Friday, February 16, 2018

Guns are not the Problem

So another school shooting and another predictable response.  Thoughts and prayers from the politicians who get lots of money from the NRA.  Other gun supporters  say, “not the time to talk about gun legislation, let the families grieve.”  The best response was a Right wing pundit saying it wasn’t a gun problem but a “Mental Health” problem.  Really?
One of the only things that this President has done in his volital year in office is to resend an Obama amendment restricting the mentally ill from purchasing guns.  So clearly the Trump adjenda does not agree that school shootings is  a “mental health” problem.    
If we will not restrict the manufacture of guns nor prohibit their distribution, then let’s levy a license on guns. Guns should be regulated and taxed in the same way automobiles are regulated and taxed. There is a license for the vehicle and more importantly a license for the operator.   The operator must show competence, awareness and maturity to drive/operate a car.  How much more competence is needed to shoot/operate a gun. 
A license can be denied because of a low score on the written test, the eye test or the shooting test.  The gun itself must be insured against accidental discharge and there will be checks to confirm proof of insurance on every gun owned.  The NROA, National Rifle Owners Association reminds you there is a senseable approach to licensing gun ownership. 

Guns don’t own people, People own guns.  

There are now more guns than cars in the United States. In terms of public safety guns and cars kill an equal number of people each year. However, automobiles are highly regulated, licensed, and more importantly insured. There is no probation period for owning a gun as there is for a driver.  How does a gun owner show responsibility.   Why is a drivers license test so much harder than a gun license test.  Oh that’s right, there is no such thing as a gun license test.   

Obtaining a drivers license is an accomplishment of physical and mental skills so worthy as to be accepted as a legitimate source of identification. Why isn’t a gun license recognized as a form of identification. Oh that’s right,  there is no such thing as a gun license. 

So it is not a gun problem nor a mental health problem, it is a licensing problem. 
As you were, 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Day Off or Off Day

For some reason flying into the past is a litle more confusing for me than my flight into the future two months ago.  I have no idea what day it is and although I arrived yesterday, it was the end of two days of journey.  In my mind yesterday should be today but I doubt I would be any less tired.  Also what is this odd accent that everyone seems to have.  English speaking people who use the letter “r”.  

I took no photographs once I left the Mantra Hotel in Perth. It was necessary to “zen” into the 28 hours of flights, lay overs and plane changes to get home. It wasn’t that I thought photographs would stop time, I was just in mental travel zone with my game face on.  Besides it was not the part of the tour that I wanted to remember most.  

After traveling all night from Perth to Sydney on a red eye, I had 6 hours turn around to catch the flight from Sydney to LA.  So by the time I got to the plane home I had been traveling 12 hours. I was excited to see an American Express Lounge close to my connections gate. It was a nice place to pass the time.  Free food and booze with nice chairs and electrical charging outlets at each place.  It wasn’t a large but it was sufficient for passing some really long down time. 

There were two things that made me realize I was leaving Australia. I exchanged my Australian dollars for American and I changed out the SIM card on my phone. Good bye funny plastic money and goodbye Australian phone number.  I really never got used to Australian phone numbers, but finally was counting out Australian money like I was a pro. The Aussie money is made out of some almost indestructible plastic, and has transparent spots on each bill.  The denominations are all different sizes and do not hold a crease very well.  I had to readjust the organization of my money clip.  I like to clip my cash with the smaller demominations on the outside.  For some reason the Austrailian bills would not behave if that was the desire.  Until I discovered that the larger bills would hold the smaller in a clip, I was forever watching my Australian money spring open and jump out of my hands like a magic trick every time I tried to pay for something.  

It will be a few days before I realize that I am not currently in another hotel waiting to open at yet another theater with a great group of friends.  Once my body recoups from being in a pressurized flying tin can for two days I will become aware of the fact that it is 7:30 in the evening and I am not waiting the call for “Act one beginners on stage please”.  It will dawn on me that no one has posted plans to the Cast Facebook group in a few days, and that I have not heard Circus English spoken in a while.  That is when time will catch up with me and the reality of not doing the show will be obvious. 

To any of my Unbelievable friends who might be reading this today or anytime in the coming future, I miss you. I think I was able to say a proper good bye to each of you before we all went our ways.  However,  the words of any language are insufficient to describe the space in my heart that you all now occupy.  We will all be telling our grandkids about the time we played the Sydney Opera House as part of an Australian tour, for some of us that time will come sooner than others.   No matter when the story is told I will recount the wonderfully talented people I was surrounded with for several months, and how our lives were interconnected for a time.  From Tamworth to Perth to all places and travels in between I was honored to be a part of this adventure. More later,

As you were,


Saturday, January 27, 2018

And then they were done.

Jay and Bob in Perth
Bob Mugging to the camera
Every theater that we worked in for this tour had a required “safety introduction”.  For example we were not allowed to go into the theater of the Sydney Opera House without first attending the safety lecture.  It took about 10 minutes and basically told us to find our nearest exit in case the fire alarm sounded.  They said the fire alarm would be the sound of a loud horn.  My dressing room had windows facing the harbor and the Cruise ships made exactly the same noise when they blew the ships horn for their safety demonstration. That issue was never addressed.

 At the Crown theater we had to have a safety speech the first day before starting the first run through.  The stage manager for the theater addressed us on our set while we were sitting on the stage. It was much less formal than Sydney.  He told us where the exits were and the meeting place outside.   He said, “Mainly we want you to be safe back stage.  It is dark back there and with cables and road boxes everywhere it can be dangerous.  We have tried to shore them up as much as possible and light the dark corners.  But please, if you see anything that might be a hazard let us know immediately and we will fix it.  We don’t want you tripping on anything... so let us know.”  With that he gave us a thumbs up, turned and immediately tripped over one of the gobo lights that was on the stage. Only his pride was hurt which is a good thing because we laughed uncontrollably. There has been a wealth of laughter doing this show, not much that is translatable out of the context of the show, but funny to the company at the moment.  

 There is an old show biz chestnut that is bitter sweet. It goes like this: “We opened, we played, we loved we left.” No matter how long the show runs it always closes. By now, I should have adjusted to the fact that nothing goes on forever, but I haven’t. My family says I don’t like change and they are mostly right.  I am rarely part of a large cast and this is such a different world of performers than I have ever had the privilege to know; so for me, saying bye to friends who have have shared this common emotional experience is extra difficult.  I don’t know when our paths might cross again.   We had to say goodbye to Alexandria the aerialist acrobat the early part of the week.  She was not able to recover quickly enough from a muscle tear to do the Perth run. And before we flew to Perth we had to say goodbye to “Deadly Games”.  Anna cracked her ankle and was not able to continue dodging the axes and knives that Alfredo threw at her (on stage). Saying goodbye to a few cast members at a time does not make it any easier.  It’s like cutting your hand off a finger at a time thinking that it won’t hurt as much.  

 We only have a few days left on this adventure. I will be glad to be back home, but will soon be looking for the next adventure. I’m not ready to simply relive old stories, I would love to continue to experience new ones. Touring Australia and playing the Sydney Opera house will be tough to top.
 As you were,  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Koko Black

Koko Black is where I am writing at this very minute.  It is a lounge/restaurant near the hotel. I am having a very nice latte wondering if I will order something to eat or go right for some of the chocolate they have for sale. Koko Black is only in Australia, and this is the first one that I have  the pleasure of hanging here.   Koko Black offers confections in long black elegant glass cases sold as a piece or the gram by lovely ladies wearing black.  The clerks can describe each chocolate creation like a sommelier pitching an expensive wine. It is not hard to eat $32 worth of chocolate in a couple of bites. The decor is black and dark wood and the smell is that of coffee and chocolate. While See’s candies in America has the same product, their decor depicts the clinical sterility of Mrs. See’s white kitchen and a retail store functionality,  Koko Black displays the decadence of a softly lit perfume store and a romantic lounge to pass the time.  I have to say, when I think of my chocolate obsession, my fantasy goes to this setting.

To fit the mood I am in,  I am wishing my current window view was the twinkling lights of the San Fernando Valley from Mulholland Drive on a clear night.  Unfortunately that can only exist in my imagination right now.  It is summer time in Australia and very hot outside in the rush of the Perth CBD.  It is in stark contrast to the world of Koko Black. I will be performing at Crown Theater when the Australian evening starts to turn on the lights.  Koko Black is not open late into the night.  
Except for the weekends most of Perth goes to sleep by 10:00.  We went to a wonderful Sushi bar last night on our day off.  At 8:30 they told us it was last call.  After a week day show we tried to get some food but even though the bar section of a restaurant stays open, the kitchen is usually closed by 9:00.  That may be one of my best memories of New York, especially when my show was at the Atlantic Theater in Chelsea.  After the show we had our choice of really good places to eat, sit, dine and unwind. The New York places would be still be bustling at 11:00.  It is a show business vampires paradise.  
There is a homeless problem in Australia and since it is summer the street squatters are very noticable.  This coupled with the fact that the drinking age is 18 in Australia, navigating the pedestrian areas after dark is an obstacle course, particularly on weekends when the restaurants do stay open later. The panhandlers are a little more aggressive here in Perth than in Melbourne or Sydney.  The street people in the other cities seemed to take a subservient posture.  Most on their knees in a quasi-prayer pose bowing their  heads toward their change collection.  In Perth there is more of a “Hey mate have you got some change” approach.  There are no single dollar notes in Australia only coins for a dollar and two dollars.  They also round up to the nearest penny since that denomination does not exist.  The result is a very heavy pocket full of coins by the end of the day.  I usually separate the silver 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins which are bigger than the dollar  and two dollar size bronze tokens and distribute them to street people accordingly.  
My other observation about Australia and Perth in particular involves the women.  The young women are attractive even it they don’t use the letter “r” to communicate, i.e. “su, ah ye goin’ by ca?” (Sir are you going by car?)   But, attached to their bodies are collectively the worst arm and leg tattoos I have ever seen. To be totally candid, I am not much for tattoos, and only rarely do I think it makes an attractive woman more so, and these are big carnival mistakes, in my opinion.  I would think that a major decision like that would involve more than just an etch-a-sketch pattern.  I have come to the conclusion that at my age I will never understand this millineal custom but probably should invest in high quality tattoo removal studios here in Perth. 

I will hate to see this tour come to an end. I have made some friends who will forever share a special time and a fantastic memory of an adventure to OZ. I like Australia. The people are friendly, the audiences are lively and it is just enough different from the US that is is a great vacation where they speak the  same language (minus the letter “r”) Most refreshing is their conversation, news and discourse is not dominated by politics, especially not American politics.  I am not ready to return to the frantic madness of 24/7 coverage of  our corrupt system and idiot representatives in Washington.  Here they simply laugh at our situation but do not hold that against the individual American.  We need to get our shit together pretty soon so they don’t start. 
As you were,

Monday, January 22, 2018

Opening of the Closing

I am not good with small talk at cocktail parties of people I don’t know.  It’s work to converse and it feels like I am having to perform. It is not the fault of the party or the people, it is just an old deep seated insecurity and shyness from childhood.  I have developed copping mechanisms that help me get through these stressful times but employing those methods makes it seem even more like performing.  
We opened the show in Perth last Friday night to a very enthusiastic audience and a lot of invited VIPs. There was a champagne party at one of the theater Bars after the show.  This time I remembered to bring a new jacket that I bought in Melbourne so I felt a little better dressed. But for me it was still awkward.  I watched Harrison and Brett waft through the crowd like swans in calm waters.  They did not shun the contact but sought it out and there would occasionally be busts of laughter coming from the groups they occupied at the time.  

There was a ten year old  boy who came up to me with this family and wanted to say hi.  I am usually pretty good with kids since they relate to me on their own level, or maybe it is me who does that.  Nonetheless, I found out from his family he wanted to be a ventriloquist.  When I tried to engage him in conversation about it he replied without moving his lips. I really didn’t understand what he said with his mouth closed, but I said, “Very good. Looks like I have some competition.” The family giggled, the boy did not. He insisted on continuing the conversation with out the use of his lips.  The noise of the party, his lack of projection and the inability for me to read his lips, made any substantive conversation impossible.  I turned to his folks and with a compliment (perhaps a cautionary tale) toward their son’s ability I was able to slip away.  It was not a clean break however.  More than half a dozen times through the rest of the evening this kid would show up intently staring me in the face and mumbling something inaudible and inarticulated.  

There was a Scotsman  in his late 70’s, friend of the producer with a very striking (read obvious and old) hair piece who appeared from the crowd.  He was very complimentary of my act as he not so subtly sneaked in his own performing and producing credits.  It went something like this, (Poetic license taken)  “Your act would be great at the Beesworth Liaman Laugh Festival.  It is one of the highlights of the Farthington region.  Of course you have heard it... the one held in Bemington every other August?”
It doesn’t matter what you say in response. It is not a question just a pause so he can take another breath.
“I started that festival back in 1961, when my partner and I did a black face comedy act with hoopla hoops and rope.  Yeah those were the days. The days when you didn’t have to worry about what they call ‘political correctness’. In thoses days if got a laugh it was funny, you didn’t worry about it. Everyone went home with a smile on their faces.    Your act would kill at the festival today....if you want I can call the guy who runs it. He would be thrilled to have you there.... now they don’t pay anything, but you get into all the shows for free and  Bemington is such a charming place.....(etc etc)”
As this point the lighting designer/set designer walked by.  I quickly grabbed him and said, “Here is someone you would like to meet. This is the lead designer for the production.” When Scotty’s attention went to the designer I faded into the crowd like a Ninja..  As I got out of range the last thing I heard was “Braveheart” telling him what he thought was wrong about the set.  Later I apologized to the designer for leading him to the lions den.  He said, “No problem mate, the old guy just mistook me for someone who gave a fuck about his opinion.” 

It was like running a gauntlet to get to the bar for a taste of the champagne I had earned. By pretending to be deaf and not making eye contact with anyone other than the bartender my mission was accomplished.  Unfortunately I had not made an effective exit plan.  As I turned  with glass in hand, an older woman in an odd red dress blocked my path.  She said, “I saw the show.” She paused like I should be surprised that a person standing in the theater where we just did THE SHOW half an hour before would have actually seen it.  She had one of the big color souvenir programs under her arm.  Inside is a well crafted comprehensive bio of my career printed for all to read.  After what seemed to be a longer pause than even her age would require she said, “So what other things have you done.”  There was another pause as she looked at me intently. There was a vacant look to her eyes which I did not perceive as intoxication. 
“Pretty much all the things in that bio of the program.”  
Quickly and without much of of a pause this time she said, “Oh, surely you have done more things than just that.”
To give her the benefit of a doubt, for no reason at all, I think what she wanted was some funny story about my time in the theater like I would tell on the couch of the Tonight show. This time I waited a long time before I answered; like I was thinking it over, remembering the funniest road story in the world.  I waited, took a couple of sips of my champagne, thought some more and said, 
“No, that is pretty much it...”
As the comedy gods would have it suddenly the mumbling 10 year old appeared waist high to my right and I was able to bend down as if actually trying to listen to what he was saying. Conversation over. 

Perth is fun.  I like this theater the best.  It does not have the bragging rights of the Sydney Opera house, but for me the production has finally gotten it all together, video, staging and sound to make my job the easiest it has been.  Everyone is talking about their next booking and their next tour.  The host travels directly to Dubai, and the arielists have been signed to six month contracts in Reno.  As for me.... I have never had a schedule where I knew what is next.  Next for me is just the next show when ever that might be.  I am looking forward to getting home to be with Sandi, hoping that my dog Boo will still remember me. And I think it is time to buy that Mini Cooper  I have been looking at.
As you were,

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Perth- ect.

The set had  to be trucked to Perth which gave us a couple of days off before we had to get back to work.  On one of the first day off  most of the cast went to Rottnest Island.  It is a ferry ride from the coast of Perth.  No way to describe it but from their stories and the pictures it was very close to being in Paradise.  There are only a hundred people who live on the island and sixty-five beautiful beaches.  Just about anyone can find a beach practically to themselves.  
I did not get to participate in the adventure since I was called in to do publicity. It is just as well.  At one time I had the body to hang out at the beach without grand children, but right now I have neither so... it’s just as well I remember what I was when, back when, disco WAS as well.  Anyway,  the group text messages were filled with plans and pictures of their adventure.  There is a generational gap between me and the cast regarding social media.  It seems that their experiences are so much more enjoyable when documented by pictures, texts and videos sent to Instagram with the occasional share on Facebook.  It would appear their good time depends on letting other friends, who are not having as good of a time,  know the great time they are missing.   

So while I was answering questions about why people should come see a show named “The Unbelievables” my phone was pinging like a Chinese table tennis match.  I kept seeing pictures and video’s of dancers and acrobats in bikini’s on deserted beaches being chased by sword swallowers and comic magicians.  I finally had to silence my phone and explain to Cassie,my interviewer,  what the deal was with the rest of the cast.   I came up with this idea to film a bogus interview with my camera where the interviewer asks me about the cast.  This was the result.  I intended for only the cast to see in on a private Facebook group, but somehow it ended up on “my story” of Facebook. It  just goes to show you that you never know what will show up where when you post something.  If you didn’t see it here it is: 

The next cast outing was to explore Northbridge.  That is a trendy section of Perth north of the Bridge (obviously).  I was available this time.   Perth is about a week away from the Fringe festival which looks to be spectacular. Several pop up theaters and venues have already begun to take shape.  There are three Spiegle Tents erected in the park. The term was new to me, but they are traveling theaters that have been around for centuries.  They are German in origin and basically a round tent with hard sides.  At first I thought a Cirque de Sole tent had propagated and procreated itself.  It really did turn an ordinary park into a spectacular wonderland.  

We eventually ended up at a pub/indoor mini golf place called Holey Moley.  There are three different 9 hole courses that are all themed with artistic fantasy.  There is the music themed course, with an Elvis hole.  You have to hit your golf ball into the drain of a  shower  (it is golden by the way), which sends it to another part of the Presley bathroom where a live size Elvis is standing behind a microphone in his open legged stance.  You have so shoot the ball around the mic stand through his legs up a ramp and into a golden toilet where the hole is.  

I think the best was the final hole on the last course.  It is called “The Ass Hole”.  You have to putt through a small chiseled hole in a large border wall,  around some junk food wrappers, a twitter bird and through the legs of a Mexican burro.  The ass of the Donkey is the sculpted likeness of Donald Trump.  Your ball drops in a hole with a sign that says, “Make Golf great again.”  We went back to that bar twice in one day.

The opening night is tomorrow.  We preview the show tonight. So this will be the first show in this massive theater.   Not as tall as the other theaters, but maybe twice as wide.  More on that later.  
There is not piano in my dressing room this time, I will miss that, but I will try to put up a tour of back stage with other background music.
As you were,

Monday, January 15, 2018

Space Ship Perth

I can’t remember the last time I had a window seat for an airplane ride.  If the choice is mine I never want to be stuck on the inside of a row, dependent on two people to move out of my way when I need to hit the can or stretch my legs. It was just the luck of the draw this time,  traveling with the rest of the cast.  However,  it was a chance to see a landscape I have never seen before.  Australia is pretty much a doughnut of a country. There are these great coastal cities around the edge and a lot of nothing in the middle.  Really nothing, mostly desert with the occasional river that snakes through the continent like some huge forrest green serpent. It was like the current view out my hotel window, but that comes later.  It was actually entertaining to observe the OutBack from that perspective.  
As we got close to Perth  the air turned very brown.  At first I thought it was just pollution but it kept getting thicker and browner. It soon became apparent that it was a huge range fire outside of the city, in fact it was two fires raging on separate sides of Perth. The evening news said that the athorities suspected arson and were looking for the perps.   As we landed I snapped this picture of the fire from the airport runway.  It reminded me of a massive toronado but this wasn’t Kansas,  and we were already in OZ, Dorothy. 
It was very hot outside and extremely humid as we left the airport.  The cars were covered in brown ash and the smell of burning brush stuck in my throat. Everyone who knows the theaters we are playing in Australia says that the one in Perth is their least favorite.  That knowledge coupled with the gloom the smoke cast over everything was depressing.  It seemed to mirror the spirits of the troupe.  Everyone was a little down.  
We had to say goodbye to the knife throwing act. The doctors determined the female partner needed surgery on her foot and had to stay off of it or damage it permanently. They never got to do the act in Melbourne and now they were officially gone.  Hard to say good bye some of the original troupers. 
The girl acrobat in the Lyra (that’s a big hoop that gets suspended in the rafters) pulled a muscle and was out of the last three shows in Melbourne.  We are hoping that with a few days rest she will be back for opening night here in Perth. This two show a day schedule is really hard on the athletes and the dancers.  I think Perth has a more traditional schedule and we will do only a couple of two show days in the next two weeks.  Hopefully everyone will have a chance to get well.
We have been staying in the same hotel chain from city to city.  We thought we knew what to expect when we got to Perth, but it was very different. The same name brand but the other hotels were walking distance to the Theaters, they had washers and dryers in every room, fast Internet, efficient air conditioning and the floor plans were small but efficient . This hotel has no washers and dryers, slow Internet, some of the air conditioning units do not work, and some rooms smaller than ship crew cabins, and it is a thirty minute drive to the theater.  I managed to get a little bigger room with a working air conditioner on my first move.  Several people in the cast had to try four different rooms to get one that was “sort of” satisfactory.  Half a dozen of us ended up in Harrisons room after dinner to play a great video game when the room got extremely warm.  Matinence came twice to try and fix the air, but never could so they moved him to another one... his fourth.  We grabbed his suitcases, the beer, the video game and moved the party to another location.  We were a movable feast.    
Today it rained, all day long.  It put out the fires, cleared the air and cleaned the ash off the cars, but it made getting supplies difficult. This is unusual to have rain this time of year and it is the most rain they have had in the last eight years.  We are near some really cool restaurants and places to shop and get anything we might need but we are so far from the theater, that becomes the issue.  
What I love about the cities of Australia so far is the architecture and the art that is all around.  I have seen some of the most interesting buildings and art installations in Melbourne and Sydney.  For some reason I thought Perth would be more conservative, or more rural.  That is not the case.  For example: My Hotel window looks out on this mural.  It is the back of a building in an alley and can not be seen from any street.  I love that it is just my taste in art, and seems to be there only for my enjoyment.  

I don’t know what this leg of the tour will turn out to be.  It is supposed to be a very big stage, and big theater that’s part of a resort and casino/hotel.  I don’t know why they didn’t put us up at the hotel on property.  It would have been nice to just take and elevator to work every night, but I would miss seeing this green organic reptile outside my window.  It will always remind me of Australian geography from 35000 feet in the air. 
As you were,