experience. It is so great to have this little Boutique show that can play in such historic venues.

As you were,
Jay

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The day before the Stock Market crash of 1929, Farnsworth Wellington with the brokerage firm of Singleton, Wellington and Klute advised all his clients to invest in Scott Paper Toilet Tissue and Revolution Revolving Door Industries. When the market crashed the next day all of Farnsworth's clients were wiped out before they could turn around.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bad Day TSA

I have talked about my never ending dislike for the TSA. This morning the over weight TSA lady screamed with delight as she pulled the cloth out of my carrying on case, scraping her overly long painted fingernails across Bob's the newly painted face, "I know you. I remember long ago when you were on television. See I'm a lot older than I look. Wow you must be a lot older than you look too."

With that she took the open case with Bob's head unprotected and exposed showing it around to all the guards nearby. There were a couple of Dummy jokes, a couple of giggles then she tossed the case back on the metal table toward me and said, "Have a nice day".

Too late, I think to myself. I wondered how this lady would feel if I opened her purse, shuffled the contents, scratched her valuables and showed it around to my associates? Not the best way to start a "nice" day.

I'm sure glad I don't have to fly on airplanes to make a living. Wait, I do have to fly on airplanes to make a living. Shit.
As you were,
Jay
www.monkeyjoke.com

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Show Biz News
"The Two and Only" will open at the Cape Playhouse on August 31st. My business manager and I talked about my up and coming run and how the box office might be affected by the Ted Kennedy's death. She said, "Oh great, you're going to Cape Cod and Kennedy dies. The towns will probably be draped in black. Would it have killed him to wait a couple of weeks?"

I was thinking we should piggy back the Kennedy news with a heavy media campaign for my show.

Coming to the Cape area for the funeral? Stop by the Cape Playhouse before you go... leave town with a laugh. Or.... a package deal. Two tickets to my show and preferred seating at the Kennedy wake the next day.

Okay I'll keep working on it. But just in case....the theatre is Cape Playhouse, Dennis, MA. We open August 31 and run through September 12th. If you happen to be in the area for ANY REASON come by and enjoy the show.

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Family Tree!
Thanks to David "Chopper" Sinkler for this relative, relevant photo of one of my ventriloquial ancestors. Lester was from the French side of my family. Although he attempted to get out of his duty as a soldier on a medical/mental discharge, they ruled his puppet "Searsey" was able to serve and commissioned them both.
I wish to point out that Lester's arm was not "lost during the battle of Mame at Dunkirk," they knew where it was. The arm just became disassociated with the rest of his anatomy during a mortar attack. "Searsey", Lester's wooden partner, went on to earn the French Medal of Honor for holding off an entire German division by performing a compelling distant voice routine in the trenches, causing the enemy to become disoriented and abandon their post.
As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do the Math...
I can remember when doing my math homework was a task that came directly from the CIA torture book. However, I am fascinated by the whole idea of math. Now that we have computers to take care of sum of that "carry the remainder stuff" I like the results.

My friend Connie Kaplan turned me on to a new site called Wolfram Alpha. Although it sounds like the character from a Gothic horror tale it is actually an informational site, somewhat like the Google calculator, but much more detailed and a little faster. You can ask real questions and get results like , how many seconds in 78 minutes. You can type in a date and it will tell you all about the day. That is the kind of stuff that fascinates me but I would never take the time to do the math.

So today I found out that the square root of the number 7 (one of my favorites) is:
2.64575131106459059050161575363926042571025918308245018036833445920106882323028362776039288647454361061506457833849746309574352988862721478442739055588010772271715072972832389229968959486508726070097805420372382802371594110034193911600157852559630594574103515239680271640737379907404158151990440347431945367139973059700505139969223754561609711902737815499163328828770400065757067465196349775208379381811461309087647378659562433057994798128163230705483650107715617946361191553454536477494820593090494849834033989002104786166733279503693924622571705371649257875483229073249267134698029894990803774825110922789556889791980881483409083168525133535829539172211770714414974576907081989444441458972284741400303502353203719487073826293185193640908322805964627837610219597941970890963546958613411817930678162136084910167783532125563346349002189814604225592950366956241869273732771502208752309966469813203212818945478568020950635962446628550076190504139350447437123488522332773625100450596210806723346981200043005144902512062573117591154231944596726049783340434468372563617825504816087940620551148639783305501636947007638777374519511658095220474202064982102444056001996590904100285534069110102261166807200774830703326138428262968095024707946564963443368305197088203480504864472623179308769572248937752111978837600784560390365880942159929250105775368235600172007406523692473209967419778002535708540617794442886681589731184938101638162073015642647016298410996900713413237981884776477699543911119459676703369724524753677401002458265159307752816300547933971750801789952...

Isn't that easier, more fun and a lot more informative than actually using up three sheets of notebook paper to figure it out? I think so... I downloaded it as a Widget on my Mac dashboard.
How many inches from here to the moon? 1.523x10^10 inches

Thanks Connie.
As you were,
Jay

Monday, August 24, 2009

Spaulding Gray!
Probably to this day I can start a line from a Spaulding Gray monologue and one of my kids can finish it. His words have become part of the Johnson family lexicon. He was a writer, storyteller, playwright, self observer, actor and stage performance artist. He virtually created the minimalistic performance style single handed.

He acted in several movies and in many stage plays including the movie "The Killing Fields" and starred as the Stage Manager in the revival of "Our Town" at Lincoln Center. But it was his monologues that set him apart.

He wasn't a stand up comic, in fact his performances were staged with him sitting behind a table which held a hand written spiral notebook, a single glass of water and a desk microphone. He generally wore a long sleeve collared shirt, usually plaid, with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. One of his monologues "Swimming to Cambodia" (which was a monologue about filming the movie "Killing Fields") was filmed and released to theatres in 1987.

I read some of his books, but loved listening to recordings of his monologues the most. They were stories about his life in greater detail that even truthfulness and honesty should allow. He would admit to everything he did, good and bad. It was that honesty that drew me to him. As a writer and storyteller myself I know in my heart I could never be that open nor honest, but I related to his journey in a very personal way.

When we were buying our current house in 1994 I listened to his monologue titled "Terrors of Pleasure" every day for three months. It was his story about buying his first house and his dealings with sellers and repairmen. I laughed and related to his struggles, which seemed to mirror mine. I can almost perform that monologue I have heard it so many times.

He had a Christian Science background, so did I. He was dyslexic, so am I and he dealt as an outsider to show the show biz circus, very much as I do. I have a short book he wrote called "In Search of the Monkey Woman". It is about a carnival trick/exhibit/show that profoundly affected me when I saw it as a kid. His fascination and detailed account of the inside story to the illusion was like experiencing it all again. I only got to see him in person twice because by the time I would hear about his performances in Los Angeles all would be totally sold out.

I sat across the aisle from him at the New York premier of "Man in the Iron Mask". I spent the entire movie trying to figure out the best way to approach him and tell him I was a fan. He left quickly at the end and I missed being able to meet him. Like searching for Big Foot there were rumors of Spaulding sitings at the party afterwards, but I never connected.

In a typical Spaulding Gray monologue you would go from laughter to tears at the turn of his phrase. One of the themes that crept into most of his work was the suicide death at 50 years old of his devoutly Christian Scientist mother. He talked a lot about the impact it had on the family, and the mess that was left for those still alive to clean up. It was not just the physical mess but the emotional and psychological mess that affected him the most. As his own 50th birthday approached he wondered aloud if he would face the same demons that would drive him to suicide like his mother.

He faced a challenge of going blind in one eye. His struggle to balance a Christian Science approach with medical treatment became a monologue entitled , "Gray's Anatomy" which was also filmed. Like so many of the public details of his life he seemed to have worked it out, at least on stage, and come to peace with the demons. He passed his 50th birthday with out incident and continued his open personal struggle into his sixties.

A month or so before my show opened off Broadway Spaulding Gray disappeared from the streets of New York. It was not the top story to most of the world but it was to me. For days they did not know where he was and mystery surrounded his whereabouts. He had trips planned to a ski resort, and family plans with his small kids. In fact that day he had taken them to see a movie. It was not unusual for him to take some time off and be by himself, but after a week or so with no word to his wife and kids, hope of finding him became bleak. Then one day, his body washed ashore in Manhattan. As the investigation proceeded it was determined that he had committed suicide by jumping off the Staten Island Ferry.

I have not been able to listen to one of his monologues since. I tried but can't get through 5 minutes even though that voice and New England accent have always been comforting to me. There are three CD's of his monologues within and arms length of my keyboard right now. I haven't touched them in years. I guess it is because I have lost faith in his process. I believed that the honesty and truth about his feelings were somehow a therapy session for both of us. The talking cure. Put it out there in the light and we can deal with the pain and the problems. Add some humor to make it seem less oppressive and we all get better. Even after all the talk about what suicide does to the people left behind, he jumped of the Ferry and killed himself. It didn't work, he did not exorcise his demons he merely pointed them out.

As my age catches up to his, I think about him a lot. I miss him. When he was at his best, I wanted to be like him. But now I question that desire wondering if his process eventually lead the demons right to his own door. I have toyed with the idea of doing a show about him, looking back, in his monologist style, being as honest and open about his death as he was about his life. I don't think that will happen, I couldn't get through the prep of listening to his monologues again.

I don't know why he came to mind this morning. Don't know why I thought I needed to share.
Perhaps I'm trying to "talk out" my feelings like he attempted to do. Hopefully with greater results.
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009
Aquarius – Things are happening fast and you need to stay on top of them. Perhaps you need to a break from your pod so you can swim with others on your journey. If you only know the ones around you, how can you help them become enlightened. Expand your family.

Pisces – Stop trying to beat the legal system. You must find the balance within yourself, because established systems will always let you down. Just pay the fine and get on with your life. Keep a clear head.

Aries- – Give out of your abundance and not out of your lack. Do not see it as the depletion of a limited amount but the flow of an infinite source. You are just the gate through which eternity flows. Share with not thought of running out and no thought of getting it back. It will always be there.

Taurus – Don’t give up so easily. Nothing worth while can be taken for granted. The long trip is part of the destination. Work at it and become what you seek. True value is earned and delivered. Never be afraid that it is not coming so quickly.

Gemini – - Things are happening fast and you need to stay on top of them. Perhaps you need to a break from your pod so you can swim with others on your journey. If you only know the ones around you, how can you help them become enlightened. Expand your family.

Cancer – Your worry is that you are simply running around in circles. You think you are just chasing your tail but perhaps you are catching up to your own goals. Action is good and motion creates more motion. Keep going don’t slow down. Even if you have been down this road before you can always notice something different in your mindset journey. Pick a tool that can be both.

Leo – The see-saw was always your favorite playground toy. When you were up you could see forever and when you were down you knew you would be up again soon. Your life is like that a series of ups and downs. Remember that and know that it may take two for a great see saw ride.

Virgo – Try to be yourself and not what you think others want you to be. It may be that you have to be more truthful to yourself and admit that you are no angel. It is okay, no one is perfect and if you think others see you that way you are probably wrong. Let go.

Libra – Some things that make you mad are but sheets in the wind. They billow, snap and wave for your attention, but they are not taunting you. It is but movement trying to make you charge.

Scorpio - Since there is not end to your service to others, you need to find time for yourself. You do not need to make sure the entire world is happy before you smile. It is the reverse, smile and the world is more likely to become happy. You need to be of service to yourself as well in these times.

Sagittarius – Be proud and stand tall but do not give in to stubbornness. You can lower your head and try to break through an obstacle, but you are guaranteed to get a headache. Think of the horn of a ram, it curves and bends and makes a point in a round about way. Use your head in a different way than as just a battering ram.

Capricorn – Don’t give up so easily. Nothing worth while can be taken for granted. The long trip is part of the destination. Work at it and become what you seek. True value is earned and delivered. Never be afraid that it is not coming so quickly

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rehearsing?
Recently I was asked how often I rehearse my show/act/routines. I had to vamp a little cause I don't really have a daily time set aside to rehearse like I used to. I remember my youth was spent with countless hours in front of a large mirror specially placed on a blank wall in my room for just that purpose. I would direct a light on my face and rehearse by the hour. The bright light showed every slight motion both good and bad in glaring detail. Most of the time I would record that session on the tape recorder and play it back, also by the hour. Now with the access of video, I assume the light and mirror would be replaced with better technology. Although there is nothing easier than turning on a light and sitting down in front of a mirror. No rewinding, setting tripods and turning on the camera. It is still a pure and flawless way to practice.

I realized that my rehearsal time and style has changed since I was a kid. My schedule is pretty full so I get to rehearse my actual technique in front of audiences. I don't suggest that idea in lieu of mirror/video time, but I have hours racked up in that department and working in front of and audience it is enough for me now. The actual words for The Two and Only are a different thing. That show is an hour and forty minutes of dialogue alone (well sort of) on stage. That is something I do need to keep up with.

So in prep for the up and coming run at the Cape Playhouse what am I doing? I spend most of the down time, on a plane or in a hotel or in a waiting room going over the show in my head. I start at the beginning and run the show word for word. Probably looks to the casual viewer like I am just in a fog, but there is a performance going on in my head. I really am experiencing it as I imagine every step and every word. Other than holding for audience reaction, it feels the same to me, almost like a muscle memory of past performances.

It is a technique that has served me well. There are times when the actual performances of that show are months apart, but it still holds up and like riding a bicycle. It comes back easily because I am probably not more than a week from running the entire show in my imagination. When it is "on its feet", I can then connect with the audience from the very second I step into it again. I guess that is the peculiarity of being a ventriloquist or a solo performer, I can rehearse almost anywhere, anytime.

So, if you happen to see me sitting at the airport and I am sort of unfocused don't stare or dial 911, just clap... I am in the middle of a performance.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Rehearsing Disaster?
Here is a conundrum. The boyscout motto is "Be prepared." To most of us that means to anticipate results that may happen and have a plan of action. In Los Angeles we are always told to be prepared for the "big one". To anyone who's mind is not in the gutter that means a big earthquake. Geologists insist that we live on borrowed time from the San Andreas fault daily. I have been in LA for 32 years and have experienced only one major earthquake. It was enough to let me know tectonic playfulness is not a fun ride, and although not an experience I would want to repeat.. for us it was not a biblical disaster.

But here is the conundrum "being prepared" conjures for me. It amounts to rehearsing a disaster before it happens. Time is taken out of the good times to rehearse some really bad times. Aren't we then just experiencing the bad times twice instead of once? You really can't rehearse something that doesn't happen on cue, so at best it becomes an imaginative romp.

Disaster training can give you a sense of what might happen but it is only a semi educated guess. On some level the more thought you put into something the more likely it is to become a belief which often becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

I remember the generally accepted plan in case of an earthquake was to get under a doorway . I spent time coaching the kids to run to the nearest doorway and ride it out. After examination of real earthquakes and the "survival zones" scientists have found that a doorway is maybe the worst place to be. Now we are encouraged to lay beside a bed or large table. The falling debris will angle up on the big object and form a triangulated area of protection space between the object and the floor. So... preparing for a disaster by running to a doorway, is actually very wrong. Some wasted prep time there.

I was also told to have flashlights around for the quake, because the electricity would go out and we would need them. I kept flashlights in every possible place, in the night stand, the kitchen drawer, under the bed... I had lots of flashlights. During the Northridge quake the reality of the event did not go as planned. You see the nightstand turned over and we couldn't get to the drawer, the kitchen was buried in about three feet of broken glass, and the flashlight under the bed ended up rolling to a corner of the bedroom we couldn't see until the lights came back on.

So here is the deal. Enjoy the NOW. Don't be stupid and play with matches while filling up your gas tank, but don't make your happy times miserable by planning on disaster. If you find you are in a situation that is suddenly dangerous, be in the now and figure out the situation that is happening. It most probably will not be, in any way, how you planned it. Our ancestors survived by dealing with a bad situation as it happened, using their wits and the intelligence they had at the moment. Human instincts are pretty good and probably will kick in naturally. That way if you do have to go through some bad times, you only have to experience it once.

As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Family Tree!
More findings from my family tree discovered by David "Oui Oui" Sinkler.

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Just Looking Around
I worked for a producer named Charles R. Meeker, Jr. for the first ten years of my professional career, basically from the age of 15 until I moved to Los Angeles at 25. He encouraged all of his performers to adopt a more mainstream attitude toward their art. (Encouraged was not really the word for Mr. Meeker, insisted and demanded is probably more his style.) He really didn't like performers who thought they were entitled just because they happened to be talented. We were never allowed to act like the world owed us something because we were lucky enough to be able to dance or sing or do ventriloquism. It was our job and we should try to fit in. So... I guess that attitude comes second nature to me now.

However, sometimes I really do forget that not everyone makes a living talking to a puppet. Or I forget that some might look at my career as "different". Like the other day when someone walked into my office and gasp at the head hanging on my wall. "Yipes... what is that?" they said.
"Oh that... it's just the bronze death mask of Edgar Bergen," I replied. Then it comes clear to me that maybe I shouldn't try to pretend that all is normal at the Johnson house.

Bergen's "death Mask" has been hanging on my office wall for a long time. It was a gift from who else but my friend Harry Anderson. I don't know where he found it, but some how he knew it had to go on my wall. He was right, I can't think of too many people who could fully appreciate the significance of a gift like that.

It isn't really a death mask, but it is a cast of Bergen's face done in bronze. I am guessing it started life as a plaster cast for a makeup test when Mr. Bergen was doing movies. Someone had the idea to turn it into art. Someone else had the idea to give it to me and I had the idea to hang it on the wall with my animation cel collection. Sometimes you just have to look up from the keyboard to find an inspiration.

I want to thank you for all the emails and comments concerning yesterday's "blues blog." I think I was just worn out from a long trip and an odd show. Thanks for reading, writing and friending.

As you were,
Jay

Monday, August 17, 2009

Writers Block or Common Sense?
I can't think of a single thing I am contemplating today, or anything I plan to accomplish today which could possibly interest anyone else. I am suddenly losing perspective on this whole digital ethernet, blogging, Facebooking, Twittering informational complex. I have been writing a blog for several years now consistently, but I no longer remember why.

Why do I think that electronic friends, much less people called "followers" care what I am doing right now? There is just too much mundane information floating around with no purpose. And why am I contributing to the digital pollution? Why would I even write a blog about not having anything to write about? Isn't this the problem? I am writing and I can't shut up.

I have to sit down and think about this for awhile, take inventory, figure out what is important and if you are reading this, perhaps you need to do so as well.

I'll get back to you.
Jay

Saturday, August 15, 2009

If you take any number, multiply by 700, divide it by two, subtract the date and time of the current day, find the square root times Pi,
add your birth date expressed as a six place number plus four,
express that quotient as the denominator of a fraction in eights,
then subtract the original number....
you will get the exact time of your birth expressed in centimeters.
It's easy... give it a try.

Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Here at the lovely hotel where I find myself today, there is a beautiful artificial waterfall. It was designed to be an inspirational setting for weary road warriors like myself, created to sit beside and meditate. Not a place to generate income but a restful place to close out the noise of commerce.

I am aware of a man who is paying little attention to this beauty. His focus is on a blackberry held at his chest, head down, thumb typing a long entry.

Why is he not enjoying the beauty of this setting? Why is he not in the "now" feeding his artistic soul with the sites all around him? His gaze and his attention are captured by a screen that would be exactly the same were he any where else. Will he remember that the text he wrote this day was the result of inspiration from an environment he fails now to even acknowledge? Will the beauty of the waterfall be recalled at a later "now" to be only a reconstructed memory of the past?

All these things go racing through my mind as I realize that I am that man with the blackberry. There is no one else around. Am I experiencing it or am I just blogging about it. Living it only through the telling?

You would think the answers to my own questions would be much easier to solve.

Have a great weekend and don't forget to look up and see where you are.

As you were,
Jay
www.monkeyjoke.com

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Winging to Orlando this morning facing the never ending battle between safe air travel and sanity. I have found the TSA monkeys are more civilized earlier in the day. Perhaps it is because my perceptions are not as sensitive in the morning.

I don't know where they go to recruit Airport security agents but I am always aware they are postal workers with the power to detain.

I am off to host a corporate talent show. Employees of a large company are "putting on a show". In my years of doing corps this is a first. Contractually they have me watching rehearsal to add what ever knowledge of performing I can impart to the participants. "Don't quit your day job" comes to mind immediately. More about that in the next chapter.
As you were,
Jay

www.monkeyjoke.com

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hollywood!
I really had nothing to write about today, and I don' t want this blog to turn into some sort of "I just gave the dog a bath" kind of Twitter information. So, I had essentially blown off an entry today and decided to walk up to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. I have blogged about that place before. It is usually full of writers who need to be seen writing on their computers to feel complete. Sometimes I can find inspiration there and this time I did find something to write about.

As I walked in the door there was a guy walking in with me who looked familiar. We go through this recognition ritual all the time in LA; do you know this person because you know them or do you just know their work from movies or TV? This is also my neighborhood and I'm never sure if a familiar face is a neighbor, or the clerk at another store or exactly who it is at first. The unwritten rule states that you never say, "Don't I know you?" like you would in Dallas or Memphis.

I executed some covert glances at him as we are waiting to order our Ice Blended Mocha's. He was just too familiar to let it go. I knew I had just seen him somewhere very recently but couldn't place where that might be. I was just about to give up when it hit me. I know this guy from my blog.... yesterday. It is Tony Dow.

Had I not published a recent picture of him on the blog yesterday, I probably would not have even given him a second glance. But there he was in the flesh, looking a little better than the picture with Eddie and the Beaver. In fact what grabbed my attention at first was how distinguished he looked, silver surfer hair not receding as much as in the picture and dressed in a Tommy Bahama shirt. He is about my height.

He caught me looking at him and I immediately knew what he was thinking. I could read his mind, in fact, I think I have thought the same thing several times myself. He was thinking, "I don't know you, and you don't know me... I'm not in the mood to relive my part in an old television show, just let me get my Mocha and get out of here." That is exactly how it went down. I had no interest in proving that my memory was still functional at my age. He had no interest in hearing how long ago "Leave it to Beaver" was on the air. So there was not interaction other than waiting together for the Mochas.

I have not thought of that actor or "Leave it to Beaver" for years. Then in the space of 48 hours I go from "where are they now" in my blog to "Close encounters of the third kind" on a trip to get coffee. Something like that is more likely to happen in New York City than Encino, but experiences always happen where you are at the time. I guess you just have to be looking for some sort of writing inspiration.

It is a shame that none of the writers working on their computers at the Coffee Bean looked up, maybe it would have helped them write. It worked for me.
As you were,
Jay

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ken Osmond, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow
Better known as
Eddie Haskell, Beaver and Wally Cleaver
As they are today.....
"Ward.... I think there is something wrong with the Beaver."
- June Cleaver



As you were,
Jay

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Saturday, August 8, 2009
Aquarius – Since there is no end to your service to others, you need to find time for yourself. You do not need to make sure the entire world is happy before you smile. It is the reverse, smile and the world is more likely to become happy. You need to be of service to yourself as well in these times.

Pisces – Some things that make you mad are but sheets in the wind. They billow, snap and wave for your attention, but they are not taunting you. It is but movement trying to make you charge. It is but an illusion and like a fog on the water is not aware its movement taunts. Dismiss it.

Aries- The world will not come to you so you will have to go to them. Keep pushing no matter how many people try to distract you. There are those who will poke at you and tease you but you will soon leave them behind. Push forward, stand your ground if that doesn’t sound like a contradiction to you then you have found the way.

Taurus – The self-analyzing you are doing is not just looking into a mirror. The very act of observing changes the experiment. What personality is it that looks at you? They are both you but both different. Be yourself and know that we are all complicated combinations.

Gemini – Tough Love is sometimes required and necessary. However, don’t forget that you can catch more flies with honey. There are times that you just need to acknowledge that someone is hurting. They will correct themselves if given enough positive love. Why do you always need to be the one who pushes the lessons in their faces?

Cancer – Your visions are coming together and the future you see is happening. It has become obvious the last couple of years that you can affect your future so always see the good and prosperous, not the shadow and unhappy. Come out of that shell and become your future now.

Leo – It is a roller coaster or maybe a yo yo. Just about the time you are feeling that life has hit bottom there is a new light. Things change and the way to be happy is to fall in love with change. Nothing lasts forever good times will be followed by tough times, but the good will be here again before you know it. Love the ride.

Virgo – Always being ready to pounce is exhausting. You can keep a look out; protect your family and yourself while relaxing at the same time. Your experience will see you through. Even with your guard down you are shielded by what you know.

Libra – Maybe you should move from your comfort zone and stretch a little. Look into another career while you have this job in hand. It is not that this job is bad it just may not be sustainable. It might not be the future that you want.

Scorpio– The idea of embodying angelic qualities may not appeal to you, but that is who you are. Acting out in denial or trying to show that you are something you are not leads nowhere. You will never be fully realized until you embrace the spiritual side of existence.

Sagittarius – True friends are always there. Others who are not true friends will try to confuse you. Don’t worry, the truth will always come out, and the more you do not resist the truth, it will come out faster. Parasites usually flee from the light. Once you have cast a light on them they will evaporate.

Capricorn – Your worry is that you are simply running around in circles. You think you are just chasing your tail but perhaps you are catching up to your own goals. Action is good and motion creates more motion. Keep going don’t slow down. Even if you have been down this road before you can always notice something different in your mindset journey.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Air Travel
Yesterday the FAA mandated that all Boeing 767 and 757's be retrofitted with an automatic fuel pump cut off. It is designed to keep the fuel pump from sparking and causing a mid-air explosion if the fuel tank is empty. Sounds like the government is really taking care of us air travelers, but that's not the full story.

It seems the mandate came about because of the midair explosion of a 757 back in 1996. Boeing suggested that their 757 air planes be retrofitted with the pump cut off two years ago. The government decided to require it be done yesterday.

1996? Are you kidding me? Boeing and the FAA thought there might be a problem with the fuel pumps 13 years ago and they are just now requiring Airlines to comply? For the last decade we have been playing Russian Roulette by boarding a plane?

The point can be made that we haven't had a mid air plane explosion in that time but, Los Angeles has not had an earthquake of any magnitude since 1994. I don't think that means we don't need to have emergency supplies around.

When I heard this report on the news no one said why it has taken so long to correct a problem that even the manufacturer was aware of. I can't figure it out, even accounting for the snail's pace at which the government works. Makes you wonder what other little time bombs have yet to be addressed in the airline industries.

Next week I have to be in Orlando. How long will it take the Airlines to retrofit those planes now that they are required to do it? Probably not before I have to get on a plane. If I start now I can drive it and be there just in time for sound check. Fly safe fellow road warriors.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Correction!
In my post entitled "Jimmy and Sammy" on July 31 there is a correction to be made. On that date one of the paragraphs read:

"Sammy did his last show with Francisco Saturday night at the convention. On stage after the performance donated Francisco to the Museum where he will take up a position of silent spokesman to an act Sammy has done 2500 times in his life."

A day later I received this email from Sammy:

"Thanks so much for the kind words and thoughts. HOWEVER..... make that 25,000 performances, not 2500, in my lifetime. "

That number has now been corrected in the original for people who research old posts.

Although to a dyslexic like myself 2500 and 25,000 would appear to be the same... there is obviously a vast difference. I certainly did not want to slight the impressive career of one of my favorite performers.

And as it turns out Sammy King does read this blog....

On a similar note, Sammy sent me a picture taken at the convention. It is of Brad Cummings, Jimmy Nelson, Jeff Dunham and Sammy. Seen below:

He said... "I wished you had been in that picture too."

Well, through the miracle of photo shop and a couple hours of work... wishes can come true.

If the Warren Commission would have had access to photoshop when it was investigating the Kennedy Assassination there would be pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald shooting the gun with a sign that says... Lone gunman.

Thanks for the email Sammy.
As you were,
Jay


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,
Jay



Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Life through a Lens
I probably don't take enough photos to document my experiences. However, I decided when the kids were young that I did not want to experience them growing up through a video camera lens. There were so many school plays that I didn't get to enjoy simply because I was watching it through the tiny view finder of a video camera. So perhaps I could do a better job of journalizing through pictures. But there is more excitement in actually being there in the moment and not trying to capture it for someone else who isn't.

With that preamble, below is a quick video of the Vent Haven exhibit that was done for me at the convention. The lady who is featured is Lisa Sweasy the former curator at the Museum. She is a very funny person and knows more about the collection and Mr. Berger than most anyone around. At the end are Bryan and Marge Simon who really were the sparks to get me going on the donation. They also produced the documentary on ventriloquism "I'm no Dummy"
Soon to be released by Salient Media. It is a great documentary... you should check it out.

This Video is intended to show the exhibit in an interesting way. There are just enough photos for me to remember the time without sacrificing actually being there behind a camera. Hope you enjoy

video
As you were,
Jay

Monday, August 03, 2009


Venting


I usually don't attend the vent conVENTion in Ft.Mitchell, KY because it happens at the same time of the year as the Bohemian Grove Encampment. Since I wasn't at the Grove this year and really can't discuss the Bohemian Club anyway, here is my essay on "What I did last summer".

If you don't know Vent Haven museum or haven't heard about the ConVENTion held in Ft. Mitchell, KY each year, you probably think ventriloquism is just juggling with your vocal chords.

The short version of a very long story is: William Shakespeare Berger was a businessman who became fascinated by ventriloquism at an early age. His collection of vent figures, letters, and photos of ventriloquists grew to the largest of it's kind and is now a museum open to the public. For more information go to: Vent Haven Museum.

This year I donated some of my memorabilia to Vent Haven including a couple of my early partners, posters, pictures and the actual Spaulding I used on Broadway. I attended the the induction of my display into the museum, which took place convention week, and performed for the attendees as well.

Lisa Sweasy and Jen Dawson, the curators of the museum, did an incredible job of sorting, coordinating, documenting and displaying the "stuff". Above is a picture of me admiring the first Squeaky and Friendly Firefly.

It is a very odd thing to walk around a display of your life's work. There is an odd sense of detachment but "time bomb memories" suck you into a recollection very quickly dispelling neutrality. At one moment the observer becomes the observed and interest turns to embarrassment. There are pictures that graphically point to the realization that I am not 15 years old anymore. Puppets older than my children, and letters I wrote to Mr. Berger 40 year ago. It all seems so heady to be the subject of a museum display, but it is also frightening. The icons of your life seems to objectify your own mortality.

The most heart grabbing piece of the collection is a letter Lisa found in Squeaky's case. It is from my Mom to me talking about the adventure we had creating Squeaky. She placed it there when she sent me the puppet decades ago.

It speaks to all parents who have a "creative" child and the special skills required to keep them motivated, encouraged and out of trouble. If my Mom had not been so incredibly imaginative, creative and artistic; my life would be very different now. If performing was not there to occupy my dyslexic brain it would have surely lead me to a less than satisfactory life. That letter from my Mom touched and encouraged every parent who attended the convention with their child.

Lisa said that maybe the letter was too personal and I would want to take it back. It is personal but what it says is universal. It belongs with that character for all time. Lisa assured me that Mom's letter will be permanently linked to my exhibit. That is a perfect tribute to the real artist in my family.

Jeff Dunham was at the convention. He rarely misses it. I did not try to recruit him for the Bohemian Club so he will probably be free to attend again. The Sunday after the convention he had a show in Louisville a couple hours away. Since I had never seen his arena show I rode with him, his girlfriend Audrey, Brain Haner (guitar guy and opening act) Brian's wife Suzy, Robin the road manager and a little dog named Roady on the tour bus to the Louisville arena.

This is not the venue for a review of Jeff's show. I'm not sure I could give an accurate unbiased account. I am way to close to Jeff and his chosen art form to see the forrest. However, I had a great time watching from the audience with Tom Ladshaw in a roped off VIP section of leather easy chairs brought from the traveling green room of the Dunham road machine.

After the show we had dinner and flew back to Encino on Jeff's plane. It sure beat the two hour lay over in Chicago I was facing flying commercial. Jeff dropped me off at my house since we now live on the same street.

All in all it was a very interesting weekend, very comparable to a weekend at the Grove.... but I still can't talk about that.
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, August 01, 2009

According to the National Board of Numbers, one-hundred out of thirty-four people do not understand statistical data.
Believe it? Why Not?