Really fun show last night, Upstairs at Vitello’s in Studio City… Thanks for all that came out.
“You’re like a mix between Tom Waits & Pavarotti,” was one of the compliments I received that I’m still flattered and yet confused by…
Last night, at Upstairs at Vitello’s, I performed a version of Pink’s “F**in’ Perfect.”
BTW, just yesterday I added a new bit that went over well in the middle of the song, which isn’t in the previously recorded version on YouTube… And while it hurt a little, and made finishing the song challenging, I think I’ll keep if I ever do the song LIVE again, once again leaving out the “FU High School” at the end.
I’m still smiling about so many of the performances…
Congratulations to my awesome, talented, funny fellow cast members: Will Collyer, Mandy Kaplan, Gregg Marx, Alex Mohajer, Lisa Marie Morabito, Emily Morris, Eric Petersen, Skip & Terri (aka Artie O’Daly & Theresa Ryan), Mandy Fabian… With genius pianist, Ron Snyder.
Much thanks and kudos to BRILLIANT hosts of Up With A Twist, and performers, Todd Sherry & Heather Olt!
(Visit Vitello’s calendar to find out when Up With A Twist will be back next month, with a brand new cast. And who knows, perhaps I’ll be asked back in the future.)
I must mention one completely unexpected moment, a hilarious exchange between Jo Anne Worley and one of the cast members… It could not have been scripted any better than it played out, nor ever really explained to someone who wasn’t there.
After the show, on my way home, I dropped into an open mic in my hood, which a friend of mine has started at Rockwell Table & Stage… There I met some talented people, and sang my second song of the night, supported by super talented pianist Brian P. Kennedy.
- Quiche Out
BTW, to my knowledge there was no video or pictures taken last night, and the confusing, flattering, “Tom Waits & Pavarotti” compliment that I received, joins some of my recent favorites…
“When you sing you make women have to change their undergarments,” – told by a gorgeous woman after singing at a joint in Mexico…
“When someone like you, who just did the best scene of the night, has doubts about your talent, it makes the rest of us think, ‘what the hell are we doing’…” – told by a very talented, fellow student in an acting class.
“I haven’t heard, or been excited by, a voice like yours since I saw Paul Robeson Off Broadway as a boy…” – told by a man in his 80s, after singing in Palm Springs… You can read more about that particular night HERE, and watch a video, if you’re interested.
The plan, as I drove home late last night, was to wake up this morning, and write about my evening on stage for anyone that was interested… However, when I woke and had received a lengthy email from a long time collaborator wondering about continuing the pursuit of writing, and I responded with a quickly dictated lengthy email of my own back…
I’m including it, though this has been “cleaned,” “fixed,” and “edited” a tad. Possibly I’ll write more about last night later…
There are always plenty of reasons to quit… Plenty of people who will agree with you… Plenty of other people who quit already… More will quit as I write this email.
Last night I sang at two of the more popular venues in town. Two of them. Vitello’s in Studio City and Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz. Surrounded by other great, very talented performers in the house and on stage. These are two of the top small/midsize cabaret venues in the second biggest city in the country. And I’ve little doubt that each performer wishes they were making a super living as singers…
At homes, surrounding both venues, I’m guessing were hundreds of other former singers who would be all too ready to convince us all to throw in the towel. That it’s too hard. That they are just lucky to be able to sing on a stage, with people excited to see us perform.
Doing it or not doing… Doing it or not doing it… Is the only thing that matters. Producing or selling ourselves or finding someone else to produce scripts or sell scripts or writing stories that can be eaten, consumed directly by the masses without the fickle middleman only looking for easy sells and guaranteed box offices.
The business of it sucks. Worrying about other people sucks… Worrying about myself sucks. Worrying about money sucks… It’s the doing, the singing, writing, the acting… That I love. The doing. The meetings. The discussions. The problem-solving. The creativity. The doing. And very possibly I have devoted a very superficial and shallow life to all of it… But, seeing things created on stage, or working on them for an Internet audience, or TV audience, or festival audience, or even on something that may never be finished… And it was only the cast & crew that will ever appreciate it… Watching people react, or hearing them laugh, or hearing that they laughed or cried upon watching or reading something… Validation from myself and others is important to me.
I heard this quote the other day… Which I’ve heard many times before… “We determine our own success…”
I could look at last night as being incredibly successful, incredibly, singing at two of the top cabaret spaces in Los Angeles, among super talented, professional, Broadway singers… Or I could look at last night as being a failure… I didn’t get paid a dime, I spent money on gas, only did two songs… Blah blah blah…
“We determine our own success.”
Having a day job as an actor, who sings in his closet and in public venues, who wrote two novels, has had five screenplays optioned, who has dreams of being an artist creator on a superstar level, is all really ridiculous. But… I’ve already gone much much further and longer than most people ever, ever, would’ve ever bet on.
“We determine our own success.”
At this point I’ve seen hundreds of peers quit. I silently celebrated each and every one. Happy they made a decision. And yet, I would’ve been equally happy had they made the decision to stay and tough it out. It would be significantly less enjoyable and less productive for me and my career if you were to quit… As I have benefited from your knowledge, creativity and expertise. But… I would be no less happy for you than anybody else.
I am hoping he doesn’t quit… For my own sake. It would sadden me greatly, but his decision is up to him, and he will do what’s right/best for him.
I often consider quitting… So much so that an acquaintance of mine who I see at auditions from time to time called me out on it the last time I saw him… “Maybe you should just quit, you’d make a lot of people much happier.”
Hopefully this inspires you a little, hopefully my original Email inspires my friend and collaborator… Man, it’s a tough tough long long bumpy bumpy road. But I personally don’t know anyone that has ever trained for and run a marathon, the fastest they possibly could, and said, “Wow, that was so easy.”
“We determine our own success.”
Over 50,266 people ran and finished the New York City Marathon in 2013… And yet there were only four people who actually “won” (male, female, male wheelchair, female wheelchair). Yet, I highly doubt that all of the 50,262 others considered their race, their time, their accomplishment, their training, their hurdles, their pain… unsuccessful.
“We determine our own success.”
I used to think that only meant, we were responsible for our own success… Now I know it also means, “We determine our own success.”
- Quiche Out
Maybe this is an offensive post to some of you… Others won’t read it because of who wrote it… Some will miss it or ignore it… Some may forward or like… Some will have your own distinctly intelligent point of view, whether or not agreeing or disagreeing silently or in the comments below… And very possibly someone will quote the bible pointing and screaming, “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!”
But, after well-over twenty years of working as a professional in the performing arts I’ve come to most certainly realize…
“Bad” kills “good.”
Last night, at a piano bar somewhat new to me, I had complete strangers flood words upon me and one of my singer friends, telling us how much they love live music, but how hard it is to find places to hear it… Imagine that. People who live within the lines of the second largest American city, complaining to two singers that there’s not enough live music venues. A city that both my friend and I have personally witnessed one music venue after another die slow painful starving death after slow painful starving death.
The unsolicited comments from people unknown seemed to shock us both…
How often have you heard that your city doesn’t have any theater or music or art or comedy, but yet, if you talk to anyone that’s involved with whatever they’re complaining about, the artist (comic, singer, writer, painter, actor…) will be super quick to point out all the venues struggling to stay open and all the positive reviews they’ve ever gotten…
Last night, my first impulse was to tell my new-found friends about all the music venues I know of that are barely existing, because they’re not attracting enough audiences… In a county of over 10 million people… Struggling to get 30, 40, 50, or 70 patrons a night… But I didn’t, I rather chose to remain mostly silent and listen.
This morning, I came up with an answer I didn’t know I was looking for, to a question I didn’t know I was asking… How could these various individuals, from different tables, on the same night, in the same place, all have very similar ideas of a completely different perception than my own…
BTW my mind often works on unknown “problems” or questions overnight…
Unrelated story: Recently in Mexico I went into a grocery store to buy dog food for some strays I discovered, and asked a clerk, “Por favor, no compredo Espanol, sorry, where is your dog food?”
When it was clear he didn’t understand the words in my question… I started barking and indicating eating with my fingers… He guided me to the ketchup aisle. I had no idea why… But I thanked him and eventually found the pet food aisle I was seeking, the whole time wondering how he got ketchup from “dog food,” “bark bark.”
– But the next morning I woke up with the answer… “Oh! HOT DOG! He probably thought I meant, hot dogs!”
It’s not that there isn’t amazing art in galleries, or brilliant performances in theaters, or mind-blowing music in cabarets, insanely off the grid thinking comic improvised performances just a few miles away… It’s that there is a ton of art we can’t appreciate, plays & films we don’t understand or get, performances that hurt our ears, wallets, or sensibilities… Stuff we are quick to label and tag as “bad.”
Now, before you jump down my throat, screaming, “who are you, or who is anyone to say or deem whose voice is good, or which script or which play is good…” I am nobody but myself… I’m well aware that Tom Petty, Tom Jones, Tom Waits, Tommy Tutone, Tommy Tune, and Thomas Dolby all have played on many a stages, and been appreciated by worldly audiences, and I’m certain each of you know at least two of those names, and have opinions about them. We aren’t supposed to get every artistic thing we see, we’re all not going to be fans of every performer, of every movie, script, story, or song… For years I didn’t get the attraction of many singers that the masses were gushing over, and I often watch films that critics love or that are up for awards, and that leave me scratching my head trying to figure out what the praise is all about…
Be completely honest, if you were to have seen Andy Kaufman, or Steve Martin, or Gilbert Godfried, or Rosanne Barr, or Danny Devito, or Nirvana, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or a painting by Vincent Van Gogh before they hit the mainstream consciousness, do you really think you would have bet even ten bucks on all of their successes?
“Despite being one of the world’s best known and most highly acclaimed painters, poor van Gogh only sold one painting in his lifetime.” - Huff Post
Unfortunately, it’s not show-art, it’s show business, and most venues and companies are in business to turn a profit. The masses have become more and more nervous to take risks watching new & original, and that’s probably one reason why so many Broadway shows are recycled movies, why so many movies are recycled TV shows, books, or sequels, and just yesterday I heard they’re now recycling old TV to “new” TV… (The Odd Couple, which started as a play, then a movie, then TV show, now another TV show…) Why so many shows have casts that look like cookie cutter casts of other shows… Business, like people, rarely likes to take chances.
And people, myself included, are more willing to pay a hundred bucks to see a known entity like Billy Joel in concert, watching from half a mile away, than pay $10 to see some possible hack piano-man named Bolly Jiel from five feet away. (If your name is Bolly Jiel, and you play piano, I apologize, at the time of writing this, you did not come up on an Internet search).
I also realize that if someone sees Transformers I and hates it, they’re probably not going to spend any money on watching Transformers II, III, IV, V… And that’s perhaps what we conclude about entire venues, genres and cities… Perhaps we the audiences are far too sensitive… Making quick hard rules, lumping all cabaret spaces, all theaters, all independent movies, all film festivals, all improv comedy shows into general statements…
“I went to an open mic once, one of the singers was so awful. I’ll never go to another as long as I live. I’d rather see someone like Billy Joel in a piano bar.”
“I went into a music club in Atlanta, and the chick and dude playing were so bad… Atlanta has no nightlife… No music scene… It’s dead there…”
“I’ve seen way too many bad theater plays, with needy bad actors, I’d rather go to the movies. Let’s see… ‘Transformers VII’ is playing…”
“I saw an Off Broadway musical once, I’d rather spend my money on something I know is going to be good… Like ‘Cats.’ Or ‘Ghost.’ BTW, how come they haven’t made ‘Walking Dead the musical yet?’ Oh look the Internet says they have.”
“I saw this standup at this dive once it was so vulgar, I’ll never go back… You like Louie C.K.? Now he’s funny. Or Jim Jefferies. Is Don Rickles still around?”
“I went to an art opening, everything and everyone was so precious and pretentious, I hated it… It was like the opera, but without that stupid music… Not that I’d be caught dead at some opera… I’d rather watch golf on TV.”
“No I don’t want to go… The last time I was at a film festival some guy who directed the movie wouldn’t shut up at this stupid Q & A afterwards… Shhh, they’re analyzing the baseball game, I just spent four hours watching…”
“Last time I went to an art museum, I had more fun getting ice cream afterwards… Let’s just get ice cream and then just complain that there’s nothing to do in this town.”
“‘Spoken word’ is just people who can’t sing, with nothing to say, in front of people who click their fingers together because they don’t know what else to do… I’d rather see what’s on TV… Hey, you wanna watch ‘Duck Dynasty’ or ‘Real Housewives?’”
It’s easy to put the blame on producers, writers, actors, painters, singers, dancers, choreographers…. Because yeah, there is a lot of things we all will think is complete crap not worthy of being seen in a subway or written on toilet paper out there. But one thing is for certain, even more than audiences probably being far too sensitive… And that’s that I can guarantee that artists, writers, singers, dancers and performers can not, are not able, will not, and should not, police themselves…
Far far too often I have met many a truly, super-talented, gifted artist/actor/singer/comic who didn’t think they were good enough, and they quit, or held themselves back from opportunities, yet at the same time, I’ve met a plethora of people over the past two decades that make me want to go running for the exit every time they get on stage, pick up a guitar, or stand behind a microphone, and yet they believe in their hearts and minds they’re the next incredibly talented national sensation… And the brilliant thing about art, music and showbiz is, no one in the world can tell you which of these people are right.
What would you have given to have seen a young Frank Sinatra or Elvis perform before they found their style and national attention, or to have heard the Beatles or Rolling Stones before they crossed the pond…? I just saw the movie, “Inside Llewyn Davis,” a script I highly doubt any unknown writers could have gotten made… But imagine being one of the people to publicly hear Bob Dylan in a small venue in the 60s (in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I would have thought “Oh God, he’s horrible”)… Billy Joel in a piano bar in the 70s, Alanis Morissette before she release Jagged Little Pill in the 90s…
Recently an 84 year old guy, Ray Jessel, who I performed with in a cabaret show with in 2012 went on America’s Got Talent, and dozens of pirated YouTube videos of his TV appearance blew up the Internet the next day… The same song (done even better when I saw it LIVE), and four other fun tunes, that I saw him do two years earlier to an audience of less than 20 people.
So, within all these words is there a point…?
I don’t know.
I suppose “Bad” does kill “good.”
And… Whether you are aware of it or not, sadly it’s also true that there are a lot of severely untalented people, being deemed talented, by the public at large, acts that can’t find or hold pitches that are auto-tuned even in their live shows, and actors who wouldn’t be able to hold your attention if they were your waiter standing naked in front of you, yet they’re constantly being edited, portrayed as godlike, powerful, charming, action heroes… which we as a society are being idiotically, unquestionably, spoon fed.
We do however all have the power to not let that all of this happen…
We can see LIVE performances…
In small venues were there’s no such thing as auto-tune or technicians…
In theater where there is no second take…
In small budget movies where you get three takes and then move on, not sixty takes of the same sentence, over and over from three cameras from twenty angles…
We have the power to have short memories… To forgive poor performances… To overlook acts we didn’t enjoy for the amazing jewels we did… To realize we may not be “unquestionably right,” and that others may have different appreciations… As I’m writing this, I’ve come to realize how forgiving I am with meh things passed on the Internet, many which later prove to be bullshit performances anyway… And how maybe I should adopt that same attitude towards other things. Forgetting the time and the money I spent.
If you had to sit through 100 meh/mediocre performances to see just 1 performance by a young unknown Jim Morrison, Elton John, Dean Martin, Ethel Merman, Barbra Streisand, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Prince before he called himself Prince, Pink before she deemed herself Pink, Cher before she was known as just Cher, Madonna before she became Madonna… (Whomever is your favorite of all time…) Would you have done it? To have seen Brando or Dustin Hoffman in some tiny theatre? Lucile Ball, Robin Williams, John Belushi…?
So, to the people who complained to me about not enough live music, and piano bars…
I completely agree. And I’ve gone off on many tangents while doing so…
There are still plenty of venues… Plenty of artists struggling to be seen, heard, watched, bought, read… Plenty of new ideas trying to get made… Plenty of “new” talented actors, writers, singers… The only way you’ll ever get to see the next break out stars before they play huge venues or packaged to the masses is to catch them before everyone else jumps on board. The only way production companies will start investing in new ideas, new scripts, from new writers, is if people in masses go and support new ideas, and new stories…
So go see some stupid little bad theater, dive into some dive open mics, drag your dates to some rinky dinky stinky piano bar, read some pitiful new authors, hear some tragic off key voices…
Seek and ye shall find…
And, lastly, if there is money to be made, business will follow. More venues will open. More pianos will be played… More comedy clubs opened. More interesting movies will be made.
For the equal and opposite of “Build it and they will come,” is most likely, “Come and they will build it.”
- Quiche Out
I always loved this story, so I’m including it…
INTERVIEW BETWEEN LARRY KING AND BURT REYNOLDS (Larry King Live, Aired February 23, 2000 – 9:00 p.m. ET
KING: Yes. When did you know you were good?
REYNOLDS: I truthfully didn’t think I was good long after I was working.
KING: Really? You mean in those years you were making it you didn’t…
REYNOLDS: No, not in those, but in the earlier — because I went under contract to Universal in 1958 and was fired in 1959.
KING: With Clint Eastwood.
REYNOLDS: Well, Eastwood was — I always tell the story that we were fired the same day, but we weren’t. We were fired the same year. And he was fired because his Adam’s apple stuck out too far. He talked too slow. And he had a chipped tooth and he wouldn’t get it fixed. And I said, “Why are you firing me?” And they said, “You can’t act.” And I thought…
KING: Was that a blow, Burt?
REYNOLDS: No. I said — no, I said to Clint, you know, you are really screwed, because I can learn how to act. You can’t get rid of that Adam’s apple.
And it’s held him back. It’s held him back.
KING: He never made it.
REYNOLDS: You know, the next time that either one of us — him much earlier than me — worked at Universal, he got a million dollars. And then the first time I worked there — and it was quite a while afterwards…
So, some of you already know that last week I booked several days on a new TV movie, called ROMANTICALLY SPEAKING being filmed by the same production that did the western I did years ago, and that do the majority of Hallmark movies… (1st announced in last newsletter) The film is being Directed by: Ron Oliver. Produced by: Lincoln Lageson. Starring: Heather Morris & Jonathan Bennett.
While I am thankful for the work, it was bittersweet as I had to cancel my trip back Eastward, where I’d meet my newest nieces, and see my extended family. But, when you’re 100% commission sales you take the work when you get it… There’s really no such thing as vacation time being an actor…You take vacation or you don’t, missing opportunities either way.
The role is throughout the movie, Kenny The Driver, and while it’s by no means a large part, he is in a few scenes, and does have a few nice exchanges, including one of the film’s last lines.
Thankfully, when a good friend heard I suddenly had nothing planned for the weekend of the 4th, he invited me to drive back down to Mexico with him… It was my 3rd or 4th time visiting San Felipe, the place we shot the On The Road Again/Moving Right Along Closet Singer song.
Baja, California is incredibly hot this time of year, but it was good to get out of Los Angeles and meet some new people, and see others I hadn’t seen in a while… We partied with friends, sang in a bar, had some great food… I even discovered a new friend that volunteered at a dog shelter, and I spend a few hours with her loving up some beautiful pooches.
Find out more about V.I.V.A. San Felipe , and like their page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/VIVA-San-Felipe/254823077886872
One sad bit of news hit me while finishing a salted margarita… Seconds after I sent a friend a Facebook message telling her that I was down, visiting, I was informed by other friends sitting next to me that she had died a year earlier. At first I thought it was some ill-mannered joke they were pulling on me… After-all how did they know my friend… But indeed, my friend had passed, from something called, Tick Fever… And somehow I missed the news, or didn’t understand the news, as the majority of posts on her page were written in Spanish… She was sweet, friendly, a mother and new grandmother, and the very first person I met in Mexico outside of my friend’s friends, and each time I had come down, I always made an effort to swing by where-ever she was working, and briefly catch up… She even appears briefly in the previously mentioned video (at 2:22).
Life is uncertain, fragile and filled with unexpected joys and low points… I suppose our only responsibility (outside of one’s own religious beliefs) is to live & experience.
Below are a few pictures for you to enjoy… Feel free to click.
- Quiche Out