Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Prisoner Of New Year's Eve

Stand-ups always work on New Year’s Eve. It’s one reason I’m not a fan of that day.

Flashbacks. In the 90's I was booked with two male comics to do two New Year's Eve shows at Lompoc Maximum Security Penitentiary north of Los Angeles.

Upon arrival, Paul, (I can’t remember his real name) Bobby and I were ushered through a security check and asked to remove our belts and keys. We also had to surrender our drivers’ licenses. I asked why.

"In case something happens to you in there…we’ll need some sort of identification to uh…”

“...identify the body.” Bobby finished the sentence for him. It's probably important to note that prison guards don't carry guns. And that prisoners were allowed to talk to us.

As we walked through the halls we passed a locked glass-encased bulletin board. Inside were our pictures, all smiley and show bizzy. We were escorted backstage and introduced to our M.C., a prisoner from Cell Block Kill The Comics.

The headliner, Bobby Gaylor, was a very funny guy who wrote for the sitcom Roseanne and was a veteran of prison shows. As first-timers, Paul (John, George, Ringo?) and I asked him if there was any advice he could give us that would make the gig easier. Bobby said nothing could make a prison gig easier.

The M.C. introduced Paul (Pius, Benedict, Boniface?) and he hadn't said two sentences before the cons started heckling him. I stood backstage and prayed for an earthquake. I decided to keep my biker leather jacket on because I had the blonde hair liability going on. During my half hour on stage I heard “show me your tits” more than I’d ever heard it in my entire life and that’s including from my gynecologist.

After my set ended and I went backstage to learn how to breathe again, a prisoner named Ronnie came up to me holding a camera and told me he thought I was funny, which I hoped wasn’t a prelude to shivving me in the neck. He was nice, sweet even, and very shy. We talked for a long time. As Gaylor came backstage after his set a guard motioned for me to follow him. I shot Gaylor a parting glance that said, “Don’t lose me in here, dude. Seriously.”

“Do you have any idea who you’re talking to over there?” The guard asked, motioning towards the prisoner with the camera.
“You mean Ronnie?”
“That’s Bruiser.”
“He said his name was Ronnie.”
“Yeah, on the outside, in here he’s Bruiser and I gotta warn ya; he’s the most dangerous guy in the pen. We have no idea how many people he’s killed.”
“He must have a file; aren’t the numbers in there?”
“No, inside the prison.”

As we waited for the next show to begin, a deafening siren sounded and we were escorted out. Security said they would come and get us when it was safe to go back in. We walked out to the deserted parking lot in a cold, drizzling rain and piled into Bobby’s car. We decided to take off. Fuck the gig. No amount of money was worth dying in a prison riot although we all agreed we could use the press.

Fifteen minutes later security tapped on the car window. There had been a fight but the guards broke it up. YAY, AND NOW MORE COMEDY!

As we walked past that locked glass case, I noticed my picture was missing. I asked a guard what happened to it.

“Probably stolen by a con.”
“But that case was locked with a key, how did they open it?”
“They got tools.”
“Where do they get tools?”
“They make 'em.”

We went backstage and prisoners from the first show were still milling around. One came up to me with a pen and my head shot from the locked case. I asked him how he got it and he just smiled. I signed it and I’m pretty sure that picture ended up with my mouth torn out in the shape of a circle. Bruiser asked me for my address. I gave him my agent’s address. Better that he kill him when he got out instead of me.
A month later my agent called and said there was a package for me from Lompoc, from some guy named Ronnie. I went to pick it up and inside was a little ship inside of a bottle with my name spelled out in calligraphy on one of the sails. I called Bobby Gaylor and told him what Bruiser made for me.

“Made for you? Soro, he had someone make that for you. He’s the head con at Lompoc. He had a camera; no one has a fucking camera in the pen.”**

I still have that ship in the bottle. It reminds me that no man I’ve ever been with has ever bothered to shake down someone into making me a present. Or killed anyone.

End of chat.
*** Ronnie, aka Bruiser, took the picture of me above and another one where I appear to be not scared to death of having the stage rushed by a bunch of convicts.


  1. Oh, wow. I'm still laughing at "Show me your tits!" I can't believe they asked a woman to do that show.

  2. This is an awesome story but the most important thing I got out of it was that gynecologists get to see your vagina AND your boobs?!

    I can't believe I went to school for architecture.

  3. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Great story! No one's made me a ship in a bottle so you win.

  4. My mom used to dance with a group that performed at prisons--I thin that "show me your tits" is a common refrain.

    Very cool ship. Very cool story.

  5. prison. Now THERE I might get lucky.

  6. The sweetest christmas blog so far! ha!

  7. I received an "angel" pin and a stick of gum from prison once. I could totally be in your "molls" gang, right?


  8. well shit!

    tell your damn gynecologist your tits are nowhere near where he/she specializes...

    at least not til you're 100+ years old, and maybe not even then! :O lol

  9. Oh Suzy. I've never heard of such a sweet story about a killer named Bruiser.

    Regarding the butch thing: Next time, wear a wallet and chain. NOBODY will mess with you. . . unless of course you go into a women's prison. . . in which case, well just don't ever go there!!!!

  10. I don't think it's a good idea for a woman to go anywhere that has the word penal in its name.

  11. Oh my god.

    I don't know what I'm cracking up more over here...Ronnie lovin' on you or your sweet self thinking he made that ship for you.

    The incredulousness of your agent is perfect. "Suzy, he had someone make that for you."

    All these wonderful stories, they belong together...bound, in a wonderful volume of all you've done and seen.

    Why don't you do that, Suzy Soro?

  12. ...that you know of!

    Man. Scary as hell. Were you toasted when you went in there, or what? I'd have had to down some major liquid courage for that gig.

  13. I am impressed that your agent could get you such sweet gigs.

  14. A prison gig does sound like a bad New Years. But hey, you met a guy!

  15. You make prison sound kinda fun. I wonder if they allow temporary stays without creating a record?

  16. Holy crap, girlfriend. You have guts to go do a prison show, I'm impressed.

    Been kinda off the blogging scene, but trying to come back. New blog.

    I'll be back to visit!

  17. Pretty sure? Suze, I'll do you one better than that and say I know that's how your picture ended up. The up side? Studies show that 'tension release' decreases prison violence by 25%.

  18. What is with you guys? Suzy's NYE sounds better than any NYE that I have ever had. Or at least the same as most of them. God, I hate NYE.

  19. I remember high waisted jeans. I'm still pretty sure they're preferable to the low-low ones.

    On another note, this story is amusing. Five stars, ten thumbs up. :-)

  20. I remember high waisted jeans. I'm still pretty sure they're preferable to the low-low ones.

    On another note, this story is amusing. Five stars, ten thumbs up. :-)

  21. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  22. I remember high waisted jeans. I'm still pretty sure they're preferable to the low-low ones.

    On another note, this story is amusing. Five stars, ten thumbs up. :-)

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. that's a lovely ship in a bottle! and a much nicer present than, you know, ronnie showing up to court/kill you.

  25. Too sweet that Ronnie!

    And why are prisoners getting entertainment like that?

  26. The enitre time I was reading this post I just kept thinking...Why do these guys get entertainment for New Years Eve??? Oh that, and Thank God your pretty so Ronnie developed a sort of weird protective crush on you.
    lol. Hope this New Years was a little less eventful!

  27. That beautiful romantic gesture makes me want to cry.

    Seriously, I don't think I could be anywhere near as brave as you were in doing that show!

  28. "Why do prisoners get entertainment like that?" Because it beats a prison riot on New Year's Eve, that's why!! And I am thinking fireworks at a prison is just asking for trouble, right?

    No, seriously, if we keep people in cages and treat them like animals and never allow them any normal human fun, they will act like animals and invent their own "fun" which may be pretty violent.

    Many prisoners have done awful things, and some of them may even be downright evil, but many of them are just people who made mistakes - burglaries, thefts, drugs - so I see nothing wrong with treating them as human beings and providing some harmless diversions like TV and comedy shows for NYE.

    Good for you, Suzy, for doing the gig, and I think it's way cool that you got a ship in a bottle out of the deal!

  29. Show us your tits!

  30. That's a story I would brag about. You could do a comic strip with all that information.