Sunday, September 30, 2018

Halloween ZEN



It is officially Halloween season, although I saw Christmas decorations for sale at Macy’s today,  can we please celebrate my favorite holiday before we have to think about Christmas.  Halloween is exactly one month away.  Perhaps with all the division in our country right now, we can forget our differences and all come together for Halloween.  

Halloween is a great holiday.  Perhaps it is not so much an official holiday as it is more of a custom or cultural tradition.  Whatever Halloween is, it always occurs at my favorited time of year.  I have done more than my share of thinking about Halloween.  Ventriloquism and Halloween are forever linked in my mind and life as a performer. (If you own a Theremin , you should play it now. It would fit the mood. ) 

With a lot of study and several decades of Halloweens in my past, I have come to a steadfast principle for humanity.  

There are only two kinds of people in the world, Those people who love Halloween, and those people you shouldn’t associate with.   

Who doesn’t like some aspect of Halloween?  They hook you as a child.  You dress up... and strangers  give you candy just for repeating a simple chant. My traditions for Halloween are particular and well ingrained in my habits.  

Halloween (for me) is gothic horror and dark magic,  not Casper the Friendly Ghost- Halmark card-cute. My apologies to all you who like to dress up like fairies and princesses. I prefer sensual vampires and mystic sorcerers.  But this darker slant on Halloween does not mean that everyone must celebrate the season my way. That is the best thing about Halloween, every person is free to celebrate in any way as much or as little as they wish.  There are no religious requirements nor family togetherings required. Just candy.


There have been some ugly things going around all media's particularly social, lately.  But it seems we can’t agree on what is ugly and inappropriate. It depends which side you are on.  I have contributed to this cesspool of negativity, so here is a picture to celebrate Halloween season.  



As you were,
Jay

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Judgement of Kavanaugh


I don’t know why the rush is on to confirm Kavanaugh.  He has obviously not been vetted enough, and if confirmed will be a Supreme Court judge for life.  If we are stuck with him for life it might be a good idea to take a few months to get to know who he is.  
At this point all we know is that he was Ken Starr’s attack dog during the Clinton investigation. As part of the George W. Bush whitehouse he was part of the lie that dragged us into the Iraq war. More recently during his tenure as a Washington District judge he  stalled decisions so that an incarcerated young woman would have to give birth to a child rather than have the abortion she wanted.  AND we now know that he has been accused of attempted rape when he was a senior in high school.  

I very much doubt that this allegation of rape can ever be determined to the satisfaction of either side.  However, what does the mere revelation of Dr. Ford’s accusation reveal? 

Brett Kavanaugh grew up in an expensive private, catholic, boys school, known for catering to the Washington privileged and wealthy.  Under age drinking and disregard for the law seems to be rampant at Georgetown Prep. Because these “young men” are  the upper orbit of the ultra privileged, their total disregard for the law and school rules went unpunished.   Kavanaugh’s friend and classmate Mike Judge wrote a tell all book about his days as a drunken teenager at that very school.  In his book he tells the story of a person named “Brad Kalahan” who passed out drunk on the campus lawn coming home from a party. It would seem to be a very obvious pseudonym for his classmate Brett Kavanaugh.  Kavanaugh’s accuser Dr. Ford, says Mike Judge was the stumbling drunk friend in the bedroom when she assaulted by Brett “Kalahan” Kavanaugh.  Both men deny even attending this party. Neither man has stated that they “never attended any drunken high school party”. However, Kavanaugh made this statement about those days at his alma mater:  “What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep.”  

Regardless of the outcome of the rape allegation the fact that he was an obvious “party boy” at Georgetown Prep, in my book, disqualifies him.  This is not a generalization that every person who graduates from that school is unqualified, nor do I believe everyone should be punished for their unruly behavior in High School. There are plenty of people who have made excellent citizens after behaving very badly as a teenager. In fact those who have grown up experiencing the effect of their own cause can have a better insight into the difficulty of resisting temptation.  There are also many recovering Alcoholics who have become great contributors to society. BUT,  In every case the person’s value comes from their admission of  bad behavior and repentance.
But we are not talking about just any bad behaving teenager from an expensive Washington prep school: we are talking about THIS graduate from THIS particular school. 
Kavanaugh is “applying” for a life time appointment as the highest  judge in our Nation. He will rule and pass judgement on every person in America. How can he know the impact of his ruling when he is unrepentant and knows nothing of what it means to be punished for bad behavior.  Kavanaugh, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, has never been called out nor punished for breaking the law.  From Georgetown Prep he continued up the legal ladder to become upper crust of the Washington cesspool.  Because of his wealth, Like our President,  Kavanaugh has no idea how the average American lives.  He has never suffered from his own bad behavior.  He has not even acknowledging that he once broke the law and atoned for it.... or do we really know,  based upon a partisan two day judicial committee  hearing? ( And a committee of rich white men of the same ilk as Kavanaugh to boot.)
  
The Supreme Court operated for an entire year with only 8 judges because this fine committee would not even hold hearings for President Obama’s pick.  We will be stuck with Kavanaugh for the rest of his life, surely we can take a few more weeks to discover more about him.  For instance how can he afford his house, life style and his country club dues on his salary as a DC District judge? 

I have met and socialized with Clarence Thomas, who has always had a cloud of sexual inappropriateness over his appointment.  We seem to be heading to yet another appointment with an even darker cloud of sexual assault on his head. Clarence Thomas should have been disqualified, not for his bad behavior toward Anita Hill. Anita Hill became a distraction that obscured the real reason he should not have been appointed. Thomas should not have been appointed because he is not smart enough to be a Supreme Court Judge. He has turned out to be one of the worse Supreme Court judges of modern day but got the votes by accusing the committee of “high tech lynching”.  Yes he played a 1991 race card and it worked.  

The congress has no moral high ground on this decision to rush in Kavanaugh because of their decision to stop the Judge Garland nomination. This unethical decision gave us an eight judge court.. for a year.  Now however there is a rush to fill this Kennedy seat so we have a “full” court.   The rush is on to get Kavanaugh on the bench because this congress wants to stack the deck while they deal the cards. It doesn’t matter what his character is as long as he will rule against Roe vs Wade.  Two judges, Thomas and Kavanaugh, who don’t seem to believe that women are equal humans should not be allowed to rule on a woman’s right to choose.  Again, Kavanaugh will have the job for the rest of his life and probably the rest of mine as well, I would personally like a little more time to find out what kind of a man he is.  
That is the way I see it... you may see it differently.  You are welcome to your opinion as well. But if you are expecting to engage me in some sort of challenge to my opinion, that will not be the case here. 
As you were,
Jay


Friday, September 14, 2018

The Pirates of the Congress


I have an analogy that may not be the perfect metaphor but for me it is a cautionary tale.  Currently Congress is trying cut way back on social security benefits including Medicare.  I am neither politician nor economist but I do possess a normal amount of common sense.  Social Security and Medicare are not gifts from a benevolent government.  Every employer takes money out of your pay check and sends that money to the government earmarked for your retirement needs. You don’t pay taxes on the money when it is taken out of your salary, but you do pay the taxes on the money when you start receiving it.  It is not free money but it is definitely your money. In principle that money is held by the government as a quasi-saving account that is used for your personal benefit when you reach retirement.  It is your money and my money...not the governments money.... that is never to be forgotten.
Here is my cautionary tale.  
In the rock and roll days of the 80’s comedy clubs,  there were at least two major comedy clubs in ever town of any size. A comedy club is an easy convert from any type of business.  You just need a bar to serve drinks (sometimes food) a small stage and a microphone on a stand. All a comedy club needed to draw a crowd was a funny comic who people wanted to see.  The “product” of a Comedy club was the presentation of comics. 

At first it was a reciprocal deal. Club says to the comic, “If you perform and draw a crowd I will give you part of my profits for the evening.” With more people there, more drinks and dinners were sold.  Comics did well and their salary was somewhat based on their “drawing power”. 

Pretty soon the club was drawing crowds based upon the fact that they were known to employ funny comics.  They said, “How can we make more money given the fact that we are sharing the bar profits with the comic?”  So.... they decided to make the show a “Two drink minimum” making twice as much from the same number of people.  Comics were fine with this because they shared in the increase. 
But that was not enough for the Club. They wanted to keep all the profit from the increased bar sales. So they said, “Comics will no longer get a percentage of the bar profit, we will charge a “cover” or “door charge” and that will be the comics salary.”   Depending on the size of the club and how well the comic could draw, that deal was okay, if not as profitable as the bar percentage.  

This was the standard for awhile, but as the club saw the amount of money that was being taken in “at the door” they said, “We need to keep some of that money.” So the comic was then offered a “percentage” of the door charge.  (A fee that was set up originally as the comics salary.)  But that was eventually not enough.  The club decided that the percentage would begin only after the Club recouped a certain amount of money.  In my day it was a percentage after $6000.00 profit, at the door.  After some time even these contracts were reserved for comics that were a sure draw.

Comedy Clubs are not the steam roller they once were.  They are still around but paying comics minimal salary or “letting” them do a “showcase” for free.  But they do not exist in the numbers they used to.  The greedy clubs were the ones that disappeared first. 

The point is... the minute money was coming in the club decided it was all theirs.  Once the money started coming in the rules changed. Substitute government for the word club and American worker for the word comic and you will see the connection I do.  In a congressional spread sheet the legislators can, with a mere accounting post, take the money you have paid in away from you to use for themselves.  They are trying to make up for the government money short fall from giving tax breaks to the rich by using YOUR money.   The money that was "set aside" for your future benefit. It is greedy, it is uncaring and it is doomed to failure. How long will the workers be willing to have money taken out of their salary, in addition to the taxes they pay, so that the government can fund the rich.  When you are no longer contributing money, because you retired from the work force, you are useless to the government.  Becoming old and sick is your fault, you should have made more money and put some away for these "emergencies".  But wait wasn't that why the whole social security system was set up for, just that contingency?  

The clubs that did not treat its comics well did not survive.  A capitalistic government that does not treat its workers well will not survive either.  This is not an illegal immigrant taking your job, this is the government taking YOUR money. Vote for people who understand this principle.

As you were,
Jay

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Mule Deer Meme

This is a quick anecdote. (An anecdote is just a joke that a raconteur stretches out to a story). Probably too short to be a proper blog, but I didn’t read the terms of service. 
The two things you need to know in advance:
Gary Mule Deer is one of the funniest people I know and I have known him for several decades. He lives in North-South Dakota but travels all over the country. Gary Mule Deer is not necessarily a household name, but he is a comedian’s comedian and a great guy.   It is always a treat when I get to work with Gary Mule Deer, and it never happens often enough. 
He sings funny songs and delivers deadpan comedy lines causing an audience to explode with laughter.    A typical Gary Mule Deer joke: “I saw a butterfly the other day. It had the tattoo of a biker chick on it’s shoulder.”

The second thing you need to know is that I take a regular Pilates class once a week. It is the only time I wear tee shirts out in public. That said I have some great tee shirts that represent my level of humor and I like to show them off in the class. 

Recently I wore one of Gary Mule Deer’s merch tee shirts to class. There is a picture of it above. It is a souvenir from the last time we worked together. Midway through the Pilates class the teacher noticed my tee shirt.   She starred at the image for a second or two, kind of tilted her head to get a different view and said, very slowly, “ A Gary... Mule... Deer.  I don’t get it.” 

Gary Mule Deer is not a Meme. 

As you were,
Jay 

Monday, September 10, 2018

Prime Time Pitch



This is a new game show reality program that is sure to keep America watching.  Shot on location at the Whitehouse and privately owned golf courses, starring an aging television pitch man and failed public servant.  
The opening season of twenty episodes features five “senior staff” members from the Presidential Cabinet each week, competing for Trumps loyalty. Each “contestant” will have a few minutes to verbalize why they love the job of Presidential sycophant more than any others on the staff.  The truth will not be required for this round.  
At the end of the episode the President will have all the contestants into the Oval Office.  Sarah Sanders will read the most flattering things said about the President from each of the contestants. Their actual identity is unknown to the President.  The President will then tweet the flattery he likes the best about himself.  The person who actually said that line will be revealed.  The President will then use the catch phrase.. “You’re a kiss ass.”  
The”kiss ass” then goes to the next round after all 100 senior staff members have a chance to charm the president.  
The 20 “ass kissers” who make it to the second round are divided into 5 groups for the next four shows.  Each one is given an opportunity to tell more about themselves and why they choose to work in an administration so toxic and full of hatred.  More importantly each one will be given a lie detector test with pertinent questions about Russia, actually loyalty and knowledge of who wrote the New York Times Op Ed piece.  At the end of each second round show the President will, based on whim and fantasy, pardon two of the contestants.  
The season finale will bring all those left of the senior staff into the blue room of the Whitehouse.  Their polygraph test results will be displayed on a big screen, with out analyzation results. Finally the results uncovered and the writer of the New York Times Op-ed is revealed. The President will then tweet that the person had nothing to do with his administration and is barely known to the staff. 
Assuming the ratings are big enough for a grand finale season recap special,  the President will shoot the writer of the Op-ed on 5th Avenue in New York to see if he loses voters. 
As you were,
Jay 

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Black Rabbit Rose


At N. Hudson and Hollywood Blvd in Hollywood, CA (only blocks away from the world famous Magic Castle) there is a new club called “Black Rabbit Rose”.   The word Magic is not in the name but the show is a magical experience nonetheless.  I went there last weekend to see our friend Liberty Larsen perform. She also serves as the hostess/producer/conjuror for the event.  I did not go there to review the evening but came away with such a wonderful experience I want to share it with everyone.  
We had dinner before going into the show room.  The restaurant is romantically dark with vintage hammered tin ceilings and ancient ceiling fans that are all connected to the same exposed belt system that drives them all in unison.  The bar is beautifully lit with dark wood and a patina that only comes with age.  They have specially drinks themed with the atmosphere and the food is Thai tapas. We were entertained table side with some stunning close up from a magician named Roeby... 

When it was time to go into the show-room we were escorted to the holding area and given a few instructions, mainly confirming that we all still had the four cards we were given earlier in our possession.  Ultimately these cards play a role in a magic effect performed by the entire audience.   After the indoctrination a secret door opens and you are let into the theater.  

The room is small and intimate, decorated in magical parlor style.  There are  locked glass front cabinets of magic memorabilia around the room and small cocktail tables.  Historically the theater boasts of being a speakeasy during the prohibition days.  In fact this clandestine room claims its former clients as some of Hollywood’s early show biz  royalty.  Some of the ghostly celebrities seem to still be present and helping with the illusions.  

The show itself is hosted by a funny magician, aided by Liberty and a gothic fire handler/sword swallower.  It is as much a variety show as it is a magical experience.  I would compare it to a Bookledge Follies show if you have ever been fortunate enough  to be invited to one of those events. 
For me, the show at Black Rabbit Rose is a new trend in “club” shows.  Not just someone doing stand up material with nothing more than a microphone, but it is a more structured show with talented people making you laugh while doing amazing things as well.  The fact that this is the show template for a new generation was born out by the young demographic observed at the club. 

In all candor I am a Lifetime Member of the Magic Castle.  Going there is an experience that never disappoints. It is an evening as much about the ambiance of the venue as it is the show itself.  The Magic Castle is, however, a private club with a very strict dress code. For those who don’t want the hassle of dressing formally or begging a magician member to get you a pass, Black Rabbit Rose is an extremely satisfying and similar experience.  This is not so surprising because Liberty Larsen, the Black Rabbit Rose hostess, is the granddaughter of the founder of the Magic Castle; performance magic is in part of her DNA.
Like any new club, the competition for the entertainment dollar is massive in Hollywood.  There is so much “out there” that it is  tough for any one new place to grab attention.  I believe that word of mouth is the best form of promotion.  So this is my mouth telling you that this experience is one you won’t forget, unique, entertaining and waiting for you to be amazed.
As you were,
Jay


Thursday, August 23, 2018

It won’t get far...

So the other day I was waiting on the painter to show up.  I will not mention any names to protect the innocent.  But he didn’t, show up that is, for two days.  When we finally heard from him, he said he had an emergency that took him out of town for a day or two. This is not so unusual with home construction workers, but this time the excuse was one I had not heard before.
 

Background: This painter is not your everyday run of the mill handy man.  He is very quiet, when he works and when he speaks in a very calm voice. His work is excellent and he is impeccably neat.  I have taken to calling him the “immaculate contractor”, it would almost seem the place is cleaner when he leaves than when he arrived.  It is unusual that we would not hear from him for two days since he is also extremely reliable. He now lives here in the greater LA area but grew up in a little California town an hours drive away. 

So when we finally heard from him, this was his story.  It seems that over the week end he got a call that his pet tortoise had escaped the compound of his childhood home.  Quickly the painter left his evening job and drove back to his home town. After a couple of days searching they found the 60 year old tortoise unharmed.  It was a panic because the tortoise was a long time pet,  rescued by the painter decades ago after it survived a house fire. It was found in the rubble of the burned out house as they were clearing up the ashes.  One leg was burned off and the edge of his shell was burned and deformed as well.  It was a “special needs” tortoise.   A nephew left in charge of the pet had not checked on him in a couple of days before the “escape”.   

Yes that is the reason he was out of communication for a few days, an original story among contractor stories.  

Now my wife is known as a dancer/singer and not so much as a comic.  However, when we discussed the reason the painter gave for not showing up she said, “Looking for his three legged turtle? Well, it won’t get far. He should be back to work soon.” 

Slam dunk, best line of the day. And she was right... he is back to work today.  

As you were,
Jay

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Tell me what it says on the screen?

Years ago a computer error message  popped up on one of my browsers.  The message indicated that my computer had been infected and was locked for security reasons.  I couldn’t get it to close, and turning off the computer did not help. There was a phone number to call.  In a moment of stupidity I called.  It took me a while to realize that this was not an Apple representative on the other end of the line, and that they were not trying to fix my computer but invade it.  The “technician” who was “helping” me was named Frank.  He had a very thick Indian/Pakistani accent. When things began to sound fishy and there was a sum of money needed to fix the problem I hung up and called Apple Direct.  The solution was simple.  Dump that browser and down load it again from the App Store.  The lesson was... never assume it is Apple unless you called them.  



Since that day my land line phone number has been on their list, I suppose.  For several days every month there will be a barrage of heavily accented “computer specialists” who tell me they are getting a signal that my computer has been hacked.  I have spent a lot of time asking to be taken off the list, threatening them, cursing them and using a number blocker to keep them from calling.  However, they use numbers that are bogus and change numbers with every call.  It is impossible to stop them completely so we rarely answer the land line phone unless someone starts to leave a message.  
However,  while there is construction going on at the house we have been answering numbers that might be subcontractors or delivery people.  Such was the case this morning.  Waiting on a painter to call back I answered the phone without thinking.
“Hello, Jay... this is your Microsoft Computer expert, Ralph, remember me.”  Now I am onto most of their methods.  They always say “Remember me,” because they all have the same accent and no one remembers names.  I had some time to spend waiting on a painter so... 
Game on.
“Oh yeah, Ralph. Is something wrong with my Microsoft Computer?” 
“Yes we have been getting an error signal on your computer.” 
“My Microsoft computer?” Readers note:  I have only owned Apple/Mac products since 1982.  
“Yes. Windows.”  
“Oh no. Did I get hacked by the Russians? I accidentally went on a white supremacist web page looking for a Trump reference.  Do you think they might have placed some malware on my hard drive while I was on that site checking out hate speech?”
There is a moments pause from Ralph. “That is a possibility.”
“What do I need to do?”
“You need to turn on your computer.”
“It’s on... I’m in front of it now.”
“Do you see your keyboard?”  
“Yes the typing thing.”
“Hold down the CLR key and the enter key at the same time.”
“At the same time?  Both together at once? Unison?”
“Did you do it?”
I make some struggling sounds, like I am trying to accomplish  a difficult manual task... “Okay I finally got it.”
“Good now you see a dialogue box on your screen - ?”
“Yes”
“Tell me what it says on the screen..”
“Wait I have to get my glasses on to see...”
“No worries.  Tell me what it says...”
You saw it coming..... 

I told him what I WANTED this mythical dialogue box to say.  It was a venomous, voluminous diatribe riddled with cursing, and liberal use of the word fuck... in each of its context meanings.  As I tried to recall it to type it here there was something missing.  The volume and the rage in my voice.  It just does not read like it plays when you are pissed at someone.  So you can insert your own rage here. The one you have always wanted to give to the telemarketer/scam artist who invades the privacy of your home.  

Sandi points out it is a useless battle to fight with the callers.  Like the living dead scammers keep coming, you can’t kill them and if you could three more take their place.  She asks,
“Don’t you have something better to do with your time than yelling at some guy trying to earn a living half the globe away?”
  
Yes. I do have something better to do with my time... waiting for the painter to text/call/arrive/communicate.  Perhaps Ralph got the rage of my frustration saving the painter from wrath.
As you were, 
Jay 


  

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Facing It

Never say “where are all the rockers” at a septuagenarian’s birthday party. 
I was asked why my blog had been taken off the Facebook feed. I immediately went to the idea that I was hacked by some Russian -bot algorithm, electronically impeding my freedom of social media speech.  The truth of the reason is more simplistic.  

The blog feed was not taken down, it was non-active. Being the only contributor I forgot to contribute. Although I have tried to write, that muse has taken leave..
It has been easier to draw than to write. Until that changes here is a drawing that may or may not explain why no one has ever seen pictures of the moon’s dark side? (Musical interlude):
As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Birthday Thoughts

A poem for those of us  with
Birthday’s Today and
who are manic/depressive bipolars. 



It’s my Birthday, 
Happy Birthday to me,
I am as happy as can be,
A happier man nowhere exists,
I think I’ll go and slash my wrists. 

Just a reminder that depression has no logical reason behind it.  It is neither normal sadness nor confusion. You can’t just “Get over it” if someone tells you too. In today’s world the very President of the United States sows ideas of fear and intolerance into the fabric of everyday life, so depression has a  universal echo chamber.   
Be aware of the signs for depression in yourself and in those you know.  
If they apply to your life, get help from professionals, just like you would if depression was the common cold.  
Enjoy 7/11
As you were,
Jay

Friday, June 29, 2018

Justice Winks



We claim to be a country ruled by law.  The concept of  “rule by law”  means that justice is blind.  This concept is built on the fact that truth is immutable and the truth for one person is the truth for all.  Determining the truth should not be influenced by age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientations and certainly not wealth.  Unfortunately this truth in justice is being parsed out by humans, who are not blind at all but full of opinions and bias. Just as unfortunate is the fact that the easiest influence on a justice system that “peaks” is money.  
When the highest court in the land is staffed by partisan, political hacks who shill for one side or the other makes a mockery of Justice and spits in the eye of truth.  
The concept of Supreme Court judges being appointed for life is the attempt to keep politics and political influence out of the rule of law, each judge has a job for life and will never face election. On the surface it would seem such an independent court could make a decision based upon the Truth, no matter which side their opinion benefited.  
This is not good enough for those who want to exercise control over the vast resources of  the American people.  A control freak is not a gambler, he will only bet on what will be a sure thing.  A control freak is not willing to let any decision be examined by the truth especially when that truth would not benefit said Freak.  So with the use of money and influence (influence is now-a-days a relationship bought and paid for) they populate the courts, not with people who will rule with blind justice, but with judges who will bend laws to help their benefactors.  
Donald Trump is a narcissist. By definition a narcissist is a control freak. This is why he demeans the American Justice system in every way he can.  He is not willing to let the truth rule nor does he want the truth to be known, (he also hates the free press).  He doesn’t understand the rule of law nor due process, he is simply a spoiled child who has always gotten his way.  The rules do not apply to him as he thinks he is above the law.  He will do whatever he wants and will either lie his way out or buy his way out of any transgression he has committed.  
Recently in a rambling,  unintelligent ego rally,  Trump  claimed that the Dems wanted to send 5000 judges to the border to speed up the immigration. Although this is a lie (and the number made up) we are now numb to his inablility to distinguish the truth from his own narcissistic view, that is not the most telling part of his comment.  His statement was this:
“They want 5000 judges on the border. 5000. Can you imagine the kind of CORRUPTION that would cause?”  
Yes, the President of the United States equated more judges with more corruption.  It is the only way he understands the American Judcial system.  His moto, “If you get in trouble... lie about it and if that doesn’t work buy them off.”  
So as there is a rush to fill the Kennedy vacancy on the Supreme Court, not with a neutral judge, nor an impartial judge, but a judge that will make decisions good for the rich, in Trumps words, “For the next 40 years”.   Take the blindfold off the statue of justice and replace her sword with a bank statement.  
Since there is a great possiblility that the Supreme Court will ultimately decide if Donald Trump is above the law, I suggest that any judges that HE appoints recuse themselves from sitting on cases that involve Trumps fate.  That would be the fair thing to do so I doubt it will happen.  Fair is another word for justice and truth, words that don’t mean much to this government. 
As you were,
Jay


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Advice from Harry Anderson



It is the day of the second line tribute for Harry in New Orleans.  Most of the out -of -towners stayed at the same hotel and I did not know any of Elizabeth’s family except a brother I met the night before.  Needless to say the second line eve was filled with toasts to Harry who’s departure from this world  brought us all together for this event. I mention this to say that because it was the morning after in New Orleans, it was a staggering march to find coffee.
Certainly not the best coffee in New Orleans, but the most convenient, was waiting for us in the lobby of the Hotel. What I remember most about the evening was Elizabeth saying her folks were driving in that morning and she would be getting them settled.  I also remember talking to her brother for a short time.
So as Sandi and I stagger to the lobby there are two men sitting on the couch close to the table with the coffee. One of the men says “Good morning, how are you doing today?”  At first I thought it was the Morgan brother that I met the night before so I answered appropriately.  At the first sip of coffee it comes clear that this is not the brother I met, but thought they might be other members of the clan.  
“Are you guys here for the celebration?” I said as a way of identifying them as family members.  One of the guys answered, “Oh yes, the folks went on some sort of tour this morning, but it was too hot so we came back to the hotel.”  Knowing Elizabeth’s parents were coming in that morning it made sense. We introduced ourselves with first names and there was basic small talk about nothing very specific.  
My friend Turk Pipkin appears in the lobby and goes for coffee.  I introduce the two guys to Turk and say, “Turk and Harry and I were partners in a couple of companies and television shows.”  They were properly impressed as Turk said, “I think Elizabeth is in the restaurant”. The restaurant is what the hotel called a couple of tables off the bar.  So Sandi and I go into the bar/restaurant to find Elizabeth.  
There she was with her folks and other family members, and introductions went around the tables.  Since there was no more seating at this location, Sandi, Turk and Christy and I decide we will find breakfast some place else.  
As we exit through the lobby the two guys I was talking to were standing up getting ready to leave the hotel also.  Still assuming they are brothers and family members I say, “The restaurant is full of Morgans.”  
The more talkative of the two says, “Actually, we are not part of your group, we are here for another reunion and thought you were part of our celebration.”  Now here is where the Harry Anderson advice comes to fruition. 
Instead of just saying, “Well it was nice to meet you.” And moving on,  I decide I could defuse our mutual embarrassment by continuing to talk.  
“Oh my, I thought you were Elizabeths brothers, I thought I saw a family resemblance.”  Here again it would have been wise to end the conversation but being it was a day of celebration for Harry, his admonition kept ringing in my head.  
I say, “I guess it was just your family resemblance... I mean you are brothers right?”
There was a pause and then, “No, we are not brothers... we are actually.... uh... a couple.”  The next thing out of my mouth should have been ‘Have a nice day’ but since the man had struggled to say the word “couple” I wanted him to know that I was perfectly okay with all loving life style choices.  
“I guess it’s like they say, the longer a couple is together the more they start to look alike.”  I say this in the most liberal minded voice I can.  
“We have only been together for about a year.....” was the answer.  I was dragged away by Turk, Christy and Sandi.
Harry’s advice?  
“When you dig a hole for yourself, keep digging, you might find a way out.”  
As you were,
Jay
 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Memory

This is a shot of Harry Anderson, Peter Scolari, John Ritter and me.  It was taken on the set of a CBS Television special Harry, Turk and I wrote and produced called “Tricks of His Trade”. There was no way to know then that John and Harry would leave us so quickly after.   I have always loved this photo but now even more. 
Life goes on but not ever in the same way again. Thank God for memories.

Which reminds me of a story that happened just the other day. Sometimes things just happen in the course of going about your business. This is one of those cases where I got to take credit for a funny joke that I didn’t know was... a funny joke.  My friend Harry used to say, “Never assign brilliance to what can explained by  simple stupidity.”  But I have admitted too much already.

Sandi and I were walking the dogs, yes we have two dogs. We got a dog for our dog so she would have a pet.  Mostly Boo sees Izzy (the new dog) as an interloper not a friendly companion.  As we were walking past a pharmacy Sandi said, “I need to get something here.”  Since I was carrying my wallet and Sandi was not carrying hers, I was chosen to go inside and get what she needed as she stayed outside with the dogs.   She said she was out of “Previgen”, which should have been all the information I needed to make the purchase. However, after looking for time enough to find it I had not located the needed Previgen, so I asked a clerk.  She said that although it was not a prescription drug it was only available behind the prescription counter. 

There were two “window” counters where people were being helped. When it was my turn I stepped to the young lady pharmacist and said, “I need some Previgen.”  She repeated, “Previgen?” I said, “Yes, Previgen”.  She looked below the counter and on the shelves at her back, but did not seem to find it. 
“Previgen?” She repeated again.  I answered (again) with the same affirmative. “Yes, Previgen.”  There was more searching and more looking but no product yet.  Finally she said, “What is that for?”  

Well, I wasn’t sure. It was something that Sandi took and I had to think about it for a minute. As I recall my reply went something like this:
“Oh, uh, it’s for.. uh.. let me see...uh... it is for your... memory.... I think”.  The lady getting her prescription at the next window burst out laughing, when I realized how she heard it, rather than laugh at my own unintended joke, I took smug credit.  The girl behind the counter giggled and said, “Oh course, here it is, I think I might need to take it myself.”  

I paid for the Previgen, but in my mind I was taking a bow telling the audience to remember to tip the waitresses and that I would be here all week.
It was a comedic take on the philosophy of Magic by Harry Anderson.  It the unintended works to your advantage always take credit.  Chance is a difficult method to ever figure out. 
As you were,
Jay

Saturday, June 02, 2018

My Friend Robert Mandan

It was with great sadness that I heard  my friend Bob Mandan had passed away.  I don’t have the words to fully express yet another loss of a good friend, so I will just repost a birthday blog I wrote six years ago. Rest peacefully, Mandan.   


I repost this article I wrote about my friend from his birthday in 2012, preceded by this editors note written today.

There are friends, there are people you have worked with and then there is a person like Bob who is both. I recall so many fun times together when we roamed with a group of actor/publicists/writers called the "Terrible 10".  We got that name because we were a terrible table of ten if you were sitting next to us at a restaurant.  We laughed the entire time and were not quiet about it.  If you were looking for a quiet evening's meal we were not the table you wanted to sit close to.
Happy Birthday Mr. Mandan. I cherish your friendship.
Nothing has changed in the way I feel about you since I wrote the blog below.

It's GroundHog Day
On my top ten list of movies "GroundHog" day is near the top.   And here it is in real life, Groundhog day 2012.  But I think the Punxsutawney rodent gets too much attention today.  It is a special day for other reasons.

Robert Mandan, Bob Campbell, Jay Johnson, Jay Sandrich
Opening night of "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only"
It is also the birthday of my friend Robert Mandan: "Better Dressed!" 
Only a true SOAPY will get that reference, but it is how I know my friend Mandan. He is better known to some as Chester Tate on SOAP. 

Robert Mandan
I remember when I moved to Los Angeles I was with my  vacationing folks having dinner at the  Toulca Lake Marie Callendars. Although I didn't know his name at the time Robert Mandan was also waiting for a table.  Mandan is one of those actors I had seen in many staring roles. Bob was my first "celebrity siting" in my new home town.  Bob received the ultimate compliment my Father had for working actors when he whispered to me, "That guy has been in a gillion films." Indeed my friend has been in a "gillion" things. Take a look at his IMDB - Robert Mandan. That impressive list is only the film and television roles. There is an even more impressive list of stage productions that Bob has done, including an Ovation Award for "The CareTaker" and a critically acclaimed portrail of "King Lear", not to mention three Broadway shows. 
 I had no clue that soon I would be working with that "guy who has done a gillion films". We became friends almost immediately.  For a time we had the same personal manager, the same publicist and hung out with the same group of television actors.  We were known as the "terrible ten" because of fun we used to have at various Los Angeles restaurants. The members of the social group changed but Bob and I have remained friends all this time. 
Bob and his wife Sherry have been impromptu godparents to both my sons.  My oldest son will say, "How is Mandan?" even today.
Robert Mandan in "Barney Miller"
Chester Tate and Benson
Bob is an actors actor.  He never stops studying and learning how to better deliver his gift. He is funny and smart and yes, as piss elegant as Chester Tate sometimes. If you're lucky a working relationship turns into a real friendship in this town of huge openings and quiet closings. I am grateful to have friends like Bob and Sherry in my life. On a day like GroundHogs day when the talk is about the weather, I will be thinking about my friend Bob Mandan, certainly not a "fair weather friend".  
Note to Mandan: You are not getting older, like wine you are getting more valuable.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mandan. We shall celebrate with a bottle of "HOOP DE HAH".

As you were,
Jay
Bob Mandan on "Three's a Crowd"
Bob Mandan on "Star Trek,The Next Generation"

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Good Night Harry



Note: (I wrote this the day after I heard that Harry had passed away.  It has taken me more than a month to feel like I could read it again to correct it and publish it.  I hope this is part of the healing process from grieving.  Mostly it just makes me realize that some things take much longer than 30 days)

Back in the early 80's It is what they called a suite at the Sea Sprite Motel in Hermosa Beach.  Basically it was two adjoining rooms,  one with two beds and the other with a couple of desks and couches.  In that "other" bedroom Harry Anderson and I had two identical Mac Computers... 512 version, the big beige toaster model, and two identical work stations side by side an arms length away. We are writing a show for NBC called “Halloween Night - Live”.  It was a lampoon of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”.  Between the two computers were a couple of glasses, ice, a bottle of Vodka, cold orange juice, a pack of Camel unfiltered cigarettes and a zippo. As we started to write Harry said, “This is great. Let’s get a little smoke filled room going here.”  It fit Harry’s  Dashiell Hammet vision of what a writers room should be, a poorly lit smoke filled beachside motel.
It wasn’t just any motel at the beach, the Sea Sprite was across the street from the Comedy Magic Club.  Harry and I were introduced by Mike Lacey, the owner of the Comedy and Magic Club. That club is and will always be our favorited place to perform.  Harry and I wrote and produced an April Fools show and a Halloween show at that club every year.   Harry figured when we knocked off from writing we were across the street from a great place to eat, drink and see a funny show.  It was a good plan and we took advantage of the legendary Mike Lacey hospitality.
Harry embraced personal computers with a bear hug.  I remember the day he got his first Mac. He bought it for Eric his business manager at the time.  Before  I got to the house to see this new wonder of modern electronics, Harry had already decided to keep it and buy another Mac for Eric.  Harry saw right away that the future of creativity was digital.  Mac had created a visual interface which was more logical and approachable to dyslexics like Harry and me.  Harry knew so much about the Mac,  the Genius Bar at the Apple Store would say Uncle. He was my computer guru.  I got all his hand me down computers.  He went for the newest and the fastest and at the time they were getting newer and faster every 16 months.  So I had the next latest computer every 16 months.  The thing was they came loaded with Harry’s software but absolutely no documentation. No manuals for the operating system nor instructions for the software.  My family will tell you that instructions are the last thing I ever look at for a project. So in an odd way this Anderson approach to this new computer age fit my learning skills to a tee. 
It was prehistorically simple at the Sea Sprite.  To work on the same file we came up with a system.  Harry loved a program called “Think Tank”. It was an early outlining program. So we both had “Think Tank” our Macs, we divided the show in half and worked on our sections independently.  Midway through the day we would exchange discs and I would edit his stuff and Harry would edit mine.  
Harry was an excellent writer. He was an excellent editor.  He encouraged me to write. I am a writer because of Harry.  He always had his shows and his patter written down in script form. He couldn’t believe that my routines were just in my head.
While we were writing this show, most of the times unless I had a better joke or thought I could clarify a scene, Harry’s stuff was really good.  The next time I got my rewrites back it was trimmer, cleaner and well just funnier.  Harry’s take on a scene or story was always well crafted.  
One night after coming back from the Club we were settling in on the separate double beds. They were both more my size than Harry’s.  I don’t know why but one easily forgets how tall Harry Anderson was. 
As we were going to sleep Harry said, “I have to tell you, the Milk Bottle sketch you wrote is one of the best things in the show.  I think it might be the best thing you have written.”  
I said, “Thanks. That means a lot to me,  Good Night Harry.”
Harry does not bull shit.  He will tease and satirize but he will not bull shit.  So if he thinks one of my sketches is good, I knew it wasn’t some obligatory compliment.  I remember sleeping well that night. 
The next morning when the sun was barely up I hear the familiar boing of a Mac 512 being turned on.  This was followed by the distinctive hum of Mac reading a disc, and after that the clicking sound of a Mac keyboard.  Finally the smell of coffee and Camel cigarettes got me up. I stumbled into the already smoke filled room. As my sleepy eyes awoke I focused  on  Harry in his underwear frantically typing on his Mac.  
I said, “What are you working on in the middle of the night?”
He said, “I am rewriting the Milk Bottle Sketch.” 
So began my collaborative association with Harry Anderson.  The last thing we collaborated on we wrote while I was in LA and Harry in Asheville, NC.  We emailed files of Final Draft back and forth.  I was never more creatively challenged than when I was working with Harry.  Harry Anderson made me a better artist, writer and performer.  His premature exit has created an massive hole in many people's lives. Not the least of which is mine. I doubt that I have time to meet another person like Harry in my life.  Perhaps there will never be anyone of his kind again.  
Good night Harry,
Jay

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Sometimes a Snake is just a Snake

I am getting ready for my show at the Uptown Theater in Grand Prairie, Texas.  (Shameless promotion). I think there are a some tickets left for the June 2nd one night only performance.  If you are near, love to drive or own a private plane please come and see the show.   Here is an easy way to get your ticket.  Uptown Theater.    And now we return you to the blog already in progress.

As I check out all the characters that will be in the show and prep them for travel, I am flooded with a range of emotion.  One of the joyful yet poignant moments came today when I was packing Amigo the Snake.
Amigo is pictured at the 4 o'clock position. 

Amigo is a puppet that my Mom made for me when I was in High School.  It is the oldest puppet that I still use.  My Mom was a genius with a sewing machine.  I have a sewing machine in my office to this day because of the magic I saw my Mom do with such a device.  The line from my show is: 
“My Mom made me this puppet so I could take it with me to High School. She though I might have trouble fitting in.”   That statement is very true.  Although I didn’t always bring a puppet to school Squeaky’s case was too big to fit in my locker.  So Mom made a soft hand puppet Snake that could easily fit into my back pack.  
As I checked out Amigo this morning I remembered the first time that I ever laid eyes on the little guy.  Mom had designed a hand puppet mouth with a long body that wrapped around my arm. The wrap around kept it from looking like just a puppet on my hand and more like I was holding a snake.  She made Amigo out of a pair of dancers tights that had a snake like pattern.  Because they were meant to be worn by a dancer the undertone was a flesh like brown color. It worked great as cartoon snake skin. 
The only problem of design was the end of Amigos tail, the part that hung over my right forearm. Mom had just rounded it off, more like a worm than a snake.  She might have been thinking that the character I had come up with was more worm like than snake like.  But to me it had a way more familiar look.  It looked for the world like a flaccid but still impressive penis.  
So here I am a 15 year old boy holding a puppet trying to tell his Mother that with this design he was not Amigo the Snake, nor Amigo the Worm.  I was trying to be professional and say that the puppet tail needed to come to much more of a point without saying the words: peter, dick, johnson, member, weiner, schlong or trouser lizard. Some how I got the point across and she made the correction.
We lost Mom last October after too many years of being unable to sew magic anymore.  It is just one of the reasons I miss that wonderful and imaginative Mother.  As a testament to her genius a letter from her to me about her thoughts making puppets for me hangs in the Vent Haven Museum.  I did not know the letter was among a puppet donation that I made to that great place.  The curator Lisa Sweasy found it and recognized the importance of her thoughts and talents and framed it with the puppets I had donated.  
My show “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only” is in some ways a valentine to my Mom and my mentor Art Seiving.  They both hold a unique place in my heart as teachers, imagineers and personal puppet makers. I am so glad to get to tell their story again on stage.  It will be a very special performance in my home town.  
As you were,
Jay

Monday, April 16, 2018

Friends are family you get to Choose

What's a BFF?


Once in a lifetime you connect with a person who becomes your Best Friend Forever. 




It was a chance meeting at the Circus Circus Reno showroom with a guy who was hired to be my opening act. I don't know what draws a comic magician to a ventriloquist, but it was an instant connection.


I became the "roper" to the "wise guy", the pitchman to the carnival lifestyle of Harry Anderson. Before the two weeks were up at the Reno gig we had hustled the pit bosses, played on the trapeze and cuffed the head of security with his own handcuffs. They closed the showroom after we left and turned it into a Keno parlor.


It was the crest of "Soap" for me, but Harry went on to become the star of "Night Court", "Disney's Absent-Minded Professor" and "Dave's World" as well as several network and cable specials, most of which I participated in either by producing or performing in or both. We co-wrote scripts, acts and I even wrote the introduction to a couple of his books. For a while we were developers for Macintosh software, and even converted a Mac program into an application we sold to Disney. 


But live shows were where we really excelled. We did annual Halloween shows and April Fool's shows and New Year's Eve shows at any venue that would let us do our thing, mostly during the rock and roll days of the Comedy Magic Club in Hermosa Beach. We would spend more time and energy in producing those shows than we did for NBC or CBS. 


After his series ended Harry moved to a Green and Green mansion in Pasadena. We converted his basement into a "walk through" spook house that took months to construct. For a party of special invitees one Halloween we tricked, amazed and scared a group of friends with every illusion we could come up with at the time. It was special enough that David Copperfield flew in, before we took it apart, for a command performance. After we tried to establish several companies together we realized that having fun together was much more interesting to us than trying to make a buck. My wife says, "Jay and Harry play together very well." It was Harry who coined the phrase that became the title to my Broadway show, "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only."


Harry moved to New Orleans where he opened a magic shop and nightclub called "Oswald's Speakeasy" dedicated to Lee Harvey Oswald. There was a drink called the "single bullet" and a "grassy knoll". The men's room was papered with the Warren Commission report. Harry's act was the main attraction. We made a deal that I would come into the club and do my act several times a year so he could go on vacation. The club was going strong for several months, and I was ready one week end to come down and survey the club for my show. I never made it. That very weekend the airport closed due to something called Katrina. The town was never the same, Harry closed the shop, sold the club and moved to North Carolina.


After 30 years of friendship it is not so surprising that he would fly across the country to celebrate my birthday a couple of week-ends ago. There were other friends there, but we could have had a great time just the two of us. As usual his toast was the highlight of the evening. His funniest line, "You have to remember, I knew Jay Johnson before he was what he no longer is today." 


My Buddhist friends say we are friends now because of our connection in a previous life. I don't know about that, but I hope we find each other in the next one. Harry always says, "Friends are the family you get to choose". I am godfather to his kids and he is godfather to mine, so I guess we made it official. 


I don't know why I feel compelled to write about this in the blog except to say this. Hold your friends dear, friendship is one of the great gifts we humans have been given. Don't let friends slip away even if they move across the country. In today's high tech world distance is no barrier. Make sure you tell the people close to you that you value the gift of their very existence. 


BFF is thrown around on the Internet like it was a :) or "sincerely" attached to a letter. Not to me... if I use it, I want to mean it. In this case it could not be more accurate, to me my BFF is a BFD. 


As you were,

Jay


Friday, April 13, 2018

Words Matter-

I am preparing a lecture that I am giving in Portland next month and the subject is Words Matter.  It is something that I believe in strongly and feel words have been weaponized and ill-regarded in the Trump Era.  As I look at the daily news coming from this adminstration, I can find way too many violations of what I consider common decency.  Manners and diplomacy went away the day Trump announced his run for the Presidency.

Usually my advice to people tweeting, posting, commenting or speaking is: Think before you speak and always edit and rewrite everything except a grocery list.  Perhaps the leader of the free world could find a words better than “Slimball leaker” to discribe someone.  There is a dictionary full of word on the web that could accurately discribe your feelings without personal thuggish bullying.  Usually by thinking about your words and trying to come up with the ones that are specific to what you want to communicate does the trick.  Re-reading your post only to see if auto correct has miss guessed your word before you press the send button is communication 10.  

However, after hearing the “prepared remarks” from Sarah Sanders regarding 45’s use of the term “slimball” today, (the above video) I realize that re-reading and editing is not enough.  She obviously prepared the hatchet remarks carefull and thought about what she was saying.  So... rather than re-reading and editing my advice to her is choose better. 

Language, particularly written language, can be less than clear just because English is so confusing.  Words can be verbs one minute and nouns the next, they can mean what they mean or have a street definition that has the opposite meaning.  Great writers spend hours finding just the right word that communicates exactly the image the writer wants us to visualize.  A writer (Press Secretary no less) doing a job that is supposed to clarify the decisions and in this case Tweets from the President of the United States has to be extremely careful in her choice of words.  Sarah Sanders has shown time and time again, like her boss, she does not choose words wisely nor even intelligently.  Leaders, Responsible leaders, do not use the words of a low class mobster. A legally delivered search warrant is not an attack on America.  Attorney client priveledge is still alive and well, and if you call people out and insult them in a Tweet, expect someone to write a book calling you a thug.  

I have tried to avoid blogging politics lately, but when the very subject you are doing research on is so blatantly abused almost daily, I just had to get it off my chest.  
As you were,
Jay

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Eye to Eye

As a side bar, I once interviewed a lady who lost her vision ( went totally blind) at 15 years old. Through advances in technology, and 50 years later she had an operation to give her vision back when she was 65.  I remember that interview very well, and now I understand a little more clearly what she was feeling.

My right eye has always been extremely myopic. I could see things up close but not things farther than an arms length away.  I have had glasses and contact lense since I was 16 years old.  For many years hard and soft contact lense were a miracle to me, I could put them on in the morning and see great all day long even read with the contacts. I was an excellent patient for daily wear soft lense.   However, age causes everyone to lose short vision over time, and I was slowly developing a cataract in that right eye.  So even with glasses, readers, or contacts the short vision was dicey with flares and halo’s around lights in the night time becoming increasingly problematic. If I wanted to see a stage play clearly I had to wear contacts but to read the Playbill I had to have reading glasses. It was just one of those things you just get used to over the “snail’s pace” of time. Friends had radial keratotomy and laser surgery to correct their vision, but I was never sure it was right for me although my “prescription”seemed to be perfect for the operation.  
For the last decade I have been using contact lense for stage work, but for everyday I just had my distant correction glasses which I took off to read or do work close. For me that was easier than using readers with my contacts.  But the glare of lights at night time was really getting to me... with nothing that glasses or lenses could do to correct it.  

I have a great optomologist who noticed the cataract developing in my right eye, causing most of the problems of light and glaring.  That was the bad news, the good news: with new developments in eye surgery a patient did not have to wait until cataracts are really bad before getting rid of them. The best news was that while they were extracting the cataract they could implant a lense to make me see distance more clearly.  And it is an outpatient procedure which meant I was less than two hours in the hospital.  It was simple and virtually painless.  The IV for the procedure was the worst part. 
I feel like the lady who got her sight back. I have never seen so clearly in my right eye.  In fact the biggest problem I have had all week is adjusting to more light and more color in my perception than I have had in a long time.  I am almost over loaded with new colors and a new sense of distance.  I wake up in the middle of the night and can clearly see what time it is on the cable box clock.  This may not be a trill to some, but it is very exciting to me.

The funniest thing that happened to me during my procedure happened at the prep. I went in early in the morning and was escorted to an exam room before taken to a hospital bed.  There a nurse put a series of drops in my “surgery ready” eye.  These were in addition to the three sets of drops I had put in that eye at home already.  She would matter of factly tell me what the drops were for, i.e.  “this will dilate your eye” .... “this is an anti-inflamitory”.  Then she put a drop into my eye that started stinging like crazy, and said, “This is to numb the eye.”  I said, “It stings, than’s an oxymoron.”  She paused for a moment and said, “No it is just a mild anesthetic.”  

The lady I interviewed said that, after her surgery, if she got lost in the house she would just close her eyes so she would remember her way around. For me I just close one eye to remember. 
Happy St. Patricks day to all the Irish and wannabes.
As you were,
Jay