Thursday, December 22, 2016

Osborne Christmas

Ozborne the Honored Magician
Meet Ozborne the Honored Magician. 

This familiar performer has decorated the Johnson Family Christmas tree for decades. 
However, until this year he had no name nor peculiar fame.  He was just called "the Magician ornament". 
For me it symbolizes the magic and mystery of the Holiday spirit, and displaying him on our tree has always been my favorite Christmas tradition. 
The Magician has survived 30+ Christmas trees. It is a very well made doll with cast hands and head. The Magician is about 8" tall holding a top hat in his right hand and production silks in his left. I have forgotten how we came to have him and I don't remember  if he was a gift.  The design and look are unique. I have never seen another decoration like it. The name "Magician " seems to have worked well for all these years, but when he was honored by receiving medals, he had to have a more formal title.
The medals were awarded posthumously by Paul Osborne (not to be confused with the name Ozborne) and John Hardman (TO be confused with Argyle the snake), my friends.  It is a final call back to a wonderful evening with Paul and Michelle in Dallas some years ago.

The setting is dinner at the Turtle Creek Mansion.  As always a dinner with Paul and Michelle in any city or at any restaurant is filled with laughter and great times. This one was not exceptional but for one story that stays with me even today.
Paul told me a story that Mickey Rooney occasionally sat by the entrance to the restaurant of the Mansion. I'm not sure why but he evidently would sit greeting people as they arrived for dinner with medals on his chest. Although Mickey wasn't there this particular evening Paul assured me that he had seen him there many times before.  
I know what you are thinking... Paul Osborne is telling me a story that is a little hard to believe and I am buying it? Paul had that power over most people.  At any rate Paul and I discussed getting older, finding some medals to wear and taking turns sitting in the "Mickster's" chair.  It became a call back between us from then on.  Any news about Mickey Rooney that Paul would hear about was forwarded to me and we would both giggle about it.
The last year John Hardman was at KAX he told me that our mutual friend Paul Osborne wanted him to bring me some medals for my jacket when he saw me here in Southern California.  It would mean Paul thought I was ready to retire and sit at some restaurant wearing the medals and greeting people.  John was not sure why that was funny between us, but knowing Paul he was willing to join in.
Before the next KAX conference John Hardman left us. And before we actually could comprehend that John was no longer here Paul joined him for whatever celestial show they are currently doing in the afterlife.  I am still in a state of denial and shock.
So when Michelle sent me a package of honorary medals last week, it was Paul and John's final call back. I laughed and cried.  They had evidently been collecting medals to decorate a tiny Christmas tree to send me with the inscription.... "From the Mickster".  It was a final project/prank from my friends who both left before they could finish it.    
In Paul's honor, my plan was to hang the medals on our Christmas tree this year.  As I was trying to figure out how best to hang them... then... I saw the Magician.  The medals attached beautifully to the fabric of the Magician's tail coat becoming my "new/old" most favorite ornament.  Now he not only symbolizes the magic and mystery of the season, but the love and humor of friendship.  The Magician became Ozborne the Honored Magician in memory of a special relationship with a very special friend.  I think Paul and John would approve and I will never look upon this ornament the same.
Christmas is a time to remember the goodness and kindness of the human race.  Now more than ever we need to be reminded.  
Thank you Paul, Thank you John.... and a special Thanks to Michelle who sent me this Christmas gift from beyond.  I am blessed. Merry Christmas to all.
As you were,

Monday, December 19, 2016

An Eveining with Alan Thicke

I had done the Alan Thicke show in Vancouver several times and knew Alan casually as the star of the show.  He was always friendly to me and we hit it off immediately.
After one of those shows I did back in the 1980's, I was packing up when Alan stopped by my dressing room.
"What are you doing tonight?" He said.
I replied, "I'm a stranger in Canada. I am heading back to the hotel."
He said, "I have an extra ticket to see the Doobie Brothers tonight at the arena.  Do you want to come?  It's the  best time you will have in Vancouver tonight with your clothes on."
"Sure", I said.
"Good you can ride with me and some of my friends. You'll like them."
I looked at my watch. It was 7:30. "What time does it start?"
"8:00" He said, "I'll just get out of my makeup and we can leave from here."
"Great..." I said and he walked back down the hall.
I finished packing up and washed off my own television tan and waited.  About 8:15 I looked around and the studio was empty.  I wondered if he had forgotten I was going and maybe he left without me. So, I wondered down the hall to his dressing room. There was a light on.
Alan was in a barber chair leaned back getting a facial complete with steamed towels from an attractive makeup girl.
"I thought you had forgotten me. Didn't the concert start a half hour ago?"
"Yeah, but it is okay. There is an opening act.  We won't miss it. I'll be done here in a few minutes and we will go."
"Great" I said.
Forty five minutes later Alan is still in the chair.  I am getting a little nervous, but hey there really wasn't anything else I had going that night.
Finally about 9:15 we get into his car and started driving. But we don't go to the arena, he said we were heading over to some friend's house to go with the rest of the gang.  Fifteen minutes later we arrive at a Vancouver house filled with people.  It is some sort of party and Alan did not seem to be anxious to leave it.  A joint gets passed around.  I plead the fifth, but let us say in a few minutes I was even more ready to see the Doobie Brothers concert.  About 10:00 we pile in the car with several others and head for the arena.  I am sure by this time we have missed some of the Doobies, but again... the adventure was the event even if we missed the music.
We are not far from the arena. The tickets are waiting at the box office window, which is now closed.  Alan says to our group of eight, "No worries, they know I am coming."  We walk to the entrance.
I can hear the crowd screaming and loud music coming from the stage.  The ticket taker doesn't even skip a beat; he hands an envelope of tickets to Alan who looks them over and disperses six of them to the other members of the group.  They scurry off to find their seats leaving Alan and me. Alan says, "You want a hot dog? I want to have a hot dog. Let's get one before we go to our seats."
"Aren't we missing the Doobies?"
"No," he said, "that is the opening act."
"Really?" I reply
"No worries."
We get hot dogs and eat them standing at the concession counter. Alan is obviously in no hurry to get to the seats. "Wow.  I really need a beer with this.  How about you?"
"You're the boss," I said.
As we wonder over  to the beer stand the music stops. The crowd goes wild and although I can not see the arena or the stage it is obvious the house lights go on and there is a break.
"Opening Act", he said.
A few people come out to get their own hot dog and beer but most stay put for the main attraction coming to the stage in moments.  It was then that I realized Alan Thicke, at that time, is as famous in Canada as Johnny Carson might be to Americans.  Several people shoot Alan a look, whisper and subtly point.  Alan is taking it all in smiling and waving to those who acknowledge him.  This continues until most everyone has left the hall way and have gone back to their seats. Alan and I are alone near the beer stand.  I look at my watch and there has been no music for 20 minutes.  I wonder how long this break will be. Alan sees that I am concerned but says, "Don't worry we won't miss anything."
After what seems like hours Alan pulls out the last two tickets and looks at them. Very casually he says, "Maybe we should go to our seats."
We walk in and it is packed. Starting at the top row of the arena we begin to walk down the stairway of the nose bleed seats. There are no seats left in that section so we continue down and down.  I hear people whisper as we pass, "That's Alan Thicke." and "Look it's Alan Thicke"  and "Isn't that Alan Thicke?" Occasionally I hear someone say, "Who is that guy with Alan Thicke?" but we keep walking down until we run out of seats.  All that is left is the section of folding chairs on the floor in front of the stage. We keep walking. We are the only ones still standing. The only two seats unoccupied are fourth row dead center. The friends we rode with flank either side of those seats and everyone is looking at us.
I sit down immediately, but Alan does not. He surveys the arena taking it all in like he was a perspective buyer. It is obvious that Alan wants everyone to know that he is in attendance.
"Wow, It's packed isn't it? he says to me. But he continues to stand.
He adjusts his shirt brushes off his pants and slowly sits in the last seat open.  The minute his ass touches the chair the lights go down and instantly the Doobie Brothers launch into "Listen to the Music."  The crowd goes wild.
Alan gives me a look and a thumbs up as if to say "See, I told you we wouldn't miss anything."
It was then that I realized, the Doobies were waiting for Alan. The show would not start until he was seated.  It was a fabulous concert of the Doobies with Michael McDonald in their prime. I thought it's good to be the King of Canadian Television.
This is the days before cell phone cameras so I have no pictorial record of the event, but it is the "best time I could have had in Vancouver with my clothes on".
Rest in peace Alan. Thanks for a great evening.
As you were,

Friday, December 16, 2016

Magic at the Castle

"Long John LaFeat, Jay Johnson and
Kirk Thatcher creator of "Long John LaFeat"
I have not felt like writing for some time.  The only thing people want to talk about these days is the current state of the Executive Branch of Congress.  I am talked out. I have never felt more strongly that we have elected a deceitful and dangerous President who apparently is the puppet of Russia.  My opinion is shared by many but that narrative seems to be soundly rejected by a base of voters who do not seem to be affected by facts.
However, life goes on.  Finally I have something that excites me and makes me very happy. I want to write about it.
This week I have been performing at the Magic Castle in Hollywood,  It is a gig I do maybe once or twice a year and I am having a blast.  This is a picture taken in my dressing room with my friend and creative genius Kirk Thatcher who happened to stop by my second night. I happened to have "Long John LaFeat" (who was featured in my Tony Award© winning show Jay Johnson: The Two and Only). Kirk created this character for me decades ago and had not seen him up close in a very long time.  That is real magic. Kirk happens to drop by on one of the only two nights that Long John performed.
Although I have been a lifetime member of the Magic Castle for a very long time I have never really felt like I belong.  I was told that I could never headline a show at the Magic Castle because I am not a magician.  I am referred to as the practitioner of one of the "allied" arts of Magic.  Until this point I have felt like an adopted child at the Castle.  No more. I now feel like an anointed son with a legacy involving the Magic Castle.
It was the fourth night of the run at the Palace of Mystery. I was walking outside the entrance to the theater when I saw a man cutting silhouettes near the bar.  He is very good and fast and I was impressed at this talents, so I watched him create the profile of one of the guests.  He saw me and nodded. As soon as he finished he excitedly called me over.
"I built something just for you," He said.
I thought it was a silhouette but it was much more than that.  He pointed to a new cocktail bar that had been installed. It is a beautiful mahogany shelf about 12 inches wide extending from the Castle wall where people can set  a drink while waiting to get into the show.  At the wall end of the mini bar is a shadow box with a skull inside.  It is a great addition to the ambiance but I did not see how it related to me.  Also I did not realize that this man was not only a silhouette cutter but also one of the master carpenters for the Magic Castle.  He continued to explain.
"I saw your show the last time you were here with Mike Caveny" (one of the magician elite of the Castle).  He said, "And so I built this for you."
What he proceeded to show me was something that filled my heart with joy and excitement.  Like a magician teaching a new trick to a novice, he showed me where to stand and how to tap on the shadow box just right.  With just the right technique,  the mouth on the skull began to open and close Magically under his control. I instantly knew what this meant;  I had been given one of the golden secrets of the Magic Castle.
Now in keeping with the Magicians code of silence I can not reveal how this effect happens, but with my talent as a ventriloquist it becomes a puppet under my control.  I can make the skull talk from behind the glass of the shadow box.  The man said, "I built this just for you to use, whenever you are here." And with that he went back to his job cutting silhouettes.
I was left alone for a few minutes with a new magic trick that only I could perform the way it was intended.  If you are not a ventriloquist there is no way to describe the thrill of having a new character to play with.  I worked out a glass muffled voice for the guy and practiced the secret activation until I had them both down.  Then I waited.
My Goddaughter, younger son and his date were at the Palace for the next show.  After wards I took them over to the mini bar to have an after show drink.  There were others there as well so it was time to perform my new toy.
I told everyone that this was the skull of a famous psychic and even after death he could tell fortunes.  I had one of the female guests ask the skull a question.  I tapped on the glass and stood in just the right place and to the gasp of those watching, the skull answered her question and called her by name.  It was awesome.  It was a complete success.  As I walked away with my family I heard the lady continue to ask questions but the skull remained silent.   It was magic.
I don't know how many people know the secret to this illusion nor do I know if they are aware it even exists.  At this point I believe it 's only me and the man who built it who know the truth.  It doesn't really matter because I am the only one that can complete the effect with my "allied "art.
The secret is mine to keep, and since it can only be performed at the Magic Castle and there is no photography nor video allowed to be shot inside the Magic Castle, odds are it will be a special treat for only a few.  If you are ever there and see me... ask me to take you to the fortune teller, I promise it will be a Magic trick you will see no other time.
So, I may not ever headline at the Magic Castle, and I may not be one of the legendary magic members, but I don't know how many of those magicians have their own special "installation" to play with.  I have never felt more honored, nor more appreciated for what I can do than to have this Magic Castle secret in my arsenal.
Art is Art and it can't be separated by "allied" and non "allied" artists.  We all just do what we do for the amazement of others.  I am a very lucky and blessed man on so many levels.
By the way I asked the fortune teller what was in store for us in the next 4 years of this government... He did not reply.
As you were,

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Is this @ReallyTrump Happening

There is a political smog that covers the country right now that is causing my eyes to burn and my lungs to feel heavy. It could be my heart that is heavy I am not sure any more.  I have sworn off "news entertainment" both on television and social media.  I have tried to regulate my breathing and blood pressure every time I hear the POS elect's name or hear about yet another member of the "military industrial complex" he has appointed to a cabinet post.  I quickly turn away if there is even a picture of the Orange Embarrassment in my purview. It is actually more work than I want to devote to this mistake in American history, and it is exhausting. 
I have turned to "on demand" broadcasts so I won't be surprised by a "news flash" cutting into my program to tell me that the POS Elect has decided turn the Washington Monument into a golden statue of himself.  I marathoned "Stranger Things" and am now half way through "WestWorld" to keep my attention away from what is happening in Washington, DC.   
The result is total mental confusion.  Now I am not sure what is real.  Is KellyAnne Connelly one of those "hosts" from the WW park. Is the POS the faceless long armed demon that lives in the upside down.  Is it me that is crazy or is everyone else hiding the truth from me.  Doesn't matter.  The more time I can waste until the Trumpmare is over the better.  
At some point I was cross-eyed from the never ending stories on Netflix and paused for a moment.  One of the cable stations kicked in and I was suddenly watching a clip of the "Thank You Rally" POS tour.  I could feel my eyes turn red and my skin crawl.  I wanted to yell at the television, but knew that would do no good.  So... like countless others I decided to confront the OrangeFace Pussy Grabber on his favorite media. I decided to tweet him.  As he was speaking live I tweeted these two missives quickly: 
To my surprise I didn't feel any better.  Instead of yelling at the television I had sent a Tweet. I seriously don't see the thrill the POS gets out of this form of communication.  But a few seconds later I got a response.  The notification comes up on my screen and directs me to my Tweeter feed.  Orange Face had answered. 
Followed by a reply to my second mini-rant: 
Knowing that neither the incoming POS nor any of his staff have a sense of humor, I looked more carefully at the reply. It was a dyslexic mistake on my part.  I had not sent to the POS... but to @realdonaldyrump.  I realized my mistake and sent a reply complimenting the creator of this parody. The response was clearly from a person with whom I have much in common.  My hat is off and I lift a drink to the person who is ready with a little light hearted parody to national rage.  It defused me.
With a renewed confusion over what is real and what is not, I went back to watching "Westworld". The need to scream out at the television or flame a pompous asshole POS elect with a tweet has been satisfied and exorcised. 
As you were,


Friday, December 02, 2016

"Blessed are the me..."

As I drove to get my car serviced last week I noticed something that had not been present the last time I drove that route.  The underpass of the 405 and Roscoe Blvd. is packed with a massive homeless encampment.  Shopping carts with blankets and tarps spread between serve as the residence of so many people I couldn't count them all.  There is no more sidewalk under the concrete bridge, just a sub development of the forgotten. They were male, female, white, black, Latino, Asian and some too dirty to profile.

I have become accustomed to the homeless encampment among the trees on Burbank between Hayvenhurst /Balboa and Woodley. It seems to be a more organized tent city.  If this was not Southern California I would mistake it for a refugee camp. The more fortunate of the marginalized live in ancient motor homes parked on the cross street of the Sepulveda flood plain.  Although most people just drive through the area  perhaps stopping at the golf course located across the street, it is not more than a 15 minute walk from my front door.  Like it or not these people are basically my neighbors.

Since you need an address of some kind for voter registration and a way to get to the polls much less some way to find out where the proper polling places are located, I doubt that any of them voted.  They may not even know there was an election nor who won. Their struggle is far more serious than to be concerned about which billionaire was appointed Treasury Secretary.  The trickle down from the "job creators" stopped long before they could feel any effect.  They are not gaming the system, nor in on some food stamp fraud nor are they raising their fists saying "Hail" at a fancy dinner in an expensive hotel.   They are just Americans struggling to find a meal and a place to sleep before they search for another.  If the signs they hold asking for money are any indication some are veterans.  Sandi and I have taken to keeping loose change and dollar bills in the console of the car to give to some we see regularly at a stop light.

The latest demographic to these homeless cities are people in their late 50's.  For some reason they have lost their job and are trying to hang on until they are old enough to get social security. They are too old begin again in the job market.  See it's not government money they want, they want the money they paid (willingly) into a system that would hold it for them until they needed it.  It's their money, earned through their jobs when they had one. They are unaware that their money is now being held in political escrow as a governmental poker chip in a high stakes game of partisanship.

Before anyone says "Thanks Obama" and starts into a rant about who's watch this happened on let me cut to the chase: They don't give a shit. They can't contribute to campaigns or attend a rally or do anything that might get a government representative to pay attention.  The only reason they would burn a flag is for the heat, and they are probably too weak from hunger to stand during a national anthem.  Building a wall on the border won't give them a place to live and deporting a bunch of immigrants won't restore their jobs. If the new administration throws Hillary in jail, she will have better accommodations  than they do now.

How do you explain to the man gathering soda cans to pay for a meal that the country he lives in, paid taxes to and in some cases enlisted to help protect, is spending a million and a half dollars A DAY to protect a building in New York City so a spoiled, rich, entitled white man can safely take a dump in a bathroom of gold fixtures?  Does that flag wave for him too? From his point of view that flag is just a potential wall for his shopping cart tent.

I haven't watched the "news" in a week.  I don't know what the Executive Branch is doing to  "Make America Great Again."  I don't care about this cluster fuck of trust funder cabinet members nor what they are proposing. We can spout all the Patriotic jingoism popular at the time, we can argue if these are the people to get it done. But, America will never be GREAT (ever) until I can walk the sidewalk to the over pass of Roscoe Blvd again and not see forgotten Americans living in shopping carts.

As you were,