Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Wiz made a very observant comment about my trip to Vegas last week. She mentioned I was at the Orleans Hotel on Mardi Gras. Indeed I was. Since my friend Harry Anderson, who recently moved from New Orleans, was there at the same time the coincidence did not elude us.

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

There was a brief moment of panic this morning when I talked to my agent Chris Burke. I told him I was home and He asked, “When are you leaving?” It is an odd question for him to ask since he holds the calendar for my shows and should know the next time I am going out of town. The conversation gets stranger as it continues something like this:
“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,

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

I find myself doing a seminar for the World Magic Conference in Las Vegas today. I came to hang out with my friend Harry who is here performing his act. Tonight there is a forum on magic and the direction it seems to be headed. I was asked to be a part of that panel tonight.

Ventriloquist and magicians seem to share some of the same mystery of performance and although I have hung around magicians all my life, I never considered that I had much to contribute to the world of prestidigitation. However, in my career I produced three magic show specials for three different television networks. Since that would be three more than any body in the audience tonight, I guess I have something to offer.

After being around magicians for a couple of days it seems that ventriloquists are not the only ones who eat their own. There is certainly an element of backstabbing and petty comments toward the most visible and successful magicians. Since there are greater numbers of magicians than ventriloquist the negative element of the art is diluted somewhat.

I am sure there will be a chance to talk about The Two and Only and my ride on Broadway in the seminar today. Every magician is basically a one-man show hoping to take over the theatrical career of David Copperfield. I am trying to collect my thoughts to present some thumbnail sketch of my Hell and Hayes experience. It will be interesting because the forum is audience driven and question oriented.

We will discuss later.
As you were,

Friday, February 16, 2007

I’m glad to be back on land, although it is hard to get any sympathy for having to “work” in the Caribbean while most of the country is experiencing record cold weather. The shows went very well, I was delighted at the response. I was asked to do a special midnight show for the crew one evening. It was an honor and a pleasure. There is nothing like doing a show for the “inside” audience.

I obviously had a lot of emails to catch up on when I returned and I am doing that as efficiently as I can. There were a couple of emails defending my show. There seems to be some Internet chat in the “ventriloquist circles” about the “Two and Only” closing. I don’t usually keep up with that sort of thing. There is an old yarn that goes, “get two magicians together and you have a convention, get two ventriloquist together and you have a fight.” I have always preferred to keep out of the “vent” discussions for that reason. They are generally petty remarks by dilatants that choose to judge rather than up lift the art of ventriloquism. It is not my cup of tea.

David Letterman decided to do Ventriloquist Week II and which ventriloquists got chosen to do the week was the topic. For some reason the “Two and Only” was cast into that fray. I don’t read reviews and certainly don’t read Internet chat, so it is hearsay. But my feelings are not.

It seems some are blasting my show. “If it was any good it would still be running.” “Probably not as good as everyone touted.” “What made him think he could compete on Broadway?” Somehow the length of the run has been equated to the quality of the show.

One would think that practitioners of the art of ventriloquism would delight in another’s attempt to break a glass ceiling. Instead it seems to have engendered some odd resentment.

In hindsight the toughest hurtle of my show was trying to overcome the natural bias against the art form itself. A bias that I now know comes from these very “vents” who choose to belittle everything and everyone. Perhaps if those who snipe from the sidelines would attempt to perform better ventriloquism instead of judging and condemning those who are, we could all get a little more respect.

Not that they are reading this, but to those “vents” who demean my show here is a challenge. If you have all the answers where is your show? The Helen Hayes is empty right now. Go for it. Put up or shut up. I would be happy to come and see it and give an unsolicited mean-spirited opinion. Of course your show will have to run for more than seven months on and off Broadway, because right now… I hold that record.
As you were,

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I got the heads up last night from Paul Kreppel;
today the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards announces their nominations. Jay Johnson is nominated for Best Solo Performance along with Clifton Taylor for Best Lighting Design of the “Two and Only.”
Here is the link if you have a desire to know more about the Awards. They will be given out on March 19th.


The nomination is for the run at the Brentwood Theater. My show won the Ovation Award in this category for the run at the Colony Theater. It would be nice to take an honor for the Brentwood.

For Paul this is a double honor. Not only is my show nominated but in the same category “Zero Hour”, a play that Paul directed, is also nominated. When Paul called to tell me we were hosting Murphy Cross, Susie Walsh and Ken Berry for a dinner party. It was perfect since Susie was the stage manager for the Brentwood run. We all got to hear it at the same time. Susie told me she reads this blog. So wiener.

The third nominee in the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards category is Lynn Redgrave, for "Nightingale". I never thought in my wildest imagination, I would be in competition with Lynn Redgrave for anything. In fact I would never think our names would ever be used in the same paragraph together.

There is a strange connection, however. Lynn’s father Michael Redgrave arguably gave the best performance of a ventriloquist ever filmed in the movie, “The Dead of Night”. Although the puppet voice was dubbed, it was his performance as a split personality schizophrenic that continues to make people afraid of ventriloquists today. It is a performance that I have studied over and over again.

Tomorrow I leave for another adventure at sea. This time my honey is going with me so it will not be so lonely. We will celebrate Valentine’s Day in Costa Maya. So… given the access to the Internet and other distractions, blogs will be limited. I will post when I can.
As you were,

Monday, February 05, 2007

Happy Monday. Everything seems to be heading toward Valentine’s Day.

Valentine, probably the most famous saint next to Nicolas and Patrick. However, in an attempt to find out just who this patron saint of boxed chocolate is, I did some research. Here it is in a Hallmark card nutshell.

St. Valentine was dropped from the official Roman Catholic list of saints in 1969. I never knew saints were up for review or could be fired, but it happened. Seems they couldn’t really establish what Valentine did to earn his Sainthood. There are rumors that he was beheaded, but no one agrees on why he lost his head. One story has him helping Christians escape pagan persecution. I don’t know what that has to do with Cupid and lovers.

Most probably Valentine was a minor saint used to convert Christians from the Roman god Lupercus. Lupercus is the god who ruled a pagan celebration in the month of February. The names of the maidens of the village would be placed in lottery. Young men would pick a name and keep that woman as a sexual partner for the year.

The Catholics didn’t like this practice of random sex and changed the celebration to men and women choosing the names of saints in a lottery. The idea was to express the qualities of that saint for the coming year. Instead of the god Lupercus they assigned St. Valentine, most probably because he was really not known for anything specific before that time. Valentine's day, one day before Feb. 15th which was Lupercus Day, eventually became what it is, a holiday for lovers.

There you have it. Although there is confusion over the ancient person, there is no confusion over the day and what it means. If you plan to have sex anytime over the next 6 months, men, you are obligated to offer gifts of sacrifice to St. Valentine. Candy, cards, flowers, candle lite dinners and poetry are required in some combination.

Okay, now that I have done the research for you, share your plans for the 14th. After it is over we will figure out the plan that worked the best and then we are a year ahead of the game for 2008.
As you were,

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Yesterday I spent six hours in front of a camera talking about ventriloquism for a new film documentary. I was shocked that it had gone so long. I had a great time fielding questions that I have never been asked before. There were some that I have answered too many times, but for the most part it made me think. I usually shy away from these sorts of projects. More often than not it becomes a hatchet job and an indictment on the insanity of the art of ventriloquism. This one seems different.

After several conversations with Bryan Simon, the director and producer, I believe he is attempting to raise the awareness of the art instead of impugn it. Bryan has a real interest and we have a common desire to share the story. He is certainly going to the right people and spending a lot of time getting the information. I was impressed with his operation. In fact we did not finish the interview and I look forward to another session in a few months.

I am delighted that there is some sort of resurgence of interest in my art form. I am grateful to be in a place in my life and my career when I can affect the discussion. I know Bryan plans to shoot through July, and I have no idea how long it will take him to finish the project. I am told the average length of time to complete a documentary is four years. I don’t think this will take that long.

On another note: There is a rumor that the Two and Only Tour will start in Dallas in November. All rumors are rumors until replaced by others. Hopefully we will have some dates soon. (I think I made that same statement several months ago)

As you were,