Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Birthday Thoughts

A poem for those of us  with
Birthday’s Today and
who are manic/depressive bipolars. 



It’s my Birthday, 
Happy Birthday to me,
I am as happy as can be,
A happier man nowhere exists,
I think I’ll go and slash my wrists. 

Just a reminder that depression has no logical reason behind it.  It is neither normal sadness nor confusion. You can’t just “Get over it” if someone tells you too. In today’s world the very President of the United States sows ideas of fear and intolerance into the fabric of everyday life, so depression has a  universal echo chamber.   
Be aware of the signs for depression in yourself and in those you know.  
If they apply to your life, get help from professionals, just like you would if depression was the common cold.  
Enjoy 7/11
As you were,
Jay

Friday, June 29, 2018

Justice Winks



We claim to be a country ruled by law.  The concept of  “rule by law”  means that justice is blind.  This concept is built on the fact that truth is immutable and the truth for one person is the truth for all.  Determining the truth should not be influenced by age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientations and certainly not wealth.  Unfortunately this truth in justice is being parsed out by humans, who are not blind at all but full of opinions and bias. Just as unfortunate is the fact that the easiest influence on a justice system that “peaks” is money.  
When the highest court in the land is staffed by partisan, political hacks who shill for one side or the other makes a mockery of Justice and spits in the eye of truth.  
The concept of Supreme Court judges being appointed for life is the attempt to keep politics and political influence out of the rule of law, each judge has a job for life and will never face election. On the surface it would seem such an independent court could make a decision based upon the Truth, no matter which side their opinion benefited.  
This is not good enough for those who want to exercise control over the vast resources of  the American people.  A control freak is not a gambler, he will only bet on what will be a sure thing.  A control freak is not willing to let any decision be examined by the truth especially when that truth would not benefit said Freak.  So with the use of money and influence (influence is now-a-days a relationship bought and paid for) they populate the courts, not with people who will rule with blind justice, but with judges who will bend laws to help their benefactors.  
Donald Trump is a narcissist. By definition a narcissist is a control freak. This is why he demeans the American Justice system in every way he can.  He is not willing to let the truth rule nor does he want the truth to be known, (he also hates the free press).  He doesn’t understand the rule of law nor due process, he is simply a spoiled child who has always gotten his way.  The rules do not apply to him as he thinks he is above the law.  He will do whatever he wants and will either lie his way out or buy his way out of any transgression he has committed.  
Recently in a rambling,  unintelligent ego rally,  Trump  claimed that the Dems wanted to send 5000 judges to the border to speed up the immigration. Although this is a lie (and the number made up) we are now numb to his inablility to distinguish the truth from his own narcissistic view, that is not the most telling part of his comment.  His statement was this:
“They want 5000 judges on the border. 5000. Can you imagine the kind of CORRUPTION that would cause?”  
Yes, the President of the United States equated more judges with more corruption.  It is the only way he understands the American Judcial system.  His moto, “If you get in trouble... lie about it and if that doesn’t work buy them off.”  
So as there is a rush to fill the Kennedy vacancy on the Supreme Court, not with a neutral judge, nor an impartial judge, but a judge that will make decisions good for the rich, in Trumps words, “For the next 40 years”.   Take the blindfold off the statue of justice and replace her sword with a bank statement.  
Since there is a great possiblility that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide if Donald Trump is above the law, I suggest that any judges that HE appoints recuse themselves from sitting on cases that involve Trumps fate.  That would be the fair thing to do so I doubt it will happen.  Fair is another word for justice and truth, words that don’t mean much to this government. 
As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Advice from Harry Anderson



It is the day of the second line tribute for Harry in New Orleans.  Most of the out -of -towners stayed at the same hotel and I did not know any of Elizabeth’s family except a brother I met the night before.  Needless to say the second line eve was filled with toasts to Harry who’s departure from this world  brought us all together for this event. I mention this to say that because it was the morning after in New Orleans, it was a staggering march to find coffee.
Certainly not the best coffee in New Orleans, but the most convenient, was waiting for us in the lobby of the Hotel. What I remember most about the evening was Elizabeth saying her folks were driving in that morning and she would be getting them settled.  I also remember talking to her brother for a short time.
So as Sandi and I stagger to the lobby there are two men sitting on the couch close to the table with the coffee. One of the men says “Good morning, how are you doing today?”  At first I thought it was the Morgan brother that I met the night before so I answered appropriately.  At the first sip of coffee it comes clear that this is not the brother I met, but thought they might be other members of the clan.  
“Are you guys here for the celebration?” I said as a way of identifying them as family members.  One of the guys answered, “Oh yes, the folks went on some sort of tour this morning, but it was too hot so we came back to the hotel.”  Knowing Elizabeth’s parents were coming in that morning it made sense. We introduced ourselves with first names and there was basic small talk about nothing very specific.  
My friend Turk Pipkin appears in the lobby and goes for coffee.  I introduce the two guys to Turk and say, “Turk and Harry and I were partners in a couple of companies and television shows.”  They were properly impressed as Turk said, “I think Elizabeth is in the restaurant”. The restaurant is what the hotel called a couple of tables off the bar.  So Sandi and I go into the bar/restaurant to find Elizabeth.  
There she was with her folks and other family members, and introductions went around the tables.  Since there was no more seating at this location, Sandi, Turk and Christy and I decide we will find breakfast some place else.  
As we exit through the lobby the two guys I was talking to were standing up getting ready to leave the hotel also.  Still assuming they are brothers and family members I say, “The restaurant is full of Morgans.”  
The more talkative of the two says, “Actually, we are not part of your group, we are here for another reunion and thought you were part of our celebration.”  Now here is where the Harry Anderson advice comes to fruition. 
Instead of just saying, “Well it was nice to meet you.” And moving on,  I decide I could defuse our mutual embarrassment by continuing to talk.  
“Oh my, I thought you were Elizabeths brothers, I thought I saw a family resemblance.”  Here again it would have been wise to end the conversation but being it was a day of celebration for Harry, his admonition kept ringing in my head.  
I say, “I guess it was just your family resemblance... I mean you are brothers right?”
There was a pause and then, “No, we are not brothers... we are actually.... uh... a couple.”  The next thing out of my mouth should have been ‘Have a nice day’ but since the man had struggled to say the word “couple” I wanted him to know that I was perfectly okay with all loving life style choices.  
“I guess it’s like they say, the longer a couple is together the more they start to look alike.”  I say this in the most liberal minded voice I can.  
“We have only been together for about a year.....” was the answer.  I was dragged away by Turk, Christy and Sandi.
Harry’s advice?  
“When you dig a hole for yourself, keep digging, you might find a way out.”  
As you were,
Jay
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Memory

This is a shot of Harry Anderson, Peter Scolari, John Ritter and me.  It was taken on the set of a CBS Television special Harry, Turk and I wrote and produced called “Tricks of His Trade”. There was no way to know then that John and Harry would leave us so quickly after.   I have always loved this photo but now even more. 
Life goes on but not ever in the same way again. Thank God for memories.

Which reminds me of a story that happened just the other day. Sometimes things just happen in the course of going about your business. This is one of those cases where I got to take credit for a funny joke that I didn’t know was... a funny joke.  My friend Harry used to say, “Never assign brilliance to what can explained by  simple stupidity.”  But I have admitted too much already.

Sandi and I were walking the dogs, yes we have two dogs. We got a dog for our dog so she would have a pet.  Mostly Boo sees Izzy (the new dog) as an interloper not a friendly companion.  As we were walking past a pharmacy Sandi said, “I need to get something here.”  Since I was carrying my wallet and Sandi was not carrying hers, I was chosen to go inside and get what she needed as she stayed outside with the dogs.   She said she was out of “Previgen”, which should have been all the information I needed to make the purchase. However, after looking for time enough to find it I had not located the needed Previgen, so I asked a clerk.  She said that although it was not a prescription drug it was only available behind the prescription counter. 

There were two “window” counters where people were being helped. When it was my turn I stepped to the young lady pharmacist and said, “I need some Previgen.”  She repeated, “Previgen?” I said, “Yes, Previgen”.  She looked below the counter and on the shelves at her back, but did not seem to find it. 
“Previgen?” She repeated again.  I answered (again) with the same affirmative. “Yes, Previgen.”  There was more searching and more looking but no product yet.  Finally she said, “What is that for?”  

Well, I wasn’t sure. It was something that Sandi took and I had to think about it for a minute. As I recall my reply went something like this:
“Oh, uh, it’s for.. uh.. let me see...uh... it is for your... memory.... I think”.  The lady getting her prescription at the next window burst out laughing, when I realized how she heard it, rather than laugh at my own unintended joke, I took smug credit.  The girl behind the counter giggled and said, “Oh course, here it is, I think I might need to take it myself.”  

I paid for the Previgen, but in my mind I was taking a bow telling the audience to remember to tip the waitresses and that I would be here all week.
It was a comedic take on the philosophy of Magic by Harry Anderson.  It the unintended works to your advantage always take credit.  Chance is a difficult method to ever figure out. 
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, June 02, 2018

My Friend Robert Mandan

It was with great sadness that I heard  my friend Bob Mandan had passed away.  I don’t have the words to fully express yet another loss of a good friend, so I will just repost a birthday blog I wrote six years ago. Rest peacefully, Mandan.   


I repost this article I wrote about my friend from his birthday in 2012, preceded by this editors note written today.

There are friends, there are people you have worked with and then there is a person like Bob who is both. I recall so many fun times together when we roamed with a group of actor/publicists/writers called the "Terrible 10".  We got that name because we were a terrible table of ten if you were sitting next to us at a restaurant.  We laughed the entire time and were not quiet about it.  If you were looking for a quiet evening's meal we were not the table you wanted to sit close to.
Happy Birthday Mr. Mandan. I cherish your friendship.
Nothing has changed in the way I feel about you since I wrote the blog below.

It's GroundHog Day
On my top ten list of movies "GroundHog" day is near the top.   And here it is in real life, Groundhog day 2012.  But I think the Punxsutawney rodent gets too much attention today.  It is a special day for other reasons.

Robert Mandan, Bob Campbell, Jay Johnson, Jay Sandrich
Opening night of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only"
It is also the birthday of my friend Robert Mandan: "Better Dressed!" 
Only a true SOAPY will get that reference, but it is how I know my friend Mandan. He is better known to some as Chester Tate on SOAP. 

Robert Mandan
I remember when I moved to Los Angeles I was with my  vacationing folks having dinner at the  Toulca Lake Marie Callendars. Although I didn't know his name at the time Robert Mandan was also waiting for a table.  Mandan is one of those actors I had seen in many staring roles. Bob was my first "celebrity siting" in my new home town.  Bob received the ultimate compliment my Father had for working actors when he whispered to me, "That guy has been in a gillion films." Indeed my friend has been in a "gillion" things. Take a look at his IMDB - Robert Mandan. That impressive list is only the film and television roles. There is an even more impressive list of stage productions that Bob has done, including an Ovation Award for "The CareTaker" and a critically acclaimed portrail of "King Lear", not to mention three Broadway shows. 
 I had no clue that soon I would be working with that "guy who has done a gillion films". We became friends almost immediately.  For a time we had the same personal manager, the same publicist and hung out with the same group of television actors.  We were known as the "terrible ten" because of fun we used to have at various Los Angeles restaurants. The members of the social group changed but Bob and I have remained friends all this time. 
Bob and his wife Sherry have been impromptu godparents to both my sons.  My oldest son will say, "How is Mandan?" even today.
Robert Mandan in "Barney Miller"
Chester Tate and Benson
Bob is an actors actor.  He never stops studying and learning how to better deliver his gift. He is funny and smart and yes, as piss elegant as Chester Tate sometimes. If you're lucky a working relationship turns into a real friendship in this town of huge openings and quiet closings. I am grateful to have friends like Bob and Sherry in my life. On a day like GroundHogs day when the talk is about the weather, I will be thinking about my friend Bob Mandan, certainly not a "fair weather friend".  
Note to Mandan: You are not getting older, like wine you are getting more valuable.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandan. We shall celebrate with a bottle of "HOOP DE HAH".

As you were,
Jay
Bob Mandan on "Three's a Crowd"
Bob Mandan on "Star Trek,The Next Generation"

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Good Night Harry



Note: (I wrote this the day after I heard that Harry had passed away.  It has taken me more than a month to feel like I could read it again to correct it and publish it.  I hope this is part of the healing process from grieving.  Mostly it just makes me realize that some things take much longer than 30 days)

Back in the early 80's It is what they called a suite at the Sea Sprite Motel in Hermosa Beach.  Basically it was two adjoining rooms,  one with two beds and the other with a couple of desks and couches.  In that "other" bedroom Harry Anderson and I had two identical Mac Computers... 512 version, the big beige toaster model, and two identical work stations side by side an arms length away. We are writing a show for NBC called “Halloween Night - Live”.  It was a lampoon of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”.  Between the two computers were a couple of glasses, ice, a bottle of Vodka, cold orange juice, a pack of Camel unfiltered cigarettes and a zippo. As we started to write Harry said, “This is great. Let’s get a little smoke filled room going here.”  It fit Harry’s  Dashiell Hammet vision of what a writers room should be, a poorly lit smoke filled beachside motel.
It wasn’t just any motel at the beach, the Sea Sprite was across the street from the Comedy Magic Club.  Harry and I were introduced by Mike Lacey, the owner of the Comedy and Magic Club. That club is and will always be our favorited place to perform.  Harry and I wrote and produced an April Fools show and a Halloween show at that club every year.   Harry figured when we knocked off from writing we were across the street from a great place to eat, drink and see a funny show.  It was a good plan and we took advantage of the legendary Mike Lacey hospitality.
Harry embraced personal computers with a bear hug.  I remember the day he got his first Mac. He bought it for Eric his business manager at the time.  Before  I got to the house to see this new wonder of modern electronics, Harry had already decided to keep it and buy another Mac for Eric.  Harry saw right away that the future of creativity was digital.  Mac had created a visual interface which was more logical and approachable to dyslexics like Harry and me.  Harry knew so much about the Mac,  the Genius Bar at the Apple Store would say Uncle. He was my computer guru.  I got all his hand me down computers.  He went for the newest and the fastest and at the time they were getting newer and faster every 16 months.  So I had the next latest computer every 16 months.  The thing was they came loaded with Harry’s software but absolutely no documentation. No manuals for the operating system nor instructions for the software.  My family will tell you that instructions are the last thing I ever look at for a project. So in an odd way this Anderson approach to this new computer age fit my learning skills to a tee. 
It was prehistorically simple at the Sea Sprite.  To work on the same file we came up with a system.  Harry loved a program called “Think Tank”. It was an early outlining program. So we both had “Think Tank” our Macs, we divided the show in half and worked on our sections independently.  Midway through the day we would exchange discs and I would edit his stuff and Harry would edit mine.  
Harry was an excellent writer. He was an excellent editor.  He encouraged me to write. I am a writer because of Harry.  He always had his shows and his patter written down in script form. He couldn’t believe that my routines were just in my head.
While we were writing this show, most of the times unless I had a better joke or thought I could clarify a scene, Harry’s stuff was really good.  The next time I got my rewrites back it was trimmer, cleaner and well just funnier.  Harry’s take on a scene or story was always well crafted.  
One night after coming back from the Club we were settling in on the separate double beds. They were both more my size than Harry’s.  I don’t know why but one easily forgets how tall Harry Anderson was. 
As we were going to sleep Harry said, “I have to tell you, the Milk Bottle sketch you wrote is one of the best things in the show.  I think it might be the best thing you have written.”  
I said, “Thanks. That means a lot to me,  Good Night Harry.”
Harry does not bull shit.  He will tease and satirize but he will not bull shit.  So if he thinks one of my sketches is good, I knew it wasn’t some obligatory compliment.  I remember sleeping well that night. 
The next morning when the sun was barely up I hear the familiar boing of a Mac 512 being turned on.  This was followed by the distinctive hum of Mac reading a disc, and after that the clicking sound of a Mac keyboard.  Finally the smell of coffee and Camel cigarettes got me up. I stumbled into the already smoke filled room. As my sleepy eyes awoke I focused  on  Harry in his underwear frantically typing on his Mac.  
I said, “What are you working on in the middle of the night?”
He said, “I am rewriting the Milk Bottle Sketch.” 
So began my collaborative association with Harry Anderson.  The last thing we collaborated on we wrote while I was in LA and Harry in Asheville, NC.  We emailed files of Final Draft back and forth.  I was never more creatively challenged than when I was working with Harry.  Harry Anderson made me a better artist, writer and performer.  His premature exit has created an massive hole in many people's lives. Not the least of which is mine. I doubt that I have time to meet another person like Harry in my life.  Perhaps there will never be anyone of his kind again.  
Good night Harry,
Jay

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sometimes a Snake is just a Snake

I am getting ready for my show at the Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas.  (Shameless promotion). I think there are a some tickets left for the June 2nd one night only performance.  If you are near, love to drive or own a private plane please come and see the show.   Here is an easy way to get your ticket.  Uptown Theater.    And now we return you to the blog already in progress.

As I check out all the characters that will be in the show and prep them for travel, I am flooded with a range of emotion.  One of the joyful yet poignant moments came today when I was packing Amigo the Snake.
Amigo is pictured at the 4 o'clock position. 

Amigo is a puppet that my Mom made for me when I was in High School.  It is the oldest puppet that I still use.  My Mom was a genius with a sewing machine.  I have a sewing machine in my office to this day because of the magic I saw my Mom do with such a device.  The line from my show is: 
“My Mom made me this puppet so I could take it with me to High School. She though I might have trouble fitting in.”   That statement is very true.  Although I didn’t always bring a puppet to school Squeaky’s case was too big to fit in my locker.  So Mom made a soft hand puppet Snake that could easily fit into my back pack.  
As I checked out Amigo this morning I remembered the first time that I ever laid eyes on the little guy.  Mom had designed a hand puppet mouth with a long body that wrapped around my arm. The wrap around kept it from looking like just a puppet on my hand and more like I was holding a snake.  She made Amigo out of a pair of dancers tights that had a snake like pattern.  Because they were meant to be worn by a dancer the undertone was a flesh like brown color. It worked great as cartoon snake skin. 
The only problem of design was the end of Amigos tail, the part that hung over my right forearm. Mom had just rounded it off, more like a worm than a snake.  She might have been thinking that the character I had come up with was more worm like than snake like.  But to me it had a way more familiar look.  It looked for the world like a flaccid but still impressive penis.  
So here I am a 15 year old boy holding a puppet trying to tell his Mother that with this design he was not Amigo the Snake, nor Amigo the Worm.  I was trying to be professional and say that the puppet tail needed to come to much more of a point without saying the words: peter, dick, johnson, member, weiner, schlong or trouser lizard. Some how I got the point across and she made the correction.
We lost Mom last October after too many years of being unable to sew magic anymore.  It is just one of the reasons I miss that wonderful and imaginative Mother.  As a testament to her genius a letter from her to me about her thoughts making puppets for me hangs in the Vent Haven Museum.  I did not know the letter was among a puppet donation that I made to that great place.  The curator Lisa Sweasy found it and recognized the importance of her thoughts and talents and framed it with the puppets I had donated.  
My show “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” is in some ways a valentine to my Mom and my mentor Art Seiving.  They both hold a unique place in my heart as teachers, imagineers and personal puppet makers. I am so glad to get to tell their story again on stage.  It will be a very special performance in my home town.  
As you were,
Jay