Friday, September 25, 2020

The Toxic Tik Tok Primer. (For seniors)


I don’t know if any of my readers are Tik Tok users. Demographics might indicate a low probability. As a geezer representative I downloaded the APP when it was getting trolled by the President. I figured if he was against it... it might be something that I liked.  If you do not know what Tic Toc is,  and don’t want to spend the time to find out, here is a brief indoctrination. 

Tik Tok is a content driven platform for short videos that loop for up to a minute.  You can follow a particular account or just scroll through a feed called “just for you”.  An algorithm based on the type of videos one watches to conclusion, sends more of that genre to your feed.  From my observation there are only a few types of TikToks The one thing they all have in common is the desire, yes even the oft repeated request, to “like and follow” their videos. 

There are a lot of “karen videos” and other “live to tic toc”, camera in your face when you are behaving badly,  sagas.  There are women who are trying to get attention with sexy stories and garments, but with the Tic Toc sheriff taking lots of videos down.... it is mostly PG for language content. There are plenty of jokesters, daredevils and Amazing event observers offering their videos. With filters and editing buttons to click on, that would make a scrapbooking  Granny salivate, it can be a very creative endeavor.  

One of my favorites, therefore,  one I get fed a lot, is  “story time”.  A selfie, usually taken in the front seat of a car, featuring the “self” telling a story.  It can be a joke, anecdote or God forbid a “Karen” story.  If watching a video of a person acting badly is not disgusting enough, hearing the victim recount it is one step below. But there is a pattern to no matter what type of “Story Time” you are fed.  For those who have never Tic-ed nor Toc-ed nor do they plan to... here is my take on the average Tik Tok“Storytime” video. 

Imagine me reciting this in bad lighting sitting in the front seat of my JCW.  

So.... (90% of the people start with So) So, this is Storytime. So (sometimes it is So, Tik Tok).... no more interruptions.
So I was just waiting in line at this Whole Foods here behind me.  I bought a few things to cook but it was not a full shopping cart.  This Karen is in line behind me wearing a mask that did not cover her nose. I am trying not to turn her way and certainly did not want to engage her in conversation. She said, “You don’t look like you are in a hurry.”  
I said, “Not much to hurry about with this Covid madness,”. She said something in her mask and under her breath that I did not understand.  I went back to minding my own business which seemed to upset her.
“Are you in a hurry or not?” There was an edge to her tone suddenly.
“No more than anyone, I guess? We all want to get back to the safety of our own home.”
She said, “Well since you don’t seem to care. You should let me go and check out ahead of you.”  I looked in her basket and it was over flowing with lots of groceries.  Now we all have been in line at the store and the person behind us has two items to our basket full and we invite them to go ahead.  It is only courtesy.   But, Since she offered no reason for her impatience I made the call that it was not necessary to Let her go ahead of me.  I did not reply hoping this would end the conversation.  She muffled another comment. 
The new protocol is to wait on the 6 foot marker until the cashier say something like “next”.  I was watching the person ahead of me pay and wrangle paper sacks out the door.  There was a moment as the cashier readied herself for the next customer.  I could feel the Karen’s shopping cart start to move.

The cashier said, “Next”. And before I could even start to push my cart, Karen has pushed around me and gone into the check stand.  
“Excuse me... Mam I think I was next in line.”  
She quickly said loudly, “Oh no you weren’t”. The cashier looked at her. And I said,
“Yes I was.”  Upon hearing the exchange the guy who was behind her who was now behind me said,
“He was definitely ahead of you Lady,”
“No he wasn’t”, she blasted,  Others chimed in with several affirmations that it was indeed my turn.
“Well, since he doesn’t care, my time is valuable” as she began to  move to the credit card scanner, a rebellion started to brew. People were saying this it wasn’t right, who does she think she is, and such.
“What is this a dem-wit liberal convention of Trump haters...”  
The cashier who was Latina said, “I think he was ahead of you Mam and he doesn’t have that much stuff...”
Karen cut her off with “Of course support the libertards.  And you are not even a citizen. Go back to where you came from...”  Which caused a stir and people started defending the cashier. At that she picked up a can of tuna held it up like it was a baseball and she......
Oops out of time.... Like for part two.


As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Not Politics and Not the News



This is a story, not an editorial, not a political riff and certainly not a pundit rambling.  There will be no mention of Covid-19 nor an opinion on any Current event.   

I suppose this could be a Tik Tok video. Tik Tok videos seem to fall into only a few limited categories: People caught on camera behaving very badly.  People on camera talking about people behaving badly. Women on camera trying to convince viewers they behave badly.  AND people telling stories....usually badly.  All video presented in episodic  click bait to get you to follow them.   There seems to be a belief among social media addicts that entrance through the Pearly Gates of Heaven will be determined by how many “followers”  And “likes” you have.  

When we moved into this house there was a vacant lot catty corner to us. Directly across the street was a three bedroom mid-century ranch style house set back from the street.  The garage was in the back and the driveway was secured with an  electric gate made of wrought iron bars matching the rest of the fence across the front of the house.  To me it had the appearance of a cage.  An old couple had lived there since the house was built. Mostly staying to themselves I would see the wife leave in her cute red BMW often but never saw her in the front yard.  The old man would walk out to the driveway gate, hold the bars and stare out for a while. He had the look of a lifer in San Quinten wondering what the real world was doing.  He would soon shuffle back to the house, only to repeat this process several times a day.  I would wave when I was outside and saw him, he would wave back... sort of.  

One day after I thought he had made the connection that I was the new neighbor across the street I saw him holding on to his bars, so I crossed the street to actually meet him. He smiled and was friendly but it was obvious after a few seconds of conversation, he was either in a latter stage of Alzheimer’s or simple age related dementia.  From then on I would alway wave and say hi when I saw him at the gate, but he would just look at me with a vacant smile wondering who I was.  

Eventually his son Tim, who lived in the guest house behind, told me that his father had to be institutionalized.  Tim’s advice to me was.... “Just don’t get old”.  I saw Maxine in her red BMW often after that,  but never saw the old man again nor did I ever know his name.  After a time we didn’t see Maxine out and about.  Tim and his wife/girlfriend became caretakers to Maxine who was bed ridden.  Never saw her again either. Tim lived there for five more years or so.  I would take the time to chat when our paths crossed.  One day he rang the bell on my gate to tell me he had sold the house and was moving.  By this time the vacant lot had become a “maxed out property line” two story MacMansion with 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms.  It was the style of house that was slowly taking over the single story ranch house neighborhood.  

Soon there was work going on at Tim’s house across the street.  I assumed It was being upgraded for sale.  I was wrong. It was being salvaged in preparation for demolition.  Rising out of the noise and dust came a MacMansion half again as big as the new one on the vacant lot next door.  The new house boasted a plan for 6 bedrooms, 7 and half bathrooms, new pool/pool house, wine cellar, media room, gym and screening theater.  As the house was finishing up on the inside the outside was being landscaped and hard scraped with what seemed like an unlimited budget. I watched as they brought in 300 or so ficus trees and planted them around the property line.  In front of the new Wall/fence there were three different beds of beautiful shrubs and plants.  Against the white of the wall they looked quite stunning.  I was pleased to see that my front view was going to improve greatly when the noise and the dust settled.  

There came a time when I heard a different noise coming from the construction site across the street.  I came out to see a 60 foot crane lifting a 30 foot olive tree into a deep pit the other side of the 8 foot wall.  I thought the pit  was going to be a coy pond or fountain, but it was the hole for the tree.  I watched and wondered “what can’t you do with a lot of money?”  Do you want an old thirty foot grown Olive tree in your yard without planting a small one and letting it grow?  Well, this is how it’s done:  you just have to buy an  huge very expensive tree  and hire a huge truck and a gigantic crane to lift it over a huge wall.  I counted a dozen workers like ants swarming the yard.  A sod truck pulled up and soon the ground around the new tree was green with grass.  The tree looked like it had been there for the 20 years it would take to grow that tall.  

Eventually the house sold for 3.7 million.  I saw a Tesla come and go for a month or so before there was any actual activity at the house.  A family moved in but mainly stayed to themselves.  I became accustomed to Harry the Wonder dog taking his first pee in the  beautiful flower bed of the new neighborhood mansion early on our morning walks. I rescued Harry three years ago and we walk every day. This pee spot had become ritualized by now.  It was one of those mornings recently that Harry the Wonder Dog and I saw 5 trucks and a gang of Gardner’s pull up to the house.  Once again there was an ant hill of activity.  I couldn’t really tell what they were about to do, but during my random checks from my driveway,  I saw they were digging up the front yard flower beds.  They are digging up these expensive plants and throwing them in a cargo dumpster.  They placed black tar paper on the freshly dug up ground and begin to cut and fit artificial grass in the empty space.  I think maybe they will be putting pots with different plants on the glorified AstroTurf , but that is not the case. Gone are the beautiful plants and in their place plastic grass.  

Each time I come out to my drive way gate to look at the work, a man with a bandana handkerchief covering his face nods my way in a friendly gesture.  It seemed like they were winding down so I went back into the house.  Not long after that I hear the distinctive sounds of a chain saw.  I come again out to the gate, nod at the bandana, and see a guy with a chain saw high in the beautiful Olive tree.  I love trees and take special care of the ones on my property.  For this reason I know that it is not the right time of year to prune Olive trees, and to me that beautiful tree was not in need of a trim.  I went back inside.

After the time when a normal tree trimming should be completed, I still here the annoying motor sound of the chain saw.  Here I go back out to take a look.  To my horror they are cutting down the Olive tree. It is terrible to watch. Since there is no place to actually drop the whole tree, they are taking it down one section at a time.  I go back into the house because I can not bare to see that beautiful tree be killed.  There came a time when I realized the chain saw had been silent for some time. It was all quiet.  I didn’t want to see what next door looked like with out that grand Olive, and actually couldn’t see across the street from my window because my big  Tipituana  tree blocks the view.  So I walked out side to take a look.  

The yard across the street was no longer in a cooling shade. It was bright, sun shining on things that didn’t used to reflect back.  The scrubs out front were gone and the tree that stood watch was gone.  There was nothing but the Astro turf and blank white walls.  I thought of the money and man hours it took to get that grand tree placed in that perfect spot, and  now it was being hauled off in chunks.  What a waste.  I was thinking about how the neighborhood where my boys grew up was changing.  No less than a dozen of the houses that were here when I bought  have been leveled, over built and now tower over the single story homes that remain.  I was thinking about time, how it had passed so quickly once.  But now with the pandemic it seems like time has ground to a halt.    

I guess I was really thinking about age as my mind wondered.  As if he had suddenly just appeared, there was the man in the bandana waving to me.  With the muffled voice of a cloth covered mouth he said something like “How are you doing neighbor”.  It took me a moment to realize that the guy I thought was just one of the workers was the new home owner. In the time it took me to process it  all, my new neighbor is on hold waiting for me to respond.  The neighbor is an Asian man probably the age I was when I bought my house or maybe younger.  He is standing there in a frozen wave wondering about me.   Before I say hi back I think I know what he is thinking.  All day long he has seen me shuffle out to my drive way gate, grab the bars of  the wrought iron gate with my hands and peer out with a blank stare, and go back inside, only to return and do the same thing over and over.  It was an awkward pause, but I finally waved and yelled back, “What ever you do... don’t get old.”  

I didn’t.  I wanted to, but I didn’t.   I should’ve but I didn’t.  Maybe some day I will get to tell him this story.

As you were,
Jay




Monday, July 20, 2020

The Great 2020 Quarantine

First of all  this is not a political rant. If you are looking for that.... look almost anywhere else on any platform and you will find something that will get your “dander up” as they say in Texas.  I have not written a blog since February, before Sandi and I traveled to Berlin and returned to a United States and world that was shutting down and staying at home.  With what seemed like the twilight zone going on and  chaos surrounding our leadership,  there has been nothing to write about.  Nothing that seemed positive as least.

I don’t have any known co-morbidities except for being in *that* certain age group, but I wear a mask anytime I go outside.  I am not making any political statements by wearing a mask, nor do I understand why wearing one, especially in an enclosed space like a store, is in any way an infringement on my rights.  I wear a mask in public the same way I wear pants in public.  No doubt I could make a case that my freedom to go bare-ass naked any where I want to, and it might be “more comfortable”,  but I don’t.

In the early days of the Pandemic I fired up my mom’s old sewing machine and made masks for friends and family.  I felt like a male Rosy the Riveter doing my part for a national crisis since masks were at that time  in short supply.  Eventually, as I knew the capitalist would, manufacturers ramped up the production of all kinds of masks and they became ubiquitous.  I now have an entire wardrobe of masks that get washed, revamped and put back in rotation.  I have several that reside under the sun visor of my JCW (my red mini) just in case I forgot to get one leaving the house.   

I got the mask in the picture above from an on line site.  It is actually the mouth of Jerry Mahoney especially made for me. I also have a black one that simply has the words “Instant Ventriloquism”. Just trying to keep my career alive.   Upon seeing me in the Jerry Mahoney mask my wife said, 
“You’re not going out in public like that, are you?”  
I said, “Perhaps....” She indicated that in the case that I did wear it in public, she would maintain a double the 6’ recommendation of social distancing from me. 

Now one of the rituals that I have followed during this time of forced retirement, is to take Harry the Wonder Dog on long walks.  He loves to walk and never gets tired.  We average 3- 5 miles a day and I have seen more of my extended neighborhood than ever before.  Most importantly I never walk the dog with out a mask on.   However, if you wear a mask most every day, like underwear, you run out of clean ones and eventually get to that pair of underwear that is at the bottom of the heap.  So there are times when the only mask I have to wear is the “Mahoney”.  

 The other thing that is important to this discussion is: Harry the Wonder Dog is a chihuahua/ pug mix and an alpha male.  He is the greatest, sweetest most loving dog until he sees another dog on a leash and he turns into Napoleon the dog, bearing his teeth in a spontaneous assault.  We have worked with great trainers and slowly he is getting better.  It is not every dog that sets him off now, but it is like playing Russian Dog roulette. One of the things we have found it helps if I am able to wave and say hi to the other dog owner before they can pass us.  If Harry thinks it is a friend, then he is more likely not to turn into the Tasmanian devil.  So I become the masked welcome wagon with a friendly wave and “good morning “ to everyone I meet on our long walks.  In pre-pandemic days I would just smile, but with a mask when my smile is hidden, I find that a friendly voice is necessary to convey the spirit.   Some are friendly back to me, some are dismissive, some are talking on the phone and some have ear buds and never even know that we have passed by.   I would say that about half of the people I see on the street wear a face covering.  There have been mask-less  neighbors who pass by and apologetically say “I forgot my mask... sorry”.  Some pass by without a mask much closer to me and Harry than acceptable and seem to want a conflict as if the mask is some sort of political protest they don’t agree with.  

Sometimes I get a laugh when I toss out a friendly good  morning on our walks. It is then that I realize I am wearing the “Mahoney” and a friendly good morning from me, a guy with a plastic painted on smile, is just what LA needs right now.  I run into neighbors who say,“That is really creepy” but others (usually younger)  say “Great mask where did you get it.”

Yesterday, Sandi and our other dog Boo decided to do a short part of the walk with us.  We were several blocks from the house when I saw a lady approaching with her dog on the other side of the street. I immediately went into “Harry fooling” mode. I held up my hand  with a long armed wave and said, in a very proud voice only slightly muffled by the mask, “Hello, It’s a great morning...”.    She burst out laughing and yelled back ... “Yes it is...Ha Ha” .  The trick worked because Harry did not flinch or try and charge.  Sandi said, “What was she laughing about?”  At first I just assumed it was the Mahoney,  but I had a simple grey mask on with nothing printed on it because I was out in public with the woman I love. I purposefully did not wear that mask.  

I thought back on this event wondering what I had done that amused the passerby.  Then I understood it from her point of view.  The hand I held up to wave at the neighbor was holding a green poop bag  abundantly filled with dog shit.   I held up a bag if shit exclaiming what a great morning it was, like a father excited over successfully toilet training his two year old.  


“Hello, It”s a great morning for shit.”  It’s my new neighborhood pandemic greeting,  Works of me on so many levels.

As you were,
Jay




Sunday, February 02, 2020

Happy Birthday up There...

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Saturday, December 07, 2019

Harry Anderson- Fan Picture

This ten day creative challenge where you have to post a picture with no explanation had me digging into some old photos last week.  I am so glad I found this one. It is one of my favorites.  The story is short and the explanation is necessary.  

Livestock Productions, my company with Harry Anderson, did some work for the Disney Studio.  Because Harry was the star of the project Disney gave him a perk.  They flew him to DisneyWorld in Orlando for a week of vacation.  Harry took the Johnson family along with his own family so we could all have a vacation.  That is the kind of inclusive guy my friend Harry was. It is a wonderful memory. 

At the MGM - Disney is a replica of the Chinese Theater in Hollywood.  You know the one with all the stars signatures and hand prints in the concrete?  Well the replica in Orlando got modern celebrities to immortalize their hands and signature in concrete at that location.  Years before this family trip they asked Harry to accept that honor, which he did.  While the families were there we decided to visit the site.  Harry’s slab is next to Robin Williams hand prints. Robin wrote “Carpe Per Diem” - a phrase I have used ever since.

I am setting up this picture and it is taking some time to get everyone in the frame with Harry and the sidewalk. The park is open and there are a lot of people milling around looking down and reading the signatures.  The shot is framed and I hear a mother chatting with her two little girls, strolling through.  She says to them “Oh look Robin Williams... Mork and Mindy” a pause a couple of steps and “ Oh...Hal Linden...he’s from Barney Miller.” 
Just as I am ready to snap this picture the mother and her kids step right in front of my camera. She looks at Harry, looks at the kids, reads the concrete block, has no interest in the fact that I am trying to take a picture.  After a short “Stage wait” she pulls her kids along and says, “Oh...Harry....and the Hendersons” and walks away. 

I held my laughter long enough to take this picture then burst out laughing.
As you were,
Jay

PS.... Harry and the Hendersons was a television show that ran for two seasons in 1987 based on the movie of the same name. It involved a normal family who adopts Big Foot and brings him back to suburbia.  

Monday, December 02, 2019

My “connection” to the Irishman


The Real Russell Bufalino
I have told this story many times over dinner conversation.  My friends know it as my “Mafia Story”.  I never thought I would write about it, but if Scorsese can make a movie about it... I figure I am safe to tell my tale because most of the principals of the story have died.  
It is not the whole saga.  Strange things associated with this event in my life continued to play out for months in ways I only realized later were connected.  There are just too many twists and turns to cover it all in an average blog.  
For the sake of a time line here are some events that seem unrelated but connect:

Jimmy Hoffa disappears on July 30, 1975
Jay Johnson moves to Los Angeles on September 1, 1975
Show for the Italian American Civil Rights League at the Ballroom of the Gus Giancona  Motor Lodge in Wilkesbury, Pesnsylvania October 1977
                         Starring: Andy Griffith, Frankie Avalon, Glen Ashe and Jay Johnson
Jay Johnson’s first Soap episode as Chuck and Bob airs November 1977
Russell Bufalino goes to jail in 1978 for extortion - served three years
Russell Bufalino goes back to jail in 1984 for attempted murder of the guy he extorted.
Russell Bufalino dies in 1994 at the age of 90.  

I moved to Los Angeles to be represented by personal manager Richard O’ Linke.  He was a mover and shaker in television and represented, among others, Andy Griffith, Frankie Avalon, Ken Berry, Jim Nabors and Glen Ashe. I was his newest client in a decade.  The way the office worked: if you wanted to have Andy Griffith on your talk show you had to have Jay Johnson as well.  Andy was very gracious to me and seemed proud to introduce me as his “new discovery”.  We became friends and I got to travel as his opening act for a time.  Everything was new to me at this level of the show biz pecking order.  

I remember when Mr. Linke (I never called him Dick or Richard always Mister Linke) called and said he had booked me on a show in October with Andy, Glen and Frankie.  None of us were being paid,  but all expenses would be taken care of and I would be well treated.  It was In the Limo while we were driving to the airport that Dick Linke gave us the low down. It was an admonition not only to me but seemingly for Andy as well, we were both in the dark about this show.  He said,   “The show is an old standing obligation, mainly for Frankie,  but we are all doing this show as a favor.  It’s for the mob.... you know what I mean. This is the real thing so no jokes or smart ass remarks about what you see and hear.  Keep your head down, your mouths shut and it will be great.  As long as we are doing them a favor we are not in danger..... you just never want to be in a position where you owe them a favor.. Get it?”

The minute our plane landed I knew I was not in Kansas anymore.  Several large necked men met us at the end of the jetway and insisted they take whatever luggage we carried on.  A guy named Louie tried to take my case. This is where Bob’s head travels and I don’t let anyone ever carry that case.  I said it was okay, I would take this one myself.  Louie backed off and said, “So that’s the goods, huh.”
“Absolutely the goods.” I joked back. Louie did not think it was a joke, every time a new guy would try to “help” me with that case Louie would jump in and say, “No, NO. That’s the goods.”  And everyone would stand down.

  Frankie Avalon arranged his schedule to do this show every year, and had been doing so for a long time.  Everyone we met  greeted Frankie like a long lost brother.  Our show was not until Friday night but we arrived on Wednesday because we would be guests at a dinner on Thursday night.  All Andy and I knew was what they said, “Russell is Cooking”. Russell liked to cook and we were having a special recipe of roasted goat.  Russell was Russell Bufalino top of this organization. Frankie said, “When Marlon Brando signed on to play The Godfather in the movie of the same name... he wanted to meet Russell Bufalino, because he was considered one of the bosses of bosses and the typical soft spoken Godfather.”  Some of Brando’s mannerisms in the movie were some what like Russells.

At the Thursday dinner, a few women greeted us and brought out the wine and food. Then all of them disappeared.  When we got to the business of eating it was only men.  At the dinner Frankie sat between Andy and me and across the table from Russell.  Occasionally Frankie would give us a brief history the players at the table in a soto voce way.  Frankie whispered to me, “Did you notice Russell’s right hand?”  I had not noticed until then, but he was smoking a cigar held between the third and fourth fingers of that right hand. Three quarters of his thumb and more than half of his right index finger was missing. Frankie said, “I’ll tell you later...”.  Good to his word as we were driving back to the hotel Frankie began to tell Andy and me some incredible stories about the people we just met.  One was the under boss, another guy was a body guard, another a driver, a soldier, an enforcer and Russell Bufalino was the top of the top. Andy said, “One of the guys gave me a bear hug and I think I felt a gun under his jacket.” 
Frankie said, “He wasn’t the only one, probably everyone was carrying at this party.”  Then he said, “Russell’s finger and thumb? Well during a power struggle in the mid 50’s someone held his hand to a wall and shot his fingers off with a shot gun.”  Frankie said it as normally as one might say, Grandma has dentures.  He tagged the statement with... those guys were not around long after that.  

Eventually the dinner was over and Frankie had plans.  Andy and me were driven to Russells house. When dinner is involved I tell this part of the story. For now all I will say,  the back wall of Russells bedroom closet was a large bank vault door.  

The show went very well.  Everyone paid respect to Russell and looked to see if he was laughing before they enjoyed the joke. After the show most of the audience mobbed Frankie. Andy and I were a little like fish out of the water so, we decided to hit the hotel bar.  We ordered drinks and began to compare notes about what we saw, almost giggling at stereo types from old gangster movies.  The Andy said, (in the North Carolina accent that made him famous), “Did you see how everyone was coming up to Russell to say good bye? I mean everyone... and some even kissed his ring. It was like he was the Pope or something ‘ ”  At that moment both of us had a moment of clarity.  Andy said, “Did you say goodnight to Russell?” I admitted that I didn’t. Andy said, “Neither did I.”

We both knew that was a big mistake and we immediately paid the check and decided we should go back to the banquet room and make amends.  As we got up from the table in walks Russell Bufalino with three big guys shadowing.  He said, “What happened to you guys.... you didn’t say good bye. You don’t just entertain us and leave like that.”  Andy quickly made a gracious apology for both of us and said we were just heading back to find him. Russell said, “Come with us.... we are going out for Pizza.  It’s a little place Louie owns.”   With that we were flanked and escorted with Russell out to a waiting Limo.  

Waiting at the curb for the limo while Andy and I flanked Russell Bufalino there was a man who jumped out of a crowd of people and said, “Mr. Griffith, Mr. Bufalino, Mr Johnson.... a quick photo over here.” By the time we looked he had snapped the picture and literally disappeared into the crowd again. Frankie was standing on the other side of Andy.  As we are climbing into the limo, Frankie said quietly...” did you smile, that was your FBI photo.” I wasn’t sure if he was joking so I said, “Not really.”
“Really..” he said, then continued, “Did that seem like a fan photo op to you?  They didn’t call out my name. They have many pictures of me and Russell together.  This is the first time you and Andy have been seen with him.”  The more I thought about it.... SOAP had not aired yet... there really was no reason that this “fan” would know my name.  And he took just one photo not several and he was in a hurry. 

The pizza joint was a 20 minute drive from the hotel. Russell was a big fan of Andy Griffith and the conversation on the way was mainly about Andy Stories of Mayberry.  We finally got to the Pizza place. It was very low key and not outstanding nor remarkable in any way.  It was crammed full of people but, like the Red Sea,  the mob parted and a table for Andy and me was suddenly available.  Russell talked with us for a while, then he was called away.  Andy and I didn’t say much..1) Because Dick Linke had told us to keep our mouths shut and 2) It was very loud and hard to converse. Russell returned after about an hour with a big guy in tow.  He said, “I have to go to bed... besides it’s too noisy in here.  You guys stay as long as you want to as my guest.  I’m leaving the limo for you....”. He turns to the big guy and says, “Stay with them and when they are ready take them anywhere they want to go.”  The big guy nodded. 

Andy and I stayed for another half hour before deciding it was time for us to go back to the hotel. We were like two kids at our first prom as we settled into the back of the limo.  The big guy lowers the privacy window and says, “Where to Gentlemen?”  Again in that very recognizable accent Andy said... mostly as a routine for my benefit.  “Well, Jay. Russell said to take us anywhere we want to go...Well....I know this little place in New York City, 5th and 55th... it’s open all night. How about there.”  
I played along with the joke and said. “Sounds lovely.”  The privacy window went back up the driver drove and Andy and I started to quietly relive our evening. At the time Andy was like a mentor to me and I was in heaven talking to a guy I had been watching on TV all my life.  Time got away from both of us. We realized we had been driving for a very long time and it was farm land all around us, no sign of a city.  We had been in the car much longer than it took to get to the pizza place from the hotel.  I have seen enough mob movies to know something was not right.   Andy finally lowered the privacy window to the driver and said, “Have we missed the hotel? Where are we going.?”
There was a pause before the big guy answered... then he said, “We’re heading to 5th and 55th, New York City.”   
Andy, said... “Oh that was just a joke, we wanted to go back to the hotel”  Without saying a word, the driver makes a difficult 3 point U turn in a limo on a two lane country road and we drive back to the hotel.  The big guy took his orders very seriously and had Andy not spoken up we would have arrived in NYC later that day.  

I never saw Russell Bufalino again, but occasionally I would get a “message” from him.  People I didn’t know would come to me and simply say, “Russell says thanks again for the show.”  I followed the news about Russell Bufalino through the years.  Everyone who knew Russell said, when Jimmy Hoffa disappeared the FBI knocked on Russell’s door the next morning.  Until I saw  “The Irishman” last weekend, I never knew his story.  I could not see Russell Bufalino in Pesci’s portrayal on screen.  The man I met was much more low key, much more soft spoken, and with a little more of a middle age grandfather body type.  In the movie I kept trying to see if Pesci had all his fingers but there was never a really good angle to see.

There is much more to this story, but the full version has been my meal ticket for a long time.  I plan to stamp that ticket again.
As you were,
Jay








Thursday, October 03, 2019

Hi.. I’m Jay....depressive...


These are tough times for depressives.  The struggle to see the glass half full is needed now more that ever, but it has also never been more difficult.  Even when things are great, depressives have a difficult time converting that energy into happiness. That is the disorder.  Like a diabetic who can not physically process sugar, a depressive can not physically  process happiness.  If we could process happiness like others do, we would not be depressives. It is a struggle when times are good,When times are rough... it is almost impossible for a depressive to be “happy” or even neutral.    In this emotionally divided country, no matter what side of the political divide you inhabit,  these are not normal times. The tone of the news is divisive and upsetting. Those who do not have such issues with depression don’t understand, These are tough times for depressives.  

Unfortunately most people don’t know how to interact with a depressive.  With other disorders there is some sort of a protocol.  When some one sneezes you say “God Bless you”.  When faced with the specter of depression most do not know how to act or what to say.

“Just be happy”, “Get over it”, or my favorite phrase proclaimed by the uninformed, “What do you have to be sad about.... look at your life.”  

Yes, look at my life. There is nothing  I have to be sad about.  There is no disagreement that I am extremely blessed.  A list of my credits and experiences should be the penultimate of a persons life and career. Unfortunately these wonderful experiences are very much like a Snickers bar to a diabetic;  I do not process it in the same way as a “normal” depressive neutral person would. Pointing out the abnormality of a person’s depressed emotion is not helpful.  To exasperate the problem, in theTrump era normally happy people are stressing out. These are tough times for depressives.  

It is not a perfect synonym but happiness and hopefulness are connected in the depressive mind.  A depressive can feel unhappiness for any reason because of their mental disorder, but if there is a way to hang on to hope,  there is a chance of happiness.  Hopeful times are helpful times to depressives.  But, because we have an Executive branch of government composed of lawlessness, lying, corrupt individuals who seem to defy convention and law, there is no hope for the depressive.  Equality, morality and ethics do not seem to be part of the Trump administration. There is no accountability to the truth, the law or even human courtesy  and decency. We are being told that what we see and know is not the truth, and because they seem to be getting away with it, truth becomes irrelevant.  There is no hope that wrong will be unsuccessful nor punished.  To the depressive we are being shown that there is in reality no way out of our unhappiness.  There is no hope.  
The unfortunate thing is, I have no solution. I know of no way that depressives like myself can find peace and harmony in this “era”.  Politically I would love to see Trump brought down and humbled for his complete lack of humanity, lawlessness and selfishness.  My depression tells me that this event might bring me happiness and a relief of depression.

These are tough times for depressives,

As you were, 
Jay