Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Repost from the 50th Anniversary

Kennedy Connection

I am not an avid reader but I have read almost every book on the subject of the Kennedy Assassination. (I can even spell assassination without looking it up). There have been some completely loony theories, some creative theories and some compelling theories on the subject. I have my own opinion based upon the local coverage from WFAA in Dallas immediately after the shooting.  
I am not a "lone gunman" believer.  I will never be sure exactly how Oswald was involved, but think he was more of a patsy than anything else. Once you open up the possibility that it was a planned operation it gets difficult to follow. It is not so important if the secret service driver of the limo pulled a hand gun and shot the President, or if it was E. Howard Hunt who shot the President from a storm drain below Elm Street. Obviously those are crucial details in the murder but what group is responsible for the plot to kill the President. Three groups are usually thought of as suspects.  They are:

1) The CIA. It is true that Kennedy didn't like the CIA and they didn't like him.  He was supposed to support the CIA Bay of Pigs invasion with air support but he didn't and the operation was a disaster.  Kennedy was quoted as saying he was going to "splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds". 
Side note: Allen Dulles, head of the CIA was fired by Kennedy over the Bay of Pigs incident. Several of his staff resigned in protest including deputy director Charles Cabell.  Allen Dulles was later appointed to the Warren Commission by Lyndon Johnson.

2)The Mafia.  It is believe that the Mob helped Kennedy get elected in a very close race with Nixon.  There were voting districts in the Chicago area that seem to have been as tainted as any in Florida during the 2000 election.  Sam Giancana, the Chicago boss, was said to have "influenced" the ballot boxes in several districts.  However, once in office JFK unleashes his brother as Attorney General who began to crack down on organized crime with a manic passion.  Carlos Marcello, New Orleans mob boss was dogged by Robert Kennedy and is quoted as saying, "Take the stone from my shoe" meaning get Bobby Kennedy off his back.  Santos Trafficante the Miami/Cuba mob boss said, "If you cut the dogs tail off the head will still bite. If you cut the dogs head off the tail no longer wags." The Traficante idea was, kill the president and his brother will no longer be the Attorney General. After he heard that President Kennedy had been killed, Jimmy Hoffa is quoted as saying "Well, that makes Bobby Kennedy just another lawyer, doesn't it?" (Five years later Bobby was assassinated when it looked like he might become president) 

3)Wealthy Texas Right Wing Radicals.  Dallas hated Kennedy and the day he arrived for the visit there was a full page ad in the Dallas Morning News accusing him of treason and calling for his impeachment.  Months before Adli Stevenson was physically assaulted by a protester when he was visiting Dallas, Texas. Dallas in particular, was a hot bed of hatred toward the Kennedys. Earl Cabell was mayor of Dallas at the time of the assassination. He was the third generation of a Cabell as mayor of Dallas. His Father and Grandfather had both been mayor of Dallas. More importantly Earl Cabell is the brother of Charles Cabell ousted deputy director of the CIA.  The fact that the route of the motorcade through Dallas needed the Mayor's approval has always been a curious connection to the tragedy. 

It is possible to make a case that any one of these three "groups" could have motive to plan and execute the assassination. They were all one in reality.  Here is how they connect.
It is easy to connect the Mafia and the CIA. They were both working together to take Cuba back from Castro. For the CIA it was strategic and for the Mob it was business since all their casinos had been nationalized and then closed by Castro. Frank Angelo Fiorini was in several branches of the United States military, aided Fidel Castro in the Cuban revolution of 1958, and worked as an undercover operative for the CIA. When Castro won the revolution he appointed Frank Fiorini as "head of national gaming" for Cuba. Fiorini was the contact between Castro and the Mafia operations of the casinos for a year after the revolution.  Fiorini left Cuba when Castro closed the mafia hotels. It is obvious he continued in the employ of the CIA. Frank Fiorini later changed his name to Frank Sturgis and was arrested in the Watergate Break in. He alone proves the link between the CIA, Cuba and the Mafia. 
It is also easy to connect rich Texas Right Wing radicals with the CIA at the time.  In the early late 50's early 60's George H.W. Bush owned the Zapata Offshore Company, a subsidiary which specialized in offshore drilling in Houston Texas. Although Mr. Bush would later become head of the CIA, Vice-President and eventually President there is no proof that he was CIA during his oil company days. However, two of the ships used in the Bay of Pigs invasion (provided by a wealthy un-named Texas oil man) were named the "Zapata" and the "Barbara" two names closely associated with George H.W. Bush. In the Warren commission it states that private citizen George H. W. Bush was "briefed" on the assassination investigation by the government the day after the event.  This was before Mr. Bush was part of the official government. He was one of the only private citizens to receive an official briefing.  I am not implying that "George the first" had anything to so with the assassination of John Kennedy. I simply point out that the over lap between the prime suspects in this case is more than coincidental. 
So there you have it 50 years later and it is still a mystery.  I suggest it will always be.  There is no smoking gun proof of anything including the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I am pretty sure the Warren Commission got it wrong, but it will be the only story that will survive ultimately.  Twenty-five years from now we will find an empty file that will lead to more mystery.
As you were,
Jay   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Peacock Theater, Frisco, TX

In a world  dominated by artificial intelligence/ alternate  reality and streaming video I am happy to say,  Variety Arts/ Stage performance is alive and very active at the Peacock Theatere in Frisco, Texas.

If you think Frisco, Texas,  sounds like an odd place for jugglers, ventriloquists, magicians, sword swallowers, mimes and performance artists to gather and display their talents.... Well,  it’s “other worldly”  to a former Texan  like myself.  

When I was living in Richardson, Texas, during high school,  the small town of Frisco was only 21 miles north, but  there was absolutely no reason to ever go there.  It was ranch and farm land of little use to a budding ventriloquist, future Los Angelan, actor and Tony Award winner, like myself.
Well times have changed. Dallas and Fort Worth have become a metroplex which rivals Southern California for its massive urban foot print. Frisco is ranch land no longer, rather it is the very cutting edge of  the DFW juggernaut. When Randy Pitchford was looking for a place to expand his Computer software company, Gearbox, the prairies of Frisco were available
If the name Randy Pitchford, Gearbox or the computer game Borderland is not familiar, then the rest of this blog may not make logical sense to you. But,  if you Google the unfamiliar and connect the dots it makes complete sense.


 The Peacock Theater,  Mecca for  Variety performance, is located in the mind and at the home of Randy Pitchford.
SO, the question is:  Why would a computer game mogul care about the world of variety artists?  Much less build a place for performance artists to  perform? 

I am here to try and explain.
   
Of all of Randy’s credits I did not realize until this last week-end that he worked as a Magician for Wizards on Universial’s CityWalk.  This is the Rosetta Stone of the entire story.  It is crucial to understanding The Peacock Theater.  

Randy Pitchford is a magician. 
As Randy was building his company headquarters in Frisco, he was also building his new North Texas home.  With the same attention to detail, needed to program a computer game, Randy build his new house.  The fact that the Peacock Theater is located at the Pitchford house, is lost in the labyrinth of hidden rooms, secret passages, and built in magical effects that define the home itself.  But this is not an architectual review of the property it is about the meta-concept of the Peacock Theater.
  
Although extremely successful in the digital world, Randy is at heart a  magician.  As a ventriloquist I am allowed admittance to the world of magic so I can comment objectively. Randy loves magic and can trace his lineage to one of the most celebrated magicians in history, Cardini. ( Magicians will not have to Google Cardini, but laymen are encouraged to do so) . Randy understands LIVE performance, and is now using his good fortune to encourage and promote it. The Pichford Plan is to prove that modern day vaudeville is viable.  I have been waiting all of my life and my career for Vaudeville Theater to return to America.

This is only the context for the story I want to tell. In an example of “Variety Arts meets High Tech”, here is how the show down happened.

I am sitting at the kitchen/bar of the Pitchford estate when one of the other invited guests notices I am wearing my Mickey Mouse wrist watch. He says, “I like your watch”
He then proudly shows me that his Apple Watch is displaying a Mickey Mouse Watch face with an  animated Mickey Mouse tapping his foot with the seconds.  
My analogue watch does  not do that.  
The owner of the Apple Watch then says...
“And mine will do this”.
He taps the face of the Apple Watch and the animated Mickey Mouse  says, “It’s 12:40.” 
My analogue watch does  not do that.   
However, since I am a ventriloquist, and not to be out done by a techno geek,  I simply tapped my own watch and it said, “It’s 12:41 - Fuck you”
Fortunately the small audience at the Pickford kitchen bar appreciated skill and understood the context of my come back. 

I hope someday to play the Pitchford Circut. 

As you were,
Jay


Friday, October 27, 2017

How I met JoAnne Worley.

My Friend JoAnne
Great stories always have an unexpected twist.  I have told this one before but another chapter was added just last Saturday evening.
I’ll start there.  
As the MC of an Anniversary Show last Saturday night for CSL-LA, I got the honor of introducing my friend Joanne Worley to those gathered. This is perhaps the easiest job any master of  ceremonies could have.  Everyone knows Joanne Worley, especially this audience. It happens to be the congregation of the church we both attend.  Although I will claim to have known JoAnne several decades others have known her much longer than me.  So I decide to tell the story of how Joanne and I met as part of her introduction.
I have told it many times since it happened in 1978 but I have never told it from stage before.  I did write about it in this blog 7 years ago, here is a link to that story. My introductory version at the Anniversary Show was somewhat abbreviated.

You never forget a story when there is a foreign militiaman holding an automatic weapon on you and has taken possession of your passport.  It was also the first time I had ever been on a cruise ship, and the first time I was cast in an actual film.  I don’t remember much about the plot of the movie, nor much of the cruise itself, and I don’t think I even read the entire script.  I was playing the part of a ship entertainer with a few scenes that connected my act to the mystery plot of the film.  I have never seen it, if it was ever indeed released - even for television. There is a reference to the movie on my IMDB but it also says it was an animated feature with other actors that I have never met.

It was a somewhat hap hazzard production.  They had not taken into account the electrical needs of all the lights and cameras which put a big strain on the aging ship.  There was always the fear that the next take would blow up the ships generator.  It was comforting to hear the director yell “cut” instead of hearing a loud explosion from the engine room.  
All of that is really irrelevant to my meeting JoAnne that morning.  She got the cruise director who eventually got me on the boat and released from dockside detainment.  If I had never seen JoAnne again after that she would still be my nautical heroine forever.
So, I tell this story to introduce JoAnne and was pleased it got some laughs.  JoAnne of course was her charming, bubbly self on stage, the night of out church show, singing parodies and yes even doing ventriloquism with a puppet chicken during her act.  JoAnne can command a stage and control an audience in a way that only comes from her incredible talent and years of experience.

Ah, but every great story has an unexpected twist. Some twists take 40 years in the reveal.

At this show was the wife of a church member.   She said she was a fan of JoAnne and me and had been for a very long time. She always wanted to tell us her story.  This is what she said.

At 12 years old her parents wanted to take her on vacation.  They chose to join the passengers of the Marconi with an ocean cruise from New York to Santo Domingo and back.  It just happened that this was the very cruise I would join mid way through to shoot the movie with JoAnne.  She vaguely remembers a scuffle at the dock in Santo Domingo but didn’t realize I was the instigation of that affair.
 When she figured out a movie was being made on the ship, she became fascinated by the process of film production.  She followed the crew from set up to set up and watched every take.  She lost interest in all the official ship board activities and preferred to spend the days at sea watching grips and electricians make movie magic.  It was a turning point in her life.  She said, “That is the moment I realized I wanted to be in that business.”  She is now a successful union card holding movie crew member.
She said, “When I heard you and JoAnne were going to be here together, I wanted to tell you how much you changed my life.”  Then she said, “I can’t believe you told that very story tonight.”   To be perfectly honest, I can’t believe I told that particular story either.  We took a picture of the three of us to commemorate the evening.
The legendary Marconi cruise proves:
Life is an Adventure and the definition of and Adventure is: An experience for which the outcome is unknown.  We never know exactly what will happen at the next moment of our lives nor how it might change us forever.  The moral here is, make every moment count.
As you were,
Jay 




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

My First day without a Mother


It was difficult to get Mom to smile for a picture.
This is one of her smiles I like the most.
It is a grainy still frame from a video I took
at her 90th birthday before she realize I was
filming.  
Although my Mom has been leaving us for some time now, yesterday she moved on physically. Her last few years were like the journey of many elderly people. We have come to a point where medical technology can keep the old alive, but not necessarily living.   The ultimate irony is that we keep a body alive only to lose the mind inside.

I was last with her two weeks ago when my brother, sister and I went to see her in Dallas.  All three kids together with her, the four of us alone.  There was enough Pampy inside to let us have moments of genuine eye contact and maybe a sentence or two.  Her stories were mostly nonsense to us.  She seemed to follow them quite well for a moment or two.  
At one point she said very clearly, “The Boys are telling me it’s about time to shut this thing down.” Since that is a very Toler family expression and she always referred to her brothers as THE boys we kids assumed she was referring to her brothers who have all passed, two within the last year.  Clearly she was in communication with them and they were getting anxious to have her join Dad and the family.  

I have communicated more with Pampy though my heart than actual conversation over the last year.  As the “middle child” I claim a relation with Pampy that is different from my only younger sister and my only older brother.  Since I left the house at 21 years old most of my relationship with Pampy has been by phone, and more recently by email.  In fact for a long time I wrote this blog for her enjoyment alone. She told me once she felt like she knew what I was doing when I wrote the blog stories. Her exact words were, “I can keep up with you.”  There were a couple of times she took my comedy seriously and I had to explain it was a joke. I suspect that she is able to read it with more clarity now.

I could always call Mom and talk to her, particularly in lonely times on the road.  I would feel better by just telling her where I was.
  
This is what I remember at this moment about Mom/Pampy.

I arrived in Pittsburgh for a corporate show and a couple of my bags did not make the connection.  I was trying to put together an act from what I carried on.  One of the producers was looking to rent a suit for me... all he could find was a tuxedo. It was a long time at the airport waiting for no bags,  now I was pushing it to be ready for showtime. It was April 1st and this all could be some cosmic prank but April 1st is also Pampy’s birthday. In a moment to take a deep breath I called my Mommie. 
I am sure Dad was also on the line so we talked about the kind of cake he got her and what they were doing to celebrate her birthday.  They asked about me, where was I today. I tried to make this corporate show from hell sound as glamorous as I could, but Pampy, in her intuitive way, is not buying it.  She gets the truth out of me.
Pampy was a spiritual woman and what ever way she prayed worked... in mysterious ways.  Her spiritual growth continued all her life and she knew it all from the basics to the metaphysics. My siblings will agree that she had some connection to the mystic and spiritual side.  However, she could make it work more for others than for herself.  She never thought she was good enough to be good enough at something good. If that is a riddle then that could be a perfect metaphor for Pampy. 
She said something like, “Those cases will show up.  God sent you there with everything you need to do your show. I know it, Honey.”  I felt a lot better but,  I had called Pampy to wish her a happy birthday and she ended up giving me a spiritual mind treatment.  We said goodbye, happy birthday, April Fools etc. and I hang up.  I have just enough time to pull whatever I can do together and tell the producer to get the Tux.  The hotel phone rings, I think it might be Pampy calling back but it is Front Desk.  
“Your bags were just delivered do you want us to send them up to your room?”
The bags arrived in 5 minutes. From that moment on it was like every other hotel ballroom show I have ever done before or since.  Everything was there right where it should be at that moment. I had not really needed those cases or what was inside until that exact moment.  
Some might say that Pampy had nothing to do with it and coincidences happen sometimes. Well,  if you think so, you didn’t know Pampy. If only chance is involved once in a while the things that Pampy prayed for would not come to be.  Not to say they all did.  But they happened with greater frequency than any odds maker would ever give.  

There are more stories. They will come to mind again with the spark of some unrelated stimulus in times to come.  We all agree our Moms are magical, creative, imaginative, artistic loving Angels.  No need for me to present more proof here now.  If you had known her for as long as I knew her you would agree with this statement. There is absolutely nothing in her life she has done that would disqualify her from an executive suite at whatever concept of heaven she wants to live in.  The idea of where she would spend eternity was something she thought about a lot.  She loved to contemplate such things on walks.  She was walking the property until she was neither physically nor mentally able to so.  She told me once, “I’m not sure I like this idea of a Heaven with streets paved in gold like they talk about.” She paused and laughed through the next part, “Can you imagine how hot those streets would get. Paved in gold is ridiculous, I’m not walking those streets.” 
It’s been a year since Pampy could call me on speed dial, and that long since I could call her.  Most of our last calls involved me trying to remind her “God sent YOU with everything you need to do your show”.   There is a direct line to my heart that is on Pampy's celestial speed dial now.
As you were,
Jay


Friday, September 29, 2017

Breaking News


I just realized what the term Breaking News means.  I used to think that a breaking story was one that was “new”, then it came to me that a new story is just the “news”. CNN has something called a “developing story”, this seems to be something different from a “breaking story”.  Here is an example: When a man attacks a bunch of people with an axe, that is a breaking story.  A “developing story” means CNN has a reporter following a man with an axe.  When they get the film of the man swinging the axe at people, that would be “breaking news”.  
In reality here is what happens.  A policy or problem develops, usually involving politics because that seems to be the only information (aside from disasters) the cable news covers.  They call this a breaking story, but since the implications have not been determined it then becomes a “developing story”. The anchor then assembles a group of people on either side of the issue and they discuss “what if”.  They pontificate on all sorts of scenarios some of which could be disaterous.  Nothing is resolved because it isn’t really news, it is gossip at this point. 
Yesterday the breaking news was a press conference with Gary Cohn (a Goldman Saks profiteer turned Director of the Economic Council to the President) and Steve Mnunchin (also a Gold Saks gold brick turned Secretary of the Treasury) who were touting the new Tax Reform scheme.  These men are billionaires.  Cohn said that under the new tax plan a middle income family would get a tax savings of $1000 which would REALLY stimulate the economy.  He said:
                             “If you allow a family to keep another thousand dollars of their income, what does that mean? They can renovate their kitchen. They can buy a new car.“

Now my car is a couple of years old. But we are looking to remodel the kitchen.  The last time we got a quote,  a new refrigerator alone was about $1200.  And if I recall correctly the sunroof accessory on my car cost $1500 extra at the time.  How can an investment banker worth $100 billion dollars not know what the cost of goods really is.  Gary David Cohn probably spends a grand on dinner when he picks up the government reimbursed evening.   Mnuchin of course used a government plane for his honeymoon, and to take his new bride to see the eclipse.  Again, the last time I checked a charter aircraft costs about 10k an hour.  Supposedly if you distributed that $10,000 he spent in an hour to the middle class, 5 new cars and 5 new kitchens would be the result.  It was the great white revisionist poster boy for the Right - Ronald Regan who referred to such calculations as Voo Doo Economics.  

I am all for a tax revision.  The code now is too complicated and the rules need to be interpreted by a CPA at $200 an hour. There is a way to make it easier, quicker and more equitable, but letting a bunch of billionaires tell the middle class to “just eat cake”, is not a solution.  Is this stupid idea even a developing story? Much less is it a breaking story. 
So I guess I now know what a “breaking story” is after careful observation. A breaking story is some information that will break your heart.  It will break your heart because we have a cabinet of the richest men in the USA trying to make themselves richer by riding the backs of working Americans.  It will break your heart because everything this administration does digs the gap between the rich and poor deeper and the cultural divide more contentious. The news will break your heart because with every tweet from the POS that makes news, I feel a little of my American pride drain from my body.    

And all this NFL crap is just that. Peaceful protest is the core of  the American heart, and that heart is breaking for sure.  Colin Kaepernick began a peaceful protest over the epidemic of white police shooting unarmed black men with impunity.  Colin was trying to “Make America Great” not again but “Greater” than it is.  It seems like the Trump supporters would be on board with someone who says America needs to change for the better.  But I forgot, Colin is not a white man.  How quickly a peaceful protest on the scale of Dr. Kings, non-violent disobedience, became “disrespect of the flag, the country and our military”.  President 45 may stand for the national anthem but his disrespect for the country (“The Constitution is archaic and bad for the country”) and the military (“I like hero’s that weren’t captured”) is evident and vocal.  He wants America Great Again but only for the white, Christian, billionaires.  

So that is my breaking news story for the day. Heart breaking because of the person that should be leading the country during a time of International tension is more concerned about black men taking a knee than Puerto Rico.  
As you were,
Jay 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

End of the World?


I waited for most of yesterday for the "rapture" to come and the world to end. It was a prediction that cherry picked the Bible and Astrology charts to claim that a unique celestial alignment was to occur.  This would bring us into the orbit of a  Planet X which would cause our doom.  This was supposed to take place yesterday, Sept. 23.  The date was sealed into my brain since it is the birthday of my youngest son.  We joked about what kind of celebration he should have for such an occasion as an "end of the world" birthday party.  He chose to spend his last hours at the beach with some friends.  
I am so glad I did not sell my act and move to the top of a mountain based on this story that circulated the internet.  However, there were moments when I thought I might have turned a deaf ear to my future.  
The first time I heard about this "doomsday prediction" was around August 21st while everyone was celebrating the United States Total eclipse.  There was a YouTube posting by  a young lady explaining the future of the world in the next month.  She said, the eclipse would throw off the orbit of the Earth to a degree that we would put us in the path of Planet X.  To make this work one has to assume that the constellation Virgo is symbolic of the Virgin Mary and Taurus the bull with the addition of the planet Mars represents her crown of 12 stars.  
This eclipse "sign" would be followed by others.  There would be two major hurricanes and two major earthquakes.  I was not immediately persuaded by her prediction.  I have also seen a middle age man on YouTube explain why the earth is flat, so YouTube "informational" videos have not been extremely accurate in my tally.  But even at that I thought, the next "signs" she predicted would be easily enough to verify. 
Almost immediately the news started covering the strongest hurricane in history heading for the United States.  The name was Harvey. It was a monster and eventually struck the Houston gulf coast with a fury.  Before we could grasp the destruction of Harvey, Maria became a cat 5 hurricane  heading for the East coast.  I thought Maria could be the the "second" hurricane talked about by the doomsday lady's video. However, hurricanes happen every year and of late they have been stronger due to man made climate change.  Of course there is a YouTube video of another person claiming that global warming is a hoax.  You can see how confused I was about preparing for my doom on Sept 23.  
Then there was the 8 point something earthquake that hit near Mexico City.  Hurricanes do not get my attention as much as the thought of an earthquake. The day before that Mexico earthquake a small tumbler hit Westwood, just over the hill from us. It was small, quick but strong enough to remind us SoCal dwellers, we live on top of a bunch of geological Jinga Blocks.  And a day after that Mexico quake there was a 6.1 off the coast of Japan. That quake did not cause the damage of the Mexico quake so there was not much coverage of the event. But for me the alarm bell went off. That would make two hurricanes and two earthquakes in the span of a month since the Biblical Astrologer predicted the Sept 23 doom.  
Now I will admit to being a superstitious person. I am almost pagan in my attention to physical talismans.  I always carry a special coin in my pocket especially when I am on stage.  I have certain specs that the "talisman" token should have. There is one special coin that is in my pocket every time I do "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only." It stays with the TAO props and is utilized for only that show, and those performance.   I will stay with a  good luck charm until it vanishes.  That is how it happens with magical trinkets, they arrive and leave in mysterious ways.  But when one vanishes I start the hunt for the next.  That stated I am one who pays attention to "signs".  I was really waiting to see what.... if anything would happen on Sept. 23rd.  Not because I believe in the Biblical rapture or Armageddon, it is just that sometimes events can be self fulfilling prophesy.  When large numbers of the population focus their attention on some tragic prediction it more often than not causes something to happen in reality.  
Take Y2K.  For a year before the millennial we were told that because of a programming glitch in C code computer language the world, run by computers which is now most everything nowadays,  would completely stop.  At the stoke of midnight New Year's Eve of 2000, planes would fall from the air, utilities would stop working, telephones would stop ringing and we would really be in a mess.  They continually referred to it as the Y2K "Bug".  In fact I know a vent who created a "bug" puppet and called it Y2K who played on the fears of the nation for that year.  (I'll sell you  that puppet at a really good price. PM me.) 
Here is the point about mass hysteria.  There was no disaster caused by this ubiquitous bug. However, if you look at the stats you will find that the US had a huge outbreak of a strain of the Flu that sent thousands to bed for New Year's Eve.  To me those events were not mutually exclusive.  There was so much talk about the bug that would hit the US on Jan 1st that a massive bug did infect a large part of the population. I can't prove that logic, but then again, what has a hurricane got to do with Planet X.  
I do wish that Bible scholars would stop trying to interpret the doom of the world and the people in it.  Fear is the strong hold of organized religion these days, my belief is that Love should be the strongest motivating Principle in religion not fear.  To convert someone to a religion just because they are scared not to, does not make very good partitioners.  Religion should deal with how we live right now, not how we live so we can avoid Planet X destruction.  Controlling by fear does not work, people must come together out of Love not fear. 
So nothing happened on Saturday, Sept. 23rd. The fear of converting and "getting right with the Lord before you are destroyed" is over for this week.  The seat belt sign has been turned off and you are free to go about your normal non loving life.  The organizers of churches who make millions of dollars out of fear will have to come up with another future event to scare followers.  They are missing the point that life is a series of "Nows" not preparation for future misfortune.  If one is living the best they can NOW then the next and future NOW will come without fear.  
I truly believe that my end will come before there is an end to the world.  It is therefore a waste of my time to consider what might happen on any given Saturday.  The best thing I can do is live in a way that prepares me for my own end, which will not come with a prediction posted YouTube. 
Glad we all made it though together.  It must mean something that we are all still here.  Make today the best you can make it.
As you were,
Jay 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Congratulations Darci Lynne Farmer - Winner

I remember in college there was a producer from Vegas who contacted me to be in one of his review shows.  He described ventriloquism as a "Dying art".  We didn't come to an agreement for me to do that show.  As it turned out his style of show was the dying art. His empire of what we called the 'tits and feathers' show was soon to be surplaned by Cirque du Sole shows.  
It seems that most of my career people have been looking at what I do as a relic from the corpse of vaudeville.  My response to the idea that ventriloquism was a "dying art" has always been:  Art never dies as long as there are artists around to perform/produce it.  Hopefully the AGT win (third ventriloquist in the shows history to come in first) for Darci Farmer will put to rest the idea that ventriloquism is going anywhere but up.  
It is not that Darci is just a wonderfully talented girl, nor that her ventriloquism technique is near perfect, and her singing chops could stand alone with out the puppet assistance; it is that Darci seems to understand the long history and tradition that she has now become a part of.  Her dedication to the art and her young spirit will influence a generation of belly talkers to come. And the fact that Darci's  win was not overshadowed by others claiming intellectual property "borrowing" makes the win all that more exciting for us vents.  
While Darci recovers from her Cinderella moment they are unveiling Jeff Dunham's star on Hollywood Blvd. this very morning, and Terry Fator continues his record breaking run at the Mirage.   
The unseen part of this universal interest in ventriloquism is the fact that Darci accomplished her win in a somewhat old fashion way.  Besides the hard works that Darci put in (only another vent knows exactly how many hours it takes to do what she did) but more traditionally, Darci was mentored one on one by another master ventriloquist.  Gary Owen was the maven in this case with help from others especially Dan Horn. (Both Members of the Vent Haven Museum Advisory Board).  In Darci's opening routine "Summertime" there was a moment where Petunia covered Darci's mouth when she tried to highjack the song.  In that moment I saw the inspiration of Dan Horn.  I think every artist knows the defining stokes of other artists they admire.  
So what does all this mean for the art of ventriloquism? Well, there is no doubt that it will continue to "trend" for awhile.  Any verntriloquist who performs will be asked if he/she has seen or knows Darci. Darci will continue to grow as a performer and artist and if she wants a life in the business we call "show", she certainly will have more interesting choices.  Based on the number of votes she got there are many people who will be interested in seeing what she does next.  
Now, here is my pitch to all who have interest in this ventriloquist blog conversation.  I'm talking to all you voters who voted up to ten times after three separate performances to put Darci over the top.  Share some of that energy,  help preserve this Art of Ventriloquism.  Donate to the Vent Haven Museum building fund.  It is obvious Vent Haven needs a new wing to accommodate Darci's legacy, but more than that; the museum that houses the worlds most complete history and knowledge of ventriloquism,  should be world class.  As wonderful as our virtual world can be for us vents there is no web tour, video or picture that can tell the story of ventriloquism.  Ventriloquism is a live, oral art which is tangible and tactical. It needs to be experienced live. A Museum is the place to keep such treasures to be protected, preserved and presented.  Let's invest in the future of kids like Darci who see the world through their own imagination and not through the device of a hand held screen.  If everyone sent a dollar to the Vent Haven Building Fund for every vote they cast for every AGT Ventriloquist (all three winners and a finalist) then Vent Haven would be ready to construct its historical space.
I've never been very good at soliciting money.  I've also never had an over abundance of money to give to the causes I want to support.  But maybe someone reading this knows that game better than me.  
While people are talking about ventriloquism, continue that conversation and tell people about Vent Haven, and ask them to donate.  Do it quickly before the conversation turns unavoidably back to politics.  I think we all need something more interesting to direct our attention.  I'm sayin' there should be bipartisan support for preserving these "silent partners" at Vent Haven.
Way to go Darci, and high fives to the Team Darci as well.
As you were,
Jay 

 

Monday, September 11, 2017

The memory is still vivid

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11 Remembered...

Reprints from the past:

Those of us who did live past this day in 2001 we will never forget those who didn't.  They were all of us.  There were no blogs, no tweets, no texts, no smart phones connected to social media back then,  but it was seared into my consciousness nonetheless. It was seven years before I thought I could write about it here.

Written on: 
Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 was a Tuesday. No one of this generation will forget where they were when they heard the news about a plane hitting the World Trade Center that morning. Most of us were watching CNN by the time the second plane hit. I was in Boston, which immediately became part of the crime scene.

I was performing for an Insurance company. A week earlier they called and asked if I could move my performance/presentation to Tuesday morning instead of Monday afternoon. They had a scheduling problem and that would help. I had no problem with coming in and leaving a day later. I didn't think much about it until after the events of 9/11. My manager at the time just switched my flights around and adjusted everything by 24 hours. That change in schedule saved my life.

My traveling MO is to catch the first nonstop home to Los Angeles the morning after my performance. In most major cities American Airlines is my carrier of choice. I am a two and and a half million mile American Airlines AAvantage member and in 2001 had Executive Platinum status. It was of no help when all air travel stopped for a week after the towers fell.

Until the company delayed my performance by 24 hours I was booked on the first non stop home after my Monday afternoon show. I was booked in seat 4E non stop from Boston to Los Angeles, Tuesday, September 11, 2001, American Airlines #11. I remember at the time thinking that flight #11 on the 11th of the month seemed lucky. That plane hit the north Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 am. Because the show date changed I wasn't on that flight, I was waiting to go on stage.

Even with that graphic and life changing example, I sometimes forget that everything happens for a reason. One small decision is sometimes the one that changes your life. Only with perspective do we understand that it as either good or bad, and ultimately even good and bad are human judgments.

It would seem natural to thank God for saving my life, but doesn't that make him responsible for the 3000 souls he didn't save that day? There were people on flight #11 much more "deserving" to live than me, or at the least equally deserving. They prayed for protection and deliverance that morning.

I would have been sitting on the plane next to David Angel who was the very talented writer/creator of the television show "Frazier" had my show date remained as contracted. He was deserving to have another day in his life, but he rode the plane into the tower. Who did God love more, me or him? It is a stupid question.

That event does not define me. I do not count the days since I was saved. I have not used it as a testimony in Church. I don't think I was given a celestial "do over". I rarely even remember it unless prompted by some event. All I know is I am here to write briefly about it and David Angel is not. I wrestle with the name Angel trying to make it some sort of metaphor. It is as fruitless as thinking flight #11 on the 11th was lucky. It was what it was. Those who have moved on are not looking back, but here's to all of us who are left behind to try and figure it out.

We will never quite be as we were,
Jay

Friday, September 11, 2009


Sept. 11

I guess 9/11 emotions trump most any others. As the years go by I always feel blessed when this anniversary comes around again.

I've written in the blog about it before but I was booked on American Flight 11 that morning in 2001. Due to a last minute change of my show schedule I wasn't traveling when the flight hit the tower.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Not Forgotten

I got this wonderful comment on my blog yesterday.
Jay, I just wanted to say 'thank you'. On 9/11, and for many days after, you and I were both stranded at the Hartford Airport hotel. Evacuated by M-16 wielding National Guardsmen and taken by van to another hotel and then back again to Hartford. We saw each other each day, talked while we ate at the bar, walked around to try and ease the monotony, spoke to people about their circumstances and tried to figure out ways to get 'home'. Or, in your case, to a gig in Utah, if I remember correctly. It was comforting to have a 'familiar' face during those difficult days. You were so humble and friendly. It made the 3000 mile separation from my family a bit more bearable. I'm always proud to say 'I was stranded during 9/11 with Jay Johnson'. 
 This brought it all back to memory like a movie re-run - that 9/11 week at the Hartford Airport Hotel. The airport was closed and there were several flight crews for different airlines stranded with all of us. I remember this young lady very well. She had small kids at home. Her husband expected her to be gone only a day or two. She was even attending the same conference that I was performing for. Her husband was dealing with the kids. She and I were dealing with how the world had just changed. It is perhaps a bonding moment when armed National Guardsmen escorted us from the hotel. This was the closest airport to Boston Logan/departure point of the hijacked planes. There was a rumor on the news of the hijackers using Hartford as a staging area for other strikes. They evacuated us by van to a downtown hotel, searched all the rooms and moved all the parked cars away from the terminal before they would let us come back. A day later.

Jay

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Hurricanes from Heaven


Here is an article that disturbs me.  I'm not sure how it came into my digital consciousness but this is it copied and pasted.  I assume these are real people with real congregations or radio audiences. 
http://deadstate.org/and-now-heres-the-evangelicals-blaming-hurricanes-on-the-gays/

If you don't have time to read it I will give you the "Cliffs notes".  This piece quotes several media evangelists who claim that Hurricane Harvey was punishment from God for Houston electing a homosexual mayor. Several others link life style to the wrath of God, particularly Hurricanes.  With the attention now on Irma, it still seems to be happening.   These are the same "anointed teachers" who claimed that 9/11 was punishment from God for America's liberal stance on abortion, and God sent Katrina to New Orleans, because, well, New Orleans.  

It seems like we should have risen above this idea that God is Zeus.  Do we still pray to a physical God who controls a physical earth.  If that is the case,  according to the evangelist quoted in the article above, God seems to prefer punishing the violations of his children with water, now-a-days via Hurricanes.  If I worship a God who sent the Hurricane then, why would I pray to the same God to help me get through it?   That enigma has never been logically explained to me. 

God is the source of all knowledge and power. I have always assumed that is absolute truth. No matter what you call that truth, God,  IT,  HIM or I am that I am. That source in me that connects to the infinite consciousness knowledge of existence, is too long to write much less to say.  God is a three letter word, easy to type and say.  From now on the letters GOD will represent Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omniscient and all other gender and non-gender specific relative synonyms. 

It would seem to me that God, the Being of absolute Intelligence,  would also be perfectly logical. However, we attribute "acts of God" to the most illogical  of circumstances.  This misconception seems to go further than just natural disasters.

It is not logical that death is the price for Life. It has been a long time since we sacrificed a virgin to keep the volcano from erupting.  If  Knowledge and Power wanted to teach humans a lesson it would not "hurricane" an area of Earth. That's inefficient and wasteful.  Life lessons from Intelligence are individually crafted and specifically targeted, passed on from one to another.   Why send a Hurricane when Infinite Intelligence has the power to alter individual consciousness.  Of course great wealthy religions find it difficult to make money teaching higher consciousness, people are more willing to pay for a ticket to heaven or a pass from going to hell than paying for self enlightenment.  We still want someone, some thing, some circumstance to be responsible for our bad behavior.  The Truth that we might be responsible for our own lessons and challenges is hard to accept. 

So let's take God out of the punishment business and put God back into the education business.  Perhaps Intelligence is teaching us that we need to pay more attention to how we are treating the planet, and less attention to our punishing homosexuals.  

Either way, as I write this the news is predicting IRMA to hit South Florida with a force greater than HARVEY.   May our combined consciousness assist the consciousness that is in the path.  May we care more about assisting with their safety and their rescue, than wasting time assuming who might be to blame.  
As you were,
Jay


Friday, September 01, 2017

Part Two - Bubba and the Death Tiki

 Some facts are deduced, some are acknowledged,  some are accepted and some are assumed. This is all I know about Bubba.  I deduced that Bubba was not the man's real name, he acknowledged he was 7 years older than me, I assumed he had the run of the beach for Kona Village, and I accepted that every story he told me was true.

Bubba's official title was "Beach Manager".  If you were going in, near or around the Kona Village Beach you had to check in with Bubba. He functioned more as a concierge of the beach than a life guard. If you want to snorkel, fish, scuba, surf board, boogie board, sit under an umbrella, take a boat ride and probably many many more things you might want, Bubba is your guy. 

Kona Village opened in 1965 and two years later Bubba arrived.  There was something about the "vegetation" that compelled Bubba to come to Kona. A love child of the 60's, Bubba was in search of that natural high.  He came from a southern city on the main land, but after 30 years of living on Kona, it didn't matter any more. Although he would never be considered a true islander, he was as local and native as you could be with, a hip,  slightly southern accent.  

Hawaii is a mystic place, and although missionaries converted the willing many years ago, the tribal customs and superstitions are still revered.  Kona Village had on staff a local woman who not only helped guests with Hawaian arts and crafts, but functioned as the spiritual leader for the Village.  Her name was "Mama", it was her title as well as nickname.  She made sure that Kona Village was blessed by the appropriate rituals.  

As it was told to me by Bubba here is how it all started.  Part of Bubba's job is to keep the beach groomed and free of things that wash ashore.  One day it looked as though a large log had beached itself near his activities shack.  As he approached close enough he saw that it was an old carved wooden Tiki Statue.  It looked to be an authentic carving, not something that would be sold to tourists.  It was weathered from being in the ocean for some time, and very heavy.  Thinking that it was a sign of good luck, Bubba managed to drag it up near the shack.  He propped it up in the sand facing the Village and leaned his surfboard against it.  Bubba thought the Tiki made the activities shack look authentic and decorated.  It seemed the perfect local decoration to the beach, just in time for the summer season.  It might be there to this day except for what happened next.  

For Kona Village it was not a good season. Check ins for some reason were the slowest they had been since opening.  With a slow summer the staff could prepare for the Weddings that keep them busy during the "off season".  Weddings on the beach at this authentic venue were very popular with the locals.  They made way for a busy wedding season.

That did not go well for Kona Village either.  Wedding parties and ceremonies were way off.  In fact the few weddings that did book the Village were mainly couples from the main land.  Kona Village was hurting while the rest of the touristy places were doing their usually brisk business, no one knew why. One day Bubba saw Mama waiting for him at his beach shack.  She was upset.
"What have you brought into our Village?"  She was making reference to the Tiki.  Bubba explained that the Tiki had washed ashore and he decided to display it properly.  
"Don't you know what that is?" She asked.  Other than the obvious, that it was a Tiki Statue, Bubba didn't know much about it.  Mama said something in Hawaian that Bubba had heard before.  Loosely translated it meant, "You are not of this island." 
"Notice that this Tiki has frown.  That is the evil smile. This is not a good Tiki god this is what we call a death Tiki. When a Village experiences bad luck, the Death Tiki is carved so it will absorb all the evil in the Village so the people will be free of problems."  By inviting the Death Tiki into the Village it was now spewing all of the bad things it had absorbed and infecting Kona Village with bad luck.  There was not a villager on the Island that would get married with a Death Tiki looking on.  It had to be removed. 

Bubba was enough of a believer to understand, and there was no doubt that Kona Village was going through a stretch of bad luck since the Tiki arrived.  He knew that if for no other reason than to make Mama happy, Bubba had to get rid of the Tiki.  But Mama said that the ritual of removal must be observered very carefully so that the bad luck would not stay after the Tiki was gone. 
The Tiki must be buried at sea.  The Tiki must be taken to the ocean far away from any shore and dumped, head first, into the sea.  Head first so its power would be neutralized, and far enough away that it couldn't find its way back to Kona Village.  Since Bubba had "invited it to the village" he is the one who had to get rid of it.  Mama would not even go near the Death Tiki much less touch the evil effigy.  Bubba had his instructions, and Mama was not going to leave the beach until he accomplished the quest.  
By now the Tiki was well grounded in the sand by the shack.  With no help from Mama, Bubba struggled with the Tiki until he got it to the water line.  Bubba commandeered a fast ski boat and anchored it as close as he could to the shore with the Tiki.  The Tiki was definitely bottom heavy so it would stand erect, so getting it into a moving boat was not easy.  By inflating a rubber raft around the statue he was able to float it out to the boat and get it on board.  The weight of it almost swamped the speed boat, but with Bubba at the front for ballast it was sea worthy.  
As Bubba and the Tiki sailed away, Mama never left her position on the shore. Her last words to him were, 
"Don't look back at the Tiki." Soon he was too far out at sea to notice if  Mama was still there and wondered how far was far enough. As the waves pummeled the craft the wet wood rubbing against the Fiberglas of the boat made a groaning sound that was unsettling to Bubba.  He didn't look back in case it really was the death rattle of the Tiki. 

What had been a beautiful day on the beach turned dark and windy on the ocean.  A storm was on the horizon and heading to his position fast.  The waves were getting too large to go much further so Bubba idled the motor and prepared to assault the Death Tiki.  It was clearly apparent that dumping the Tiki into the ocean head first was a problem, given the massive weight at the base.  As Bubba struggled the boat would list and water would splash over the edge.  This wrestling match became much more difficult as the clouds moved in and the ocean began to grow angry.  It was now or never, although Bubba thought that the boat might swamp and sink if he didn't get it over the side quickly enough. Using the side of the boat as a pivot, Bubba got the head of the Tiki into the water, but it fought to right itself.  Bubba gave the base a heavy push with his legs almost falling out of the boat, but it was enough to send the Tiki head first to the depths.  

The wind is a problem now and the rain is arriving with dark clouds.  Bubba throttles the boat to full speed attempting to out run the approaching storm.  With that there is a huge lighting strike which seemed to hit the very place where he had just dumped the Tiki. Not thinking about Mama's admonition, Bubba turned to look back to see how close the strike had come.  As he did the Tiki suddenly breached the water head first and bobbed up to the darkened sky as lightening flashed with a deafening thunder.  The Tiki was angry and trying to fight back.  

Bubba arrived back at Kona Village where the sun was still shining and Mama was still on the beach waiting.  
"Did you dump it head first?"
"Yes.... it was difficult."
"Death Tikis don't go easily. But now we will be fine."

And so they were until March of 2011when the tsunami caused by a Japanese earthquake hit the property and destroyed it.  Now there have been reports that Japanese trash continues to wash up on that shore of what was Kona Village. Bubba is not around anymore to keep the beach groomed.  If I were writing the story among the flotsam beached on that sand would also be an old wooden tiki with a downward smile who found his way back.   I will be anxious to see how they build Kona Village back, but I doubt I will ever see Bubba again.
As you were,
Jay





Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Part One -Bubba and the Death Tiki

The coverage of Hurricane Harvey has me thinking about another climate invasion, the one that destroyed Kona Village on the Big Island.  It was the tsunami that hit Hawaii in March of 2011. Kona Village was originally built in 1965 and there are plans to rebuild and open once more, for the 2019 season.  But:
Before that disaster Kona Village was one of my favorited places to vacation. Everyone got their own hut surrounding either a small shaded lake or one that had a beach front.  There was no television, no radio nor a telephone in any of the huts and only the open windows and a ceiling fan for any sort of air conditioning. All you really needed, outside of just having fun, was taken care of with just a signature and hut number.  If you really needed to contact the outside world for an emergency, there was one land line telephone at the caretaker/receptionists desk at the dining hall.  It was great for the kids, a protected place to rough it old Hawaian style.  
One morning I made my way down to the pool - which has a bar. (It was not totally without creature comforts).  The family was off doing activities so I decided to purposefully pursue my relaxation.  I settled into a nice lounge chair in the shade of a palm tree and ordered a Bloody Mary. The great thing about Hawaii and its climate, if you are just out of the sun in any sort of shade, there is a trade wind breeze that fans you like a celestial concubine.  When the bartender came back with my drink he said, 
"Do you want to just keep that on the tab open, or do you want to close it."
"Tab?" I said.  I just arrived and this was my first time to order anything from this bar.  The bartender said, 
"You have an open tab at the bar."
"I don't think so. It must be the wrong hut number, because I just got here.  This is the first thing I have ordered from this Bar." 
The bartender was very nice and said he would check on it, as I enjoyed the Bloody Mary and the beautiful Hawaian morning.  Another great thing is the perfumed air that is Hawaii.  I am not sure what the scent is, Sandi says Plumeria, I don't know about things like that.  To me it just smells like a wonderful morning on the shores of a Hawaian beach.  It is, as the poets say,  intoxicating. 
A few minutes later the bar-keep brought me one of those receipt forms with the drink orders recorded.  Sure enough, there was a charge for three Pina Coladas at 9 bucks a piece with my hut number at the top.  They were all from earlier that day.
"Gee, I don't know what these charges are. Like I said, I just got here and this is my first order."  
Again the Bartender was very non-invasive and said he would see what happened.  
It gave me time to think about the experience I had the morning before.  Kona Village was built on the edge of an old lava flow.  These ubiquitous rock formations look like gigantic frozen cow patties covering the country side.  But the lava flows just on the edge of the Kona Village property were even more special. Carved  into these lava rocks were petroglyphs from hundreds of years ago.  Ancient graffiti scratched into the surface of the lava by people who sat exactly where I currently sat, centuries before.  There were hundreds of these ancient art projects.   Some of the drawings have worn away to near invisibility, but the idea that I was connected with the art of ancient artists was a religious experience.
Now Hawaii is a Mother Earth experience to me.  I am fascinated by the culture and traditions of the Island people and always appreciate it when I'm there.  I got the idea that I would commune with the spirits of thoses artists from long ago and celebrate sunrise over the petroglyphs.  I was so excited to have this adventure that I woke up in time for sunrise even without an alarm clock.  
It was twighlight and there was just enough light to easily negotiate the lava flows. I found a place to sit in the middle of the petroglyph field.  The sun was not yet up but as the sky became brighter by the second, I could see the markings more clearly.  I sat there in contemplation of this incredible artistic time warp tracing my finger along one of the figures that had been scratched into stone.  That is when the first rays of the sun beamed across the edge of this sea of lava.  Suddenly and for only about a minute or less, the entire lava field lit up with the intense light of the sun's first rays.  All around me and even where I was sitting I suddenly witnessed not hundreds but thousands of petroglyphs.  The sun was casting very low angle shadows so that even the most subtle scratch in a rock became clearly visible.  Petroglyphs which had eroded too far down to actually see in full sun light flashed back alive with new beauty.  I don't know how long it was before the sun moved from this perfect angle, but as quickly as the old drawings appeared they were gone again.  It was a cosmic gift to me for getting up so early on a vacation morning.

Sitting by the pool looking out at the morning ocean waves, I had forgotten about the real world for a moment.  Just in time for my second Bloody Mary the bartender appears in my own personal paradise.  He has with him the signed bar receipts for the Pina Colada's that were on my tab.  Sure enough, my hut number and my signature were prominently inscribed on the tickets....but something was just not right.  I took off my sunglasses to examine the signature more closely.  It wasn't my writing.  It wasn't Sandi's writing, but it was familiar.  It only took a few extra seconds to realize it was the hand writing of my youngest son.  
"Did my son order these?" I said to the bartender.
"The little red haired kid? Yeah that was him." 
"He's eight years old...." I said with a little bit of an edge.
"Oh, they were virgin Pina Coladas... just the mix not the rum."  Naturally the price difference between a high octane Pina and the virgin Pina was only 50 cents so it was just another sale for his shift.  
My young son had figures out that anything he might want was just a "signature" away.  
I said, "Well, in that case put another Bloody Mary on my son's tab."

Then came  the day when a wooden Tiki Statue washed up on shore of Kona Village....  To be continued.... 
Part 2 - Bubba's Death Tiki... tomorrow.  

For now,
Jay



Monday, August 28, 2017

Fly American


My friend Harry Anderson came in town over the weekend for the day to attend a funeral.  I picked him up at the airport and was amazed that he was traveling so light even for just a day's visit.  Literally he had come cross country with two small briefcases.  Both bags together were not as big as a single roll aboard and when he arrived on American Airlines he was carrying both the bags in one hand.  In fact they were of a size that both would fit easily under the seat.  But that is only the preamble to the story.
After the funeral service we headed to the airport.  On the way we stopped at Creature Features in Burbank. It is Harry's favorite store and he is arguably their biggest customer.  Of course while we were there we run into a mutual friend who is sharing the store with his friend from England.  It was serendipity, which we celebrated by continuing the conversation at the nearest pub.  Turns out it was only around the block from Creature Features. There was much conversation and since everyone is a magician but me, I heard secrets that I can't reveal lest they throw me off the Magic Castle roster of members.  So instead of commenting on that part of the trip, I will move on. 
I dropped Harry off at the airport in plenty of time to get to the gate.  But before I got home he called me to tell me what happened.  To get one of the best internet travel deals, Harry booked an arrival on American and a departure on United.  At the counter they asked how many bags he wished to check.  He held up the two small breifcases and said, "This is all I have."  That is when "traveling light" became an issue. 
It seems that this particular ticket on United did not allow for any carry-on bags. Yes you have heard that this might happen, well United has instituted this weird class of ticket.  Harry said he would pay the fee but that was not acceptable.  Even paying a checked baggage fee would not indemnify the cheap price. They said, "There is nothing we can do but check your luggage." 
When faced with rules that make no sense I too have been known to attempt use of the celebrity card. For Harry it went something like this:  "I am a magician and in these bags are part of my act.  I purposefully packed them in bags that would carry on easily. The last time I was here in LA I checked a bag and it was lost for two days. I had been inspected by TSA who did not pack it up the way it was and some of my stuff was broken."  When that fell on deaf ears he said, "Did you ever watch Night Court?"  No response, "How about the other show I did called Dave's World?"  Blank look.  "Maybe you saw one of the Saturday Night Live shows I did... maybe when I hosted?"  
The truth is these counter agents for United have not see a video screen that didn't have a reservation code and seat assignments on it in decades.  There was no way the bags would be carry on.  This conversation with these agents was a non starter. Suddenly, Harry's fairy godmother shows up.  She is a supervisor, older, more in the demographic that would have been a fan of Night Court.  Harry took a shot.  "Hi, I wonder if you can help me?"  
"OMG you are Harry Anderson. I've seen you on TV."  Selfie's came next with Harry and the supervisor.  Harry explained his delimna.  The agents countered with this logic: "Well, even if we let you go to the gate with those bags, TSA will not let you through. That ticket doesn't allow you to carry on.  They will make you check the bags and that is a bigger hassle."
Now let me say that in all my miles of traveling by air before and after the installation of the TSA, I have never heard this could happen.  The only thing TSA is looking for on your ticket is the TSA cleared stamp and if the name, day and time of the ticket is all correct. I can't imagine they know every code for every discounted ticket and what that means.  But that is the excuse the gate agents used to tell Harry he had to check his stuff.  
Harry once again explained the events of his last experience with checked baggage and once again held up the tiny carry ons.  
The supervisor looked at Harry, looked at the bags and then the agents who were holding firm on a draconian regulation. Then she said to the agents,
"Don't you guys know medical equipment when you see it" and stamped his ticket with red stamp.  She said, "You have a nice trip Mr. Anderson. " 
And that was that.  
Harry told me he thanked her and asked what would be the best thing to do if this ever comes up again.  She said, "Fly American". 
It was great to see Harry, we are like kids at camp every time we have the chance to get together.  However, I was glad this time he was flying and not me. 
As you were,
Jay