Friday, March 30, 2007
The Hollywood sign from Gower, which is the street that flanks the back of my building.
They preempted Oprah. The last time they did that? 9/11.
Blogger shut down. Thanks Blogger, you're really up to viral speed.
And oh yeah, I ALMOST DIED.
End of chat. Could have been. You don't know.
Hollywood Hills Fire Pictures, Hollywood Sign
Los Angeles Angles 6
Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Unlike Good Day Live, I did something really smart this morning; I put my robe on inside out. Because I thought it was too dirty to wear the other way. Apparently I’ve turned into a guy. The really scary kind.
And no, there are no belt loops that way which really pissed me off. The really, really scary kind. End of chat.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Monday, March 26, 2007
This Saturday, comics filed in to the invitation-only memorial for Richard Jeni held at The Laugh Factory in Hollywood. Some of the biggest names in our industry got up, one after another, and paid homage to Richard. Jay Leno, Tim Allen, Paul Rodriguez, Elayne Boosler and Larry Miller brought the house down with their remembrances of this quirky and brilliant standup. Two fashionistas check the list at The Laugh Factory
Jay Leno said that Rich would tell him that he was doing a new HBO special and that he was going home to write the new hour. To which Jay remarked that most comics couldn’t steal an hour, much less write it before a special.
Ritch Shydner described how committed to joke writing Jeni was. He said most comics will do a line or two about something like alarm clocks. Then they move on to a new topic. And like lions, the comedians in the back of the room are ripping the comic’s bit apart, seizing on the parts of the topic that weren’t covered, like the meat left on a carcass. He didn’t discuss the snooze button! or He should have talked about digital clocks! But he said that when Rich Jeni did a joke on any topic, there was nothing left but bones.
Rodriguez recalled a story of when he and Richard were playing a prison. “Rodriguez, what kind of material do these guys like?” Richard asked.
“How would I know, why are you asking me that?”
“Because there’s a lot of you people in here.”
Emceed by the affable Tom Dreesen, Sinatra’s opening act up until the day Frank died, he kept the show moving and the laughs coming. People didn’t speak for long, until Paul Provenza got to the podium. Paul was the guy who took over for Rob Morrow when Morrow left Northern Exposure and is a gifted comedian in his own right. Paul went long, as we say in standup. None of us really noticed or cared, but someone gave him the light, the red one that signals to the comic to get off stage. Those of us sitting in the back couldn’t believe someone - and by someone I’m guessing Jamie Masada, owner of The Laugh Factory - would give anyone the light at a memorial. I tapped Boosler on the shoulder.
“They gave Paul the light,” I whispered.
“I know, is there a show after this? Is another funeral coming in?”
And then there was the drama that is Richard Lewis. Sixteen people were scheduled to speak and after about the fourth person, Richard got up from his seat in the back, walked towards the front of the room and, expecting his name to be called, was surprised when Tom Dreesen announced someone else’s name. Richard walked back to his seat. This happens to comics all the time and is usually not a big deal. Then it happened again and again and Richard finally heckled Dreesen into letting him on. He took the stage and said that in his entire career he had never been bumped three times and at a memorial.
Even guys who didn’t speak, like Ray Romano, and guys who shouldn’t have spoken, like Dane Cook, and guys who mystified the audience with their speaking, like Fred Travalena, still all had one thing in mind. They were all there for Richard Jeni.
Richard’s girlfriend Amy spoke through tears about how grateful she was to see all the comics who had come out to pay tribute. Rich’s brother Joe was so moved by the show of support that my heart broke for him and his family.
A short film was shown of Jeni’s standup and his early home life. Then there was a reception upstairs with tons of great food. There were two walls devoted to pictures of Richard, one of his career and one of his personal life. On the tables where the food was laid out were oil cloth table coverings with pictures of friends of Richard, Richard’s family and career embedded in the tablecloth. It was obviously custom-made and showed the attention to detail that HBO gave to this event. From the speech by President and CEO Chris Albrecht to the fact that HBO picked up the entire tab, including the valet parking, it was a class act from start to finish.
Carol Leifer spoke for us all. Struggling against her tears she said that comics are a great fraternity, one that she was proud to belong to, and that she would always love comics just a little bit more than she loved other people. Yeah, me too Carol.
End of chat.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Here is his loving tribute to a friend and fellow actor.
It has been four years since Lana Clarkson died. The media circus is pitching a tent for yet another three-ring celebrity trial here in Hollywood. I think the evidence, Phil Spector’s ever changing psychotic hair and the fact that he told police that he shot her, should be enough to convict. Let’s hope the twelve jurors will not go the way of the jurors in the OJ, MJ, and RB trials. Let’s hope this time they get it right.
The millions of spectators who get caught up in the frenzy of this latest trial will only know Lana Clarkson as a blonde actress who was murdered. But to the many people that had the privilege of knowing her on a personal level, she was so much more. A multi-talented artist, gifted comedian, free spirit and caring friend, this B movie queen was definitely an A+ person.
I first met Lana at the L.A. Cabaret Comedy Club in Encino (now a Bagel Nosh, which I predict will be the fate of most comedy clubs in the future). My first impression of her was the same as most people who met this tornado of talent for the first time, “Wow!” She was six foot tall, blonde, charismatic and Cover Girl gorgeous. Lana was looking for someone to help her with new material for her standup act and the club’s manager introduced her to me.
The first writing session took place in Brentwood at an upscale condo that belonged to a friend she was house sitting for. Our thirty minute meeting turned into several hours. Never before had I worked with someone who was so prepared and had such a clear vision of what she wanted to do. Lana was, in a word, professional. By the end of the session I felt that we had known each other for a lifetime. Over the next few years we would meet from time to time to work on our acts, discuss new project ideas, or just hang out.
I know many actors in this town but Lana was one of the few I’ve ever met who could truly be called a 'working actor.' She was always working on some project – stage plays, commercials, television and movie roles. At one point I hooked her up with my commercial agency “The Flytrap” (great boutique agency, terrible name, now out of business) and she quickly started booking more commercial work than I did.
Lana also had quite a fan base from her Roger Corman days where she starred in many movies, including the title role in Barbarian Queen and Barbarian Queen II. Those movies earned her the title of ‘B Movie Queen’ which she used to great effect in her standup act. I used to joke with Lana that she was entering the ‘Jessica period’ in her Hollywood career. That period for an actress was when they hit Jessica Lange’s age they didn’t work again until they looked like Jessica Tandy. Lana knew the clock was ticking and the days of playing young and sexy were ending. However in Lana’s case it wasn’t an end, it was a transition. She truly was much more than just a proverbial pretty face. Lana had talent plus.
The picture you see above was the cover art from one of the last projects that Lana worked on. I remember going over to her new digs in Venice, a picture postcard cottage on the banks of the canals off the Pacific Ocean and listening as she excitedly told me about her latest idea. It was a mostly one woman show, on film, featuring characters and sketches. It would showcase her considerable talents as a comedic actress and she would play a variety of original characters. Lana had written the script and asked me to help punch it up but there wasn’t much punching to do as the writing was clever and resounded with a unique voice. She wanted the cover art to lampoon her B Movie Queen past and look like a movie poster. I pitched several titles: Lana Unplugged, Lana Unbound and finally Lana Unleashed. On the last one she lit up like a Klieg light at a movie premiere. With a funny Scottish brogue she shouted, loud enough to get the ducks in the canal quacking, “Brrrrradley, that’s it…that’s what I’m doing…unleashing myself!” After that, the Too Tall, Too Talented, Too Bad! followed and the cover was born.
When she sent me the finished product I was amazed at how good it was. I was even more impressed that she wrote it, directed it, produced it and starred in it. If she were alive today I have no doubt that she would be working more than ever in an industry she loved so much.
Something that will be at the forefront of the trial is that, allegedly, Phil Spector told Alhambra police that fateful night that "I didn't mean to shoot her. It was an accident. I have an explanation for this." Later, in an e-mail to friends, he called her death an "accidental suicide" - whatever the hell that oxymoron means. I'd bet the farm that if you asked anyone who ever really knew Lana, they would tell you that the charge of her committing suicide is simply ridiculous.
I'm not going to watch the circus of a trial. Instead, I'm going to watch the film she worked so hard on and remember the talented, funny and generous Lana Clarkson.
Those who would like to know more about Lana Clarkson can go to her family maintained website.
Lana Clarkson, Phil Spector, Roger Corman
Friday, March 23, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Monday, March 19, 2007
Thank you for your time. Sorry for any inconvenience.
This is the auto-response I got from my plastic surgeon’s office when I unsubscribed to their newsletter, which I did sign up for:
This is the last email you will receive from us. We have added you to our "blacklist", which means that our newsletter system will refuse to send you any other email, without manual intervention by our administrator.
Blacklisted. Top that freaks.
I get Botox every three months. I love (need) it so much that I will make sure my embalmer has plenty of it on hand before I’m laid out in front of people with a 1971 forged birth certificate clutched in my wizened hands like a rosary.
I don’t mind needles. I’ve had immunization shots, spinal taps, cortisone shots, IV’s, Restylane, blood drawn, allergy patch shots, collagen, and diagnostic shots. I even used to donate blood once a week in college because I’m O negative and that paid $25.00. Only Novocain brings me to my knees. Even though my dentist presses on part of my gum and then wiggles the lower part of my mouth to distract me, I still grip the chair as if I was onboard Apollo 15 hurtling towards space. I repeatedly beg for gas but dentists in LA won’t give it to you unless you have someone to drive you home.
Sidebar: I always want to tell mine about the time a friend and I dropped acid back in the 80’s, drove to a MacDonald’s, ordered food and drove home. We got the order right but were unable to eat it as it appeared to be multicolored and crawling all over the table, which pretty much describes an ordinary McDonald’s meal anyway.
“Someone will be by later to pick me up,” I lie sweetly to the dental receptionist as I sign in and ask for gas.
“And who would that be?”
“Your mother who lives in France?”
“No, my stepmother, who most assuredly does not live in France.”
“Realllllllly? Well have her stop at the desk for your release forms.” Jesus, I need to seriously shut the fuck up when I’m talking about my dead stepmothers with the people taking my credit card and telling me what a good patient I am. If you call ‘offering to have sex with the dentist if only he’ll stop the drilling’ being a good patient. I hear dentists have a high suicide rate. I have no problem with that.
My plastic surgeon, Simon, got so successful that he moved from The Doctor’s Building of Beverly Hills, next door to Eyebrow Queen Anastasia, and bought an entire building two blocks away. The waiting room has flat screens, serious art work and snacks. And not gross ones like Chex party mix or cellophane wrapped butterscotches but homemade chocolate macadamia cookies, fresh fruit and designer coffee. The iced water pitcher has lemons and cucumbers floating in it. Note To Overcharging Establishments Everywhere: Cucumber and lemon slices in WATER do not make me feel privileged to shell out a mortgage payment for services rendered. Throw in a cashmere sweater and maybe. Throw in some Dolce and Gabbana and definitely.
The men in Simon’s waiting room always sit on the cookie side of the waiting room and the women always sit on the fruit side. I sit on the cookie side long enough to check out the talent and then head over to the fruit side if any guy is staring at himself in a hand-held mirror. But only after I’ve had at least two cookies. Maybe three.
I love Simon. In the past, when I was broke, he would load me up with extra cc’s for free because he always watched out for my career. You can’t live in this town and get acting gigs without Botox unless you’re 23, which I was two years ago. Or was it a hundred?
Three months ago Simon’s nurse practitioner gave me Botox and it didn’t work. I had to go back, which they let you do if it’s in less than three weeks time, and get more for no extra charge. She was nice and very gentle, like she was the first time, when it didn’t work. So I insisted on Simon for last week. I never had to return for more with him. As we were catching up I realized that no one had numbed my forehead. They usually put some cream on and leave it for ten minutes or so and then return to give you the injections. As we chatted, Simon walked over to me holding a syringe and I realized he was just going to plunge the thing into my forehead, probably assuming I’d already been numbed. Before I could open my mouth and stop him he pushed the needle into my forehead. I braced my feet against the chaise-lounge when I heard the crunch of cartilage above my eyebrows. He continued at such a rapid pace that I couldn’t catch my breath long enough to breathe. And then it was over. And I had felt nothing. I’ve now had so much Botox that I don’t even need a numbing cream. That’s got to be worth some sort of discount, right?
End of chat.
Botox, Beverly Hills
Saturday, March 17, 2007
...yet alcohol has never gone out of favor.
End of chat.
Monday, March 12, 2007
After I posted the photo of part of my living room, Jess Riley commented that I should post more so here’s another one.
The Cat on a Hot Tin Roof poster is an original from 1958. Next to it is a piece of wall art made by one of my favorite artists, Maddy LeMel. It’s called Plenty and is made out of bullet casings strung on wire. I bought it because it represents all the hits I’ve survived in my career.
Behind the desk is a self-portrait my mother did when she was twenty-one and above it is a red wooden cross from Mexico covered in multicolored bottle caps that have different pictures of Jesus in each one. I think it’s funny and great art but I’m probably going to hell for thinking that. Come on, all the little Jezi on the Cross? That is hilarious. Shut up.
McLoserstene and I went to the Pasadena flea market and she found the theater seats. I had ordered an $1100 bespoke chair from Thomasville that was supposed to take two months to make and after three months had still not arrived. I finally got the hint and called them only to discover that the person who took my order was fired, mainly because she kept forgetting to place orders. It turned out to be a good thing since the theatre seats were only $300.
End of chat.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
He was one of those comics that all other comics went into the room to watch when he was on stage. There is no greater compliment a standup can pay another one than to do that. He was a great performer and a terrific writer and just a really funny guy.
I heard that his mother arrived in LA today to make preparations to take him back to Brooklyn. What a sad time for a parent. It is a sad time for all of us in the comedy community. He is not the first suicide in our business, we have lost many a great comic mind over the years. I've always thought it ironic that in a business where we describe ourselves as 'dying' in front of an audience or 'killing' at a certain club that so many of us may keep going with such a sad undercurrent running like faulty electricity through our lives.
I only knew him as Rich, he became Richard when he moved to Hollywood so, R.I.P. Rich.
End of chat. Literally.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The 1950's TV has all the tubes in the back but it doesn't work, I just like using it as an end table. The 1938 slot machine belonged to my Dad and it works. After he died I had it shipped to LA and decided to take all the money out beforehand. I got one of the doormen in our building in Florida to open it up. I was SO sure the Evil Doers Moving Company was going to break into it and steal ALL the money that I was quite proud of myself for beating them to the punch. There was $26.00 in it and then we couldn't get it to work again. I had to pay $300.00 to have some special slot machine guy from Orange County make a house call to LA to fix it. Whatever.
The toy truck is where I keep my remotes. My friend Ann Abeyta and I were at a flea market in Hollywood and the guy wanted $10.00 for it and Ann talked him down to $8.00. I would've paid any amount for it so I hope the guy that sold it to me doesn't read this blog.
In the tall case is my collection of old microphones and just about every book on standup comedy or by standup comics that was ever written.
The large print is an original Some Like it Hot, one of two French versions from 1959. It was on craigslist for $250.00. It was going for $300.00 but I told the guy I didn't need the frame it was in because I was going to have it restored and reframed so he gave it to me for $250.00. He didn't even know it was real. And I did not tell him.
End of living room chat.
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
I have a couple of readers with whom I exchange the Who Is More Bored? emails.
I want to go public with this because you all know how competitive I am. I went into a black and white crockery obsession a while back and decided to collect only black and white plates and dishes, some with a little bit of gold thrown in. Fine.
Then I decided to decorate the inside of the closed cabinet I keep them in. Replete with stuffed animals, textured trivets, ornamented candle holders and DRAWINGS.
I so win. If any of you can top this, well, I still win, but I will entertain your efforts to top me. Although I still win.
End of chat.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Saturday, March 03, 2007
The first time I met David Brenner I was at a club in New York and he was standing at the edge of the dance floor. I walked over to him and pretended to watch what he was watching so I could talk to him. I probably said something very mean, yet surely true, about the people dancing and he laughed. He was incredibly nice and very funny and we went back and forth for about fifteen minutes. Then I noticed that my boyfriend, The Doctor Howard, was glaring at me from our table and I ended the conversation. As I walked away David said, “You should do standup.” He said that if I did I ought to contact his agent at the William Morris Agency. I was naïve back then and thought I had about a hundred years to come up with an act and that William Morris would automatically accept my calls at any time in the future. I was wrong, as I usually am about my career. The men I date. Or picking the right cantaloupe.
Many, many years later we met again on the New York set of Every Day with Joan Lunden, and David was the guest co-host. By then I was doing standup full time. Talk shows are impossibly difficult to do since the studio audience isn’t being served alcohol, which someone really needs to look into. But I heard Brenner laughing behind me and that’s what kept me going. I’m pretty sure he was the only one laughing.
I then ran into him years later when he was doing a run-through for his own game show here in LA and I was booked as one of the practice contestants. The premise was that David, the host, had his ‘assistant’ sit at a desk next to the host’s podium and interrupt him with scheduling questions, phone calls etc. At one point the director yelled ‘Cut’ and David announced to the crew and the other comics that he had worked with me and that I was very funny. I had reminded him earlier that we had done Lunden’s show together but he didn’t have to make that comment; it was just a nice thing to do. I had brought my copy of David’s book People Never See You Eat Tuna Fish to the set and at the end of the day I asked him to sign it for me. I clutched it to my 44DD’s all the way back to the parking lot, afraid to even peek at it in case it was bad news. (Dear Suzy, stop stalking me) How many of you gasped when you read how huge my boobs are? I could hear some of you from here. Fools, I don’t have 44DD’s. Yet.
I sat in my little grey Ford Festiva and opened the cover gingerly. He had written To Suzy, you are so funny. Trust me on this one; male comics are not that charitable when they refer to female comics. But David was a class act and he remains one of the most positive and generous comics I have ever known.
The last time we worked together was in Miami, for a variety show that was in pre-production. I had been hired as the head writer and often spoke with David on the phone since he was the host. Eventually the Executive Producer of that show stole all the money, took his coke stash and headed for parts unknown.
David comes from the generation of comedians that was really, really famous. They got that way without the help of reality TV or HBO specials. They didn’t need the comedy boom in the 80’s to help them either because they were working steadily long before that. David shares this legacy with other legends like George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robert Klein and Bill Cosby.
Even though David has this to say about his web page, The eyewitness report on the sinking of the Hesperus is more up to date than my website, check it out for details on why I Think There's a Terrorist in My Soup came together as a book based on the aftermath of 9/11.
Suzy: Don’t you hold a record for how many times you were on The Tonight Show?
David: Yes and also for The Mike Douglas Show, and I’ve been a guest on more talk shows than any entertainer in the history of TV. It’s nice to hold such records, but let me tell you what it is really worth. If after performing a show I were to invite everyone in the audience to join me at a nearby bar for drinks on me, and after we all drank and had some laughs I went up to the cashier and said “I hold the record for the most appearances on The Tonight Show, Mike Douglas and have been a guest on more talk shows than anyone else,” she would reply “That’ll be $895.00, sir.”
Suzy: What are you the most proud of in what has been a long and remarkable career?
David: That I hold the record for…no, sorry. It’s that I never phoned in a show, always did the best I could every time I walked onto a stage, no matter how few were in the audience or how physically sick I felt, as long as they weren’t neo-Nazis.
Suzy: You’re one of the most prolific comics working today. How many minutes do you write every year? And just to give this question perspective, I write about 10 minutes a year and I’m lying.
David: If each joke lasts only two seconds, that is very impressive. Since I work off current events and the news, I do some new stuff every night, so I would guess that I write about twenty or thirty hours a year, but it’s easy for me, because I write on stage. 99.9% of all the jokes I’ve done were originally adlibs, but this is not a qualitative statement, just a difference in style, because the comedian who sits at the computer writing is just as talented.
Suzy: What’s the worst thing that has happened to you because you’re a celebrity?
David: About thirty people spotted me in front of a store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills one day and crowded around for autographs. Then more people noticed the crowd around me and they too joined the group. I could hear the plate glass window of the store behind me starting to give. I tried warning the group but no one listened to me so finally I just said loudly, “I’m so flattered that you’re asking for my autograph with Robert Redford standing around that corner.” I signed for the one probably deaf old lady who didn’t run away.
Suzy: What’s the best thing that has happened to you because you’re a celebrity?
David: Jack Benny said it first and it’s true – not waiting in line in restaurants, and the other is that I kept my childhood promise of making enough money someday to get everyone in my family and my street corner friends out of the slums.
Suzy: You said in an email to me that you don’t give a shit anymore and I’m guessing that pertains to Hollywood?
David: No, because I never did care about Hollywood and all the bullshit. I meant that nothing, absolutely nothing about show business bothers me anymore, from hearing other comedians doing my jokes and chunks of my act on sitcoms and specials to not hearing back from producers who said they loved me and wanted me for their projects.
Suzy: You have so many great stories but one of my favorites is the one you told me about how lots of comics couldn’t get gigs in Vegas in the 60’s, or was it the 70’s, because Rock and Roll had become king in that town. But yet you managed to work there on a regular basis.
David: I had been the opening act for Sonny and Cher from the time we first worked together at the Sahara Hotel in Vegas in 1971, when they were trying to make a comeback, right through their very last show together. The sudden demise of this hot duo left me with very little work booked for the remaining nine months of the year. In order to not drop off the monetary map (go broke), I walked into my agent's office, told him to put my ego in the bottom drawer of his desk and lower my price for one nighters and weekly gigs, figuring that when buyers could hire me for the same price as comedians not as popular, I'd get the gigs. It worked. On January 1 of the next year, my agent gave me back my ego and I raised my prices higher than they had ever been, which also worked.
After a few years of being the co-headliner in Vegas, I had offers from many of the hotels/casinos to be their exclusive headliner, based on estimations of my drawing 900 customers a show, often filling more seats than the headliners. Headliners made more money, as much as 25% more. Maybe even more appealing, their names were on the top of the marquee and they were called ‘Headliners.’ Once again, I put my ego in a bottom drawer and remained a co-headliner. Why? Do the math. Let's say the headliner earned $100,000 a week and the co-headliner got only $75,000 (which is far from 'only.') The headliner's exclusive contract called for six or eight weeks a year = $600,000 or $800,000 a year. I freelanced, worked all the hotels, mostly hired by headliners who knew I guaranteed them full houses for which they got all the credit. For over a decade, I averaged a yearly twenty to twenty-five weeks of work = $1,500,000 or $1,875,000 a year, so, bullshit titles & marquee placement aside, who made more money in Vegas?
Suzy: If you could give someone thinking of becoming a comic a piece of advice, what would it be?
David: Be original, talk only about what you know, feel and believe. Listen only to the audiences and not managers and agents and never give up.
Suzy: Jerry Lewis once famously said that women weren’t funny. Many club owners still agree with him and many of us have been discriminated against. Have you ever been discriminated against as a comic?
David: Only when I dress as a woman. No, I’ve always been accepted, and let me say that I believe women are just as funny as men and it's a disgrace that there is a glass ceiling above them in comedy.
Suzy: Who makes you laugh? I mean, besides me.
David: I still love the comedians my father had me watch – the old timers, and I think that it is a shame that most of the young comedians today don’t even know who came before them, because to know where you are and where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been. I had a meeting with the young head of comedy development for one of the networks, and I mentioned group comedians, such as The Ritz Brothers, The Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello, and I could tell from his blank eyes that he didn’t know who they were and I said something about him not knowing them. He replied, “Come on, David, they’re before my time.” I said, “The Civil War is before my time, but I know all about it.” Needless to say, I didn’t get the development deal.
Suzy: Is there anything in your career that you wish you had done but didn’t?
David: Hit the lottery, so I could quit performing and sail the parts of the world I haven’t seen yet. No, I have no regrets. I’ve danced around the top for more years than most and am grateful.
Suzy: If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently?
David: Not be born so damn poor and age only ten days every year.