Wednesday, March 22, 2017

You Stole my cart...


As I was walking Boo, or rather as Boo was walking me, we got to the corner of Ventura and Woodley this afternoon.   As we passed by Encino Plaza a mini mall at the corner, a lady almost ran into me and Boo and  said, "Where is my cart?"  She seemed a little panicked and concerned. I said, "I haven't seen any carts, Ma'm" and continued my journey. That did not seem to be the correct response on my part. She ran across the street to the entrance of an office building garage and started yelling at the attendants... "YOU Stole my cart." I could still hear her screaming as I got to the traffic signal to cross a busy Ventura Blvd.  

I happen to be standing next to a very well dressed man who obviously worked in one of the buildings near.  I was just waiting for the light to change as he was also doing when the lady made her way to the corner where we were standing.  She stepped off the curb and faced the two of us.  She backed into traffic as she confronted us. 
She looked at the man next to me and said, "YOU, you stole my cart."  He had the good sense not to answer. She looked at me and screamed "YOU, you also stole my cart where is it." I followed the business man's lead and remainded silent.  She continued,
"You both stole my cart where is it? Where is it you thieving bastards? You murdering sumbags what did you do with my cart." A car has to swerve to avoid hitting her and honks. She throws the car a finger and continues to berate the both of us.  "I know who you are.... both of you... you kill you cheat you steal... you bastards are all alike. You stole my cart." 
The signal finally says walk and we cross the busy boulevard.  I am afraid she will follow us but she stays on her side of the street continuing to yell obscenities our way.  
"You thieving bastards.. They stole my cart.  Those two guys stole my cart. Murderers.. Murderers... cart stealing  bastards both of them." She ran back into one of the business of Encino Place as if to make a full report.
We safely got across the street and continued in different directions. Before we parted we make eye contact and I said, "Okay. What did you do with the cart." 
He didn't miss a beat
He said, "Behind the Coffee Bean. We'll meet up later and split up the goods."  Then he brushed his nose with his finger in a very deliberate way.  I immediately knew this as the "con-man's signal" from the movie "The Sting".  I laughed and returned the nose signal.  He laughed and we parted ways.  I love someone who will go with the situation and Improv an ending.  I will probably never see that guy again, and hopefully I will never encounter the cart lady again either.  Just one more scene in the continuous drama of life proving that "The World is a Stage". 


As you were,
Jay

Monday, March 20, 2017

How I found time for Happiness in Trumpland...

From the Jay Johnson Mickey Mouse Watch Collection
I remember it was an ad in the Houston Chronicle in the late 1960's. I was living in Houston at the time working at Astroworld. The Advertisement was from Neiman-Marcus located in the Galleria and it was a full page.  They announced sale of "Imported" Mickey Mouse Wrist Watches ... imported from Disneyland for a limited time.  The only place you could get this watch was Disneyland, and now for a short time Neiman- Marcus.

I wasn't looking for a new watch.  I wasn't a customer of Neiman-Marcus, I have never seen an ad like that before or since. But, I had to have one of those watches before they were all gone.  The ad said limited time. I assumed a limited number of watches.

I drove to Galleria immediately, and made my way to the watch counter.  Neiman -Marcus hires only top notch salespeople and this guy tried to interest me in a more "mature" watch, but my mind was set.  It was the first watch I ever bought for myself and it replaced a Christmas gift watch my parents gave me 10 years earlier.

I loved this new Mickey Mouse watch. I wore it out after replacing three crystals, and having several major repairs.  Each jeweler who repaired it over the years said the same thing, "The repair will probably cost more than a new watch..." I didn't care.  The minute by minute show that Mickey performed on my wrist daily was worth any price to me.

Wrist watches in the 70's and 80's were fashion statements, and status symbols.  While my television friends displayed new Cartier's or Rolexes, I continued to sport Mickey.  I was known for wearing that watch; it was my personal statement.  I even wrote a ventriloquist act around a "talking Mickey Mouse watch" and performed it on stage over the years. When asked why I wore a Mickey Mouse watch I would always say.. "It puts my daily life in perspective... running late for an important meeting.... you glance a Mickey and when he tells you the time... nothing seems to be so serious." Years later I was completely vindicated when Dan Brown wrote his best selling novel, the Da Vinci Code. His hero Robert Langdon the Harvard professor, wore a Mickey Mouse wrist watch.  I was way ahead of that fashion curve.

After Sandi and I settled in Southern California I discovered that the Clock Shop at Disneyland always had the latest model of Mickey Mouse Watch for sale. It was easy to find a cheap kids version of the Mickey Watch, but the Clock Shop at Disneyland had good watches that happened to have a Mickey on the Face.  Visiting the park over the years I gathered a big collection of Mickey Mouse wrist watches and I still have them.

Sandi would often gift me with more "age appropriate watches", as she put it, in keeping with the style and level of my showbiz career at the time.  Once while on tour with Julie Andrews, she gave me an expensive watch engraved with "Love Julie" on the back. I would wear it to "functions" on occasion when we had to dress formally, but I was never as comfortable nor happy if I wasn't relying on Mickey to tell me the time of day.  Eventually I bought a very expensive 14k gold Mickey Mouse watch from the Clock Shop at Disneyland. It was a  themed out "gold watch" they used to give retiring executives of the Disney corporation.  As a regular customer at the Disneyland Clock shop, I was able to talk the shop keeper into selling me the display model.  As the price of gold began to sore through the years I could only wear the watch to extra special occasions.

So eventually cell phones began to dominate our culture.  No need for a wrist watch you had to manually change for each time zone, and replace a battery at the worst possible time.  The cell phone kept perfect time.  Eventually the battery ran down on my Mickey and by the time I got around to replacing it, I was used to digging in my pocket for my phone to get the current time of day. A wrist watch was one less thing to put on in the morning so... eventually I quit wearing a watch at all. This would be a horrible decision looking back on it.

So now here we are in March of 2017.  We have a complete idiot for President who daily makes news with one statement after the next which turns my blood to acid.  His mere presence in the oval office offends my Patriotism and depresses my entire countenance of good feelings.  Unfortunately he is not going away soon enough for me. He is not getting better, and since I can only be responsible for myself, I have to ignore the orange faced fascist.  This becomes harder to do than I thought.

I have given up watching the news.  I have purged my Facebook friends of those who might be inclined to normalize him or god forbid like him.  I try to avoid speaking his name or engaging in any discussions of his existence.  Unfortunately his kind of "stupid" seems to be epidemic and is infecting everything.

Here is how it happens.  I think to myself "What time is it anyway?" I am currently not wearing a watch, so,  I reach for my iPhone and hit the button. At the same moment I see the time, there, on the same screen, is a push notice, or flash announcement of some ignorant Tweet or other news worthy obnoxious action by the President. My blood boils, my eyes narrow, my teeth begin to sharpen and I'm livid that he is still alive in the White house.  It is not healthy, and all because I wondered what time it was.

Recently I saw one of my favorite Mickey's in a drawer.  I wondered if it still worked so I took it to my watch repair guy at the Fashion Square.  All it needed was a battery.  I placed Mickey back on my wrist and have had a much better attitude toward life in Trumpland since.  Now if I want to know what time it is I look to where Mickey is pointing;  no hint of POS 45 nor any of his lunacy.  Mickey, who four times a day spreads his arms out wide to say, "I love you this much"  Four more times a day, At ten minutes till 2:00 and ten minutes after 10:00 he shrugs a WTF pose and at 6:30 he plays with himself.  I feel like a kid again.  I am not reminded of any election PTSD that pollutes the news these days.  I can pretend that life is caricature of itself and the orange President is just so much ink on a page.  It keeps everything in perspective.... why... because we like you.
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Right, this way... see the Orange-Haired ape....

 A carnival is a very interesting group.  Oh it may look like a band of performers and tricksters who are just traveling together, but they aren't.  They are one mechanism bound together all for one and one for all and everyone against the Rubes.  The Rubes are the unsuspecting audience of this traveling carnival. It is a carefully orchestrated experience  to "take" the Rubes for as much money as you can get without getting caught.  The moto is, "you can shear a sheep a lot of times, but you can only skin it once."  As you go down the midway you see all kinds of games of chance and skill.  It would be easy to cheat the Rube out of all his money at one booth,  that would be skinning the Rube.  You let the Rube win a little, lose a little and send him on his way to the next game. By the end of the evening the Rube has lost more than he has gained in prizes but feels like he had a good time.
If you have any money left by the end of your carnival visit you would come upon the Big Tent. 
Outside is a pitchman.  He was usually surrounded by beautiful women, dressed in flashy clothes and promises an experience inside the tent that will be, Amazing, Great, Stupendous.  The canvas banners are vague promises of what is inside.  Most of what the Pitchman is saying is a lie.  All they want is to get the Rubes into the tent.  
Of course there will be Rubes who won't foolishly spend their money on games you can't win. The pitchman wants some of that fresh money so he employs a trick that has been used by every con man who ever gathered a crowd.  It is so simple so effective and is based on the idea that the Pitchman has your best interest at heart.  Here is the scam.... 
Once the crowd is gathered inside the tent the Pitchman starts his pitch.  He is very good at telling tales.  But at one point the Pitch will stop and the Pitchman will say,
"Ladies and Gentlemen. You know the world has turned into a dangerous place. I have been told that there might be a band of pick-pockets in the area.  They could be in this very crowd tonight, so please make sure you still have your valuables on your person in a safe place." 
Sounds like an honest man just looking out for the crowds interests.   

It is more devious than you can ever imagine.  The human instinct when one hears a phrase like that is to check your valuables, to make sure they are there. I do it almost every time I walk out of the house. I pat the wallet in my back pocket to make sure I have it and then check the other pocket for my phone. Professional pickpockets call that the touch. I have just made a gesture that tells someone who is watching two things:  1) what I think is most valuable and 2) exactly where those valuables are.  

As the Rubes in the crowd check their wallets... they have actually told the Pickpockets where the goods are.  Oh and by the way there are pickpockets in the area, and they are in the crowd and most importantly... they work for the Carnival.  The Pitchman shares in the loot they steal. 

I have heard people say we have a Pitchman in the White house. Pitchmen and con-men usually travel with a carnival. With that metaphor in mind remember that the Carnival does not exist for the good of the community, a carnival is there to grab every cent it can before it moves on to the next unsuspecting community.  
I think  the present administration's involvement with Russia is alarming for our National security.  And is does seem that even statements under oath can't be assumed true when it comes to this Russian connection.  I am concerned that while we are trying to figure out just how far up the chain of command the corruption goes our pockets are being picked by the rest of the carnival.

Case in point, while all of this stuff about wiretaps and purgery is being talked about 24/7 here are some of the bills that have been introduced. 

1. HR 861 Terminate the Environmental Protection Agency
2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
mental Protection Agency
2. HR 610 Vouchers for Public Education
3. HR 899 Terminate the Department of Education
4. HJR 69 Repeal Rule Protecting Wildlife
5. HR 370 Repeal Affordable Care Act
6. HR 354 Defund Planned Parenthood
7. HR 785 National Right to Work (this one ends unions)
8. HR 83 Mobilizing Against Sanctuary Cities Bill
9. HR 147 Criminalizing Abortion (“Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act”)
10. HR 808 Sanctions against Iran
If you have not exercised your right to express your opinion to your representative you are being played.  If you don't know who your reps. are,  text your zip code to 520-200-2223. You'll get a text back with every one's contact info, both Federal and State.


As you were,
Jay

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Final Chain Reaction


If you do not remember how the NBC show "Chain Reaction" was played here is an example. 
 
I worked with  Bob Stewart and Sandy Stewart on several of their game shows.  I was a semi-regular on the various versions of  "Pryamid" and they considered me a good player.  "Chain Reaction" was also their show and I enjoyed doing that one too. I remember the game very well, and  this particular episode specifically. Here is what I remember about that very day in the summer of 1980. 

 "Chain Reation" was only on for a cycle of 13 weeks but I got to do several weeks  during that short time.  We knew before we started taping this would be the last one. As you will see the "end game" was played by the "civilian" player in the middle with the two "stars" on either side of a desk.  The stars could see a word on a screen that was hidden to the civilian.  The idea was this: the stars would construct a question one word at a time that would be answered by the civilian with the word that was hidden from them.  It is more complicated to explain that it is to comprehend when you see it.  But back to the story.

So, it is the last show.  I say to Sandy Stewart it would be funny if we put my puppet partner Bob in the hot seat for the final end game between Betty White and me and he would get every word wrong.  We would give the money made to charity.  He loved the idea and even improved on it.  Sandy suggested that Bob miss the correct answer because of his interpretations.  For example if the word on the screen was "chair", Betty and I would construct a question one word at a time like: "What do you sit on?" And Bob would answer "A ventriloquists knee".  The other one I remember was for the word "scalpel": Queston: "What does a doctor use to cut you open?"  Bob would answer "A saw".  We wrote enough of these gag answers to fill the end game. It was going to be great fun and a great way to end the run of the show.

The time comes for Sandy Stewart to explain to the network what we were planning.  He had to run it by "Practices and Standards" which is the office that makes sure game shows are legitimate and there is no cheating.  Sandy made his way into the office of the "suit" who was in charge of  "Chain Reaction". He explained that Jay and Betty would be the clue givers and puppet Bob would be the contestant in the middle.  Before Sandy could even get to the jokes we wrote the suit said, "You mean Bob... Jay Johnson's dummy."
Sandy said yes and started explaining how the jokes would work from Bob's wooden point of view. It would be funny and the money made will go to charity. 
 The suit said, "Wait a minute if Jay is seeing the clue won't Bob know the answer?"
"Of course", said Sandy, "And he will get them all wrong as a joke."  
"If Bob knows the answer then that would be cheating."  Says the suit. 
"It is the last show... you cancelled us... there will be no more so this is just a gag as a going away bit."
"Well, cheating is cheating, Sandy, even for charity... you can't do it." Said the suit.

What we eventually did was lampoon the ruling by writing a bit about Bob trying to cheat.  You can see how that worked in the final round. The end game was played round robin style with all the celebrities.  I think Bob in the Hot seat would have been much funnier, but hey....there will be no ventriloquist cheating on NBC. 
As you were,
Jay 


 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Here's Johnny......

 Some where in my stash of "things important" I have saved all the name plates (all 8 of them) that were attached to my dressing room door each time I did the Tonight Show.  Seven one them were with Johnny Carson the eighth was with Mr. Leno. Assuming that they will play all seven of my show eventually I will make $165.69 dollars.  Woo hoo! I just received this check in the mail for the show that aired on April 16, 1985. I will have to look up in my own personal journal to determine which character it was that co-stared with me that day so I can give them $11.85. 
This represents my residual for a replay on antenna TV, an online streaming service of "classic shows".  That is the same as a basic cable rate.  I remember well going on strike in 1979 for a new AFTRA contract.  The despute was over a commercial residual contract increase and we actors were on strike for a couple of months. The new contract included perpetual royalties for repeated shows.  To this day I get money, and always will, every time SOAP is played on the air. At the end of the negotiation just as every one had agreed the union brought up the idea of cable residuals. 
In 1979 cable consisted of a thing called HBO which was only in New York.  The producers stood firm on the idea that the market for such repeats was so minimal they would only give a minimum residual.  AFTRA agreed and the contract included only a token rate not the usual rate.. As we know cable, Internet, and streaming content is now a very lucrative secondary market. Although the producers are free to negotiate their fees on a show by show basis the performers have been stuck with the same old cable/Internet rate since the1979 contract.  That said,  if the cable rate had been negotiated to be the same as broadcast network residuals that check from Mr. Carson would be 10 times greater.  It still would not be the kind of royalty that one can retire on but it would be a little more commiserate with what the producers are making from the same repeated show.  
Here is why I bring this fact up in a blog today.  I got a new keyboard for my iPad and I needed something to write about so I could test it out.  I wanted to see if my investment was a good one.  Keyboards have always been very important to me.  I am a good typist so the speed and construction of the keyboard is fundamental to having a good typing experience.  I have gone through every kind of keyboard in my experience.  
In college I used a portable Underwood typewriter to type all of my assignment papers.  Pushing a key on a manual typewriter required not just a touch on the key. It required pressing the mechanical key down about a 1/4 inch with enough force to make a nice bold letter through the black ribbon of ink.  Then came the electric typewriter. The machine itself would deliver the proper force necessary to strike a perfect letter on the page.  This made typing faster with the touch lighter.  
My Mom worked for my Dad's investment firm and became such a fast and accurate typist she could "out run" the speed of the iconic IBM Selectric.  She had to slow her fingers down enough so that the machine could keep up with her.  She retired before the computer revolution in keyboarding got to the point it is today.  I can't imagine how fast she could type given the keyboard I just bought.  
I am not a good thumb typist and the virtual keyboard on the iPad screen is like trying to make words by tapping your fingers on a table.  So to do any kind of thoughtful work I need a real qwerty keyboard that is really fast and comfortable. 
To give it a plug this is the new Magic Keyboard from Apple.*  I have been using the Apple wireless keyboard for some time and like it for the touch, but the battery housing, weight and awkward shape was not pleasant to travel with. Besides I had to keep double AA batteries in my briefcase cause it seemed to always run out of power.  The final straw was when the on/off switch became damaged. To use it I had to take out the batteries  every time I wanted to turn it off.  Reinserting the batteries before I could type made it difficult to capture a spontaneous thought in a timely manner.  The Magic Keyboard is recharable with a lightning cable and has a much more durable on off switch. The touch is even improved over the older generation wireless Keyboard.  
So I hope you enjoyed this test drive of my new keyboard. 
As you were,
Jay

*This evaluation of the Magic Keyboard is based on the experiences of one iterate writer. No warranty, endorsement, recommendation nor specific technical opinion is implied or given. Do not use a keyboard if you are allergic to any of its parts or if you have ever suffered from finger fatigue.  Side effects of using this keyboard may include, typos, incorrect auto-correct, sentence fragments and content of questionable veracity.  If content coming from this keyboard is posted and rampant trolling of that post occurs, Apple nor any of its associates will be responsible.  If you have a text that lasts  more than four hours immediately contact your eighth-grade English teacher.  This and all visceral devices should not be used while driving or operating heavy machinery or when trying to communicate a concept of importance. Carson Productions, NBC, The Tonight Show, EPS Payroll services have nothing to do with the keyboard blog recommendation and any references to them in the writing above was simply a misdirection for marketing sake.  If after using the Magic Keyboard to write you experience a drop in the number of friends you have or an increase in frowning emojis in you feed or any of its threads stop using it immediately and consult with a friend face to face.  Studies show that if this keyboard is given to a thousand monkeys for a thousand years they would eventually write the classics.  

Friday, February 17, 2017

A Question of Reality

This is a rarely seen picture of Charlie McCarthy in  Black Face. It is from a scene in a 1939 movie called "You Can't Cheat An Honest Man"  staring WC Fields. Fields also wrote the story of the film under the name Charles Bogle.
Although part of the original film the scene was edited out when it played on television, for obvious racial reasons. 
But the story behind this photo and that scene is not a story about changing political correctness, but a story about the definition of an actor. 

The story goes like this.  The movie is about a traveling carnival. Fields character Larson E. Whipsnade is the owner and main barker of the troupe.  It was a Universal Production filmed on the Universal Lot in Hollywood. In 1939 Universal like all movie studios were big factories turning out several films daily.   
 The time came to film Bergen and Charlie in a minstrel show scene. This meant Charlie McCarthy needed to be "made up" in Black face. A controversy broke out between unions as to which one was responsible for actually applying the black face to Charlie.  The make up union said that since Charlie was an actor, they would apply the proper make up.  The prop union argued that Charlie was in reality a prop and they would apply the proper paint. They began to argue about it. Neither union would bow to the other and both claimed jurisdiction. Make up held firm and said that either they would be the one to do it or they would walk out on strike.  The property Union made the same argument, threatening the same action.  The director could not determine the actual status of Charlie and deferred to the Producers.  The producers were not in solidarity and they also began to fight.  
The issue became so contentious that it went to the head of the studio to make a final decision.  His decision was to shut the production down for the day to have more time to resolve the matter to everyone's satisfaction.   But by the end of the day neither side had budged and threatened a work stoppage "studio wide" if it was not determined who was the responsible union.  
Edgar Bergen was called to the office of the head of Universal. They said to Edgar, "What would you do if this were just a bit in your act.  Who would you use to get it done."
Bergen replied that he would simply take some burnt cork and apply it himself. Since that avoided any union disputes, head of Universal said, "Do it.. Have that black on Charlie's face by tomorrow morning so we can continue the scene". That was indeed the solution to the problem.  
To this day if you look in the archives of Universal Studio you will find a 1939 production report stating that Production on Fields picture number #693072 was shut down for the day to determine if Charlie McCarthy was actually an actor or prop. The question was never resolved, not even to this day.
Editors note:  60 + years later it was still an issue.  On Broadway we had to have a discussion and clarification for "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only"  to set some parameters regarding my vent figures and Broadway union stage rules.  My characters were actors while on stage during the show, but they became props the minute the show was over.  I was allowed to pack them up and set them on the edge of the stage, but the prop master carried them to and from their own "dressing room" located next to mine.  For a one person show this was our compromise.  
As you were,
Jay 

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Time Out of Mind

It started out as just a joke.  A clever little "what-not" to sit on my shelf with other items of memorabilia.  It is a bogus prescription bottle I forged for my own amusement. The prescription reads: "If you forget what these pills are for... take all of them at once." The bottle contains ten 500mg capsules of Arsenic trioxide.  I call it my time out of mind cure.
There is only one thing worse than having your mind trapped in a body which can not respond to mind's desires. Much worse, to me, is being trapped in a body when your mind no longer functions to control that body.
My philosophy of existence is totally wrapped around the idea of a universal consciousness that expresses itself individually.  I believe life is the manifestation of this unique and individual concept of identity.  To over simplify: life on Earth is actually a concept of consciousness created to teach us abstract concepts that do not involve the physical senses.  What we think is reality is only a complex dream of symbols that should ideally teach us how eternity is experienced... in the abstract.
Take LOVE for an example.  Love is not a thing we can hold and touch.  It is not a scientific experiment that can be measured. It is just a feeling in our Earthly dream but a law in the cosmic consciousness of spiritual reality.
So how do we understand the law of love, and how do we learn what  that law is and experience it?  The abstract can not be taught with abstract examples.  So, Consciousness creates a dream reality that gives us seemingly solid examples of the abstract. Again to over simplify, if you ever want to have an earthly example of "unconditional love" open your heart and raise a dog.  By experiencing the feeling for a dog which becomes part of your life you can come to understand the abstract concept of "unconditional love".  When we can understand love from the physical there is a better chance for us to "know it" in the abstract. Learning how to exist in the eternity of abstract is the goal of this earthly experience.

Holding to that believe I find a conundrum.  To learn how to exist the conscious moment of the eternal now requires acute awareness of this symbolic dream reality.  How can we lean these abstracts when our mind can not understand the physical parables all around us? What happens when you are facing Alzheimer's disease or just plain dementia? That is the conundrum.  To learn,  you must be able to understand.  How do you graduate into eternity when you have a learning disability?

So, this little bottle of pills sits on my shelf above the computer I am typing on right now. The older I get the less of a joke it becomes.  It is not a perfect plan because it assumes I can understand the directions for taking the pills after having forgotten what they are for.  Perhaps the joke will ultimately be on me.
I have seen the mental decline of close members of my family.  One from Alzheimer's, one from a stroke and another with just age related dementia.  On the other hand I have friends and relatives in their mid 90's who are as sharp and aware as ever they were.  I know which direction I would like to go in my life.  What will I have to learn to keep being able to learn?  Another conundrum.

As you were,
Jay