Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Peacock Theater, Frisco, TX

In a world  dominated by artificial intelligence/ alternate  reality and streaming video I am happy to say,  Variety Arts/ Stage performance is alive and very active at the Peacock Theatere in Frisco, Texas.

If you think Frisco, Texas,  sounds like an odd place for jugglers, ventriloquists, magicians, sword swallowers, mimes and performance artists to gather and display their talents.... Well,  it’s “other worldly”  to a former Texan  like myself.  

When I was living in Richardson, Texas, during high school,  the small town of Frisco was only 21 miles north, but  there was absolutely no reason to ever go there.  It was ranch and farm land of little use to a budding ventriloquist, future Los Angelan, actor and Tony Award winner, like myself.
Well times have changed. Dallas and Fort Worth have become a metroplex which rivals Southern California for its massive urban foot print. Frisco is ranch land no longer, rather it is the very cutting edge of  the DFW juggernaut. When Randy Pitchford was looking for a place to expand his Computer software company, Gearbox, the prairies of Frisco were available
If the name Randy Pitchford, Gearbox or the computer game Borderland is not familiar, then the rest of this blog may not make logical sense to you. But,  if you Google the unfamiliar and connect the dots it makes complete sense.


 The Peacock Theater,  Mecca for  Variety performance, is located in the mind and at the home of Randy Pitchford.
SO, the question is:  Why would a computer game mogul care about the world of variety artists?  Much less build a place for performance artists to  perform? 

I am here to try and explain.
   
Of all of Randy’s credits I did not realize until this last week-end that he worked as a Magician for Wizards on Universial’s CityWalk.  This is the Rosetta Stone of the entire story.  It is crucial to understanding The Peacock Theater.  

Randy Pitchford is a magician. 
As Randy was building his company headquarters in Frisco, he was also building his new North Texas home.  With the same attention to detail, needed to program a computer game, Randy build his new house.  The fact that the Peacock Theater is located at the Pitchford house, is lost in the labyrinth of hidden rooms, secret passages, and built in magical effects that define the home itself.  But this is not an architectual review of the property it is about the meta-concept of the Peacock Theater.
  
Although extremely successful in the digital world, Randy is at heart a  magician.  As a ventriloquist I am allowed admittance to the world of magic so I can comment objectively. Randy loves magic and can trace his lineage to one of the most celebrated magicians in history, Cardini. ( Magicians will not have to Google Cardini, but laymen are encouraged to do so) . Randy understands LIVE performance, and is now using his good fortune to encourage and promote it. The Pichford Plan is to prove that modern day vaudeville is viable.  I have been waiting all of my life and my career for Vaudeville Theater to return to America.

This is only the context for the story I want to tell. In an example of “Variety Arts meets High Tech”, here is how the show down happened.

I am sitting at the kitchen/bar of the Pitchford estate when one of the other invited guests notices I am wearing my Mickey Mouse wrist watch. He says, “I like your watch”
He then proudly shows me that his Apple Watch is displaying a Mickey Mouse Watch face with an  animated Mickey Mouse tapping his foot with the seconds.  
My analogue watch does  not do that.  
The owner of the Apple Watch then says...
“And mine will do this”.
He taps the face of the Apple Watch and the animated Mickey Mouse  says, “It’s 12:40.” 
My analogue watch does  not do that.   
However, since I am a ventriloquist, and not to be out done by a techno geek,  I simply tapped my own watch and it said, “It’s 12:41 - Fuck you”
Fortunately the small audience at the Pickford kitchen bar appreciated skill and understood the context of my come back. 

I hope someday to play the Pitchford Circut. 

As you were,
Jay


Friday, October 27, 2017

How I met JoAnne Worley.

My Friend JoAnne
Great stories always have an unexpected twist.  I have told this one before but another chapter was added just last Saturday evening.
I’ll start there.  
As the MC of an Anniversary Show last Saturday night for CSL-LA, I got the honor of introducing my friend Joanne Worley to those gathered. This is perhaps the easiest job any master of  ceremonies could have.  Everyone knows Joanne Worley, especially this audience. It happens to be the congregation of the church we both attend.  Although I will claim to have known JoAnne several decades others have known her much longer than me.  So I decide to tell the story of how Joanne and I met as part of her introduction.
I have told it many times since it happened in 1978 but I have never told it from stage before.  I did write about it in this blog 7 years ago, here is a link to that story. My introductory version at the Anniversary Show was somewhat abbreviated.

You never forget a story when there is a foreign militiaman holding an automatic weapon on you and has taken possession of your passport.  It was also the first time I had ever been on a cruise ship, and the first time I was cast in an actual film.  I don’t remember much about the plot of the movie, nor much of the cruise itself, and I don’t think I even read the entire script.  I was playing the part of a ship entertainer with a few scenes that connected my act to the mystery plot of the film.  I have never seen it, if it was ever indeed released - even for television. There is a reference to the movie on my IMDB but it also says it was an animated feature with other actors that I have never met.

It was a somewhat hap hazzard production.  They had not taken into account the electrical needs of all the lights and cameras which put a big strain on the aging ship.  There was always the fear that the next take would blow up the ships generator.  It was comforting to hear the director yell “cut” instead of hearing a loud explosion from the engine room.  
All of that is really irrelevant to my meeting JoAnne that morning.  She got the cruise director who eventually got me on the boat and released from dockside detainment.  If I had never seen JoAnne again after that she would still be my nautical heroine forever.
So, I tell this story to introduce JoAnne and was pleased it got some laughs.  JoAnne of course was her charming, bubbly self on stage, the night of out church show, singing parodies and yes even doing ventriloquism with a puppet chicken during her act.  JoAnne can command a stage and control an audience in a way that only comes from her incredible talent and years of experience.

Ah, but every great story has an unexpected twist. Some twists take 40 years in the reveal.

At this show was the wife of a church member.   She said she was a fan of JoAnne and me and had been for a very long time. She always wanted to tell us her story.  This is what she said.

At 12 years old her parents wanted to take her on vacation.  They chose to join the passengers of the Marconi with an ocean cruise from New York to Santo Domingo and back.  It just happened that this was the very cruise I would join mid way through to shoot the movie with JoAnne.  She vaguely remembers a scuffle at the dock in Santo Domingo but didn’t realize I was the instigation of that affair.
 When she figured out a movie was being made on the ship, she became fascinated by the process of film production.  She followed the crew from set up to set up and watched every take.  She lost interest in all the official ship board activities and preferred to spend the days at sea watching grips and electricians make movie magic.  It was a turning point in her life.  She said, “That is the moment I realized I wanted to be in that business.”  She is now a successful union card holding movie crew member.
She said, “When I heard you and JoAnne were going to be here together, I wanted to tell you how much you changed my life.”  Then she said, “I can’t believe you told that very story tonight.”   To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe I told that particular story either.  We took a picture of the three of us to commemorate the evening.
The legendary Marconi cruise proves:
Life is an Adventure and the definition of and Adventure is: An experience for which the outcome is unknown.  We never know exactly what will happen at the next moment of our lives nor how it might change us forever.  The moral here is, make every moment count.
As you were,
Jay 




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My First day without a Mother


It was difficult to get Mom to smile for a picture.
This is one of her smiles I like the most.
It is a grainy still frame from a video I took
at her 90th birthday before she realize I was
filming.  
Although my Mom has been leaving us for some time now, yesterday she moved on physically. Her last few years were like the journey of many elderly people. We have come to a point where medical technology can keep the old alive, but not necessarily living.   The ultimate irony is that we keep a body alive only to lose the mind inside.

I was last with her two weeks ago when my brother, sister and I went to see her in Dallas.  All three kids together with her, the four of us alone.  There was enough Pampy inside to let us have moments of genuine eye contact and maybe a sentence or two.  Her stories were mostly nonsense to us.  She seemed to follow them quite well for a moment or two.  
At one point she said very clearly, “The Boys are telling me it’s about time to shut this thing down.” Since that is a very Toler family expression and she always referred to her brothers as THE boys we kids assumed she was referring to her brothers who have all passed, two within the last year.  Clearly she was in communication with them and they were getting anxious to have her join Dad and the family.  

I have communicated more with Pampy though my heart than actual conversation over the last year.  As the “middle child” I claim a relation with Pampy that is different from my only younger sister and my only older brother.  Since I left the house at 21 years old most of my relationship with Pampy has been by phone, and more recently by email.  In fact for a long time I wrote this blog for her enjoyment alone. She told me once she felt like she knew what I was doing when I wrote the blog stories. Her exact words were, “I can keep up with you.”  There were a couple of times she took my comedy seriously and I had to explain it was a joke. I suspect that she is able to read it with more clarity now.

I could always call Mom and talk to her, particularly in lonely times on the road.  I would feel better by just telling her where I was.
  
This is what I remember at this moment about Mom/Pampy.

I arrived in Pittsburgh for a corporate show and a couple of my bags did not make the connection.  I was trying to put together an act from what I carried on.  One of the producers was looking to rent a suit for me... all he could find was a tuxedo. It was a long time at the airport waiting for no bags,  now I was pushing it to be ready for showtime. It was April 1st and this all could be some cosmic prank but April 1st is also Pampy’s birthday. In a moment to take a deep breath I called my Mommie. 
I am sure Dad was also on the line so we talked about the kind of cake he got her and what they were doing to celebrate her birthday.  They asked about me, where was I today. I tried to make this corporate show from hell sound as glamorous as I could, but Pampy, in her intuitive way, is not buying it.  She gets the truth out of me.
Pampy was a spiritual woman and what ever way she prayed worked... in mysterious ways.  Her spiritual growth continued all her life and she knew it all from the basics to the metaphysics. My siblings will agree that she had some connection to the mystic and spiritual side.  However, she could make it work more for others than for herself.  She never thought she was good enough to be good enough at something good. If that is a riddle then that could be a perfect metaphor for Pampy. 
She said something like, “Those cases will show up.  God sent you there with everything you need to do your show. I know it, Honey.”  I felt a lot better but,  I had called Pampy to wish her a happy birthday and she ended up giving me a spiritual mind treatment.  We said goodbye, happy birthday, April Fools etc. and I hang up.  I have just enough time to pull whatever I can do together and tell the producer to get the Tux.  The hotel phone rings, I think it might be Pampy calling back but it is Front Desk.  
“Your bags were just delivered do you want us to send them up to your room?”
The bags arrived in 5 minutes. From that moment on it was like every other hotel ballroom show I have ever done before or since.  Everything was there right where it should be at that moment. I had not really needed those cases or what was inside until that exact moment.  
Some might say that Pampy had nothing to do with it and coincidences happen sometimes. Well,  if you think so, you didn’t know Pampy. If only chance is involved once in a while the things that Pampy prayed for would not come to be.  Not to say they all did.  But they happened with greater frequency than any odds maker would ever give.  

There are more stories. They will come to mind again with the spark of some unrelated stimulus in times to come.  We all agree our Moms are magical, creative, imaginative, artistic loving Angels.  No need for me to present more proof here now.  If you had known her for as long as I knew her you would agree with this statement. There is absolutely nothing in her life she has done that would disqualify her from an executive suite at whatever concept of heaven she wants to live in.  The idea of where she would spend eternity was something she thought about a lot.  She loved to contemplate such things on walks.  She was walking the property until she was neither physically nor mentally able to so.  She told me once, “I’m not sure I like this idea of a Heaven with streets paved in gold like they talk about.” She paused and laughed through the next part, “Can you imagine how hot those streets would get. Paved in gold is ridiculous, I’m not walking those streets.” 
It’s been a year since Pampy could call me on speed dial, and that long since I could call her.  Most of our last calls involved me trying to remind her “God sent YOU with everything you need to do your show”.   There is a direct line to my heart that is on Pampy's celestial speed dial now.
As you were,
Jay


Friday, September 29, 2017

Breaking News


I just realized what the term Breaking News means.  I used to think that a breaking story was one that was “new”, then it came to me that a new story is just the “news”. CNN has something called a “developing story”, this seems to be something different from a “breaking story”.  Here is an example: When a man attacks a bunch of people with an axe, that is a breaking story.  A “developing story” means CNN has a reporter following a man with an axe.  When they get the film of the man swinging the axe at people, that would be “breaking news”.  
In reality here is what happens.  A policy or problem develops, usually involving politics because that seems to be the only information (aside from disasters) the cable news covers.  They call this a breaking story, but since the implications have not been determined it then becomes a “developing story”. The anchor then assembles a group of people on either side of the issue and they discuss “what if”.  They pontificate on all sorts of scenarios some of which could be disaterous.  Nothing is resolved because it isn’t really news, it is gossip at this point. 
Yesterday the breaking news was a press conference with Gary Cohn (a Goldman Saks profiteer turned Director of the Economic Council to the President) and Steve Mnunchin (also a Gold Saks gold brick turned Secretary of the Treasury) who were touting the new Tax Reform scheme.  These men are billionaires.  Cohn said that under the new tax plan a middle income family would get a tax savings of $1000 which would REALLY stimulate the economy.  He said:
                             “If you allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean? They can renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new car.“

Now my car is a couple of years old. But we are looking to remodel the kitchen.  The last time we got a quote,  a new refrigerator alone was about $1200.  And if I recall correctly the sunroof accessory on my car cost $1500 extra at the time.  How can an investment banker worth $100 billion dollars not know what the cost of goods really is.  Gary David Cohn probably spends a grand on dinner when he picks up the government reimbursed evening.   Mnuchin of course used a government plane for his honeymoon, and to take his new bride to see the eclipse.  Again, the last time I checked a charter aircraft costs about 10k an hour.  Supposedly if you distributed that $10,000 he spent in an hour to the middle class, 5 new cars and 5 new kitchens would be the result.  It was the great white revisionist poster boy for the Right - Ronald Regan who referred to such calculations as Voo Doo Economics.  

I am all for a tax revision.  The code now is too complicated and the rules need to be interpreted by a CPA at $200 an hour. There is a way to make it easier, quicker and more equitable, but letting a bunch of billionaires tell the middle class to “just eat cake”, is not a solution.  Is this stupid idea even a developing story? Much less is it a breaking story. 
So I guess I now know what a “breaking story” is after careful observation. A breaking story is some information that will break your heart.  It will break your heart because we have a cabinet of the richest men in the USA trying to make themselves richer by riding the backs of working Americans.  It will break your heart because everything this administration does digs the gap between the rich and poor deeper and the cultural divide more contentious. The news will break your heart because with every tweet from the POS that makes news, I feel a little of my American pride drain from my body.    

And all this NFL crap is just that. Peaceful protest is the core of  the American heart, and that heart is breaking for sure.  Colin Kaepernick began a peaceful protest over the epidemic of white police shooting unarmed black men with impunity.  Colin was trying to “Make America Great” not again but “Greater” than it is.  It seems like the Trump supporters would be on board with someone who says America needs to change for the better.  But I forgot, Colin is not a white man.  How quickly a peaceful protest on the scale of Dr. Kings, non-violent disobedience, became “disrespect of the flag, the country and our military”.  President 45 may stand for the national anthem but his disrespect for the country (“The Constitution is archaic and bad for the country”) and the military (“I like hero’s that weren’t captured”) is evident and vocal.  He wants America Great Again but only for the white, Christian, billionaires.  

So that is my breaking news story for the day. Heart breaking because of the person that should be leading the country during a time of International tension is more concerned about black men taking a knee than Puerto Rico.  
As you were,
Jay 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

End of the World?


I waited for most of yesterday for the "rapture" to come and the world to end. It was a prediction that cherry picked the Bible and Astrology charts to claim that a unique celestial alignment was to occur.  This would bring us into the orbit of a  Planet X which would cause our doom.  This was supposed to take place yesterday, Sept. 23.  The date was sealed into my brain since it is the birthday of my youngest son.  We joked about what kind of celebration he should have for such an occasion as an "end of the world" birthday party.  He chose to spend his last hours at the beach with some friends.  
I am so glad I did not sell my act and move to the top of a mountain based on this story that circulated the internet.  However, there were moments when I thought I might have turned a deaf ear to my future.  
The first time I heard about this "doomsday prediction" was around August 21st while everyone was celebrating the United States Total eclipse.  There was a YouTube posting by  a young lady explaining the future of the world in the next month.  She said, the eclipse would throw off the orbit of the Earth to a degree that we would put us in the path of Planet X.  To make this work one has to assume that the constellation Virgo is symbolic of the Virgin Mary and Taurus the bull with the addition of the planet Mars represents her crown of 12 stars.  
This eclipse "sign" would be followed by others.  There would be two major hurricanes and two major earthquakes.  I was not immediately persuaded by her prediction.  I have also seen a middle age man on YouTube explain why the earth is flat, so YouTube "informational" videos have not been extremely accurate in my tally.  But even at that I thought, the next "signs" she predicted would be easily enough to verify. 
Almost immediately the news started covering the strongest hurricane in history heading for the United States.  The name was Harvey. It was a monster and eventually struck the Houston gulf coast with a fury.  Before we could grasp the destruction of Harvey, Maria became a cat 5 hurricane  heading for the East coast.  I thought Maria could be the the "second" hurricane talked about by the doomsday lady's video. However, hurricanes happen every year and of late they have been stronger due to man made climate change.  Of course there is a YouTube video of another person claiming that global warming is a hoax.  You can see how confused I was about preparing for my doom on Sept 23.  
Then there was the 8 point something earthquake that hit near Mexico City.  Hurricanes do not get my attention as much as the thought of an earthquake. The day before that Mexico earthquake a small tumbler hit Westwood, just over the hill from us. It was small, quick but strong enough to remind us SoCal dwellers, we live on top of a bunch of geological Jinga Blocks.  And a day after that Mexico quake there was a 6.1 off the coast of Japan. That quake did not cause the damage of the Mexico quake so there was not much coverage of the event. But for me the alarm bell went off. That would make two hurricanes and two earthquakes in the span of a month since the Biblical Astrologer predicted the Sept 23 doom.  
Now I will admit to being a superstitious person. I am almost pagan in my attention to physical talismans.  I always carry a special coin in my pocket especially when I am on stage.  I have certain specs that the "talisman" token should have. There is one special coin that is in my pocket every time I do "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only." It stays with the TAO props and is utilized for only that show, and those performance.   I will stay with a  good luck charm until it vanishes.  That is how it happens with magical trinkets, they arrive and leave in mysterious ways.  But when one vanishes I start the hunt for the next.  That stated I am one who pays attention to "signs".  I was really waiting to see what.... if anything would happen on Sept. 23rd.  Not because I believe in the Biblical rapture or Armageddon, it is just that sometimes events can be self fulfilling prophesy.  When large numbers of the population focus their attention on some tragic prediction it more often than not causes something to happen in reality.  
Take Y2K.  For a year before the millennial we were told that because of a programming glitch in C code computer language the world, run by computers which is now most everything nowadays,  would completely stop.  At the stoke of midnight New Year's Eve of 2000, planes would fall from the air, utilities would stop working, telephones would stop ringing and we would really be in a mess.  They continually referred to it as the Y2K "Bug".  In fact I know a vent who created a "bug" puppet and called it Y2K who played on the fears of the nation for that year.  (I'll sell you  that puppet at a really good price. PM me.) 
Here is the point about mass hysteria.  There was no disaster caused by this ubiquitous bug. However, if you look at the stats you will find that the US had a huge outbreak of a strain of the Flu that sent thousands to bed for New Year's Eve.  To me those events were not mutually exclusive.  There was so much talk about the bug that would hit the US on Jan 1st that a massive bug did infect a large part of the population. I can't prove that logic, but then again, what has a hurricane got to do with Planet X.  
I do wish that Bible scholars would stop trying to interpret the doom of the world and the people in it.  Fear is the strong hold of organized religion these days, my belief is that Love should be the strongest motivating Principle in religion not fear.  To convert someone to a religion just because they are scared not to, does not make very good partitioners.  Religion should deal with how we live right now, not how we live so we can avoid Planet X destruction.  Controlling by fear does not work, people must come together out of Love not fear. 
So nothing happened on Saturday, Sept. 23rd. The fear of converting and "getting right with the Lord before you are destroyed" is over for this week.  The seat belt sign has been turned off and you are free to go about your normal non loving life.  The organizers of churches who make millions of dollars out of fear will have to come up with another future event to scare followers.  They are missing the point that life is a series of "Nows" not preparation for future misfortune.  If one is living the best they can NOW then the next and future NOW will come without fear.  
I truly believe that my end will come before there is an end to the world.  It is therefore a waste of my time to consider what might happen on any given Saturday.  The best thing I can do is live in a way that prepares me for my own end, which will not come with a prediction posted YouTube. 
Glad we all made it though together.  It must mean something that we are all still here.  Make today the best you can make it.
As you were,
Jay 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congratulations Darci Lynne Farmer - Winner

I remember in college there was a producer from Vegas who contacted me to be in one of his review shows.  He described ventriloquism as a "Dying art".  We didn't come to an agreement for me to do that show.  As it turned out his style of show was the dying art. His empire of what we called the 'tits and feathers' show was soon to be surplaned by Cirque du Sole shows.  
It seems that most of my career people have been looking at what I do as a relic from the corpse of vaudeville.  My response to the idea that ventriloquism was a "dying art" has always been:  Art never dies as long as there are artists around to perform/produce it.  Hopefully the AGT win (third ventriloquist in the shows history to come in first) for Darci Farmer will put to rest the idea that ventriloquism is going anywhere but up.  
It is not that Darci is just a wonderfully talented girl, nor that her ventriloquism technique is near perfect, and her singing chops could stand alone with out the puppet assistance; it is that Darci seems to understand the long history and tradition that she has now become a part of.  Her dedication to the art and her young spirit will influence a generation of belly talkers to come. And the fact that Darci's  win was not overshadowed by others claiming intellectual property "borrowing" makes the win all that more exciting for us vents.  
While Darci recovers from her Cinderella moment they are unveiling Jeff Dunham's star on Hollywood Blvd. this very morning, and Terry Fator continues his record breaking run at the Mirage.   
The unseen part of this universal interest in ventriloquism is the fact that Darci accomplished her win in a somewhat old fashion way.  Besides the hard works that Darci put in (only another vent knows exactly how many hours it takes to do what she did) but more traditionally, Darci was mentored one on one by another master ventriloquist.  Gary Owen was the maven in this case with help from others especially Dan Horn. (Both Members of the Vent Haven Museum Advisory Board).  In Darci's opening routine "Summertime" there was a moment where Petunia covered Darci's mouth when she tried to highjack the song.  In that moment I saw the inspiration of Dan Horn.  I think every artist knows the defining stokes of other artists they admire.  
So what does all this mean for the art of ventriloquism? Well, there is no doubt that it will continue to "trend" for awhile.  Any verntriloquist who performs will be asked if he/she has seen or knows Darci. Darci will continue to grow as a performer and artist and if she wants a life in the business we call "show", she certainly will have more interesting choices.  Based on the number of votes she got there are many people who will be interested in seeing what she does next.  
Now, here is my pitch to all who have interest in this ventriloquist blog conversation.  I'm talking to all you voters who voted up to ten times after three separate performances to put Darci over the top.  Share some of that energy,  help preserve this Art of Ventriloquism.  Donate to the Vent Haven Museum building fund.  It is obvious Vent Haven needs a new wing to accommodate Darci's legacy, but more than that; the museum that houses the worlds most complete history and knowledge of ventriloquism,  should be world class.  As wonderful as our virtual world can be for us vents there is no web tour, video or picture that can tell the story of ventriloquism.  Ventriloquism is a live, oral art which is tangible and tactical. It needs to be experienced live. A Museum is the place to keep such treasures to be protected, preserved and presented.  Let's invest in the future of kids like Darci who see the world through their own imagination and not through the device of a hand held screen.  If everyone sent a dollar to the Vent Haven Building Fund for every vote they cast for every AGT Ventriloquist (all three winners and a finalist) then Vent Haven would be ready to construct its historical space.
I've never been very good at soliciting money.  I've also never had an over abundance of money to give to the causes I want to support.  But maybe someone reading this knows that game better than me.  
While people are talking about ventriloquism, continue that conversation and tell people about Vent Haven, and ask them to donate.  Do it quickly before the conversation turns unavoidably back to politics.  I think we all need something more interesting to direct our attention.  I'm sayin' there should be bipartisan support for preserving these "silent partners" at Vent Haven.
Way to go Darci, and high fives to the Team Darci as well.
As you were,
Jay 

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

The memory is still vivid

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Remembered...

Reprints from the past:

Those of us who did live past this day in 2001 we will never forget those who didn't.  They were all of us.  There were no blogs, no tweets, no texts, no smart phones connected to social media back then,  but it was seared into my consciousness nonetheless. It was seven years before I thought I could write about it here.

Written on: 
Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. No one of this generation will forget where they were when they heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center that morning. Most of us were watching CNN by the time the second plane hit. I was in Boston, which immediately became part of the crime scene.

I was performing for an Insurance company. A week earlier they called and asked if I could move my performance/presentation to Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon. They had a scheduling problem and that would help. I had no problem with coming in and leaving a day later. I didn't think much about it until after the events of 9/11. My manager at the time just switched my flights around and adjusted everything by 24 hours. That change in schedule saved my life.

My traveling MO is to catch the first nonstop home to Los Angeles the morning after my performance. In most major cities American Airlines is my carrier of choice. I am a two and and a half million mile American Airlines AAvantage member and in 2001 had Executive Platinum status. It was of no help when all air travel stopped for a week after the towers fell.

Until the company delayed my performance by 24 hours I was booked on the first non stop home after my Monday afternoon show. I was booked in seat 4E non stop from Boston to Los Angeles, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines #11. I remember at the time thinking that flight #11 on the 11th of the month seemed lucky. That plane hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 am. Because the show date changed I wasn't on that flight, I was waiting to go on stage.

Even with that graphic and life changing example, I sometimes forget that everything happens for a reason. One small decision is sometimes the one that changes your life. Only with perspective do we understand that it as either good or bad, and ultimately even good and bad are human judgments.

It would seem natural to thank God for saving my life, but doesn't that make him responsible for the 3000 souls he didn't save that day? There were people on flight #11 much more "deserving" to live than me, or at the least equally deserving. They prayed for protection and deliverance that morning.

I would have been sitting on the plane next to David Angel who was the very talented writer/creator of the television show "Frazier" had my show date remained as contracted. He was deserving to have another day in his life, but he rode the plane into the tower. Who did God love more, me or him? It is a stupid question.

That event does not define me. I do not count the days since I was saved. I have not used it as a testimony in Church. I don't think I was given a celestial "do over". I rarely even remember it unless prompted by some event. All I know is I am here to write briefly about it and David Angel is not. I wrestle with the name Angel trying to make it some sort of metaphor. It is as fruitless as thinking flight #11 on the 11th was lucky. It was what it was. Those who have moved on are not looking back, but here's to all of us who are left behind to try and figure it out.

We will never quite be as we were,
Jay

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.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Not Forgotten

I got this wonderful comment on my blog yesterday.
Jay, I just wanted to say 'thank you'. On 9/11, and for many days after, you and I were both stranded at the Hartford Airport hotel. Evacuated by M-16 wielding National Guardsmen and taken by van to another hotel and then back again to Hartford. We saw each other each day, talked while we ate at the bar, walked around to try and ease the monotony, spoke to people about their circumstances and tried to figure out ways to get 'home'. Or, in your case, to a gig in Utah, if I remember correctly. It was comforting to have a 'familiar' face during those difficult days. You were so humble and friendly. It made the 3000 mile separation from my family a bit more bearable. I'm always proud to say 'I was stranded during 9/11 with Jay Johnson'. 
 This brought it all back to memory like a movie re-run - that 9/11 week at the Hartford Airport Hotel. The airport was closed and there were several flight crews for different airlines stranded with all of us. I remember this young lady very well. She had small kids at home. Her husband expected her to be gone only a day or two. She was even attending the same conference that I was performing for. Her husband was dealing with the kids. She and I were dealing with how the world had just changed. It is perhaps a bonding moment when armed National Guardsmen escorted us from the hotel. This was the closest airport to Boston Logan/departure point of the hijacked planes. There was a rumor on the news of the hijackers using Hartford as a staging area for other strikes. They evacuated us by van to a downtown hotel, searched all the rooms and moved all the parked cars away from the terminal before they would let us come back. A day later.

Jay