Monday, December 31, 2007
I rarely get to laugh as much as tonight. I rarely find the conversation so stimulating nor eat and drink so well. To think, out of all the places I have been Asheville, North Carolina would be the center of the entertainment universe for me.
I have spent many New Years Eves with my friend Harry Anderson, and probably performed on stage with him more than any other person.
With our wives we enjoyed a great dinner at the four star restaurant Horizons, and got back to the Anderson house in time to watch Anderson Cooper declare the beginning of 2008. After popping another bottle of bubbly we decid on alternative entertainment. In our pajamas we watch a vintage 1979 Halloween network variety special starring Paul Lind. The comedy special is not funny nor special, unless viewed with this audience.
Harry makes me laugh and it is of little importance where we are or what we are doing, we have a creative synergy that is unique. I wish everyone had a friend like mine. If they did the world would be a better place.
As we turned in, exhausted from an evening of laugh cramps, I made one last toast,
"To my BFF." To which he replied "BFD".
Make it a Great 08.
As you were,
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I packed like I was going away for a month, forgetting that I would have all day to make a two hour trip if I forgot something of major importance.
I am looking forward to performing this piece again. I had great fun with it in Dallas.
The second half of the Symphony is the Von Trap children singers. I think they are the grandchildren of the kids made famous in the Sound of Music. They seem very nice if rather intensely focused, enjoying a rather odd celebrity. I was not one who saw the movie multiple times and I was never a performer in any production of the musical. (I suspect this makes my Tony win all the more unique) The person walking by my dressing room whistling "How do you solve a problem like Maria" probably did. I suspect I could be a hero if I let it be known I was Julie Andrews opening act for several seasons.
More from the bowels of the symphony world later.
As you were,
Sunday, December 09, 2007
To compensate for my conducting skills Richard and I turned this section into a routine. We get a couple of kids on stage to shake sleigh bells with the orchestra. Since Bob is not on stage at this time, I pick one of the kids to help me. They "audition" by opening their mouth when I tap them on the back as I make them talk like Bob.
The first night we pick a little girl who becomes terrified and stands like a statue on stage. There were no laughs to be mined with her that night.
Richard and I decide we need to pick a more precocious child the next night. There is an energetic six year old boy down front who looks like Opie and can't wait to get on stage. He is right out of central casting for a Norman Rockwell painting.
I am sure he will be perfect until I ask him to open his mouth when I tap. He looks me in the eye and says, "I am not going to be your dummy. " That was that, he would have nothing to do with me from then on.
This is what I love about live theatre, you just never know.
As you were,
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
However, I would classify the presence at the Majestic Theater in Dallas as a poltregeist. I haven't had many dealings with poltregeists. It was an interesting experience. Having had it, I think I prefer to deal with the much more benign sectors.
I'm not sure one can assign logic to a phenomenon nor give it a personality but that seems to be a very human thing to do
The stage hands call it Hobbetsell, named after the millionaire who originally built the Majestic. I'm not sure why he would want to disrupt the theater but he may be ticked off because the theater came very close to being turned into a parking garage a few years ago.
Hobbetsell messes mainly with electrical devises. Stage lights come on when there was no one at the dimmer board. Bulbs would burn out almost daily. Lamps would move out of focus more than any other time we have done this show.
Cameras wouldn't work in the theater and work fine out in the street. Several times when I would pose for pictures with fans their cameras would malfunction.
My blackberry would re boot every time I came into the dressing room until I started greeting Hobbetsell as I arrived for the evening.
And we had more microphone trouble in this one week than in the entire run so far.
The thing is, poltregeists are difficult to prove. Unlike a specter that you can see and sometimes photograph, the poltregeist can be explained by random chance. Lights burn out and electronics drain batteries. Shit happens as they say.
But I would say that the sheer number of occurrences happening this week to the Two and Only was odd and notable.
It is why this run of the show will be even more unforgettable. Thank you DSM, Michael Jenkins, the local crew, Lori, John, Sandi and Murphy everyone who came to the show, all my friends, especially those who have written to this blog, and good night to Mr. Hobbetsell.
As you were,
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The opening was great here in Dallas last night, the Theatre is fabulous and the set looks beautiful on stage. There was a wonderful opening night party afterwards. Dallas is a very elegant city and never more so than the support of the arts.
I don't read reviews but they tell me that they are good and the Dallas Morning News was a valentine.
I have so many wonderful friends who are coming. Jane Hitch who was in the first Six Flags show I did and also in the cast of the show at Six Flags Over Georgia was at the show and the party. She is beautiful as ever. What great friends show business makes.
I am typing this with my thumbs so I will write more later, but enough to say it is certainly very exciting to be doing the show here and in this theater.
As you were,
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry
Saturday, November 10, 2007
The shows at Ithaca and Indianapolis were very successful. We did them with a minimal set and in some cases the wrong lighting board but the reaction of the audience was incredible.
I am so blessed with this show. It continues to be a dream come true.
Big "D" here we come.
As you were,
Friday, October 26, 2007
In Orlando I am going through security when the TSA agent looks at the xray image of my carry-on. He says, "Sir, do you have three heads in your carry on?"
I say, "I'm sorry how many heads are you allowed to carry on?"
All I can say is, the TSA has no sense of humor.
As you were,
Sunday, October 21, 2007
So, I write to three members of the Broadway team, the publicist, the marketing guy and the lead producer, asking them to send the material to Jo Ann.
I immediately get three emails back. One from each of the people I
Publicist says, "We will get it sorted out."
Marketing says, "I'll get right on it."
Lead producer says, "Who is Jo Ann?"
As you were,
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Mr. Thiyoga Rushan Fernandopulle is writing me for permission to translate “The Two and Only” into Sinhala, the language of Sir Lanka. His goal is to do my play for the dramatic theater of Sri Lanka. Although flattering to think that someone would think of my “play” as good, translatable Sri-Lankan drama, I just don’t see how it would translate.
A year after I got married I worked as a writer for a bilingual educational children’s television show. It was supposed be the new Sesame Street but it was canceled.
One of the things I learned from this experience is how difficult it is to translate jokes. The show had to be balanced with equal segments in English and Spanish. Once in a while the producers would come to me and say they were light on Spanish and needed to translate my sketch. There would be a language person that would accomplish this task. In a read through the next time I would hear my sketch (which I thought was extremely funny) it would get no reaction from the Spanish-speaking writers. At first I assumed it was professional jealousy but soon realized there were no jokes left after the translation.
It reminds me of a Johnny Dark routine. He did his act for a Japanese speaking audience one time. He found out they only knew three words in English,
“You, not funny.”
Mr. Thiyoga Rushan Fernandopulle said he learned of my show from the Internet so I assume he has not actually seen it. The fact that he thinks it is a drama is not a good sign. He may be reading this right now. I have sent him an email explaining that it really is a show that involves my art as a ventriloquist and not intended to be performed by anyone other than me. However, on the chance that I could do well in Sri Lanka I have decided to learn Sinhala. The way the tour is going I think I may need to look for other venues.
PS. Don’t forget to tell your friends about “The Two and Only” in Dallas.
Dallas: Jay Johnson The Two and Only
As you were,
Friday, October 05, 2007
Dallas: Jay Johnson The Two and Only
I can't wait to do the show again, and I hope you will all be there.
As you were,
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
On one trip I decide not to go to the boat drill. They announce "security will check every room to make sure everyone complies". I do the math and figure there is no way they can check a thousand rooms in the time they have. So I hide in my cabin.
I am kicking back; the drill has begun, I figure I am safe, when I hear the door lock start to turn. Shit! - They do check every room! In a quickly ill-concieved plan I jump behind the curtains. (I think I saw this done in a Marx Brothers movie once) I figure security will open the door, see no one in the room and move on.
But that is not what happens. I hear the cabin door open, then the bathroom door open and someone walking around the room definitely not leaving quickly.
I figure it is only a matter of time before I am discovered so I poke my head through the curtains. I see it is not security but my cabin attendant Dolores.
Dolores is a portly Jamaican woman whom I have become friends with in spite of her superstitions about my career. She is very cautious of a man who works with, in her words, "graven images".
Her back is turned to me as I whisper her name. I want her to know I am there, but not call a lot of attention to my absence from the drill. She looks nervously left and right but not behind her, where the voice is actually coming from.
One more time I say in a stage whisper, "Dolores". This time she looks behind and sees... my head sticking through the curtain; to her perception it looks like a disembodied head floating above the floor calling her name!
She screams and jumps on the bed, doing an adrenaline fueled Jamaican voo doo dance. I come out from my hiding place to calm her down hoping her screamimg has not alerted security.
We will laugh about that for the rest of the trip, but the next week she transferred to work on another deck.
As you were,
Saturday, September 29, 2007
I spent the evening alone with my memories in the middle of the ocean on board RCCL's Enchantment of the Seas. Granted there are 1500 others on board as well, but none I felt was worthy of this special occasion. It was, for that reason, an unremarkable event.( Bob and Darwin even had other plans that did not include me.)
It seems longer than a year ago for all the things that have happened since. But it was such a wonderful experience and still fresh on my mind.
I wanted to run
The Two and Only for a year on Broadway but that wasn't to be. However, a Tony Award is a great emotional equalizer.
Paul Kreppel, one of my directors, is still running off-Broadway in a show that opened about the time we did. His performance is the best thing about the show, which will probably continue to run through Christmas. Odd how things work out.
I am looking forward to Dallas almost as much as Broadway. I spend a lot of time wondering why the powers in charge can't convert a Tony Award winning show with Valentine reviews into a great tour?
London is the next big thing. I think the show will have a much greater appeal there than even New York. There will be new producing blood with an entirely new idea about marketing the show. It is in the works and very exciting.
So thanks to all who made that Broadway experience possible. I still run into people who are in love with the show. The cruise director on this ship saw the show off-Broadway and raved about it to the shipboard audience.
I can't wait to be performing it again.
As you were,
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Here is the deal with a blog. Sometimes you have the time to write something and sometimes you spend that time creating something else. So here is how I spent way to much of my time in the last week.
More Video. This is a viral commercial for our run in Dallas. The music is Juno Reactor a favorite group of my youngest son who turns 21 on Sunday.
As you were,
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Embedding a video into the blog is an experiment. So is the film. (If this video causes the page to load too slowly please let me know. In the future I will try to post films in a different way)
This is a video scrapbook of the pictures I took in New York while doing “The Two and Only” at the Atlantic Theatre, now known as the “off Broadway run”. There are stage photos of the show, the family and even shots from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. The resolution is blurry, and it is to jerkie, I think it happened in the transfer. It looks and sounds much better in real life.
The song is Steely Dan doing “Centruy’s End”. I am not ashamed to admit that I like the music of Walter Becker and Donald Faggen. They have some great tunes to edit film and pictures to. I think it’s in the jazz root of the beat.
I hope you enjoy it.
As you were,
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Another friend and ex-roommate David Wylie tried to sneak into the audience for my Broadway Opening night. He even called me on the phone a couple of days before to say how sorry he was that he wouldn’t be able to make it. I knew he was there long before he knew that I knew.
A film crew followed me around backstage when we did the show in Los Angeles. At one point they caught me sneaking a look at the audience before the show. It is an old ritual that I have observed since my Six Flags days. My first request to Beowolf Borit, my Broadway set designer, was “give me a place behind the set to see the audience without them being able to see me.”
I like to watch the audience come into the theater. I like to watch them sit down, are they talking to each other? Are they reading the program? I like to get to know them before I take over their lives for a couple of hours. I think of it like a wolf stalking sheep. (Comedy is always expressed in aggressive metaphors Like, “I Killed them” “The show was a knock out”.. etc.)
Most of the time the stage lights create a dark wall between the performer and the audience. By studying the audience with the house lights on, I have a better sense of who they are. Body language is really telling when people don’t know they are being studied. I used to be able to find potential hecklers in a comedy club audience before their first drink. The system is not perfect, but I have been right more times than wrong.
I remember a comic who “went after” an audience member who was hurling heckling noises at the stage during his performance. He was merciless toward the poor guy, and it would have been funny if he had really been heckling. It was a multiple sclerosis patient in a wheelchair who was enjoying the show in the only way he knew how to express himself. The comic barely got out of the club alive when the audience turned on him. He should have noticed the wheel chair before the show started.
So, sneak, hide, ambush or wear a disguise but please come and see my show in Dallas. I will be seeing you before you see me.
As you were,
Friday, September 07, 2007
Ithica, New York - October 27, 2007
Indianapolis, Indiana - November 10, 2007
Dallas Majestic Theater – November 27 – December 2, 2007
Some of the finest minds in show business are working on next year, and there are several other surprises TBA.
I am really looking forward to Dallas, no offense to the other cities and theaters. Playing Dallas has been my goal for this show almost as much as playing Broadway. “Bringing my Tony Award winning show to my home town”, sounds great to me.
The weekend after we close the show at the Majestic I am “conducting” the Dallas Symphony Christmas Concert thanks to my friend and conductor of the Symphony, Richard Kaufman. Bob and I will do “The Night Before Christmas” set to music. The next weekend we will reprise the performance with the Pacific Coast Symphony here in Southern California.
I was in Las Vegas the first part of the week. I was there for an event attended by my ex-manager Greg Janese and my current agent Chris Burke from William Morris. Greg is now an agent and a major competitor to Chris and the William Morris Agency. We have all been friends for too many years to count. To be honest the major reason for attending was the chance to get together again.
I met Chris and Greg for dinner in the hotel. Before I could even greet Greg (who I haven’t seen in several years) Chris pulls out a contract from his pocket. It is a release that states, “The undersigned, Greg Janese, will not attempt to steal my Tony Award winning client Jay Johnson away from William Morris or Chris Burke.”
Great agents also have a great sense of humor. Here is a shout out to Chris and Greg. They are the guys who make it all work for me in more ways than just friendship.
As you were,
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Just to let you know that there are many ways to make your mark in New York City.
When we were doing our show off Broadway at the Atlantic Theatre, I used to pass by 23rd and 7th Avenue almost every day to and from work. One day I noticed a name scrolled in a patch of cement at that corner. The name was JAY. It was there long before I got to New York.
A few days ago I received this photo. Now there are a lot of Jay’s and probably several Darwin’s in New York City. However, the odds on these two names showing up on the same slab of concrete is astronomical. I understand this anomaly is located uptown around the Inwood/Washinton Heights area.
I have no idea how it got there, nor does the person who sent the picture to me. (Although I am suspicious “the other one” has more knowledge than I was given)
I can’t really claim this bit of “urban art” is a direct result of “The Two and Only”, but it points out a phenomenon of this show. We may not have found the biggest audience in New York but I would bet we found the most loyal. I still meet people who saw the show at the Helen Hayes six and more times during the short run. The house staff used to call them “frequent fliers”.
Perhaps there are some frequent fliers reading this blog right now. Perhaps even the person who did it is reading as well. Here’s my thanks to all of you. Thanks for supporting the show, thanks for being a part of a life long dream. Thanks for reading this blog, and thanks for being a friend to me and to the show.
Some people get their names inscribed on the streets of New York, some win a Tony, and some have both. Since I fall in the “both” category, it is time for me to count my blessings and pinch myself in hopes this is reality. It is for certain I count you as one of my blessings.
As you were,
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The last pair of athletic shoes I bought was the week before I made the trip back to New York for the Tony awards. Had I not won a Tony the little details about what I bought for the trip might not be remembered, but in this case I know I’ve had these shoes since June 5th.
Last weekend we were invited for an evening of dinner and sailing on a friend’s sail boat. Naturally, I wore my semi-new tennis shoes. The ones I have worn almost every day since I purchased them two months ago.
I didn’t know the Captain’s girlfriend but about ten minutes after we met on the boat she made the comment, “I am trying to figure out what is the deal with your shoes.”
“What IS the deal with my tennis shoes?” I asked.
“Well, it’s the laces?” She remarked. I looked at the shoes and didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. I had no idea what she was referring to. That is when she pointed out that the left shoe was laced with zigzag lacing, while the right one was laced with straight, parallel lacing. It was obvious the two shoes did not match because of the way they were laced.
When faced with a mathematical error, spelling mistake or some slip in perception, I usually cry dyslexia is to blame. However, this seems to be a decidedly obvious lack of attention. As an artist I believe I am more perceptive than average, but this calls that belief into question.
I suppose had she not been so brash I would have continued to wear the unmatched shoes for the rest of their natural life. How many people have noticed and not said anything? How many people just assumed it was a fashion statement or idiosyncrasy? Much worse they could be thinking, “The poor old man can’t even tie his shoes.” Tony winners I suppose should know better than to go in public that way. I corrected the mistake before we cast off that evening, and have been better dressed to that degree since.
I am reminded of a story that happened years ago at a theater in Fort Worth, Texas. I was in the lobby waiting to see a show. An elderly lady dressed in her finest entered the theater alone. As she walked across the lobby she dropped her program. She bend down to pick it up and realized she was wearing one red shoe and one black shoe. Here dress was not long enough to hide the mistake. She stood up in a grand fashion straightened her clothes and walked out of the lobby crying. I have always felt sympathy for her but never thought I would become her. I know now that we are all just one shoe away from insanity.
As you were,
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
WARNING: Seeing the web pictures won’t help you determine what the show was all about. The show is an artistic enigma, the more you hunt and search the more vague its art becomes. This leads us to know more and more about less and less until eventually we know all there is about nothing. *
The only picture of the Matthew Barney piece is the wrecked car stage set. You can see the coffin shaped grease patch the “bum girl” stood in but, alas, no naked women in the act of their performance. You can see the girl playing the corpse on top of the car. I never got her name and she was not listed in the program.
The first picture is me behind the glass. Have you ever performed from inside a fishbowl?
But before you go:
Here is how you get there:
You will see this screen without the red arrow.
Go to the Drop Down menu and roll to “Ill tempo del Postino”
Click the drop down menu “Il tempo del Postino”
* I don’t know if you clicked away, went away for a while, or continuing reading before seeing the Postino pictures, but we were in mid-thought about ART. This has nothing to do with understanding the Manchester experiment.
Art is experienced through emotion. What is liked is revered. What is not liked is rejected. One experience is art the other is not. It is ultimately a judgment call.
It can be said that art ultimately means nothing and we are fooled by the artist into believing this nothing is important. However, if a person can make other people believe in the unimportant, shouldn’t that person be called “artist”.
In the words of Walter Helmhurst III magician and sage regarding the art of magic, “If your cat has kittens in the oven… you don’t call them biscuits.”
As you were,
Monday, August 06, 2007
Sandi and I are here to see Brian Stokes Mitchell and Reba McIntyre do a semi-staged performance of “South Pacific”. It is a dream cast of this classic show which lives up to every expectation.
The Hollywood Bowl is a massive venue and people watching is the main pre-show attraction. The sloping curve of the audience seats make it easy to look out across the mass of humanity. It is not unusual to see A list celebrities sipping wine and having a picnic dinner. Our seats are closer to the back of the audience than the front, but we have some great binoculars.
The dress is always California casual at the Bowl, so when a man dressed in a suit and tie comes up the aisle, he gets special notice. We watch as a man in a tie climbs higher and higher and closer to our “nose bleed” seats. He keeps coming and eventually comes right up to me and says, “Jay, congrats on your Tony. What an accomplishment. Brian is having a few people back stage after the show. He would love for you to be there.”
Ego takes over and I think to myself, “Well I guess out of the twenty-thousand people I am the only Tony winner here tonight, sort of a Tony winner quid pro quo to get to come backstage.” The answer to an offer like that is always yes.
The truth is, the man in the suit is Joe Benincasa, executive director of the Actors Fund. He said he saw my show six times on Broadway, he is a member of the Tony nomination committe and a voter. Brian is president of the Actors Fund and they are having a little Actors Fund “get together” reception after the show, and he is inviting me on behalf of Brian.
Joe and his wife are sitting close to us and he just happened to recognize me as he was going to his seat.
It was great to hang out backstage at the bowl and to reconnect with Brian Stokes Mitchell. It is not an exclusive meeting but definitely a Tony perk.
No wonder theater is so attractive to us entertainer types. There is a community of welcoming artists ready to embrace you like a long lost member of the family. Perhaps that brotherhood exists in other professions, but it is one of the defining traits of Show Biz.
As you were,
Monday, July 23, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
I won’t go into the experience of traveling. That could fill several blogs. With the amount of flying I do, every blog entry could be about transportation.
It is enough to say that British Airports are poised at their highest level of security. We were dropped off at a parking lot at the edge of the airport and had to walk to the terminal. No cars were allowed to get close. I was checked and frisked three times before I got on the airplane.
Because of some confusion with my ride, I ended up traveling to the airport on a bus with all the “bull set” cast. This included the “urinators” and the musicians, the dog wranglers and wrecked car mechanics. The musicians and the urinators are from New York City, no joke required, and “bum girl” (the one with her hand up.. you know) is from the United Kingdom. It made me feel a little better that Matthew had to go outside the United States to cast at least one of his parts.
Bum girl is quite famous in her own right. Her name is Mouse and she is an “exotic pornographic performer” based in Britain. She has a website that is just a little bit scary with film of herself involved in activities that are beyond shock. (So I’ve heard) Which means for her this experience was just another day at work.
We shall do the show again in Paris in February and they are talking about Amsterdam and Copenhagen. There is some talk about whether the “bull set” will be performed or not. The concern is not over the pornographic values or obscenities in the piece, it is about the animal rights issues of the dog on the head and the bull on stage. To me that’s ironic, you are not allowed to do to an animal what you can ask a performer to do.
My Tony Award arrived while I was away. I opened the box and put it on the mantel last night. There it is with my name on it and it is real. I haven’t waked up yet or it really isn’t a dream. I make excuses all day to walk through the room and gaze at it. After my experience with the artists I realize it is not the actual object, but the feelings the object evokes. For me this Tony brings up feelings that are beyond words. I see it and smile, I read my name and I believe, I touch it and feel a spark.
Sandi and I are taking a week to regroup on the high seas. I am performing on a new ship I have never been on before, the Freedom of the Seas, largest ship in the world. To give you an idea of the size, it is almost four times the size of the Titanic. But the access to the internet is still difficult and expensive at sea. So, my posts will be limited in size and occurrence. Besides, I really don’t imagine I will experience bulls, head dogs and urinators on a cruise. Old people and heart conditions, you know.
However, I still remain your reporter from the twilight of sanity.
As you were,
Saturday, July 14, 2007
The wrap party is still going on downstairs at the hotel. There is one thing about Artists, they can party till all hours of the night or in this case morning. Counting the orchestra, the performers, the artists and the production people, there are hundreds of artisians who made this happen. They are all down stairs trying to make some sense of what we all have experienced. Everyone is feeling the release of accomplishment, birth really. I don't think the full significance of this event will be realized for days, perhaps years. The world of contemporary art is completely foriegn to me, but to my knowledge, and the experience of those who do know, this experiment has never been tried before. The mating of theater and performance art.
Theater is a world of compromise. The limitations of time and logistics sometimes dictate how a scene will be presented. Sometimes a better way to accomplish an effect is realized by the compomise of two designers in the context of the theater. Theater requires many artists to produce. Theater is a community of work.
To the artist there is no compromise. Each affect is specific and any compomise will affect the integrety of the idea. The arist working on canvas for example never compromises. He will mold the colors and composition in a way that only he agrees with. Ther artist toils alone. It is a singular work.
In Manchester what happened was unique. The theater people learned that sometimes the brush stokes must show, and the artists learned that sometimes there is an easier way to communicate the same idea. What was born was a bastard child that has never existed before, a synergy of theater/art. Everyone learned, everyone grew, everyone will be forever changed, and I was an invited guest to wittness it from the inside.
Tonight I watched the "bull set" performance one last time. This time the experience was with an audience that was seeing it for the first time. It was gross, it was obsene, it had no relevance to my in my world of jokes and humor. But I found myself hanging on every movement of the man with a dog on his head. It was like a bad dream that does not fade when you wake up, unlike the pleasant dream that can't be remembered. I found myself digging deeper into the symbolism to find what can't be found, sense in the senseless. Why was I watching this, and why were they doing this, it was a question that will never be answered. But the question that cannot be answered is the one that keeps repeating.
I have joked about it, and belittled it, and had great sport being the outsider, but I am not the same person that arrived a week ago. I have changed. Isn't that the goal of all art, to move the human spirit from one place to another? To question what we think is "normal", to wonder where the line of humanity is? Only when we cross the borders we think are solid do we mark a new frontier.
I will never see my performance in the same way, because I have performed my art in front of three thousand people behind a 12 inch magnifying glass. What did the audience see? That is not so important as what I felt. In some way I was more naked than the girls who stood with out clothes. They simply displayed their bodys, I displayed my artistic soul. I will never feel quite so unveiled, yet when the curtain was drawn back I was still there. There is an artist hiding inside of me. I found him this week. Before now I did not know what the "bull set" piece was called. Tonight, in the audience, watching this profanity I read the title for the first time in the program... the piece is called. "Guardian of the Veil".
As you were ( but I am not)
Friday, July 13, 2007
Okay, so I am learning about art with all my new artist friends. You just have to come up with something that no one understands, most people don't like and the more offensive the better. No matter what, claim that it is the viewer who doesn't understand. So here it is my first attempt at truly cutting edge art: I call it... ANGRY BIRDMAN
The reviews came out to day and I broke my rule about not reading them. I just realize that reviews coming out on Friday the 13th is not the best of signs. Of course all the talk is about the bull, the guy wearing the dog on his head and of course the urinating naked women. Duh! Hey reviewers... there is two hours of a show before the women even start to pee. We are doing a complete show before the bull and the dog even arrive at the theater.
I do have a favorite comment by one of the reviews. He comments on the fact that the show does not allow children to attend. He said that it is not because the kids might be offended, it is because a child would see it for what it is and boo!
This is so true. I think it is the ultimate carny trick. As adults we are told to look for more than is obvious. What is the hidden meaning? Hey.... maybe there isn't one... maybe the emperor has no clothes and naked peeing in public is just well, against the law if not on stage.
They added a part for me after the tree. I didn't tell you about the Tree. A large tree is on stage, the curtain opens and we look at it for 7 minutes. It's dead.... you can't even say we're watching it grow. Here is the weird part... it got applause. I get to follow the tree because it takes so long to remove the tree. I say let the audience watch the crew take it backstage... at least there is some action to that. Let the stage hands do it naked, let the dog have a go, then later we could say peeing is a call back.
By intermission I am done with all three of my performances. They have cars to take us back to the hotel.
Tonight I was ready... I went up to one of the drivers and said, "Can you run me back to the hotel". He said, "No, sorry. I'm here for the dog." From Tony Winner to second billing under a dog.
As you were,
Thursday, July 12, 2007
All these years I have tried not to drink too much water because I might need to pee when I get on stage. Here she is, worried that she won't be able to pee when she gets on stage.
Also, what do you say to the naked girl with her hand up the tush? "Hey nice show, a really conviencing performance. I have never seen anyone do it better?"
But the big question is... how do you find these performers. What kind of audition is this?
"Okay will all the girls in the front row strip naked bend over backwards and water the boards... and five, six, seven eight."
"Number four, really sorry honey, your body is great, the back bend was sensational, but the unrination thing was just not coviencing. Keep working on it. Now will all the girls in the back row... make a fist turn up stage and..... five, six, seven, eight..."
I did find out that the dog the guy wears on his head is not a professional. The bull, however, is.
As you were,
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
I lost two long blogs from that process last night. I will try to keep them short, but for this project there is just too much to tell.
We didn't make it all the way through the dress rehearsal last night. What I am now calling the "bull set" piece ran longer than 50 minutes. They pulled the plug at the Theater to avoid golden time. Many of the acts did not get a chance to do a final tech.
There were a couple more elements added to the bull set last night. There is now a naked girl standing in a mound of white grease with her back to the audience and her hand up her... well... back side. She stands there for the entire 50 minutes and at the end removes her hand to reveal it is covered in black grease. I think it is black grease. I hope it is black grease. The artists who know told me it was black grease and the symbolism behind it. "Behind" is not a play on words and neither is it when I say the whole idea is shitty.
The bull refused the chance to mount the wrecked car, but I don't think it would have saved the piece. However, in a perverted way I was facinated that one of the contortionists could actually urinate on cue. I can not imagine the impact this will have on a live audience tonight. I am both interested and frightened by the prospect of being there to witness.
There are musicians, singers and other performers like me who have been assigned to the 15 artists to be the talent in their projects. One of my pieces has been going fine until yesterday. I didn't realize the artist who concieved it had not arrived yet. He is a major German Nazi control freak (is that redundant) who thinks his piece is the single most important moment in the history of art. We spent ten minutes just rehearsing the way I would walk to the middle of the stage. Where I stood was almost as important as anything else because the "negative space in the incorrect porportion would kill the entire integrity of the idea." I mean really I have been on a stage since I was eleven years old, which I think is longer than little Adolf has been on the earth.
I have had a lot of fun with several guys from Virginia who are actioneers. One of the pieces is 7 auctioneers doing their cadance back and forth and together with some music. I really does work and I find it facinating to listen to. They are not performers they are livestock auctioneers and this is their first time out of the States. Since I am American they seek me out to find out what is going on. They want to teach me auctioneering so I can auction and bid at the same time. Yesterday, one of the guys caught me in the elevator and said to me in confidence (think a very heavy southern accent) "Jaaay, you won that Tony and know show business pretty damn well, is it just me or are some of these performances just plain weird?"
As you were,
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Here is the way this show works. There are 15 (yesterday I said 13 but I miscounted) artists responsibile for their own section of the show. In reality that means 15 individual directors. Many different performers are attached to each artists work. I am attached to three different artists, which is a record for any performer in the show. If you are part of an artists piece you become the clay they use to sculpt with. It is only good manners and refined diplomacy keeping me from occationally shouting... "Are you f---ing kidding me?"
One of the artists I am assigned to is doing several short scenes with two costume body puppets. They are really wonderful silent spots. He created small versions of the full size puppets and enlisted me to perform ventriloquially with them. In a thick French accent he said, "I am not a comedy writer and since they never talk until now, you do something funny with the puppets for four minutes." I am actually up for that task. After being asked to do some weird things with ventriloquism, this seems right up my alley.
Tonight I discover that my puppet sequence comes right after the bull mounting a wrecked car/nude women unrinating on the junk yard stage extravaganza which goes on for 28 minutes. I can't believe that I have to follow this with comedy. But like all good performers I try to see the positive side. I am thinking that the audience will be so ready for a diversion I will "kill". Well, it could be. Most importantly the stage crew needs at least 4 minutes to clear the bull set stage.
However, just as we are about to run that section my artist director comes up to me and says, "I did not know we would follow that. After seeing it there is no way I will follow that piece... mine will be a disaster."
I say, "Listen, I have been a performer all my life, I have followed a lot of tough acts before, I am willing to give it a shot because I think I can score."
He shakes his head and says, " No... no.. no one can follow that act.... it is TOO GOOD!" So the number was cut.
Now I may be a Tony Award winning performer, but I am currently in an alternate show buiness Universe.
As you were,
I am performing in a show of 13 contemporary artist who are presenting their own “time based art” at the opera house in Manchester. `”Time based art” is the new term for “performance art”. You know the kind of performers who stare at a piece of cheese on stage for an hour and call it drama.
I am in the company of some of the greatest artist in the world. I am actually the “project” of one of the artists who is directing the show. My job is to be the ringmaster/emcee of this show trying in words to make sense of it all, while not moving my lips. Yeah, I have to communicate this complicated metaphoric symbolism with out the use of my lips. The microphone is a huge magnifying glass that makes my lips look the size of my head. It is like a magician sawing a woman in half using a clear box and an exacto knife.
One very famous American artist is presenting the longest piece of the show. It involves a 50 foot tall ramp coming down from the back of the stage . The stage is set with a wrecked car, Grecian pottery and what seems to be a junk yard of stuff. Several people carry in a dead body on a stretcher, a real bull is lead down the ramp dressed in a golden crown making three circles around the car and then mounting (yes in the sexual way) the wrecked car, while two half naked contortionists do back bends. The artist (wearing a dog in his head.. yes a real dog) and a squad of people dressed in Egyptian costumes look on while one of the contortionist urinates. I could not make this up. I watched them rehearse it for three hours yesterday.
I am not biting the hand that feeds me, but here is what I am learning about art. Art is mostly the guts to make people believe that what you are doing is important. While the bull is being lead around the stage yesterday 50 stage hands are watching in silence and a film crew is making a documentary of the experience. You would think this was a demonstration of the cure for cancer.
This was only day two of four rehearsals. I have been asking for a script to learn for about a month. I didn't get it until last night. One French lady said, “Are you really quick at learning a lot of material?” Yipes, why am I writing this and not studying.
As you were,
Monday, June 25, 2007
Two days ago when Sandi and I returned home we got to actually watch the Tony Awards Show via Tivo. It wasn’t a dream and I didn’t imagine it… Eddie Izzard really did hand me a TONY on national television. I have to say, that is definitely something “better” than ever happened to me while I was with the ex-manager. “Nah, Nah, Nah…” reverberates in my mind right now. I wouldn’t know how to reach that ex-manager, nor would I try and I don’t think he was watching the Tony’s… it is just one of the unforeseen emotions that Antoinette Perry’s trophy kindles. There are many more just as unexpected.
Yesterday my friend Sherry mentioned the word validation. That really is it. With a Tony award I feel validated. Paul, Murphy and I did not set out to produce a Tony winning show. We just wanted to do a theatrical production, for the love of doing it. We only wanted to do the best job we could. It was not easy and it took many turns, which could have been reason to give up. Now to be one of the elite shows awarded a Tony is validation of the journey indeed.
Why artists need validation is another subject. The work should be the reward itself, but that is a lonely proposition. If actors did not care about outside opinions why do they allow an audience to see them? I guess we all need a pat on the back for a job done well even if we loved the work. Maybe sometimes it is just to prove to the doubter we could do it.
The manager’s name is Richard O. Linke. Nah, Nah Nah.
As you were,
Monday, June 18, 2007
I will want to reflect on this in great detail later, but here is what the TONY means to me. It is one of the nationally recognised awards along with Emmys, Grammys, Oscars of course, but it is a performers award. Unlike the awards that are given for performing in a recorded media, a TONY is an award for stage actors. A TONY means that you did a show eight times a week, live in front of an audience.
I like to work in film and television, and I am sure recording a song would be great, but I love to work on a stage. There is nothing like the thrill of making it happen in real time every night. That is why I cherish this TONY. It is given by people who know what it takes to get out there every night. It is an honor to be accepted into that circle of special performers.
Thank you to everyone who came to see the Two and Only, and Thank you to all who have sent congratulations. I could likely be the most blessed person in the world.
As you were,
Monday, June 11, 2007
I have worn out a DVD of Eddie’s “Dressed to Kill” and my family and I can quote his material word for word. He is truly a comic genius. I love his new series the Riches, I have seen “The Cat’s Meow” where he plays Charlie Chaplin 10 times. He is a master class in comedy and acting. I told the reporter, “There is my idol Eddie Izzard it would be great to meet him.”
Now I have never been to a TONY awards show before. I have been a faithful television viewer for many years. Both my sister in law’s on Sandi’s side of the family have danced on the TONY’s, but being there is much different. There I am seven rows from the stage, sitting on the isle of Radio City Music Hall waiting for them to get to “my category”. Two rows in front of me is Eddie, my idol, but he is up and down and I can’t seem to find the chance to introduce myself. Each time a presenter comes on stage my heart races and my stomach leaps into my throat. Above the stage, a screen would announce the category, every time is was not “Best Special Theatrical Event” my stomach would fall.
Then Eddie Izzard comes on stage, suddenly above him on the screen is “Special Theatrical Event”, Sandi and I look at each other in shock and amusement with the realization that not only is this the moment, but Eddie Izzard will deliver it.
He is extremely funny with the introduction and I am enjoying him work from seven rows away, but my heart is in my sinuses trying to get out. For one quick moment my dark side threatens the joy of the moment. Sitting behind me is my competition, Kenny and Justin, better known as Kiki and Herb. Justin is dressed in a backless gown and makeup, not quite Kiki, and not quite Justin. My dark side says, Eddie Izzard known for being a transvestite and Justin, transvestite, my competition is behind me. At this point Eddie has announced the nominees for the competition and Kiki and Herb get a much bigger round of applause from the Radio City Audience than me. Here comes the dark side to say, “Wait a minute…. Did the telecast specifically ask Eddie Izzard to present this award because they knew Kiki would win? “ Now my heart is beating too fast to register. I am squeezing Sandi’s hand so hard she can only grip mine harder to save her digits.
I don’t really remember much after Eddie Izzard says, “Jay Johnson” it is a whirl wind of activity being whisked backstage with my producers. I am trying to tell Eddie how much it means to me to get a TONY from him, but I am stuttering in the moment. He pats me on the back and disappears. My friend and television director Bruce Burmester is back stage and is the first one to yell congratulations. They take the official photo and I am taken next door to 30 Rock for the press interviews. I am gripping my TONY like it is a life line.
The down side is that I suddenly have to go to work and miss all the other categories. However, I look up as I am making my way to the next interview and see Julie White, she has just won a TONY for best Actress. She was my buddy at the luncheon. I have calmed down enough to say, “Hey… is that a TONY… oh look I have one too.” We giggle like kids on a merry go round. There is a frenzy of photos as we pose with our awards. Then Julie says, “Well you may be ‘special’, but I am ‘the best’.
I haven’t been a TONY AWARD winner for more than a few hours yet, but Julie is right, I feel very special. . All I can say is it will be an evening I will never forget. I can finally breath again. Paul, Murphy and I did not set out to win a TONY. We just wanted to do the best show we could. What a trip. I am headed for a cruise tomorrow, there will be more
As you were,
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I happened to sit next to Julie White who is nominated for “Little Dog Laughed.” I reminded her that when we first met she was only wearing a towel at the Gypsy of the Year competition. Ah, show business.
At the end of the event I found myself waiting at the elevator with Swoozie Kurtz. Swoozie is a friend from LA and we shared an elevator at the Tony interviews last week. She accused me of being a stalker. Could be.
The "30 Rock" elevator stopped two floors later and in walks Boyd Gaines, Frank Langella, Christopher Plummer and Liev Schreiber.
I jokingly said, “If this elevator falls it will be a great boost to the career of Brian F. O’Byrne,” who was the only one missing in the Best Actor in a Play competition. I think Christopher Plummer smiled but it was a very tough room to work.
Recently I got this note from my friend Joe Beck who is the electrician at the Helen Hayes. Joe was one of the backstage players of “Name the Monkey song” when we did “The Two and Only.”
Here is what Joe had to say:
I have an interesting story for you. We're teching a
new show at the Hayes this week. There's a spotlight
operator sitting in the back of the mezz and, since
it's tech, he's all by himself. He came down for a 10
minute break looking spooked. He asked if there's any
ghosts in the theatre. I said, "Did you see something
near the SR Box Boom?" His answer was yes. I told
him how you'd seen the same ghost in the same spot. He
described it as a grayish apparition.
I wrote about that ghost in the blog when it happened. Those who believed, believed and those who didn’t thought I was just an imaginative, superstitious actor. I think my credibility as a ghost hunter is now justified.
As you were,
Sunday, May 20, 2007
The day after the nominations comes the publicity mini junket. On the top floor of the Marriott, hundreds of reporters and thousands of press agents engage the nominees in a flurry of interviews. It becomes a cross between the trading floor at the New York Stock exchange, and a hooligan riot at a soccer game. Each video crew has a draped cubical which serves as a mini studio. Each publicist with client in tow tries to squeeze maximum face time with each interviewer. The questions become the same. The task for the nominee is to come up with different ways to say the same thing over and over. “How did you hear?, Where were you when you heard?, Who first called you?, What does a Tony mean to you?”
Everybody gets their turn in the order they show up until Christopher Plummer appears. The crowd parts and Mr. Plummer trumps everyone in line. The same thing happens when Angela Landsbury arrives. Frank Langella walks through with purpose going only to the reporters he wishes to talk to. You see there is a difference between nominee and legend.
At the beginning of this tour through press-land they give each nominee a lapel pin that has the Tony emblem and says Tony Nominee 2007. It is a beautiful pin and one that I will keep forever (in fact I have only taken it off to go to bed each night since I got it). In this smile fest of interviews the game is to acknowledge each person sporting a lapel button with a heartfelt “Congratulations”. It is fun, akin to calling the bride at a wedding by her new name.
So the game now is to keep my expectations managed until June 10th and realize that the honor has already been bestowed. Some one asked me if this was a dream come true? Actually no, I have never even dared dream about a Tony nomination. There is a line from the film “Broadcast News” when the William Hurt character says to the Albert Brooks character, “What do you do when your life exceeds your dreams?” Brooks says,
“You keep it too yourself.” Good advice and enough said.
As you were,
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
All in all I would say this is a week that I will never forget. There will be more later. But for now, I am so grateful for everyone who has sent support and good thoughts. Rick and Cherd you guys are the best.
As you were,
Friday, May 11, 2007
This is CSI in Las Vegas, the original, not Miami or New York. The title is Living Doll and it will air next Thursday May 17th. Announcers used to say, “Check you local listing for time and channel” but now I think we just say, “Set your Tivo.”
It is an exciting week of New York coming up. Bob is ready for his trip to the Smithsonian Institution. I am a little sad to see him go, even though I think this is a great honor for him. This is beginning to sound like I’m sending a kid off to college so I’ll stop.
I have my fingers crossed that the Tony committee will decided to include “Special Theatrical Event” in their nominations this year, and have my toes crossed that we get a nod if they do.
It is a tough mental place to be. I want to put all the energy I can into believing in the nomination, but do not want to set myself up for another disappointment. Since these two ideas seem to be mutually exclusive it is difficult to even contemplate.
As you were,
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Daniel Beatty, "Emergence-See"
Ed Harris, "Wrecks"
Jay Johnson, "The Two and Only"
Nilaja Sun, "No Child"
It really is quite an honor and I am grateful that the critics have been so supportive of my show. So, Ed Harris. The LA Critics Circle Awards nominated our show in with Lynn Redgrave who won. I am reminded of what my mentor Mr. Meeker once told me, “Jay, when you play with the big boys you play for keeps.” To use the standard Academy Award language, it is an honor just to be nominated. I always thought that was justification from those who did not expect to win, but now know it really is the truth.
I completed my filming of the “Living Doll” episode of CSI. It was a great experience. I’m always frustrated as an actor when I discover a great new way to play the scene the minute they call it a wrap. It is the total antithesis of working the stage when tomorrow is another chance to find that moment again only better.
Having spent a lifetime playing myself as a ventriloquist, it was difficult to play the part of a ventriloquist that was so unlike myself. This guy has had a very tragic life. My brief and somewhat strange performance will be the last show of the regular season and is supposed to air May 17th.
We shot at the Riviera where the gambling didn’t stop just because a television show came to town. During one take a bartender mixed a blender drink about five feet from my ear. It was like trying to do Hamlet in a Saw Mill. I asked William Petterson (Grissom on the show) how he could concentrate with all that was going on around us. He said, “It is not just the casino noise, take a look over there.” I turned around and what looked like a thousand people crammed the casino with cameras straining to get a look at the filming. After seven years the stars have been able to find a way to focus on the work. They need an academy award for that feat.
Next stop New York City where I will dine with my producers and turn the original Bob over the Smithsonian Institute, oh yeah, and the Tony Nominations are announced.
As you were,
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
His prop cart is a buffet of different types of blood. There is dried blood, transfer blood, pooling blood, thick blood, spurting blood and various other kinds of red and burgundy liquids from which the director can choose. For this particular shot the pooling blood is chosen but that does not end the discussion of blood. How fast will it pool and in what direction will it flow and when does the director want it to begin. All of those decisions are made and the shot is set up.
After all of this work to get just the right look it will be a matter of a few seconds on screen. In trademark CSI fashion it will happen in double time as a hiccup in the storyline. If anyone ever wondered why it is so expensive to produce film, a few minutes watching the hundreds of people involved in the staging of this murder victim would give you the answer.
Personally I am having a good time. The process of single camera film production is long, boring and repetitious. However, it is a process I find totally fascinating. The angles, the eye lines, the way an editor/director can direct the viewer from shot to shot to create a world which doesn’t exist, is a unique art form.
Who knows how much of my involvement will actually make it to the final show. Unlike a theatrical film where running time in not as important as communicating the story, television film is ultimately all about time. My character is important in giving the motivation to the antagonist so it is likely that some of it will have to stay.
I will have a better feel of how it is going when we do my major scene in Las Vegas next week. After learning so much about blood on my first day, I can’t imagine the education I will get on my next day.
As you were,
Friday, April 13, 2007
We refered to Roscoe as "Queen of the Nile" even to his face, to which he would respond with a sly look from under his brow. Richard Pryor used to call him "humming bird". I never asked.
He could recite poetry from memory by the hour, and spontaneously write the dirtiest limericks that I have ever heard. He used to do poetry readings for ladies clubs. They loved him. He never had to prepare he just showed up and decided what he would recite on the spot.
It will be a long time before there is another like Roscoe Lee. Rest well my friend.
As you were,
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
It will be fun to do a single camera show again. I love film and this is a great chance to be on the set of a hit show.
Thanks to all the people that wrote to me to contact the casting agent and go for it. Usually I am gone when these things come up. I will let you know more about the air date, and how much of the part ends up in the episode.
As you were,
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
I had to smile at some of the things he had to say after 6 months of making this documentary. At our first meeting he was still excited about every aspect of ventriloquism. Now after talking to a hundred people from vents to scholars on the subject he has jaded a little.
The one thing that surprised him has been the individuality of the process of ventriloquism. He went into the project thinking there would be certain aspects in common to all vents, particularly the ones making a living at it. What he has found is a bohemian approach to the art and everyone has come to it from a different path. We all seem to be blind people touching an elephant trying to describe it. I know that most of my career has been spent tying to figure out what it is, and why it works. I guess that was the inspiration for “The Two and Only.”
There is a lot of in fighting with the ventriloquist community. It is part of the reason I try to avoid ventriloquist conventions. It is very hard to keep your perspective when there is so much backstabbing. There is an old yarn that goes like this: “Get two magicians together and you have a convention. Get two ventriloquists together and you have a fight.”
Bryan and I get along very well and it was a pleasure to work with him. He understands my distance to the community of vents after being a part of it for a few months. Last Friday he said, “I didn’t realize that ventriloquist seem to be the kind of people that eat their young.”
I wish it were not so, but there is nothing I can do except to try and stay above the tempest as much as I can. I wish him well with the documentary. I am excited that there is someone that is trying to look at the art with an objective eye and not try to paint us all as crazy. Perhaps we are, but I don’t think that makes a very compelling film.
Here is to Bryan, with the hope that he finds what he is looking for in this film.
As you were,
Friday, March 30, 2007
I show her what I want her to see and as she is contemplating how to respond, I say, “I might be crazy, but I think this works.”
Her response is, “Well, I don’t think it is either or.”
As you were,
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I talked to my friend Joanne Worley this morning and she is on her way to join the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” at the Marquis Theater on Broadway. She will be wonderful in the role of the dowager. I am anxious to see her in the show the next time I am in New York.
The next deadline is the announcement of the Tony nominations. I think the powers that be are waiting to see what happens to help jump-start the tour process. I never thought the tour would take so long, nor be so difficult. I thought the hardest part was making it to Broadway. Evidently it is all a very long project and it seems one has to have another job to afford a career in theater. Being a dyslexic instead of doing this early in my career, I decided to do it at the down side of a career.
We will also induct the original Bob into the Smithsonian the middle of May. That is very exciting. They are still creating the event so I don’t know much more than a date.
The IRNE award has recalled all the fun we had in Cambridge. That is when the road to Broadway was clear and full of excitement. I suppose there is nothing that could ever compete with that feeling, unless the show was still on Broadway.
There is a new horror movie out now called “Dead Silence”. I have not seen it but it seems to involve the dark and demented side of ventriloquism. I always hoped my show would stir up a renewed interest in the art form. I am taken up short that this could be the result. The demon side of ventriloquism is just so easy to write about. The movie will perhaps scare a new generation away from those of us who have found the art. I wish there was a current tour for The Two and Only that would at least tip the balance.
Thanks to all of you who keep asking about the tour, and keep checking in here to see if there is any news. I will post it as soon as I know, but you know the rule. I am the last to know. With Murphy and Paul fighting the battle for another off Broadway venture, the information I get is usually a month old.
I have not lost hope, nor the will to take the tour anywhere and everywhere that makes sense. I still think there are thousands of people who want to see this show and I want to bring it to them.
As you were,
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
The Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards. The ceremony was last night and the
The 2007 winner for Best Visiting Production is: “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only!”
So “in your face”, Lynn Redgrave, put that in your pipe and smoke it.
I would like to thank IRNE and all the people who came to see our production in Cambridge. Thank you Wiz.. was it worth the bat attack? Thank you Clifton, we still have a tab open at O’Briens. Thanks Rob for being there to load out. And thanks to Amanda, Tori and Lauren the “Charlies Angeles” of ART and of course Murphy, Paul and Sandi, for making it a wonderful run last summer.
As you were,
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Jim Brochu, Zero Hour, West Coast Jewish Theater.
Jay Johnson, Jay Johnson: The Two and Only! Brentwood Theater and Colony Theatre
Lynn Redgrave, Nightingale, Mark Taper Forum.
And the winner is: Lynn Redgrave, Nightinggale.
The LA press gave the award to a legendary Actress from a world acclaimed theatrical family for a show about Florence Nightinggale one of the worlds most acclaimed humanitarians performed at LA’s most prestigious venue. Those kiss-ass-critics. They would choose this over a show about a man and his puppets. What is the theater world coming to?
This is only the second time I have attended this LADCC awards show. They are known to give out multiple awards in the categories. In one case there were four nominees and three winners. The only loser must go home to an ego shredder after the awards. At least my friend Jim Brochu and I can sit at a bar and dish about the winner.
Actually it was a pleasant evening. I didn’t have to perform and the likelihood of having to give a thank you speech for an award was a long shot. In the tradition of my Boy Scout training, which continually reminds me to always be prepared, I did write something just in case it was needed. It was easy and the only thing I thought I might be called upon to say. “Congratulations to Ms. Redgrave on her winning performance.”
As you were,
Friday, March 16, 2007
I finally got to see my friend Bill do that part last night. I can't quite get over the idea that the man who created "Fool Moon" and "In Regard of Flight" can also turn in a performance of Albee's work like he did. I thought he was stunning. The production was fine and everyone was good but the more I watched Bill play George, the more complicated his performance became. It was like a video game where each level solved opened to another more challenging puzzle. He was truly amazing.
I was, however, sitting in the "cell phone" section of the theater. Although they make the announcement to turn off cell phones once before the show, and at both intermissions, three people around me had their phones ring, loudly during the performance. None of the three acts was free of cell phone rings. It is not just the ring that is distracting, but the scramble to find the purse, to get the phone to shut it off becomes a professional wrestling maneuver.
And of course cell phones don't just ring anymore, full orchestrations announce incoming calls. Suddenly a flea circus marching band concert can interrupt any silence. Lilly Tomlin once said, "I'm afraid the person who thought up Muzak, is thinking up something else." Unfortunately, he was thinking up ring tones. Great idea! Why just disturb people with a bell ringing when you can irritate them with a hackneyed song.
Bill and Kathleen were asked in a talk back, "what are the differences in New York, London and Los Angeles audiences". Bill said, cell phones ringing during the performance was more a problem in LA than any where else. One lady stood up and said, "Perhaps it is because we have more doctors here than anywhere else." If this is the mental capacity of the average audience member in Los Angeles, no wonder they can't remember to turn off their cell phones.
As you were,
Thursday, March 15, 2007
I wasn't feeling well in New York, so I really didn't get to do much but the speech. The rest of the time I spent throwing up in my hotel room. I was concerned that I might toss during the awards luncheon, knowing this might set dyslexia back 40 years I was trying very carefully not to.
Yesterday on the plane I was hoping not to toss as well. I started thinking of all the nicknames for vomiting. Hurl, toss, heave, spew, up chuck, feed the fish, drive the procelin bus, check the cookies and one I had never heard but works for me "Roy." If you have a favorite send it to me.
I am still a little under the weather, but Sandra insists that my dance card if full for the next couple of weeks and I do not have time to be ill.
More later, less vomit references.
As you were,
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Originally from Jamaica he is not only the owner of the elite transportation company on the Island, he also provides a bodyguard service as well. He is average height but is built like a Greek statue. He is a master of martial arts, and a weapons expert. Julio, his friends call him Julio, clients call him Rouy, is a very quiet and intelligent man with an engaging sense of humor and style. He is the one who drives and protects any celebrity that might come to St. Maarten.
Now that Anna Nicole Smith is gone he is more open to talking about the several months he was her St. Maarten bodyguard. He has great stories you will only hear while riding in his car, but what he isn’t telling could fill Celebrity magazines for years.
I hate to go though Customs and Immigrations at Miami Airport. I heard some traveler say yesterday while running to a plane, “This is the Stupidest Airport in the world.” Well, I haven’t been to every airport in the world, but it is the stupidest on my list.
A Customs official asked me where I had been with all these cases. I said, “I have been working, I am a ventriloquist and these are my puppets.” She didn’t seem to believe me. The choice was to either throw my voice or open all the cases for inspection. Rather than miss my plane, I decided to give her a show. It is like performing for the Mafia with a gun to your head. I was afraid that after I did a voice or two she would say, “No one would hire you with that act… strip search him and lock him up.”
Did I say it is great to be back home?
As you were,
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
By accident I wondered into an aft men's room on deck 11 a day or so later. I went to do my business and suddenly realized I was looking out a window above the urinal. This is the window I was looking for. The best view of the ocean is from the men's room on deck 11. And while taking in this beautiful view you can also multi task, if you know what I mean. I assume the designer of the ship was a man.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Friday, March 02, 2007
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
However, there was not a mention, not a thought or even recognition of Marti Gras at the Orleans Hotel. It is decorated like a cheap Fat Tuesday float, but there was nothing special that was done for the holiday so closely associated with the name Orleans. Harry and I even wished “Happy Marti Gras” to a waitress at the Orleans. She looked at us blankly and said, "I don't think we have that on the menu."
Rather than a mention of Marti Gras, all of Las Vegas was decorated for Chinese New Year. You couldn’t look in any direction without encountering three story high red banners with Chinese character writing on them. Perhaps they were advertising the $11.99 Prime Rib, but I doubt it.
So there you go. Las Vegas doesn’t give a hang about New Orleans because they are broke. But the Chinese are cash flush. Again, I miss the mob, they were a little softer hearted than the modern day corporations that have taken over Las Vegas.
Here is a Jeopardy question from the show I would like to see.
Alex: “And the answer is Ovaltine.” Contestant buzzes in.
“How do you describe Rosie O’Donnell’s early years.” Rosie, don’t think you are off my list.
I am off to yet another ship tomorrow. Yeah, I know this is becoming a “career”. However, I am still trying to recover from last year’s Broadway based salary. This cruise is not part of my usual contract and is a little quick for me to return to the sea. They had a drop out for the show this week and they loved me so much on the Explorer, I am being brought back. It seems I can get held over most anywhere but the Helen Hayes. Yeah, I’m still bitter, and based on a conversation I had with one of my producers yesterday, the Magical Mystery tour for the Two and Only seems to be evaporating. Stay tuned, it could all change, but you know you will get the truth from me here.
I feel I am losing my blog readership by posting so irregularly since leaving New York, but for now it really can’t be helped. We will be discussing the up and coming Tony race. And I think it is time to pin the tail on the donkey, and tell the inside story of what happened to The Two and Only, and name names.
As you were,
Monday, February 26, 2007
Welcome to the latest look of Las Vegas. What may seem like just a grocery receipt above is actually the newest form of gambling currency in Vegas.
What with E-tickets and home printable boarding passes, I guess it was only a matter of time before Slot Machines caught up to with technology. At the new hotels in Vegas, Slot machines are now coinless. Yes it is true, the Slot Machine no longer has a slot for coins. Promissory currency only.
This week I went to drop my usual high stakes quarter in a slot as I walked through the Casino, but couldn’t fine the coin drop. That is because there is no coin slot anymore. There is only a bill insert and a credit card swipe. So you have to invest at least a dollar before you gamble a nickel slot machine now days.
When it is time to collect your winnings, if any, you press the “cash out button” and a receipt like the one above prints out. However, there is a speaker that plays the trademark sound of quarters hitting the return tray, just like the good old days giving you the virtual thrill of hands filled with coins.
This barcode piece of paper can be used in other machines by placing it in the dollar feed. Goodbye to those Dixie cups once used to carry coins to the cage. Only paper receipts, that by the way, unlike a quarter in your pocket has an expiration date. And also unlike a quarter, the receipt is absolutely no good outside the casino if you happen to forget to redeem it at the cage.
Vegas used to have the pretense of class, albeit, Jersey Class. You could hit a jackpot and rake in the chips or coins or cash. For that moment you felt like a high roller. Now you fold up your grocery receipts and feel like you just had a nice trip to the market.
I miss the mob. Being soaked by modern capitalism is just no fun.
As you were,
Friday, February 23, 2007
“No, I mean when are you leaving for your show.”
“What show, Chris.”
“You have a show tonight, right?”
“Sure you do. You have a show in Anaheim tonight.”
“Yes. I have the deal memo and contract right here. Anaheim Hilton, Anaheim, CA 10:00.”
“Chris there is nothing on my calendar for tonight, I don’t have any advance on this show and no paper work.”
“I have it right here. I was planning to come down and see you perform. I am leaving directly from work. I wore a suit and everything.”
“Chris, I am looking at all three of my calendars and there is nothing on my books about a show tonight.”
I hear papers rattling in the background and there is an increasing tone of alarm in his voice, when he says, “Here it is Feb. 23, 2007. That’s today right? Anaheim, California, Anaheim Hilton Hotel, the Wow Factory is producing. I have a signed contract and signed deal memo with your signature on it. We definitely sent the paper work out. Do you mean there has been no advance on this show at all? No one has called you from the production company? Wait a minute. This show is at 10:00 in the morning. If you are not there right now we are in breach of contract. Let me call you right back.”
I immediately check all my files, calendars, bar napkins and scribbled notes to see how this show could have fallen through the cracks. It is now noon and there is no way I can make it even though Anaheim is only 45 minutes away. I can’t believe it; I have never missed a show in my life.
There is a moment of wondering if I will ever work in this town again before Chris calls back. The solution is simple, but very odd. It seems I did have a 10:00 am show at the Anaheim Hilton for the Wow factory on Feb. 23… of last year. Somehow the paper work for that show was misfiled at William Morris with a 2007 instead of 2006 date. The Agency computer held the date for a year and sent notices to Chris’s office computer, which triggered blackberry and email notices to everyone at the Morris office.
I guess this is a modern day problem caused by letting computers dictate our schedule. All is fine now and the blood pressure is back to normal. Except for Chris wearing a suit to work on casual Friday, all is as it should be.
As you were,