Thursday, July 31, 2008

Julia (London Wiz) was having dinner with her 82 year old Mom. Mom watched my BBC morning show interview and asked whether this might prompt some wiser producers to try bringing my show back to England. She asked my age. Julia told her.
"Oh!" she replied. "Well he'd better get on with it !" Thank you Ms Crammer. With that in mind this theatre is for you.

----------------Two Old Guys on a Bench------------------------
Two old guys are sitting alone on a park bench. Nothing is said for a long time and one starts to leave. It takes him a very long time to get up and reach a standing position. Even longer to get in position to actually leave. When he finally does
the other one says........

"So where ya' runnin'"

Paul Kreppel - old guy number two
Jay Johnson - old guy number one

Murphy Cross - Director
Sandi Johnson - Assistant Director
Filmed on Location, Dolphin Square, Pimlico, UK

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

RULES EDIT: After receiving many comments and emails about my blog recently, it has been suggested that there be some new rules to govern the behavior displayed in my writing of late.  Although the author believes in absolute freedom of speech and the electronic press, there are some things that he can agree to do to keep peace with family and friends. After careful consultation with the editorial staff, here are 10 new guide lines that the author will attempt to abide by. 

New Rules Governing this blog:
1. All future uses of the term "dickless" will not be permitted in reference to any specific individual and or group of individuals. The term will be used as an adjective only when appropriate but never again as a proper noun.

2.  References to British Producer's diminished capacities or penis size will be greatly curtailed. 

3.  No further references will be made about "The Two and Only" in London, specific to a rationalization, reason or speculation as to why an extremely well reviewed show closed early at the London Arts Theater (Of Death!)

4.  Because of the death of the ARTS Theatre(Of Death!) Re: The World's a Stage - Blog "Requiem for the Arts", Friday, July 25, 2008, 2:41pm.  The words "Arts Theatre" will no longer be parenthetically followed by the phrase (Of Death!)  i.e. Arts Theatre (Of Death!). The joke is over the gag has been done to (DEATH!) why be redundant and repetitive.  I repeat, Why be redundant and repetitive. 

5.  It is now understood that the term Limey Bastard is not appropriate.  The writer apologizes. 

6.  No future references to FaceBook will be made in jest. It is serious social networking tool used by many wonderful people who find happiness and joy in knowing seemingly unimportant things about complete strangers. Some of those fine people are friends of mine on FaceBook and they can feel free to lighten up on the nasty things being written on my wall.  I was kidding. Don't make me Poke you all.  

7.  Rants will be kept to a  maximum of 536 words or a blood pressure reading of  160/92

8.  I will never again forget that my Mother reads this blog... and yes I am aware that I will never get too old to have my mouth washed out with soap.

9.  I will make absolutely sure I don't forget rule 8.

10. I will, however,  continue to subscribe to the belief that one should never let the truth stand in the way of a good blog. Particularly if perjury is funnier.

As you were,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

------News Flash! - News Flash! - News Flash! --------
Encino, CA - Damage done from the Chino quake. Fortunately loss was at a minimum since it was only Absolut and not Grey Goose.

At 11:42 am today,Tuesday, July 29th Chino Hills experienced a 5.4 earthquake about 8 miles below the surface. That is about 20 miles from the "Johnson Home for Wooden Children".   Those of us in Encino,  were "Shaken but not Stirred".  CNN is reporting it as a major story. You can thank the quake gods of Hollywood for giving the 24 hour news cycle something to talk about other than the frickin' election.

Monday, July 28, 2008

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here then is a 3,000 word blog.

For your consideration....

"A complete love story in three frames.
Courtship, romance and divorce."

Thanks to my Sister-in-law and family shrink, Joyce, for these pictures. 

I have never told Joyce how comfortable I feel knowing we have a Dr. specializing in "multiple personality disorder" available at family reunions now.  Joyce you have always been very nice to me, and most of the time I know you are not merely doing research. Here is to you sister/sister. Thanks for coming into our family.

Love ya, not more than me, yes I do, no you don't, you stay out of this... 

As you were,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm not sure how I am doing this weekend.  
Am I





Damn.  I'm just not sure. How shall I sign my texts today?  This could affect my entire day. How will my FaceBook friends know whether to Poke me, or send me a little sticker of a turned up thumb.  I'm not really sure my keyboard has enough keys to communicate how I really feel today.   Maybe that's because it is a BLEEDIN' KEYBOARD.  

Once again the digital age has given us ways to express  sentiment and emotions while at the same time relieving us of  having to feel anything at all.  It is obvious how Megs and Gigs have de-humanized how we see others.  But now it is trying to de-humanize the way we see ourselves.   

Some of the more progressive email programs will turn this particular key stroke :) into a 60's yellow happy face icon.  You know the one that usually said, "Have a nice day" below. It was sold in every possible form in every Aquarian Age head shop.  It was on the tee shirt you threw out in college along with the Esperanto textbook and the black light poster of Strawberry Alarm-clock.    

Can't we use this amazing digital technology for something a little better than just to give us symbols to hide behind?  We are losing language. Time was a person used a dictionary, thesaurus and intellect to find the perfect word to express his emotion before he set it to pen and ink. The closest we get to emotions today is a fey teenage boy screaming "Leave Brittney Alone" on YouTube.   In fact the thought of this is just so  :(   I just want to :'(

As you were,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Here it is, a weekend in sunny southern California, it is 88 degrees outside low humidity and the sky is blue.  The pool is very inviting.The water looks sparkling clean and refreshing.  

I am back home. Physically and emotionally. No more rainy gloomy London days alternating with sticky humidity with no air conditioning. This is  God's country not the Queen's.  

Before I jump into that pool, I just want to dip my glass into the deep end and chug down a refreshing mug of that good ole California water and enjoy this beautiful day. 

But hold on.
I'm told if I follow that instinct I will need to have at the ready a Blue Cross card and a stomach pump.

The pool man has recently adjusted the chemicals in the water for summer time. This is done once a year like clock work. The Pool company tells me this procedure is included in the weekly service ... at an extra charge. Before I realize that "comes with the service" and "extra charge" are mutually exclusive they explain the process in detail to confuse me.  Pool boy says this has to be done so that the hot weather and afternoon shade won't encourage the growth of algae, slime, wild bacteria or any other naturally occurring life form. 

As far as I can tell this pool liquid currently has absolutely no physical properties associated with real water.  Without constant care from a pool professional this liquid will evaporate into a solid chemical mountain of lethal toxic waste.  We sure don't what that to happen.  We want to keep it in a liquid form so we can jump in and immerse ourselves in it. The thought comes to me that if these chemicals are keeping any life form from existing in this water, what am I doing in it?  

I hate it when your instinct to survive gets in the way of a good time in the pool.
As you were,

Friday, July 25, 2008

Requiem for the ARTS
 by Walter Helmhurst  and David Wylie. 
 The ARTS Theater located near Leicester Square in London's West End, known to readers of this blog as the Arts Theatre (Of Death!) is dead. The official time of death is not known, but it is believed to be some time around July 4th only days after the opening of Jay Johnson: The Two and Only. Ironically the theater that killed so many shows through neglect is now itself dead.  

The Arts Theater (Of Death!) was not pronounced dead immediately since it has appeared lifeless for several months if not years.  One West End  theater goer when told of the news had this to say, "I am shocked to hear about the ARTS Theater. Not to say I am shocked about the death.  I am shocked to find out that building was a theatre. I assumed it was the repository of old show posters and rodent feces." reported the death in these words.  "London's Arts Theatre, most recently home to the short-lived U.K. run of Jay Johnson's The Two and Only, has closed down pending a redevelopment of the entire site, which is expected to include provision for a new theatre space."  There is much excitement about this "new theater space" since an actual "theater space" has not existed at that location since Noel Coward left. 

There is speculation as to the actual cause of death to the old storage facility/theatre.  One publicist surmised that in recent reviews of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only", the last show to perform there, one reporter proclaimed 'The ARTS Theatre finally has a hit'.  It is believed the shock of this reality caused the ARTS to suffer a heart attack.
Jay Johnson, now the last actor who will ever perform on the ARTS Theater (Of Death!) Stage, was contacted to see if he had any comments.  He said this, "When my show left the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York, they decided to close it down and completely gut it.  After my show left the ARTS in London they decided to tear it down completely. I would say my show is having an impact on theatre world wide."  

The ARTS is survived by two dickless producers, three Limey Bastards, one thousand Two and Only posters  and a secret bank fund in the Cayman Islands allegedly containing four weeks of back up budget reserves.  Due to an unfortunate lack of interest on the part of the surviving family no services will be held, but condolences and comments on this site are invited. 

As you were,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The wonderful thing is also the disturbing thing about computers and the Internet.  In tandem conspiracy they both compile and store things, and do it very efficiently.  It keeps all this information about you - out there-  in digi-space. Internet sites you have visited, email you have written, blogs never published, videos you have watched, it's always there somewhere even when you think you have erased the trail.  

There is a new area of crime solving called Forensic data recovery. If you get charged with murder, nerdy ex-hackers take your computer and autopsy the hard drive.  If they discover you visited a website called "www.How can I kill the guy next door and make it look like he ate a bad", don't expect to claim to the Judge you were "just being neighborly."  

So... going through my blog list today I found this draft hidden in the list it never got published and I assumed it was erased. It was written about two days after the show closed.  I was upset and trying to adjust to the information. I never finished it,  but here it is.   I might as well publish it now and get it out in the open.  I don't want some blog that I don't even remember writing coming back to haunt me.  I was a little surprised when sections of my blog ended up on a couple weeks ago.  I publish this un-edited and  stick out my digital tongue to caution. 

I have been married to the same beautiful Lady for longer than I was ever single.  I have been in love for so long,  is hard for me to remember what it was to be out of love or to fall out of love.  However, I know that when a relationship is over, it is over. The little things that used to be so cute are, after all, annoying and inflammatory.  Even worse when you believe you have been betrayed,  you start searching for things to support your belief.  

My relationship with London is over and I feel betrayed.  I'm not sure who is the betrayer. Is it the producers who failed at producing, is it the public who didn't come quick enough, or is it the Arts Theatre (Of Death!) that betrayed me?   Since the producers, the public and the Theatre (Of Death!) are all part of London, let's just say London is the betrayer.  And now that I have been betrayed the city is beginning to bug me. The things I used to love are now an irritant.

London is cold, and rainy, especially in the summer. They have a pub on every corner that is exactly the same as the one on the next.  They give them different names so oppressed Brits believe they are making a choice.  Names like "Kettle and Crown" and "The Cat's Paw" are created by the drunkards who drink their dinner every night at 5:00 on the street outside the pub.  These names are created simply  by putting two nouns together with a conjunction or using the first noun as a possessive adjective. The drunker you are the better they sound. Any two nouns will work.  The Brick and Turd,  The Dog's Balls, The Cock and Mouth, The Rat's Ass, it doesn't matter because it is all the same warm beer and bland food.  

They use the same effective strategy with pub food,  giving it colorful names like Bangers and Mash, Bubbles and Squeek, Bird and a Peck. This is designed to help you  forget they are actually serving only Wiener and Boiled potato. And what the hell is "mashy peas"? Traditionally served with Fish and Chips.  It's mushed up English peas. Predigested Gerber baby food mixed with a little mint to give the English pea some form of identifiable taste.

Also, in London there are video cameras everywhere watching every move anyone makes.  Half the population of London is watching the other half on a television screen to make sure they behave. This is more than Orwell's Big Brother, this is nationally sanctioned invasion of the right to privacy. It is probably being repackaged as a reality show and broadcast to one of the lessor channels on the BBC.  There are plans to expand the surveillance.  My theory is: eventually the entire country will be employed to watch the one last person left who thinks he's free. The thought........

That is where the rant ended.  I'm not sure where I was going from there, but really don't feel that way about London now.  I did have a great time and hoped to have a longer even greater time. I have now taken a more classical approach to the event and simply say:
Non Gradus Anus Rodentum Dickless Producers
As you were,

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One of the genius ideas from my semi-dickless ex-producers (Still confused about the one) was to put my profile up on FaceBook to promote the show. Completely dickless (the one I'm sure about) is on Facebook all day long and thought it would be a great promo.  

I have never found the need for MySpace, FaceBook, SecondLife, Personal ads or hookers. I guess what I am saying is, I have always been able to make friends the old fashion way in REAL life. But for the sake of selling tickets I sold out and thought, what the heck it's just promotion. So I reluctantly enter the world of Facebook. 

The first thing I notice when I log in is a conversation I am having with a couple of people I don't know. You see, because I was inexperienced in the ways of Face, dickless hired a surrogate to respond for me. It was weird to say the least.  People were asking questions and leaving messages, and I was responding ....with inane and poorly written phrases I never would use like.. "Golly, gee, for sure, as if"... I found out my surrogate was actually an English girl in her 2o's who did not know how to spell the word ventriloquism.   

To save Face (pun intended) I took over the day to day FaceOperations so I could at least answer questions in complete sentences. I tried my best. I posted pictures, provided updates, joined groups and welcomed "friends" into my "network".  I "tagged photos", posted comments, and even dared to "write on the wall" of a few sites. There are 16 billion ways to communicate on FaceBook, instantly, publicly, privately, in a group, selected friends only, your network and you can even "poke" someone. I don't know... and frankly don't want to know what that is.  

You can file a credit card and send emotional icons to people.  Friend of your's have a bad day? Send them a little sticker of a Care Bear that says, "Got a Boo Boo?" it only costs 5 bucks on Visa or Mastercard.  I found a way to link FaceBook to my blackberry so I could get instant messages any time...(big mistake, took that off real fast). There were applications I could download to share videos, make noises and create greeting card invitations.  Not invitations to real life parties, why bother leaving the computer when you can party on line.  I'll send you a little icon sticker of a beer, won't that be a blast. We can even share photos from years ago when we went to real parties and drank real beer.  I found I could easily spend an hour a night just trying to keep up. It was work.  Keeping up with FaceBook gives you no time to have a real social life. " I can't meet people, I am too busy making friends..."

I suddenly get a lot of "will you be my friend" requests.  Some people I actually know, most I don't, but, hey, I figure it's a game of numbers.  The more friends on the list the more people who might come buy a ticket to my show. These requests come with a picture of the person and a three choice buttons. "Yes, No and Ignore"  Yipes,  Ignore? How cold is that.   

I say yes to every friend request I get. I became the friendliest guy on FaceBook.  I am the cyber world equivalent of  that guy at the bus station with a big smile and a vacant look saying, "I'd sure like to be your friend" as I drool on my shoes. But, hey, it works a lot better on FaceBook than it would at the Greyhound station, and I soon have a lot of friends.

Then I look at my friend list and I see that 90% of them are students of my college roommate who teaches at Louisiana Tech.  Louisiana Tech, Ruston, Louisiana perhaps not the audience pool that will be able to support my London show. I am starting to question the logic of this promotional idea.  And it is now totally out of control.  Logging in to FaceBook is now like going to a family reunion when you have Alzheimer's. There are people telling me things. Giving me information. I don't know why, I don't know who, I don't understand.  I do know the very second I don't know, cause all communications are time stamped. "Hi from Dulce - 6:23pm, July 21, 2008"   Gee, it's now 7:04pm is it too late to respond?  It's exhausting and my show has CLOSED.  Wait, I get it... dickless had no time to produce my show... He is on FACEBOOK.

I know some of you reading this have found great fun with FaceBook. More power to you, are we still friends even off line?  But as a friend let me say, if you are spending more than ten minutes a day on FaceBook, well, you might want to think about the breaking information you are getting with this cyber intercourse.  Here is an example of the "update" I got just today: 

Ken was actually productive today
Bob is working on being new and improved
Marc is whitewater rafting with 2 dear friends
Don is having a great time practicing and choosing repertoire for a chamber music concert in october
Paulette is burnt like a lobster
Stewart is leanin like cholo
Andrew is looking for a grown-up production manager
Joshua is trying to be inconspicuous.
Lana is waiting for her husband to come home
Jay is very worried about Ken, Bob, Marc, Don, Paulette, Stewart, Andrew, Joshua, Lana, and his other 300 (and counting) friends .  

My FaceBook friends turn off the computer walk, out side, knock on the first door  you see, say to them that you are "burnt like a lobster". Find out how much a real person actually cares. You will then understand what a Poke really is.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I received an email from London Wiz, Julia today.  She tells me that my "career defining" name plate has been turned over to the British Postal Service and should be here soon.  That should be the last thing I want or need from London except maybe revenge. 

I've stopped finding British change in my pocket, that's a good sign that I am finally here to stay.  I think I left an English coin as a tip yesterday at Starbucks .  I thought the coin felt funny when I tossed it into the kitty. Actually with the lousy exchange rate the dollar is getting these days it is actually worth double what I thought I was giving.  I guess technically I "over stiffed" them. 

Julia commented on what I wrote in my blog yesterday.  In a typically understated British tone  she said simply, "If only ranting was an Olympic sport ......."  Perhaps I was a little hard on L.B.  I stand firm on the dickless comment, however.  

Which brings me to the possibility that my dickless (actually I remembered one of them is named Peter-- does he count as a Dick? ) ex-producers are reading this blog as well.  I am glad I don't know for sure. My rage is trolling barely below the surface and I think I see the periscope breaking the surface to check torpedo range.  My inner Buddha is telling me I should take the enlightened path and resist not.  My inner Hindi is telling me that it will be solved in another life time.  My inner Christ is telling me to forgive them for they know not what they do.  But my inner Allah is screaming Jihad! and it is really hard to hear those others over all his yelling.  
As you were,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Photo of the Day:  This is a newly discovered Mayan Pyramid near the coastal town of Maya City.  It is not that newly discovered as you can see by the healthy tourist trade that has come to conquer the native people one more time.  It is old, revered because it is old. Famous and popular simply because it is old. Yeah, there is a point to this picture and rant.   You'll see.

I was asked to do an interview today with a British journalist. He wanted to meet me for tea near the Arts theatre at my leisure before or after the show.  I suggested since I was now some distance away from the theater (of Death!) due to a premature closing it might be better to do it by phone.  So, phone it was. 

I expected his call at 11:00am Pacific time. That hour came and went and I forgot about it. Promoting a show that isn't currently running is not a priority.  At three o'clock, when I was completely involved in trying to conquer a universal remote for the garage and the gate, he calls.  At first I didn't remember who this guy with the funny accent was.  But soon we are on the same track, well, sort of.  For the sake of identification, let's just call him "Limey Bastard." 

He says he is doing an article on ventriloquism.  First question: 

LB: The failure of your show here in London, how much of that is due to the difficulty of presenting ventriloquism in an interesting way? 

I am ready to respond, but he has not quite ticked me off enough, so he adds one last twist.

LB:  I mean it is a very old and out dated form of entertainment. Do you think that perception is part of the hindrance in making it work anymore?

I'm not sure if he heard me cock the family shot gun but he soon realized he was the target of both barrels. It went something like this:

JJ: First of all the failure of the Two and Only at the Arts theatre was not a problem with presenting ventriloquism, the performance or any aspect of the show itself. We closed early because two dickless British producers (that's right neither one is named dick) failed to fund their portion of the show as agreed to. They stuck us in a theater that did actually draw flies, but nothing else, and before all the rave reviews were even published they pulled the plug and gave up.  

LB: Oh I see. I am so sorry. Who were they?

JJ: Look it up.  Now lets talk about this old thing. You mentioned to me that the perception of ventriloquism being "an old tradition" might be a hindrance.  The more I consider that question the more I am floored that a British writer would even think it.

 After seeing hundreds if not thousands of British people watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace a few weeks ago, I realize that the British hang on to things simply because they ARE old. The traditions of Parliament are centuries old yet your country embraces them with an almost arrogant dignity. Your judges still wear powdered white wigs to work. Your country continues to participate ancient rituals that by now have lost all modern relevance.  I think you have some old writer by the name of Shakespeare over there.  It seems his stuff is not yet too "old" to be a hindrance.

For that very reason one would think my mother country would admire the art of Ventriloquism if for no other reason than because it is "old".   
Here in lies the schizophrenic thinking of my art. People have not been burned out on ventriloquism, they have been burned out on bad performers.  You see a bad singer, you just think, bad performer, can't sing.  You see a bad ventriloquist and you proclaim death to the entire art. Perhaps if the dickless had put their money where their traditions were my show could have made this conversation irrelevant.  I'll bet you see plenty of bad performers during the Edinburgh festival week.  This must mean that festivals are now "out". Let's proclaim them dead and move on.

LB: What are the difficulties of doing comedy with ventriloquism? I mean how can you make comedy work with ventriloquism?

JJ: What are the difficulties of playing jazz with a classical violin.  It's an instrument, an outlet for art.  Comedy is the music we play with a ventriloquist figure.  It only matters how good the musician is,  I once saw a guy play Beethoven on a carpenter saw, if you closed your eyes you could swear it was Itzak Perlman.   Oh and by the way, a violin is a very old instrument don't you think it might be an "out dated form of entertainment?"  Perhaps in your article you can suggest that we stop going to concerts if there is the possibility we might see a violin.

LB: This is a short article and I think I have enough information.  Thank you.

Pitty because that was just one of the barrels, and I was ready to reload.  

Back to the picture.  Old. Old art form... old pyramid.  It's a good or bad adjective depending on how you want to see it.  It either adds value or depreciates it. I have decided before they start calling me old along with my art form, I will celebrate the value of old. 

So here's to old friends, here's to old values, here's to old wealth, here's to old wine, here's to old songs, here's to old movies, here's to being old enough, here is to anything that is not old hat.

As you were,

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Photo of the day: I found this on my computer while I was clicking around. It is signage in the front window of the WhiteFire Theatre. (Ventura Blvd. Sherman Oaks, CA) It was the only advertising for the original workshop run of The Two and Only in August of 2003. It was Jay Sandrich, our benefactor even back then, who gave us the money to buy it. Murphy Cross agreed to direct a children's play for the landlord to get the Theatre rent free. It still makes me smile to remember those days. There is nothing that can equal Pirate Theatre and Gonzo Production.  As I see the dates we ran almost as long as the London production. I kept that sign.  It means more to me than the Clayton/Collier poster from the Arts Theater... "of Death". 

Which brings me to a thought about signs. 

From the dictionary.  Sign - an object, quality or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else, regarded as evidence of what is happening or going to happen.  

So to paraphrase: a "sign" is only a symbol of something that is going to happen. (Cue: Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone theme music) I offer this for your consideration.

A couple of mornings ago I woke straight up out of bed at 4:30am with the realization I left my prized name plate on my dressing room door of the Arts Theatre (of Death!).  The theater seemed to be rushing us out as quickly as they could on Sunday evening, and I had a nagging sense I might accidentally forget something.  This is why I checked the stage and the inside of the dressing room several times, but I forgot to look on the outside of door. I had placed the name plate on that door the minute the dressing room was assigned to me.

Long term blog readers will remember this name plate from an incident at the Helen Hayes Theater during the Broadway run. 

There was nothing to be done but accept the idea that it was gone.  After a few uneasy moments I went back to sleep trying to heed the advice of Eckhart Tolle and stop identifying myself with any sort of form.

Later that morning as I am having some coffee and checking my email I see a message from Julia my London version of Wiz.  Julia tells me the tech director at the theater "of Death" found my name plate on the dressing room door and wondered what to do with it. Julia went by the theater that afternoon and got it.   Her email was asking if I would like her to send it to me in the mail.  I was very excited and wrote her back immediately to tell her the long relationship I've had with that name tag and I would love to have it back.  The completely odd thing about this is, the California time stamp on Julia's email was 4:42 am.  

It was five days after leaving the theater and three days of being home before I realized suddenly out of a dead sleep in the early morning that I didn't pack my name plate.  A name plate I have carried with me in Bob's case for decades. (twenty-five years to be exact)  I also happened to remember this fact at the exact moment Julia was sending me a email message about it half way round the world. 

You tell me.
As you were,

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You suddenly find yourself riding a giraffe, being chased by a bunch of wild horses, a lion and a monkey.  In front of you is a herd of ostriches who will not get out of the way so you can pass.  The lion seems to be gaining, but there is nothing you can do about the ostriches, who now seem to be slowing down.  A panic begins in the pit of your stomach as you realize this could be the end.  What do you do?  You get your immature ass off the carousel and let the kids ride for a while. 

I thought of that joke today as I ordered my fix of Ice Blended Mocha from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf nearest my house at Encino Place.  It is my regular hang out when I am home.  It is only a few blocks from the house, but I pride myself on walking instead of taking the car in true LA style, even thought they do have free valet parking.    

Just inside the courtyard of Encino Place is a carousel. I watched it go round as always and saw this.   An over-weight young father was straining the saddle of the giraffe he was riding giggling while his son (I presume) was beside him holding on to the pole of the horse for dear life sobbing hysterically.  I know some day the young child will look back on this moment and think, "That's when I realized my Dad was a jerk".

Angel, the girl behind the counter,  has worked at the Coffee Bean the entire time I have been supporting them with my habit.  She starts to fix my drink the moment she sees me walk through the door.  
"Haven't seen you in a while." She says with that cute little smile as she starts the blender.  It is obvious the neighborhood missed me and has been worried.

"Yeah, I was doing my show in London." I say proudly. 

But as I am unwrapping my straw, I prepare to tell Angel how I should have been in London all summer but the idiot producers I trusted didn't come up with their share of the budget and although we had great reviews and wonderful word of mouth they pulled the plug after only 11 shows before we had a chance to let people know that our Tony Award winning show was there in the West End theatre district and how I am very upset with Andrew Collier and Peter Clayton, still,  and wonder what I will do the rest of the summer since I cleared my calendar to be there doing 8 shows a week for those British bastards in a theater that I really didn't think suited the show but was willing to perform because I thought the English audiences would really appreciate the tone and nature of my show....(breath) ... because I knew she would ask me.  

"Ice blended Mocha... here ya go," she said and wandered back over to the bar to prepare the next order.  

No "welcome back" no "how was it in London" no "how did it go" no interest in my manufactured trauma at all.  Just a curt,  "here's  your order" with an implied "you old geezer" on the side.   End of inquisition, end of conversation and end of my fantasy that anyone in Los Angeles really cares about a show in London, much less mine.  

The lion will not eat me and the ostriches are not standing in my way. I hear the little boy inside of me saying, "Jerk".  Time go get off this mental merry-go-round.
As you were,

Friday, July 18, 2008

My friend Don Bailey found this and sent it to me.  I am sure this campaign needs no help from me, but I think it is a great idea.  We've only touched the surface of what a viral advertising campaign like this can accomplish. Check it out, there is much more to it than just coincidence.  You will miss the genius of it the first time.  However, to quote another Johnson politician from 1968, "if drafted I will not run, and if elected I will not serve." 

I am reading a book called "The Man who Knew Too Much". It is yet another thick book on the assassination of JFK, which by the way is a particular obsession of mine. It makes me realize that if "they" had been in possession of the technology displayed above we would have had pictures of Lee Harvey Oswald standing on the back of the Presidential Limo pulling the trigger, holding a copy of the Cuban manifesto.  As it is we only have a grainy black and white picture of Oswald in his back yard holding what looks like "the assassin's" rifle. The picture is generally considered to be a fraud.  A layman can see the cut marks on the negative.  It begs the question, "If the picture is a fake, who doctored it?  If it wasn't Oswald himself doesn't that imply a conspiracy, mathematically?" 

The rule is... don't believe everything you see or hear, particularly if it can be manipulated by technology or anything on FOX television. 
As you were,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have to explain the video below. 
The figure sitting there in my office is named Van Ghost. But before I can explain him I really have to explain myself. (I know from experience this task is not always easy) You can watch it now, watch it after the explanation, or move on to YouTube where you can see millions of videos that don't need to be explained.  I took the video this morning with a new little digital video recorder Sandi got for her birthday.  Thanks Loddie.  I love her present.
When I was a kid I fell in love with the movie "House of Wax" with Vincent Price. It started a passion for making life sized dummies. (I use the term correctly since they did not talk). In Texas I think they were considered Scarecrows but in my mind I was curator of my own Wax Museum of horrors.   Halloween became my favorite holiday because it offered an excuse to create a temporary horror show. Years later when I discovered my best friend Harry Anderson was also a Halloween freak we took horror shows to a new level as adults creating illusions and shows that are still talked about.  One "haunted house" in the basement of Harry's Pasadena home caught the interest of magician David Cooperfield who flew in for a private showing before we took it down. Those stories will be in a book someday, but....

 Back to the Scarecrows of my childhood. (I haven't forgotten about the video... Like I said, you don't get this commentary on YouTube.)

Occasionally I would move my stuffed scarecrow friends around from place to place, forget where I had left them and scare my sister or myself when they were accidentally discovered.  Soon I would "forget where I had left them" in really great places that were guaranteed to be "accidentally discovered".  I have offered apologies to my sister in our adult life. It is not the only thing for which I owe her a lifetime of apologies.  The fact that she still tolerates me to this day is a testament to the saintly quality of her forgiveness. 

So, now that you know, on to the video de´jour.  Before I left for London I was playing around with an effect for a ghost that would turn and look at you as you walk around the room. Halloween is never too far away to start planning. Since I thought I would be gone till just before Halloween it was less anxious than it seems. I knew I would have limited research time when I returned.

I found this likeness of Van Gough, Harry had given me years ago (Most if not all of the coolest stuff I have comes from Harry one way or another) and thought I could make it work. I "gaffed it", as magicians say, and with some simple lighting he will turn his head and watch you as you walk around the room.  It is not mechanical it is an illusion and several people in the room will see it looking at them at the same time no matter where they are standing.  You can see the illusion a little bit on the video, but in person it really is affective, and as Sandi and Taylor pointed out when he was in the living room for a while, disturbing, scary and unnerving. (I think Sandi said something like, "Get that thing out of the living room or take it with you when you move out.")

I was at the airport two hours before a 13 hour flight yesterday. I couldn't sleep on the plane, the time change was tough and by the time I got home I was fried.  It was dark before I finally made my way into my office on the other side of the house.  After being away for a month I flipped on the light and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Van Ghost staring back at me. I forgot where I left him, I had forgotten I even had him.  I think that's what I like best about being schizophrenic, I get to enjoy my own insanity in a very entertaining way.
As you were,

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The first thing I did when the plane landed in Los Angeles was switch my Blackberry back to the US network.  I immediately get a message saying, "Welcome to Iceland . Dial + 1 and the number for United States, and 345 for the city code." Sort of makes you wonder. 

I'm back home and feel very disoriented.  Still sort of feels like I was sent home.  There was nothing complete about the experience in London.  As I was packing up last night to leave there were clothes I never had a chance to wear.  Opening night and my BBC Television interview were the only times I needed to dress up.  I thought there would be many more interviews before we were done.

On the plane I watched the Maltese Falcon, again.  It is one of my all time favorites. This time I saw something I had never seen before.  When the Falcon is delivered to Spade's apartment it is wrapped in newspaper, cotton and cloth tied with twine.  Gutman excitedly cuts the twine and peels away the packing tossing it all over the table to reveal the black bird. He scrapes it with a knife to discover it is made of lead, not gold and jewels.  The very next shot is a master of everyone standing around the table looking at the falcon. There is no wrapping, the paper and cloth have disappeared from the apartment. The table is completely bare except for the "dingus". Never noticed  it before don't know why I did this time.  Now it will be the only thing I'll notice in that scene from now on. 

Very tired. It may be early evening here in LA, but in my body it is about 5:00am.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Picture of the Day: Printed on the bottom of the maps in the Tube Stations is this phrase. "Home is the most important place in the world." It's an ad for Ikea, but it was never so true as how I feel right now. I'm ready to go home. I'm done here.  What ever I was supposed to do is over, and right now London has nothing to offer me.  The affair is over before it began.
Some of my blogs ended up as an article on talking about our closing the show here in London. That was surprising, and maybe a little bit invasive. But I guess if they want to know how I feel about the situation of closing, I wrote what I felt, anger then sadness then anger again and depression.

I am moving on literally and figuratively. Tomorrow I go back to LA. I won't have to think about it any more. I will be too busy trying to make up for a lost summer of work. I don't think some of the New York investors have moved on, however. There is still a lot of things that just don't add up about this production. 

We ran this show for an entire summer on the same size budget at the Atlantic Theatre in New York, which was a union house. We started off doing the same sort of business, slow and inconsistent. But we were never in danger of closing the doors back then.  There was even a little money left over at the end.  Most everyone thinks that the money was just not raised here in London. But you know what, I am really tired of trying to figure it out, exhausted actually. 

I walked past the theater tonight at 8:00 and it was locked up and dark. Nothing was going on there. The bar was not even open. It is such a shame. Tonight the Arts certainly looked like the theatre...."Of Death" as Nethernore would say. This chapter is over, turn the page.

I don't know how often I will have something to say here on the blog. But please check back. I don't really know who is reading with a few exceptions, but I think of you all as friends. And I guess even someone from Playbill is friend as well.

I promise I will try to be funnier. I got too caught up in the drama of it all to think funny but that will all be gone as soon as I go through airport security. The TSA makes me laugh. Monkey's in uniform have always been funny to me.

Good bye and good night from London home base. Let's talk from America next time.
As you were,

Monday, July 14, 2008

If this had been just another day off it would have been fantastic. In the words of my former backstage keeper, Julia, "I'm quite tired now and could do with a day off, but the rest of my life off seems a little excessive." More wisdom and wit from my friend and CSM. As much as I tried to pretend that this was just another day, that nagging dialogue inside my head kept pulling be back to a different situation.

I slept most of the day. It was beautiful and sunny when I walked to lunch/dinner. Blue skies, and the hint of rain is the normal but it seemed happier than most days. The little Thai restaurant which has become my favorite place to eat is actually not as far away from my apartment as I thought. Coming home I made the wrong turn and instead of 6 blocks away, it is actually only three. A day before I leave I realize where I am.

I certainly don't feel I know London like I came to know New York. It is not just the short length of time I spent here in comparison. New York is such a faster pace, you have to swim harder, you have to run faster, the energy is infectious. You have to get to know it quicker, for survival. There is much more of an excitement to New York, London is much to civilized. Their traditions slow them down to the way it was, not the way it is. If I had all the resources in the world, I might live here a couple of months a year, but I would be in New York all summer. I never felt so alive and so creative as when I was working and living in New York City. There was a blog on every corner. I turned into Damon Runyon just reporting on what I saw in New York.

Here I find myself enjoying the ride through the city, but there is absolutely nothing to inspire me to write about. I look around London and ideas start off like some history lesson. ie. "Today as we passed the Old English Roustabout House which was the site in 1630 of the Earl of Ducklingham's duel with the Duke of Chichesterfestringdom which ended as the future Kent of Clark stepped in and....." Know what I mean.

New York on the other hand, ie "Today as I walked past Time Square I recognized a homeless man having a detailed conversation with a trash can. It was a former investor in my original off Broadway workshop musical entitled, 'West Side Girl Walking East'. I wasn't sure it was him until he peed on my shoe, as he had done so many times before...."

At least at the theater I had Julia, Ruthie, and Nathan for inspiration. I think Ruthie felt like I was using her as a little too much inspiration. Once she found out that I was writing about her vacuum obsession, she asked if I could make her seem less "unique" in my blog. Dear Ruthie, I just write 'em like I sees 'em. I am just a humble observer of life, writing down what comes to me.

There was the discussion on the cans (headset to you American actors) between the three of them two nights ago trying to determine if Ruthie's eye shadow was regulation. Lime green sparkly eyeshadow seemed to cause Nathan trouble doing his job. I personally felt that since lime green is the color of Harry's suitcase and the "hue" of the show, not only was it regulation, it was inspired. The discussion ended when it was determined that her eyeshadow matched the boots Ruthie had worn that evening. Fashion trumps regulation anytime.

Then there was the word "Lettuce". I don't remember exactly how we ended up talking about it, but Ruthie said, "I like the word Lettuce. It feels so good to say it.... Lettuce. Don't you think so... say it Lettuce." I have to admit that it did not have the same thrill for me it does for her. However, I encouraged her to say it as often as she could just to make her mouth happy. She took that suggestion to heart. We got a call over the announcement system later that night which said, "This is your quarter lettuce call, fifteen lettuces till show time." I am thinking if Ruthie ever goes to New York and I can be a fly on the wall, I may be able to retire on the book I could write.
As you were,

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I don't know how many closing nights I have experienced in my life and career. It feels like hundreds maybe thousands. The actual count is not important, even one is too many to forget the profound emotion one feels at the time. I am just settling in to a comfort level with these British audiences, just beginning to feel like I can lead them in the dance. At the moment I know them, I have to tell them goodbye. That's not right, there is no way that feels satisfying.

Tonight was a tough show to get through. It wasn't a very big house but they were a very good audience. Even through teary eyes I could see them standing on their feet at the end. I'm told that British audiences don't do that, and I almost wish they hadn't. How much harder it is to leave when you are receiving such appreciation. I thought for a moment if I could just keep going and never leave the stage the show would never have to end. Is there such a thing as a theatrical filibuster? But it couldn't work. Eventually it was much to traumatic and emotionally draining to stay on stage a minute longer.

In a curtain speech I tried to explain to the audience how hard it will be to leave my friends, Julia, Ruthie and Nathan. The audience can't understand how close I am to these three. Strangers weeks ago, now friends I trust with my show completely. They held the net tight so I could attempt the tricks high above the crowd and have no fear of falling. If the truth be known, I was doing the show for them each night. The audience was just the excuse to start. This show has always drawn to it a unique group of wonderfully talented people. I can't think of a person who was just doing a job, everyone became emotionally involved with the show on some level. Marina the usher brought me flowers from all the ushering staff tonight, with a card signed by each one of them. Marina specifically said that I was to share the flowers with her favorite "person" Squeaky.

I know the drill. On Tuesday around 7:30 I will look at my watch and realize I am not where I want to be. Where ever I am and whatever I am doing, no matter what it is, I will feel like I'm in the wrong place. I'll want to hear that music and feel that rush of uncertainty. I will try to bargain with the theatre gods to give me one more moment on the boards, for just one more night. I will probably be back in Los Angeles before that feeling goes away. The wonderful and frustrating thing is that it will never go away completely. It will all come rushing back at a time and place I am not prepared for. Maybe it will be a smell, a color, a kid that reminds me of Oliver, or just the call of a Seagull. It will remind me of the great time I had in London, it will remind me of that thrilling opening night, my wonderful friends but sadly will not prepare me for the next closing night. Those will never be easy.
As you were,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It was my birthday yesterday so I took the blog off for the night. I had a great dinner after the show with Murphy, Paul, Julia, Ruthie, Estelle, Nathan and Julie. A wonderful bunch of friends new and old. I have had decades of birthdays. I usually think that they are more depressing than other days in my life. This one was just fine. Yes, I wish I was staying in London longer, but I accept the situation as it is. I have had a great run no matter how short it was. I did find out that the theater is basically closing after my show closes. Many of the people whom I have grown to like are now out of work. The people that work tech at the Arts Theater, Julie, Sean, Andrew (the tech not the producer Andrew) will be laid off after we close tomorrow. That makes me feel much worse. If our show was continuing there would be a dozen or more people who would still have a job at the theater. No one is happy that we are closing. It is a real let down for everyone.

There is a nightly ritual of carrying the "boys" of the cast to and from the stage, before and after the show. Basically we transport the puppets in two case and one is large enough to require two people to handle it. We take them up a long flight of stairs that is dark, old and dungeon like. There are handles on both ends of the large case and it has to be carried flat. It is remenisent of pall bearers carrying a casket.

Paul and Murphy were helping me up the stairs last night. With the show closing it suddenly reminded me of a funeral procession as we ascended. Here we were the "three and only" burying our London creation. Up the stairs I started humming funeral music and then began to sing it louder. Paul and Murphy have always been on the same wave length with me creatively, and they started humming and singing the same tunes. Paul and I started trading musical phrases and it immediately turned into a New Orleans funeral. At first funeral tunes, but by the time we got the "bodies" to the dressing room we were riffing on up beat jazz and free forming at the top of our lungs. It became an impromptu New Orleans Jazz funeral. It became a full dixieland band ascending the stairs in this the final moments of a theatrical parade. The New Orleans people have it right. A little sadness and then, let the good times roll. It helped me release a lot of pent up emotions in a way that was very disarming. I felt a burden roll off me when we finally arrived at the dressing room.

Murphy and Paul left early this morning. I barely remember them leaving at 5:00 am, but they took their own picture with my camera and left it for me to find later in the day. After the show tonight it was time to take the suitcases up stairs. I said to the crew, "Who is available to join me in the funeral march?" No one seemed to be jumping at the opportunity. There was a moments pause then Ruthie said, "I'll help you up the stairs but please don't make me sing." I laughed very, very hard. It was if she was saying, I don't mind the work, but please do not include me in your insanity. This is the same person who was obsessing over a vacuum named James just a few days ago.

About the show closing. I am fine. I had to get mad, get depressed, get sad and then get over it. Since that process all happened in the same three days when my sons left and my birthday arrived it was an emotional roller coaster. I blasted the Producers in my dressing room on Wednesday like Hitler addressing his generals in the bunker. Later I realized that I had vented Broadway anger that was pent up for two years and in some ways did not fit my anxiety over the current situation. I later told them that I was more upset with the situation and their mistakes than I was with them personally. That is true, I don't think they are dishonest, nor underhanded, they are producers, the natural enemy of the artist. They are just young and inexperienced and made some tragic mistakes. I like them a lot and still think they are good producers. They will take the hit for this failure more than me. I leave town with the hottest show that didn't run. Great reviews, everyone who saw it thought it was the best show in London. And I believe it was. The mortgage crunch has hit Britian and the oil prices affect them as much as us. There are no Americans on holiday here. No one can discount the fact that the show opened in the worst economic times London has experienced in ages. There is not a show in London right now that isn't struggling. There will be more closures than just my show before this economy turns around. The world economy is on a knifes edge and we have not seen this sort of depression world wide in a long time.

If someone came to me and offered 21 shows in London's West End for a three week run, I would have jumped on it. The fact that I thought this was going to be longer is ultimately not an issue. I had a great run. Longer than Dallas, and longer than any date on our tour for the last year. We are still looking for our market and we will find it. Maybe we already have. Maybe this show is so special it will never draw masses, it will only draw those people who are called to see it. I know one thing, if I was playing to 17 thousand people a night, making millions and didn't like the show I was doing, I would be a very miserable person. I am neither of those things.

As you were,

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thanks to everyone who has sent emails and comments on the closing of the show.  I am blessed with so many friends.  Who can feel bad when you have friends and family like mine. The show is getting better and better this week. It is a pleasure to perform it even if only a few more times. 

I am fairly certain that the production here in London was under funded. Seems like the London group did not have their money together before we opened. I don't have any legal recourse, but I would think the other investors do. I found out the theatre rental has not been paid. I think in the US this is called fraud, but don't know the rules here.

We are at this point a hot show in London, and everyone assumes we are a hit. No show has ever closed with reviews and reception we have gotten for the 17 shows we have done here. I am at that point when I might write something that I might be sorry for saying. So rather than do that I will postpone the blog until tomorrow. I think I have some opening night pictures that might work as mug shots.
As you were,

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The show was really good tonight.  I have sort of figured out this British audience and the show is actually getting better. There was a reviewer there who seemed to like the show a lot.  
Her review will come out on Monday.  Sunday we will be the "Critics Pick"in the Herald and we are pick of the week in Time Out.  I think people are just now figuring out we are here, but we are not.  Sort of an interesting study in absurdities. 

I 'm not sure what will be coming into the Arts Theater "of Death" to replace us. It could be they will lease it out as a meat packing plant. A slaughter house would be much too obvious a match.  It will not be my favorite theatre as I recall my stay. It is too much of a club to be a theatre and too much a theater to be a good club.  I over looked a lot of things I didn't like about it trying to make the best of the situation at first. None of that matters now.  

I will remember the people that work at the Arts Theatre. They have been great.  Sean, one of the techs, watched the show for the first time tonight. You know you are closing too quickly when one of the guys working the show has just seen it.  I will especially miss my crew, Julia, Ruthie and Nathan. We were a good team and it was always a pleasure to come to work.  When I mentioned to Julia tonight that she was being very nice to me, she said, "It's my job, Jaay" a throw back to Bob's recurring line in the show.  Julia is as witty as she is capable.  It's just a joy to be around these three. I unfortunately cannot pack them in a case and take them with me.  
As much as their shine and joy, I will miss their delicious British accents. They always sounded like they were singing when they talked. 

No one quite understands why we have to leave, least of all me. It is all about the money. Art and money will never really have a comfortable relationship.  I will miss London and hope that in some small way they miss me.  The producers of the Italian show came to see mine tonight.  I said hi to them afterwards.  I guess only they can really understand the emotions that were flowing through me.  Maybe we bonded in a way that would never have happened had we both stayed for our seasons. As it turned out the boy friend of one of the Italian producers is a friend of my Son.  Michael has been to my house many times while he and Brandon were in High School. Michael was there tonight. Small world.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

No picture tonight, but if there was one it would be the Comedy and Tragedy masks.

I've always loved that image icon of the theatre.  It is supposed to represent the spectrum of the dramatic arts from happy to sad.  For a long time I thought it represented two different types of shows.  Now I'm not sure it represents any show at all, I think it represents something much more personal.  

Only six days ago I was playing in front of a packed Arts Theatre on opening night listening to the thunder crack of approval from the London crowd.  It was magical, it was stunning and this is the Comedy mask. I have rarely felt such joy.  

Today I get the call from Andrew Collier that the show will close this Sunday, July 13th.  (Thirteen seems a perfect number to end on)    It's over and this is the Tragedy mask. I have rarely felt such heartache. 

I will someday come to a conclusion as to what happened.  I think it was mostly the wrong venue and inexperienced producers.  This is not a theatre it is a cabaret booked like a comedy club.  I'm not sure I believe in cursed theaters, but if I did the Arts would be the poster child for the black hole of entertainment.

This is not a show that fits any paradigm.  With a word of mouth show as different as this one, I didn't expect to draw crowds for several weeks, obviously I expected it would take more than days.  School is not even out yet. Why spend all this time and money knocking on the door if you don't stay around long enough for someone to open it. The reviews were good and the crowds were loving it. I'm not sure what was expected.  I am very disappointed in the people over here I believed in. 

But all of that is totally irrelevant to my point.

For every opening there is a closing.  For every laugh there is a tear. There is always a second act.  As a thespian I should have known.  To wear the Comedy mask on opening night is to prepare for wearing the Tragedy mask on closing.  It is perfect balance, Yen and Yang.  The blending of both so neither extreme is life changing.  

That's why the theatrical masks themselves are human faces, they are the actor not the show.  For every career in theater there has been the best of times and the worst of times.  In a week I have had them both.

I know the stages of grief will change during this next week. I went from shock to anger very quickly. I would suspect a couple of Londoners will be treated to an ear full before I go.  I hope I don't get too angry and write what I surely will regret, but I can't see the humor in this situation yet.  A comedy writer once told me, "If you can't think of something funny, write about something that pisses you off and it will become funny."  Well, I am ramping up for a laugh riot.  

I think I will be able to do the last shows for the rest of the week,  but how can I tell Squeaky?
As you were,

Monday, July 07, 2008

Comment of the Day: The tube system here in London is great.  What impresses me the most is how clean it is. It is not just clean compared to the New York Subways. A coal mine is clean compared to a New York Subway. The London Underground is almost Disneyland clean.  Unlike the trash and metrocards thrown every where in New York, the tracks and stations are spotless. At times you see where the tile or steps have been worn down from years of use, but no vandalism. The seats on the trains are cloth, no cuts, no stains, no gum residue, and there is an absence of graffitti.  Seems like if they can do it we can too. Why don't we care more about our public systems in the States?  Oh well.

Blog: You know I subscribe to the belief that ventriloquists don't go crazy; it's everyone else around them who do.

Case I point:
Because our set is covered in carpet it must be vacuumed, or as we say here in Britain "hoovered", before each show.

There is an English brand of vacuum backstage that is short and round. The manufactures of this appliance have attempted to make housework friendlier, I assume, by painting the vacuum red, and drawing a cartoon face on it. The eyes are either side of the hose, which takes on an elephant trunk-like appearance, and there is a happy smile below. It could be a distant cousin of Thomas the Tank engine I suppose. They have even gone so far as to name the vacuum "Henry" and write his name on what could be considered his chin.

As Julia and I were coming down the stairs last evening we heard a commotion on the steps behind us. It was Ruthie lugging the vacuum down to the stage trailing the hose behind her, which was banging loudly on every step she took. Ruthie was mumbling something about James and how disgusted she was with him. It was not until we arrived on the set that we realized this James Ruthie was complaining about was the vacuum.

The "hoover" she carried was not red like Henry; it was painted yellow and on the yellow vacuum chin was the name James.

Ruthie was complaining strongly that Henry Hoover was absent and in his place was this interloper, James. It was clear that her feelings for James Hoover were not as strong as they were for Henry.

Julia and I tried not to get involved since we did not know the hoovers personally and James seemed to be doing a fine job on the carpet. James, however, was suffering the abuse of Ruthie who clearly did not think James Hoover was worthy.
"I want to know what happened to Henry", Ruthie kept asking with a plaintive cry. But there was no one to answer. Certainly James did not explain and the Fairy Godmother of the Vacuum obviously had the day off.

For the life of me I can not figure out why there were faces on vacuums and why one named James replaced Henry, nor could I relate to why Ruthie was so disturbed by the switch. It seems very British as I think about it. Henry the first replaced by James the suck-sessor. But Ruthie was clearly not pleased.

After watching her distain of James and listening to her rant I knew that it was another case of Ventriloquial Environmental Insanity. (VEI) , People who go crazy when in proximity to a ventriloquist for long periods of time. She had completely anthropomorphized a vacuum-cleaning unit.

One might think the ventriloquist would be the one to start feuding with and talking to an appliance, but no it was the Deputy Stage Manager who is suffering from VEI

Interesting side note, I found out that Julia's parents are psychiatrists. I'm sure that was her main qualification to work on this show.

As you were,

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Photo of the Day: I took this shot from a bridge over the lake in St. James Park. To see a site like this in America you have to go to DisneyWorld and buy a $70 ticket to see an artificially reproduced scale model. St. James Park is free. It also happens to be the tube transfer station for my ride to work every day. The interesting thing about this photo is, everyone else on the bridge that day was taking a picture of the view to my back on the other side of the bridge. I was the only one taking a picture from this perspective. Directly behind me is a view of Buckingham Palace. It is more famous but not nearly so beautiful.

NOTE: This is the first picture I have been able to post on my blog in a couple of days. Don't know why. It is either my slow WiFi at the apartment, user error, blog fatigue or censorship from the UK. I did not get a photo of the police task force at the bar. (Eleanor) Photography of police at work is prohibited. Just know that when I have a good and relevant photo I will try to post it if I can. When I can't, you will just have to imagine what I am talking about, you know like the radio.

There is a young usher at the theatre named Marina. I don't know where she is from.  I can't tell about accents, she could be German, Russian, Scandinavian or she could even be from Minnesota. I don't possess that Henry Higgins ear for language, and I don't know her well enough to ask in my Texas drawll, "Where ya'll frum?" I am very aware that every time I open my mouth to talk, the locals know I am not from around these parts.   All I do know is Marina smiles a lot, is very friendly and I have trouble understanding most of what she says.

Today when I got to the theatre Marina was sitting on the stairs that go from the stage door to the theatre stalls. I said hello and she said in her thick accent how much she loved the show and couldn't wait to see it again today. (Actually she could have said the show sucks turnips in the garden, but in my actors ego, anything  I don't really understand becomes in my mind a compliment of the show.)
I said, "Thank you, Marina". She was genuinely touched that I remembered her name and lit up.
She said, "Pleise tell da wooden I say hallo. " I assumed "da wooden" are the wooden Americans in my cast. I said okay and she then said, "I like Squeaky da best. He es mine favorite." 

As I continued up the stairs I said to her, "I guess that makes me a little jealous". She giggled.

On the way to the dressing room it struck me how perfectly natural this odd conversation had been. Squeaky is such a complete individual to both of us.  We communicated in complete thoughts and emotions about an imaginary person.

It reminded me of junior high. I'm now supposed to run up to Squeaky and say, "That cute girl, you know the usher, Marina, she told me to tell you hi. I think she likes you, she said you were her favorite in the show." 

Squeaky would say, "No way." 

I would say, "Way."  

Squeaky would say, "You're puttin' me on. " 

I would say, "If  I'm lying I'm dyin'."  

Squeaky would grin,  we would give each other a high five and head off to Geometry class.

I guess on some level that all happened tonight as I smiled at Squeaky during our scene in the show. Maybe it was just the angle of the lights I never noticed before. Maybe it was the fact that tomorrow is a day off and it has been a long week. Whatever, there was a new twinkle/reflection in Squeaky's eye and for a millisecond it reminded me of the brief conversation with Marina earlier.

It is a wonderful thing to live in a world where entire conversations can happen in the flash of a glass eye. And the best part is I am paid to experience it nightly in a London theatre.
As you were,

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Arts theatre is always hopping. The landlord has every room in the theatre rented out to someone. I think if they could figure a way to keep a show running 24 hours a day they would. They are probably considering using one of the closets as an Equity waver theatre.

Last night there were three different shows running somewhere in the building after mine.

Since the Italian show closed we have had screenings, readings and limited run shows share our stage.  Our set has been struck more times than Joe Frazier. I joked with Julia that if the management could store wheat in the theatre on the day off they might just rent it out to farmers.

The sign in sheet is next to the upstairs bar. As I signed in today I saw the bar was teaming with activity. Not the usual production meeting or rehearsal, everyone in the bar was police. Sitting around a square of tables they were armed with radios, computers and maps. It looked like a modern day task force to find Jack the Ripper. I said to Gilda the facilities manager, "Have we assumed command of Heathrow Airport security?" She informed me this detail was the command center for security overseeing the Gay Pride parade in Soho.

I hope I don't get hay fever from the wheat.
As you were.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Tonight the Seagulls were a little early with their song. They began to call to me about 6:35 (ten minutes early), and seemed to sing longer than usual. It certainly did not go unnoticed by me. I tend to see symbolism in everything surrounding this show. Since Eleanor pointed out the metaphysical meaning of the Seagulls I have been aware of them even more. I think I could have easily dismissed their early scheduling as just a coincidence but for another incident.

The Italian show set is gone. There is a space backstage that we have never had before. There is a good 10 foot area that is totally empty and I can cross from stage left to stage right with ease now. At one point I took advantage of this new-found freedom and took the opportunity to explore a backstage area of the Arts theatre I had never been before. I walked along the brick back wall. It made me remember the Helen Hayes on Broadway and how I would cross in the dark to get from my dressing room to stage left for my entrance. I would touch the brick walls of the Hayes every night to embrace the theatre itself, the very bricks that have been there since 1923. I would try and connect with whatever muse there might be that could be contacted by touching these ancient stones.

So tonight I am touching the back walls of the Arts Theatre for the first time since I arrived. This theatre was built in the 1920’s like the Hayes in New York, and they are in my mind sister structures. I felt the connection of the two theatres as I touched the back wall brick of the Arts, and then it happened. I heard the song of the Seagulls. In the distance, not as clearly as in my dressing room, but it was for sure the Seagull song. I never heard the Seagulls this close to show time, but I have never been to this part of the stage before show time until tonight. They were reminding me of their mission, telling me not to give up, continue my persistence. It is why they were early tonight, because I needed to hear them. I also needed to be reminded just before the show.

The audience was a small and not a very good. The sound is still not right, and although it was a cooler, the audience was fanning themselves with programs and dozing from the heat of the theatre. The Seagulls keep calling to let me know that the struggle is not over, but has only just begun. I will listen to them, and I keep trying, but tonight it seems a difficult task and I am weary from the fight.
As you were,

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Photo of the day: My family seeing Paul and Murphy off at Victoria Station.

Murphy and Paul left today and Sandi leaves tomorrow. The boys will be with me for a couple more days before they go to Berlin. The set for the Italian show gets removed tomorrow afternoon. There will finally be room backstage to breath. Things are changing all around me just when I was settling into something that resembles normality.

It is impossible not to feel a let down after an opening night like last night. In a fairy tale world we would do the show for that audience, and the story would end with, “they lived happily ever after.” But theatre is a living creature that needs to be feed nightly, and tonight was another audience. They couldn’t be bothered with what happened last night. Tonight is the only show they care about. They were good, but not as good as last night, any group would pale by comparison. Rarity creates the value. If every oyster had a pearl inside the pearl would be worth no more than the shell. That’s the trick, do the show every night, for all comers. There is no resting on yesterdays. Who knows, perhaps it is the very next show when another little Oliver will be looking at me on the stage saying, “Please sir I want more.”

I am very tired and have to get up much too early to see Sandi off in the morning I feel like my muse is packed in a suitcase ready to leave with her. But tomorrow is another show and Oliver is too young to even know what a muse is much less that I might be missing mine on the day he comes to see the magic.

As you were,

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Photo of the Day: Opening Night (Press night) Andrew Collier and Peter Clayton, my London Producers, wishing me a good show in my dressing room at half hour call. Note the grey suit Andrew is wearing. He has a new suit tailored for every opening night, for every show he produces. Embroidered in the lining of the inside pocket are the words "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only". He told me this will always be his "Two and Only" suit. You gotta love that.

I think that's the thing I like about London the most, their traditions. They have been doing things the same way for centuries and they love the pomp and circumstance. There are rituals that govern their lives which have no relevance in today's society, but they are passed down from generation to generation with great care. It is so much a part of their National ego and consciousness they don't even know that their very traditions define them. So here is Andrew creating his own traditions in his own world of London Theatre. It all seems so sensible.

One foot note: The mother of the little boy who climbed on stage last night wrote a note to the show website today. She said her son continued to repeat the question, "How did he make that puppet talk?" all the way home. He is actually five years old and not seven like I assumed. And here it the best part. His name is Oliver. Of course the little English boy who stole my heart is named Oliver. Thank you Charles Dickens.

Tonight was opening night. Call it press night in London, it was charged with the same energy that an opening night should have. The house was full of first nighters. We had to hold the curtain for a few minutes to get everyone seated. There was a rumble to the crowd before the show started that was electric. They chuckled at the opening announcement which was a good sign and they continued to be one of the best audiences this show has ever played to.

They laughed, they listened, they clapped, they sighed. There were times when they were listening so intently I could hear my own heart beating. My family was there, Sandi, Brandon, and Taylor. The Two and Only family was there as well, Stewart and Bonnie Lane, Dan Whitten, Roger Gindi and Greg Victor. Julia my Company Stage manager asked back stage, "Then everyone who has ever been a part of this show is out there tonight?" It certainly felt that way with one big exception. Lori Ann (The Wiz) was not present , however July 2 is her birthday so I think she blessed the entire day.

Every show is different. That is what we love about live performing. The theatre is of the moment, happening now. We call it live because it is a living breathing presence. There are no safety nets, retakes or do overs in live theatre. You have to do the best job you can the moment the curtain goes up. Sometimes the moon is in the wrong phase and the timing of the world is off by milliseconds and there is nothing that can be done to change the universe. You can struggle through a performance that never takes off like a kite in a calm.

But sometimes all the elements of the show come together and transcend words, staging and lights. The energy of the crowd is so thick you can float on it, soar with it and glide gently back to the boards. The magic becomes so complete even the magician loses himself in the illusion and joins the audience in a moment of awe. This was that moment, tonight, Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at the Arts Theater in London.

There is nothing I would have done differently. It was a dream moment when show and audience come together in perfect harmony. The end of the show exploded, and people leapt to their feet. I was told not to expect an American standing ovation, since it is just not done in the Uk, but there they were on their feet cheering with a sound that I have never heard directed my way before. It was a roar, an instant roar of approval and I flew on the wings of that expression of joy. In the many years that I have been performing I have never felt this experience before. It was unique.

Reviews will be reviews. I don't read them. I hope they are good, so we can continue to do the show. But no show can please everyone so you have to please yourself. Tonight I accomplished what Art Sieving told me to do. I did the best show I could when I got the chance. I go to sleep now exhausted, happy and satisfied. No one can ever take this night away.
As you were,

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Photo of the Day: My Liscester Square tube stop at night. The gate way home.

The only thing I know about London summer weather is the rain delays that plague Wimbledon. However, this year there have been no rain delays at center court. The weather has been very nice. My producers don’t like the good weather because when it is nice people tend to go to the park and play outdoors rather than attend matinees.

Today as I walked to the tube station, the air was so clean and clear the world seemed to be crisp, clean and sharper in focus than usual. It was a noticeable difference. I spent the entire trip to the theater in wide-eyed awe. That’s when I noticed I was wearing my contact lens instead of my glasses.

I usually wait until I do my makeup to put on my contact lens. Very interesting what you see when the world is actually in focus. Who knew that Big Ben was just a clock?

Tonight was the show before press night and they kept referring to it as “meteor night”. I thought it was some celestial metaphor. The night before opening, a shooting star kind of night, you know, meteor night... getting ready to make a flash in the theatre. It was the British accent that threw me off. Everyone was actually saying “media night”. The night reviewers other than the newspaper press attend.

It was a very a special night, and not just because the “media” was there. There was a magical moment that will distinguish this show from all others. The crowd was great and the response was wonderful. As I came out for my final curtain call there was a little boy who made his way down to the front of the stage. I don’t remember seeing him in the audience until that moment. All I could see was the top of his head and eyes peeking over the stage. He lit up when I came back on stage.

He was about 7 years old and totally oblivious to the applause. He was on a mission and could not be distracted. As if we were the only ones in the room he was asking me, in a beautiful British accent. “How did you make that puppet talk?”

I could barely hear him above the applause. I leaned down to hear him better and said something quickly, trying to acknowledge the audience’s ovation in the same move. Whatever answer I gave him was not satisfying, because he kept asking the same question, “Yes, but how did you make that puppet talk? How did it talk like that?” At this point he began to climb onto the stage. Clearly I was paying more attention to the audience than to his question.  It was a struggle for him but I could see he was determined to get on the stage, so I grabbed him by the arms and hoisted him up onto the set with me.

If I thought the roar of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint and the stage lights would distract him from his mission I was mistaken. All he wanted was an answer to his question, “How did you make that puppet talk?”

I took the Spaulding eyes I use on stage out of my pocket and gave them to him, thinking that would be sufficient. The crowd gave an audible heartfelt sigh of approval; he accepted the gift graciously, but it was not an answer to his question. He was still wanting an explanation as I lowered him back into the audience floor. Once again all I could see was the top of his head and his wide-open eyes,  looking for the solution to the magic trick I couldn’t explain.

I thought for sure his parents would bring him around after the show and I could try to give him more of an answer, but it wasn’t to be. By the time I got out of makeup, he was gone.

It’s not often that you get to see yourself as a child sees you. It’s not often you see yourself as you were the first time you believed in magic. Tonight in the eyes of a little English boy I saw all of that and more. I saw myself the first time I saw Big Jon and Sparkie yelling out “I WANT THAT ELF”.

I end my show every night with the words “Sometimes we just need to Believe.” Tonight I saw what pure belief looks like, and I it is beautiful.

As you were,