Tag Archives: Busker

The Happiness of Larry Ellison

Thoroughbreds In the Barn

Riding the passenger’s position aboard Oracle on Saturday as Spithill vanquished the French boat Energy there was an opportunity to view the heart and happiness of our billionaire entrepreneurAmerica’s Cup tycoon in full happiness while witnessing what he has wrought upon the world of racing.

 

It does my heart good to know a man who has everything simply wanted to ride around a race course from the catbird seat. Larry is human! He has feelings, passions, desire, and has the wherewithal to put his money where his heart is.

 

NFL, NBA, MLB…. You can’t sit on the field and observe the game. But, in yacht racing you can.

 

Larry’s got everything. If you had his options, if you could fly here, stay in that place there, aboard this yacht for the weekend, or in your home on the east coast right now, or the west coast tonight, among all these choices would you choose a ride aboard a catamaran? So, here it seems the truth comes out. The man who has everything has nothing if he can not choose to enjoy the simplest things…

 

While seated in the shadow of the Midway aircraft carrier museum on Saturday while enjoying the racing and speculating about the fickle hearted whim of wind shifts, tides and currents, of a good start, a lucky break, skill and experience with the armchair types I was seated with it was a good thing for us to witness a man of special means electing to enjoy the most essential pleasures.

BANKRUPT HEART                         THE SECOND NOVEL

“It isn’t hard to know.  Plain as day, plain as this day. Life can be so simple; we can’t see it.  Then, some do.  Some make friends with themselves, make room in their heart, make it their home, then wherever you go, whatever you’re doing, you are always there, at home with yourself.   That’s it really…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

 

San Diego for AC 45’s Flaming the Fans Passions

The Advertising Boat....

HarborIslandwas where the northernmost buoys for theAmerica’s Cup 45’s would be making their turn in Race 3. The buoys consist of two power boats that take their positions on the race course and then hold that position not by anchor but under power. They did fine.

The start took place a mile south of where I sat. First leg was a half mile race to the west, the speed of the boats was apparent from this angle. They were across the harbor waters in a matter of tens of seconds, they returned back to the position they started from and then headed toward theHarborIslandbuoy where I waited. This leg was upwind in 12 knots. Most boats were scattered across the course. A small clump of boats were closer. This is a fleet of 8 boats.

Not the Best Camera But Still.......

I was at the upwind buoy. The boats moving up into the wind are not as quick as going either to the side or down wind. The Korean team shot off in the wrong direction at the mark and it took the crew a minute and hundreds and hundreds of meters to regain control of their boat and get it pointed in the right direction and resume racing. They never stopped racing, but by turning the boat in the other direction it allowed them at least to continue to race toward the next mark rather than away from it.

Now a few comments from this fearless spectator(Charles forgive me). I’d recommend the buoys be set closer to the shore. The National Football League has done a great job of turning football into the ultimate video sport, but for sailing to have any chance of seizing the imaginations of fans they need to allow fans the best possible view. The radical race boats need to be recklessly raced as close to their fans as is possible.

This was the fun part....

Now a few comments from this fearless spectator(Charles forgive me). I’d recommend the buoys be set closer to the shore. The National Football League has done a great job of turning football into the ultimate video sport, but for sailing to have any chance of seizing the imaginations of fans they need to allow fans the best possible view. The radical race boats need to be recklessly raced as close to their fans as is possible.

I was at Indianapolis with a seat at turn four where the race cars that survive that turn rocket out of that corner down the straight away past pit row before plunging past the starting line and then again into turn number one where they vanished until magically reappearing in less than thirty seconds at turn three and back into my view from my seat at turn four. I think we are on the right track. The elements are being assembled.

Bottom line is that we need to bigger boats, more wind, and the courage to place the marks where these boats are going to make their turns sited closer to the spectators. The mark today could have been closer to shore. My recipe for success includes: monster boats, nasty wind, and buoys set irresponsibly close to the people. When seated at turn four inIndianapolisI thought if something happened I might be killed if a car went out of control. TheSan FranciscoBayon a windy day is the brickyard of sailing. I realize this is a bit much, but remember a major league batter if hit by a fast ball can be killed, and so perhaps this is what is needed for success, not that we need anyone to be hurt, quite contrary we just want everyone to feel as if they could be hurt. We want spectators to be frightened.

BANKRUPT HEART                     THE SECOND NOVEL

 “Rocket ships, you like rocket ships? I like rocket ships. I like blast offs. I like meeting someone new, launching a new relationship from the launch pad.  I like the climb; I love the being out of mind.  I love going to outer space, but I don’t like orbiting.  I don’t like someone circling around and around my life, and I do not do the coming back to earth part.”

            “None of us does.  You think I’m enjoying my crash landing?”

            “You had a long term relationship. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t understand why two people would waste their time. There never is a happy ending.”

            “You are a force,” Ry admitted to Kristine. He tried to get to her, “happy endings are rare, not impossible, but this isn’t about the odds of you having a good relationship, it’s about you giving yourself the chance to have a life. The woman I was talking to out on the deck was alive; the woman sitting in this car is alive; the feelings you have inside you for that man down in that marina are alive.”

            “Yes, I am alive. And you are alive.  And that part of life I have trouble with, the part called coming back to earth, it hurts too much watching, when the man you care about comes back down, when his head isn’t in the clouds anymore, when he gets his feet back on the ground before you do.  I don’t want to be there when Finn decides I might not be so special anymore.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

The Road that Never Ends

Refurbishment of the Venerable Touring Rig

Pulling off a national tour means you need a reliable
vehicle. Here I am installing my fourth motor into my ’67 Ford. I did all my
own work. The first few rebuilds were not so good, but they got better and
lasted longer with practice. Note the camper shell. This shell was scrapped and
a new shell was purchased in 1985. So, for the first 8 years when I faced a
headwind, and in show business there are many fuel consumption increased and progress
decreased.

Unplanned Small Town Stop...

I was returning from Key West,
Florida in 1988 when I burned up my rear axle
bearings on Interstate 10 some 60 miles east of Houston, Texas.
Was towed into a town called Anahuac where I
got a room. Room came with a bed. Town didn’t have a restaurant. It did have a
convenience store. Next day local welder cut the bearing off the axle and
pressed new bearing into place. I installed the axle and was back on the road.

Stage Coach Stop, Gold Mine, and Hot Spring

Here I am parked in Warm   Springs, Nevada. Had
a good camp alongside a desolate stretch of at the junction of Hwy 6 / Hwy 375,
the roads skirt the edges of the northeastern boundary to the atomic test site.
If you look into the back of my rig you can see on the right side a large aluminum
water cooler. To the left I stored food, Coleman two burner stove, pots, pans,
plates, silverware, had a manual powered coffee grinder. There is a modest
sized ice chest. With care and planning I could eat fresh good food for a week
without coming in from the wilds. I shared the camp with this gentleman biking
across the country.

Gourmet Coffee, Great Views, Terrific Service

Here I am in Hells Canyon on the Idaho
side taking a much needed lunch break along the Snake
River with Sunshine. Main thing to understand that touring
grassroots isn’t just about going from one town to another, one show, one
audience to another, it is also about being good to yourself every mile of the
journey. Emptiness is no longer uncomfortable. It becomes your living room. It
is where you live between shows.

It Must Be Love

If I had a lot of time between dates I would make myself at
home. Here I am parked at a hot spring for a few days while waiting to play a
date in La Grande, Oregon. When I had the time, and when I have the time, I’ll get my tent out and set up camp. Having a hot spring to soak in makes snow camping a treat. This is the Ukiah-Hilgard Hwy.
It is a remote and rugged seldom visited area of Oregon. You have to be comfortable in  your own bones to be here. There were no
telephones, cell phones, computers, any digital devices of any kind. At night I
might try tuning in my AM radio see if I could pick up a skip signal off the atmosphere
and catch the news at the top of the hour.

 

I had the opportunity to hang with some dancers from the
Joffrey Ballet. Audiences are not aware of the rigorous testing that artists
undertake when heading out on tour. In 1967  the company traveled from New
York to San Francisco to play at the Opera House. The entire company arrived by way of a station
wagon that transported them 3000 non stop miles. It is in facts like this that
our imaginations muse upon the life an artist lives off stage as well as on.

BANKRUPT HEART                     THE SECOND NOVEL

He continued to
just thumb through the pages of the book he’d picked from the shelf. He plunged
into the prose, selected at random, where it read, “…The abyss had been furious
with me.  The barometer continued to
sink.  Winds had increased from a full
gale to storm force.  Under bare poles,
sea anchor deployed, hatch sealed, I wedged my body for safe keeping into the
rear quarter berth, faith in my vessel resolute, she was not the weak
link.  If there was a chance something
might fail, that risk resided in character…”

            Ry
was tired. The book fell on his chest. He fell asleep. The book startled him.
He lifted it up. He continued to read. “I had been called— a cruel insistent
demand.  Luck’s allowance fully spent, it
was time to pass through the eye of my worst fears…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Worth a Try

to learn something more about what show is and is not...

I find some of my earliest material from my show
embarrassing. I would have preferred to have come out of the starting blocks
with a perfect beginning.

 

My first few years consisted of a wide range of elements.
There was juggling, magic, mindreading, sketch comedy, puppetry,
water-spitting, springboard acrobatic stunts, and handbalancing. I tried
writing poetry, built sketches using such devices as couplets set to the rhythm
of iambic pentameter. I wrote one-liners galore.  I wrote witty things I could say for stray
dogs, fire trucks, windy weather, rude audience members, unruly children, and
just about any other potential event that might be anticipated.

 

In 1979 I had built more than 3 hours of material. In 1980
going solo and working sidewalks in San
Francisco I distilled the 180 minutes of material down
to 15! And then I found adding another solid 5 minutes excruciating to come up
with. The sidewalk show demanded a quick start, a rapid succession of more and
more interesting stunts, verbal patter and a strong finish.

 

So, a brightly colored costume and a gigantic puppet made in
my likeness was an interesting concept, but in practice it fell short for what
was needed for the audiences I was gathering on the street. Still, the
experimentation clued me into where to look next. I have always believed street
theater needed to be an act of imagination.

From the vantage point of the present it seems obvious, but
in 1978 the concept of what street theater might mean was still an open
question. There were no pat answers yet, no formulas, no templates. In San Francisco the streets
of 1978 was an era full of divergence. Eccentric musicians, roller skating
accordion players, pantomime, and puppet shows. In 2011 the list of things
presented as street performance is much narrower now.

 

Now, as I look at all the material I’ve ginned up over the
years I am grateful, not just for what worked, but for what didn’t, and what
those things that didn’t work have taught me. In one sense it isn’t what is in
the show, but what an artist decides to leave out.

BANKRUPT HEART                        THE SECOND NOVEL

 

“Ry, look at you, didn’t have two
nickels you could rub together when we met, you had nothing, nothing…and
nothing didn’t pay the bills, I got you work, you hit here, one rough spot in
all of these years, and you fold like a cheap pocket knife, take your marbles
and go home, great, good for you, but this won’t even buy paperclips, it’ll get
you two week vacation in Fresno, so you walk away from this one, don’t hold
your breath Ry, might as well know it now, before you find out later, you’re
done, over,”

            Finn
was angry. Thought Mort was out of line. Ry put his hand on Finn’s shoulder to
keep him in his seat.

            “Mort,
thanks, I appreciate the show. I mean it. You get an award. Best agent in the
role of trying to scare his act into signing a deal that he’ll never be happy
in.”

            “I
thought you were smarter than this,”

            “I’m
a clown Mort. I’m fiction, made up, washed out, done, don’t think I’m going
back,” Ry was at ease with his choice, he smiled, “time for something else,”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith

Street Show as Heart Song

New York Times in New York City, Sunday Edition

My career in show business spans almost four decades. For
many years I have presented somewhere around 300 performances per year. That’s
a solid number. Some years I didn’t do that many shows and in other years it is
likely that I approached as many as 750. There were a chunk of years that I did
shows in Fisherman’s Wharf, at a rate of 15 shows per week. Do the math. I’ve
done a lot of shows.

 

We become
creatures of the stage. We are always in front of audiences. We dial in and
fine tune. We can feel energy. We can remember the last few days and if an
audience is tired or uptight we pick it up right away. We know how to handle
it. We know what to do. We are prepared. We’ve come up with solutions to
situations and have tested the material. For a veteran act we can work with
confidence. In one situation it might mean trying harder, picking up the pace,
or perhaps it means slowing down, relaxing and accepting the audience’s
collective consciousness just the way you find it.

Poster Graphic circa 1977, by Mari Dempsey Artist/Performer

I’ve put up numerous pages now. If you stroll through my
performing blog pages you’ll find pictures and stories from a wide range of
different points in my career, a wide range of different shows, presented in
different places. It is difficult to sometimes convey how this mosaic of
experience affects us. We can be the center of attention while we are doing a
show and can be utterly alone and isolated moments after the performance is
complete. We can travel for days and do one show for an audience and then pack
up and travel again for days before we do another. A solo performer must be
good at being alone.

 

I place
emphasis upon heart. Show business requires a certain kind of mental toughness,
but it also demands sensitivity. We must be capable of empathy. We have to feel
our way into a performance. We need to read our audiences. Look at a face and
know by that quick glance what that person might be feeling. We listen
carefully. Too much noise and it might mean the audience is restless, maybe
they can’t focus, perhaps it is late in the afternoon, they’re hungry, tired.
You have to know how to pick up on these things. A performance is collaboration,
a two way street, it is audience and artist, the world’s oldest biofeedback
system.

Sing...."Oh... its lonely at the top....."

Our lives are different. Our children, our partners, friends
they see it, they know. It is more roller coaster than merry-go-round. We get a
big fat contract and find ourselves in the chips and the next month we are
scuffing up work here and there as we can. It is a groundless life or perhaps a
secure life. Learning how to gather a crowd and do a show and then pass that
hat if you are skillful can be something to depend on. Still I would suggest
street performance is heart driven, you have to put the whole of your heart
into the thing. If you don’t want to use your whole heart, you’ll want to get
off the roller coaster and buy a ticket for the merry-go-round. Each ride is
its own experience….

HIGHWAY HOME                 THE FIRST NOVEL 

 

 

She was rail thin, clad in denim, a
cotton blouse, and a white straw cowboy hat. She had white hair gathered up
with a silver and turquoise clasp into a ponytail. She’d been riding a while
and sweat had come, and dust clung to the wet patches on her shirt. She had a
pair of leather gloves stuffed in her back pocket and a handkerchief tied
around her neck. Noel didn’t know how old she was. She moved better than she
looked. She had lace-up boots with a riding heel and spurs strapped on. She had
an easy look in her eyes. They were brown, clear, and kind looking. She looked
into Noel’s eyes when she spoke, otherwise she tended to keep her eyes held
away from things. She had a way of being polite and giving a person their
space. Lot of sun had damaged her skin. Parts of her face had lines, other
parts had deep creases. Her skin had been wrinkled by what appeared to be a
hard climate and a long stretch of time.

She admired his van. “Got a pretty good
home away from home. Looks like you know how to take care of yourself.”

“I’m out here for a few days. Maybe
more.”

“Taking your time out here. That never
hurt nobody; more harm in rushing.”

Highway Home Copyright © 2009 by Dana Smith

 

Street Performing as Spoken Word

Sunshine the performing dog, Cookie my chicken, and Leonardo my Cat

 

Dana Smith  Harlequin Street Theater from 1978

 

My approach to street theater has placed particular emphasis
on words. It is the power of the spoken word when combined with visual
elements, and situational moments that can be one of the most effective tools
when building a successful show. In the vernacular of the showman it is called
patter. For comics it is all set up and blow off, premise and punchline.

We paint pictures with our words. We create illusions that
our audience holds in their imagination.

“Everything was going fine until we lost our band in Pocatello, Idaho…”
I’ll sometimes say.

It talks of travel, of touring, of a whole cast, of mishap,
hazard, and the inevitable chaos of touring.

Some acts just want to be funny, at all times. It isn’t the
only way to do things. You can drive a show by playing it straight, you might
rely upon charm, it could be you even do something dramatic.

Al Shakespeare used to do a short piece with a whale being
harpooned by a whaler. The whale’s soliloquy was heartwrenching and audiences
weeped over the puppets death.

The veteran street act generally paints from a pallet of
many colors. The show experience is not so range bound. The experience becomes
more fully human. The audience feels a wider range of emotions.

The single most important part of the act is the finale. How
you get there, and what you might do to wind up the show is a matter of
artistic choice. Laughter is helpful, but a seasoned variety act begins to
trust the multiplicity of possible human variations of emotion.

Here is one of the closing salutations used in my show circa
1977….

Closing time, calling out

Last chance for a dance

To the tune of trumpeting

Elephants wandering

From table to table

The ending of a fable

Is a warm violin

The making of new friends.

Closing time calling out

And the wanderer walks

Peddling to the next town

Some circus tricks, magic

And an acrobatic clown

Who sees in his frolic

The savory embrace

Of your souvenir face

The Great Romance of Street Theater

My Little Girl With Two Buskers with Great Soul....

Developing an efficient way of stopping pedestrians is not
so simple. It is a trial and error process. Eventually each act finds something
that does the trick. Some acts are incredibly skillful at gathering an
audience.

There are all kinds of street shows. People present all
kinds of skills. Some people work silent, others talk. Some work solo, others
work in a group. Many of us work from a set of principles. We establish some
sort of framework. We arrange to practice and train. We develop our skills. We
rehearse new whole routines. We write material. We try it. We toss out what
doesn’t work and we refine what does. Even if we work silent we’ll at the least
outline the idea move by move.

There is content and form. We think about the structure. How
long the show runs. What is first and what comes last. We know we can lose
audiences between routines so we work on our transitions. We know we can kill a
show if we put a weak routine in the show. If the routine is really weak
everything we’ve worked to build up to that point can vanish in an instant.
People will just walk away.

The good acts develop great material, great content, but
they also know that the structure of the show must work hand in glove with the
other elements. The mother’s milk of street is spontaneity. We thrive upon
being seamlessly woven into the present moment, even if its all an act, the
street show has to come off fresh, original, as if happening for the first
time.

Here is where the interactive skills of an act seal the
deal. A versatile act will adjust their material to the situation and an
audience will never notice that what they are watching is actually scripted
out, practiced, and has been performed hundreds and hundreds of times.

A veteran street act can step in and out of character,
winking and letting the audience in on the fact they really are just doing the
old act. But, to pull this off they need to demonstrate their command of the
situation. If the performer can earn an audiences respect, if they trust the performer,
admire the skillfulness, and appreciate the general direction the entertainment
is taking them, then the act is poised for success.

Learning how to street perform is difficult. Most performers
must practice the craft and learn by trial and error. It is time consuming for
most of us. Rarely someone comes along who seems to just make great
adjustments, good decisions, and the right choices so fast as to have a shorter
journey.

It is why street is what it is and why it is suitable for so
few… It is painful, difficult, and failure is waiting for you just ahead at
your next show. Then, on the other hand it can be like no other experience you
have ever had……..

Invocation to Show circa  1976 

You are the chance of a dream

The dream of a dance

We are a song

Sung with a swirl

A carwheeling feeling

Where…

Who shall ever dare

Must weigh with care

The fear and risk

Rising to the chance

To there

Sommersault

Catapault

Vault with us

To there… there…

Dancing… Dancing…

We are the chance of a dream

The dream of a dance…