Wednesday, September 30, 2009

YouTube Of the Week
This is something I would have absolutely done as a kid if there had been three pool tables at the house.

But all I can think of is my Mom saying, "As long as you clean it all up after you are done."

As you were,

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Profiles in Pancakes
I guess the new film "Cloudy with the Chance of Meatballs" got me thinking. That was one of the books Sandi and I read to the kids as they were growing up. I think they requested it several times. My youngest son just turned 23 this week and the days of reading to the boys are as gone as rotary dial phones. As I was waxing nostalgic I remembered a game we used to play at breakfast when the boys were little. It was called "Designer Pancakes."

Saturday morning was always pancake day for the boys. It was a morning when there was time to do a more extensive breakfast preparation without having to rush to school. I am pretty sure the game started the day I made "Mickey Mouse" pancakes. That is a large pancake for the head and two smaller ones above for ears. It was fairly easy and entertaining for a moment.

The next week, Brandon, the oldest, decided that he did not like Mickey Mouse as much as he liked Donald Duck so he requested a Donald Duck pancake. I discovered that if you use a spoon and guide the batter carefully onto the griddle you can create a shape of sorts; certainly enough of a duck profile that would satisfy the request, and so it began "Designer Pancakes"... pancakes by request.

As weeks went on we quickly ran out of easy shapes like balloons and hot dogs so the boys decided to try and top each other with bizarre requests. (The apples do not fall far from the tree) At one point I thought the game should be changed to "stump the cook". Any request would be attempted with what ever success you can achieve as an artist, working in the medium of pancake batter. Some of the more interesting requests were: The solar system, grand canyon, Sherwood Forrest, X men and the state of Texas.

Eventually the game was played with words rather than good pancake art. If the request was "A screaming Tasmanian devil eating a hot fudge sundae" then I would craft a square pancake. I would tell the boys this is the box that the hot fudge sundae was in when it was delivered to the Tasmanian devil. A conversation of this sort would ensue.
"Yeah, but where is the hot fudge sundae?"
"He ate it already." I might say
"But where is the Devil?" the boys would say
"Why should he hang around after he has already eaten the sundae?" I would say.
One time Taylor, the youngest, wanted to me to do a portrait of his face. I created the letter "U" out of batter and said, "Here it is, this is You."

Eventually the contest was judged on the explanation rather than the strange shape pancake. The game/contest was ultimately discontinued because of time restraints. It takes too long to play when there are soccer games to attend, appetite will trump art any day.

After looking back yesterday, it was time to look back a shorter distance today. Don't know where the time went. I thought the kid phase would never end. It did. Then I thought the boys would never get out of the teenage (let's give Dad a lot of shit) phase but it did. Now in perspective the "give him shit" phase probably started with "Stump the cook" and "Designer Pancakes". It did not last very long looking back. Definitely not long enough.

If you have been blessed with kids... don't blink. One, because they grow up that fast... and Two.. because in the length of time it takes you to blink, they have fingered a $20 bill out of you wallet.
As you were,

Monday, September 28, 2009

My Sorted Past
I think you know my feelings about FaceBook. The right wing of the country is worried that we are becoming a socialistic state while FaceBook and MySpace are stealing our souls. We never seem to see the conquest coming because we are always looking in the wrong direction.

However, once in a while there is a picture on FaceBook that is worth seeing. This is a case in point. I publish it here because unless you are my friend on Facebook (or friend of the friend of the friend that put this picture up on FaceBook) you won't see it. I had never seen it before and do not really know who took it. But I remember the time like it was yesterday.

It is the summer of 1970 during the run of a show called "Desert Fiesta". I am the guy in the back with eye glasses and a bottle. The guy who's girlfriend told him the "scarf around the neck look" was sexy. I am wearing blue because that is the color shirt my mentor and boss Charles R. Meeker, Jr. is wearing. He is the older distinguished gentlemen beside me and to the right, pouring the champagne .

I worked in shows for Mr. Meeker for ten years from the time I was 15 til I was 25. Mr. Meeker was a producer, writer, director, speaker and crap shooting business man. He taught me more than I can ever express. Most of what I know about performing came from him and it is so much a part of my DNA, I forget that he is the one who planted it there.

He was unique, tough, eloquent beyond words, interesting, creative, tough (you have to say tough twice because he was Louis B. Mayer on a local level) and very inclusive. If you were part of his show you were part of his family. If he hired you again, you became a favored family member. The fact that we are both holding champagne bottles is of great significance to me.

Mr. Meeker is the one who taught me how to open a bottle of champagne.
"You open it carefully and slowly so it makes the sigh of a lover not the pop of a canon. It is the drink of love not war, Jay."
I was his official champagne bottle opener starting from a time when I was too young to drink it. Thinking back, he probably put me in charge of the champagne specifically because I was too young to drink it. He is probably demonstrating a pouring technique to me in this picture.

The other guy, also in the blue shirt, (we were all sucking up to the Boss) being served by Mr. Meeker is my old room mate, David Wylie. I use the work "old" advisedly. He was older than the rest of us at the time and I believe he remains so to this day. Wylie was one of Mr. Meeker's favorites as well, we I worked together in Meeker shows for several seasons. I remember the summer David Wylie turned 25 years old. We teased him unmercifully for being a quarter of a century old. It was mainly a joke but at the time that seemed to be very mature.

The girl in the picture is a dancer, Cheryl Armstrong. I don't think we were dating at the time but she was a dancer so I know for sure I asked her out. I can't recall the occasion for this party but it was difinitely in Carlsbad, New Mexico. I believe the restaurant was called Mama Batiste's. It served Italian food and obviously stood out from all the Mexican food places in Carlsbad. Mama herself cooked and ran the restaurant. She was about 80 years old. Probably not that old but at the time she seemed ancient to me. The place became the hang out for the kids in the "Desert Fiesta" show.

I remember one afternoon on a day off my girlfriend Vaunie (dancer) and I stopped at Mama Batiste's for dinner. The restaurant had just opened for the day and it was empty. We walked in and sat at our favorite table. No one greeted us nor came around with menus. After 20 minutes I went looking for Mama. I finally found her asleep in the kitchen, her head resting on the counter. I just didn't have the heart to wake her up and make her go to work, so Vaunie and I just left a couple of dollars on the table and split.

Last I heard they turned the Desert Fiesta theatre into some sort of manufacturing operation. There is probably no one in Carlsbad still around who will remember the summer that there was a theatre at the edge of town. Or that 60 college performers invaded the desert community to entertain there. Mr. Meeker passed away in the mid 1970's. I am now older than he was when that picture was taken. (Wylie is WAY older than that now) and none of that seems right. Thank you to whom ever it was that snapped this picture. It's not just a picture to me but a memory capsule I'm glad to recall.
As you were,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The butterfly was named by Dr. Showme D. Cash a famous entomologist and dyslexic. Noticing a never before seen insect flying in the air he remarked to his friend Runyon Hyde, "Look at that, ButterFly." He meant to say, "Look at that Flutter By."
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, September 25, 2009

To Blog or Not to Blog
A friend was at the house yesterday. In the course of conversation, anytime I said something I thought was funny or upsetting he would say, "Do not put that on your blog." It happened enough times I eventually asked if he thought there was a content problem with my blog. He said "You should not be allowed to blog about a show you're in sooner than a week after the event".

I'm pretty sure he was kidding. But it is after all MY blog. It is free and no one is under any obligation to read it. I don't have any sponsors, no advertising, no agenda, I'm just writing what is on my mind. In fact, in the heading you will find a disclaimer as to the condition of that mind. It says: Journalized rants and ramblings from a fragmented ventriloqual mind.
I mostly try to be funny. The funny rule is, If you can't think of something funny, think of something that irritates you and it will probably turn into something funny.

I know when I read back over something days later there are times I step out of bounds and the comedy/ pissed off line gets blurred. The rants about the "evil twins of the London production" could have been soft pedaled. One of those rants ended up being published in Playbill which was certainly not the intended medium. That caused me to scale back a lot and in some ways I'm not sure that was a good thing.

Perhaps there were some harsh words when I commented on the Dunham vs Dummy lawsuit. I took down that post after a heated phone conversation with Dunham. He didn't change the way I feel and, if asked, I will reassert my opinion that the entire lawsuit is an egotistical waste of effort. That being said, I probably could have been more eloquent at the time.

I pinned my friend down to the phrase in the particular blog that seemed to be most recently upsetting.

This is it:
Normally I fly first class/business for anything over a couple of hours. But this is "the theatre" we are talking about and actors are supposed to sacrifice for the love of the stage so the budget is definitely coach.

There was no intent in this paragraph to be insulting nor degrading to "the theater" nor any person running a theatre.... Dr. H. It was intended to point out that having become spoiled to the excess of Corporate Entertaining, my traveling habits have adjusted accordingly. The fact is, the budget for a theatre isn't the same budget as it is for the annual meeting for Mircrosoft. And actors do sacrifice, gladly in most cases, to lessor demands if they love doing theatre. No one loves doing theatre more than me and if anyone assumed I was bitching about theatre, or anyone who runs one, in that blog - well, they are wrong. I was blogging about trying to sketch a pen and ink drawing in the coach sized seat of an airplane. Something irritating that I hoped would become funny. You be the judge.

So there you have it. If you are reading my blog and getting upset... I don't know what to say. You are free to leave a comment.. I read them all.

As you were,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

In the LA Times yesterday there was an Ariel photo of Six Flags over Georgia. The roller coaster was sticking out of water. The area floods caused the Chattahoochee river to overflow and fill part of the theme park. It had special sadness for me because it's where I worked the summer I graduated from High School.

In "The Two and Only" I talk about the summer I did 918 shows, well Six Flags over Gerogia is the place where it happened. To accomplish this feat took working a double schedule. There were 10 shows a day at the Crystal Pistol Music Hall. Yes, Crystal Pistol, we hated that name. When we arrived for rehearsals the name Georgia Music Hall was painted at the top of the grand entrance. Angus Wynn the CEO of Six Flags jokingly said they should call it the Crystal Pistol after a strip joint he frequented in Atlanta. The next day the art department was repainting the name. To this day I think everyone knew he was kidding except the Art Department. A certain "kiss ass" element in the organization thought Angus Wynn was the next Walt Disney and all his ideas were golden. The live show department did not share that opinion.

But back to the schedule. To perform 10 shows a day, every hour on the hour, required two casts. One cast did five the other cast did five. In order to let each cast have a complete day off, one of our work days would be an eight show day. We dropped off the first and last show from the schedule. When a person dropped out after one week from the day show cast, I was asked if I wanted to double cast. Twice the work, but twice the money. The other people in the show would complain about doing a "long day" (eight shows) but for me it was actually short day.

It wasn't the same show which was a help. To change the stage around and do a different show after five was ultimately a boredom saver. I wasn't the only one who did a "double cast" that summer. My friend and "Roomie" David Wylie also worked a double shift. I think that was the only reason I could do it because he had a car and I didn't. I would ride the back roads to work with him in his red VW from Smyrna, where we all lived. There was one time we were stopped by an actual hooded Klansman who shoved a flier into the car inviting us to a public cross burning. At the time Smyrna was home of the Grand Imperial Dragon for the Klan which I assume it a big deal. I still have that flier somewhere in my files. Even then I knew some day my kids would not believe there could be a flier that started out "If you are MUST attend".

Six Flags over Georgia has special memories for me. It was the first summer I lived away from home, and I lived with a bunch of entertainers that I had known from the summer before in Texas. It was sort of a coming of age summer for me, but the "age" was a lot younger in those days. I wouldn't say it was the summer that I grew up. I just worked a lot and got to keep my own schedule. It was mostly innocent and although the vices were probably all there for me to get into, I was in my mid teens and really didn't know where to look for it anyway. Perhaps if Wylie had been a party animal it might have been different, but he wasn't. He was much older... maybe 26 or so and the "father" figure of the group, and since he controlled one of the few vehicles available no one got into very much trouble.

So, I knew Six Flags over Georgia was near the river but never heard of it flooding before. I can't imagine the mess a theme park flood would cause. Hard times have befallen the Theme park business; it is certainly not what it was when I was part of it. Astroworld, where Sandi and I met, is gone completely now. The Six Flags Corp has changed hands dozens of times since I was there. They have had to become more like a carnival of "thrill rides" than the theme attractions they once were. It is a statement on our short attention spans and the need for fast paced adrenaline pumping experiences. There are endless stories of carnivals that fade away. It is just part of the Carnival DNA to move on after a wild ride. I am just fortunate to have taken the ride while it was happening. I wouldn't take for those days. Get the mop Six Flags...
As you were,

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Family Tree!
In his research into my ventriloqual past David "Mr.Spoon Player" Sinkler has found ancestral pictures of ventriloquists who influenced my career. Here is one of the examples he found.
Actually I was influenced by Jimmy only in his later years. After being acquitted of all charges he became Father James who used to hear confessions while drinking a glass of water and reciting Hail Mary's without moving his mouth.
As you were,

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I got Nothin'
When I run out of things to write about.. I turn to my sketch book. This is a digital image that started out life as a picture taken in light that was too low. I'm not even sure where it was taken or who it is, but there was enough of an outline for me to construct my own demon. I love what you can do with photoshop. It could be one of the best art tools ever invented for the computer.

Other than the darkness behind the subject there was nothing to suggest this was the picture of a demon, it just took on its own life. I did similar painting from a picture of a friend shooting pool. That turned into an 18" x 32" canvas of a demon as well.

I'm not sure where my subconscious lies but there must be a lot of Gothic darkness down there some where. Perhaps this is just my way of getting ready for Halloween.

And since I brought it up let's talk about Halloween. It is the best time of year and my favorite holiday with out question. But remember kiddies, Halloween is "Night of the Dead" not "Hallmark Happy." It is a Gothic holiday of horror not an excuse to dress up like a fairy princess.

I'll write when I get a job.

As you were,

Monday, September 21, 2009

Show Biz
Just hours before the Emmy's, when current Hollywood stars gather to congratulate themselves, there was a showbiz gathering of another kind across town. It was Miriam Nelson's Birthday party at the Hillcrest Country Club.

I met Miriam through Sandi. Miriam is a choreographer and dancer who has a biography of film television, specials and just about anything else you can think of. Miriam hired Sandi to dance at the Disneyland "Golden Horseshoe Review" back in the 70's and several years ago hired her to assist in the choreography of the SHARE show, which is a big charity show produced each year. We go to the same church as Miriam, along with a disproportionate number of other dancers, so I have become friends with her too.

It was old Hollywood that was represented at the party. The top dancers and choreographers of their day were there. The former head of Paramount pictures, old movie stars, early television actors and actresses and lots and lots of dancers who have interacted with Miriam over the years. She strides the gap between Hollywood the way it was and how it is now. There was a proportionate number of younger dancers that have become connected to Miraim.

Some attendees did a little dance number with new lyrics to celebrate her day. Her son who is an Academy Award nominated editor put together a video of the clips of her career. People got up and toasted this wonderful lady and her life. When it was her turn she took the microphone she went around the room and told a quick story about everyone at every table at the party which numbered over 150 people. If it was someone's date or significant other whom she didn't know that well, she just mentioned them by name and how glad she was that they were there. Her memory and recall perfectly in tack.

Last week she had a book signing of her new Biography called "My Life Dancing with the Stars". Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews wrote the forward. She is making plans to work and travel as a lecturer and her "one woman show" is about to open in the next few months her in town. She splits her time between LA and New York with her friend Marge Champion.

Miriam is a lady, a wonderful lady with a sparkle in her eye. She has never said a bad word about anyone or anything, her energy is boundless and her love seems to over flow. It is impossible to know her and not love her. She had one of her great-grandchildren with her yesterday. The ten year old is taking dance.

Miriam turned 90 yesterday. If life at 90 can be this full and this exciting... sign me up for Ballet Class tomorrow. Dancers seem to know how to express life to the fullest.

Here is to all the lovely dancers in my life. I was lucky enough to fall into their world and fortunate enough to stay.

As you were,

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The odds on a buttered piece of bread landing butter side down on a carpeted floor are directly proportional to the price paid for the carpeting.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, September 18, 2009

I am "written out" by the end of this week. I'm working on two writing projects and about to get involved in a third. So... this blog is really short. A big thank you, Philip, not just for the artistic compliment and well written comment about the internet "mask," but for Artzybasheff. Boris Artzybasheff was not on my radar screen until you mentioned him in your comment. I Googled him immediately and found a treasure. I may have seen an illustration or two of his, but didn't take note of the artist or know there was so much more.

Don't know how I missed this work. Gorey may have to share space in my adoration chamber.
I appreciate it.

As you were,

Thursday, September 17, 2009

National Rudeness
There was and article in the LA times a few days ago talking about the national rudeness that seems to be pervasive right now. Congressmen yelling out, celebrities grabbing microphones at awards shows and tennis players over the top all seem to be symptoms of a bigger problem.

Recently I had a comment on a YouTube video that I made several years ago. It was some of my artwork set to music. The comment said, "Is there a copy of this song out there without your shitty artwork attached?" It bothered me that someone would take a shot like that. If the question was... "Where can I find that song?" I would have answered in a different way.

As an artist I wrote back and said at least I had the balls to put my artwork on line for people to see. I suggested that the writer put his artwork on line so I could "evaluate it" in the same sensitive manner. He fired back that he could certainly do a lot better than the f---- stuff I draw. I said, "Do it. I will give you my opinion and try to be more civil in my comments". He wrote back saying that his artwork was good not like my shit. But he did not share any examples.

I finally had enough of the insults took a shot at him. I told him that I thought his arrogance was only exceeded by his ignorance, I berated his unsupported ego with some very tough statements. I hit him like he was a heckler at one of my comedy club gigs. I decided this jerk deserved no mercy or civility. We exchanged jabs back and forth but it was obvious I was getting the upper hand. (Years of experience from drunks yelling at me on stage... and after all, Bob's personality is hidden somewhere in that id.)

Evidently I hit a nerve. He wrote back with a very hurtful tone, he was less sure of himself. Knowing this feeling from handling hecklers, I had him on the ropes. Sensing blood I went for the kill and hit him again with some very harsh words. I was now pissed off and got in his face with a pro's slam dunk.

During the next exchange his words were very different, there was a sudden honesty where there had been only harshness. He became timid and his over blown self esteem was gone. Then he mentioned his age, he said he was 12 years old. The color ran out of my face. Twelve years old??... I picked a fight with a kid and used all of my years of fighting drunken adults from stage to flatten him. I wanted to apologize but decided instead to break off this massive YouTube comment exchange just to reflect on what I had done.

Here is my point. In this modern age of digital obscurity we can lash out, be rude, and vulgar safely hidden behind a keyboard. That "freedom of expression" seems to be bleeding over into our collective behavior of social intercourse as it becomes a normal part of our communication. Digital bullies are still bullies but there is less likely hood of getting your teeth kicked in if a video screen is separating you. Sometimes we need to get our teeth rattled to know that our words have hurtful consequences.

Last week one of the school kids asked President Obama what he should do if he wanted to become President. Mr. Obama said, "Be careful what you put on FaceBook".

As you were,

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Stage Crash
It always takes me a while to readjust after being away from home for work. There is a natural readjustment of not doing a show every night, but free falling back into the routine of life at home is also an orbit change.

Sandi and I have an unspoken rule called, "First day back". That means I get a pass for the first day back. I am forgiven the transgressions of treating our bedroom like a hotel for 24 hours. Perhaps I should lobby for an extra day. I am missing the Cape Playhouse more than I thought I would.

While I was away a friend asked Sandi how I was doing at the Cape. She said, "he is performing and the theatre is haunted... he is having a ball. " What can I say, after decades of dealing with me... the lady knows.

I like to get to a theatre two hours ahead of my show. That is usually when the crew is called in and the theatre begins to reset for the show. I slowly get the "guys" ready, set my props on stage and then start to paint on the makeup and adjust my microphone. The makeup and microphone process goes much faster than it used to. Especially setting the microphone.

I remember the first time David Gotwald (our wonderful Broadway sound designer) hid a tiny microphone in my hair at the WestSide theatre. The wire has to be threaded around the back of my head with wig clips, taped to the back of my neck and run under the back of my shirt to a the double transmitter attached to an elastic belt. It was uncomfortable and pulled my hair out every time I moved my head. I never thought I would get used to wearing it on stage. I developed a bald spot on the top of my neck at the Atlantic Theatre where the clips grabed my hair.

After the hair grew back I decided to find a better way. I started putting on the microphone myself and have been doing it ever since. Only I know if it is comfortable so I'm the only one that can really do it. I forget that it is there anymore.

It used to take me fifteen minutes but I have it down to five or so now. Most actors don't do it at all. They let the sound department and hair and makeup do it. It has become second nature to me and Steve (the sound man a the Cape Playhouse) complimented me on my skills. Theatre is the mother of so many skills.

All that to say that about five o'clock today I will start to prepare for a show that I won't do. There will be no half your call, no places and I won't get to hear that music that starts the show. It will take me a little time to realize that it is not happening tonight.

I would do this show every night for the rest of my life if I could. I love to tell the story, I love to work with the guys on a real stage. I'm hooked... have been since I was 11 years old.

As you were,

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Gorey Trip
I don't know what you say to someone who does not know the artist Edward Gorey. He was an artist/illustrator and writer who's work can only be described as distinct, somewhat twisted and odd. His medium of choice was pen and ink which makes him one of my heroes. What he can accomplish with those simple tools is remarkable. It is certainly something I aspire to every time I pick up a pen.

Google some of his work and you are sure to recognize it from the animated opening of PBS "Mystery" or from the many books he wrote. He was very Gothic and Victorian in his illustrations. He illustrated women in evening gowns and men in white tie tails and long Edwardian coats. He was the perfect art director (sets and costumes) for the stage production of "Dracula" which opened at the Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway in 1977 for which he won the Tony. I saw that show and although Frank Langella, at the time, was a very hunky Dracula, the costars of the show were the black and white sets and unique costumes of Edward Gorey.

So it was no small discovery for me to find out that Edward Gorey lived and spent his last years in Yarmouth Port, about thirty minutes from the Cape Playhouse. He was a subscriber and at one time board member of the theatre and he attended often. He died in 2000 and his house now holds memorabilia and his art in a celebration of his unique gift. I couldn't stay long enough. One like myself starts to obsess over small details, to the exclusion of all else and it cries for another trip to obsess on other things in the house.

As I looked around it became obvious to me that he drew the things around him. For example the skull that sits on his breakfast table in the picture. (the skull has glasses but you can't really see that in the picture.) The Victorian architecture and well dressed Edwardian people in his work could actually be the houses and folks of Cape Cod. He put himself into lots of his drawings, I'll bet there are a lot of other Cape Codders there as well.

So naturally the muse of the ink pen came back to me after that visit, just as I was starting on my hellish trip to LA. It sort of seemed Goreyesque at times, but even that fantasy was not enough to make up for twelve hours sitting and waiting to arrive in Los Angeles. I have included one of the drawings I did during that trip. I think it speaks for itself, no complicated subtext need be given.

I bought a couple of his drawings while I was there and I have been studying them with a magnifying glass. The truth is probably in there some where and I plan to find the secret.

Here is to the artists who inspire us. May they always have a place to be seen and admired, observed and devoured.
As you were,

Monday, September 14, 2009

Closing the Theatre
My show was the last of the season for the Cape Playhouse. They not only struck my set at the end of the show, they took every light and every curtain down and winterized the building. One forgets what a magical place a theatre is. When the sets, curtains and lights are gone it could be just a normal drafty old building. There is no hint that this is such an artistic shrine. With all the sets and drapes gone from the Cape Playhouse stage you can see the posters that plaster the walls from deck to fly space. The sheer number is impressive enough, but when you read the names of the people who have acted at this playhouse it really is humbling. Humbling or uplifting to know that you somehow shared the stage with some of the greatest actors in the business. I am glad that my show is now a part of that history.

The last show was as much fun as the rest. It was a very enthusiastic audience and I milked it for the crew. I did some stuff they hadn't heard before and teased Evans Haile the artistic director un-mercifully. I have this belief on a closing night at a theatre that I really love: If you keep going and never leave the stage you never have to close.

The two weeks of the Cape Playhouse run flew by and even now I can't believe that I am back home. However, the trip to get here seems like it took much more than two weeks. I wouldn't say it was the travel day from hell, I have had worse, but it was enough to make me remember why I hate flying. And, although I used to travel United a lot, they are off my favorite list. I just find the employees less than friendly. The last few times that I have had to "find a deal" to fly it has been on United. They are just above the rude line, and provide only enough service to keep from becoming a "coin operated" vending machine airline.

The drive from the Cape to Boston, Logan airport is about 2 hours. The drive put me two hours early for my flight. Turned out it was delayed by a medical emergency and was two hours late getting to Boston. Turns out that I spent 6 hours waiting for my 6 hour flight.

Normally I fly first class/business for anything over a couple of hours. But this is "the theatre" we are talking about and actors are supposed to sacrifice for the love of the stage so the budget is definitely coach. Since most of the actors for the Cape are New Yorkers, an LA destination is a lot more challenging.

I found out on this trip that the habits I have developed over the years to keep my sanity when flying are near impossible in coach. (I am not talking about the bloody mary's that flow in the front cabin) I am talking about the sheer space. I like to draw on a plane. I remember during one plane ride a guy tapped me on the shoulder and said... "You are the guy who draws... I remember flying with you once before... I recognized your tablet."

Pen and ink on paper can sometimes keep me going for hours. I always try to have a pad with lots of blank paper and several pens in hopes that the muse will be with me on a long trip. Well, this time the muse was there, the pens were ready, the paper was available, but between the person next to me severely encroaching on my arm rest space, and the lady in front of me leaning her seat back, I felt like I was trying to do yoga in a phone booth. I did have an aisle seat but every time I found a little room for my drawing posture, the cart would come by and knock my elbow out of joint. It became a very, very, very long flight and even longer day to get back home. I wish the run would have seemed that long.

My drawing muse was really active in impossible conditions because on Saturday, I went to Edward Gorey's house. I did not realize that I had been staying about 20 minutes from his house in Yarmouth Port. They have turned his house into a museum of his work. I am such a fan and follower of his work it was an amazing place. That will be the subject of a future blog.

For now I am glad to be home, sad not to have a show to do tonight. Really depressed that I don't get to visit the ghosts of the Playhouse for a long time. That feeling of longing to be back there at the theatre... well, it is the drug that makes us fly coach for 6 hours with no room to draw.
As you were,

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A cartoon character will remain suspended in mid air after running off a shear drop such as on a cliff or tall building until the moment he
looks down and realized he is suspended.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sept. 11

I guess 9/11 emotions trump most any others. As the years go by I always feel blessed when this anniversary comes around again.

I've written in the blog about it before but I was booked on American Flight 11 that morning in 2001. Due to a last minute change of my show schedule I wasn't traveling when the flight hit the tower.

Back at the Theatre.....

I am happy to report from the Playhouse that I have made peace with the ghost of the Bishop of Broadway. So far there have been no more noises under the stage unless I make them. However, one very odd discovery was made by Steve the sound guy.

Around the same area as the noise under the stage the staff kept hearing an electronic beeping noise coming from the audience. It sounded like a cell phone or smoke detector when it is getting low on batteries. It was baffling everyone. At one point they even accused me of making the noise ventriloqually as a practical joke.

Steve crawled around under the bench seats and eventually discovered a small Brookstone electronic device purposefully secured there. No one is sure what the device does other than beep every 45 seconds. Steve was going to look it up in the Brookstone catalog to see if he could figure it out. Very odd, it does not appear to have been left there by accident, but purposefully placed there.

The "matinee of the living dead" turned out to be one of the best audiences we have had so far. I walked off stage and told Ginger the PSM. "We kicked that audience's ass" she said "Yes, you killed the audience of the living dead". Evans told me later that St Peter called and was pissed that he did not receive his usual quota at the Pearly Gates for the afternoon.

Time is growing short for me here. I will miss the kids at the theatre, the ghosts, the fabulous audiences, the beautiful grounds and all this history. What a great run this has been.
As you were,

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Blog on the Run
The internet wifi at the house where we are staying is really unreliable. There is a signal that won't connect with internet sometimes. Other times there is no detectable signal and yet you can surf the net. The cell phone suffers from the same sort of spotty connection. To skype with Brandon in Germany I had to stand in some bushes at the edge of the lawn near Corporation Road. I found the signal by using my computer like a Geiger counter letting it lead me to the signal that was the strongest.

At any rate I have found a better alternative, The Cape Mercantile. It is just a few blocks from the house and has great coffee, pastries and a very strong wifi connection. It is the Mayberry version of Starbucks, or maybe Floyd the Barber's place if haircuts and bagels went together better. Here my internet is limited only by the amount of coffee I can consume and battery life.

Jim, who runs the Mercantile with his daughters is a great guy. The second time I came in he knew my name. He knows everybody's name. I can understand that he would know the locals who hang out here, but us gypsy show folk are here and gone pretty fast. I have been going to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf about the same distance from my house in Encino for several years. There are only a couple of the barristers who know my name.

The warm and inclusive feeling you get here at the Mercantile is very much in contrast to the Donut place that invited Nicki, Jeff and I to leave a few days ago. In fact Jim told me that The Merch is only closed four days a year. I have talked him into coming to my show this evening. I hope he will feel as welcome on my turf as I do on his.

Odd reaction
At the top of my show we play an announcement by Maurice LaMarche that says, in a humorous way, all the voices in the show are “performed live as you hear them using the art of ventriloquism.” Moments after, I come on stage and do a distant voice that seems to be coming from a bottle. As I was performing this illusion tonight Murphy and Paul were sitting in the back of the house. They heard an old man turn to his wife and say, “He’s doing that.” As P.T. Barnum said, “You will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Wednesday we did a matinee and an evening performance. Thursday we will repeat that schedule. I have never done this show when the four shows in two days came in the middle of the week. I am used to doing the double days at the end of the week so you have a day off to recover. With this schedule I will do four shows and two days and then have to finish out the week. It will be a stretch for me but I am having such a good time that I am sure it won’t matter. I really hate to leave. We are coasting fast on the down hill side of this run and I am already sad.

We have received a standing ovation for every show that we have done here. Evans says that it is a record. No show this year has consistently received a standing ovation for every show. I don’t know exactly what it is but this show is really hitting home with the people here in on the Cape. All I know is, I wish I could afford to do this show all the time, and all over. I love telling this story. Unfortunately "theatre" has never been the high paying end of show business, and this is not the kind of show that would play well in an arena where you could make the most money. We're a "special show", we take the short bus to school.

Since every show plays two weeks at the Playhouse the crew has named every audience. Over the season they have developed opinions about them. They impart that knowledge to me on a need to know basis. I try to weasel it out of them any way I can. Here is what I have found out so far. The second Tuesday is "good". The Friday audience is not as "energetic" as the Saturday. First Wednesday matinee is "small but mighty". So far I would agree with their assessment after the fact. Well, they have dubbed the Thursday matinee "audience of the living dead". That would be the audience I will be facing in a matter of hours. The good thing about a dull matinee is the chance to do it again that night to a better, hopefully, group of people.
I'm getting low on batteries. I'll try to find a signal tomorrow.
As you were,

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Forgotten Ghost
At the Cape Playhouse there are two star dressing rooms on the main floor either side of the stage. I occupy both for The Two and Only. One is where I dress and relax and the other is where the “boys” (which is what we call my wooden co-stars) spend their time when they are not on stage performing. Because my entrance is stage left I dress in the stage left room. That is Gertrude Lawrence’s dressing room; her pictures are displayed all around. The boys occupy the room that is adorned with pictures of David Belasco.

I have been very reverent to Gertie, bidding her good day and good bye every time I enter and leave the theatre. She is the ghostly presence that seems to dominate the space. The ghost light I have previously written about is decorated with parts of her old costumes. However, until now I have not been as reverent to Mr. Belasco. That has changed as of tonight.

There is a noise that has been coming from under the stage left section of the deck, which has affected the performance and bothered people sitting down front. Evans says it has happened during other shows but rarely more than one performance during a two week run. It has happened during my show four times now.

I realized tonight that it is the ghost of David Belasco who is jealous of the attention I have been giving to Gertie. In fact I have been ignoring him all together until now and he is disrupting my show to express his displeasure. After the show tonight I had a talk with him and admitted my error. I am including a snap shot of David’s picture that hangs on the wall in the room. You can tell from this snap shot that this is not a man who should be taken lightly. I believe the noise is his way of getting equal specter respect.

So here is what you should know about David Belasco. He was born in San Francisco. He worked his way up from script copy boy to writer, producer and director of many productions. He became known as the “bishop of Broadway” because he loved to dress in dramatic black outfits. Today he would probably be known as a “goth”. He brought new lighting techniques to the theatre, and is credited with the creation of some stage craft we take for granted today. He was a detailed director who would make notes for props down to the smallest of items in his scripts. He lit the dressing rooms of his stars with the same lighting that was on stage so the actors could see how their makeup would read. He was married for 50 years to the same lady, but was known to have almost invented the “casting couch” as a way of hiring actresses. He built and designed several theatres in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and a there is theatre named after him in New York to this day. He died at the age or 77, which is the double digit of my lucky number.

The Cape Playhouse is all about tradition and legacy. David Belasco needs to be remembered by every actor who dares to perform on that stage. I momentarily forgot to acknowledge him. We all stand on the shoulders of every artist that every stood upon a stage. There may not be time to write about all of them, but David Belasco needs to be remembered for his invaluable contributions. Thanks David, now can you cut the noise from stage left so my audiences can hear the show.
As you were,

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Nicki and Jeff came to see the show over the week end. Nicki is my niece and Jeff is her husband. They are the production coordinator and production supervisor respectively for a movie shooting in Boston. They are really good at their jobs and rub shoulders with some of the best actors and film makers in the business. I know some day I will be working for Nicki and Jeff as they will own Hollywood. Their kind of talent and gift can't be stopped.

We were having coffee and donuts at a local hang yesterday and took a table at the back. We were catching up and not really concerned about the time. They have really good show biz stories and I love stories. The doughnut shop suddenly filled up with a half dozen locals who took positions at the counter. They seemed to be regulars. It suddenly went from a sleepy little establishment a lively one.

At some point an old man caught Nicki's attention. With a crisp New England accent he said "The place is closed." We weren't sure what he said so Nicki asked him to repeat. "They're closed and as soon as you all get out of here the owner is going to take us to lunch." Every eye in the place was on us as we realized we were the only guests not invited. It was as if we had suddenly walked into the wrong western saloon. It is the first time any of us has been 86ed from a Doughnut shop.

It wasn't particularly rude, just odd. It is usually the owner of an establishment who will say, "Anything else for you today, because we are about to close." Normally you're not thrown out by aging patrons. Lesson to learn: never stand in the way of a New England senior citizen when he is ready for lunch.

When Lisa Sweasy was here she joked that all she had to do was say a noun and I had a story for that word, which reminds me of a story about the origin of the term, 86 ed. It means to get thrown out or invited to leave, usually from a bar. I understand that it was a good fellow's term meaning to drive a person 8 miles out of town and bury them 6 feet under. Shut up Lisa.

As you were,


Monday, September 07, 2009

Correction For Mr. Bergen
I am not sure how many times I have done "The Two and Only" now but quite a few. At one point in the show I say that Edgar Bergen was on the radio for 13 years. It has been a line in the show from the very beginning, and it is wrong. Bergen was on the radio for 19 years. The problem with my math stems from the fact that he was on two different networks and had two different sponsors. I was only counting the Chase and Sanborn show on NBC that ran for 13 years. Mr. Bergen had another run of 6 years on CBS with Coca Cola as the sponsor. By any standards the career of Edgar Bergen was amazing.

It was Lisa Sweasy and Annie Roberts (pictured above)who corrected the error in my show. They are both former curators of Vent Haven Museum and experts on the facts and figures. (Figures is a definite pun that only a true ventrogeek will get). Lisa and Annie made a special trip to Dennis to see my show Saturday night at the Cape Playhouse. They weren't sure exactly how many years Bergen was on the radio but 13 just didn't sound like enough, and they were right. When we googled Mr. Bergen we discovered where I had gone wrong.

This is my shout out to Lisa and Annie for making the trip to see the show and for the wonderful Labor Day picnic we shared at the "star house". Who knew that Paul Kreppel is not only a great actor and director but excellent charcoal grill master.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes. "Time spent in laughter is time spent with the Gods".
It was a "heavenly" day off. Thank you my friends.
As you were,

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Saturday, September 5, 2009
Aquarius – 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.

Pisces –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.

- 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.

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 – 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.

– 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?

Leo – Your visions are coming together and the future you saw 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 un happy.

Virgo – 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.

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 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.

Sagittarius – 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.

Capricorn –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.

Friday, September 04, 2009

More Ghost Stuff
This is a picture of the "Ghost light" on the set of my show at the Cape Playhouse. A ghost light is the work light that stays on after everyone has left the theatre for the night. Some nonbelievers will tell you that it is a safety issue to light the stage when the show is over. However, the tradition was born more of superstition than safety.

Providing a safety light on stage when the theatre is closed and the stage is empty seems a little odd to me. Most believe that the ghost light is used to keep the ghosts of the theatre happy so that mischief does not ensue. Neither reason seems to be logical in the truest sense. However, almost every legitimate theatre has some sort of ghost light shining all night on stage.

The ghost light for the Cape Playhouse is draped with the fox shawl worn by Gertrude Lawrence in several of her performances here. There is no doubt that as far as the staff of this theatre goes, Gertie is the specter that must be appeased.

I was told that if she was pleased she would make herself known. Since I share her dressing room I always greet her first thing in the evening and when I leave at night. During the performances I was closing my door (or her door as the case may be). I wondered last night if maybe she preferred that the door be left open. As I left for stage I opened it half way and said, "I'm not sure if you want this open or closed, Gertie." When I returned to the dressing room, after the show, the door was opened all the way. As I walked in there was the distinct smell of perfume. I asked Chelsey the wardrobe girl if she had come into my dressing room during the show. She had actually gone to watch the show from the audience. I asked what kind of perfume she was wearing and she said she wasn't. Recounting the story to Evans, the artistic director, he said that indeed there were occasional hints of Gertrude's perfume wafting through areas of the theater when she wanted to be noticed. I guess she wants the door open... open it is. Her theatre, her rules... I'm just a visiting thespian.
As you were,

Thursday, September 03, 2009

We interupt this program....
This is the first blog I have taken down since I started blogging. I think my personal opinion was used in a way not intended. Perhaps in my attempt to be honest I was hasty. Perhaps I am more comfortable writing about ghosts than law suits. My distaste for lawyers and the division they create between people still holds.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

No Pictures Please
I have my flip movie camera with me and I am taking pictures. The video will really show how charming and perfectly ripe the Cape Playhouse is for haunting. I will post it when I shoot some more and have a chance to edit it.

In the mean time I wanted to take a still picture of the Gertrude Lawrence signature that fluttered from the rafters. This is as clear and as close as I could get. When I tried to take a close up of the actual signature the camera wouldn't focus. I must have tried 10 times with ever setting my camera has but it would not come out clear enough to read. Sandi finally said, "It is obvious that she doesn't want you to take that picture." Fair enough, this is the closest clearest one. You can make out the outline of the corner of the paper and read the story, but the signature is difficult.

Sinkler, my informational guru on most things especially theatrical, told me that Miss Lawrence was married to the Richard Aldrich who served as artistic director of the Cape Playhouse for several years, so she has more reason to possesses it than most. I was informed by my friend and director Jay Sandrich that Gertrude Lawrence was known to be a party girl and for Sandi to watch out. Would that be the definition of a "ghastly affair?"

Betty Davis built a cottage on the Playhouse grounds for her Mother years ago. It still stands and is used as offices and support for the theatre. This whole arts campus is teaming with history. And the best part is that tonight I get to do another show at the Playhouse. Never did a word fit a building more than Playhouse fits this structure.

As you were,

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Opening Night Cape Playhouse
They tell me that the Cape Playhouse has not changed in the 83 years it has been open except for air conditioning and seat cushions. All that energy from all those performances and celebrities has been preserved in some psychic way. It is impossible not to love this theatre. The picture is me standing in front of the Theatre doing my impression of the spread Eagle logo.

There is nothing fancy about this theatre. It retains that colonial all American craftsman feel. But it is perhaps the greatest theatre an artist could perform in. All wood from the walls to the church pew seats. Some one long ago decided to not to paint the wood inside but leave it stained. It is like playing Disney Hall, the wood is alive and the sound has a patina that can't be really described.

It is a beautiful 100 yard walk from the house to the theatre across a shaded field. On the way to half hour for opening night, I found some wild blue hydrangeas and picked them for the dressing room. The staff refers to the Lawrence ghost as Gertie. I'm not sure I have been there long enough to be that familiar. But there is no doubt that she still runs the show.

The audience was electrified from the opening announcements. They were smart and very demonstrative. I think every line that is supposed to get a laugh, got one. At the end they literally leap to their feet. I have rarely seen such a spontaneous reaction from a crowd. Since each show for the season plays two weeks everyone has "their" day to attend. I have heard people say, "My day is the second Tuesday" Or "I come the first Friday". So the "opening nighters" are mostly the same people.

The regulars told me that it is not a normal occurrence for the first Monday, opening night, audience to award standing ovations. In fact they rarely see it happen. Rare or not it is still one of the great feelings for any performer. On this night and in this theatre it was especially exciting.

The sun finally came out yesterday after two days of drizzling and pounding rain. Cape Cod is really green and beautiful. This may indeed be show biz heaven. I am loving every minute of it. I hope time can slow down just a little so this whole experience will last longer. I am taking movies as well and hope to post a compilation in a few days. More later.

As you were,