Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Yours for the Seeing
I admire philosophers who explore the human condition with their writing or teaching and do NOT form a religion around it. L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, once stated that the way to great riches was to form a religion. Hubbard was already a rich science fiction writer but got very much richer when he founded the Church of Scientology. His book Dianetics is a required purchase for every student of Scientology, meaning that it will never go out of publication as long as Scientology is around. With no connection to the "religious" aspects of the book, it was a very good business and marketing decision. I wonder if the drive to become successful as a "religious business" precludes any altruistic values the philosophy had in the first place.

Certainly his is not the only philosophy to discover the "religion to riches" formula. You only have to walk around Vatican City for a short time to realize it is one of the richest and most opulent palaces the world has ever known. It stands to reason that the oldest Christian religion would be the wealthiest Christian religion.

Then there are thinkers like Thomas Troward and Joel Goldsmith. While Troward's work became one of the pillars of new thought religions, he never sanctioned any religion using his work. Goldsmith specifically forbid any organized religion from forming around his work. Yet the work still survives to inspire and direct even though there is no organization to market and cash in on it.

In regard to the gratitude list I mentioned last Thursday, there is a Thomas Troward quote that is posted on my wall, eye level to my monitor. It states,

"Having seen and felt the end, you have willed the means to the realization of the end." - Judge Thomas Troward.

That might just be the process of visualization stated in it's most concise form. Knowing where you are going creates the means, the provisions and support to the realization of that idea. If you have a negative idea, a negative result will naturally follow. "Oh I never have been able to do that very well..." creates the path of never being able to do it at all. You have to see and feel the end you want to experience to will the means to the realization of the end.

So what about the thousands of singers who see and feel the "end" idea that they are the next American Idol, and get cut the first day because they can't sing. There is no way to really understand why their "end" was the way it was without knowing what they were actually seeing and feeling.

I have known many artists representing all kinds of art. Some were rich and famous for their art, some were starving artists struggling to get along. The one thing that they had in common was the way they practiced their art. All of the truly gifted loved to make art, they were driven to make art. They saw and felt the thing they most wanted to express in whatever media they liked best. Some of the artist caught on with the public and became popular others did not. If the artist remained true to his/her art, it continued to flow. When the artist became obsessed with wealth and started "seeing and feeling" riches as the end... their art suffered.

The thing I have to wrestle with most is making sure that I am seeing and feeling the right end, free of some negative that will deliver me to an alternate unhappy end. Most of the time this involves letting go of my own ego. We will surely get the end that we see and feel most strongly, but that does not guarantee success or happiness. Human ego is not wise enough to know what will really make us happy or successful. Perhaps the end that we should strive to "see and feel" is "happiness and success", then no matter what means is realized to facilitate that end, we will have what we seek. If it is not the path or career choice the ego might choose... what does it matter?

Thank you Judge Troward and thinkers like yourself.
As you were,

Saturday, November 28, 2009

It is now possible to become famous on television by pulling stunts
that used to get you arrested or excommunicated. ie, Balloon Boy,
Party Crashers, etc. Andy Warhol was right...soon everyone will be famous
for 15 minutes. The problem is CNN will repeat the 15 minutes 1500 times a day
which will leave no time for any story that is actually important.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Time Out
Monday we are starting rehearsals for the two week run at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. We will open Dec. 3rd. I have some of my art work in the Colony Gallery which was installed yesterday. It looks pretty good. I am always excited to see it hung. Sometimes a collective look at individual pieces gives you a whole new perspective on where your mind has been for a few months or years. Here is a picture of some of the stuff as it was being loaded up.

So with that in mind I will take some time off from this blog. Perhaps there will be some stories of this run of the show in a couple of days. But for now I will go back to my daily journal writing. I feel the need to work where I don't need a safety net. I can't seem to get my mind in gear, perhaps this will help.

More soon.

As you were,

Thursday, November 26, 2009

When I first came to Los Angeles, trying to find a career, a spiritually minded actor befriended Sandi and me. Sandi happened to be dancing in a stage production he was also in. Stage performers seem to bond quicker than most any other type of show biz. This actor was at the time staring in a second television show after wining several Emmy's for his first. To this day his name would be known, but that is insignificant to the story and would just get in the way.

I was a little down at the time, wondering how to summit this city and this business. He took me under his wing, not to open doors to agencies, but help me get my attitude ready. He encouraged me to make a list of everything I was grateful for, no matter how insignificant. He said if I couldn't come up with 50 things on the grateful list I wasn't trying. At the end of that list I was to write down five things that I would like to have happen in my life. No one but me would ever see the list... it was secret and personal.

The grateful list was completed and I wrote down ten things I wanted. These were things that were at the time were seemingly impossible to achieve, like starring in a network television series, to name only one. The idea was to read the entire list of things I was grateful for and things I wanted to happen every day.

I did that for weeks. Every day I read the "grateful list" and then the "wish list". I'm not sure when I stopped or why. Recently I found that list in a stack of forgotten papers in the chest beside my bed. I was amazed to find that those things that I was grateful for 34 years ago would still mostly apply today. What was even more surprising was the "wish list". All ten things had come to pass, decades ago. I wondered why I stopped and why I didn't keep adding to the wish list as those things moved to the grateful side. Although things have happened recently that I would not have even dreamed to wish for.

All this to say... gratitude comes first. Once you can feel the gratitude for what you have, you open yourself up for new things to come into your life. Then those things become a new object of gratitude. It is great to have a day called Thanksgiving. A day for giving Thanks. A day of gratitude.

So look around and be thankful for everything you see today. Nothing is too insignificant, nothing is too trivial to be grateful for. Gratitude is in some ways remembering a wish that has come true.

Happy Thanksgiving....

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Grasshopper walks into a bar.
He orders a drink. Bartender serves him, cause it is a friendly neighborhood bar.
He looks at the grasshopper, then trying to make conversation he says,
"You know we have a drink named after you."
"Really," says the Grasshopper as he take a sip...
"You have a drink named Murray?"

As you were,

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Duck Joke
Duck walks into a drug store. Says to the guy behind the counter,
"Got any Grapes?
Guy says, "No, this is a drug store."
Duck says, "You got any Grapes?"
"No, I told you we only sell drug related items here."
"You got any Grapes?"
"NO.. I told you already."
"You got any Grapes?"
"If you don't stop asking me about the Grapes I am going to nail your webbed feet to the floor."
The duck stops to think about this for a moment. He looks carefully at the guy and asks,
"Got any nails?"
"No," he says, "I told you we only have drug items."
Duck says, "No nails?"
"We don't sell nails....."
Duck thinks for a moment and says,
"Got any Grapes?"

As you were,

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's in a Name?
When I left London last year I left my name plate on the door. I wrote about it in a July blog last year. You can read about it by clicking here if you wish. That story links to another one from the Helen Hayes theatre talking about the history of that particular name plate. That link can be read by clicking here.

You don't have to read the other entries. Just know that the name plate has been with me for a long time and there have been some spooky situations associated with it over those years.

All of this to say that coming back from my my show at the Gettysburg Majestic Theatre last month the magic name plate was broken into three pieces. I'm not sure how it happened since nothing else in the shipment of props was damaged. I was able to glue it back together, and now it has a rather distinctive "Y" shaped mark on its face. I guess I could think of that as a battle scar given that it has been through so much in its history. However, I choose to think of it as the wrinkle of experience which I see much more in my own face of late.

In fact it may be some sort of Dorian Gray symbol of the Johnson times. I could easily write on the symbolism of a lingering career; an identity broken by travel and too much time on the road, scared by events and separated into pieces not connected to the whole. However, it is in reality just a piece of plastic with lettering on it and it does not represent the way I see myself or the job that I am doing. Although I have had it in my possession for a long time, time itself may be its only significant value.

I am not sure if I will continue to travel with it and put it on the doors of dressing rooms to come. Perhaps the "wrinkle" will make it more interesting than it was before. Maybe it is trying to tell me it wants to retire and stay home. Then again, it is just a piece of plastic with lettering on it.

The problem with being a ventriloquist is that giving voice and life to so many inanimate objects sometimes carries over into your off stage life.

As you were,

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November 22, 1963
12:39 pm
Dallas, Texas
46 years ago today....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday 11/22/63
My family moved to Dallas in August of 1963. Three months later JFK was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963 in downtown Dallas. The city would never be the same, me neither. I was just old enough to be affected by the events. The Dallas news covered the assassination as a local news. For the first few hours stories coming out of Dallas were different than the version the Warren commission would later deify.

Dealey Plaza is only a block from WFAA, the Dallas ABC Television station. People were literally pulled from the street and put in front of a camera and their immediate eye witness testimony recorded, minutes after they witnessed the murder. It was as raw and instantaneous as an interview can be. There was no time to think of the story or remember incorrectly. Every person interviewed at the time stated that the shots came from the Grassy Knoll or the Triple over pass, in front of the Presidents car. They also testified to four shots not three, two happening so close together they almost sounded like a single shot. That factor alone would prove a conspiracy.

But what got me was the speed at which the Dallas police were able to solve the crime of the century. In less than two hours after the shots were fired, Lee Harvey Oswald was in custody. Fourteen minutes after the shots were fired the Dallas police broadcast Oswald's description as the killer. Martin Luther King's was murdered in much the same way by a "lone assassin" using a rifle fired from a building and it took the FBI more than two months to catch James Earl Ray. I would love to think the Dallas police were that good at their jobs back then, but it reeked of set up and conspiracy to me even then.

The Dallas police caught Oswald at the Texas Theatre. The ticket seller called the police because a man entered the theatre without paying. Although the President had just been shot and the crime scene was several miles away, 30 police officers were sent to apprehend the movie goer. At the theatre they accused Oswald of being the assassin. There was at that time nothing to connect the movie going vagrant as the presidential killer.

Oswald was only in custody for 48 hours before he was shot to death at the police building. He was denied his right to have a lawyer, even though he asked for one from the moment he got to the station. Although the police were telling the reporters he was the assassin, they did not have enough evidence to officially charge him with that crime.

That is probably why I got so hung up on seeking the truth of what happened. I'm still looking. I think I have read every major book on the Assassination and a few goofy ones. There are those who still believe in the single bullet theory and the lone assassin. I never know what to say to such a belief. There is more compelling evidence for the existence of Big Foot than there is to support either of those Warren Commission assertions. Even the House on Assassinations Committee, who did their own investigation into the Kennedy assassination in 1975, came to the conclusion that the Kennedy assassination was "probably" a conspiracy. But no one ever tried to find out more than that.

I didn't need the Nixon years to conveince me that the government was crooked. I knew it even then. By the way, the files that might actually shed some light on the whole event. They were sealed up for 75 years by Lyndon Johnson. That's thirty years from now. I doubt anyone will care by then, and Big Foot will probably be head of homeland security.

(The picture above of me holding the newspaper is a couple of decades old taken at Laughs Unlimited Comedy Club in Sacramento, CA. Even then I was obsessed.)
As you were,

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Writing as Performance Art
Sandi likes a particular brand of instant "designer coffee" but if there is none available she will accept regular brew. This morning, however, there was no coffee of any kind in the house, so I volunteered to run up to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to purchase us both a cup.

It has been a while since I was there in the morning. It is a different place in the morning, kind of scary. Very busy, frantic I would say, with most orders made to go as fuel for a commute somewhere in the city. Then there were the "regulars" who come to the Coffee Bean to be seen writing. Like the commuters, the morning cast of "look at me writers" is more intense. One of my favorites was there this morning. I have seen her before; one can't help but notice her. In fact, I question whether she is even writing; she is performing for the early crowd pretending to be unaware that she is attempting to be the center of attention.

She is in her mid 50's and sits at the bar wearing reading glasses and an Ivy League Cap turned backwards on her head. Her station is near the door and across from the register. She perches high on a stool in the eye line of every customer who orders and works feverishly over a black Dell lap top and today a stack of printed papers.

When I say feverishly I mean her pace is that of an editor who is late with the Sunday edition of the New York Times. She is amped on espresso looking, typing, turning, sipping and most grandly mouthing every word of her work as she reads. I was always told not to move my lips when I read silently and have turned that into a career. She, however, looks like a silent movie played at 78 RPM acting out each word with over the top facial expressions.

Occasionally she makes a quick look around the shop to see how many people are looking at her, not out of embarrassment but enjoyment. If she is not being looked at enough she gets more animated with her "reading". When she is being observed by enough people she will tap something out on the computer, still mouthing the words as she does. It is an odd site to say the least. I am drawn to it like a moth to the flame or tiger to the prey... trying to figure it out is fascinating to me.

Writing is not performance art. It is something you do in preparation of Art. Writing is like building a stage set and focusing the lights for the show. Writing is not the show itself. Libraries not coffee houses are perhaps the best place for this activity. I know that some of us don't have nice offices to write in, or our environment at home is not conducive to the calm needed to write, but to seek out an environment which is as hectic as an early morning coffee stop doesn't seem like good use of time.

I could be all wrong about the "backwards hat lady", but it seems to me that unless you are the catcher for a baseball team, wearing a cap backwards is a sure sign of demanding attention. Reading silently like you had turrets syndrome is another sign of attention demanding.

Heisenberg, the physicist, said that an experiment is changed to the degree that it is observed by an independent source. If what he says it true, this project the "backward hat lady" is writing is being changed beyond recognition by placing it in observational mode at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

As you were,

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Two Farmers Meet in Town

"Times are tough" says one.
"That's the truth", says the other, "I am trying lots of new things to keep the farm from going under."
"Yeah? What are you doing?"
"I'm breeding three-legged chickens."
"Three legged chickens? What's that all about?"
"Well you know how everyone likes the drum stick."
"Well, I get 50% more drumsticks out of my flock than regular chickens."
"Then you must be making a fortune now a days?"
"The problem is that extra leg makes the chickens faster."
"Why is that a problem?"
"We haven't been able catch the little suckers yet."

As you were,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Before you go....
I realize that this blog has turned into a series of obituary articles of late. Memories of John Keneley, David Lloyd, Carl Ballantine, Charles R. Meeker, Jr. and Richard Paul have occupied some of my space and time in the last few months. Each in their own way had some affect on me, so it is only right to try and analyze the loss. But I want to dwell on "what I have" rather than "what I've lost".

It would take several posts a day for months to come talking about those people who influence me that are still around. In the episode of "Chuckles Bites the Dust" Georgette says a profoundly funny truth. "It's so sad. Funerals always come to late. While people are around us we don't pay much attention and take them for granted. Then when they're gone we dress in black and cry our eyes out. Why don't we think to do that when they're alive? "

It was to such an end that several years before his death, the Magic Castle held a wake for the still living Billy McComb. Billy was a Irish rogue of a magician and like Ballantine had a profound affect on a lot of comic magicians. His material became public domain in some cases. Magicians and comics did not know they were stealing from Billy because his material was repeated so often and never sourced.

Typical Billy McComb: Thank you ladies and gentlemen. Before I go I would like to ask you a question. You see, when I go home tonight, my little son Brendon will wake up as I enter the house. He will say, "Did you perform tonight, Daddy?" I will tell him what a wonderful crowd you were. He will say, "Did they like your magic, Daddy?" I will tell him you liked it very much and clapped very hard. He will look at me with those beautiful blue eyes and that wonderful smile with the missing tooth in the front and he will say, "Did the nice audience give you your usual standing ovation, Daddy." I ask you, what am I going to do... Lie to the boy?

This never failed to get the audience off its feet for a rousing standing ovation as he left the stage.

During his wake, Billy was on stage in an easy chair. All of his friends came together to give their eulogy/roast in the most irreverent way possible. I have rarely laughed harder than that evening. There were times we thought Billy would die laughing at his own mock funeral. That was not sufficient cause for people to soft pedal the rhetoric, but rather to amp it up. To be present at the moment the affable Billy McComb died laughing, particularly if it was your joke that did him in, would have been a beautiful thing.

For the remaining years of Billy's life, every time I saw him he never failed to laugh and mention the "Death Song" I did about him with my vulture puppet Nethernore. In some strange way, performing at his funeral brought us even closer together.

Georgette, what a great idea.

As you were,

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Who's been F****in' with the props?"

Carl Ballantine billed himself as the "World's Greatest Magician". Most knew him as a regular on the ABC-TV series McHale’s Navy from 1962 to 1966 as Torpedoman Lester Gruber, or some of the other comic acting parts he did. But what I remember most is his incredibly funny Magic act. Since I am a member of the Magic Castle I got to see him perform it several times over the years. I tried to see it every time he did it. It wasn't funny because of the jokes, it was his character and attitude, it was his incredible comedy acting ability that drove the act.

It is the funniest magic act I have ever seen. (with the exception of my friend Harry Anderson who idolized the Great Ballantine) It was a comedy tour de force that portrayed a magician trying to get through an act that seemed to be working against him. He would cut a rope in two and try to restore it to one piece. It wouldn't work but he kept trying and it became a running gag checking to see if it had healed itself throughout the act. Toward the end he would reach into his magic hat pull out the rope and it was back together except for a two inch gap in the middle. "Close enough" he would yell triumphantly.

"And now a rabbit out of the hat." He would proclaim. He reaches into the hat... no rabbit. "And now a rabbit out of the hat" he would again reach into the hat, but again no rabbit. Finally he puts his hand into the hat and reaches his entire arm through what is obviously a hole into the storage of the magic table below. No rabbit. Ballantine would turn to the boys back stage and with disgusted dismay say, "Who has been f****in' with the props?" It was his frustrated attitude that not only were the tricks against him but now there may be a backstage conspiracy as well.

I used to go on casting calls with his daughter Saratoga, Sarah. She told me she was named after the Saratoga race track where her Dad loved to hang out. Carl came to see my show at the Brentwood Theatre before we went to Broadway. He was very nice in his praise for the piece. Carl Ballantine inspired generations of magicians who could also do comedy.

Carl Ballantine died last Tuesday at 92. He will be missed by anyone who ever wanted to get a laugh on stage.

As you were,

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Remembering a Writer
David Lloyd has passed away. A friend of David's and colleague Ken Levine has written a wonderful memory of him in his blog. My friend Sinkler sent Ken's blog address to me. It is fitting that it get sent around and read. It is funny and touching. You can read it by clicking on Ken's name above.

I was a huge fan of David Lloyds work which included most of the great sitcoms of this generation. David Lloyd wrote The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier and Wings. And he is the father of screenwriter Christopher Lloyd.

There is no doubt that he will be remembered for writing one of the top ten funniest moments on television by anybody's list. The Mary Tyler Moore Show episode of "Chuckles Bites the Dust". It is perfectly written and perfectly acted. I found the final scene of that story on YouTube.

Just to set it up if you do not know or do not remember, Chuckles the Clown, the kids show entertainer on WJM, has died accidentally. He was leading a parade dressed in his Peter Peanut costume and a rogue elephant, as Murray puts it, " tried to shell him". For days leading up to the funeral everyone is laughing and making gallows jokes about the peanut clown being killed by the elephant. Mary is horrified that they would make fun of a man's death and tries to get them to stop. This scene is the memorial service for Chuckles. It is perhaps the most fitting funeral remembrance for the man who wrote it.

David Lloyd died last Tuesday at the age of 75.

As you were,

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Luncheon
Yesterday I attended a lunch meeting of about 40 guys representing all aspects of show biz. The group consisted of writers, actors, producers and musicians as well as some of the top show biz lawyers in town. We met at Cá Del Sole which is right next to Universal Studios. The location was picked not because of its proximity to the studio, but because it's relatively close to the Burbank Airport. Four of the guys we were meeting with flew in from San Francisco that morning and did not want to drive all the way over to the West side just to be sheik.

We were discussing participation in several shows through out the coming year. I am vague about the circumstance and the venue because it is difficult to explain. For the purposes of this blog it is enough to know that everyone is donating their services, so egos and big money deals do not cloud the fun. I have known most of these guys for several years and it is always a great time when we can get together. It doesn't happen more than a couple times a year because of every one's schedule. It's a very fast track at these meetings and the guy with the best and/or quickest line wins. No hostages, no kings X, every man for himself.

I don't know who won the adlib contest yesterday. I'm not sure if anyone is keeping score. The judgment can be hampered by wine flowing at celebratory levels but I know I hold a top five spot at least until the next meeting. The important thing when you are adlib hunting is stalking the moment. That's still an aspect of timing, but the moment is almost as important as the internal speed of the joke.

For me the moment came in a relatively formal period of the afternoon. One of the San Francisco inmates was talking about the schedule. Several of us needed to know show dates and times for our calendars. We were finding out that some of the productions had a firm date and creative team assigned, but some did not. The phase was, "When we get into March and April of 2010 the dates get a little 'squishy' ". Someone blurted out, "Squishy, is that a legal term?" Another person said, "Yeah, What's a squishy date?" I got there first and shouted, "Fifty bucks, same as downtown." Big laugh, slam dunk, high fives from the comic actors, victory lap around the restaurant.

So I will be allowed to attend the next meeting in hopes I can shake out some more comedy prey. But it won't be easy, the next time, like always, everyone will be hunting.
As you were,

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Putting It Out There
The C&B Continuum is preparing a reading of the first act of the new musical we have been working on for some months. I have mentioned this group before, but we now have a name. We are imposing on friends for a writer's reading to see if the voices track. However, as I prepare myself to have others hear words I have written, my stomach tightens a little. In my mind I flash back to a time when I was captive audience to a writer's work on an airplane. I am hoping it goes better for the friends involved in our up and coming reading.

As I wrote in my journal the guy sitting next to me on the plane says, "You must be a writer." I mumbled some phrase that was intended to say.... "The reason I am writing in my journal is to avoid talking to inquisitive seat mates." He didn't get it. He is a writer. Told me he is working on the "History of WWII." I said, "Very comprehensive subject... I wouldn't know where to start on a project like that." (read... leave me alone I am trying to write my own history, thank you.) He said, "Well this is how I started." And with those six words, I am sentenced to airplane hell.

He has a lap top computer with the entire text of his book, letters from soldiers, declassified reports of battles, navigational charts and SIX HUNDRED AND FORTY NINE scanned black and white photographs from WWII. From Detroit to Los Angeles I was captive audience to a guy with a lap top vacation slide show.

"And here is a shot of the island of Koregeidor and the USS Nicholas engaged in the first battle of the start of the south sea push." "Here is that same ship from the from the stern.... click... from the ship next to the ship looking a shot of the Executive Officer during oh and a very rare photo of the Nicholas taken from the Japanese ship in the battle just as they were struck by a Japanese sailors being rescued from the water......"
Click...Click....Click...Some General once said,"War is hell" he should have added, "Even when retold". I am hoping the war will end soon.

The food comes. It doesn't matter he is able to continue the show and balance his tray at the same time. One of the bitter sweet joys of the larger fist class seat. At about slide Six hundred and twelve... a dialogue box appears on the computer screen that says "Low battery power... shut down immediately or plug in charger." If he had gone for the charger... I would have gone for my fork and poked out my own eyes. Thank goodness for limited battery life... it saved mine.

As you were,

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sleepless in Encino
If you don't know the TED talks, search them out on the web. These are 17 minute lectures given to an elite network of people who get together and celebrate creativity. It is an acronym for "Technology, Entertainment and Design". I also think it is the first name of the guy that started the organization, but not sure about that. Al Gore's lecture on global warming started as a 17 minute TED talk. They are free on line and you will get hooked. There is eventually some lecture for anyone's imagination.

One of the lectures that I have only heard on tape and not seen a video of is about "4 o'clock in the morning". A writer has researched the idea that in literature and popular culture, nothing good happens at 4 o'clock n the morning. If a writer is going to specify a time when bad things happen... it is 4 o'clock in the morning. Historically bad things happen at .... 4 o'clock in the morning. His lecture explores the reason for this in a very humorous way. Is it a bad time because it is just bad, or have we used it that way in literature until it has become the devils own time?

All I know is that I keep waking up a 4 0'clock in the morning like I had an alarm clock set. It has been happening for a few weeks, but goes back decades. For most of my life, if I wake up at night it is 4 to 4:30 in the morning. I have always believed that because I was born at 4:30 am my internal clock wants to reset at that time. It is not a very scientific belief, because 4:30 am California time would be 2:30 Texas time since that is the time zone of my birth. It also happens when I am traveling in other time zones, I don't wake up at my birth time but 4:30 local time.

That's too early to just get up and start the day, and since nothing good happens at 4 o'clock in the morning who wants to get up then anyway? I usually listen to my ipod so it will lull me back to sleep with music or some less than stimulating podcast. I am always amazed at how bright and obnoxious the screen of an ipod nano is in the pitch blackness of 4 o'clock in the morning. If I lived on a farm Roosters would crow thinking the screen was the morning sun.

The few things that I have written or drawn at that hour, once I am awaken, prove to me it is not a productive hour. It is 4:30 pm now, that means I have 12 hours till my eyes pop open. I think I better go to bed now.

As you were,

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shameless Promotion
Twenty-five Days before we open at the Colony Theatre. It is such a treat to be doing the show in town. I love that theatre and the fact that I can sleep in my own bed is s huge bonus. According to the stats most of the readers of this blog are not close enough to LA or Burbank to come to the show... but it is a small world. Tell your friends.

I am also taking the space in the attached Art Gallery at the Colony Theatre to display some of my paintings. That was a big hit last time we played that Theatre. Different stuff this time. One lady from the last exhibit looked at my stuff and said, "Obviously this is an artist who deals with depression." I don't know who can be more brutal, theatre critics or art critics.

As you were,

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Fungiphobia is the fear of eating poisonous mushrooms. Five out of one hundred people suffer from this phobia and many need
counseling or hospitalization to deal with the fear.

Out of the 263 kinds of poisonous mushrooms, one variety is only poisonous to the cells in the brain that control fear and phobia's. Therefore if ingested this mushroom will cure the paranoia and the phobia. Unfortunately the cure is rarely used since the Fungiphobic are too afraid to try.
Believe it? Why Not?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Over and Done
This country is fighting two wars, unemployment is at 10% the economy is in the toilet, and soldiers don't seem to be safe at home on their own Army base. And to top it off the Fort Hood shooter in yesterday's killings was a mental health doctor named Malik Nadal Hassan.

According to his cousin Maj. Hassan is a native born Muslim American, who enlisted in the Army because he loved the army and wanted to make a difference. However, after 9/11 he became the target of slander, bullying and hurtful remarks because of his Arabic name. He was born in America but was treated like an outsider and mistrusted, because of his name and religion.

Now I'm not sure if the ethnic bullying and slander is what drove him to commit a horrific act of multiple murder, maybe it was the fluoride in the water or perhaps Texas just drove him crazy. One thing for sure by the evening "news spin", Fox News was declaring his act a terrorist attack because, after all, he is a Muslim and you know how they are.

The Los Angeles Police has put around the clock patrols on the Islamic Center here in Southern California to protect Muslims from the death threats that have resulted from the Fort Hood tragedy. light of yesterday's tragedy and today's aftermath, what is wrong in exploiting a dead terrorist puppet with a Muslim name who's catch phrase is "I Kill you".... It's funny, right? According to the character's creator, "Muslims don't have a problem with that puppet". Well, there you go, it was probably Major Malik Nadal Hassan favorite character.

Selma Diamond once said in reference to an ethnic joke on the set of "Night Court", "Just because you can get a laugh with that joke... doesn't mean you should."
Over and Out,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Sleepy and Grumpy
(Snow's Favorites)
Well it seems all you need to do to start a fight is mention the "ventriloquist" in yesterday's blog and I don't mean Edgar Bergen. People have some really strong feelings about him on both sides. It seems his popularity gets defended more than his talent but intensely none the less. So... I will refrain from broaching the subject or the person in this forum.

I couldn't sleep again last night. It wasn't the clowns this time. I don't know what it is. I'm not particularly concerned about it, just tired. However, long about 4:00 in the morning you can find some unusual television. I guess the world is full of night creatures that only come out after dark, why should television be any different.

Mostly it is "paid advertisement shows" at that hour. They are designed to look like talk shows or news shows with desks and couches, covering a single "story" with great detail. 90% of them involve health in some way. There are diets, hair restorers, things to make you bigger, pills to make you longer, younger, blonder... Apparently no one likes who they are at 4:00 in the morning and are looking for ways to change.

I got bored with all of that, CNN was on it's second repeat of Anderson Cooper so that was out.
Then I found Jerry Springer. Good old Jerry. Thanks to Jerry and his skills as an investigative journalist, I realized not only do people not like who they are at that time of morning, according to the Springer world, they hate everyone else as well. Who are these people that would come on television and admit to having an affair with a zoo animals? Is there enough money in the world for Jerry Springer to wake up in the morning and say to himself, "Today I am going to the studio again and talk to a man who has sex with his twin sisters in the back of a bass boat while his 700 pound wife catches the fish with her teeth."

Why in my day... television used to be more than just an exposé of trailer trash infidelities and patent medicine treatments. Not that long ago television just quit broadcasting after Johnny Carson was over. Early television execs knew that nothing good can be programed at 4:00 in the morning. Not now... video muzak... the never blinking eye...over dose on info. So my suggestion is, if you have insomnia the television won't help, even though every third commercial is for sleeping pills.
As you were,

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Plot Thickens
This is an up date on a story I was talking about some blogs ago. It concerned a friend of a friend who was caught up in the real life plot of "Double Indemnity". His ex-wife and a brother-in-law were trying to have him declared incapacitated so they could take his money. In league with a brain surgeon they told him he had only months to live because of a brain "tumor-like" disease. They almost had him locked away in a care facility in charge of his money when a real friend took him to get a second opinion. The second MRI revealed that the original diagnosis was a fraud.

Now, the only funny thing to come out of this scam was what the guy said when he discovered the foiled plot. After the positive results of the second opinion he phoned a friend very excited at the news. His words were.... "They did another scan of my brain and found nothing."

There is only four weeks until "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only" opens at the Colony Theatre in Burbank. Dates are December 3 through Dec 13th. If you live close enough to come, please do. This is a very special theatre, perfect to see my show. I don't know when we will perform it in the LA area again. We seem to be walking backwards getting the DVD of the show done... so seeing it live may be the only way for some time to come.

Here is the link to the Colony Theatre Site. It has all the information that you will need to find the theatre and book some tickets. They have a large subscription base and we sold out the last time we were here. I know we are getting close to selling out again. There are some great tickets left but you have to act soon.

I am always being scolded for not letting people know when and where I am performing. I am so glad to be back at this the Colony, performing close to home, I am really trying to spread the word. Please tell anyone one you know about it and send them to the Colony. It makes a really great Christmas gift.

As you were,

Monday, November 02, 2009

Goodbye to a Friend
I was very sad to hear the news that my friend John Kenley died on Oct. 23. You can click here for the official obit and here for the Akron, Ohio obit. However, there really aren't enough words in the English language to talk about John. I would say that living an active, healthy life until you are 103 is accomplishment enough, but he was much more complicated than that.

On his birthday this year I wrote about him (I have reprinted the piece below), and recently his name came up when I published the pictures of Whoopee. I describe my feelings as sadness because I don't really know how else to quantify them. He had a full life and accomplished much so, sad may not be the best word. I guess I am feeling a little sorry for myself. Although I had not seen him or talked to him in some time, just knowing he was still around was a good feeling. The sadness is the realization that this source of show business history no longer exists with his departure. No one spanned the generations of theatre and knew as many different people as John. He was a personal witness to so many changes in the way Theatre is crafted, now we just have to read about it in books. I know there are others who will make an impact in their own field as great as John did in Show Business. I suspect they are an endangered species.

Thanks again, and again, John.

The Real Two and Only......
John Kenley
John Kenley turned 103 years old on Feb 20th. If you don't know that name you don't know one of the most interesting people in the history of musical theatre. There are millions of stories and rumors about John Kenley, most are true and most were started by John himself.

Since John has by now out lived anyone who can separate veracity from rumor, all stories about him must now exist as the truth. It is hard to know how to start talking about John Kenley, but here is what I know. I have gathered it from rumor, recollection and personal experience.

From roughly the late sixties through the mid-eighties John Kenley produced summer musical theatre in the Ohio area. The shows toured Akron, Flint, Daton and Columbus in what was called the Kenely Circuit. It was very successful and attracted big name celebrities at big time salaries. The season provided work for hundreds of repertory cast members during the summer. A lot of young performers got their Equity card working a Kenley show.

John has worked in theater all his life. On stage as a young chorus boy in the Ziegfeld Follies, he danced his way up the show business ladder, eventually working with and ultimately out living many of the biggest names in show business. His memory of events and actors is sharp, precise and wickedly retold with the skill of a master thespian.

However, his career was always overshadowed by the fact that he is a registered hermaphrodite. He is one of the few people in the United States registered with legal identification as both a male and a female. Rumor has it that he lived the summer in Ohio producing shows as John, and spent the winters in Florida living as a woman named Joan. The two identities rarely intersected with mutual friends.

A director I know claims John recounted in detail a conversation between the director and a lady sitting next to him at a bar in Las Vegas the winter before. He did not realize at the time that the lady he had briefly befriended was the female identity of John Kenley. The director remembered the encounter well because the lady seemed to be very knowledgeable about the theatre .

I don't know anything about Joan, but I did work a couple of summers for John. My first Kenley show was one the afore mentioned David Sinkler co-wrote. It was the early 1980's when Kenley was a mere 78 years old. The picture above with his dog is probably him eight years earlier. Although, for some reason he always looked the same no matter what his age.

I took an immediate liking to John Kenley. I thought he was charming, funny, smart, gentlemanly and elegantly flamboyant. He was royalty but certainly not a queen. John Kenley is just one of those rare people you can never forget. I love great story tellers and he is one of the best, with a century of personal material to draw on. I was always trying to coax another story out of him.

The first time I met John was in the rehearsal hall at the theatre in Akron. On the first day of rehearsal I was the only one who had not worked with John Kenley before. The director said we were to start with our table reading and John would join us shortly. I believe we were several scenes into the show when the double rehearsal doors flew open. In walked a frail man in a cranberry vest, white shirt and black pants. A navy blue tie was folded around his neck like an ascot rather than tied in a traditional knot. He was not young but it was difficult to guess his age. His skin was almost iridescently pale without a trace of a wrinkle like the face of a porcelain doll, smooth and almost translucent. He wore makeup, but he was not "over done". His thinning hair slicked back on his head with the color of silver fading through the reddish-orange tint. He certainly was not macho in his ways, but comfortable and confident with his own sexuality, whatever direction it went.

The rehearsal stopped as every eye was on John Kenley. Silently he walked the long side of the table opposite where I was sitting. As he rounded the far end I stood up to shake his hand since it seemed he was coming around the table to greet me. He did not look at me nor even stop. He glided passed my outstretched hand without saying a word, then exited the double doors.

In a dramatic move he grabbed the frame with his hands pulling himself backwards through the doorway. Posing in an Erte´-esque back bend with his head arched toward the table he said,

" Once I was meeting a man in the lobby of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. On the phone before the meeting he said, 'I don't know what you look like, how will I know it's you...' " John paused then quickly added, "I said to him.. you must be kidding ", and with that he disappeared through the door.

That was my official introduction to Mr. Kenley. From that moment on we were friends. He made everyone laugh and would without provocation occasionally kick his leg high above his head with balletic precision.

Being around when John would tell stories about his career was the best treat. We all told him 25 years ago to write it down in a book. He said he would think about it, but he would want to tell the "really juicy" stories if he wrote a book. We thought the ones he casually recounted were fantastic.

I haven't seen or talked to John in a long time. I can't believe he is 103. In the article about his birthday he credited his longevity to a couple of stiff Vodkas every night. I don't know how to get in touch with John to tell him happy belated birthday. If the Internet works like it should, somehow this will get to him.. but here is what I would tell him if I could.

Thanks for being my friend, John. And thanks for all the stories. I am still waiting for the call to do another season. It was always fun, which is what the theatre should be.

As you were,